Music Reviews



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Artist: Polwechsel (@)
Title: Untitled (No.7)
Format: 12"
Label: God Records (@)
Rated: *****
Some elements of this new output by the Wien-based supergroup of experimental improvisers brought my mind back to their self-titled debut album when the line-up was slightly different. There was Radu Malfatti, who recently focuses on extremely rarefied stuff (really close to silence), on that occasion, and there wasn't Burkhard Beins on percussions, but both records have references to directions. Geographical directions and compass points on their first release, x-, y- and z- axes in three-dimensional reference system seven albums later. Moreover the sound, coming from the aggregation of each performer, which probably will sound like Malfatti's quasi-silent ultraminimalist researches if they were performing as solo instruments, has some resemblances to that output, but time and mutual performative understanding play a really important role in this ever-changing stylistic fields and such a harmonic interaction is clearly audible, even if likewise the parallel lines of cover artwork by Claudia Marzendorfer, each single input doesn't really touch the others, even if they chorally render the illusion of being part of a whole or a single coherent unit. It's like playing jigsaw puzzles before the gamer understands that its interlocking parts are impossible to get joined together! This sort of fake overlapping is clear on the first of the three track - "UNX" - as well as in the first half of the second one "UNY", whose second part features an asymptotic mutiny, which sounds fostered by Michael Moser's elongations on cello. Their sort of impossible amalgamation reaches an astonishing and almost maniacal balance on the third part of this release, "UNZ", where a listener can clearly understand the fact Polwechsel managed to inhabit an interesting stylistic region in between totally imperfectly abstract improvisation and extremely lucid and "geometrical" composition.
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Artist: Simon Scott (@)
Title: Insomni
Format: CD
Label: Ash International
Rated: *****
British multi-instrumentalist and sound ecologist Simon Scott, whose name is well-known to many Slowdive fans as he's been the drummer of the recently regrouped shoegaze band since 1991, mainly focuses on awesome tonal studios on his solo workouts. In spite of some connections to the sound and the concept of his recent output "Below Sea Level" for Wozencroft's label Touch - many tracks of this output, such as "Holme Posts" or "Fen Drove", features environmental sounds that he supposedly grabbed in Cambridgeshire and Huntingdonshire, where there's the lowest point in Great Britain (if I remember well around 3 metres below sea level) -, "Insomni" is an output on Touch sister-label Ash International which has not a proper conceptual framework, even if someone could confuse the fact it was made during a sleepless night as a concept. The way by which Simon combines effected guitars, electronics, digital signal processing, field recordings - lovely the above-mentioned ones that he grabbed in Home Fen Posts - as well as the sounds he made from a series of found objects (including the humming of his fridge mirror, the hissing of a DVD player, a broken laptop and other domestic resounding entities, which have been some of the sparkles for Simon's creativity) could let you imagine he tried to mic any air flow between his sensorial sphere and the environment blowing into his personal circadian pinwheel: I particularly enjoyed the moments where some lucid dreams seem to gush out of majestic artifacts of a masterful dronegazer like Simon such as the opening "An Angel From The Sea Kissed Me" or the likewise catchy "Confusion In Her Eyes", as the transitions between almost ecstatic sound-sets towards saturations and distortions, where the seemingly peaceful doldrums of the opening waves turn into stormy waters, are a remarkable aural pleasure, well as the moments where the interferences of "concrete" sounds and circling reverie result into a sort of dirty ecstasy as it happens on "Oaks Grow Stronger". In the second part of "Insomni", Simon focuses on the sound of acoustic guitar in a way that could let you think that the first lights of dawn gradually manage to brighten up the sound by means of a sort of catharsis, which vanishes the disturbances which previously harnessed the rendering of the emotional carousel by means of really lovely tracks like "Far From The Tree", "Nettle Bed", "Ternal" and the sweet lulling of the final "Swanbark".
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Artist: Zenial (@)
Title: Minotaur
Format: 12" vinyl + DVD
Label: Zoharum (@)
Distributor: Alchembria
Rated: *****
This new release from Zenial is an LP supported by a DVD where most of his composition were portrayed by WÅadysÅaw Szulc and Marian Kraczkowski. As almost all composition were recorded in a residency in the Stockholm EMS studio, the musical output is vaguely reminiscent of the old days of electronic music where all sound were mainly generated by oscillators and so they deserved a particular tones, something which today sounds old and new. As a mirror to this approach the visual part were shot in 16mm so it has the same visual style of the post war's avant-garde.
The synths of "Minotaur" open this release balancing noise and atmosphere while "Lament of Ghoul" is focused on loop and rhythm. "Hades" moves even if it seems to be a static track. "Soul Check" closes the first side of this release showing a clear vision of the sound palette to use.
The B side is open by "Serapeum" a cinematic track using foley sound to enhance his evocative premise and "Gorgona" follow further in this part as, while a loop is in the foreground, the background is based on a richly detailed soundscape. "Live in Braunschweig: psychopomp" closes this release presenting the more noise oriented side of this artist which relies on musical impact.
"Minotaur/Chimera" is a DVD which gives this release a visual part so "Serapeum", directed by WÅadysÅaw Szulc and Marian Kraczkowski, creates abstract figure from fluids while "Minotaur" features geometrical figures. "Lament of Ghoul" depicts a view of a sort of monk in a sort of cemetery while in "Gorgona" he's working in his cell. "Hades" returns to abstract geometrical figures. The three remaining tracks are from the previous release "Chimera" and are based on different visual concepts: "Chimera" is a street movie shot in a place, "Rosora 28" is based on light procedures synchronized with the rhythmic sine wave and "Rosora 28 : Wymiar 4/5" closes this DVD juxtaposing the two approaches.
Even if the musical output is based on a codified form is so focused on carefully developed form that is charming in his details, the DVD included in some copies of the LP shows the talent of WÅadysÅaw Szulc and Marian Kraczkowski of creating abstract images with analogue means. It's so enrolled with the nostalgia of a time where artist creates something with nothing that it's really worth a reverent listening.
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Artist: KKD
Title: Stars Behind The Sun
Format: 12"
Label: Synthetic Shadows
Rated: *****
Active at first in the late 70s/early 80s and now alive and kicking again, KKD were coming from Modena (Italy). Taking an ex hotel as headquarter where experimenting with sounds and graphics, they took the post punk / new wave sounds as a starting point just to let their imagination run free. If tracks like "Sound From The Universe" were sounding quite standard for that period, others like "I Need Help", "Stalin Strategy" or "Kippur" were examples of their will to break the boundaries of genres. Even if they were using bass and guitars, they were filtering them through the Korg MS20 synth, creating in this way a post wave hybrid. The sign that their intuitions were good was showed also from the fact that Ralph Records appreciated them but, unluckily, we had the chance to check only two of their songs on the ultra rare compilation "First Relation" released in 1983 by Lisfrank's label Man Mask: "House TV" and "And In Your Mind". Now, thanks to Synthetic Shadows, a wider audience is able to check KKD music by purchasing the LP "Stars Behind The Sun", a compilation album that gathers fourteen tracks composed from 1979 to 1983. On this album there's no rip off track and you'll have the chance to have a glimpse of their music. Prepare yourself for dark post punk, minimal wave experimentations, new wave catchy melodies and more!
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Artist: Miguel Frasconi (@)
Title: Standing Breakage (for Stan Brakhage)
Format: Download Only (MP3 + Lossless)
Label: clang (@)
Rated: *****
It's a known fact that many interesting and sometimes really important discoveries are purely accidental. It's what occurred to American composer Miguel Frasconi on the occasion of the first "score" of this composition, as while he was working on sounds he keeps on making from glass instruments or objects - he was one of the founders of The Glass Orchestra in late 70ies and some of his sonic findings were borrowed to well-known composers, musicians and sound artists such as John Cage, Jon Hassell and Morton Subotnick -, a quartz crystal glass bowl got damaged, but instead of replacing it, he decided to check how it could sound and this aspect if the first relevant one of this output; according to his own words, "almost all the sound in this particular piece come from one quartz crystal glass bowl which had been struck a bit too forcefully during a rehearsal a few months before. The instrument was still whole but there was a clean fracture from its rim to its base. Right away I knew I needed to record the attempts to complete the breakage.". The second relevant and somehow surprising element of "Standing Breakage" is what happened after this discovery: "I was curious to hear which new pitches would result from splitting apart the original pitch of G#. But once again glass proved to be unpredictable, this time in its refusal to break further. As hard as I tried throughout the recordings for this project, the bowl would not continue to crack. Many wonderful sounds were coaxed from this one object in its unusual state, particularly the vibrations resulting from rubbing and striking near the fissure". The manipulation and the alteration of these sounds provided new stuff for this 20-minutes lasting suite, whose title is a play on words and an appropriate dedication to the late experimental filmmaker Stan Brakhage, who occasionally filmed breaking glass objects for some of his outputs.
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