Music Reviews

Artist: New Tendencies
Title: Batch0008
Format: 12" vinyl + Download
Label: SM-LL
After either investing in or expanding his Serge synthesizer system- which Googling tells me is neither small, nor cheap- Matt Nish-Lapidus will get some of his return back through “Batch0008” by turning his learning curve experiments in patch programming and modular tinkering into a half-hour-long digital and 12” release.

The relatively shapeless “Signals” segues into the more structured “Not Insulated”, a solid exercise in low-bit-rate techno-light with a slowly shifting, almost simulation-steam-train like percussive crispness that gets more intriguing as the counter-rhythms start to shift and pull against each other towards the end. Halfway through “Steps” we meet a slightly edgier sawtoothed sound that initially feels like it may be building to something, but doesn’t. The nicely purist pulses and clicks of “Adapt” are rather refreshing.

An interesting exercise in fairly stripped back, analogue modular synthesizer routines, it does work well as a mini-album, but perhaps lacks the carefully crafted edge that would have lifted it above an exhibition of how nice this particular modular synthesizer sounds.
Artist: Paal Nilssen-Love
Title: New Brazilian Funk / New Japanese Noise
Format: CD + Download
Label: PNL Records
For the Roskilde festival in 2018 Paal Nilssen-Love constructed two musical ensembles, with four Brazilian musicians in one and four Japanese musicians in the other, with his own drum and percussion work and Kiko Dunucci’s electric guitar the common factors between the two. Although reading deeper into the cast list does seem to reveal that many of the musicians are labelled ‘Brazilian’ and ‘Japanese’ as honorary terms, their actual nationalities vary and generally they appear to be pals from Nilssen-Love’s Large Unit work. Consequently, if you are expecting an exercise in contrasts here- fire and ice, yin and yang between the two ensembles- you will be very disappointed.

Both ensembles were recorded live, doing 45-minute sets on consecutive days, and the two results are now been released in parallel. It sounds more like the set-up for some sort of TV music talent content (“who will win? Vote now!”) but in effect what you get is a pair of noisy, impulsive, experimental live avantgarde-jazz-recordings, two for the price of… erm… two.

With a recording quality that’s very decent for a festival but not fully studio-standard and some quite traditional electric instrument set-ups, it’s got a strong flavour of 70’s prog rock wig-out, with long mostly-instrumental tracks in which the performers riff off each other’s both gradual and sudden changes in tone, holding each other in suspense and almost goading each other towards the eventual crescendo of furious slamming, crescendo and discord that the path of each track leads to.

In the Brazilian set-up, the shorter piece “Rural Rides” is notable for having a vocal- Brazilian language I assume- which gives just a little bit more structure and serves as a kind of mid-set plateau of sorts. The finale “Pick A Time”, beginning with an astutely long squeaky solo impulse before crashing into the full-on band maximum, is certainly a crowd-pleaser as well.

The resulting difference in the Japanese set-up is fairly modest, but if anything it’s a touch more insular, with longer pieces and longer build sections that value complexity slightly more and attitude slightly less. The charmingly titled “Eats, Shites and Leaves” exhibits a quirky and marginally more electronic tone, before the zombie impressions of “The Bone People” that evolve into strained threatening Japanese screaming somehow manage to sound both sinister and fun simultaneously. The cacophonous finale of the ironically named “Birdsong” strongly parallels the finale of the sister release as well.

Fans of the original wave of 70’s prog rock and its more extreme, noisy and cutting-edge moments will certainly lap this up, but people looking for something a little more progressive (in the 21st century sense) or expecting interesting or informative results from the Brazilian / Japanese parallel concept may feel a bit short-changed.
Artist: Borghesia (@)
Title: Proti kapitulaciji (Against Capitulation)
Format: CD + Download
Label: Moonlee Records (@)
Rated: *****
Bogrhesia is a Slovenian band I have heard of (all the way back to the early 1990s) but never actually heard as I could not find any of their albums in the pre-Internet commerce era when you had to find a record shop that carried product. I can attribute my discovery of them to the Trouser Press Record Guide, a book I consider responsible for awakening my interest in many non-mainstream artists such as Current 93, In The Nursery, Legendary Pink Dots, X Marks the Pedwalk and many, many more. Borghesia have been around since 1982, formed by members of the alternative theatre group Theatre FV-112/15. As you might imagine they've amassed a sizable discography over the years, none of which I've heard previously, unfortunately.

'Proti kapitulaciji' (Against Capitulation) appears to be their 13th album after 'And Man Created God' (2014) and 'Better Live Than Dead' (2016). According to the label-provided one-sheet, this album "is a free-floating rock epic based on Srecko Kosovel's modernist poetry that sits somewhere between an alternative soundtrack of 'Blade Runner,' the uncanny ambience of Coil, melancholy Berlin era David Bowie and the immediacy of Nine Inch Nails. After giving 'PK' an initial listen I can understand why the label stated those things, but I don't necessarily agree with them. Yes, this is a very unusual album with industrial and electronica elements, but it doesn't sound anything like Blade Runner, Bowie or NIN.

The first thing you need to know is the album is sung entirely in Slovene, and while that may be off-putting to some, it shouldn't be dismissed out of hand, because there is still much of value here. However, one caveat - there are more than just a few tracks where an English translation might come in handy. (You can get one at Borghesia's website.) The first track, "Odprite Muzeje," equates "Open Museums" with dead ideas and tombs haunting Europe. (How's that for inspirational tourism!) Vocals are dual male/female, as often done on this album. This is set to a backdrop of vintage analogue electronica. It has a somewhat surreal, trance induced quality as the lyrics almost seemed almost chanted. It is no less surreal on the following track, "Kons," about a hollow, empty, culturally dead Europe with an overwhelming aura of melancholy. Musically everything is well-integrated with a chugging rhythm, and instrumentation of guitar and electronics which support rather than detract from the melody of the vocals. "Na piramidi" (In A Pyramid) is where the album really comes alive though and all elements seem to be on an unstoppable dark track. Things only get stranger after this one.

The deeper you go, the more intense and wacky the songs get. There is absolutely nothing mainstream about this album, even though much of it is in a (sort of) rock format. It becomes evident that Srecko Kosovel's poetry, used as the song lyrics, is the most important element of this album. Thematically it speaks of how Europe is dead, art and culture are dead, and it all needs to be destroyed. Good people got sold out, civilization has no heart, capitalism ruins everything, and nothing can save you. Yes, it's a potent sort of pessimistic misanthropy more aimed at the collective than the individual, society in general. I'm sure a little gets lost in translation because even following along listening while reading the English translation at times it seems there is something missing that might be better expressed in the original Slovenian.

What I find interesting is that Kosovel lived way back in the first few decades of the 20th century (1904-1926), died quite young at age 22, but managed to complete 500 poems. He was labeled an impressionistic poet and a political poet, often compared to Rimbaud, and is now considered a Slovenian poetic icon. When you realize the time during which he lived was dominated by World War I, you'll understand better the reason for such pessimism and misanthropy. Kosovel's poetry still seems pretty relevant today (when I first read the lyeics, I thought they had been written recently!) and Borghesia's execution in the music makes it seem all the more contemporary. Although Borghesia are well-versed in the musical idioms of EBM, synthpop and industrial, there is no one genre they subscribe to here. Instead, the presentation is much more theatrical, is if in an electronic a musical. The closest prior work of theirs to this one is 'And Man Created God,’ but even that only hints at the full-bore of 'Proti kapitulaciji'.

This is an album sure to have only limited appeal outside of the Slavic region of Europe, partly because of the language, and partly due to unfamiliarity with Borghesia and Kosovel’s poetry. It’s a worthy venture for the intrepid explorer though, discovering a near century-old major modernist poet filtered through the more modern musical lens of his countrymen.
Artist: Tańce Snu (@)
Title: Meander
Format: CD
Label: Zoharum (@)
Distributor: Alchembria
Rated: *****
Tace Snu (Dances of the Dream) was the name of the first release of India Czajkowska and Sebastian Madejski and now is the name of the project which now includes also Christoph Matyaschek and Adam Rozenman. While its predecessor was mostly neoclassical ethereal, this one is more oriented towards folk and even some ambient elements appears in this recording of a concert done on 29.IX.17 in Warsaw; obviously the voices continue to have a lead role in the development of the track but now have to cope with a less minimalistic framework so they have to give musical space to the other instruments. The result is far more colorful than the debut.
The naturalistic setup of "Saraneti" is based upon traditional instruments as percussions and zither and the structure borrows from folk and ritual music.
"Holalia Ablakota" is a long track in two parts: the first one is a song for voice and dulcimer vaguely reminiscent of religious chants while the second one begins with a more complex relation between guitar, percussion and flute and a free structure with a coda base on the elements of the first track ending with solo voice. The suspended atmosphere of "Ilaperose" is based upon a clever use of synth which create a backdrop upon which the other instruments can move. "It Go Tona" is an instrumental track where flute and guitar have more freedom of movement. "Unsara Enditi" is a sort of lullaby with his reverb and quiet pace. "Kijamo" is based upon voices upon a dulcimer used as percussion and even guitar underline the articulation of the rhythm. "Elentiren" continues on the same framework but with a slower pace and the use of a xylophone. "Mestenija" is a weird song for voices and synth which closes the release.
This is a release at the threshold between traditional music, as its base is the folk song after all, and ambient music, as it relies on synth and electronic effect to shape the sound, whose writing is even able to mask the artist's influences. Really nice.
Artist: Stolen Light (@)
Title: Self Destruction
Format: CD
Label: Zaftig Research
Rated: *****
Over the last year or so I have personally started to move toward a more positive focused lifestyle. If you can find a way to talk about your feelings or find a way to vent them in some creative manner this seems to work best.

Stolen Light is Brett Lunceford who I have known, chatted, and been fond of his work for years. This time he has released an album title like Self Destruction it sounds like this could possibly be a cry for help, but to me the music seems as if it is a good way for Brett to get out some anger and frustration. The first track is titled "Frustration" and it lets loose a barrage of harsh noise precisely layered and focused for a 15-minute assault on your ears. I would shy away from calling this a harsh noise wall because it does have some feeling and texture to it unlike a lot of the nihilistic emptiness of that scene, however, it would likely appeal to that audience.

"What The Hell Happened To Us?" is the second track which starts off with a more quiet approach, it takes me back a bit to the 3" CDr on Inner Demons titled Voices. This track goes in waves of these field recordings with background noise textures, that pan from left to right, to harsh blasts through out the 30-minutes. Often times I see a 30-minute track and I wonder if my short attention span will kick in and I will get bored, but it is kept interesting enough and kept my curiosity piqued.

The final track titled "Memories Reclaimed" has a cleaner field recording session from somewhere with people talking, the discussions are not clear but different voices are there. There is a constant less abrasive sound over the recording this time which almost seems more cathartic than the two previous tracks, this is a good finish to a solid album overall.

As I said in the beginning, as I get older I find it important to find ways to vent your frustrations and move past negative circumstances. Self Destruction has shown a healthy way of moving forward.
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