Music Reviews

Artist: Wilt (@)
Title: From Depths Profound and Inconceivable
Format: CD
Label: Fall of Nature Records (@)
Rated: *****
Wilt is James P. Keeler: synths, bass, vocals and electronics; and Dan Hall: baritone electric guitar, acoustic guitar and electronics, from Chicago, Illinois I believe. They've been around since 1998 and have an abundant amount of releases, so many that I'm not even going to bother to count them. This is another case of "why haven't I heard these guys before?" I'm sort of the "dark ambient guy" here at Chain D.L.K., and I'm surprised that in all this time I've never gotten one of their CDs to review. I know they've been mentioned on the site, but I don't know as if they've ever gotten a full album review. So with that in mind, here it goes.

Having such a prolific discography, I could spend months wandering through their back catalog for comparisons with previous works, but that's way too much work for me. In a nutshell, 'From Depths Profound and Inconceivable' is a combination of dark ambient and power electronics/noise. This isn't always my favorite combo; for me it can be like putting hot sauce on chocolate pudding. Sometimes though, it kind of works, and on 'FDP&I' it works pretty well. With 14 tracks to this album it seems pointless to try and describe each one, although I may try to describe some of them. 'FDP&I'is one of a two part series dedicated to and inspired by the work of H.P Lovecraft. (Is there any dark ambient artist who hasn't been enfatuated with Lovecraft?) On the opening, "Buried Temple of Belial," you get low electronic drone puncuated by crunchy, distorted guitat strikes, kind of minimal but effective for setting a creepy mood. A lot more low distorted electronic noise follows in the next track, and a dense dark ambient mood with steamy noise follows after. I really like the transient piece, "Passage," with it's subliminal guitar loop, ambient dark noises, and tremelo dirty guitar strikes. Not really noisy but definitely foreboding. After that comes a lot of low, rumbling power noise that sounds like icebergs disintegrating into the ocean. "Mysterium Of Supreme Knowledge" has a certain mystique to it with a repetitious echoey guitar phrase over low drone and other dark ambient sonic effluvia. So far, this is the real grabber of the album. I could listen to just this for...well, a good long time. The next couple of tracks are a deluge of noisy blackened and blasted offerings, and if you make it through that, you will come across the spooky "Moonlit Towers of Ruined Castles." Here, a demonic organ holds sway over souls trapped from eons ago. More virulent, dense noise follows until you get to the somewhat calm "Les Fleurs du Mal," a melancholy drone dirge. Lots of low rumbling "From The Charnel Bowels Of A Putrescent Earth" which continues on with "The Pale Watching Moon," albeit a little more intensely. "Desolate Mountains" seems as though it might continue along these lines, and to a degree it does, but with some moody, sparse, low-string guitar. That's it.

In conclusion, 'From Depths Profound and Inconceivable' seems to be a worthy addition to Wilt's ouevre, and when I have time I will likely check out some of their previous releases. If you don't like noise with your dark ambient, this might not be for you, but the whole thing is very well crafted and shouldn't be dismissed just because it will rattle a pair of woofers now and then. Limited to 100 copies.
Artist: Jean-Michel Jarre
Title: Electronica 1: The Time Machine & Electronica 2: The Heart of Noise
Format: CD
Label: Columbia
Rated: *****

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I've been listening to electronic music for 25 years and have been running this very electronic music magazine for 22 years, so when a pioneer of electronic music like Jean-Michel Jarre makes a series of albums called "Electronica" featuring dozens of guests from the early stages of electronic music to the new comers of the genre, it sure does certainly not go unnoticed in my book! Quiet the contrary!

"Electronica 1: The Time Machine" and "Electronica 2: The Heart of Noise" came out in late 2015 and early 2016 respectively and truly celebrate the entire span of growth and evolution of the elctronic music genre throughout the last 4 decades by bringing together the leading voices of the genre as well as some interesting artists that have differing degrees of connection to it.

Volume 1 features some true early visionaries of the genre like the amazing Laurie Anderson and Tangerine Dream, as well as mainstream names such as Moby, Massive Attack, Armin Van Buuren and possibly unexpected names such as John Carpenter, Lang Lang, Pete Townshend and various other really interesting artists (Boys Noize, M83, Air, Vince Clarke, Littel Boots, Fuck Buttons, Gesaffelstein).

Volume 2 re-invites some of the names from Volume 1 and then takes it to the next level with an equally stunning array of names, including Pet Shop Boys, Gary Numan, Yello, Jeff Mills, The Orb as well as potentially unexpected ones such as Primal Scream, Cyndi Lauper, Hans Zimmer and then so many others worthy of attention (Rone, Julia Holter, Peaches, Sébastien Tellier, Siriusmo, Chrisphe) as well as some truly unexpected ones like Edward Snowden himself (more on that later!).

The album pretty much is a who's who of electronic music history and stylistically ranges from dance-tracks to more EDM/EBM inspired tracks with a good balance of instrumental tracks and tracks that feature vocalists. Some of the vocal cuts flirt with pop in a way that is even chart-suitable. If you know the artists JMJ is collaborating with the listening experience will be some much more fun because you can truly recognize the character and style, or sometimes simply the unique voice, of the collaborator.

I recently went to a talk event that Jean-Michel held in NYC and found out some very interesting details about these albums. One thing that truly impressed me is that JMJ insisted on making it a truly collaborative effort, so this is not one of those albums made by sending files around the globe, but rather JMJ travelled to meet with all the artists involved to be in the same room with them and actually co-write/compose/arrange everything together. Needless to say it took years and many miles of travel to finish this record, all the more reason you should check out the fruits of his labour!!!

I spent about two weeks listening to these two albums at least 4-5 times each and I've come to the realization (something JMJ also touched upon in his talk event) that electronic music is truly timeless. Some of the guests on these album are in their 20es others are in their 60es and it's hard to "age" these collaborations if you don't know who's on the track you are listening to. You go ahead and try!

One of the guests that intrigued me the most was Edward Snowden, partially because he is the only non-musical guest of the album, but also because I am a huge supporter, fan and sympathiser of Snowden, of what he's done and what he stands for (being somebody who truly believes in freedom, transparency and justice and who put his life on the line for it). Snowden met JMJ in Moscow (a meeting that JMJ explained was facilitated by the Guardian and Snowden's lawyers) and JMJ interviewed him and used bits of that recording in a track, Jarre also mentioned (in the talk) that one of his close relatives was a political activist in France and that he closely identifies with Snowden's cause. He also commented on how this collaboration was very newsworthy in Europe but seems to have been largely ignored in the US... Such a pity!

I've asked JMJ what he thinks of the future of music creation and distribution and he theorized that one of the things we might see in the future is a collaboration with machines, a sort of music-ex-machina scenario, and he even mentioned that it might be the subject of an "Electronica 3" or "Electronica 4" album, so while I hope he will get to another "Electronica" volume before machines are fully capable of making music without human intervention, at least there is hope for more volumes to come...

Stay tuned!
Artist: Psycho Kinder
Title: The Psycho Kinder Tapes
Format: CD
Label: Alienated Records / Fonetica Meccanica (@)
Rated: *****
This release from Alessandro Camilletti, the mastermind behind this project, is the statement that synth pop is not a closed book even if there's some hint these days. The key characteristic of this release, from the codified code of the genre, is the focus on lyrics concerning the state of western civilization in times where people prefers to chat using social network rather to talk and try to change our society. For this project he collects a bunch of producers whose peculiarities doesn't break the stylistic unity of the record whose music is a support to the message.
The structure of "Stato Di Violenza" looks to the tradition of italian new wave without nostalgia. The melodic aperture of "Oltre Il Tempo" is the mirror to the experimentation of "Psycho Kinder" followed by the remix of "Vivo E Invisibile" made by Miro Snejdr who filters Camilletti's voice and so, for a moment, puts the message in the background in favor of the music. "Inviolabili E Sacri" blurs the border between art and life citing Leo (Giovanni Leonardi) in the text which is the author of the music. "With Usura" features a recording of Ezra Pound whose voice is present also at the beginning of the first track. "Viaggio Allucinato" is almost a break from the darkness of this musical journey with his upbeat. The Carnera's remix of "Il Tramonto Dell'Evidente", while being the finest at aural track, sounds sometimes too different from the rest of the release. "Essere" closes this release with an hypothesis of minimalism for the next record.
The constant level of songwriting is almost impressive and results in a release that could be enjoyed even by the casual listener if djs were more courageous than they are now. A coal turned into diamond.
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Artist: Atrium Carceri
Title: Archives I-II
Format: CD
Label: Cryo Chamber (@)
Rated: *****
This new release from Atrium Carceri is based on the reworking of tapes and tracks from the past of this artist. Instead of doing the typical collection of outtakes or obscure track Simon Heath decided to create long tracks from this recordings, a sort of megamix borrowing a term from another genre and the result could be a sort of introduction to his work.
"Archives I" is focused on the cinematic side of this project as it shows all the small noises that evoke imaginary scene spaced out by fragment based on drones creating a menacing atmosphere. The first part of "Archives II" is based on melodic lines of great emotive impact flowing into a second part based on drones whose subtle nuances are better enjoyed using headphones.
Instead of being a mere recycling of outtakes, this album sounds almost like the development of the hints that this project is moving towards a complex musical structure based on melody from a complex audial spectrum based on drones. From this perspective the realistic foley sounds are not a trick to conquer the listener's attention but a mean to build a musical meaning creating a narrative with sounds. Practically, cinema for the ear.
Artist: Roman Leykam
Title: Ethereal
Format: CD
Label: Frank Mark Arts (@)
Rated: *****
According to the introductory words of this new output by Roman Leykam, "Ethereal" is an attempt 'to convey peace, serenity and the deceleration from the daily routine. The music offers the listener the opportunity to enter into silent communication with himself.'. Such an aim could implement the description of many second-hand new-age oriented release that you could even find in a supermarket till some years ago, but what listener are going to meet in Roman's music is something a little bit less commercial and easy listening. I won't say he walks on entirely unexplored musical pathways, as the most immediate stylistic link is to all those composers, who crossed that liminal zone in-between classical ambient music and the so-called kosmische musik. Besides any spiritual enhancement you can reach by its listening, the patterns that Roman explores on "Ethereal" are mainly driven by impressive outputs from guitars and synth-guitars, gliding over sonic waters that have often been too shallow for experienced musicians. I could mention the less convincing productions by solo-projects of former Tangerine Dream guitar player Edgar Froese, but Leykam tries to diversify it by occasional contamination with a more bluesy nuance. The primary defect of similar explorations is paradoxically related to the sometimes single-minded pursuit of a sonic clarity without any element of impurity, which could result in a dull listening experience for all those listeners who don't understand the technical tricks by which he managed to reach that sharpness. A gap which could induce some listeners to look for other strategies to escape from the above-mentioned daily routine.
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