Music Reviews



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Artist: Serph
Title: Hyperion Suites
Format: CD
Label: Noble (@)
Rated: *****
Named after the tallest living tree on the planet, a coast redwood which keeps on growing in a secret place in Northern California, the 5th album by Serph, a really prodigious entity - he keeps on taking his real identity more secret than the ones of Daft Punk's masked guys - of Japanese electronic scene, whose first concert at Liquidroom in Tokyo in January recorded a so impressive sold-out that national Tv spoke of this rare event for an electronic musician, came out between last May and June and seems to testify his perennial musical growth. I didn't rated "El Esperanka", the previous album by this brilliant Tokyoite on Noble, by filling all the five stars of our rating meter by chance and the "greater heights" on "Hyperion Suites" that got reached by his sound, according to Noble's introduction, are clear since "Hymn", the opening track, where heavily chopped female vocal samples appear for the first time inside his masterfully crafted uplifting textures, where even the more melancholic or wistful nuances of some tracks (the lovely "Wireless", where a pensive piano melody got gradually rinsed by squared techey beats, puffing percussions and airy strings, the entrancing "Alcyone", which could surmise latest outputs by Bonobo, or other graceful moments like "Walkin" or "Sad Roboto") got translated into a so well-processed and naively chirpy electronic compositions that your soul will be delighted by this style-driven emotional softening anyhow! An uplifting windmill of styles, including neo-impressionist classical pianism, hip-hop, r'n'b, 600ies and 70ies jazz, drum'n'bass, tech-step keeps on twisting over Serph's highest branches, whose leaves could be imagined as polychromatic fluttering wings. Just admire and listen this new show to scrape the imaginative skies of Serph's mind. Whoever he is or might be...
Oct 18 2015
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Artist: Edrh (@)
Title: Sideremesis
Format: CD
Label: Apathia Records (@)
Rated: *****
Erdh is Nicolas Pingnelain (electronics, programming, guitar, bass, drums) and Emmanuel Levy (vocals, lyrics) from Paris, France. Pingnelain is the co-editor of Obsküre, a French dark music magazine, and Levy aka "El Worm", is the mastermind behind Wormfood, a French avant-garde doom gothic dark metal band. This is my first experience with any of this, and 'Sideremesis' seems to be the second release by this project, following 'Resilient' (2013). The EP consists of four tracks, the first being the title track and the lengthiest one on the disc. At first, it seems to be about disease- "I don't feel well this morning, A sour taste on my tongue, Gastric acid mixed with blood, And potassium hydroxide..." but as it goes on, you realize that it's actually some kind of metamorphosis - a human turning into some kind of cyborg, or machine. Well that certainly is imaginative! The electronics and beats are moodily evocative and El Worm's vocals are quite varied and dramatically gripping. The track is disturbing but beautifully orchestrated from start to finish. It melds seamlessly into "Backup 1011" and now the machine created out of the human seems to be having a romantic, sentimental dialogue with an (anonymous?) female user. Very melancholic. "E-Creed" is a funky electro number beckoning the listener to "embrace your city..." and "follow along its pulse". Last track, "Pink Circuit Firmware 2.0.15 (Mlada Fronta remix) is a hypnotic piece of electronica that begins with a medium slow beat and filter-sweeping bass. The vocal begins in Type O-Neg style but quickly moves into machine mode with vocoder assistance, which it slips in and out of. This is quite a change from the original ("Pink Circuit" from 'Resilient') which had a much more metallic and human bent to it. I really like this version much better.

While that may describe some of the mechanics of 'Sideremesis', it certainly doesn't do justice to the whole. There are elements of EBM, darkwave, gothic, industrial, synthpop, rock, ambient, opera, trip hop and avant-garde, but this music owes no allegiance to any one of them in particular. That may make it difficult for some to grok at first, but repeated listenings will enhance comprehension, and open you up to the genius that's at work here. Erdh may have described their project as "cinematic metal", but there is a curious lack of metal on this EP. What they have done is create a mini-masterpiece in a dark, downtempo soundscape that attempts to reconcile man vs. machine, the organic melding with the inorganic. To a degree, they have succeeded. It's like many things you've heard before, and yet nothing you've ever heard before. A most delicious enigma.

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Artist: Vogon Poetry (@)
Title: The Prefect Stories
Format: CD
Label: ScentAir Records (@)
Rated: *****
Seems as though there's been a lot of synthpop coming out of Sweden lately, and that is just where Vogon Poetry is from - Gothenburg to be exact. According to Douglas Adams (Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy), Vogon Poetry is the third worst in the galaxy. The second worst is that of the Azgoths of Kria. The very worst poetry of all perished along with its creator, Paula Nancy Millstone Jennings of Sussex (UK), in the destruction of planet Earth, or so goes the HGG mythology. Fortunately, this band does not live up to its name; after all, it's just a name. Vogon Poetry consists of Roger Tell - music & lyrics; Daniel Onnerby - music & lyrics; and John Andersson - vocals. They've been together since 2012 with one prior album release - 'Don't Panic'. Although I've only heard a little bit of that one, 'The Prefect Stories' is darker, and maybe less overtly commercial. While I wouldn't call it all dark per se, it does have a melancholic tone, perhaps along the lines of Tears For Fears' 'The Hurting', although in mood only, no similarity in the music and vocals. When I first heard 'The Prefect Stories' my first impression was minimal synth done up in the style of Erasure, and like Andy Bell, John Andersson has a great voice. He is likely well known in Sweden where he is a veteran of both Swedish TV versions of 'The X Factor' and 'The Voice', and how many singers in synthpop bands can boast that kind of cred?

Things get off to a good start on the album with "Ready Player One", a percolating melodic number that's catchy enough to get your attention, although kind of low key. Lyrics are somewhat serious but not overly intellectual and Andersson's soulful delivery packs emotional power. This becomes much more evident on the next song, "Never Too Late". Third track is a cover of IAMX's "Spit It Out", a ballsy move covering a fairly big hit by another well known synthpop band. Musically, it's a different arrangement of the song, although the vocal sounds quite similar. There is no percussion until halfway though (just pulsing bass) and when it comes in, it's just kick drum and hat ticks, the minimum to keep the beat. Not bad; you'll still probably like the original better but a credible version nevertheless. "Possibilities" (Bistromax remix) is a far busier number, and here the band shows what it's really capable of- synthpop that has maturity and depth. "Moments" is a sweet tune with a lot of commercial potential. I'm hearing a bit of Split Enz in the vocals and the arpeggiated sythnwork is quite effective and bubbly.

"Hyperspace Bypass" is a cute, bouncy number reminiscent of early Depeche Mode. One of the lesser tracks compared with the whole, but still entertaining. Things turn darker with "The Great Big Nothing", chugging into the void like a lonely Major Tom. And darker still on "Afraid," with Pinhead's dialogue samples from 'Hellraiser:Bloodline'. It's upbeat in rhythm (a good track for the dancefloor) but the darkest track on the album. Might go down well in goth clubs. "Virtues" is rather reflective and gives you something to think about in the outro. Maybe there is no megahit on 'The Prefect Stories,' but there is a lot of potential, and for synthpop fans, quite an enjoyable listen. It could easily grow on you too. I sense that the best work of this band is yet to come, so you'd better keep an eye and an ear on them for Vogon Poetry could go galactic after all.
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Artist: Isolat Pattern
Title: Clinical Ambience
Format: CD
Label: Kvitnu (@)
Rated: *****
"Clinical Ambience" sounds like a guessed title for this output by one of the recent discoveries of Kotra's imprint Kvitnu, which came from the sonic wit of Berlin-based sound artist Benjamin Harris, which didn't received so many feedback despite the considerable quality of sounds and their layering. The wisely forged noises that Isolat Pattern pull out of his machines got inoculated in both spacey and claustrophobic pad-synth-rendered empty spaces: nervously whirling electronic trimming beats, artificial lacerations, piercing low frequencies or digital puffs come to life inside the narrow electric tunnels of "BLK.HSE", the cryptic whispers and the widely reverbered clashes of "Darkness Curves", the fascinating void of "Die Charmante Verlockung", the intermittent patterns of "Glitterer" , the abyssal recesses of "Purestate" and the industrial sikholes of "Twinning". It comes on a carefully designed artwork by Zavaloka, who wrapped this awesome release by means of exclusive glittered black cardboard and two inner prints made on metallic translucent and marbled papers.
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Artist: Kotra (@)
Title: Freyr Hologram
Format: CD
Label: Kvitnu (@)
Rated: *****
Dmytro Fedorenko aka Kotra is the founder and the main mastermind behind the excellent Ukrainian label Kvitnu, which is keeping on spreading interesting specimen of experimental electronics by meansof a selection of stuff and superbly crafted pieces of music, which, according to label's own description, "concetrates on sound and ideas with a high blood pressure in it" and could withstand selection of more consolidated labels. The interesting sonic discoveries they manage to find inside and outside Ukraine benefits listeners, but I guess they benefit the creative vein of Dmytro and Kateryna Zavoloka, the other artistic column of the label, as we can testify by this tidbit that got recently released by Kvitnu. The elegant artwork by Zavoloka, who wrapped the package by means of those bright white/silver silk wallpaper, that I remember I saw on many walls in the 90ies, enclose a CD-r where Kotra put three abrasive tracks, which could be described as the rawest side of some outputs of artists like Kangding Ray or Senking, that I wouldn't really match to the soso-called rhythmik noise. in spite of a certain syncopated step by which Dmytro organized - so to say - a bunch of hisses, interferences and concrete noises on the opening "Spiv Zolota" and the closing title track "Freyr Hologram" - my fav -. A good appetizer for the other recent outputs from Kvitnu that I'll introduce in the days to come.
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