Music Reviews



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Artist: Mario Grönnert and Commonsen5e (@)
Title: Nightmares and Dreamscapes: Silhouettes of Urbia
Format: CD
Label: Audiokult Music Group (@)
Rated: *****
This is a collaboration between German musician Mario Grönnert and Mason Metcalf, a Portland based artist who records under the name Commonsen5e. I was unfamiliar with both of these artists, had no press sheet, and the website seemed to have trouble, so let’s just put the CD on and see what happens. “Breathing in the Ash” starts us off with spacey ambient with a mournful feel that gets increasingly intense as it progresses. At around 10 minutes in, it adds a clavier and tectonic shifts of bass rumbling with slow moving synth drone and bits of static to break it all up. “Sky Full of Crows” is an exercise in contrast with brooding bass rumbles and high pitched synth work. “Station 17” is a short track of dreamy drone with factory noise built into the composition. “Journeys Calling” is a peaceful, simple piano composition reminiscent of Harold Budd with some low end rumbling that simmers just beneath the surface before coming to the foreground toward the end. “Through Midnight Fallen Lands” is a dreamy soundscape that would be quite at home as backing music for a Cocteau Twins song; “A Radiance” is similar, but with more of a piano and dreamscape vide. Finally, “The world Rewinded” is dancier, noisier, and more ominous, while keeping the piano as contrast. Well done. This album weighs in at around 53 minutes.
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Artist: St. Francis Duo (@)
Title: Peacemaker Assembly
Format: CD
Label: Trost Records (@)
Rated: *****
St. Francis Duo is a collaboration between Stephen O’Malley (best known as the guitarist of SUNN O)))) and UK drummer Steve Noble. The press sheet doesn’t give a whole lot of info on the release, but when the only instruments credited are drums, percussion, guitars, and amplifiers, you have some sense of where this is headed. This album consists of two untitled tracks, so let’s jump right in. I’m a drummer, so I enjoyed the opening, which amounts to a long drum solo over sustained guitar drone. After about 5 minutes, the drumming becomes less frantic, but no less interesting. Although the guitar seems to play only one note, it shifts over time and toward the end takes a more active role in the composition. Well done. The second track takes a similar approach in style while retaining its own identity. Guitar and drums vie for attention while never seeming in competition. This is a good illustration of how sometimes less truly is more. Well worth picking up. This album weighs in at around 38 minutes.
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Artist: Reutoff (@)
Title: No One's Lullabies
Format: CD
Label: Zhelezobeton (@)
Rated: *****
Reutoff is a trio of WoWa [BT], Arnold pR, and Mitya N, who all hail from a small suburb of Moscow called Reutov and decided to get together to make industrial music in 1998. For them, the town is inspiration. According to the band, they think that “there are plenty of unique, really magic places in the town and around, that forms a united sacral space which is able to stimulate creative activity like nothing else can.” So let’s see what the town inspired them to do. The album opens with “New World Disorder,” and absolutely gorgeous composition of complex, dark, droning synth melodies and percussion. There are a lot of layers here woven together into a beautiful tapestry of sound. Seriously, this track is worth the price of admission even if the rest of the album sucked (which, thankfully, it doesn’t). “Slumber Song” is, ironically, a bit noisier, but no less interesting. Next up, we have “Edge of Oblivion,” which reminds me a lot of Autopsia’s “Secret Christmas History,” with its minor key and plodding beat, but if there were some unintelligible buried Laibach vocals sampled for good measure. Dulcimer and bells combine with wind tunnel synth in “Dead Templar's Groove Manuscript,” and actually has a lullaby feel to it, although one that is meant to inspire dread rather than sleep – sort of how Grimm’s fairy tales were not just for children. “Ice in my Liver” is a jazzy number, with a good beat and a hallucinatory soundscape swirling around it. “Nameless Tune with No Fate” is more heavy, oppressive soundscape that has a claustrophobic feel to it. “Requiem for Android” is an otherworldly soundscape with a beat and synth lines that sound, at times, like the passage of time. “Stille Leuchtet in dem Dunkel” is a cinematic piece that sounds like the soundtrack to the showdown between the protagonist and antagonist with a beat practically designed for the trailer. No explosions though; they’re implied. Finally, “About the Stars (live in Heaven)” closes out the disc with a track that is a bit more raw than the others, which makes sense because it is live. The material on this album began life as a limited-edition tape of 80 copies on German label Sea State in 2014, then they added four more tracks to their Bandcamp page, before finally releasing it on CD with a live track added for good measure. I am glad that this material has received wider dissemination because it is excellent. Do yourself a favor and pick this one up. This is far and away the best thing I have heard from Zhelezobeton. This album weighs in at around 70 minutes.
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Artist: Collateral Nature (@)
Title: Smoky Backbone
Format: 2 x 12" vinyl
Label: Beat Machine Records (@)
Rated: *****
I had not heard of this act before, but it is an Italian duo consisting of Claudio Vittori and Paolo Gozzetti, with some others thrown in for good measure. As the press sheet describes it, this album moves “through smooth jazzy vibes and gently electronic scenarios” and “ranges from trip hop remembrances to dance floor vibes passing through nu jazz perceptions and UK sound memories.” Fair enough. Let’s put it on the turntable. This is pretty straightforward jazzy lounge music with sultry female vocals. You can almost smell the cigarette smoke and cheap whisky as you picture the dive bar in which they are playing. Synth organ, drums, and vocals make for a pretty solid combination. Still, I found it to be well constructed but nothing that really blew me away. There didn’t feel like there was much experimentation, leaving the end result feeling a bit sterile. The high point on the album was the powerful vocals by Jaia Sowden on “Tribal Tattoo,” which closes the album on a high point. Next up, we have the remixes by Wandl, Werkha, H-SIK, and Yellowtail. Generally, remixes are too conservative for my taste and tend to stick too close to the original. Thankfully, this is not the case here. Each of these remixes are much more complex and interesting than the original. For example, H-SIK brings some glitch to the table and Yellowtail trades in the organ for guitar with the drums and vocals for a more frantic feel. Given the choice between the two, I would dump the originals and go with the remixes.
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Artist: VV.AA.
Title: Anti-Mimesis
Format: Tape
Label: Das Andere Selbst (@)
Rated: *****
I was familiar with some of the artists on this sampler, having reviewed albums by Delmore FX, Blodfet & DJ Lonely, and Rocky B, so I was looking forward to seeing what other weirdness we could expect from Das Andere Selbst. Compilations tend to either showcase the diversity of the label or the unity of the label and this one definitely tends toward unity. But before I get into the music itself, let’s talk about why I am only reviewing half of the album. Either they decided to put everything on one side (but I my count was pretty consistent with the track listing, so this does not seem to be the case) or I got the bonus tape that didn’t record side 2. I even figured that they may have decided to be tricky and put them in random places on the tape, so I listened to the sound of blank tape to make sure. Nope. No hidden tracks. Maybe mine will be worth something someday to completists who want the extra-limited edition mispressing, but for now it means that I can’t physically review the entire tape. Still, I was able to listen to the missing tracks at the bandcamp page for the compilation, so the side B artists will st ill get some love. There are no song titles listed in the liner notes, so let’s see what these artists have for us. The Lost and Found Sound opens it up with a mellow composition that sounds like a folk singer with a circuit bent synth. Sea Urchin sounds like 1990s chillout ambient played on a bad tape recorder over a glitchy drum machine. Rocky B takes samples and slices and reassembles them to make a kind of a beat. Novo Line brings bass and beats together for a hypnotic effect. Blodfet & DJ Lonely really need a beer, as they sing about brewski and brewha over bright synth, which then shifts to female vocals of weird poetry about “budget creams” and “teenagers from Uranus” over a Casiotone synth line. This is weird and fantastic. Blue Stork is repetitive and glitchy with a fast drum beat. brings more pitch shifting fun with distorted voice and a slow, grooving beat. Multitasking is a bit repetitive for my tastes. It shifts ever so slowly until it gets more interesting at the end. Oto Borus is a slow-moving drum machine compositon that evokes the feeling of someone walking behind you, stalking you. Jealousy Party sounds is a frantic, fun track of weird jazz. Woodwinds squawk and rip through solos as the drums keep it all together (somewhat). If you like your jazz weird or loved the John Zorn snippets on Bob Ostertag’s “Attention Span,” you need this. Steinzeit is more drum machine and analogue synth goodness. Marimba gives us a swirling, hypnotic slab of synth drone. Trema gives us some minimalist crackling noise which then adds some spastic analog weirdness halfway through. Delmore FX is a bank of sci-fi sound effects and synth run through miles and miles of reverb. It’s a lot of fun. Cuma 10000 throws down a peaceful, hypnotic track. Overall, this compilation is a lot of fun. If you like it weird and fun, this is one well worth getting. Just make sure that you get the whole tape. This tape is limited to 50 copies.
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