Music Reviews



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Artist: ][|][
Title: _|_
Format: CD
Label: Steelkraft Manufactory (@)
Rated: *****
I have reviewed several releases by this enigmatically named band, and all of them are quite different. This is no exception. The album consists of 9 untitled tracks, leaving you to figure it out on your own. I suppose this is par for the course when you can’t even say the band’s name. Putting on the disc, you are greeted with what sounds like a ghost playing the organ in a haunted cathedral. Heavy drone and synth washes emerge suddenly, making you wonder where they came from. The organ music continues through the next few tracks, somewhat reminiscent of Vond, until Track 4, which is more dissonant than the previous tracks. Walls of drone build until it feels like it is being squeezed out of an overdriven amplifier at high volume, with just a hint of feedback throughout. Track 5 is more subdued drone, with heavy bass. This would be right at home as part of a score for a scene where the protagonist is in a cave, unaware of some eldritch horror lurking in the shadows. Track 6 is more cinematic music, only this time the battle is over and the dead lie motionless on the field, made all the more stark by the wind noise of Track 7. Track 8 keeps the wind noise going with a droning atmosphere that seems like waves of static washing on the shore. Finally, Track 9 ends on a different note, with noisy wind and what sounds lie As always, ][|][ ‎takes is on an interesting ride. This album weighs in at around 76 minutes and is limited to 100 copies.
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Artist: VV.AA.
Title: Bleeps, Beats & Bass - 10 Years Of Basserk Records
Format: Download Only (MP3 only)
Label: Basserk Records (@)
Basserk Records doesn’t want to pigeonhole itself into one genre, and this compilation of ten brand new tracks from ten different artists on the label certainly has a broad span, but the compilation’s title gives you a good idea what ballpark we’re in- the core DNA of it all is relatively mainstream electronic house music.

Three out of the first four tracks are ‘full length’ journeys of six minutes or over, the rest of the tracks are essentially radio edits, emphasising the fact that this really is a buffet sampler rather than a tightly-planned ten track musical journey.

Doctr’s “Ballet Comique” is a bouncy, leisurely, bright house instrumental that would be well suited to TV sync as it’s a little bit thin on foreground elements. HuSo’s “Lump” is subbass-heavy trap, pitching towards hip-hop, while U Know The Drill’s “Bust It” has strong retro flavours that take me very fondly back to the days of 187 Lockdown and Todd Edwards.

Decay’s “Van Pi” and Levintquatre’s “Headlight hustle” are the two closest-related adjacent tracks, both moody, atmospheric electrosynth. Other tracks, such as the Nuaru and BoeBoe x Subp Yao offerings, have more of a electro-dancehall flavour like early Major Lazer.

Kuenta i Tambu’s “Big Trombone” stands out as the final track, thanks to its full vocal, cheesy innuendo rap, and carnival versus broken beat groove. It’s an anachronism but it’s also a decent pop song.

Apart from “Big Trombone” it’s instrumentals agogo, but many of these tracks are so centre-ground in club and pop culture that I’m surprised Basserk don’t stick catchy vocals on them and pitch for major radio. Otherwise this is a solid, super-polished collection of impressive, mostly-instrumental club-pop.
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Artist: Anthony Child
Title: Electronic Recordings from Maui Jungle Vol. 2
Format: CD & Vinyl
Label: Editions Mego
This album was recorded in Haiku-Pauwela in Northern Hawaii in February 2016. It features genuine jungle atmospheric sound as a backdrop to electronic improvisations. So, coupled with the picturesque landscape of the cover art, you might expect this to be a distinctly low-key, chill-out affair.

In practice it’s somewhat more energetic and more sci-fi. The synth patterns, all sourced from Buchla instruments, are generally quite relentless, highly rhythmic, staccato and sometimes mildly abrasive loops. “Open Channeling” has parallels with Vangelis’s Blade Runner. “Truth Is Healing”, with its faintly choral chords, has Jean-Michel Jarre flavours. “Cellular Reintegration” is the closest the album comes to the old stereotypes of chill out music, with a synthesizer imitating an ethnic flute. From mellow beginnings, “Farthest Known Object” pushes towards feedback and discordance, trumpeting its way to the end of the album to ensure nobody mistakes this for a relaxing experience, before receding into distant ambience.

Each of the fourteen pieces is essentially a single idea or a single pattern, but developed, progressed and spontaneously reworked as it goes. Electronically it’s beautiful in its simplicity, replacing drum sounds with looping patterns that root the meandering drones, chord washes and arpeggios. There’s a shortage of sonic variety in the synth sounds, thanks to the focus on just one electronic instrument, but this is offset by changes in the arrangements. The production has an expansive, room-filling quality.

My only problem with this release is that it’s a solid improvised synth album, and it’s also got Hawaiian ambience, but there’s no real connection between the two. They don’t feel related and they just run in parallel. I would happily listen to just the synths, and I would also happily bask in the ambient noise for an hour as well, but often there seems little justification for doing both at the same time. The jungle noise is disregarded somewhat and might as well have been lifted from a sample CD. There are rare occasions when a jungle bird call adds an off-beat percussion, for example in “Old Technology”, but this is rare within the work and the jungle becomes incidental rather than involved. This certainly doesn’t ruin the listening experience, but it does border on false advertising.

An unusual, bold and strangely cathartic hybrid of an album.
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Artist: Premature Burial
Title: F/a/c/t/i/o/n/s
Format: Download Only (MP3 + Lossless)
Label: Silber Records (@)
Silber’s neat bite-sized “5 in 5” series, in which an artist creates five tracks which have a combined length of only five minutes overall, continues its extensive run with this offering from Premature Burial.

This is five distinct pieces that act as a calling card for the breadth of Premature Burial’s work. “Pull A Single Thread” is a gently scary overture seguing neatly into “Action”, which has soft tribal drums and filmic synth lines and would make a great intro to a darkwave album, or to the villain’s exotic lair in an action movie, whilst “Inaction” is a scratchy done with pained strings. “Conpromise” [sic] alludes to heavy metal but via the medium of synthwave, then “Divide” is a warm ambience that wraps it all up in a surprisingly snug manner.

It’s something of a musical Curriculum Vitae rather than a coherent micro-album, but it’s an impressive sampler.
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Artist: COUNCIL ESTATE ELECTRONICS
Title: Arktika
Format: CD
Label: Glacial Movements (@)
Rated: *****
According to the liner notes, COUNCIL ESTATE ELECTRONICS is the attempt of Justin K Broadrick and Diarmuid Dalton to pay a tribute to the music of their youth which is basically dub and krautrock. Obviously, this project is musically close of the impressive releases as Techno Animal (with Kevin Martin) but without the rhythmic emphasis and with a sharper sense of the underlying soundscape.
"Urals" opens this release exposing the musical structure which ties all the tracks: a dub rhythmic cage containing samples and soundscape so it's something as listenable as danceable and features even some abrasive moments. "567 foot 33,500 ton" is implacable in his hammering development while developing the track at the dynamic level. "Type LK-60YA" is based on somehow nostalgic synth line while "Rosatom" returns to the industrial framework based around a mechanical beat and a fistful of loops while "50 Let Pobody" seems closer to dub as the noiser elements aren't present and "Polar Star" exposes sonic nuances typical of more avant-garde field. "Liquified natural gas" floats without the rhythmic cage tying all the sounds and "60 megawatts" closes this release moving even further the most abstract elements of the dub canon.
As usual, while apparently there's all the canonical elements of Broadrick's music, something new, at least a detail, emerges and gives a sense of not been the routine of someone without anything to prove. Another clue that he's perhaps one of the most underrated artist alive. Recommended.
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