Music Reviews



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Artist: Cass. (@)
Title: Magical Magical
Format: CD
Label: Home Normal (@)
Rated: *****
The placental warm bass tone and the sudden childish yell on the opening "You on my mind" ould sound closer to the style of Jonsi, the well-known singer and guitarist of Sigur Ros, but it's not the only stylistical path that Niklas Rehme-Schluter aka Cass., a young musician from Osnabruck that got welcomed into Home Normal on the wise suggestion by Ghent-based tape label Dauw, paved for the temporary regression that his album could inspire. Home Normal prefers to reprise the Japanese concept of Kamikakushi (literally meaning "hidden by spirits" or "spirited away") in order to describe the output by Cass. and the reason why he titled it "Magical Magical": according to this concept that was widely referred by Japanese visual novelists, manda and anime writers and cartoonist such as Rumiko Takahasi, Ryukishi07 - the mind behind "When They Cry" series - or Ghibli head Hayao Miyazaki - his film "Sen to Chihiro no Kamikakushi", also known as "Sprited Away", is maybe the most cogent output of this branch of Japanese culture -, the mysterious disppearance or death of children, who were later found in a temple or a shrine, were explained as the act by some angry deities, who decided to kidnap innocent souls to bring them in the world of spirits. Such a belief was also used to describe the sometimes troubled or enchanted passage from childhood to adulthood, where important discoveries like love, dreams, light, sadness or even death are somehow magical. Many moments of Cass.'s album closely evoke such a conceptual framework by means of different stylistical intersections, but in spite of some similarities to sonic stuff by Mum, Boards of Canada, Beaumont Hannant, Ulrich Schnauss or other sound artists, who inoculated a certain daydreaming naivety in some releases, and the contribution of other artists to this gleaming regression (Miriam Jolene, Emily Cross, Altars Altars, Emil Hewitt, Moritz Leppers), the sound is consistently homogeneous and rich of moments ("Atlon" - my favorite track of the whole album -, "Love Lockdown", "Murph's Dream", "Lilli's Aftermath", which are going to let listeners sway inside their emotional pools on the spot. Beware of Kami!
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Artist: Gonçalo Almeida, John Dikeman, George Hadow
Title: O Monstro
Format: CD
Label: Creative Sources (@)
Rated: *****
"O Monstro" (Portuguese for "the Monster"), the musical freak by Goncalo Almeida (double bass), John Dikeman (tenor saxophone) and George Hadow (drums), is maybe the closest release to typical aesthetics of free-jazz sessions from the ones received by Creative Sources. Recorded on live stage at Zeal 100 in Amsterdam on 4th March 2014, this session is made up of four tracks, where they free a really wild energy, which got tempered by amazingly trapping juggling on instruments that express a remarkable talent by each musician. I really enjoyed the drumming on "Vrieke!" by Hadow, who seems to warp hard bop techniques into something that sounds wisely raw, the gipsy nuances of "Eastern tides" and the specular explosions and the popping crescendo on incandescent instruments you're going to listen on the initial "Pentagon" and the final title-track "O Monstro". The titles and its references as well as their apopleptic performances on instruments, which seem to give voice and shape to uncontrollable bouts of rage, seem to mirror the political debate that is flaming many (more or less) intellectual avantgarde circles in Europe.
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Artist: Alocasia Garden (@)
Title: Visitor
Format: Tape
Label: Vanity Pill Tapes (@)
Outlined as the first full length album from Alocasia Garden (the moniker of UK-based experimental musician Reece Thomas Green), "Visitor" bears exactly 4 lengthy pieces, thick with spacious and out of reach tonalities. Featuring "Creations of Man" and "Visitor", the A side seems to spend the first part of the album building upon an immersive and intimate sonic fact, demanding you to just hang there on every processed tone and witness time as it speeds up or slows down according to your own mindset. It's this A side that brings a kind of fleshliness to the scene, with its confrontational recordings of sound that push their hypnotic potential to the very point where you can almost visualize their impetuous rhythms while also being propelled to the more bruising B side. With "Someone Else's Memories", noises are colliding to crack and drift through your brain. Even the title of this piece seems the right one for what you are listening to: insidious yet sharp blasts of postindustrial noise mapping your surroundings and allowing you, as a listener, to plug in. But, somewhere in the "back", there is also a more melodic tune, well disguised by droning synthscapes and still lurking in "Abrasions". This final track might also be the most elusive one, fading out as it is and meandering through cavernous atmospheres. A steadfast and distinct listen, "Visitor" delivers sound modulations that make you forget you were listening to them in the first place simply because you might end up thinking that they have always been there, live scoring your daily movements. With art also by Reece Thomas Green, "Visitor" comes pressed on 20 copies of black cassette housed in a clear case, with card printed covers and hand stamped labels. Overall, I think this small cassette label, Vanity Pill Tapes, is something that might just be worth "pinning" down and sharing with other analog aficionados.
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Artist: Oren Ambarchi & Jim O'Rourke
Title: Behold
Format: 12"
Label: Editions Mego
Rated: *****
Even if the new collaborative release by Oren Ambarchi and Jim O'Rourke, who partially reprised some ideas that they developed on their previous collaborative album "Indeed", got splitted in two parts, one on each side, I would suggest to listen to "Behold" as a continuum. The resounding elements, which appears on the first half as if they emit signals from inside a dense and really impenetrable fog or from a long distance, become more and more distinguishable: the constant tapping on hi-hats by Ambarchi doesn't disentagle the flowing leakage of (sometimes screeching) sonic entities and isolated but unrecognisable field recording that fluctuates in disarray within the tarnishing cloud where even single bass-like thuds by Jim are somehow relevant on the first part, but it turns himself into a sort of enzyme of the reversed process of enlightenment on the second half, whose closeness to some old-fashioned Krautrock progressions and contemporary minimalism doesn't eclipse the amazing way these muscians find a certain complementarity. You could imagine the whole release as the rendering of some cognitive process, where the initial confusion, caused by the seemingly disorganized movement of blurred elements, turns into proper ecstacy when the observer manages to understand or even foreseem the inner rules of their perpetual flowing. A listening to behold.
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Artist: Hyperbubble (@)
Title: Dee Dee Rocks the Galaxy (Original Soundtrack)
Format: CD
Label: Pure Pop For Now People (@)
Rated: *****
You may recall Hyperbubble from the last review I did on them not too long ago when they released their soundtrack to an indie film called 'Attack of the Titans'. For those who didn't catch it, and don't know Hyperbubble, they are an international visual and performing arts electropop/synthpop duo from San Antonio, Texas consisting of Jeff and Jess DeCuir. So 'Dee Dee Rocks the Galaxy' is another soundtrack album to an indie short (very short, thankfully) film that's absolutely awful. The slim plot consists of this slacker girl who's life stinks because can't even sell (girl scout) cookies on earth, but through a mystical potion she ingests, she ends up in space and becomes a guitar goddess. The execution is, well...amateurish doesn't even begin to describe it. Why Hyperbubble persists in getting involved in these junior non-achievment film projects is beyond me. The band puts a lot more effort into the music than the people who make these visual atrocities. The music is mostly kitschy retro space-inspired synthpop and largely instrumental, but not always. A song such as "My Life Stinks" culls its vocal directly from the movie for its entirety - "My life stinks, I really need a change," patheticaly spoke-sung by Dee Dee (Elie Zinsmeister). It's this kind of thing that keeps the album from being listenable more than once or twice, which is too bad because they do come up with some nice quirky electronica instrumentals here. The track "Kingdom of Korg" is notably pretty cool with it's doomy homage to 50's sci-fi flicks, theremin and all. They even manage to come up with some strange, eerie alien atmosphere as on "Planet Theremin". Last track "Queen of the Universe" has a chorus of wordless female voices I really adore, and "Dee Dee's Theme" is a manic synthpunk tune with a neat vocal track that despite its tie to the movie, stands pretty well on its own. Still, I'm not sold; for me there was just too much "movie" in this album. They did win first place for musical score with this at the 2014 48 Hour Film Fest in San Antonio, Texas, but I'm guessing that the competition in the music department may not have been all that strong. The filmmakers are assigned a genre, a character, a prop, and a line of dialogue, and have 48 hours to create a short film containing those elements. I highly doubt Hyperbubble was constrained to that time limit to create the soundtrack. If they were, then this is a miracle. Still, I think the band would be better served if they went back to doing what they do best, namely making quirky, fun, addictive synthpop tunes.
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