Music Reviews



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Artist: N.M.O.
Title: Nordic Mediterranean Organization / Numerous Miscommunications Occur
Format: 12" vinyl + Download
Label: Diagonal Records
A tongue-in-cheek silliness runs throughout this rather ungenerous release, which despite being described as a “2LP”, clocks in at only 35 minutes, with many of the tracks being sample interludes of thirty seconds or less, and essentially only 4 full-length tracks. It’s a deliberately daft blend of bouncy Dutch techno noises with mechanical percussive beats played against speed changes, unexpected jumps and false starts.

“New Bulgaria” is the closest the album comes to a solid, straight-faced seven-minute techno journey, slightly reminiscent of some early Josh Wink tracks, but even that track grinds to a halt and closes with noises that wouldn’t sound out of place in Looney Tunes. “Double Arm” is notable for its jazz elements and text-to-speech commentary.

“Armchair Evader” is the strongest track for me- it’s the one where they get the balance right between esoteric noises and unusual sound sources, and a groove which shifts and adjusts in interesting ways, not always sticking to even bar counts, but without behaving like it’s trying to throw the listener off the train.

Overall though it’s a package that sounds like it was more fun to create than it is to listen to. It’s daft, and it’s not without merit, but it doesn’t quite convince.
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Artist: Reisebüro86
Title: Platform 12
Format: Download Only (MP3 + Lossless)
Label: self-released
“Platform 12” opens as though it will largely be an ambient field recording of a slightly barren, windswept Hungarian railway station, and while that it certainly the opening line of the premise, it quickly morphs into other shapes. Unexpected spot sounds are looped into various rhythms both simple and complex.

“Day II” seems to have involved the microphone being snuck into a station office- is that a dot matrix printer? And in the second half of “Day I”, is that the sound of a station urinal flushing, timestretched to within an inch of its life? It’s a playful and wilfully random affair in some ways, but there are sinister, windy undertones as well.

The mechanical insistence of “Day II” is a transient, found sound techno. “Day III” throws electronic equipment warning beeps together like they’re having a melodic bar fight. “Day IV” creates a debate between different hydraulic machines. A train station this may be, quiet it is not. Interestingly, there’s no evidence of people here either; somehow all evidence of human life has been carefully expunged from the recordings, leaving only the machines with a voice.

“Platform 12” is an engaging and well-executed 20-minute concept EP.
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Artist: Dean De Benedictis (@)
Title: Salvaging the Present
Format: CD
Label: Spotted Peccary Music (@)
Rated: *****
The second Spotted Peccary release in today's reviews comes from Dean De Benedictis, an artist with rich and varied credentials going back to 1990's. He's the son of TV series music composer Dick De Benedictis (Perry Mason 1985-93, Columbo, Rockford Files, Matlock, etc.) and has been releasing his own recordings since 1996. With a background in jazz fusion and progressive rock bands (he performed with Brand X on tour in 2004), Dean gravitated toward electronic and techno-tribal, influenced by such artists as Tangerine Dream, Mark Isham, Steve Roach, Robert Rich and Loren Nerell. He's had releases under the alias Surface 10 as well as under his own name. De Benedictis is the founder of both Fateless Records, and the Fateless Flows Collective, a Los Angeles group of electronic composers. Dean is also the co-founder and producer of Cyberstock, an outdoor music concert and visual arts display held in the Santa Monica Mountains. With all that in mind, it's a wonder that 'Salvaging the Present' is my first experience with his music.

Seldom does a one-sheet (the promo text accompanying the release provided by the label and/or artist for the review) do much more than hype the release, and I usually hate quoting them, but in this case, it's quite relevant. "Through the creative use of musical instruments and sound design tools, De Benedictis scores an emotionally deep, aesthetically appealing and technologically sophisticated triumph, blending organic and electronic expressions into a compelling panorama of music and sound." That just about nails it. But he didn't do it entirely alone - guests include Percy Jones (bass), Alexey Gorokholinskiy (clarinet), Peter Ludwig (cello and voice), Lisa Claire Mitterer (vocals), D'von Charley (native flute), Jim Goetsch (sax) and Angelo Elonte (violin). 'Salvaging the Present' is so far removed from what we've come to think of as ambient, that it is "sui generis," something entirely in its own genre. Yes, there are deep ambient passages, some techno-tribal, a nod to classical, world music, experimental, and more, but it has a special vibe to it that can't be pigeonholed.

It's grand and spacious, yet well-grounded. Sometimes heavenly, sometimes rhythmic, sometimes both simultaneously. The album has nine tracks, all of them over six minutes and under ten. The first track alone, "To the Ends of Elation" is a minor masterpiece with a richness and musicality that rivals anything in the cinematic ambient realm I've heard in a long, long time. It only gets better from there, and I'm actually awed by what I'm hearing. An incredible variety of moods and motifs that enthrall the listener, this is the kind of ambient that you want to pump up the volume for, not relegate to the background. So in that sense 'Salvaging the Present' is much more than just ambient; it is symphonic ambient without the strictures of classical music, or any traditional musical format. Yet, there are elements that will be familiar, and the way they are blended within the context of these soundscapes is indeed remarkable. This is really a beautiful album through and through, worthy of its lofty rating, and highly recommended.
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Artist: Rudy Adrian (@)
Title: Coastlines
Format: CD
Label: Spotted Peccary Music (@)
Rated: *****
'Coastlines' is New Zealander Rudy Adrian's 15th album release and 5th for the Spotted Peccary label. This is my first experience with either, and although I've been reviewing here at Chain D.L.K. for quite some time, it seems as though there is always something new to discover, even if the project has been around for awhile previously unknown to me. As you might surmise, Adrian is an electronic ambient artist, and the title 'Coastlines' is self-evident of the music. Well, sort of but not exactly. This is not 50 minutes of water lapping against the shore or the ocean crashing on the beach. There is a little of that to set the mood, but nothing so prosaic or boring; you could get that on some 'Environments' album.

Being a native new Zealander Rudy has access to all of its unspoiled spaces and breathtaking vistas, so it must be a Godsend for creating ambient music, and perhaps that's the reason why he's so prolific. Over ten tracks on this album, Adrian explores various aspects of where the sea meets the land, and within the confines of the concept, he presents a variety of aural moods that are mostly placid, sometimes mysterious, often meditative and always expansive. Natural sounds are occasionally employed to enhance the ambiance, but not overused. The melodic content is somewhat subliminal and elongated (not quite "melambient"), perhaps not as amorphous as Eno's ambient melodies, but subdued all the same. I suppose there are parts that could be construed as "new agey" (the chirping birdies come to mind) but these are transient motifs in a much greater whole. 'Coastlines' is slow and sedate, but rich with textures and atmosphere. At low volume it would be great for mediation, and even promoting sleep with its luxuriant tranquility. Imaginative and and engaging, 'Coastlines' has a wonderful flow to it that will make repeated listening a pleasure.
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Artist: Ulrich Mitzlaff (@)
Title: X-RUN-4 Prismatique
Format: Download Only (MP3 + Lossless)
Label: Crónica (@)
Rated: *****
Background noises get typically considered a disturbing element of live recordings, but I won't say the same for this output, capturing a solo improvisational session by German (even if he resides in Lisbon since a long time) cellist and composer Ulrich Mitzlaff in a spacey hall nearby the motorway close to Humberto Delgado Airport in Lisbon under commission of the Portuguese National Civil Engineering Laboratory over two different days (November 30th and December 21st 2014). Besides the typical reverb added by vast spaces, the hissing noise generated by traffic as well as more or less distinguishable sounds of departing and landing airplanes seem to have been fully integrated in the recording as they were (without any treatment), and I'd rather say you could have the feeling that Ulrich's beloved instrument, as well as the stylistic shaping he evokes by means of it, got sometimes synched to the aural manifestation of human transportation. Covering an almost indistinct range between polka to skronk of free jazz till occasional episodes that could vaguely remind the prodigious counterpoints of Bach's Cello Suite 1 or even Beethoven's final parts of some of his more dramatic scores (resurfacing in particular during the central piece, the 20-minutes lasting "4-one", featuring Beethoven's just mentioned phrasing between 13th and 14th minute) features occasional percussive elements (mostly found objects and materials), highlighting the feeling of an authentic real-time recorded improvisation together with the performative fits of madness resulting into sudden accelerations of chord tapping and squeaking scratches (almost rendering the image of Ulrich while using his nails on his cello till they begin bleeding) as well as unexpected sparks of harmony. The instrumental eruptions, as well as their bizarre clutching with surrounding noises, could let you imagine that the composer/performer is just putting on an act a sort of dramatic fight between a forgotten cello and the rest of the absent-minded/absent-minding world; they are akin to two aural inputs or attractive poles that could vividly stage a struggle between emotion and apathy in the somehow alienating society we often could experience.
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