Music Reviews



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Artist: Lars Graugaard (@)
Title: Venus
Format: CD
Label: Dacapo Records (@)
Rated: *****
The use of computer by Professor Lars Graugaard on this collection of four suites, that he mainly composed for the emsembles of New York University Steinhardt in the (successful) attempt of searching a new way to melt classical composition with the sensorial and emotional spheres, is limited to the role of "connector" between the elements of this huge musical patchwork, whose sometimes puzzling complexity, I like to think, could render the likewise puzzling complexity of human emotions. The four amazing compositions on this CD, which got financially supported by The Danish Arts Foundation, are based on instrumental textures, which often tap and reinvent a series of sonic strategies from movie soundtracks, improvisational and chamber music by recurring changes of sonic density, emotional setting, playing speed, tonal scales and counterpoints, are not just based on conventional compositional techniques as they are mainly based on new findings in IT research, cognitive and ecological musicology that tend to assign a rather important role to space, single performers and audience in the compositional process within the definition of the so-called absolute music, closer to listener's perception and emotions and more distant from commercial or other functional formulas of music itself. Lars Graugaard experimental studies into the correlations between score notation, performance qualities and audio attributes with emotional recognization led him to the design of the software "Score Emotion", which manages to display a particular musical emotion's delimitation in score notation and symbolic performance instructions, which allows the composer to establish sequences of emotional significance and steer the composition on apath of real emotions. According to the brilliant and thourough explanation by Chilean composer Alejandro Guarello, "music is a sonic stimulus that primarily speaks to a listener's emotions, eliciting a response according to expectance and previous experience, in very much the same manner as any experience will move us. [...] What Lars graugaard seeks, and of which the compostions on this CD are examples, is to enhance the composer's options as a sculptor of sound by systematically incorporating empirical information on notational delimitations of emotion responses into his software, so that it in turn will allow him to safeguard the consistency of his compositionalideas and materials on the one hand, while at the other to hold it within the range of the present emotion and its proper transtion, as the musical proceedings unfolds.". The aim of the game could seem quite challenging, but check the result before stating that.
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Artist: KMFDM (@)
Title: Salvation
Format: CD EP
Label: Metropolis (@)
Rated: *****
German industrial-rock band KMFDM doesn't really need any introduction as I told on the occassion of some words about their album "Our Time Will Come", a title which sounds an ironic statement about their 30-years lasting groundshaking path across the amazing boundaries between industrial, metal/rock and meaningful, shouted and somehow tantalizing incitements where they let the polemic and wisely argumentative vein pulse in their temples. The prolific label Metropolis recently added another nice title to their rich discography by means of this concise collection of remixes, which includes the original song that gives the title to the EP, whose energetic rough mix of vocals, sticky distorted guitars and visceral electronic sequences could surmise some relatively old acts of the band such as "Angst" as well as being perfect as the soundtrack of a fair-minded reportage about Vatileaks... Allelujah! Two remixes of "Salvation" got included in the tracklist, one by Italian cyberpunkster Victor Love (Dope Stars Inc.), whose firing intro by means of a catchy grinding electro-punk push doens't really lift off and features somehow predictable directions, and a more interesting remix by Jimmy Urine (Mindless Self Indulgence), who managed to add nitro to an already energetic track by slightest propellants - an additional female vocal to the catchy chorus of the original track, some sliding electronic sounds, a sequence which reprises the melodic line in the middle of the track and an emphasis on the reverbs on guitar distortions as well as a final medley, which could surmise the easy "danceability" of many tunes by New Order and LCD Soundsystem -. I personally enjoyed the remixes of other tracks more than the ones of "Salvation", particularly the one of "Blood vs.Money" by Bradley Bills, which replaced the Asian Dub Foundation-like drum'n'bass groove of the original track by means of a tribal industrial one, and the amazing vocoderized make-up of "Brainwashed" by KMFDM's female singer Sascha Konietzko, while the alternation of nervous breaks and temporary slow-downs and the whole treatment that Tom Stanzel made on his Tritoxin Remix of "Blood vs.Money"'s spinning time doesn't really enthuse me.
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Artist: Seba
Title: Nichoho/Sienna
Format: 12"
Label: Warm Communications (@)
Rated: *****
Almost at the same time of the launch of his new ep on his imprint Secret Operations, Seba released a couple of tracks for EHL's Texas-based dnb label Warm Communications in witness to the tip-top shape of his creative skills. This release follows the stylistical lay-out of the above-mentioned "Jungle Music" as besides the presence of the call of some mysterious bird (seemingly that sort of phoenix on the cover artwork of "Jungle Music"), one of the track, "Nichoho", features more junglist such as the chopped amen break that he injects after the opening break together with the phoenix's call, the voice of a moaning girl close to some orgasmic ecstatic voice and some flowing melodic entities, while the second track "Sienna" features Seba's known tricks to "warm" bouncing drum'n'bass typical progression by means of percussive vibrations, continuous mothernal bass tones and shaking melodic pulses that gradually pushes the whole tune to enjoyable heights.
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Artist: Jonathan|Christian (@)
Title: the nothing i feel
Format: Download Only (MP3 + Lossless)
Label: self-released
Rated: *****
Has it already been two years since Jonathan|Christian released 'Beautiful/Hideous' ? I guess it has. 'the nothing i feel' is the followup to that, inspired by their musical roots with lush strings and the haunting keys of a grand piano, continuing their momentum bringing the best of old and new gothic rock. The album was mastered at The Cage Studios, Coventry, UK by Martin Bowes of Attrition, and features a remix by former KMFDM'er En Esch and drums by The New Creatures' Tiger Kohen on a couple of songs, including a cover of the Siouxsie Sioux/Danny Elfman song "Face to Face". Jonathan Mooney is the instrumentalist/songwriter of this duo, while Christian Granquist provides the vocals and lyrics. (Mooney is formerly of the New Creatures and now living and working out of Orange County, CA, Granquist is formerly of Day Behavior and plays keyboards in an electronic group out of Stockholm called The Atom.)

'Beautiful/Hideous' which I reviewed a good long while ago was an atmospheric, moody affair , full of pathos and high drama. On 'the nothing i feel' they haven't forsaken that, but they have pumped up the power quite a bit and that's a very positive thing. Opening with a brief lyrical recitation on the title track, Christian ensures the nothing he feels will be the nothing you feel as well. Disaffected, disillusioned, bordering on disgust, a welling up of emotion in a powerful catharsis that sweeps you away until the pseudo-classical fadeout. Wow! Rather intense. I should mention that Christian's voice sounds like a grittier Peter Murphy, but still somehow different, unique. "Goodbye Horses" and "Forgotten" are two nice tracks with appropriate impassioned delivery and lush orchestration, but "The Pink & The Black" kicks Jonathan|Christian up to a new level for them; an unstoppable locomotive of a dancefloor burner with ardent lyrics and vocals that pushes the needle into the red zone on the gothometer. "Independence" begins as a brooding piano-based ballad, but picks up steam towards the end. "Her Austere Heart" is an attempt to break the ice of the ice queen, steeped in gothic romanticism lyrically and orchestrally. A heavenly chorus ushers in "Your Lying Virtue" betraying the uptempo motif of this solid rocker that offers a few arrangement twists over the course of its four minutes and forty seconds. Another deeply emotional ballad follows with "I'm Dead (Without You)" and Christian really wears his heart on his sleeve and bares his soul for this one. "Hush" is a 52 second lullaby done old school with only piano and violin accompaniment that sounds positively nineteenth century, transitioning into into "Face To Face". For me, this is a tough one. This is one of my all-time favorite Siouxsie songs and hearing another version of it (when the original is perfect) is not easy. Be that as it may, Jonathan comes up with an interesting arrangement for the song. It's plenty powerful, and yet somehow delicate. Christian handles the vocals on it fairly well too. The album technically ends with the En Esch remix of "The Pink & The Black" and this is the one DJs are going to want for the clubs. I usually don't care much for remixes, but this one really rocks! I'm impressed. There is one more I was privy to - the Kitty Lectro Remix of "Forgotten". It's a somewhat stripped-down version of the original, and while nice, not essential. Guitar is more prominent, rhythm is simplified but overall, kind of superfluous, so you're not missing out on much.

'the nothing i feel' is a solid album with many good tracks, and some really great ones. You can preview the whole thing on their Bandcamp site, and buy it there too, or just what you like. (Buying it all give you more bang for the buck.) Powerful stuff, and if they ever play live in your area, you'd better catch them.
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Artist: Seba
Title: Jungle Music
Format: 12"
Label: Secret Operations (@)
Rated: *****
Brilliant Swedish drum'n'bass producer Sebastian Ahrenberg aka Seba extended the wingspan of his creative flair by means of a couple of good tracks on his own imprint Secret Operations. Seba lets his polychromatic plumage flow both on the seemingly definitive lemma of jungle on "Jungle Music", where in spite of the chopped amen break and ruffed percussive embellishments, that he masterfully manipulates, and samples that could surmise old glories of late 90ies such as Flat Liner, Chronicles or Endemic Void, the Mephistophelic voice seems to refer to the envorin/mental entities of a concrete jungle by repeating the sentence "his is jungle" (...and "this is jungle music"!), and on the lovely tune "Cloudless", where Seba seems to order to his winged entity to leave the ground by flying over the previously rendered jungle by means of sonic tricks that are more immediately recognizable by Seba fan-base. The flight, more than mere exercises of style, is what really matters...
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