Music Reviews



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Artist: Velvetine (@)
Title: Crematorial Dance
Format: CD + Download
Label: Facthedral's Hall (@)
Rated: *****
Yet one more from the French Facthedral's Hall label. Formed in the 90's under the name Septembre Noir, the band changed its name in 2006 to Velvetine. Band member are: Peache (Pierre-Henri Mandine) on guitars + manufactured instruments; Stef.a (Stefan Mandine) on lead vocals + guitar; and Le K. (Marc Reina) on electronic percussion. Their debut album, 'Septembre' was released in 2007 and they followed that up with several EPs and a couple of videos, so 'Crematorial Dance' is their second full-length release. I wasn't able to preview much of 'Septembre,' but from the little I've heard 'Crematorial Dance' is much father along the path. Opening with "Far Away," Velvetine sets a strong dark tone with this impassioned creeper. Part of Stef's vocals are in French, and part in English, but you'll have no trouble getting the gist of the alienation and angst. At first, I thought this reminds me of some metallish dark alternative band whose name escapes me... The second track, "Ulan Bator" (sung completely in French) made the inevitable comparison much clearer - Bauhaus. It's not only Stef's sort of vocal similarity to Peter Murphy, but also the psychodramatic intensity of the band's musical style. It became even more evident on "Along the Way". The mood and phrasing, very Bauhaus, but still very French. These guys may not be Goth, but the maudlin music and lyrics should perk up the ears of every goth and emo who hears it. To wit, on "L'Immeuble" - "I don't know who I am, I don't know who you are, I don't care for myself..." While it may seem almost a parody taken out of context, Stef's impassioned delivery makes it real. The music is as simple and uncluttered as Bauhaus, yet refined in ways Bauhaus never was, and often fragile and poetic as on "Broken Harp." Velvetine cooks up a real NIN-style stomper on "Resolution," and kicks it up a notch or three on "The Shuttle." The rhythm aspect of this band is interesting too; Le K. uses a programmed drum base while he manually plays percussion over the top. The dense, distorted guitar give the music a metallish aura, but it's really far from metal. I really like that the lyrics are in both French and English; it is surely a refreshing approach to this type of music. The exception though is the last track, "Maha Mritunjaya," a Great Death-Conquering Mantra from the Indian Rigveda. Velvetine puts it across with aplomb and a forceful dramatic flair. Way cool!

'Crematorial Dance' is an album that can't help but grow on you. In fact, during the course of listening to the music (for a fifth time) for this review, I'm upping the rating half-a-star because it's just that damn good. Copies are limited to 500. Obviously I have mine. I wouldn't wait to get yours if I were you. Highly recommended!
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Artist: Minitel (@)
Title: Abimes
Format: CD + Download
Label: Facthedral\'s Hall (@)
Rated: *****
More interesting music from France courtesy of the Facthedral's Hall label. There seems to be very little information on the artist, even from the label. 'Abimes' is the debut Dark Ambient Industrial Drone project composed and recorded in 2006 by Iconoclast, under the project name of Minitel, and not released until this year. Why, I have no idea. As for Iconoclast, the only other info I have is that Raphael Henry played (and maybe still plays) guitar in a Black Metal band called Sael under the name Iconoclast. Well, that's at least something, and does explain some of the music on this album. 'Abimes' begins with "Vitriol," a 4 minute noise piece that sounds like white hot ore being processed in a steel mill. Good for noise enthusiasts, but I was hoping the whole album wasn't composed of pieces like this. "Novocaine Messiah" put my fears to rest with an uneasy calm. Primarily hollowish synth drone with a vague, eerie whistling melody over the top, this somnombulant ambience might lull you to sleep but also inspire nightmares out of the twilight zone. I swear I heard some snoring in there... "Inner Filth" presents a much heavier ambience, a spiraling dark ambient drone piece that lasts for over 22 minutes. "Lurker at the Threshold" juxtaposes a very low tone melodic loop over even lower engine idling with other sonics that sound like snakes slithering over sleeping monsters of the deep. This is the creepiest track on 'Abimes,' and owes much to Lustmord's oeuvre. Finally, we have title track "Abimes" and here is where the black metal comes in. It begins with thick slabs of distorted guitar amidst cooing dove-like sounds, and a thick underpinning of deep, dark drone. As the piece progresses, squeaky metallic sounds can be heard, the guitar fades away, then a slow doom drum loop, and all the while that low, thick drone holds down the bottom. This goes on for quite a while until it seems to fade out until... BAM! at a little over 14 minutes the black metal guitar returns with a vengeance swallowing everything and returns into the abyss from which it came, with only traces of doom drum left. While 'Abimes' seems minimal in form, there is a lot of complexity in the drones. I know people who would absolutely love this because of the black metal aspects. For me though, I preferred the middle tracks. Still, very well done. Limited to 300 copies.
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Artist: Murmurists
Title: I Am You, Dragging Halo
Format: CD
Label: Zoharum (@)
Distributor: Alchembria
Rated: *****
This new release from Murmurists, the project from Antony Donovan aided by a bunch of collaborators which adds levels of complexity to a rather intricate composition. Apparently, as there's any published lyrics and is should exists a libretto according to the liner notes, it seems to talk about immigrant's life in a western city but it's a strictly personal impression. It sounds as a really evocative journey where reflexive moments and action ones come in a succession.
"I Am You, Dragging Halo" is a single track which seems centered upon a sort of plot as almost all voices are speaking but it seems to be fragmented and evocative rather narrative. The music is mostly a background for the voices and tries to evoke the noises of everyday life when it doesn't expand into cinematic moments when it seems to happen something. When almost rock moments follows narrative ones and are interrupted by long electronic interludes, there's that sort of film editing applied to music which creates a sort of abstract radio drama.
It's a really demanding listening that could be enjoyed by fans of avant-garde or, perhaps, even improvised music and will have precious moments of amazing playing and creative writing. The casual listener will be perplexed but the others will love it.
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Artist: The Von Deer Skulls
Title: Bitches Of The Wood
Format: Download Only (MP3 + Lossless)
Label: Wraith Productions (@)
Rated: *****
Apparently the Von Deer Skulls is a strange band whose members come from France, Germany and Canada and their free form rock is aided by a visual artist, Peter Skull, to create a visual experience declaratively influenced by filmmakers as David Lynch and Tim Burton. Musically speaking it's a sort of crossover between psychedelic rock and noise nock that seems almost instrumental as the voice is pretty inaudible.
The spoken words of "Bitches of the Wood" open this release as a background for a mutating sonic foreground oscillating between quiet accompaniment, furious rock explosion and even an electronic interlude to a second part of the track which is based on slow an hypnotic arpeggios until the return of the electronic starts the final noisy seconds of the track. "The Way To The Shadow" is a musical pendulum where one pole is hypnotic guitar notes and the other is the energic riff. "Outro" closes this release with sparse noises accompanied by a piano.
Odd enough to be interesting and brief enough to be enjoyable even by ears unaccustomed to such free forms, it's a perfect introduction for a band which could produce really interesting stuff. It's really worth a listen.
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Artist: Akira Kosemura (@)
Title: Tiny Musical (remastered)
Format: CD
Label: Schole (@)
Rated: *****
Akira Kosemura was only 22 when he released his solo album "Tiny Musical" in 2008, the second in his career, but after almost a decade, it's still considered its masterpiece, besides the fact it recorded a significantly high number of sales that was quite unusual for an instrumental album. This digitally remastered edition is a gift in itself: if you never had the chance to listen to it, you'll fully understand why its launching got announced as related to a "new style of music for daily life", where a wide range of genuinely human emotions got translated into melodies, whose extreme conciseness enhances its power of speaking to listener's soul. The gently inverted piano tones of the opening "Ouverture", which got poured into the delicate rhythmical patterns and rising radiant sonorities of "Departure", will open the gate of Akira's musical gardens, where you'll find tenderly moments of relieving serendipity (a breeze that sounds intensely vibrant in the three collaborative tracks of the album - "Parterre", the home version of "Light Dance" and "Just a Few Minutes" -, featuring the acoustic guitar by Muneki 'paniyolo' Takasaka), almost entrancing delicacy ("Seaside"), awesome piano-driven exercises of resounding melancholy ("Moon", "Smile") and joyful explosions - my favorite moments of the whole album - close to J-pop tronica sonorities ("Sky", "Remembrance" - that hiccuping guitar could vaguely remind the sound by Cornelius, another brilliant Japanese musicians, which became popular in Europe and US for its innovative music - or the bubbling sequence of electronic crystal particles in "Shorebird"). This remastered edition also includes "Light Dance", the piano work by which many listeners feel in love with Kosemura's sound, and - this is the second welcomed gift - he decided to attach the score of this excellent composition to give the chance to play it on piano or keyboard as well as some linear notes (in Japanese only) by Akira itself.
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