Music Reviews



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Artist: Hey Exit
Title: Anura
Format: Tape
Label: Lurker Bias
Rated: *****
Anura is a beautiful ambient guitar album, very emotional and deep, recorded by Hey Exit, a young musician living in Brooklyn. It's a surprisingly overlooked release by Chicago based label Lurker Bias, surprisingly because I've really connected with the album and I think it deserves more attention. Most of the tracks on Anura have a melancholic vibe that I really dig. The mixture of echoing guitar and noisy soundscapes are perfect and if a comparison has to be made, Polmo Polpo guitar works comes to mind. It's also in the same vein as Tim Hecker's haunt me, haunt me again. Like those artists, Hey Exit is a real musician who can actually play beautiful harmonies and evolving melodies, unlike a lot of experimental acts who don't seem to be able to shift from noise to music or mix both at the same time, like Hey Exit does. Good examples of this are heard on tracks like 'Puppies (7 Year Rabbit Cycle cover) and 'A Labyrinthine Impulse'. However, I wish there was some kind of unifying theme to the album. A story or message, a unifying idea connecting both the artwork, packaging and music would have made this a great release instead of a good one. As it is, it's a very nice collection of solid tunes and not much more. Overall, I've found the album to be very good but too short (20 minutes), I wish it lasted at least twice as long but at least there's no fillers. The audio cassette is limited to 15 copies, well worth the 6$ it sells for if you ask me. Recommended for fans of shoegaze, dark ambient and sludge.
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Artist: Power Pill Fist
Title: Werebeard
Format: Tape
Label: i, absentee (@)
Rated: *****
Power Pill Fist is the project of Ken Fec, an ex-member of Black Moth Super Rainbow based in Pittsburgh. Werebeard is his third full length album, following Extra Life and KONGMANIVONG, both release on Graveface Records, a label own by a member of Black Moth Super Rainbow (Ryan Graveface). Ken Fec's music is a mixture of drum machines, electric bass, acoustic guitar and Atari synthesizer. I particularly enjoyed the melodies created with the later, as I feel it gives the album an edge. The textures Ken Fec creates with the Atari synthesizer are surprisingly deep too, for instance on 'Antrobus' the acoustic guitar riff nicely complement the synthesizer sweeps and steady robot alike drum machine beat. For a noisy release, the production is top notch, even though you can clearly hear the tape hiss, the bass are round and the high frequencies are clear, something rare for an underground release. Some tracks, like 'Little Dude Guy', have great ambient melodies that are reminiscent of Aphex Twin's Selected Ambient Works. Others are noisier and more punk, I guess that's why this release is billed as 'Atari noise rock'. For me, it took a couple of listens to make those noisier tracks grow on me. Standout tracks in this genre are 'Stank Tank' and 'Swear Jar'. The intro piece 'Root Ball' has a nice balance between the noisier and softer sides of Power Pill Fist, it's also a very catchy tune that easily get caught in the ears. There's also some cool little field recordings tracks with minimal instrumentation and dialogues. Overall, I would say that if you're into chiptunes and rock version of video games music, Werebeard is for you. Ken Fec's third album is also the first cassette release by i, absentee records. The artwork looks great and the cassette itself is clear blue, which looks awesome. Collectors take notice: the tape is a limited edition of 100 copies.
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Artist: Janek Schaefer (@)
Title: Inner Space Memorial in Wonderland
Format: 12"
Label: Dekorder
Rated: *****
The second simultaneous output by Janek Schaefer on Dekorder, "Inner Space Memorial In Wonderland", portrays the second stylistical directrix of his recent sonic research. Likewise some stuff of the twin output "Unfolding Luxury Beyond The City Of Dreams", thw two long-lasting suites - their lenght as well as their sonic nuance focusing on minimal drones will delight fans of William Basinski - derive from the re-shuffle of previously recorded stuff. The one I liked most is "Inner Space Memorial", a dedication to sci-fi novelist J.G.Ballard and part of an audiovisual commemorative tribute that got composed by Janek just after Ballard, who lived just over the river of Janek's home, passed away. Its ascensional drone, whose seemingly static tone varies inintensity by means of slight pitching, volume modulations and saturation, got premiered at Bluecoat, the contemporary arts center inside the oldest building in the historical centre of Liverpool. THere's also a connection to the inventive sci-fi novelist on the following suite "Wonderland", originally made for the finale of his exhibition soundtrack to "Asleep at the wheel", as the field recordings that got diluted in soundwaves were "made in the middle of the night on a footbridge over the M3, at the end of Ballard's street", according to Janek's own words. Janek himself didn't hide his fascination "to work out that while he was writing Crash and Concrete Island, the six lane motorway was being built right past the front of his home". Try playing "Wonderland" while driving in the night while the surrounding metropolis sounds like sleeping.
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Artist: Janek Schaefer (@)
Title: Unfolding Luxury Beyond The City Of Dreams
Format: 12"
Label: Dekorder
Rated: *****
I expected so many feedbacks for the couple of releases that well-known sound artist Janek Schaefer dropped on Dekorder in the end of last year, particularly as a consequence of the fact they followed the critically acclaimed "Lay-By Lullaby" on 12k, that I thought that Janek didn't really need another one. This is the main deducible reason I've not spoken about them before. I can surmise it could depend by the fact that there are many reviewers who keep on focusing on the reputation of labels: both 12k and Dekorder are two really good imprints, but someone keeps on thinking that Dekorder stuff is less accessible than 12k's one, whereas both labels manage to diversify styles of their outputs within their niche. I hope there are some available copies so that I can comfortably state that it's never too late! 'Unfolding Luxury Beyond The City Of Dreams' is the first of this combo (and maybe the easiest to listen) and the title suggests the idea which glue together seven tracks whose inspirational sources are remarkably different, in spite of their stylistical homogeneity - an enjoyable and soothingly inspiring amalgamation of ambient and found sounds -. The theme and the intent of the album is the rendering of an authentic representation of an urban context behind the misleading flamboyance of luxurious life, but a number of event departs from this spine to feed the sonic imagination of Janek, including two tribute to gone people: Janek's brother-in-law Sir John Tavener seems to greet and smile to Janek from another blissful dimension on the opening "White Lights Of Divine Darkness", while British jazz composer Johnny Dankworth relives in the ethereal "Coda", which got built over old tapes by Johnny himself. The main contacts with outer world occur on the "mundane" track "Unfolding Honey", which got composed by Janek for the installation "Future Beauty, 30 years of Japanese Fashion" held at The Barbican Gallery in London, feauturing some garments by Issey Miyake, and a couple of tracks, which got linked to Janek's previous output "Carpenters": "Skyline Ascending", where he reprised a piano loop from that album that got overlapped by layers of sounds taken by a recorder inside an helium balloon while floating in the clouds over the city while som raindrops were falling, and the final track "Beyond", where piano loops got matched to field recordings grabbed at London's Grand Central Station before the departure of the last train, but the moments when a listener could really feel the emotional journey into the illusions of the urban environment are the orchestral drone of "Luxury" and the daydreaming enchantment that got evoked by "City of Dreams", a wonderful tune which got composed for the opening of the piece "The Mill", fed by a piano recorded live by Janek's twin arm turntable and Mark Robinson's old family piano. Excellent soundscapes!
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Artist: Elian
Title: Harrowgate
Format: CD
Label: Home Normal (@)
Rated: *****
One of the relatively older entries on Home Normal that reached my headpones after some months is the second album for the excellent Ian Hawgood's imprint by Richmond-based electronic music maker Michael Duane Ferrell, better known as Elian. Such a time shift could make sense as I won't wonder if it came to us from some dimensional port facing on the past or the future due to the sci-fi scenery that Elian's music manages to evoke, as the five parts of "Harrowgate" could trap listeners by an interesting amalgamation of pre-Kraftwerkian electronics - think about all those composers such as Mel Kaiser, Oskar Sala or Tom Dissevelt, whose stuff got largely used by science fiction movie makers- fter a digital repainting and a series of contemporary compositional tricks such as binaural beats ("Harrowgate 2"), flangered echoes ("Harrowgate 3"), dark symphonies that sound like having built by means of overlapping of electronic particles ("Harrowgate 4") and droning vacuum injections ("Harrowgate 5"), which highlight the sense of derangement of listening experience. Besides this somehow old-fashioned and heavily synth-driven nuance, "Harrowgate" could dip listeners into a mental reverie over outer space, where gravitational pulls are just like an ancient memory of an almost forgotten previous life.
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