Music Reviews



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Artist: Mesak
Title: howto readme
Format: 12"
Label: Harmönia/Ausland Schläge
Rated: *****
The most embarassing situation for music writers occurs when a good release got forgotten under huge piles of other mediocre releases, so that I often hope that music makers could understand it's not really easy to listen to all the releases that reach our location - I think I wouldn't have time to carry bodily functions out and please consider the fact that I assume the expletives that got inspired by these situations could be elevated to the position of a typical bodily function! -. I hope that Turku-based Harmonia label manager and producer Tatuja Metsatahtija will forgive my late praise for his amazing declension of so-called skwee, a genre which combines simple synth-lines and chiptune bass with funk, sould and r'n'b sonorities, whose origin could be geographically located between Sweden and Finland. Besides the above-sketched features, Tatuja inoculates funny sound and more sophisticated computational textures that remind the first releases by Mouse On Mars to me, so that he manges to highlight the most playful aspect of this syncretic synthesis. Even if he decided to add a couple of vocal track in languages that wouldn't be understood by some listeners - "Friend'ey Edit" by Claws Costeau in Finnish and "Hilkat Garibeleri" which features Turkish toasting by Ethnique Punch -, his cheeky melting of sonic recipes is really enjoyable and often enthusing. Have a check and grab your copy if you manage to find it.
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Artist: Chra (@)
Title: Empty Airport
Format: CD
Label: Editions Mego
Rated: *****
The origin of ambient music was merely functional as you can easily verify by checking the various pristine releases with unambiguous titles such as "Music for Waiting Rooms", "Music for Elevators" and so on. The most famous one - many reviewers consider it as the very first ambient album - was Brian Eno's notorious "Music For Airports", which is also the departure point of this interesting album by Wien-based electronic musician Christina Nemec aka Chra - founder of Comfortzone label and member of Shampoo Boy (together with Peter Rehberg and Christian Schachinger -, who lands on Editions Mego platform by an isolationist revision of that functionality. Ambient music is no more a sort of more or less neutral piece of furniture, but stick to the cognitive process of feedforwarding and backpropagation of the user, where sounds portray a sort of heterotopia. Noises and sounds that could come from an empty terminal got juxtaposed to inners spaces, dimensions and mutations, so that they seem to render what an unlucky traveller experiences when he/she had to wait for a connecting flight, which departs early in the morning: tiredness and drowsiness alter perception until any external sonic stimulations deposit on the wall of consciousness and manage to render imaginary dimensions, where even empty spaces could be like the displays of a living entity - tracks such as "Fits Of Asthma", "The Story Of" or "Landmine" sound like turning noises into biological functions, while other ones such as the title-track "Empty Airport", "Soca Valley" or "Contaminated Landscapes" evoke hallucinatory dimensions -. Very interesting sonic output.
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Artist: Aymeric De Tapol & Joachim Montessuis / Ripit
Title: split
Format: 7"
Label: Ångström Records (@)
Rated: *****
Some digital fury over French-Belgian label Angstrom comes on this split release, where the three sound artists that got involved offer an intensively visceral listening experience between digital hardcore, noise and pure brutality. Side A of this 45rpm 7inches vinyl that features a fine cover artwork by Line Vangrunderbeeck, gold silkscrren on heavy black paper, got occupied by Brussels-based video artist and composer Aymeric de Tapol and brilliant French experimental vocal performer Joachim Montessuis; their track "Protozaurus ", whose title seems to quote "Talking with a Dinosaur", an album by Aymeric de Tapol that got released in 2011 on Angstroem, spurts angst and agony from any piercing second of playing, where Joachim's excruciating voice claws the rough surface of a drone-like heavily distorted low frequency. On the other incendiary side, you'll find two short digital deflagrations - lasting about one minute -, whose elements (head-banging hits in-between the noise of helicopters and machine-gun fire, swirling electronic sequence and aggressive chiptunes) got exacerbated on "Deflagrator 2", by Nicolas "Ripit" Esterle (you won't believe he's one of the founder of Fujako in this noisy guise). The third and the fourth deflagrations include vocals respectively from Herbert Bourreau and Otto Von Schirach. If you consider this kind of stuff as the acoustic equivalent of a surgical operaion without anesthesia, don't worry, it's quite quick, but I can't say it will be painless at all...
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Artist: Monty Adkins
Title: Unfurling Streams
Format: CD
Label: Crónica (@)
Rated: *****
"For whatever we lose (like a you or a me) /its always ourselves we find in the sea". These well-known lines that close E.E.Cummings's poem "maggy an milly and molly and may" already inspired many artists with a love for one of the most beautiful nature's contribution to our planet that the American poet described as "marvelous from god's/hands which sent her forth/to sleep upon the world" in another famous poem. Professor Monty Adkins seems to join this crew by this placid release, whose title "Unfurling Streams" describe both the sonorities you're going to listen and its concept: the entrancing frequencies that Monty unstringed from instruments by a wise sound processing, the undertow of reversed recording of some of them, the bubbling percussions he made together with Jonny Axelsson that got inserted in the textures of the six untitled streams as well as some organic entities that resurfaces from the depths of these streams render both the cleansing effect of the vision onthe edge of the sea and the matching between underwater and marine streams and inner flows, where doldrums and storms, quiet and disquieting moments, coming up and sedations of memories flip between the streaming of slipped sounds, where streams, according to the words which introduce the release, reflect "life - something continually flowing, evolving, and changing. Eddies, currents, pools and spray also are suggestive of ways in which the stream makes its way through the landscape and are clearly reflected in the images and sounds created for this project". Some moments of the album are so peaceful that unattentive listeners cannot catch some hidden trasures, as there are just some moments (the fifth and the third streams) where music imposes itself to listener's attention. The limited edition box set included a set of images by Stephen Harvey, whose connection with Monty Adkins' release got explained as follows: "In Unfurling Streams I have created a set of images that respond to the concept and essence of the music. The openness of this approach, and a deep mutual appreciation of each others' work, allowed me the latitude to develop a unique creative situation where internal, fragmented visual concepts and external situations or circumstances converged. The images produced for this project would not have been made without that influence... to investigate detail and particularity and make it the essence of the work.".
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Artist: Colin Stetson & Sarah Neufeld (@)
Title: Never Were the Way She Was
Format: CD
Label: Constellation Records (@)
Rated: *****
One of my favorite musical artists, Canadian multi reed and wind-strumentalist Colin Stetson, and his partner in crime and in life, Sarah Neufeld (great violinist and understated singer, also a member of Arcade Fire) finally joined forces and made a record together.

If you don't know Mr. Stetson, start by listening to his amazing trilogy of albums entitled "New History Warfare" (which came out between 2007 and 2013) and then, if you can, try to wrap your head around the fact that everything you are hearing is played live, without loops or overdubs!!! On every track you will hear what sounds like multiple voices and voicings, distant muffled echoes of whales and ogres (from the contact microphones on Mr. Stetson's throat and chest), multiple melody lines and usually a very defined melodic and rhythmic bass line made up of notes, clicks and clunks (from the saxophone's keys) that pedals throughout each piece. All of those, and more, are played live, on the spot, with extended micing and performance techniques of the instrument (usually tenor or bass saxophone) and a mind-boggling command of circular breathing, concentration and transcendence that is usually the stuff of legends, or very advanced yogi's!

On their first released musical effort as a couple, the two add even more to the table: Mr. Stetson plays the contrabass clarinet on some of the tunes (which is just an incredible sounding instrument, with a possibly even wider range than the bass saxophone, or at least extending further downward in the scale).
Mrs. Neufeld's laying is fluid and entrancing and perfectly complements the nature of what is going on. When she adds some nice long reverberated vocal notes into the mix, the whole thing gets even more eerie and chilling, relaxing and all encompassing, like a fog or a wave that takes over the space in which you are enjoying this music.

I recently went to see them play live at Bowery Ballroom in NYC (talented drummer Ryan Sawyer was opening for them) and it was just a reminder (not that I needed one) and a reinforcement of why I like Colin's playing so much. Seeing them play together, seeing the interaction and the obviously intense and intimate connection that they have, augments the listening experience even more and takes their performance to a level that traditional ensembles can rarely achieve.

Now that the two of them play together the result is exponentially more interesting, as in the result is greater than the sum of all parts!
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