Music Reviews

Artist: Creation VI (@)
Title: Myth About Flat World
Format: CD
Label: Black Mara (@)
Rated: *****
This release from Creation VI is based on the symbol of the Flat World which, according to the liner notes, was chosen as it's tied to a whole mythology whose sense emerged from the idea of a bounded territory whose third dimension, the mountains, was the dimension of Gods. The overall music results stand on that form of post industrial where the use of drone is mediated by the use of almost ethnic elements which give a sense of displacement as it were recorded on another continent.
A quiet drone opens "The Flat World" and the listener is slowly introduced into a sonic landscape where elements unfold from an apparently quiet ground. "Ancient Wind" uses sparse drum and flute sections to give a distant element of reality into a structure that could seem constructed. "Mountain Roots" starts as a sort of song as it features whispers as a sort of ritual. While the first part of "Keepers of Existence" is focused on the evocative properties of sound, his second part is focused on deep drone, in an almost didgeridoo register, to underline a sort of religious setting. "Beside The Tree of Life" closes this release with layers of drone to generate a sense of departure.
While it's not a ground-breaking release, this release features an almost mature sense of form and bases his form of the evocative properties of sound and a recognizable, almost reassuring, form. Perhaps not only for fans of the genre.
Artist: David Toop
Title: Entities Inertias Faint Beings
Format: LP
Label: Room40 (@)
Rated: *****
It's not the first time that while listening to some outputs by David Toop, I vividly perceived the sensation that he's one of those swimmers who could never tread water in his imaginary "Ocean of Sound", as his relation with sound (with any kind of sound) seems to be almost symbiotic. He could turn or translate into sounds, that he mostly grabs from surrounding reality, is not limited to data taken from sensorial overloads, but also to the highest spheres of critical thinking, philosophical reflections, mental fugues or spiritual alignments or misalignments. This skill has not been invalidated by three periods of solitude, which seem to have inspired the sonic rings he drew on the aural grounds of "Entities Inertias Faint Beings". In line with his thoughts on the essay as mentioned earlier "Ocean of Sound", he stated that the music of this release already existed in the form of spores or dormant clusters of digital files and the way by which he woke these clusters up is utterly enthralling from the intellectual point of view. The description of one of the above-mentioned three periods of solitude could render the stunning slideshows coming from his intriguing sonic aesthetics: "The first was in Queensland, on Tamborine Mountain (an aboriginal name), so silent at night that I listened to recorded music - Japanese gagaku, Buddhist ritual from Bhutan, Korean Confucian music – as if drifting into cavernous black space. Stepping into sleep, I saw a hypnagogic image - a transparent swimming pool suspended over the mouth of a volcano. I read Stephen Mansfield’s book on Japanese stone gardens – “Successful stone arrangements seem almost alive, the elements conversing among themselves with an occult vitality, the call and response that has been noted between well-placed rocks resembling the chanting of Buddhist sutras”; daylight listening in chill air, hearing whip birds, butcher birds, noisy mynahs, kookaburra chatter, rainbow lorikeets; catapult elastic, I wrote, radio waves in a kettle, electric buzzers. On Queensland’s Gold Coast I gazed at a distant humpback whale breaching out to sea, watched Yasujiro Ozu’s 1934 silent version of A Story of Floating Weeds, listened to cicadas burst into life as a helicopter flew overhead.". A fascinating Plato-like sonic anamnesis produced by distillation and condensation of sleeping or just awaken beauty.
Artist: Daniel Higgs
Title: The Fools Sermon, Part 1
Format: LP
Label: Ideological Organ (@)
Rated: *****
I've never been a great fan of Lungfish - the Baltimore-based post-hardcore band that profoundly marked the artistic path by Daniel Higgs-, as a matter of fact: even if they developed some interesting ideas from the exquisitely musical viewpoint, the lyrical content of their somehow pretentious songs never made that good of an impression on me, due to my personal mistrust for an excessively "flamboyant mystical hook" (to call it so). If you know some of the past releases by Mister Higgs, the smiling man (I do like that sort of panama hat, that looks like having been crafted and coloured by some imaginary hatmaker for gnome's market!) on the cover artwork giving that vague sense of reassurance that would inspire the desire to listen his tales nearby the fireplace, you won't be wondered by the way of storytelling he explores in this release, the first part of a sermon, which doesn't look like a proper sermon in spite of some biblical allusions (besides the matching between death, love and transformation, the listener or the addressee of the sermon got named as "Lazarus" at a certain point). Likewise Lungfish's songs, I'm not impressed by this sort of little poem: the succession of verses often get closer to the wondering of a fool, more than its supposed praying. I do appreciate the limpidity of vocal recordings, but I got mostly impressed by the way the sonic entities that run together Higgs'story-telling got interlaced to the semantic relevance of some lines, including the whooshing sound matched to the quotation of a "Warholian" banana peel amidst a set of supposedly fervid and vaguely raving mystical uttering. A follow-up got already released on a more limited edition on a cassette by Jimmy Joe Roche's imprint Ultraviolet Light, featuring Stephen Strohmeier, another skilled Baltimore-based artist on a Farfisa organ, but I've not checked it yet. In spite of my opinion on such a kind of works and shamanic-like outputs, I could recommend it as an interesting essay on story-telling and sonic inoculation; that could even resemble a sort of radiophonic nuance of some visionary spelling by William Blake or ancient bards. Copies of The Fools Sermon book (the whole poem) should be available on, if you are interested in checking them.
Artist: Pure Ground
Title: Giftgarten
Format: LP
Label: Avant! Records
"Giftgarten" is Pure Ground's third LP.

The production throughout the album strips the industrial sonics down to an analogue-heavy minimalism that feels like a rewind to Kraftwerk (with a stop-off at Depeche Mode on the way). But rather than taking us on extended journeys, most of these tracks stick very close to the three-minute mark and borrow verse-chorus structures from mainstream pop music. The result is an album that's a lot more accessible, and arguably more sanitised, than the dark gothic branding implies.

Lyrically it's all quite familiar territory too- a sometimes indiscernible poetry of digital dystopias, sinister thoughts, impending dooms, and talk of "scream and rage" in a calm deep voice. The more introspective moments like "The Meager Arms Of Sleep" somehow feel slightly more authentic than the measured fury of tracks like "Flood".

First side closer "No voice of angels" is a deeper, more experimental number that makes me wonder what these guys could sound like if they left pop music influences behind and immersed themselves in experiments and drones- potentially rather good, on this evidence.

There are some deft production touches here but unfortunately the overall package is too steeped in over-familiarities bordering on clichés. Heartfelt and accomplished it may be, but sadly original it isn't much.
Artist: Gothic (@)
Title: Beneath the Snow - Piovono Ombre
Format: DVD
Label: self-released
Rated: *****
"Beneath the Snow - Piovono Ombre" ("Piavono Ombre" roughly translated to English - "It Rains Shadows") is the third feature from Gothic, the simple name of the Gothic Multimedia Project from Italy, which started as a band led by James Maximilian Jason in 1989. From then until 2000 they produced ten music demos in a death gloom metal style. In 2004 the
GMP premiered its first proto-multimedia work - "Grim," consisting of a couple of CDs and a CD-R featuring drawings and a multimedia video melding music, graphic art and poetry. In 2007 they published something called "Anti-box," which was a multimedia reinterpretation of the aforementioned demos. Next, in 2010 they released "Clam Dolenter," an interactive film with music, art and poetry. "Beneath the Snow - Piovono Ombre" is sort of something entirely different, yet not, as it is an extension of what was previously done by the GMP, yet on a much larger scale. This is an interactive movie blending music, cinema, art and poetry. The interactivity comes from the choices the watcher must make during the course of the viewing which affects the path, or plot. One might liken it to some sort of video game, but not really, as there is no scoring points, no shooting, no winning. But like life, which is a series of choices, the thing you decide will affect what happens, and
possibly even the outcome.

The story opens with the protagonist, Alessandro Zamboni, a dull, lonely, unhappily married, middle-aged man at a seminar on Ambient Intelligence, which is rather boring. Zamboni is a corporate executive who prefers to attend these kind of events rather than face anything challenging. At the seminar he meets a former acquaintance, Gianmaria
Pagano, who is a bit of a hipster asshole. Pagano convinces Zamboni to go out that evening with him to meet some hot women. They end up at a trendy bistro bantering with two women and Pagano has the waiter spike Zamboni's drink. Later, the waiter comes back and tells Zamboni there's a phone call for him. Disturbed and puzzled that anyone could be calling him here (he didn't tell anyone where he was going), Zamboni shuffles off to answer the phone, and that is where, you, the viewer have to make the first choice - answer the phone or forget about it and rejoin your company. Whatever you do, nothing will be the same after that. Depending on what you choose, the movie takes the protagonist to a different environment with its own set of images and challenges. There is a 32 page booklet with the DVD that gives insight into each scene, and it's important to coordinate reading the booklet while watching the video if you want a deeper understanding of what you're
experiencing. It may not help you make any choices directly, but being informed is usually a good idea. Then again, you can just experience it blind, and it may end up making about as much sense as David Lynch's "Inland Empire".

Regardless of which initial path you take, down the line the viewer encounters more choices, always two, this or that. Depending on what you choose, the action, or scene goes in a different direction. Some are dead ends, sometimes literally. The text of the booklet encourages the viewer to make choices based on emotion rather than logic. I suppose I opted for a combination, depending on the choices offered. In this way, this work may not play the same for different individuals. Without giving anything away, you will encounter the art of David Bosch (who also acts as the protagonist in the movie) in drawings and paintings. Bosch's artwork is surreal, macabre and expressionistic, sometimes paying discreet homage to artists such as Dali, Munch, and others. Rife with symbolism, you could spend a good amount of time contemplating the pieces you encounter. Many of the scenes you will encounter are strange to bizarre, and the continuity could be called questionable without the booklet. The movie seems to be shot on video, so there is a low-budget look about it. The special effects are old-school; superimposition, negative colorization, grainy, split-screen, etc. You won't be seeing any expensive fancy-schmancy CGI effects here, which in a sense is a relief as that has become the staple of so many big-budget films today. The music is uniformly good, and appropriate, ranging from goth-electro-industrial to dark ambient. Most of the dialogue of characters occurs during the opening couple of scenes (before you have to make your first choice), and that is in Italian with English subtitles. There is nothing especially remarkable about the acting, but if there was, you might be tempted to form an attachment to characters that wouldn't serve you well later down the line. There are reasons for the main character seeming to act as bland as he does (initially), and the booklet explains it well. (It has to do with his indifference.)

Sort of like certain types of video games, once you have made a choice, you can't go back; no do-overs, no skipping. For example, when I made the initial choice to have the protagonist answer the phone, I found myself in a certain environment that made me wonder what would have happened had I not done so. I had to see the events play out to their
conclusion and restart the video from the beginning before I could find out what would happen had I chosen otherwise. I actually respect this aspect as it makes the viewer responsible for the choices made. There are times though that when you make a dead-end choice, you will be returned to the same choice screen (after the scene plays out) and you had better make the other choice, or you are doomed to repeat the same scene again. (The scene with the vagrant panhandler comes to mind.)

Some aspects I didn't particularly care for were scenes that seemed tedious- walking long distances in the snow with nothing happening, a long, long drive, running through a town, etc., and I felt they could have been made more interesting without detracting from the filmmaker's intent. Another was redundancy- showing the same images over and over. Perhaps I'm just too impatient. I also would have liked a bit more dialogue and character interaction after the initial scenes as it might have helped me to understand better what the protagonist was experiencing. Still, there is plenty of creativity over all, and a neat, enigmatic mystery to unravel. Some of the poetry in the book is in Italian, so if you aren't fluent in the language you will have to rely on some sort of translator or it will be lost on you. The experience can be as deep or as shallow as you choose, but more rewarding if you choose to go deep, and maybe best if viewed alone.

"Beneath the Snow - Piovono Ombre" is the result of six years of work, incorporating 28 musicians, artists, actors, graphic designers and technicians to put this together. For aficionados of the avant garde, this work will give you a lot to chew on, and its diversity (in a number of aspects) will likely have you returning to it for more.
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