Music Reviews



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Artist: Kayaka
Title: Sonic Kitchen
Format: CD
Label: ADAADAT (@)
Rated: *****
If you might fancy the sound of a piano coupled with that of frying eggs, Kayaka's "Sonic Kitchen" may be the not-so-subtle mockery of cultivated musicianship you've been looking for! Not to insinuate that it's in any way contrived or orchestrated to lampoon the pretentiousness that surrounds experimental music, or that it is overtly gimmicky. Though it does have a neoteric snobbery about it, the short (29 minutes) album is playful, joyful, and is seemingly unfettered. Sonic surrealism, indeed!

Many tracks on the album feature solo piano, and I am left to ponder if they are all samples (which is what I suspect), or composed and/or performed by Kayaka herself? Numerous compositions marry solo piano ('Hungarian Rhapsodist' & 'Tropic of Cancer’) or a small ensemble ('Pickled Tango') with various 'living-life-noise' sounds, such as the aforementioned culinary exploits, as well as echoed footsteps, apparent rapid page-turning, and voiceover morsels.

I was left pondering where the numerous voiceover and thematic samples may stem from, though in this case decoding all of the ingredients in any one recipe is likely to miss the point. Better to quietly masticate and savor what you can of this smörgåsbord.
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Artist: DunningWebsterUnderwood
Title: Bleed
Format: CD
Label: ADAADAT (@)
Rated: *****
"Bleed" is the debut release from DunningWebsterUnderwood, an improv trio that staves off a so-called traditional treatment of their instruments (tuba, baritone saxophone, turnable) as much as possible. Throughout the album, tonality routinely functions merely as an agent to create spontaneous, discontinuous, noise-like sounds. To put it another way, during melodic and harmonic moments, the sounds are more akin to drone metal without any of the typically-associated instrumentation (distorted guitar/s and drums).

The soundstage throughout the LP is similar: Underwood's tuba is left, Webster's bari is right, and Dunning's turntable and effects down-the-middle. With only three players, there is great capacity for sonic exploration, and the spatial configuration allows for maximum definition. Lengthy album opener 'Dustbleedblip' is beautifully malicious with swelling simultaneous drones in both channels whilst the edginess stems from the turntable's static, vinyl-crackle-like roar, which almost acts as a distorted guitar of sorts. It's immediately followed by the terse 'Lavaeclustercore' complete with horse lip flap sax and turntable swells similar to that of ocean waves breaking. This is surely next-level unconventional use of instrumentation, and a fair amount of it is both intriguing and palatable.

It's no surprise that I gravitate toward the longer tracks on "Bleed". They sound perhaps a bit more thought-out, and also tinker with intonation and harmonic-minor movement. At nearly six minutes, 'Tarnlavadust' is probably my favorite. Along with sustained droning, Dunning's incorporation of what sounds like a field recording of many voices in a hall of sorts is perfect. The listener is unable to discern what is being uttered, the result of which is one of my favorite types of audible subterfuge: a sound that beckons the listener closer to decipher the message, but there is none.
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Artist: Alexander Frangenheim (@)
Title: Talk For A Listener
Format: CD
Label: Creative Sources (@)
Rated: *****
The more I get to know the sound of Berlin-based double-bass player Alexander Frangenheim, the more I appreciate the attitude and the compositional approach of this guy. This release, aged a couple of years - one of those records that I guiltlessly cannot review because some stuff could be submerged by layers and layers of musical and sonic stuff I regularly receive! -, could be considered a sort of appendix if you met Alexander's sound on other occasions, as it includes eleven recordings he took before a preparation day in his own Studio Börne 45. In spite of the title, the parameter that Alexander wisely ignore is the so-called pleasure of its unknown listeners and supposed addressee, as the audience of the title is maybe himself, while his beloved double bass is the speaking entity. The unusual experiments he made on it gives an individual humanity to the instrument, which sometimes gives the impression sounding like covering many different moods of many different interlocutors, and the understanding of the listener got similarly enhanced by the recording technique of the close mic, which managed to grab the breath, the resonances of his interactions with his fair chatter and even the movements and the emotional feedback that could get easily imagined during the listening experience. An impressive set of extended techniques scratched bowing, dissonant contortions and suffocated tones feature this funnily dangerous exercise of humanization of a double-bass by his player/listener...
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Artist: Pr3snt
Title: Rakish
Format: Download Only (MP3 + Lossless)
Label: Ghosthall
Rated: *****
Out on Ghosthall, a relative new label coming from Switzerland and Lithuania, "Rakish", the new EP by Pr3snt is ready to hit the alternative dancefloors. The duo coming from Zurich and formed by Vasco Bachmann and Flurin Gishamer was active in the business since ten years but in 2013 they decided to make their own music and, since then, they released music on Yoruba Records, Hive Audio, Click Records and their own Ghosthall. The EP contains four original tunes plus a remix of the main track made by Lithuanian deep house project called 0rfeo. The EP stands out for its mix of techno and minimal house where melody and sound richness are the roots elements of their sound. Pr3snt know how to satisfy your will to dance as well as feeding your ears with nice tunes where the alternation of rhythms and melodies. If the opening "Arp Test" is a nice dark techno tune, "Boundless" (which is born from a collaboration with Zurich club dj Grauer) has lighter mood with a mix of techno and electro. If "Sunsad" will please the lovers of early Moderat, "Rakish" will satisfy your will of pure Berlin style techno. Orfeo is closing this digital release by destructuring it giving to it a deep house flavor. Check it here https://soundcloud.com/ghosthall/sets/pr3snt-rakish-ep
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Artist: EmotiKon (@)
Title: Two of a Kind
Format: CD
Label: Timezone Records (@)
Rated: *****
You may recall Dusseldorf-based synthpop band Emotikon from a while back when I reviewed their self-titled debut positively. Now they are back, albeit with some changes. At that time this duo consisted of Mine Voss - vocals, and Tom Tron- synths, programming. Mine left in 2014 for other pursuits and has been replaced by Natalie Malladi-Rao. While their sound isn't completely different, there is more of an accent on the POP aspect of their synthpop sound on 'Two of a Kind'. At first, they sound a lot their previous incarnation on the title track ("Two of a Kind"); a nice little melodic number orchestrated with simple sythnpop musical staples. Then, things get a bit more intense on "Die Alone," opening with a melancholy cello intro, then an amazingly sophisticated melody on the verse. The chorus is almost as good. The whole tone and temperament of this song could easily be used as the theme song for a James Bond movie. It's that good. (Certainly better than the theme song of the last Bond flick.) Upping the pop aspect of their repetoir, "Say Hey" just begs for a Bollywood style video with its crowd-rousing chorus. It's a mind-numbingly basic, but catchy as hell; a little bubble-gummy but so what? Over the next 8 tracks Emotikon present a variety of simple pop ditties, some better than others, and a couple just downright silly ("Do It Like the Birds," "Love Potion"), but nothing comes close to the impact of the first few tracks, inspite of being augmented by saxophone (Norbert Deuben) and flute (Silvie Ansorge) on a few songs. I get the impression Emotikon is striving to pull in a much younger audience with 'Two of a Kind' and Natalie can hold her own vocally with pop singers like Britney Spears and Katy Perry, but image, presence and production are what make pop singers pop divas, and there's a way to go on that account. There's little depth on 'Two of a Kind,' just good, light synthpop fun for the most part. If that's what they're striving for, they've succeeded.
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