Music Reviews



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Artist: Dennis Young (@)
Title: Reel To Real
Format: CD
Label: Staubgold (@)
Rated: *****
Have you ever experienced those kind of fits of nostalga that let you go through a hundred dusted boxes full of artifacts of your more or less glorious past? You could find something really interesting in piles of yellowed love letters, old comics or stickerbooks, playthings, postcards and funny snapshots - during one of my last explorations I found interesting and somehow mysterious relics like an old vinyl of Visage's "Fade To Grey" on a scratched 7"...I remembered I labelled them as "the witches" when I first saw them on Italian television while I got the measles at the age of 4 or 5! -. During his cleanup day, Dennis Young, former marimba player and percussionist of the legendary NYC-based 80ies band Liquid Liquid - their hit "Cavern", which was included in the first volume "Disco Not Disco" of the newborn Strut Records in the beginning of the new millenium, got famous for having been sampled by Grandmaster Melle Mel for another hit, "White Lines (Don't Do It)", a song with clear references to cocaine, whose clip reaches its idyllic peak in the moment when some dancers keep on sniffing nearby a box of Frosted Flakes... an unauthorized sampling which caused the bankruptcy of 99 and Sugar Hill labels -, found a box of tapes he recorded by means of a 2-track Teac reel-to-reel recorded between 1982 and 1983, when he was just 24 as well as a member of Liquid Liquid yet. According to Dennis own words, "in early 1984 I bought my first 4 track cassette machine which ended my live reel-to-rell recording phase. The tapes were boxed up and put into storage for the ext 30 years. About six months ago I was going thru some old boxes and happened to find the tapes again. I was curious to hear what I had on those tapes so I purchased another Teac reel-to-rel tape-recorder. To my surprise there was a lot of music to choose from these recording, so after hours of listening I came up with a set of songs that I thought was the best representation of my work from this period". Many of them are really surprising: the bizarre chord strikes on guitar-driven songs such as "Little Girl" or the funny "Tape Interface for Guitar", the acidulous sci-fi nuance of tracks like "Panic in the Air", "Contortions" "Unknown Origins" or "Forbidden Planet" - a somewhat paranoid obsession for sci-fi themes is even clearer on the song "Aliens"! - and above all, the tracks when the skills on percussions splashes - the opening "Big Boom", the catchy "Overdub Dub", "Drum Solo" or the amazing "More is Less" -. Thanks to Staubgold, those recordings won't be just memories to get endangered by dust and oblivion.
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Artist: Lisa Cameron & Ernesto Diaz-Infante (@)
Title: Sol Et Terra
Format: CD
Label: Kendra Steiner Editions (@)
Rated: *****
This new release from Kendra Steiner is the result of the collaboration between Ernesto Diaz-Infante, whose releases were already reviewed, and Lisa Cameron, a percussionist and multi-instrumentalist. As the liner notes suggests, they try to create a sort of 'music of the elements' and a 'rarefied sacred-space' for the listener. They change the usual setup of this kind of duo as Ernesto Diaz-Infante creates the rhythmic skeleton while Lisa Cameron escapes the rhythmic patterns creating a sort of ever-changing texture.
So, as "Rise" begins, it's suddenly clear that the musical structure is based on the rhythmic element, the interplay is between the guitar, acting as a metronome, and the percussions. "The House at Pooneil Corners" continues in this interplay but in this track Lisa Cameron has the responsibility of the noise part. The real displacement from the expected is the strumming of Diaz-Infante dictating the time, a sort of loop. "Sun Psychic" is a dreamy dialogue between the lap-steel and the guitar. The first part of 'Stars Within Stars" reveals the sense of time of the players while the second reveals their sense of resonances. "Queen of Pentacles" juxtaposes sounds and noises while "Labor and Fruits" is hypnotic with the use of small bells and cymbals. "Imagination Eye" is almost reduced to the basic element of their sounds and "The Daughter" closes this release developing the resonances of the lap-steel and the guitar.
This release is not easy to evaluate as it ebbs between underdeveloped, as too based on the guitar, sections and charming moments. The real concern is the sense of disorientation of the percussions as they aren't always able to develop something meaningful upon the guitar's texture while driving the track when they are in a dialectic form. A nice release but it requires an attentive listening.
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Artist: Germanovski
Title: Promise/Confession
Format: Download Only (MP3 + Lossless)
Label: Plush (@)
Rated: *****
Denver-based label Plush, which also developed a branch on the other side of the ocean in South London, a strategic position to grab and spread good tunes in the field of bass-driven music, expands his interesting catalogue by hiring Lithuanian producer Igor Komar aka Germanovski. Even if Plush has not labelled his couple of tracks as drum'n'bass, Igor packs a nice assay of minimal dnb up on "Promise", which got embellished by vaguely balearic breezing sounds, placidly rolling breaks and sparse vocals that could resemble the more chilling side of this branch of drum'n'bass. Breaks sound even more swabbed on the following "Confession", as just some sparse hi-hats as well as a gentle set of softly knocking wooden beats and tribal sounds crack the narcotic sonorities of the track. An awesome and somehow soothing strategy to repaint well-known liquid sonorities by means of some hooks to the fluttering sheets of junglist ghosts.
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Artist: Wade Matthews, Javier Pedreira, Ernesto Rodrigues, Nuno Torres (@)
Title: Primary Envelopment
Format: CD
Label: Creative Sources (@)
Rated: *****
Similarly to the introduction of "Erosions", another collaborative release for Creative Sources we talked about some years ago, which involved Ernesto Rodriguies and Neil Davidson, Wade Matthews wisely introduces "Primary Envelopment", a recording where field recordings, amplified objects and digital synthesis by Matther himself converged with Nuno Torres' alto saxophone, Ernesto Rodrigues' viola and Javier Pedreira's guitar, by means of an interesting concptualization where improvisation got compared to building or I'd rather say to construction works, instead of architecture by quoting Robert Smithson's "A Sedimentation of the Mind". According to Smithson's words: "Building takes on a singular wildness as loaders scoop and drag soil all over the place. Excavationas form shapeless mounds of debris, miniature landslides of dust, mud, sand amd gravel". If listeners bear in mind this matching between construction and improvisation, this seemingly abstract session, where the differences between (musical) instruments and working tools got somehow blurred, could mirror that "devasting kind of primordial grandeur" that Smithson matched to building, even if you - you don't have to apologize for that! - won't easily understand who is playing what in many moments of the recording that this fourtet made in april and june 2014 at Smiling Cow Studio in Madrid. A primary envelopment, indeed!
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Artist: Controlled Bleeding/Sparkle in Grey (@)
Title: Perversions of the Aging Savant
Format: CD
Label: Old Bicycle Records (@)
Rated: *****
'Perversions of an Aging Savant' is a split album by the American band Controlled Bleeding and the Milan, Italy based band Sparkle in Grey. Most should be familiar with Controlled Bleeding, an outfit formed in Boston in 1978 (later moving to Massapequa, New York), releasing numerous works since the early 80's in a variety of cross-genres. The one constant in the band over the years is Paul Lemos, mastermind behind CB. My familiarity with their discography is a scattershot sampling of material they released in the 90's, and most of what I heard I liked a lot. These days their website describes the band's sound as "a combination of Mahavishnu Orchestra, Fripp and Eno and Oneida." I have no prior familiarity with Sparkle in Grey, a band formed in 2005, consisting of Matteo Uggeri, Cristiano Lupo, Alberto Carozzi and Franz Krostopovic. Sparkle in Grey's instrumentation includes violin, bass, laptop, guitar, bagpipes, piano, polyrhythmic drums, melodica, field recordings, harsh noises and a bicycle. According to the info on their website, "they cross many styles, from Industrial to electronic to Ukrainian traditional folk music to post-combat rock." Perhaps now you can see why they chose share an album with Controlled Bleeding, or visa-versa. The bands do not play together here. Out of the 12 tracks on this CD, Controlled Bleeding does the first six and the last, and Sparkle in Grey, the other five.

First up is the "Intro", a avant-garde brief piece with bass harmonics, plinks, plunks, and Joe Papa's pitch-processed voice. (Papa passed away in 2009, so the vocal must have been culled form a previous recording.) "Garage Dub" certainly sounda like it was done in a garage. It's a peppy jam with Lemos on guitar and bass, Tony Meola on drums and Mike Bazini doing electronics and the mix. While the bass holds down a repeating pattern, Lemos' guitar work is all frenetic psychedelic energy. Definitely has the sound of an old-school live performance. The electronics must be somewhat subtle; I couldn't detect them. "Springtime in Brooklyn" is possibly the best piece on the album. For this track Chad SB supplies the programming and electronics, and Lemos, the main loop and guitars. This is a somewhat slow, meditative track, sounding like an amazing lost piece of late 60's psychedelia, repeating
its theme while Lemos solos over it. In stark contrast, "Perks, Pt. 1" is a jarring jumble of distorted noise with Papa on percussion and Lemos on everything else. It will take all the stamina of the most ardent noise enthusiast to make it through to the explosive conclusion of this 10 1/2 minute track. Way too long for me. Tracks 5 & 6 are "Birdcanned, Pts 1 & 2", respectively. On Part 1,'s a guitar-bass-drums improv that noodles around a bit until Lemos establishes a six-note repeating pattern, grooves on that a while, noodles around more, then a repeating nine-note pattern, then more noodling until a sort of
abrasive conclusion. Part 2 is all chaotic avant-garde improvisation.

Now it's Sparkle in Grey's turn. "Idiot Savant" is divided into four parts. Part 1 begins with a simple folk melody on piano. A melancholy violin accompanies, along with some echoed string tapping and other extraneous percussive sounds. In Pt 2, bass and guitar come in to flesh out the melody building on the theme improvising around the melody, then sax too, building until it sounds like some kind of bizarre orchestra. Gradually more noise is added overtaking the entire thing by the time Part 3 hits. Engulfed in this stew of sonic madness it sounds like a tornado has swept in but piano and guitar keep trying to hold on to some semblance of musicality. The storm subsides and the couple of instruments left eventually peter out. "Idiot Savant Part 4" begins with electronic thumping sort of resembling a beat accompanied by rapidly echoed guitar tapping and piano improvisation. Other sonics -
electronics or processed guitar(?) add an ambient wall of noise, which gradually subsides over time. We are left with a plinking loop, and then a smattering of applause, just so you know it was recorded live. "Mevlano Part 1" is a drone piece with occasional percussion; drums and cymbals. I'm reminded of the more experimental side of John Cale. Controlled Bleeding's "Live in Brooklyn 2012" closes the album. It's an electronic guitar improvisation playing over a slow repeating electronic loop, somewhat owing to Fripp and Eno but different, more varied in the guitar style.

Considering that a good deal of this album was improvised by both bands, it fits remarkably well together, much more than you'd expect from a split album by two markedly different groups. This is due to a long-time, long-distance friendship between Paul Lemos and Matteo
Uggeri who both guided the course of what ended up on the album, making suggestions and trading ideas without affecting the individual characteristics of the two projects. 'Perversions of the Aging Savant' is an engaging and challenging sonic smorgasbord for the adventurous listener, and although you may not like everything on the table, you're sure to find enough that's tasty.
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