Music Reviews

Artist: Mauoq & Medika (@)
Title: The First/Equator/Clusterfunk
Format: Download Only (MP3 + Lossless)
Label: Aluminium Shiny Shin Side Shack Out Music
Rated: *****
Many bass-driven music fans guessed that the so-called drumstep should have been another passing fad, but more or less hidden outputs like the one that recently come out on the newborn label Aluminium Shiny Shin Side Shack Out are suggestive of the fact that many reviewers announced the death of this branch too hastily. This short ammo of drumstep bullets is co-signed by Rome-born Mauro Campana aka Maouq - I firstly met his name and his sound on labels like Diffrent and Dispatch - and Brixtonian DJ and VJ Milena Lukic aka Medika - I've honestly never heard her name before - and includes three very good tracks (two solo and one bicephalous) that could fade the above-described premature obit out. "Clusterfunk", the first tune by lady Medika, features somehow claustrophobic sonorities by means of a catchy blend of rising breaks running like a rusty train over cracks, hits, splitting rails and alien growls, where the insertion of a spooky female voice (Medika's one?) could let you think she made this tune after setting a VPN up in order to chat with the ghost of a girl found dead under a train in some peripheral station of the subway. The (bass)line by Mauoq on his solo tune "Equator" seems to render a sort of sonic parade through the imaginary red-hot belt of our planet by a sequence of liquefying sounds, muffled metallic hits and more or less disguised clues from inhabitants of equatorial forests. A couple of good tunes, but the best moment of this sonic cookie, in my opinion, is "The First", the co-signed one, even if its somehow creepy nuance could remind the thrilling atmosphere of the scariest videogames by Monolith.
Artist: Hybris/Signs
Title: Carousel/Rotor
Format: Download Only (MP3 + Lossless)
Label: Plasma Audio
Rated: *****
Besides the remarkable quality of the sounds that I spoke about on the occasion of the introduction of some past releases of Plasma Audio, the direction that the Australian label by badman Safire is going to take becomes clearer and clearer, whenever you check the sonic seeders he decided to host in his expanding catalogue. The ninth plasmic detonation by the label got planned by two acknowledged names of the more "tech-hey" bulge of contemporary drum 'n' bass. My favourite tune of this release is the one by Czech producer Evan Vischi, better known as Hybris, whose treatment over visceral low frequencies, chopped vocals and wisely fragmented rhythmical patterns on "Carousel" could let you imagine a battle against a slimy robotic Gila monster; Toulouse-born trio Signs keeps on hit you hard by their distinctively futuristic declension of nNeurofunk on "Rotor", whose sudden sonic clattering over hyper-nervous breaks - for some strange reason - makes me think of the growling of an aggressive cat. Do not overgroom it.
with image
Artist: Olga Wojciechowska
Title: Maps and Mazes
Format: CD
Label: Time Released Sound (@)
Rated: *****
An album consisting of eleven songs by Polish composer/violinist Olga Wojciechowska which were originally created for various dance, theatre and film projects over the last few years but have now been remastered and put together on the Time Released Sound label to produce this gem.
These are intricate and well crafted pieces of music which are allowed to grow, breathe and evolve invoking somewhat ghostly and sublime atmospheres. Mainly introspective, it's all about being touched and caressed by the late evening moods as the layers of background sounds and acoustic instruments whisper their way into your head. This music has depth, never harsh, it's beguiling components both tease and compel you to listen deeper to its nostalgic and mysterious pathways. Ever expanding and at times haunting, moments of utter beauty arrive and depart like long lost friends. Album highlight " I'm never not thinking about you " is close to classical ambient perfection, a melancholic and reflective backdrop to a yearning violin played with genuine emotion, it's only flaw is that it ends.
The three tracks from " Avenida Corrientes - the movie " have a more languid, laid back feel which, it my opinion, feel a little out of place with the general aesthetic of the other songs reminding the listener that this is a various collection of the artists works, but it does not detract from the quality of the album as a whole. It can't be argued that there is a huge talent on show here and it's a great pleasure to be able to immerse oneself and enjoy such a personal and heartfelt journey.
Artist: Simon Christensen (@)
Title: MANIFEST - But There's No Need To Shout
Format: CD
Label: Dacapo Records (@)
Rated: *****
Simon Christensen is a Danish modern music composer educated at the Royal Danish Academy of Music and Conservatoire de Paris. He is also an active musician in his own duo Mono Duo and the trio, Kundi Bombo, perfrming on the zither, a handful of percussion and a small arsenal of analogue modules. Over the years he has numerous releases to his credit as well as collaborations with American filmmakers, and commissions by Danish National Symphony Orchestra, Athelas Sinfonietta, Danish National Vocal Ensemble and The Silesian String Quartet. His ouevre seems to fall into the avant-garde abstract from what I can tell of
some of the pieces I've heard by him previously. There is no doubt that Christensen is seeking to push the boundaries of music and the perception of it to something completely fresh and new.

'MANIFEST - But There's No Need To Shout' is his latest work, a 72 minute excusrsion into the world of drone untilizing only a string quartet - Birgitte Baerentzen Phil - violin; Signe Madsen - violin; Mina Fred - viola; Sofia Olsson - cello. Now before I give you my assessment, I need to quote composer Jexper Holmen for his take on the piece, which includes some technical as well as aesthetic values.

"...would just like to say that Simon Christensen’s string quartet Manifest – But There’s No Need To Shout, which I heard this afternoon at Frederiksberg Palace Chapel, was a revelation. A work that played for more than an hour without dramatic progression and without ascending and descending motions. A work that exclusively used the open strings of the instruments, retuned to micro-intervals. In addition each string had a fixed rhythmic figure that reappeared each time the string was used. The combination of the rich world of harmonics in the open strings and the harshly and richly dissonant chords that constituted the work resulted in a unique, dark and lustrous sound. The fixed rhythms gave each chord a pulsating inner life. The absence of melody and dramatic effect provided rich scope for absorption in this original universe. Manifest is beautiful in a way music has never been
beautiful before.”

Now mind you Mr. Holmen experieced this piece live. I did not. Still, it is the same piece of music and few readers will ever get to hear hear it live. A number of factors may have contributed to his enamourment with the piece; the live acoustics for one; experiencing the musicians performing it right there for another. One's attention is focused directly on the performance in that environment, and there is no escaping, save to leave, or plug your ears, but what would be the point of that? What I am saying is that this kind of music could have an entrancing effect in the right environment. Yet, there are problems.

'MANIFEST' is a drone piece comprised of numerous segments, each lasting for a period of time (about a minute or less in most cases, some segments being a little longer) with a very brief interval between them. There are often sublte variations in timbre between the segments causing a dominant tonality to emerge at times. And yes, the chordal formations are mostly dissonant. The casual listener may not neccessarily discern these subtleties and chalk it up to "just a series of dissonant drones," and therein lies the problem. My wife, who does not share my appreciation for avant-garde new music commented - "So they keep tuning up, when are they going to play something?" Okay, so that would likely be the conventional listener's take on this but what about us new music afficionados? Well, for me the piece was overly long testing my patience, especially the first time around. It seemed to go quicker the second time, yet ennui still set in eventually. The dissonance eventually gets tedious as well, and I think this has something to do with the pauses between segments. If the segments were longer, ears and perception could adjust to them before experiencing the next one. The pauses set up a certain anxiety about what is coming next, how long it will be and how (the next) dominant tone will affect you.

It is likely Mr. Christensen had this in mind when he composed this piece, and to what effect he was striving is a mystery to me. Personally, I like my minimalist drone music lengthy, something that I can settle into. 'MANIFEST' is not that kind of duck. Patience is required, and also attention to detail to appreciate it fully. In that regard, 'MANIFEST' may be the most challenging piece of drone music I've ever experienced, but I cannot count it among the composer's more engaging works.
Artist: Geneva Jacuzzi (@)
Title: Technophelia
Format: 12"
Label: Medical Records
A contemporary of the likes of Nite Jewel and Ariel Pink on the productive and cultish LA art-pop scene, Geneva Jacuzzi here presents a new collection of brazen, leftfield synthwave numbers called Technophelia. With the deliberately muddy, lo-fi fad now out of fashion for 80s appropriators, Geneva follows suit with most of the scene's continuing practitioners on their recent efforts, turning up the cutoff on her authentic analogue hardware and investigating the clarity of the upper spectrum.

In contrast with something like the rather straight-faced role-play of Nite Jewel's One Second of Love, Technophelia is less even, more lyrically and sonically adventurous and wackier in general. Take the lead single and album centrepiece 'Cannibal Babies'. The rhythm is an Italo strut, over which Geneva lays a very potent, jagged synth lead riff and a lot of delayed vocal play beneath the main lines. She makes lively lyrical references to vorarephilic hookups, apparently complete with absurd suggestions of starting a cannibal bloodline. "Try to remember / You're dancing with your dinner / You don't wanna get me thinner", she warns. A couple of lines later, as a brilliantly lush chorus prepares to drop, she exclaims "I'm gonna eat your - eat your sex. Ugh!" It's loopy, and great fun from the start. As a single, it's delivered complete with a decent video that brings together fitness dancing, revolting black teeth and nifty datamoshing.

Unlike 'Cannibal Babies', which passes five minutes, most of the album consists of short tracks. There are grimy, flattened motifs that could've been lifted from tacky slasher films, as in 'Technophelia (Intro)' and 'Technophelia' (naturally, the intro is longer than the main song). There's flirtation with darkwave, such as in 'Casket' and 'Squid Hunter'. There's a decent noodling vignette with the delicate title 'Biogasms in Babyland', as well as a more straightforward pop diversion in 'Macho Island'. 'I'm a TV' either draws parallels between voyeurism, objectification and physical manipulation/touch, or indulges in a retro sci-fi narrative about machine sentience - or perhaps combines the two.

Altogether, as with most synthwave, there's nothing especially surprising on the record, and a few of the tunes don't really stick. More inclusions on the spectacular level of 'Cannibal Babies' would have been nice. That said, Technophelia is a very confident effort, and gleefully, irresistibly tacky.
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