Music Reviews

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Artist: Halgrath (@)
Title: The Whole Path of War and Acceptance
Format: Download Only (MP3 + Lossless)
Label: Cryo Chamber (@)
Rated: *****
Halgrath's new album on Cryo Chamber is depicted as an album 'where the artists shares her inner struggles of transformation after dramatic events in her life'. So there's a thing that perhaps only a collector could fully appreciate, the cover is evidently different from the one featured in "out of time", so reflecting a change in the construction of the album, a sign of the cure profused in the release.
The quiet drone of 'Acceptance of Inner Self' opens this release with a mood as calm as sad quietly doubled by a second drone and evocative field recording. 'Consecreation' features a meditative drone slowly and cleanly developed. Subtitling his description 'Afflatus ( Amanait Akhat )' features a female voice singing as in religious rites. 'The Opposite Mind and Mutuality' is based an oriental mood triggered by the beats and and arabic like female voice. 'Cold Breath of Mountains', the title more related with the cover picture, starts with a clear soundscape and evolves in a dark one, so giving a lecture path for the decoding of the cover image. 'Epic Journey and Oblivion' is a quiet and pastoral soundscape while 'Deep Immersion and Repose' starts with a peaceful drone and ends with a darker one filled with metallic noises. The drones of 'Your Soul is Just a Particle of Stars' ends this release with a sort of peacefulness that is even cathartic.
This album is so different from his predecessor that it gives the impression that it's really the picture of a particular state of the soul that is expressed in a remarkable way. One of the best release of this label, so it's recommended.
Artist: Ithaca Trio (@)
Title: Music For Piano & Patience
Format: CD
Label: Home Normal (@)
Rated: *****
Two balmy heart-rending long-lasting sonatas on a quiet piano which sound like coming from recesses of the memory characterize this release by Leeds-based sound artist Oliver Thurley whose moniker Ithaca Trio could puzzle as it's not a trio at all. "Music For Piano & Patience" is quite different from the delightful instrumental ambient music he disseminated on labels such as Hibernate, Under The Spire and his own label Coma Architects as he seems to focus on the research of beauty in decay: delicate piano loops got gradually decomposed by tape hisses, narcotic repetitions, occasional pitching, resounding specks which sound like detaching from the main phrasing before emerging from the bottom where the piano could be ideally placed on the first long suite "Lepidoptera, pt.II" and getting stifled by a swishing low-frequency and distant squawks. While the first track of this record seems to move downwards, the second track, "Just Skin", mildly draws upward diagrams by means of the same sound processing, where the mastering on 1/4" reels by Ian Hawgood acts like a proper instrument, almighty hypnotical warped whistles and blissful tonal trailing edges. Despite the title, this immersive record, whose cover artwork with typical hopscotch diagram smells like the "metempsychosis" of schoolyard memories, isn't nerve-wracking at all!
Artist: AntiQuark (@)
Title: Rags to Riches
Format: CD
Label: self-released
Rated: *****
AntiQuark has been releasing albums and performing in the USA and Europe since 2001, created by Ant Dakini, an Italian keyboardist and sound-engineer. Vocalist Sergio O. joined the project in 2006, having sung in a number of rock and metal bands prior to AntiQuark. The music is an electro-techno hybrid with a certain 'quarkiness' to it. (One little side-note: our own Marc Urselli remixed one of their tracks, 'Planet X' from their 2009 'Skydancer' CD.) 'Rags to Riches' is the project's 6th release as far as I can tell, and although I've heard of, I'm not sure I've actually heard AntiQuark before.

The album starts out interestingly enough with a snippet of traditional Japanese (or Chinese?) music then charges into the body of 'El Bus' with Sergio wailing 'they patiently beat us to death' between nearly whispered verses over a driving dark-electro rhythm. It's a promising start. 'Medavog' has a Shameneque groove (think 'Ebenezer Goode') but nothing like those slap-happy EDM Scotts. Things pick up immensely with 'Shameless' (Floor Anthem Remix by Red Flag) , a track that could be equally at home at a huge rave or a goth club, not far removed from VNV Nation, Covenant, Assemblage 23, et al. Actually could have been a bit longer. 'The Man from Mars' (Lunar Remix by Electrovot) is somewhat along those lines as well; less vocals, more techno-electronics, and kind of trancey, but no less good. AntiQuark shifts gears for 'The Attaq' (Electronic Kraut Remix by Steve Morrell) with former vocalist Maren on lead here. It harkens back to the band's more experimental times; less big beat, more sequenced-synth driven, with an unforgettable terrorist-infused vocal line ' 'we did it for Allah'¦white face down'¦we did it for Allah'¦the white place down'. Simple but effective, and I didn't even mind the drum machine cowbells that I usually loathe. This is the track that actually made me really perk up my ears!

'Shameless' reappears with a Phantompowerdrill remix by Phantom Power, but I prefer Red Flag's more muscular interpretation. 'King Vulture' is given an Electro-lounge Remix by Hotrebor & Syrob, with a funky bass bottom and future synth chords on top. Kind of reminds me of Leeb's Noise Unit project. 'Model Zero' gets an Electro Remix by Hotrebor, somewhat similar to the previous track. AntiQuark switches gears again in the Like Lindsey Lohan Remix of 'Nuklear Suicide' by Don Bleezy and the Tleilaxu Music Machine. I cared for Bleezy's rappish style about as much as I care for Lindsey Lohan (which is not at all) so obviously this track didn't do it for me. 'Drawer 4' has a Hard Techno Remix by Traumahead Society that may actually be an improvement on the original with a relentless crunchy beat. 'El Bus' gets the Extended Mix treatment by Giulio Maddaloni, exempting most of Sergio's vocals. Neat dancefloor fodder that could easily be slipped into any DJ's set. 'King Vulture' has an Industrial/Terror Remix by Traumahead Society, and yeah, it's pretty much hardcore of the type that would be at home on the Industrial Strength label. Never heard the original but I doubt the remix bears little resemblance to it. There's one more brief (unnamed) hidden 13th track- solo vocal outtakes by Sergio from 'El Bus'.

While 'Rags to Riches' is essentially a remix album (a good amount of the material coming from their 'Skydancer' album), it is no less engaging and might bring AntiQuark to the attention of an audience who has not yet discovered them. Although there were a couple tracks I didn't particularly care for, the bulk of it is pretty damn good. You can find the album lots of places ' iTunes, Spotify, CDBaby, Amazon, and of course, the band's own website. Definitely worth checking out. I just hope they never lose their quarkiness.
Artist: ∆AIMON (@)
Title: s/t
Format: CD
Label: Artoffact Records (@)
Rated: *****

This band defines itself as "one of the early adopters of the witch-house title but are generally considered cross-genre" that is convolved way to express a trend emerging in the last years. The male/female voice is used as a way to blend two apparently irreconcilable influences, an experimental one, from industrial, and a pop one, from ethereal, using one of the basic instrument of the two genre: the synth. So, the result is something that tries to seem original but is bonded in a pop musical structure
An atmospheric, even if noisy, track as "vargtimmen" opens this release but, suddenly, "Seraphim" reveals the reference model for this band: a double voice, masculine and female, and a sound between electro and ethereal as it flows between the two. "dissolvte" is an almost synth-pop track while "LOW" and "Balance" feature noisy inserts able to colorize the sound while "anima" is centered on the rhythmic interludes. The quiet drone that opens "amen" is a good brainwave to escape the limits of a formula used in almost all songs while "bruising" and "EXU REI" return to a classic dark-pop structure. With "Paræsthesia" the duo returns to the juxtposition of aggressive synth lines and melodic lines that forms the best moments of this album. With "Order '´ '´" and "APOSTATIC" the influence of this band results evident even if filtered with good personality.
As with every first full-length album, the question is if a band has the quality to develop something personal above his influences and my answer is almost suspended as this band has some personal ideas but seems too shy to fully develop them. A nice band to observe carefully on the next release. Nice.
Artist: E.Doctor Smith (@)
Title: Quantum
Format: CD
Label: Edgetone (@)
Rated: *****
Besides the blending of a pile of complementary styles, this collaborative release by inventive drummer and percussionist E.Doctor Smith, former collaborator of big names such as Brian Eno, Madonna's co-writer Stephen Bray and the bassist Edo Castro, is an appreciable parade of guitars and remarkable tools for sound synthesis. On "Quantum", which mainly focuses on the declension of progressive rock by skilled guitarist Jack Wright (such as the two parts of "Progress" or "PsychoBilly", taken from Quantum Kids' past repertory together with other tracks of this release), Smith's mate in the band which got named after his percussion controller Drummstick, as well as on guitar-driven celestial ambient mellow suites ("Ambience for the Active Subconscious Mind", the final "Blue Moon" or "Kodo", which features the heavenly trumpet by Eric Dahlman and String Rickenbacher basses by Tom Shiben) and "funkier" spurts ("The Eight", "Test Drive" or "Angular Momentum"), Smith embellishes each track by means of the enhanced drumming dynamics of the brand new Zendrum EXP MIDI percussion controller that David Haney of the Zendrum Corporation provided to him by enhancing a model, whose design got inspired by notorious Jimi Hendrix's Fender Stratocaster he already designed. Even if he mainly explores genres which could sound a little bit out of context in regars to the ones we usually speak about, the contribution of this additive by Doctor E.Smith, which sometimes seems to chase tonal acceleration on guitar strings, is quite recognizable and the coalescence of otherworldly sounds is so brilliant that it managed to draw our attention. Check it out!
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