Music Reviews

Artist: Halo Manash
Title: Haudattujen Valvoja
Format: CD
Label: Aural Hypnox (@)
Rated: *****
Springing liquids that sound coming from some unknown cave, an icy breathe from a mysterious entity that seems to possess the body of the performers, slow stroking low tones opens this new output by Halo Manash, the audiovisual and performative group that keeps on linking a certain creativity in making hand-crafted instrumentation (or other addressed into service tools, as their own introductory words say), that got more or less heavily modified by means of amps, amplified speakers and cabinets, and ritual archaic paths, which mange to evoke (or awake) somehow forgotten elemental forces. The first three of the seven tracks /the above-mentioned opening "Wesieni Wainajat", Aavet" (a moment which could surmise a kind of dornes close to some obscure outputs by Lustmord and Djinn) and "Swri Syvyys" (the moment when the low tones of the first two tracks seems to get annihilated before merging into a sort of shining obscure balance) were performed on live stafe in Finland, Germany and Russia during 2013, while some lucky people in Austria, Finland, Sweden and USA, who joined Halo Manash's private Temple Hwaar, intercepted the entrancing remaining four tracks of the second half of "Haudattujen Valvoja" between 2013 and 2014, whose igniting sparkles are the field recording of their own steps venturing into some unknown sacred wood, where you could almost feel the rising of natural spirits and forces that gradually begins a sort of entrancing choir, on the awesome "Kanto", a sort of wooden vibraphone on the title-track "Haudattujen Valvoja", very low tones that could surmise a cello on "Uhr-a-Usva" and a really hypnotical web of trembling subterranean bass frequencies and catchy ethereal sonic entities on the 14-minutes lasting final "Avanto". It could awake energies that contemporary schemes, rational and logical sedations and invasive worries anesthetized.
Artist: Visionist (@)
Title: Safe
Format: CD
Label: PAN (@)
Rated: *****
While dubstep scene seems to having been disintegrated, there are some grimers which keep on exploring more experimental stylistical pathwayss and a grime producer who showed a penchant for experimentation like Louis Carnell aka Visionist, belonging to the second generation of that scene that begun developing in South London suburbs, cannot but undoubtedly be one of the most interesting explorers. After many clues Visionist, who recently joined Bill Kouligas in the interesting attempt of revamping his own imprint Lost Codes, left on many single tracks, he definitively venture towards quite bizarre sonorities as it's clear since the opening "You Stayed", where he crafted a sort of alien melody by heavily pitched chords and deformed vocals before sliding into the circling set of ghostly voices weighted by fractured metallic bumps of "Victim" and the same voices keep on shaking the faint atmospheres (that "hey" you'll listen seems coming from an agonizing imp) on the following track "1 Guarda", where many listeners could perceive a certain similarity to some stuff by Burial and feature the short lasting interplay "I've Said", the broken suctions of "Vffected". An hypnotical carousel of delayed echoes of chiming sounds, vocal atoms and toy-like sombers fills the icy void of "Sin-cere" whereas the bass-driven tremors on the title-track "Safe", the more urgent pressure of "Let Me In", the whooshing electronic fogs of "Too Careful To Care" doesn't really disrupt the fragile balance evoked by mainly vocal elements, which seem to render the defense mechanisms of a fragile psyche in the attempt of wuthstanding external attacks before recovering a sort of lost balance on the painfully entranced "Tired Tears, Awake Fears", the shrivelled bass hits of the interplay "Constraint" and the anesthetized quietness of the final "Sleep Luxury". Grime seems having performed phagocytosis on mental diseases and anxiety on this interesting sonic experiment by means of the lucid cryonics of grime of Visionist.
Artist: Family Fodder (@)
Title: Sunday Girls (Director's Cut)
Format: CD
Label: Staubgold (@)
Rated: *****
Every action will (sometimes) create an equal and opposing reaction. A physical law which could be applied to music as well and post-punk collective Family Fodder orbiting around the creativity and the wit of Alig Pearce, could be considered one of the most meaningful reactions to the booming of the so-called modern pop at its dawn, when MTV begun to work on global type-approval of musical tastes. Staubgold, which has released the last outputs of the band - they are alive and kicking, even if backward-looking re-releases make some less informed reviewers dig the grave of many musicians and in spite of their seemingly meteoric existence in those years.. -, recently collected "Sunday Girls" (dating back 1979), Family Fodder's amazing tribute to Blondie, together with a number of singles that climbed indie charts such as the amazingly iconic "Debbie Harry" (named after Blondie's notorious blonde singer whose 80is hit "Call Me" could be matched to Adele's "Hello" and justify other likewise reasonable reactions by contemporary listeners, who could decide to stop watching MTV or listening commercial radio stations for feeling like stalked by that skilled singer) and the awesome punkey dub "A 'Version'" - the B-side tune on the same 7" -, the funny "Playing Golf (With My Flesh Crawling)" and "My Baby Takes Valium" - the tracks of the very first 7" by Pearce's sonic freak -, the lovely "Warm" - a song which justify the opinion of all those who consider Family Fodder as possible influences of Stereolab - as well as "Tedium" and "The Story So Far", two rare tracks by Alig's pre-Fodder project Frank Sumatra. After listening to this collection, you'll fully understand the reason why the way they got labelled ("entertaining idiosyncratic experimentalism with pop sensibilities") is not an excessively flattering overstatement.
Artist: iVardensphere (@)
Title: Stygian
Format: Download Only (MP3 + Lossless)
Label: Metropolis (@)
Rated: *****
"Stygian" is another interesting appendix from "Fable", the last album by iVardensphere. Besides the title track - included in the album as well -, a massively rhythmic tune in between ebm dance sonorities and industrial techno, which could perfectly fits a dancehall featuring Charon at mixing desks, it includes other stuff, which justifies my interest: the more experimental track "Infinite Beauty", featuring a sort of dialogue between a girl speaking of her ecstatic "illumination" with a male friend (her confessor or maybe her shrink...), an intimate confession that iVardensphere enveloped in angelic choirs and risingly oppressive distortions, three remixes of "Stygian" - the one by Iszloscope (another quite known project by iVardensphere's keyboard player Yann Faussurier) features awesome cinematic sounds, but when these Canadian guys ignite their engines could sound quite banal, while :Wumpscut:'s electro-industrial nightmarish rhythmical webs and Cyanotic's cyberesque remix sound a little better than the first one I mentioned - and, last but not least, an amazing cover of Sepultura's "Roots Bloody Roots", a dive into the good old days of (good) metal.
Artist: Circuit3 (@)
Title: siliconchipsuperstar
Format: 12"
Label: self-released
Rated: *****
In the glut of synthpop releases in the second decade of this millennium something really stands out here, and while I wouldn't call it radical or groundbreaking, it is ultimately worthy of critical notice. I didn't think so at first, but upon reflection (and repeated listenings) it most certainly is. That 'something' is Circuit3 and its debut album, 'siliconchipsuperstar'. It's not perfect, but just far and away better than so much of the material I've heard in this genre (reviewed, or just perused by me) that I'm really, really impressed. Circuit3 is Peter Fitzpatrick, a Dubliner (Ireland, of course) who does it all on this album, as far as I can tell. There's a certain drawback to that, but I'll address it later on down the line. What's interesting about Peter Fitzpatrick is that he didn't start out as a synthguy, but more of a busker/acoustic guitar guy, morphing into what he calls 'folktronica'. I listened to a few of his pre-Circuit3 recordings and performances. They were okay, nothing earthshaking, but I could sense the talent was there. However he has certainly found his niche in Circuit3. For one thing, his voice has dramatically improved on this recording (not that it was so-so before; it certainly wasn't) and the synth work sounds like someone who has spent years in the genre. Mind you, he's been a musician since sometime in the '80's, so Fitzpatrick is no johnny-come-lately. But it's a huge step up from being a bar band performer to potentially achieving international acclaim, and that's exactly what he's poised for here with Circuit3.

There are some who might consider synthpop the lowest common denominator in the electronic music genre. It really is not, and I'll tell you why. First, you need a pretty good vocalist to make your audience sit up and take notice, or at least one who's so quirky you can't help but notice. Then, a mastery of synthesizers beyond the ordinary presets, a good sense for rhythm programming, and perhaps most important, excellent songwriting skills that can get your point across quickly, with good, catchy hooks. Happy to say that Fitzpatrick has met (and in some cases, exceeded) these requirements, likely due to prior years of paying his dues.

Circuit3's 'siliconchipsuperstar' (the name taken from a 1982 magazine article on the band Yazoo, with the title 'Silicon Chip Superstar') opens strong with 'New Man', a killer track that melds the best of 80's synthpop with hooks that dig in deep, and it's not even a dance tune! Fitzpatrick's voice is a combo of earlier Ultravox Midge Ure and some other 80's male vocalist whose name I can't recall, but is certainly familiar. Speaking of Ultravox, "Ghost Machine" is certainly in the Ultravox 'Vienna'/ John Foxx 'Metamatic' vein; moodily melodic, with neat vintage drum machine sounds. Yet so far, neither are really dance-floor friendly. That changes with "Those Who Were Dancing," although the four-on-the-floor beat doesn't kick in until the first chorus. Fortunately it mostly stays thereafter. This song could use a more club-friendly mix. "Reverberate" is decent dance material, somewhat recalling Yellow Magic Orchestra in their milder moments. There is a Kraftwerkian 'Trans Euro Express' bent to "Darkroom", a song about a photographer trying to seduce a lady in...where else? Cute and slightly kinky. Audio anime is the motif for "One Night in Tokyo", and though it doesn't sound a bit like it, I can't help but flash on Alphaville's "Big in Japan". A more modern synthpop approach appears on "Blue Diary", with its vocoder opening. It's a slight synthpop tune, and not one of my favorites from the album. Of course, "In Your Shoes" is immediately going to make you think of Depeche Mode's "Try Walking in My Shoes", although it's not nearly as dark, and has no melodic similarity. Also, DM want you to "try walking in MY (their) shoes," while Circuit3 "walked a mile in YOUR shoes". Funny thing about that though; what makes either think either pair of shoes are gonna fit? Oh well, just an expression. It's still a pretty, moody little number that has its charm. At this point I should mention something that irks me about this album- a lack of harmony vocals. Most synthpop bands along these lines have them at some place or other, but they're curiously absent on this album. Perhaps that's because Mr. Fitzpatrick chose to go it alone, and you can't easily pull off harmonies with yourself live. I consider harmony vocals in this type of material essential, and I have to tick of a point or two for them not being there.

Well, we're "Running Out of Time," which just happens to be the name of the next track. It's the darkest thing on the album, and could have easily been turned into a Front Line Assembly style electro-industrial number (think "Bio-Mechanic" light), but it's not heavy enough for that. Unfortunately the hook isn't potent enough to make this track a standout. Finally there is "Hundred Hands," another Ultravox-inspired number with a good, but not great hook. This album really should have ended with a burner as strong as "All Stood Still", but it didn't and that's sort of a shame. Still, Fitzpatrick's voice is great for the material and his synth work is very good too. I would definitely recommend harmony vocals, and getting a band together for live performance. A little guitar might help kick things up a notch, but maybe on the next album.

Don't get me wrong though, I'm not really disappointed; the album has more than enough merit to make it worthy, not just for a listen but as a purchase. Speaking of that, 'supersiliconchipsuper' isn't scheduled for release until January 11, 2016 on colored vinyl no less, with initial copies receiving it on CD and bonus remix CD. (I'd love to hear those remixes!) That's another added factor that makes it worthy, and the reason for the delay is undoubtedly the record pressing backlog due to too few pressing plants these days. In the meantime you can check out some of the tracks on Circuit3's website, YouTube, and elsewhere. Keep an eye and ear on this one- I see good things for Circuit3 in the future and some forward-thinking label really ought to sign this act.
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