Music Reviews



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Artist: Sistema
Title: Ego EP
Format: Download Only (MP3 + Lossless)
Label: Factor City
Rated: *****
Even if Manuel Ruiz, the dj - formerly known by his viral moniker Dj Ebola - behind Sistema, is a veteran of vibrant Catalan scene, speaking of an electronic underground scene as a standalone one could be a long shot, as tha scene mainly absorbed the sound of other scenes in order to forge sometimes interesting reworkings thanks to a lively interest on different branches of electronic music that got fostered by worldwide known festivals. The sound that Manuel pumped into this recent release for Factor City feature this attitude, so that I won't say it's ingenious, but I won't say he can't handle some sonorities in a brilliant way: you might, for instance, notice some similarities of the opening "Ego" to late 90ies German chilled trance or Mike Paradinas' first outputs, as well as some resemblances of some synth-pop and electro-house stuff of the well-balanced acid house groove and the celestial vocoders on the following "Run", the soothing "Seiscuarenta" and the melodic techno of "Freeze", but you won't say the listening experiences that this Spanish producer provides are not pleasant at all. The final remix of "Ego" by Barcelona-based duo The Suicide Of Western Culture, whose solarization of the original version by means of over reverbed echoes which could resemble some stuff by Fuck Buttons or Digitonal, is likewise enjoyable.
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Artist: Marsen Jules (@)
Title: Marsen Jules at GRM
Format: CD
Label: Oktaf (@)
Rated: *****
Some unforgettable cosmic journeys by his late compatiot Pete Namlook could come to listener's mind while listening to this release by Martin Juhles, the real name of Marsen Jules, who composed this little gem in a couple of weeks while staying in the legendary GRM-studios at Radio France in Paris. Lookign beyond any possible similarities, listeners can only but swaying his mind in this isolationist pleasure, a sort of ascension over string-driven glares whose symphonic tails gently vanishes on a wall of low-frequency sound, which creates the impression you are floating in the deep space. In order to render this 35-minutes lasting journey that he splitted in a couple of tracks, Martin followed the principles of Pierre Schaeffer, the founder of the "Groupes de Recherches Musicales", and notoriously one of the main composer of the so-called "Musique Concrete" movement, whose composition were mainly based on recorded sounds and sound manipulation. He managed to render a really immersive and relaxing listening experience.
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Artist: Wavemultiplier (@)
Title: 4040
Format: Download Only (MP3 + Lossless)
Label: clang (@)
Rated: *****
The recycle of any spillage or waste material is a praiseworthy activity at a time when environmentalism firmly became a mark of a civilized society. The beeping sound that you can hear on the opening track "0527" - each title got named after their length and you can easily guess the total running time is approximately 40 minutes and 40 seconds... -, which is close to the sound of echocardiographer for the monitoring of vital parameters of deeply comatose patients, could let you imagine Swedish composer and artist Marcus Wrango, the man behind Wavemultiplier's curtains, as a professional in between a committed environmentalist and a necromancer. By his own admission, he mainly fed his debut release, which got entirely composed and recorded in Blocc Studios in Stockholm, by means of raw sounds and the inspiration for "4040" mainly came from "the work with very clean recordings of sounds and music in electro-acoustic academia, where distortion and material artefacts often are treated as unwanted noise"...and Marcus doesn't didain that material at all: he inoculates a sine wave nd raw sounds into each track before processing them by cracks or refining in wills. The final result is an enjoyable collection of seven tracks where he riddles rhythmic noise and abstract techno in a manner which can be easily appreciated by followers of labels like Kvitnu or Raster Noton.
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Artist: 99 Blows (@)
Title: I/O
Format: Download Only (MP3 + Lossless)
Label: clang (@)
Rated: *****
Some icy gushes, which sound blowing on the title track "I/O" together with a sort of description of his concept of music making, open the debut release by Danish electronic musician and former guitar player Rasmus Vestervig, who rendered what was occurring, the notorious Hurricane Sandy storm, outside This Is Care Of's studio facility in Manhattan, New York, where he recorded a rough version of this elegant assay of electronic dub-house, which was later polished and refined in his studio in Copenhagen. In spite of this element, internal heating system of TICO's studio where 99 Blows found the ideal dwelling place for its birth in between the soothing warmth of vintage organs, a pile of synths and drum machines, which had to be popped in a Danish hatchery by means of analog tubes, tape echo and various effects which helped to shape the definitive release in a familiar environment. After the above mentioned introduction that gets unfolded over a relaxed movement which could recall German chill-out stuff of late 90ies, 99 Blows warms its first sonic output by a nice housey groove, which seems to mirror the memory of the music for catwalks on "Tanzen Am Banhof", which sounds distant as if the storm managed to freeze NYC perpetual fashion weeks, and keeps on highlighting the lukewarm effect of nice memories by wrapping the synth-driven evanescences on the following "EFD" by means of really vintage acid-house bleeps and groovy percussive replays (you could imagine a sort of reshuffling and hybridisation of Sabres Of Paradise and 808 State), whose whiff sustains the structure of the final "Desolee" as well.
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Artist: Reanimation (@)
Title: nder the Last Tree on Earth
Format: CD
Label: self-released
Rated: *****
Well here's a CD that's been a long time coming to review. The copy I was sent to me was damaged, and I had to ask the artist (Michael Shanahan, from Winfield, Illinois) for another copy which he graciously provided. Other things came up and it was a little while before I could get to review it. Reanimation is Shanahan's solo project that took root in 2006, but its seeds were planted much earlier in the bands Every Part of the Animal and Quixotic, back in the 90's. Since then Shanahan did one other Reanimation album, 'Giants Hide Among Us' (2011). I decided to sample a little bit of all of that for frame of reference. I can definitely see his progression over the years, culminating in 'Under the Last Tree on Earth', a remarkable and diverse album that defies categorization. Experimental, post-rock, psychedelic, ambient, progressive, space-rock, art rock, trip hop and even a touch of goth, it's all here on 'UTLTOE' in one form or another, often mixed together so there is no way this can be pigeon-holed.

Opening strong with "Dead Heart Souvenir", the track carries a similar moody tension to Massive Attack's "Angel" and a touch of Pink Floyd. While Shanahan doesn't have a particularly strong voice, it's effective for the material. An excellent beginning that draws you in with all its idiosyncrasies such as the wild flute in the background. A real burner! Switching gears for "Abigail's Ashes Came Home", this melancholy mood piece features a mournful oboe over atmospherics and plaintive piano. Sort of reminds me a little of the instrumental part of Roxy Music's "Chance Meeting", more in the mood than song structure. The vocal doesn't come in til well past the three minute mark, and the song picks up steam from that point, turning almost shoegazey. The nearly buried dialogue sample adds a little ambience; echoes of ghosts of the past. Things really take of with "Surprise Hitchiker", a quirky rocker with Joy Division-esque bass and drums, a weird rhythmic sample that sounds like a cardboard box in a washing machine, with a simple but effective guitar line. This has all the hallmarks of pre-ambient Brian Eno (especially in the vocal department), and it's one helluva great rock song. The mostly acoustic number (until the end) "The Space Between Words" comes out of the same psychedelic playbook as bands similar to Ash Ra Temple, more of a transitional mood piece than anything definitive. "And You" is likely the weakest piece on the album. The hammered staccato piano chords quickly grow tedious and the vocals are too understated to be effective. The song builds to a battery of sound but ultimately misses the mark. The piano on "Growing with the Growing Light" is much better as Reanimation moves back into rockier territory. It's an anthemic number that a band like Oasis might have wish they'd written.

"Opiate of the Hoi Polloi" returns to the psychedelic with a Velvet Underground style jam with a recorded phone message sample woven into it. While it doesn't really go anywhere, it is nevertheless interesting in an atmospheric sort of way. There's plenty of krautrock influence on "The Serpent Fire (Everything Fades)" with what sounds like mellotron during the verses. The vocals could have been pumped up a little more, sort of getting lost in the sauce of heady guitar stew. The finale, "She Never Sleeps" begins with perky acoustic guitar fingerpicking over a minimal beat (kick drum) and synth strings. It's gentle at first, picking up a little steam along the way. Shanahan's vocals are rather endearing here. The song has a lot of commercial potential, and I don't just mean sales units or radio play, but I could actually hear it being used in a product commercial. Maybe not the whole tune but some of it.

So overall Reanimation's 'Under the Last Tree on Earth' is a bit of a conundrum. It's not experimental enough to fall into left field/gray area music, and it's too eccentric to be considered alternative rock. A well-known band such as Radiohead might get away with this kind of anomalous format and still be praised for it. Less prominent artists encounter difficulty in establishing an identity (and increasing their fan base) when they try to cross too many genres. Shanahan isn't afraid to take risks though, and I applaud him for that. Even though this isn't a perfect album, and is likely not to appeal to everyone, there is just so much good material on it that it cannot be overlooked. If you're wanting some adventurous moody music that still has its roots in alternative rock, you might want to spend some time Under the Last Tree on Earth.
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