Music Reviews

Artist: The Phineas Incarnation (@)
Title: Liquid Karma
Format: Download Only (MP3 + Lossless)
Label: self-released
Rated: *****
The Phineas Incarnation is Phineas Brady from Iowa City, Iowa, and 'Liquid Karma' is his project's debut album. He calls it Progressive Metal/Ambient, but that's not exactly the genre(s) I would place it in. There's no doubt the music on 'Liquid Karma' is progressive, but metal, I think not. To me, for metal you need guitar(s), and there are none here, as it's all synths & drums. Progressive jazz electronica might be a better tag. Two things should be noted- Brady is only 17, and he's a drummer. You'd know the latter immediately upon hearing this, but you'd never know the former without reading about him. For a teenager, this work is an astounding feat, but I don't judge by age, only talent, which Phineas seems to have in abundance. He makes no bones that 'Liquid Karma' was enabled by Reason 6.0, but who isn't using some sort of computer software these days to realize their electronic musical visions. The Phineas Incarnation uses a lot of arpeggiation on 'Liquid Karma'; in fact, that's the main modus operadi employed with the synths, not exclusively, but it's presence is a major factor in the music. As for the drumming, I'm not sure if it's actually played, programmed, or a combination of the two. One thing is certain, he's quite adept at it whatever the case.

The album consits of 9 tracks with a unifying theme- "the concept of eternal motion; the cycle of cosmic growth and decay, evolution and involution." The album opens with "Void: Emergence" with light, sequenced synths (some arpeggiated, of course) before the ferocious proggy drumming comes in. The timing nuances are impressive, and so is the compositional quality of this opening track. "Void: Design" takes it even further into prog-jazz-rock territory, this time the sequenced sythn seems less arpeggiated but has a mechanical element to begin with. Other melodic lines grow out of it, with a stuttery bass holding down the bottom. Phineas brings it into breakbeat territory (old school, I might add) after a ferocious drum battery then melodic synth pads support the piano-like arpeggios of the melody. All the while interesting time changes are taking place but only support, never subvert the melody. I've heard may a keyboard-oriented prog-rock band that aren't half as good as this! "Life: Quasimortality" opens with a rapid blippy arpeggio over subtle synth pad before some hard prog cooking. Phineas uses bass more as accenting stabs than a bass player would normally do. The track goes through a variety of rhythmic and synth changes playing with dissonace, yet retaining a melodic quality. One thing I noticed - Phineas seems to love cymbal bashing almost as much as Keith Moon at times. There's a portion on this track where a pretty synth arpeggio melody backed by organ presents a very lovely passage. The drums lay out for "Life: One Becomes Two" with beautiful ambient synth pads and the eventual arpeggios, which is the only rhythmic component in the track. "Life: The Divine Paradox" begins with an urgently climbing bass sounding like a later day King Crimson rhythm section jam session. Phineas adds ascending piano chords with a following synth to the mix then stops cold and synth arpeggio, synth pads stutter-bass take it in a different direction, yet still ascending until it stops. Then crazy fast arpeggios, sample and hold style, herald in the next section, like ELP's 'Tarkus' but twice as fast. Jeez- where'd that come from?

Fortunately, Phineas slows it down a tad for "Life: Birth of Omniscience" with some calming ambient synth pads. The calm doesn't last for long though as weird breakbeat percussive elements emulate strange creatures. The cymbals keeping time on the downbeat weren't particularly to my likeing here; I would have chosen something else. More sequenced arpeggios lead into the next (heavier) section, then a very prog-rock section interspersed with, and finally concluding on ambient synth pads. After some introductory synth arpeggio "Truth: Ego Death" begins hard and heavy with a rabid, bass-led killer progression, dissolving momentarily into dreamy arpeggios, then blasts back into rapid sequencing with high speed locomotive drumming, and a light little melody line. Seems incongruous, but it works. After a strange staccato break, the track finds it's happy place in a pretty mid-tempo pattern, and ironically enough, I'm reminded of Happy the Man here. It's really sweet. Phineas builds some nice tension with a rhythmic single note sequence with a prog-jazz melody laid over the top. Ambient pads add nice texture, then it fades into wind-chimey ambience which carries through to the end. Final track, "Truth: I, Infinity" begins with machine-gun sequenced synth before going into some crazy alternating ascending/descending synth lines, then calms down with some beautiful synth pads before the drums come in. The track then proceeds to go through a variety of progressions and changes before drifiting out on a cloud of tonal ambience. Wow!

It's hard to imagine another band or artist that could achieve this. Think Bill Bruford and Philip Glass with synths programmed by Larry Fast and Tony Levin sitting in on bass. Then again, this is sui gereris, it's own duck so to speak. While 'Liquid Karma' is a remarkable achievement that all who enjoy progressive electronica should hear, there are a few things I would advise The Phineas Incarnation to consider in its next outing. Lay back on the crash cymbals in keeping time; cut down on arpeggios for melodic content and and use more non-repetitive melodies; and give the bass more melodic freedom. This kid is on fire though, and his next work is likely to burn down the house!

Raime: Tooth

 Posted by Maurizio Pustianaz (@)   Electronics / EBM / Electronica
 Edit (9208)
Jun 06 2016
Artist: Raime
Title: Tooth
Format: CD
Label: Blackest Ever Black
Rated: *****
Four years after their debut "Quarter Turns Over A Living Line", Joe Andrews and Tom Halstead are ready to release, always on Blackest Ever Black, their new album "Tooth". The duo isn't keen on long length albums and if their first one contained seven tracks for 37', this second one has eight new tracks for the same length. With "Quarter Turns Over A Living Line" the audience got acquainted with Raime's sound appreciating their way of using rarefied hypnotic atmospheres, where rhythms and electronic sounds where placed in a way just to create a feeling of uneasiness and a constant tension. If you remember tracks like "Exist In the Repeat of Practice", you know what I mean. On "Tooth", I have the feeling that the duo wanted to extremise the effect created on the first album creating tracks that are even more minimal than the old ones. Another thing they focused on, is on the use bass frequencies: the eight tracks give me the feeling of a dub record where the rhythm has been reduced to the bone. This new formula is working well on the opening "Coax" but in my opinion, after a while, there's something missing. Is like I'm waiting for a sound that will never come. Also the second tracks "Dead Heat" is beginning in a cool way, being really menacing and all but after a minute, that's it. The tune is not progressing. There are only a couple of samples that come and go. Almost all the tracks gave to me that impression and at the end I have the feeling that they reduced the tracks to the essential but they didn't stop when it was too much. I think that their debut was a little more varied and "Tooth" is far from being a boring one, even if the ideas are a little repeated (check the use of guitar/rhythms and sampled vocals on "Hold Your Line" and the closing "Stammer", but as I told before, something is missing and that's a pity.
Artist: Lovver
Title: X
Format: Tape
Label: Klanggold (@)
Rated: *****
Another interesting sonic appetizer I received from Andreas 'Sonovo' Usenbetz's imprint Klanggold seemed to have not a real signature, as the only pieces of information provided by the label about Lovver are related to its "line-up": the band should consist of a post-rock guitarist and an avantgarde sound-mangler and noise-maker, but in spite of the lack of more details about their identities, these introductory words make sense as it could suggest the kind of sound you'll meet while listening to this tape (or files, if you'll choice the digital version). If you carefully check the website of the project, you'll finally find their names out, as behind Lovver's curtains there were the guitarist Chris Corrado together with Sonovo himself (the noise-maker), but that initial mysterious halo would have been likewise fascinating. It seems that Klanggold followed more or less the same choice of other releases, as this one includes just two tracks as well. Both of them are 10 minutes lasting and explores slightly different nuances of the same stylistic grounds. The first track "Cloud Logic" got somehow explained by his title as it's an enjoyable intersection between board of Canada-like ethereal ambient sonorities, whose waves got slightly rippled by crispy noises, lovely elongated pad synths and a gently modified electronic groove that resembles some sonic scripts of German electronic chill-out music of the first 00's. Clouds grow thicker in "Sermon" on the other side, whose opening minutes are a little bit more crepuscular before Lovver's helmsmen manage to create a gap in the electronic granular net by inoculating soothing rhythmical patterns, guitar effected strokes and guitar-driven vapid melodies. Check it out!
Artist: Maeror Tri
Title: Sensuum Mendacia / Somnia
Format: CD
Label: Zoharum (@)
Distributor: Alchembria
Rated: *****
This new reissue from Zoharum collects two tapes from Maeror Tri which documents their first steps as band instead of the previous reissues (“Emotional Engramm” and “Meditamentum”) that were their most mature effort.
“Sensuum Mendacia” was released in 1991 and is one of their most ambient release. "Antrum" is based upon a drone which slowly evolve revealing subtle nuances and resonances. "Soma 2" is an hypnotic track based on the juxtaposition of loops. "Choir of Transcendence" uses a guitar processed using delay. "Mental Electricity" is an almost industrial track based on noises and drones. "Aegritudo" is constructed from slowed down guitar recordings. The resonances of "Animorum Post Mortem Ab Aliis Ad Alios Transitio" closes this release which, even in the limitations of the recording process reveals the research of the creative use of a 4 track tape.
"Somnia" is the A side of a split release with Nostalgie Eternelle and sounds as focused in their most hypnotic side. "Somnia" opens this release with an ethereal loop while "Vox Sirenum" is closer to certain dark ambient. "Soma 1" is based on heavily effected bass and guitar while "Onyx" heavily process samples. "Indagatio" closes this release with lines of synth generating gentle drones.
An obscure gem from the past which could sound underdeveloped at a structural level but reveals choices in the sound palette that anticipate their mature result some year later. It's really worth a listen.
Artist: Merzbow
Title: Life Performance
Format: CD
Label: Cold Spring (@)
Writing a critique of one of Masami Akita's work is not an easy task as the historical importance acts as a deforming mirror of the musical value. Life Performance is the reissue of a '85 cassette release and shows some of the characteristics for whom Merzbow symbolizes a genre. While in Europe, the first noise acts tied a shocking imaginary to the musical impact, Masami Akita tied it to an art form. Instead of conceiving noise as a symbol for pain, it's the direct result of the juxtaposition of sound sources, probably discarded as the material used by Kurt Schwitters, until the fulness of the sound spectrum. So, the collage of the artwork is a reference of the method used in the development of the "action", a term not used without a reference, whose result is recorded in this release.
"Nil Vagina Mail Action" is a single track in five part: the first one starts with a tape loop upon a background noise which gradually reveals itself as generated by electronic, probably noise generators and filters, with inserts of samples that could even be of pop music. The second part is characterized by the loop of the central part which unifies the other sound sources used. The third part is close to a white noise generated by components which reveal themselves at their time. The fourth part sounds generated by phone tones as a picture of the crowd which surround a person. The fifth part closes this release with a loop upon an evolving noise.
This release is so far from the usual representation of noise of a monolithic mass of sound without movement that remind of the motivations for whom this kind of music is even able to approach art galleries. A piece of history which cannot be rated.
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