Music Reviews

Artist: Pr3snt
Title: Rakish
Format: Download Only (MP3 + Lossless)
Label: Ghosthall
Rated: *****
Out on Ghosthall, a relative new label coming from Switzerland and Lithuania, "Rakish", the new EP by Pr3snt is ready to hit the alternative dancefloors. The duo coming from Zurich and formed by Vasco Bachmann and Flurin Gishamer was active in the business since ten years but in 2013 they decided to make their own music and, since then, they released music on Yoruba Records, Hive Audio, Click Records and their own Ghosthall. The EP contains four original tunes plus a remix of the main track made by Lithuanian deep house project called 0rfeo. The EP stands out for its mix of techno and minimal house where melody and sound richness are the roots elements of their sound. Pr3snt know how to satisfy your will to dance as well as feeding your ears with nice tunes where the alternation of rhythms and melodies. If the opening "Arp Test" is a nice dark techno tune, "Boundless" (which is born from a collaboration with Zurich club dj Grauer) has lighter mood with a mix of techno and electro. If "Sunsad" will please the lovers of early Moderat, "Rakish" will satisfy your will of pure Berlin style techno. Orfeo is closing this digital release by destructuring it giving to it a deep house flavor. Check it here
Artist: EmotiKon (@)
Title: Two of a Kind
Format: CD
Label: Timezone Records (@)
Rated: *****
You may recall Dusseldorf-based synthpop band Emotikon from a while back when I reviewed their self-titled debut positively. Now they are back, albeit with some changes. At that time this duo consisted of Mine Voss - vocals, and Tom Tron- synths, programming. Mine left in 2014 for other pursuits and has been replaced by Natalie Malladi-Rao. While their sound isn't completely different, there is more of an accent on the POP aspect of their synthpop sound on 'Two of a Kind'. At first, they sound a lot their previous incarnation on the title track ("Two of a Kind"); a nice little melodic number orchestrated with simple sythnpop musical staples. Then, things get a bit more intense on "Die Alone," opening with a melancholy cello intro, then an amazingly sophisticated melody on the verse. The chorus is almost as good. The whole tone and temperament of this song could easily be used as the theme song for a James Bond movie. It's that good. (Certainly better than the theme song of the last Bond flick.) Upping the pop aspect of their repetoir, "Say Hey" just begs for a Bollywood style video with its crowd-rousing chorus. It's a mind-numbingly basic, but catchy as hell; a little bubble-gummy but so what? Over the next 8 tracks Emotikon present a variety of simple pop ditties, some better than others, and a couple just downright silly ("Do It Like the Birds," "Love Potion"), but nothing comes close to the impact of the first few tracks, inspite of being augmented by saxophone (Norbert Deuben) and flute (Silvie Ansorge) on a few songs. I get the impression Emotikon is striving to pull in a much younger audience with 'Two of a Kind' and Natalie can hold her own vocally with pop singers like Britney Spears and Katy Perry, but image, presence and production are what make pop singers pop divas, and there's a way to go on that account. There's little depth on 'Two of a Kind,' just good, light synthpop fun for the most part. If that's what they're striving for, they've succeeded.
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!
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