Music Reviews



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Artist: Tobias Meier (@)
Title: Interesting
Format: 10"
Label: Wide Ear Records (@)
Rated: *****
A sort of Escherian tonal stairwells opens this collection short experimental pieces by which Swiss alto sax player and composer Tobias Meier tried to catch sonic events in between instruments and microphones, resulting in amazing interferences and interceptions by/from inside/outside the instrument itself. Besides the sonic "strategy" to grab any interesting events occurring outside (check the second miniature of the first track to have an idea about Tobias's way to interbreed field recordings and instruments) or inside instruments by means of microphones, the lack of that kind of homogeneity, which commonly characterises compositions, got widely balanced by digressions in the stylistic field in between avant-garde-jazz, field recordings, Morton Feldman's pathways and contemporary classic music, where a sort of dark-ambient claustrophobic incipit could be the introductions for airy classical harmonies, sinister scratches over strings on the threshold between noise and silence could be embellished by the occasional tweeting of surrounding birds, Colin Stetson-like repetitions can gradually turn into a sort of tribal tapping over sax keys - have a listen his additional "another microscopic thought" on B side -. I fully agree with Berni Doessegger's introductory words, when he says that the choice of vinyl "gives an additional sensual dimension to the subtle structures of this microscopic harmonics world", which features the contributions by Frantz Loriot (viola), Silvan Jeger (cello) and Dominique Girod (bass) as well.
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Artist: Ryan Choi (@)
Title: Three Dancers
Format: CD EP
Label: Accretions (@)
Rated: *****
Ryan Choi is a composer, improviser and multi-instrumentalist from Honolulu, Hawaii. After a years-long hiatus from music, he presents his latest work, 'Three Dancers' is based on Pablo Picasso's painting, 'Les Trois Danseuses', although it evolved conceptually over the last fifteen years. Here Choi employs baritone ukulele, percussion and electronics. That's right, ukulele, Hawaii's most popular instrument, but you won't be hearing any "Aloha Oe" hula tunes on this recording. The music is avant-garde, and I'm willing to be you never heard the uke played like this! This EP consists of three pieces- "Preparations I and IV," "Apollo at Eros," and "Three Dancers". Choi's compositions draw as much from literature and visual arts as they do from musical tradition (he designed the CD cover illustration - "Aquarian", if that's any indication) and the music may be as much sound installation as it is conceptual audio.

The first thing likely to be noticed is that Choi's compositions are very busy. I don't know how much multi-tracking was done for the ukulele, but I have a hard time believing that it wasn't overdubbed as there is just so much going on. There are influences here that stem from traditional Asian and African playing; it's very rhythmic, snd the tunings are obviously not Western. The little melody that you may discern is a hybrid of jazz and avant-garde classical with an Eastern touch. This is a guy who really knows his way around the ukulele too, evoking things out of the instrument I never considered possible. Choi utilizes a combination of strum, finger picks, slides, and bends (sometimes seemingly simultaneous) in his improvisations. Some segments seem to have a familiarity in form while others are just completely abstract, but there is a cohesiveness to it all. In that cohesiveness though, there is a similarity throughout that may have the casual listener thinking, "this all just sounds the same". I assure you it's not. "Preparations I and IV" seem to have a more traditional bent to them, in both the hard strum technique and individual notes. There is no other rhythmic component than the uke, which is generally sporadic. "Apollon at Eros" brings in the hand percussion (some kind of flat sounding drum) to anchor the piece while the ukulele stretches out exploring a variety of different motifs. As far as improvisation goes, it's absolutely marvelous and never stumbles, laying out at times while the percussion remains in effect to gather new energy and momentum. "Three Dancers" is the most abstract of all pieces, and this is the only one where I can hear the (subtle) electronics in play. It almost sounds backwards at times, with a certain rhythmic quailty that isn't quite obvious. Any concession to melodic form, even in the abstract, is absent here for the most part as Choi explores terrain hitherto unknown.

These pieces play remarkably quickly for about 20 minutes worth of music, likely because the playing has a lot of rapid motion. While certainly not for everyone, those discriminating listeners who enjoy avant-garde music that is purposefully conceived and carried out should find 'Three Dancers' fascinating.
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Artist: Feine Trinkers Bei Pinkels Daheim (@)
Title: A Bug's Life
Format: CD
Label: Zoharum (@)
Distributor: Alchembria
Rated: *****
As liner notes states, this Jürgen Eberhard's project celebrated 25 years of artistic activity so his first full release on Zoharum is an hint of, even in times when net advocates states that everything is known or accessible, there's always obscure gems to (re)discover. The musical offer by this project is an almost irksome blend of drone music and musique concrete and this album has been constructed using mainly sounds of insects.
The voice introducing "Dokugumon" states the starting point of this release as sound is important for mosquitoes as wings of males and females beats at different frequencies; after a moments of plunderfonia from perhaps a scientific program, the tracks really starts as a track rhythmically oriented where reverberated samples generate a sense of void filled by the fly of the mosquitoes from the left to the right channel. The first part of "Grankuwagamon" is based on field recording of a female singer suddenly overlooked by a drone halted by the recording a man hoarsely singing introducing a second part based on the alternation of subtle soundscape and almost harsh noises. The introduction of "Kuwagamon" is based on phrases that could be usually found on school text for English language and the rest of the track is based on the juxtaposition of insects sounds creating a wall of sound undermined by the resonances underlining their abstract form, at least for our habit. The first part "Metallifekuwagamon" sound almost ritualistic as his background is a song for voice and drum while his second part develops the same feeling from the samples of the insects using the sound of the wings as a drum pattern. "Ookuwagamon" let emerge something as a human voice from loops of samples while the first part of "Sandyanmon" develops rhythmic structures from a silence slowly developing into noise. "Tentoman" is based on a static drone acting as a background for field recording of water and closes this release with a question mark.
Instead of being a typical field recording release, it's a complex work where noises and plunderphonic elements are used to generate the sense of a parallelism between the life of a bug and the life of a man in present times. The result is work of great depth but it's something for someone willing to listen rather than hear something that could be superficially sound as an immersive soundscape but, in fact, is something else. Truly recommended but not for everyone.
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Artist: Alphaxone (@)
Title: Echoes from Outer Silence
Format: CD
Label: Cryo Chamber (@)
Rated: *****
The project by Mehdi Saleh has, in good and evil, forged the sound from this label. His fourth release confirms the key elements of his craft: a clear vision in writing in the path of the tradition of dark ambient and a precise musical production. According to the liner notes, this album is conceived as a journey "through space and to the archaic signals of civilizations beyond the stars" so it deals with sci-fi imaginary and related sound deprived of trivial effects too culturally characterized.
The introduction, "Outfield", is a detailed field recording which depict an hostile nature. The drones of "Resistance" are juxtaposed until they fill the audible spectrum to create a dreamy atmosphere. While the first part of "Nothing Era" is based on noises, his second is based on a slowly developing drone. The loops of "Solitude" create a sense of unresolved stasis while "Sphere of Change" uses them to develop a track whose noises generate the portrait of a landscapes where rubbles are the main element. The initial radio signal of "Altered Xone" introduces the listener into a track which, using even beat, is the most complex of this work. "Revealing the Depth" is focused on drones as "Departure" where this musical scheme is changed only by the final beat. "Fragment" closes this release as a continuation of "Outfield" but it develops with a drone which evolves in a closing silence.
While relying in the usual impressive care for sonic details, it remains trapped in a musical structure without escape so fans of the label will be delighted by another first class release but the others could rather be disappointed. It's worth a listen.
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Artist: Venetian Snares
Title: Traditional Synthesizer Music
Format: CD
Label: Timesig
Rated: *****
I've heard that the expectations of many fans of Winnipeg-born electronic music composer Aaron Funk, better known as Venetian Snares, weren't fully fulfilled by "My Love Is A Bulldozer", the album by which he broke a silence that was lasting more than four years. I honestly don't understand the reason and I can't believe that some followers opted for s sort of puritanical ostracism after having listened to the more romantic refrain of that output on the title-track ("Only you / can make my dick feel like this"... I won't scandalize by the fact that some words could come from an overexcited hippocentaur, the image chosen for the cover artwork!). Coached in a title that sounds like the one of a collection of mawkishly tedious folk songs, his new output by the Canadian giant, who can boast of both his remarkably physical height as well as by his likewise high creative flair, seems to remain faithful to a couple of "traditions", which manage to bring reciprocal benefits to the point they can't sound too aged. I'm obviously referring to the instrument that he widely handled on this collection of tracks that he exclusively created and performed on live stage, his own modular synthesizer, whose sound taste like those traditional flavours, that keep on charming many electronic composers, including Richard James (Aphex Twin), a sort of sonic kindred spirit of Vsnares - tracks like "Decembers" or "She Married A Chess Computer In The End" could resemble AFX's "Analords" -, but I also refers to the "template" of many moments of this collection, which is close to the style of his very first outputs, where polymorphic breaks and deconstructed rhythmical patterns - in between breakcore and IDM - cling to likewise frantically mutations of acid sounds and bleeps. You'll see the reference to a numbered sequence of version after the title of some songs (e.g."Dreamnt person v3", "Magnificent Stumble v2", "Can't Vote For Yourself v1", "Anxattack Boss Level19 v3" and so on); they supposedly refer to the fact that Aaron made many different variations of each song and the one you'll find is the take he selected. Highly recommended!
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