Music Reviews



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Artist: David Borden (@)
Title: Music For Amplified Keyboard Instruments
Format: CD
Label: Spectrum Spools
Rated: *****
Editions Mego sister label Spectrum Spools keep on exploring somehow hidden paths and difficult-to-find stuff by the true forerunners of electronic music. This time, the historical scouting of the label venture into the private archive of Boston-native minimalist composer David Borden, whose pioneering role in electronic music could be testified by the fact he was one of the beta-testers of the glorious Modular Synthesizer systems and MiniMoog instruments by Bob Moog, who also lent out his prototype synths to Mother Mallard's Portable Masterpiece Company, the ensemble that Borden formed in 1969. After Mother Mallard disbanded in 1978, Borden experienced some delays and troubles in spreading his solo compositions, which got grabbed by some lucky collectors, so that the re-release of "Music for Amplified Keyboard Instruments" (1981), a proper rarity whose original copies on the used market are maybe so expensive that you have to starve in order to grab one. Three players and six keyboard instruments was needed to record the four tracks on this output, which saw the light 33 years ago and included two (parts six and nine) of the 12 part cycle for synthesizers, acoustic instruments and voice "The Continuing Story of Counterpoint" - David worked on them for 11 years and the beautiful computational complexity of the melodies, the impressive key changes and time signature manoeuvring of these two assays, which went far beyond the imagination and the compositional skills of American Minimalists of those days, could explain such a lenghty period for processing them -, the polychromatic textures of the opening track "Esty Point, Summer 1978" and "Enfield in Winter", whose softened pad sounds and slowly changing pattern are closer to ambient music before the ever-changing elements lead to a sublime plaiting of chord progressions and glistering patterns.
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Artist: Jóhann Jóhannsson
Title: Sicario OST
Format: 12"
Label: Varèse Sarabande
Rated: *****
When I saw Sicario at the cinema, the last movie by Denis Villeneuve, that I compulsively decided to see as it features Benicio Del Toro, one of my favorite actor of the jetset, I didn't know who made the soundtrack, which managed to catch my sense almost more than the plot and the other elements of the movie. By some kind of freakish coincidence, I noticed the soundtrack of Sicario in the huge pile of releases to listen andm, wondr of wonders, I could explain the reason of his remarkable quality when I read its author is Berlin-base Icelandic composer Johann Johannsson, who is not a newcomer in this branch of composition - he already composed the soundtrack of another well-known movie by Denis Villeneuve, "Prisoners" and recently signed james Marsh's "The Theory Of Everything" OST (definitively not my favorite kind of movie, but that's it!), who was awarded a Golden Globe for Best Film Score and eared both Oscar and BAFTA nominations for best original score -. What mankes this soundtrack an enthusing listening experience for demanding eardrums got explained by Johannsson's own words: "I was partly inspired by the spectral writing of composers like Gerard Grisey and Horatiu Radulescu while the percussive aspect of the score was partly inspired by the group Swans - I wanted to capture a kind of relentlessly slow and mournful but still ferocious and brutal energy; I used a combination of 65-piece orchestra and individual soloists, combined with extensive electronic manipulation of the recordings , to create the score. The orchestral writing is textural rather than melodic". Featuring players like long-lasting partner-in-art Hildur Gudnadottir (cello), Robert Aiki Aubrey Lowe (vocals, modular synthesizer), Skuli Sverrisson (bass) and Shazad Ismaily (guitar, percussion), this OST is a real delight even for all those listeners, who didn't really like soundtracks. It's available on CD as well.
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Artist: Coil
Title: Backwards
Format: CD
Label: Cold Spring (@)
Rated: *****
This release seems to be an element of controversy, and apparently a sort of bootleg, as it's an element of one of the most obscure period of Coil's existence. Apparently, from 1993 to 1999, the focus of this project was ELPH. With the issue, in 2007, of "The New Backwards" it emerged how Coil recorded a proper album, called "Backwards" which was unreleased. While the remixed version of this album was dubbed as it wasn't the missing link between the two eras, Danny Hide, who worked with Peter Christopherson on "The New Backwards", has remastered the original version of this release including some tracks, "Amber Rain" and "A Cold Cell", revealing the path that would lead to the concept of "moon music".
This album starts with "Intro" an intricate synth loop. "Backwards" reveals how not only the singing style of Jhonn Balance influenced bands as NIN, whose Nothing should release the album, but also the musical structure based on obsessive beats and noises. "Amber Rain" is instead a precursor of what will be developed as "moon music" as it's based on meditative synth and a lesser aggressive vocal lines. "Fire Of The Green Dragon" and "Be Careful What You Wish For" are almost instrumental tracks focused on rhythmic patterns. "Nature Is A Language" one of the few tracks where Balance's voice is filtered and "Heaven's Blade" is a return into territories explored in "Love's Secret Domain". The synth lines of "CopaCaballa" and "Paint Me As A Dead Soul" are only an accompaniment for the expressiveness of the voice. "AYOR (It's In My Blood)" is a variation of the structure of "Backwards". "A Cold Cell" is the absolute peak of the album based on a simple and atmospheric synth line and the sad and mystical vocal line, a superb introduction to the 'Music To Play In The Dark'. "Fire Of The Mind" closes this release mirroring the voice with the use of the noises.
From a critical perspective, there's only suppositions on the motives behind the decision to not release the original version of this album. However, as the missing link between two separate periods of Coil's artistic life, this release has an historical importance in itself and simply the presence of the presence of this version of "A Cold Cell" make it an essential release. Absolutely recommended.
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Artist: Displasia
Title: mnnu rvvrsu
Format: Download Only (MP3 + Lossless)
Label: attenuation circuit (@)
Rated: *****
Diaspasia is an Italian duo playing with sound sources which "prevents any chance of melody" and this choices put them in continuity with a musical lineage, starting from musique concrete, based on the use of musical elements treated as noise by traditional musical aesthetic. The overall result is along the part of certain reductionism where the point is on the minuscule resonances and musical meaning of the sonic event rather than in the exposition of a structure.
The recorded voice of a child opens "capu lunniri 1" and introduces a dialogue for radio and metallic objects with spaces for silences and resonances. The reverberated guitar of "un" is a starting for a meditative first part of the track focused on a drone while the second part is focused on noises and percussions. When, after two minutes of almost silence, the radio noise of "cirneco" starts a subtle sequence of small sonic events interleaved by sections of silence. "Sesto" explores the resonances of the strings while "rusuli 5" explores the resonances of the places recorded. "Scupetti" closes this release with small silences emerging frome the underneath silence.
A difficult and demanding listening where there's more cure in the sonic detail than in the overall structure. There are moments of charm and beauty but they require a full commitment in the act of perception. Recommended but only for fans of experimental or EAI.
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Artist: Porno Teo Kolossal
Title: Tannoiser
Format: CD
Label: Bam Balam Records (@)
Rated: *****
Porno Teo Kolossal is a project by Italian artist Massimo Divenuto conceived as a soundtrack for his paintings and exhibitions. The musical structure is based on that sort of guitar rock, from kraut to shoegaze, focused on guitar sound as a source to manipulate with effect rather than a virtuosity's show.
The noisy feedback and distorsion of the guitar starts "il tunnel in fondo alla luce" and constructs a thick background for the speaking part of the track. The two sections of the talk in are spaced out by an almost psychedelic and meditative part for guitar. "Tannoiser" is instead a track based on sustained guitar notes which develops in an final part based on a guitar's crescendo. "Opus day pistorum" reveals the structural roles of the bass guitar in the sonic equilibrium of the band. The hypnotic second part of "kandahar" is the mirror of the insistent first part. "Stanza 306" is an hypnotic track focused on the guitar's resonances ending in an obsessive crescendo. "La colonna sonora dell'eta' modern" closes the first disc with a guitar drone interrupted by the narrator's entrance and ends in a psychedelic manner.
The second disc features a single track, "deep", lasting for almost one hour starting quietly with a gentle arpeggio above whom the voice whispers his words; the second part is a quiet meditation for drone and guitar which evolves in a third part where the guitar distortion begins to prevail until the final cathartic end.
This a long and complex album that could perhaps seems to rework a limited number of ideas, in facts it's based on a codified language, but it develops them with a strong sense of writing. Recommended for fans of shoegaze.
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