Music Reviews



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Artist: Birdcage
Title: Shogyomujo
Format: Download Only (MP3 + Lossless)
Label: Shabu Recordings (@)
Rated: *****
Unlike most progressive techno producers, who are mainly digging into anxious or frightening emotional and spiritual territories in order to drain some inspiration, Sapporo-based Birdcage taps into "The Tales of the Heike" (13th century), the oldest known novel of unknown autorship. In particular, he tried to turn the concept of "Shogyo Mujo" (a Buddhist term which could be translated as "impermanence") into sound, an idea which was going to become a topical aspect of Japanese culture and got developed on the final part of the story of samurai Heike family. It sounds evoked by the gentle hovering of sonic elements after five minutes of bass-driven pressure - the genuine and proper stoic element of this release - on the initial "Shorea Robusta", a sort of hybrid between progressive techno and Gamelan music, as well as by the electronic whispers by which Birdcage gilds the wiggling jelly of "Atma"'s slightly distorted hypnotic basslines and the mid-tempo break of the granular techno tune "OP-88 Transience", whose unstable balance bites the dust after more and more anxiously chaotic swirls. The three reximes that got included in the release are more dancefloor-oriented so that the elements of "Shorea Robusta" got spin-dried on the stunning tribal blurs of "Alternate Version" and get closer to psychedelic trance bangers on the remix by Jesse 'Borealis' Somfay, while Scott 'Avus' Edwards, another esquire from Sharu stable, remove the nostalgic peel from the original version of "Atma" in order to highlight the dynamic and Acid-driven (I'm referring to the notorious music software) nature of the track on his remix.
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Artist: Ray Creature (@)
Title: s/t
Format: 12"
Label: Sister Cylinder (@)
Rated: *****
Ray Creature was formed in 2013 in Bloomington, Indiana, consisting of John Eric Booth - synth, guitar, bass, vocals; and Natascha Buehnerkemper - acoustic percussion, bass, and vocals. This self-titled 12" EP on 180-gram vinyl is their debut on the Sister Cylinder, and what a strange delight it is! This harkens back to some of the more interesting dark electronic music of the '80's, such as 'Black Celebration' era Depeche Mode, Wolfgang Press, SPK, and Trisomie 21, maybe with a dash of Suicide. Right from the get-go on "Don't Stop Talking" you know where these folks are at. It's cold-wave and post-punk done right, and you'd be hard pressed from Mr. Booth's vocals to peg him as American, for they surely have a more English or Euro sound. The song is funky in a Gang of Four or Shriekback sort of way. "Threat" is an unstoppable locomotive charging headlong into oblivion with a fast, repetitive bassline (think Alice Cooper's "Return of the Spiders" from the 'Easy Action' LP mixed with Suicide's "Rocket U.S.A."). The fun continues on "Burning Alive", with early Art of Noise/Human League synths and near rockabilly vocals. Unfortunately, it ends too soon. Natascha's vocals are harder to get a handle on, often blended in the same way Sisters of Mercy's Patricia Morrison's are with Andrew Eldritch. "White Suits" really reminds me of early Depeche Mode (but post 'Speak and Spell'), more in feel than trying to copy them in any way. There is a rawness to this record that exudes vitality, and its lack of professional polish gives it a credibility that might otherwise be lost in glossy production. Semi-submerged vocals give it almost a live sound, so you can bet that hearing them live shouldn't sound much different than the recording. Some songs are better than others, but in total, the eight tracks presented here are a pretty good debut. I'd recommend the vinyl over the digital download and limited to only 500 copies, it's bound to sell out sooner than later. Surely a band to watch.
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Artist: Build Buildings (@)
Title: A Generation of Books
Format: CD
Label: Audiobulb (@)
Rated: *****
Presented as an artist that "has been featured on radio, television and motion picture soundtracks" with a release inspired by "the clicks and clacks of pencils, chopsticks, scotch tape dispensers and candy wrappers" turned "into crisp, compelling beats", I was used to the idea of concept driven album closer to sound art. Instead it's a from of "glitch pop" trying to stay in equilibrium between experimental and pop music.
The "compelling beats" of "May You Fall on Soft Ground" are balanced by a quiet melodic line. "Earth of the Fish" is a quiet ambient track while "Demba" is rekindled by the glitches. "Tea Tree" is based on catchy loops. "Constructed Light" features juxtaposed filtered guitar riffs while "Filament" is hypnotic with his use of reverberated samples. "Heavy Water" is a gentle tune based on resonances while "Artic Open" is the most complex track with the unstable beat in a dialogic plan in opposition to the quiet development of the melodic line. "Bookless" is based on a quiet loop with the juxtaposition of sparse sample while "Argosy" starts to develop an almost complex rhythmic pattern upon the soundscape and "Healthy Bones" applies this procedure to the samples. "Pasteboard" closes this release with the synthesis of the characteristic of the previous track.
This album is so well constructed as it's void of any personal musical trait so it sounds as a sort of dj set of the genre. Fans of this label will love this release but it could be disappointing for the others.
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Artist: Strom Noir
Title: Glaciology
Format: CD
Label: Zoharum (@)
Rated: *****
As last year I praised "Urban Blues", I was curious to hear this new release dubbed on the cover as "music for headphone" that usually means that the sound palette is well curated. As the subtitle is "Four Songs about Snow and Ice", the cover feature an arctic landscape that is evoked in the first track "névé" based on the juxtaposition of slowly evolving drone evoking the slowly changing light reflections on ice; this track starts quietly and slowly his presence emerges to slowly fading in the end. "Firm" starts as a dark soundscape but develops with loops of string sounds whose resonances and reverbs are colored by the claps of the middle part and ends with the guitar of the final part. "Penitentes" is a quiet juxtaposition of drones whose subtleties are best percept using headphones. "Moréna" closes this release using the same structure of the previous track but with even more care for details.
"Niekedy sa vracaju" is a bonus track, the full edition of track published in a shorter form, and is a gentle piece for synth closer to a classic form of ambient at the border of the best pages of new age music.
This release is another statement of art from one of the most talented soundscape constructor in this field. Listening with headphone is essential. Almost excellent.
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Artist: Hybryds
Title: The Ritual Should Be Kept Alive
Format: CD
Label: Zoharum (@)
These new reissue from this project is an expanded version of a 1991's EP that contained the first track of this CD. The rest was not published perhaps at it sounded very different from the other issue of this project as starting form "The Ritual Should Be Kept Alive pt.1", a track focused on the intersection between a vocal (?) drone, a loop of some water falling as some sparse noises, it sounds as a recording of an oriental ritual. When the clock marks the half of the track, a drum emerge and the track evolves in the evolution of rhythmic patterns. The rhythmic pattern is the base of "The Ritual Should Be Kept Alive pt.2" sparsely mottled by the samples and a female voice. "The Ritual Should Be Kept Alive pt.3" evolves these pattern in a faster way while the previous track was more hypnotic. This is a form of ritual music so rigorous to stand as a monolith indiscernible by the profane.
The first part is "Wailing for the fallen angels" is completely focused on drones that are slowly substituted by a calm beat that act as a base for the latin spoken word of the final part.
While undoubtedly charming and evocative, this release is so particular that could only be recommended to fans of the genre. All fans of the previous Hybryds' reissues will love this release but "the other" has to approach it with careful listening.
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