Music Reviews

Artist: Glowicka & Walentynowicz (@)
Title: Red Sun
Format: CD
Label: Bôłt Records/ARTEksounds (@)
Rated: *****
"Frost. Morning frost awoke me reaching under the covers.". These words are the incipit of the short story that Kasia Glowicka, the brilliant media artists which co-signed this entrancing musical suite together with pianist Malgorzata Walentynowicz, which seems to tell a romantic reverie where the main balls on the sky we see from this point of the universe often interfere with inner journeys of a romanticized sequence of happenings where temporary perceptions triggers different zones and seemingly forgotten recesses of the soul. Besides emotional clefts, these Polish girls wisely explores the stylistical choke points of a possible junction between classical music, ambient and minimalism by means of elegant and somewhat adventurous where the delightful piano melodies got striated by blurred tones, sudden sprays of bells, electronic drafts, distant rustles like reflections of lunar light on the rough water of the sea or an imaginary recce over Klimt's "The Kiss", which got mentioned in Kasia's storytelling. The mellifluous intermittence of emotional evocations can be clearly appreciated on the longest suites of the album such as "Presence", the heart rending dedication to Polis composer and pianist Tomasz Sikorski, an authentic source of inspiration for Kasia Glowicka, who already took part to a tribute release on Bolt Records, where she described Sikorski's minimalism by a meanignful description ("Sikorski's minimalism was unique to any of these native and foreign influences. He was a philosopher-minimalist concerned with the meditative properties of his compositions. His philosophy could be as well paraphrased by Queen's existential Bohemian Rhapsody - "nothing really matters, anyone can see, nothing really matters..." On the other hand, literally every note matters in his distinct minimalist style. It is here that I've identified most strongly with Sikorski's longing for brutal beauty. In this space, one can go so far as to be intentionally painful."), the lovely "Red Sun" or the bittersweet melancholia of "Retina", but the shortest tracks such as the fibrillating "Favola", the baleful "Absence" or the opening "Sun Spot" follows such a guessed compositional strategy.
Artist: Hild Sofie Tafjord (@)
Title: Breathing
Format: CD
Label: +3db (@)
Distributor: Musikkoperatørene
Rated: *****
I've already introduced a couple of releases from Bergen-based label +3db, which seems to give space to soloist whose sonic research focus on the enlargement of performative possibilities of classic instruments and this release by Norwegian musician Hild Sofie Tafjord, former disciple and later leg of the collaborative project Fe-Mail of Maja S.K.Ratkje as well as former collaborator of a remarkable number of bands/musicians (Matmos, Ikue Mori, Evan parker, Wolf Eyes and more, follows such an "editorial policy". Tafjord's instrument is French horn (or just horn, according to International Horn Society, which highlighted the noble origins of this instrument are German and not French), but it's clear since the very first seconds of the opening "Wormhole 2" where dull thuds and temporary apnea foreruns the first blares - for some strange reasons, they reminded Charles Bronson's gaze before a duel of some spaghetti western movie to me before they turn into something similar to a sort of strangled wailing - that she stubbornly (but wisely) looks for unconventional ways of playing it with the support of close and distant miking, whose alternation are clearer on the following "Passage", where the microphone walks away in a very real sense (so real that you can hear the steps of the mic-operator!). The most warped transfiguration of horn sound occurs on "Tokkotoko" whose sonorities could let imagine that horn's slides are just parts of a digestive system so that the first clean tone of the following "Shoal" could let you think it as the happy ending of a complete digestion before this track evolves into an abstract and somewhat haunting melting of voice and vent where horn becomes a sort of filter. The final alternation of spacey puffs and monstruous respiration on the title-track "Breathing" could be confused as the recording of Cthulhu while having a nap.
Artist: Jules Verne Theory
Title: Exposure
Format: CD
Label: Ninthwave Records
Rated: *****
Time is out of joint, to quote Hamlet. The prevalence and availability of information and recording technology have made it seem as if we're living in every decade of the last 130 years, simultaneously. Want to spend yr hours surrounded by the 1920s? No problem. Want to pretend yr a quaker farmer from 1890? There's groups and communities for that, as well. What we're left with is a disorienting, but uplifting, atemporality.

The stage is set to finally realize a legitimate steampunk future, as the past rubs leather tweed elbows with the polished chrome future. This can be seen admirably in Exposure, the debut EP from the Jules Verne Theory.

Exposure is like a disco soundtrack for Captain Nemo shimmying on the holodeck of the USS Enterprise, as Italo good-times futurism meets Brad Fiedel Terminator beats, as stories of jetpacks and abandoned cities unfold.

There is great power and potential in this anachronism. We now have the ability to decide what reality tunnel we want to live in. Want optimistic futurist? What about corroded apocalyptica? Whatever makes you happy. We now have the ability to focus on what we like, and be surrounded by it, and hopefully ignoring the things we despise until they go away.

Of course, Jules Verne Theory are aware of the shadow side of this escapism, as the future they are envisioning is not entirely rosy. Like on "She's A Riot", where "every motion above ground is observed", while on "How I Get Things Done", "everybody needs something to distract themselves from getting things done." Like their namesake, Jules Verne Theory use the vernacular of classic sci-fi to critique and comment on the world.

Jules Verne Theory have the proper perspective to provide critique. While this may be their first EP, Richard Slee and Arron Clague have been in the music biz for ages. Slee's worked for the BBC Radiophonic Workshop and done successful remixes for Heaven 17, while Claque is heavily involved with theater on his home of the Isle Of Man. Between them, they've seen dozens of styles and trends come and go. They should be immune from hype, and have the perspective of experience.

This is mostly true. Jules Verne Theory are not interested in fitting in to any trending genres. They're not making trap remixes of 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea or dubstep remixes of La Voyage Dans La Luna (although Air had some success with something like the latter). Instead, they focus on classic electro-tinged synthpop to deliver their anti-gravity dance parties and detached social critique.

One wishes, however, that with the perspective of experience, that Jules Verne Theory had paid more attention to classic mixing and mastering techniques, as Exposure suffers from the loudness wars of 2014. It's hyper-polished, squeaky clean, squeezed and sculpted and compressed to stand out over car commercials and mall crowds. It's not a deal-breaker, but it can get a bit wearing on the ears.

One suspects that Jules Verne Theory's mission is to infiltrate the clubs with their steampunk grooves. Perhaps it is to offer some of that wisdom and perspective, or maybe something as simple as trying to increase awareness of classic sci-fi, both of which are good things. But surely subtlety and confidence are traits found in all eras. And isn't it the job of any good time traveller to try and correct the sins of whatever past or future they are inhabiting? Or bringing those insights back to the present?

I suspect Jules Verne Theory will be successful in their mission, and these sounds will find favor with the rivetheads, robo-jocks, and space cowboys. Here's to hoping, next time, they believe in themselves a bit more, and leave a bit more to the shadows and imagination.
Artist: Gintas K (@)
Title: Nota Demo
Format: CD
Label: Creative Sources (@)
Rated: *****
I was a little surprised to find a release by appreciated Lithuanian electronic producer Gintas Kraptavicius - we interviewed him on the occasion of the release of "Slow" for Baskaru - on the pack of records from Portuguese label Creative Sources, even if this record could be thought as an interesting assay of computer-driven improvisation. Most of the sounds have been squeezed from Bidule, an amazing modular environment by Canadian audio software company Plogue Art et Technologie Inc.: the sonorities are closer to some 60ies electronic music, but in between more or less regular computational sequences, which sometimes sound like having been crumbled, other sonic entities such as bells, spurts, gushes, gurgles and rifts suddenly appear and stain any electronic eddies. You could imagine this release as the workout of a lively kid who plays on a gigantic control panel with a plenty of mysterious knobs, bright buttons and levers or you could imagine it came from the translation of the sonic language of a computer, who got drunk after its liquid cooling system was filled with vodka.
Artist: The Twentieth Century (@)
Title: s/t
Format: CD
Label: mosz (@)
Rated: *****
From the stylistical viewpoint, "The Twentieth Century" seems to begin like some sonic marks of the beginning of twentyfirst one as the very first convective movements of sound frequencies of this one-take recording that Wien-based duo by cellist Lukas Lauermann and guitarist Pieter Gabriel decided to record in an improvised pop-up studio in the workshop of an auto painter in the Austrian capital city with the aid of recoridng engineer Stefan Deisenberg could let you surmise some stuff by Stars of the Lid or William Basinski, which evoke sorrowful and somewhat aloof thining caps about chief systems and universal entropy. Little by little, the opening suite "A Slow Descent" whose airflows seem to delicately move the surrounding elements of the recording room such as windows and doors, which are listenable entities in the drone-like sonic stream, sounds like permeating any single particle of the environment by its radiant energy. The electroacoustic ingredient of their delicious recipe protrudes on the puckered chords and the ice scraping of the interstitial track "No Light From The Surface", which precedes the dimmer hues of the cathartic final "Pulled", where a breath of frozen air and a somber cell emphasizes the following sonic psychodrama by means of a warming symphonic clasp, which turns into a sort of flattening deluge. The sound of a snorkel at the end of the track sounds like a rescue, which could save listener from the emotional drowning these musicians managed to render.
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