Music Reviews



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Artist: Factory Acts (@)
Title: Thirst
Format: CD EP
Label: AnalogueTrash Records (@)
Distributor: Trashdigital / Bandcamp
Rated: *****
This new 4-track EP-release by the Manchester-based Electronica-label AnalogueTrash continues with the label policy to sign on unusual, but artistically remarkable music-projects with an edgy mind. The female/male duo Factory Acts out of Salford surely counts to this rule and provides us their label debut. Both band members, Susan O'Shea (vocals, synths) and Matt Davies (bass, beat-work) provide us their colourful mutation out of sinister Dark Electro arrangements with the euphoric inventions of the Post-Punk influenced New Wave culture. 'They exist at the edge of the analogue-digital divide, sometimes dreaming, always dancing', so a well-fitting phrase taken out of their info-sheet. So this isn't at all the usual growling Puppy-an Dark Electro you're maybe familiar with, it is more an exploration of darker, analogue synthesizer sounds, which transport the nostalgic mood of the early 80s. Susan O'Shea's vocal performance stands for an extra remarkable point in the music of Factory Arts. She doesn't provide that faceless, Pop-dolly-like Mainstream-format suitable for the MTV- / Viva-youth, but rather surprises with an emotional, at times haunting performance. The mood of the depending track matters a lot and since the music of Factory Arts is more alternatively oriented, it shouldn't surprise that Susan's timbre turns out differently. The signing on Factory Acts and as far as this only 4 tracks allow a valid judgement is a courageous one for AnalogueTrash Records, because this project can not be sorted into one single category. So maybe diversity is their game-winning attitude? It's a promising and a good 4-track-starter EP, but let's wait and see what they can do for our entertainment with a hopefully soon to be released full-length album.
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Artist: Ben Jacov
Title: Transalp EP
Format: 12"
Label: Doumen Records (@)
Rated: *****
The traffic of promotional releases on my desk and inside my hi-fi system sometimes mulches and hides some sonic pearls like this ep from Berlin-based young producer Ben Jacov. His biography on Soundcloud which quotes the 14th paragraph of Pessoa's "The Book of Disquiet" could turn up the noses of all those ones who knows the poetics of the Portuguese poet as its evolution is more "linear" than cyclic, but it could fit the crepuscolar framework as well as an abstract malaise that Ben manages to pour into his loops. His style squeezes both some bordeline sonorities that masters like Burial injected in their own music and the instantaneous emotional hooks that some contemporary electronic knights such as Trentemoller or Moderat exploited to harpoon mainstream: the tubular organ-like cement as well as the electronic metallophones on "Ipsaa" and "Notturno Lucis" - a song whose intensity got highlighted by graceful voice of Nada Aiko and a sort of resounding howling - smell like the above-mentioned possible influences, while the title track is maybe the less surprising track - it could be good for the empteenth Buddha Bar compilation, but it's nothing particularly original -. Traces of tech house spots the clockwork of "Weeg", the first track of B-side, while "Yelltu Riekk" dunks Ben's supposed disquiet into a somewhat transcendental pool and the final "Tessera Lepta" sounds like the rendering of some enlighted brainwave or uprising resolution by means of sounds which are close to struck matchsticks, occasional claps, uplifting pads and quietest atmospheres. Regarding my delay, this release got launched last spring, but its melancholic nuances could be better for an autumnal playlist.
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Artist: Lean Left
Title: Live at Area Sismica
Format: CD
Label: Unsounds (@)
Rated: *****
I guess that if a seismologist listens this live recording (the second one on Unsounds catalogue after the one at Cafe' Oto, London) at Area Sismica, a nice place in Forli', Italy, where the noisy collision by The Ex former guitarist Terrie Ex and Andy Moor, the hectic drummer Paal Nilssen Love and the brilliant jazz composer Ken Vandermark, who played a baritone saxo, a tenor saxophone, a bass clarinet and a phone, held the final incendiary date of a very long tour on 22nd September 2012, the day when Ken celebrated his 48th birthday, he would include their opening tuning as possible earthquake precursors together with radon emission, variations of the ratio between the velocity of seismic primary and secondary waves, electro-magnetic variations, fits of pique by barking dogs and nervously croaking frogs! Four minutes of somewhat menacing tuning precede the moment when Lean Left begins to frack the grounds of free jazz on "Traitors Head", whose lava flow and lapilli placidly merge into "Moti", where you can almost envisage and smell the smoke from charred underbush, volcanic ashes and the slow fiery run of lava rivers which etorts the first clapping by lucky audience. The clapping sounds more enthusiastic at the end of the two following long-lasting eruptions that they conveniently named after two volcanoes, "Terpuk" - the moment when their technical skills reaches the acme - and "South Sister", whose churning explosions are so intense that a chilling break on "Cleft Segment" is almost a necessity before the final fury of "Gada Ale". Really incandescent live-session!
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Artist: Vaniish (@)
Title: Memory Work
Format: CD
Label: Metropolis (@)
Rated: *****
Memories of dark, new wave and Uk post-punk scenes have not totally vanished in the musical epiphany by evergreen (or I'd rather say everdark) Keven Tecon (former drummer of Wax Idols, The Soft Moon and Veil Veil Vanish), who grouped some fellows of his previous bands (Nick Ott on drums, Adam Beck, second guitarist and keyboard player, and Amy Rosenoff on bass) together for this new interesting project that came after the death of Keven's mother, as Vaniish could be approximately placed in a sort of stylistical interzone in between Sad Lovers and Giants, Bauhaus and Savages even if there some moments when other bands could come to mind (particularly Killing Joke, who could be reminded by the refrain of the title-track "Memory Work", whose words - "Nothing to remember/Nothing to regret/Lights becoming faces/waiting to forget" - get easily impressed upon listener's memory, or Young Gods, whose sound came to my mind on the turbulently paranoid "Observatory Time"), whereas lyrics evoke a consciousness which could be more collective than you could expect as if Vaniish managed to demonstrate that the sonorities they reprised and the emotional realm that belong to Keven, all things considered, could stick modernity. The moments of the album when Vaniish get closer to synth-wave such as "Succession" or "Kaleidoscoped" as well as the closing French song "La foi au fil de l'eau" are the best ones according to my ear response, but fans of both dark and new wave could be hooked by other tracks by this San Francisco-based band.
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Artist: Machinefabriek (@)
Title: Stillness Soundtrack
Format: CD
Label: Glacial Movements (@)
Rated: *****
This release collects some tracks composed for a series of short films by Esther Kokmeijer and are focused on a more narrative musical forms than previous releases from Rutger Zuydervelt. Even if based of the usual elements, notably a focused melodic instinct, the underlying soundscape is methodically based upon drone and field recordings, perhaps original records of the movie, so it's more evocative.
The quiet melodic lines of "(Chinstrap)" open this release forcing to understand the term stillness as tranquillity rather than boredom. Stillness #1 (The FRAM, Greenland) is an hypnotic track based on a drone and an almost martial beat. "Stillness #2 (Ilulissat, Greenland)" reworks the lines of the first track using a more subtly constructed soundscape while "Stillness #3 (The Protector, Antarctica)" recalls the drone of the second track focusing on the musical impact. "(Chinstrap)", it's not a fault but another track with the same name, acts as an interlude to the second part of this release formed by two long tracks: "Stillness #4 (Yalour Islands, Antarctica)" based upon a simple melodic line but developed for the construction of a quiet and evocative soundscape that is the picture of the places of the title. "Stillness #5 (Lemair Channel, Antarctica)" closes this release with a sad melodic line based upon string instruments.
With his blend of field recordings, synth lines and careful production this is one of the best release of this artist and one of the most evocative and beautiful release of the year. It creates a desire to see the movie. Highly recommanded.
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