Music Reviews

Artist: Maike Zazie
Title: Seismopsychollage
Format: CD + Download
Label: 7K!
The title of pianist Maike Zazie’s album might imply earth-shaking (seismo) or mental anguish (psycho, depending on your interpretation), but neither would really be accurate. What this album offers is a form of musical intimacy that’s thoughtful and largely quite romantic. Gentle ballad songs and casual, almost-ambient tinkling is supplemented by a combination of singing, softly-spoken-word poetry (spanning German, French and some English), and a handful of atmospheric sounds.

Although described as ‘minimal’, much of the piano work is not what I’d describe as such. The rich and firmly padded chords of “Sehnsucht” fill the room. There’s a boldness and drama to “Erdbeben”, with its crashes and hammered low notes, that ensures that this album is far from flat. But it also certainly has its fair share of straight-laced romance works- most obviously the very on-the-nose “Lieben”. There’s even a handful of pieces that could legitimately be called songs- “Kind” being one.

The result is a set of portraits that fits perfectly with the illustrative style of Giulia Pex seen in the artwork and throughout the accompanying booklet. It’s the musical equivalent of soft pastel work, mild and introspective, thoughtful and largely non-confrontational, aware of the darkness but moving around it rather than through it.
Artist: Hollan Holmes (@)
Title: Milestones
Format: CD + Download
Label: Spotted Peccary Music (@)
Rated: *****
'Milestones' is the seventh album by electronic musician Hollan Holmes but his first on the Spotted Peccary label. Highly influenced by the Berlin school of electronic music (Tangerine Dream, Klaus Schuleze, Manuel Gottsching, et.), Holmes offers 10 sequencer-driven tracks in 65 minutes to take you to the stratosphere, and beyond. Starting out with "Transmitter," Holmes kicks it off perfectly jumping right into the rhythmic pulse without any lengthy ambient preludes. With the title "One Giant Leap" you pretty much know what you're in for. I think the Nasa mission control/astronaut chatter has been done to death, but maybe some people still want to feel like they're riding a rocket and standing on the moon. (Good luck Lothar.) On "The Truth Laid Bare" Hollan adds a bit of playfulness to his space music in smooth swathes of melody. Melodically, there was something a little too New Agey about "Slipstream" for me; too much synth blending, and a nebulous, sweetly blissful ambience that struck me as incongrous. Maybe you have to be from Texas to grok "Texas Backroads," as I didn't see what the title had to do with the music at all. It sounded more like an interim piece anyway, but a rather lengthy one at 7:06. "Bulletproof" reminded me of older Delerium, before they got involved with vocalists. A nice nostalgic piece of electronica. At first I wasn't sure but with repeated listenings of "Inner Sanctum" I realize what was irking me about this track; it's just too jam-packed with sonic effluvia. Another oddly titled track is "The Phone Call." In the abstract there are tones here that could be referential to digital phones, and celestial voices that could be ghosts inhabiting the lines, but it is a kind of mysterious piece. "Something Wicked This Way Comes" stretches out the ambience for a good long time before any sequencers are employed. It's markedly different from other tracks on the album and a welcome change-up. It all ends in a mellow mood with "Ayyappan," which was a little too New Agey for me. Still, most of the album is pretty darn good, and especially engaging if you're into Berlin School. Not what I'd call particularly innovative, but enjoyable nevertheless.
Artist: Porn (@)
Title: No Monster In God's Eyes (Act III)
Format: CD + Download
Label: Echozone (@)
Rated: *****
'No Monster In God's Eyes' is French Goth-Industrial band (they call it “murder-rock”) Porn's final act in their concept trilogy which began with 'The Ogre Inside' (Act 1) and continued with 'The Darkest of Human Desires' (Act 2). I reviewed 'The Ogre Inside' back in September 2017, but not ‘TDOHD’ Act 2. 'The Ogre Inside' was about the inner struggle of the enigmatic anti-hero (Mr. Strangler), his dark desires and how society can oppress your will. This is a fight no one can win, the Ogre that devours you from the inside always wins. In the second opus, Mr. Strangler, by embracing his “true self “, expresses his dark impulses without limitations and has no boundaries. With his crew, Mr. Strangler commits murders and massacres. He also invites everyone to make a step forward and act, invites you to express your darkest desires and join his death cult. For Mr. Strangler and his team, the Ogre was released. They let the darkest of human desires be: murder. In this last part, Mr. Strangler’s bloody odyssey comes to an end. He is in jail awaiting execution. This final Act is his testament. Faced with the imminent end of his life, he takes stock of his life and begins a dialogue with his death and enjoins everyone to continue his work… the work of God, because if God exists everything is his. And even the worst monsters are the children of God. There are no monsters in God’s eyes.

I did manage to preview ‘The Darkest of Human Desires’ as reference for this review. The album is rather “in your face” bold, almost like listening the serious side of Marilyn Manson (which maybe he has, but isn’t showing or telling). ‘No Monster In God’s Eyes’ is a rather different affair, but still, you can pretty much tell from the stark looking electric chair on the cover that this isn't going to end well. Philippe Deschemin's lyrics express a wide range of Mr. Strangler's feelings - anger, defiance, longing, resignation, disgust, hope...but definitely not sorrow, remorse, pity, regret or despair. Yes, he's managed to get inside the mind of a serial killer, and it ain't pretty. The music is appropriately down as well, heavy and somewhat morose. While there is plenty of muscular industrial guitar, the band also explores less forceful and more sensitive musical aspects ala The Cure. Calling this album well-rounded would be an understatement. Deschemin's vocals are prefect on 'NMIGE'; melodic yet convincingly dark and edgy, without being stereotypically hoarse and gravelly. The way it comes together is somewhat slick, as if the band's whole career has led up to this point. Porn is just a hair's breadth away from sounding like mainstream alt metal, but haven't quite crossed over into A Perfect Circle, HIM, Opeth, Orgy or Nine Inch Nails territory...yet. They still have their own unique identity, and a really good one at that. How much you’re going to enjoy the album really depends on how much you can buy into Deschemin's treatment of the serial killer concept, but most of the songs still sound pretty good on their own. I’d recommend getting the trilogy of albums, or at least listening to the other two first. (You’ve still got some time as this one is slated for a March 27th release date.) The album was mastered by Brian Lucey, who previously worked with Ghost, Marilyn Manson, Depeche Mode, Arctic Monkeys, and Royal Blood, so it sounds damn fine. The one thing that’s a shame about any band releasing a new album at this time is that Covid-19 has put a damper on doing supporting live shows nearly anywhere in the world. Hopefully that will change in the not too distant future.
Artist: Sara Oswald & Feldermelder
Title: Hidden In Kaoris Castle
Format: Download Only (MP3 + Lossless)
Label: -OUS
Fusing together acoustic and electronic in a duo format seems to be quite fashionable at the minute. Only last week I reviewed Divus’ “Divus 2” where saxophone met electronics. Here, it’s Sara Oswald’s cello that is played with, or against, Feldermelder’s electronic landscaping, and they are here to show there is plenty of life in this electronic-acoustic hybridisation yet.

The low yet warm rumbles of “Left Eye Distortions” is a strong example of where this duo is at. The long sustained and hum-like notes of the cello are refracted to different degrees at different times, sometimes taking the lead, sometimes just adding a slight extra layer. Everything is live, and impulsive, but a fairly rich layer of signal processing on the cello sounds gives a more considered feel.

The electronics are derived, at least initially, from algorithms and signal paths rather than human impulses, and this leans them towards abstraction (or, less positively, sometimes shapelessness). The humanity is restored by the cello, which in pieces like “Front Door Gator Encounters” is the main source of rhythm and pattern. The wave sounds in that track, incidentally, twist the profile of the sound in an unexpected direction, making it sound even more unusual- and absolutely nothing like the tone I’d be giving off if I had alligators near my house.

The maths behind it is more prominently on display in “Folding Deltas”, yet strangely this ends up sounding like the most positive piece of the batch, thanks to its steady rising tones.

After four pieces roughly around the seven-minute mark, the album concludes with a much longer self-contained adventure in “Red And Yellow Prisms”, and this piece sounds decidedly more ‘soundtracky’, with its various chapters and changes of tone sounding very much like a deliberate soundtrack to unseen picture. Towards the end it also carries the most horrendous tinnitus-like high squeal noise that made me think either my speakers or my ears were broken, so watch out for that one.

The overall soundscape is so alien and abstract that the whole thing does feel at times more like a musical exercise or experiment than a composition or journey. It’s nicely distinct and complex though, real thinking music that really draws you in.
Artist: Ben Bertrand
Title: Manes
Format: CD & Vinyl
Label: Stroom / Les Albums Claus
As documented in several previous ChainDLK reviews, I’m a sucker for the earthy and unique tones of a well-played clarinet. So when an album arrives on my desk pitched as an exploration of the various colours and textures of a bass clarinet, it generally goes to the top of the pile. This album doesn’t disappoint, and while it’s perhaps not as experimental or unique-sounding as I might have anticipated, it’s still a rich and beautiful, velvety listen.

Opener “Morton and György in the Battista Mist” is presumably a reference to Feldman and Lygeti, drawing simple and fairly uptempo two-note patterns over supremely slow atmospheric pad chords, in a manner that’s also quite Glass-and-“Koyaanisqatsi”-like. “Those Behind Us That We Follow” follows and offers a platter that’s more romantic and melancholy, the expressive melody floating loosely in some windy atmospherics.

The second side brings the pulsing and electronic aspects slightly more into play. “Incantation 3” sits in a kind of emotional middle ground or holding pattern, before “Delayed Monologue” gets more playful with long delays on notes and more extensive layering-up, resulting in some intriguing melodic contrasts- as well as some oddly didgeridoo-like low sounds. Final piece “The Manmaipo” also makes extensive use of delays but with a more sparing set of source notes, giving a sort of sad bounce, akin to being musically past caring.

It’s barely over half an hour long, which is perhaps justified through the relatively low amount of sonic variation, but what a luxuriant and satisfying half hour it is.
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