Music Reviews



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Artist: Michaela Melián
Title: Monaco
Format: CD
Label: Monika Enterprise (@)
Distributor: Indigo/Morrmusic
Rated: *****
Whether the title "Monaco" refers to the principality on French Riviera or the Bavarian capital city, this new release by Michaela Melian, co-founder of F.S.K. (standing for "Freiwillige Selbstkontrolle", the name of the West German self-censorship institution), one of John Peel's favourite German bands, ideally completes a trilogy of geographically named releases after "Baden-Baden" and "Los Angeles" on an elliptical mark, where the lack of verbal clue as the only proper song is the stentorian cover of David Bowie's "Scary Monsters", whose no-frills structure along the lines of previous cover version of Roxy Music's songs by Michaela, got balanced by a plenty of references to places and other works from other arts (particularly literature and cinema), but what counts more is the way she manages to inspire mental images without words by means of a limited set of tones and a lavish instrumental expressiveness (rendered by a wide set of instruments, including zither, banjo, kalimba, glockenspiel, Spanish and electric guitar, organ and so on), which could be vaguely associated to music for movies due to the reminiscent power, the presence of sonic features such as hisses and crackles of magnetic tapes, old celluloid or vinyls, which emphasizes the heart rending blues which mark many tracks out. Sucha connection with music for movies is just paradigmatic as the soundscapes she composed sound more like emotional cameos where flourishing memories weave together fading images. The sober piano-driven rumination of the initial "Delta Of Venus" (a reference to Anais Nin's well-known book of erotic short stories?), where a sort of beeping signaling system for queue and a flowing ticking move along the set, digs a groove which got reprised in many following moments of the record, whose somewhat suffered knots seems to disentangle on the final dignified plainnes of "Geometrie der Liebe" and the lukeworm mild sedation of "Jardin Exotique".
Nov 08 2013
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Artist: Paul Nelson
Title: Vortex
Format: 12"
Label: Medical Records
Rated: *****
Originally released in 1981 for Paul Nelson's own label Optiman Systems Inc. (which released only that album), 'Vortex' is about to be reissued by Medical Records on mid November. The album has been the only Nelson's release and it's a great example of space disco mixed with progressive electronic music. A sort of crossover between Jean-Michel Jarre and early Moroder but without vocals, as Paul used a vocoder filtered voice only on the opening 'Automated Man'. Anyway, if you are fond about France cosmic music of bands such as Space, The Droids, Bernard Fevre, etc, this record is for you! Growing up around Portland and with a strong background in music and music theory, Paul built a PAIA synthesizer when he was in junior high and developed a keen intuition into analog synthesis. Later he purchased a MiniMoog and was very influenced by Alan Parsons, ELP, and ENO. At the time of his album he owned also Sequential Circuits 600 sequencer an Oberheim DS-2, etc and he used them with good taste and on my humble opinion he deserved a wider exposure. 'Automated Man' gather a space electro sound with a new wave melody that can recall Tubeway Army. The five parts of Vortex move from electronic sweeps and experimentations a la Tangerine Dream with no rhythm section ('Vortex 1', 'Vortex 3'), to space disco arpeggio based tunes ('Vortex 2', Vortex 4') passing through dark moments which recall Carpenter on 'Vortex 5'. 'Labyrinth' is a cool tense arpeggio based tune with rhythmic section and warm pads. If you love Steve Moore tracks, you'll go insane for this one. For me this release is a must and I hope that you won't miss it! You can purchase and listen to all the tracks here http://medicalrecords.bandcamp.com/album/vortex-mr-024
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Artist: Liam Singer (@)
Title: Arc Iris
Format: CD
Label: Hidden Shoal Recordings (@)
Rated: *****
Queens-based musician Liam Singer has often been likened to other chamber-pop musicians such as Sufjan Stevens and Elliott Smith, but, without devaluing them, his fourth album "Arc Iris" emblazons Liam's distinctive melodic opulence and cogent kiltering attention to details as well as an almost balletic way of singing, which is maybe the less canonical element of his wisely composed cameos, whose astonishing makes disveal a deep knowledge of compositional tricks. The bright idea of emphasizing dramatic climaxes of his inlaid arrangements by means of female choirs or double singing, which Liam already tested on his past works, and the melodic organization of sonic gearwheels where his personal approach to the pop song structure got enhanced by classical music and soundtrack-like dramatic expedients are just some of the ingredients which make the listening of this dulcet record so attractively gripping. Seemingly focused on the themes of discordance and discord, where duality often permeates single songs, where form feels like clashing with content, and the whole album, which starts on the brighter tones of "Prelude (Into The Luminous Currents)" and ends on the more clouded nuances of "Eye Eclipse Eye", "Arc Iris" could let listener link Liam Singer to a bard or a courtier before the awe-inspiring court of life, who manages to sing about psychodramas, tragedies and the somehow sarcastic dynamics of life and emotions without cutting them off from their inner enchantment to the point when the cinematic sonorities sometimes seem to evoke the enchanted atmospheres of fairy tales, which occasionally don't really need any word as suggest by the evocative intensity of (mainly piano-driven) instrumental tracks like "Coma Nocturne" or "The Dance of Cupid and Psyche". The contribution from Boxharp - Wendy Allen's voice which especially excels on "Forever Blossoming" and "Dear Sister/Gears Turn In Gears" while Scott Solter tweaked both sound and arrangements and provided an electronically-aided glass harmonica on this occasion - has been really precious for the development of this record, which I reccomend to listen by means of a good pair of headphones in order to appreciate it in detail.
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Artist: Covenant (@)
Title: Leaving Babylon
Format: CD
Label: Metropolis (@)
Rated: *****
Even if some changes of the line-up and some enhancements occurred - Haujobb's mastermind Daniel Myer, who received praiseful gratitude in the credits by present members, just contributed to the opening title-track and the contrite lyrics of "For Our Time", whereas Andreas Catjar joined the band which came back on Dependent Records for European version as well -, Covenant gloriously came back to a sound which heavily surmises some of their better past hits - some songs from "Sequencer" and "Northern Light" re-emerged from my musical memory -, but "Leaving Babylon", their 9th studio-album, disclosed somewhat wiser poetics and a specific conceptual or I'd rather call it emotional framework, where the immanence of an imploding chaotic world, the perception (and no more just a forboding) of downfall, the increasing awareness of this irreversible decay or that "anti-thesis about the bygones", as "Leaving Babylon" better pinpoints, where "the weight of history and modern society/obscure our true sights" don't degenerate into a craven or bleary escape. The meaning of their getaway seems to be explained by other songs at most: the vertiginous and almost wheezy techno-oriented song "(Auto) Circulation" gives some cues to listeners when they sing "desperation/circulation".../I leave the flow of time", whereas another great song of this album, "I Walk Slow", seems to say that any temporizing, which got rendered by the temporary short circuit of the electron and mental flow of this "getway" and the research for proper strategies and directions as well as by the clouded guitar chords, could be justified by the fear of a nonsensical epilogue which might cripple any reaction and chagrin any purpose, a thought that trigger the electrical storm in the middle of the song. This spiritual need is so driving that it seems to permeates the sound of the first songs of the record such as the piercing pained moan of EBM/future pop hybrid of the heady "Last Dance", the intertwining of the dulcimer, the sharpened basslines, the seraphic voices and the sudden crash sounds by Shift on "Thy Kingdom Come", where lead vocalist Eskil Simonsson sings "come heaven come shadows/come crashing over me/I feel that something has to break/come mother come Caesar/come and tend to me/I feel that something will have to break/and its gonna be me". I let you discover the other amazing nuances of this album (including biblical and thelemic occaisonal references, the lovely piano-driven reinterpretation of Dimbodius' song "Not To Be Here" and the hidden track "Babylon II", a sort of experimental eerie soundtrack, which squeezes the whole spirit of the album) or check the limited edition, which includes a second cd whose text and vocals comes from Swedish poet Helena Osterlund, which could let you surmise that what Covenant are really missing and searching for is their native Sweden and their spiritual nest.
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Artist: Hati
Title: Zero Coma Zero + Recycled Magick Emissions
Format: CD
Label: Zoharum (@)
Rated: *****
This album is a reissue of two limited edition CD-R released in 2005. 'Zero Coma Zero' constructed by Dariusz WojtaÅ and RafaÅ IwaÅski using ritual instruments (Tibetan and Indian bells, cymbals, horns and pipes) combined with discarded utility objects recovered from the junkyard (scrap metal, plastic tubes, screws and bolts etc) and 'Recycled Magick Emissions' where they used only recycled instruments (gongs, cymbals and barrels). They don't use electronic processing to create a sort of void for the development of sound with an almost ritual and meditative purpose.
While 'zero' opens this release with horns and pipes, 'animal' features a ritual beat that is colored by small noises and horns in the second part of the track. 'Homines' is a centered upon a drone and 'templum' upon small metallic found sounds created with objects. 'Aqua' uses extensively the metallic resonances of cymbals while 'V' uses bamboo pipes and 'Y' features the wood for the construction of the beat thus passing from a clear ambient soundscape to more ritual one using almost the same instruments. 'Anima' is a long dialog of a noisy beat, made perhaps from recycled plastics, and clear tones made by cymbals. The percussions of 'coma' close this release that is a statement of how a record could be vary using a small palette of tones and a structure, remarkable.
'Recycled Magick Emissions' features instead three tracks: '0' that is constructed upon layers of metallic resonances created with gong and cymbals, '1' created with berrels with a noisy sound and '2' that juxtaposes the two sound source in search of dialogue. Perhaps less adventurous than his companion but is a confirmation of the quality of this musical offer. A project to (re)discover.
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