Music Reviews



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Artist: Sal Solaris (@)
Title: Die Scherben 2004-2010
Format: CD
Label: Zhelezobeton (@)
Rated: *****
I have been quite fond of the material that has been released through Zhelezobeton and its sublabel Muzyka Voln; they have been consistently putting out solid dark ambient and experimental works, so I was interested to hear what this release would bring. I was unfamiliar with this project, but the label describes it thus: 'The music of this duet coming from Rostov-on-Don and Moscow combines the elements of dark, often space ambient, post-industrial and power electronics, a collage approach and a dense saturated atmosphere, not relaxing but rather stimulating the listener.' Sounds like a plan.
We enter this disc with ominous, plodding, methodical, slow moving soundscapes. This is what I expected from this label, so when we kicked into 'Class On Dreaming / УÑок Сна,' I was surprised to hear piano and male vocals that would not sound out of place with Black Tape For a Blue Girl. This then shifts to excellent dark ambient at around 8 minutes. 'Battle Swans' is a remix of themes from Tchaikovsky's 'Swan Lake.' I was very interested to see what Sal Solaris would do with this, since Swan Lake contains my favorite piece of music and if you're going to mess with something as iconic as Swan Lake, you'd better bring your A-game. It was good, but didn't really seem to push the envelope very much. With 'With Me / Со мной,' we get some noisy experimental before kicking into a distorted remix of Depeche Mode's 'Rush.' Now I'm no spokesman for Depeche Mode, but I think that they might like what Sal Solaris has done with this, considering the fact that they chose to tour with Nitzer Ebb on their Violator tour. We finish out with more noisy experimental. Overall, this is an interesting compilation of work that demonstrates the variety of Sal Solaris's style. Although it doesn't hang together like a standard studio album would, it makes me want to check out more of their stuff, which is always a good sign for a retrospective of rarities. This album weighs in at around 77 minutes.
cover
Artist: Sal Solaris (@)
Title: Die Scherben 2004-2010
Format: CD
Label: Zhelezobeton (@)
Rated: *****
I have been quite fond of the material that has been released through Zhelezobeton and its sublabel Muzyka Voln; they have been consistently putting out solid dark ambient and experimental works, so I was interested to hear what this release would bring. I was unfamiliar with this project, but the label describes it thus: 'The music of this duet coming from Rostov-on-Don and Moscow combines the elements of dark, often space ambient, post-industrial and power electronics, a collage approach and a dense saturated atmosphere, not relaxing but rather stimulating the listener.' Sounds like a plan.
We enter this disc with ominous, plodding, methodical, slow moving soundscapes. This is what I expected from this label, so when we kicked into 'Class On Dreaming / УÑок Сна,' I was surprised to hear piano and male vocals that would not sound out of place with Black Tape For a Blue Girl. This then shifts to excellent dark ambient at around 8 minutes. 'Battle Swans' is a remix of themes from Tchaikovsky's 'Swan Lake.' I was very interested to see what Sal Solaris would do with this, since Swan Lake contains my favorite piece of music and if you're going to mess with something as iconic as Swan Lake, you'd better bring your A-game. It was good, but didn't really seem to push the envelope very much. With 'With Me / Со мной,' we get some noisy experimental before kicking into a distorted remix of Depeche Mode's 'Rush.' Now I'm no spokesman for Depeche Mode, but I think that they might like what Sal Solaris has done with this, considering the fact that they chose to tour with Nitzer Ebb on their Violator tour. We finish out with more noisy experimental. Overall, this is an interesting compilation of work that demonstrates the variety of Sal Solaris's style. Although it doesn't hang together like a standard studio album would, it makes me want to check out more of their stuff, which is always a good sign for a retrospective of rarities. This album weighs in at around 77 minutes.
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Artist: Mark Cetilia (@)
Title: {Impact +Aftermath}
Format: CD
Label: Estuary (@)
Rated: *****
I was unfamiliar with Mark Cetilia's work, but he has had a considerable output. He is one of the seemingly many academics who are engaged in experimental music; he received his MFA from the Rhode Island School of Design in 2008, and is currently pursuing his Ph.D. in computer music and multimedia at Brown University. This disc consists of two long tracks, so let's look at each of them individually. The album kicks off with 'Pulse Shape 22 (Gamma)' which is a slow burn that starts as a quiet rumbling and becomes a deafening wall of noise over the course of a slow crescendo that takes 20 minutes! A whining feedback crescendo ends this piece. If you like noise, this is excellent stuff, and at almost 35 minutes there is plenty of time to sink into the music. The liner notes state that this was recorded live at Third Mind, Granoff Center for the Arts, in Providence, RI. The second track is 'Palinopsia,' which also features a long fade in and consists of a live recording, but it just doesn't have the same heaviness of the previous track. Cicaida-like electronics and a quiet undercurrent of noise reign on this track. Although this is good, and I can understand this as the 'aftermath' part after the 'impact,' musically it would have been a better warm up to the other track. After the intensity of 'Pulse Shape 22 (Gamma),' this one seems a bit flat ' sort of like eating a ghost pepper and then expecting to taste the heat of a common jalapeño. Still, this is good overall and 'Pulse Shape 22 (Gamma)' alone is worth the price of admission. This is limited to 200 copies and nicely packaged. This album weighs in at around 58 minutes.
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Artist: Jason Kahn (@)
Title: Things Fall Apart
Format: CD
Label: Herbal International (@)
Rated: *****
I was not very familiar with Jason Kahn's work, but the liner notes provide considerable background into the project. In case you were wondering, yes, this album was inspired by Chinua Achebe's novel 'Things Fall Apart,' and yes, there was a brief perception that the recording session had fallen apart (noise from a wedding party next door, horse carts clattering outside), but the result is still quite satisfying. The liner notes state that there was minimal processing and no overdubs in these compositions. As such, it makes sense that these tracks would be raw and really stripped down and that is what we have here. The tracks here range from vocal sounds, percussion improvisation, to noisy field recordings. The sound sources attributed to this recording include: 'Drum set, voice, metal objects, radio, mixing board, contact microphones, magnetic coil, speaker, computer, chairs, plastic bags.' Where some field recording projects suffer because of the lack of variety in the compositions, Kahn manages to draw the listener in by combining things in interesting ways. For example, 'We Fall' mixes improvised percussion with quiet singing in a way that seems almost intimate. Several of these tracks use percussion and ambient sounds to good effect, such as 'Wait,' with its vocals and cymbals and 'Mornings,' with field recordings punctuated by drone and percussion. Other tracks use the voice more as an instrument than as a way to convey words, such as 'Night' with long, droning singing reminiscent of Arcanta and 'Calling,' which features long, sustained calls of notes held for a long time, which ends with yells. Overall, this is interesting experimental music and good improvisation. This album weighs in at around 53 minutes.
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Artist: Ice Cream Mission to Mars (@)
Title: s/t
Format: CD
Label: Toy Moon Music
Rated: *****
Ice Cream Mission to Mars is the work of Will MacLean, who was previously in Variety Lights. After a few listens, I am still at somewhat of a loss as to how to describe Ice Cream Mission To Mars. The label describes the album as 'a trip to the roadside attractions of the red planet. Recorded with a collection of vintage analog synthesizers. Synthpop, psych, glitch, ambient.' This is techno, but it's not the kind that you dance to. This is glitchy and jerky with fat analogue synth lines, while at other times this is sparse synth improvisation. Some of this could well be futuristic advertising music because it is in very short chunks of music reminiscent of The Residents' 'Commercial Album.' In fact these compositions share the Residents' whimsical quality. It's a lot of fun and doesn't seem to take itself too seriously. So here's the best I can come up with: imagine that the Residents and Oval were given Front 242's drum machine, all the Moog synthesizers they could ever need, and locked in a studio and forced to collaborate on a new techno concept album about the 1950s space race as they subsisted on a diet consisting only of psychoactive mushrooms. If this sounds good (and it should), pick this one up. This album weighs in at around 24 minutes, which is pretty impressive for a disc with 10 songs that isn't punk or noise.
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