Music Reviews



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Artist: Jim Haynes (@)
Title: Scarlet
Format: Tape
Label: The Helen Scarsdale Agency (@)
Rated: *****
I could begin from the artwork to explain the sound that Jim Haynes, who properly defines himself as an investigator of the properties of decay, whose investigations began "into rust and decay as a means to detour my shortcomings as an oil-painter", according to his own biographical words, from its artwork. Pretty and somehow seducing eyelashes of a closed eye evokes an artificial beauty that doesn't cast a glance at its observer and sounds like like a subtle invitation to introspection. Scarlet is the color that gives name to the release as well as the filter of the package, as if it was painted by means of dry blood, and it could vaguely surmise an artificially aged reprise of the red profile on the cover artwork of self-named Martin Rev debut album on the legendary label Infidelity, one of Charles Ball's tentacle which forged the so-called No Wave sound, one of the closest sonic stuff to this intruiguing artifact by Jim, which sometimes surmise the enigmatic industrial experiments by Werkbund as well. The reiteration of drilling electric sounds, field recordings which seem to be modified by means of tape manipulation and other entities that resurface from rough noisy scrabs can disclose unforgotten nightmarish vision as it occurs on "Alizarin", the seven minutes lasting second track, which sounds like rendering the secret laboratory of a mad butcher, the piercing friction of "Acrid", the dead radiophonic transmission of "Mordant Red 15" or the hypnotical strobes of "Racine To Vermillion", where mysterious entities make sudden and somehow disquieting appearances in between radio shortwaves, industrial noises, asynchronous clicks and psychotropic intermittencies. The typical hissing sound of the tape helps to make this release a little bit more scary, as if this cassette was found in the cellar of an abandoned haunted mansion and got recorded by its previous boarders or possibly by its poltergeist!
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Artist: YobKiss (@)
Title: The Light
Format: 12"
Label: Grond Records (@)
Rated: *****
This is a relatively easy review for me, and a rather enjoyable one too. YobKiss is a music project by Paul Borchers, originally from the Netherlands, now based in London. Paul is an illustrator and musician (as well as a DJ). His illustrating style is along the lines of vintage comics and it's said that he's working on a graphic novel too. There's more back-story to his visual art, but we're primarily concerned with the music here, so I'll leave you to check that out on your own time. Musically, Paul started out as a drummer, but was inspired to get involved with synthesizers. Borchers started the YobKiss project in 2006 as an excuse to tour Japan as a solo act. The other party on this EP, vocalist Yuko Hazama aka Fuzzy, from Tokyo, didn't join Paul until 2013 and the collaboration was a long distance one trading tracks online. The result was this EP, 'The Light', only three tracks, but what an amazing little work it turned out to be!

YobKiss describes their style as Electro, Gothic Disco, Synth Rock, Acid House, and Kraut Rock, but what we really have here is a Cold Wave gem- minimal vintage synths and drum machine, with Yuko's whispery vocals. It's simple, but incredibly effective. Title track "The Light" consists of a repetitive synth line over which an echoed blippy, arpeggio plays, and a dense synth pad (reminiscent of early Tangerine Dream) creates a nostalgic aural atmosphere. Then there's Yuko's singing- wispy with childlike innocence, yet strangely sensual. Although the words aren't clear, the ambience leaves little doubt she was an amazing find. There is simple but effective (yet uneffected) guitar too adding an interesting component. The beat is steady, danceable and hypnotic with unwavering drum machine rhythm. The song is sort of dark, but in a dream-like surreal way. Vocally, Yuko is a little reminiscent of Martha Schwendener from Bowery Electric (I wonder what she's doing now) except a little higher. Second track, "Dancing Ghost" gets into even weirder territory with Yuko using her voice rhythmically at first then interjecting a phrase here and there. The synthwork consists of an ominous repeating bass line over the rhythm track with a beat and the occasional synth pad and other stray electronic burblings. Yuko comes up with an ironically happy little melody line she repeats a few times and the effect is...uncanny to say the least. Before you know it, it's over. "Black Void" is undoubtedly the darkest (as well as longest) track on the EP, using a gothy chord progression over sequenced bass and bare bones beat. While Yuko's voice is nearly buried in the mix, it is as if she is some ghost in the machine. The mode of the music changes a little getting deeper and darker, but no less hypnotic drawing you in. This is bloody simple stuff, but oddly compelling. Yuko resurfaces at the end with breathy wordless vocals. Sort of like an orgasm in the black light room of a psychedelic party scene in some art film; no words can easily the atmosphere created here. It leaves you wanting more, and I certainly hope this is only the beginning of this collaboration. Worth checking out and worth owning. I had to settle for the CD version of 'The Light', but you can get it on 12" vinyl while the limited supply (of 500 copies...less now I'm sure) lasts. Highly recommended!

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Artist: Christian Wallumrød (@)
Title: Pianokammer
Format: CD
Label: Hubro (@)
Rated: *****
If you had the possibility to listen to something by Norwegian pianist and composer Christian Wallumrod - one of the most appreciated musician of contemporary music scene from Norway -, you'll find this interesting release - his first solo album, as he got mainly engaged with different ensembles - slightly different from his usual path as some similarities could be find with a performance he used to play some years ago, which got inspired to neo-dadaist Fluxus movement. "Pianokammer" includes six pieces, which got recorded on many different grand pianos and in different venues between the end of 2013 and the first half of 2014 and shows the most experimental side of this talented pianist, who gets closer to isolationist ambient on the opening track, the first "Fahrkunst", where a sort of ghastly tonal undertow and a wavering tremolo feeds a drone that seems to render the absorption of a piano tone by surrounding objects in slow motion. The following "Hoksang" would have been labelled as a concise piano exercise without the amazing tonal decay and "mistakes" at the end of each melodic phrase, while the vaguely disquieting "Second Fahrkunst" could let you imagine that the above-mentioned absorption woke up sleeping ghosts, who devour the graceful composure of the previous "Hoksang" till the moment it totally fades out. The most fascinating aspect of the following track "Boyd 1970" is the fact that sounds played by a pianist, who repeats a lesson about rhythmic cadences, walking bass line or simple stride to a mediocre trainee by an exhausted and bored to tears teacher, while the resounding chords in the beginning of "School of Ecofisk" seem to drown in the arthritic tonal knots that strangle melody over the track, whose schizophrenic nuance partially affects the feebly classy tone, which opens the amazing nine minutes of the final "Lassome", before the piece slips down a sheer hole.
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Artist: Atic
Title: Tuff Times EP
Format: Download Only (MP3 + Lossless)
Label: Free Love Digi
Rated: *****
That's another good inoculation into Free Love Digi catalogue, the third one by Denver based producer Atic, if I include the freebie "Conspicuous" in his discography. He digs the more melodic side of drum'n'bass, but such a labelling doesn't mean it's not interesting and somehow futuristic as most of launched rockets from Quentin Hiatus' imprint base. The first shot by Atic winks at the Rastafarian community living on Jamaican Blue Mountains, which could be considered a sort of sacred place in between wonderful falls, caves, rivers and a really lush and fecund nature, which gives really delicious coffee among other things... the nervously electric breaksthat shuffle vocal parts of the track could let you imagine the dreadlocks of the long-haired members of the above-mentioned community are like wires where divine knowledge circulates faster than data on human fiber-optics lines. While Atic lets leak poisoned sounds from the clocking half time of "Flatapus" as if they were interior of slaughtered alien, he puts his feet down on the gas on the frenzy drum'n'bass movement of "Critical Sound" (featuring Kaset!) before inoculating solidly cemented clips and entrancing vocal clips into the gelatinous techstep of the following "Pyramid", speeding down a piano-driven simple melody on "Juil", the most liquid moment of the release, and the more alarming sets of "Slap", which features his mate Kaset again, the second leg of Critical Waves.
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Artist: Igor
Title: Fast & Slow
Format: 12"
Label: Lamour (@)
Rated: *****
Many famous quotations by likewise famous people match art to pain or bad experiences and in the basis of such an assumption, I've heard many esthetes, who had no shames in exhibiting a certain sadism in refusing the labelling of art to anything which didn't got inspired by any kind of suffering. In spite of the beauty of his musical artifact, I wouldn't wish on Igor, the moniker of Swedish polyhedral musician Mikael Stromberg, to live the same experience that inspired this lovely release: even if he considers "Fast and Slow" as an important part of his healing process after having suffered from the sudden complete rupture of the aorta while he was cooking (the diagnosis says it was an acute aortic dissection), I really hope he's in good health in order to dedicate himself to his arts - he's also an artist in text-sound-picture context since the early 80ies -. I guess the title of this release could refer both to the irregular heartbeat during his convalescence and the distinguishing feature of each track, that he named after painkillers and other medicinal products, where the above-mentioned irregularity got reflected by sudden acceleration or decelerations, apopleptic strokes, muffled thuds and other sonic or compositional stains that seem to disturb already fragile balances.The references to some icons of 70ies ambient school as wel as proper classics such Brian Eno, John Cage and Erik Satie are guessed: the mysterious and somewhat melancholic nuance of Satie's composition could often comes to mind while listening to piano phrasing by Igor, who often transforms its sound by techniques for prepared piano, which are not so different from the ones by John Cage, or by celestial reverberations that recurs on very first ambient acts by Brian Eno, or itnegrate it with toy piano or brilliantly shaped electronic analog sounds. Even if the listening of this album could hit listener's heart, it has no side effects!
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