Music Reviews



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Artist: A Sacred Cloud & Anarchist Mountains
Title: Ep Cosmique
Format: CD
Label: Jeunesse Cosmique (@)
Rated: *****
This great split ep by A Sacred Cloud and Anarchist Mountains has been released by the Jeunesse Cosmique & Howl! Arts Collective labels. Both record labels are based in Montreal, Canada. Apparently, the A Sacred Cloud contribution is a live recording of a concert that took place at the Sala Rossa in January 2014. It was a concert organized to support a Pakistan family who couldn't get the refugee status by the Canadian government. The music is very cosmic and abstract (in a good way) and the variety of sound sources used for this recording makes their part of the album an enjoyable ride. Personally, I preferred their second track called ' Run, Run Shaw' because of the heavy use of analog synthesizers in it (it sounds like the Korg Monotron Delay) and also because of the beautiful synthetic arpeggiator that comes in about half way through the piece. I also have a soft spot for improvised flute playing and the two tracks by A Sacred Cloud feature plenty if it! Not all improvised music is good, but in this case the talent is there and the listening experience is good.

Anarchist Mountains side was recorded in an apartment in Montreal (dubbed L'Apartement Cosmique). Their pieces are much more ethereal and ambient, we're almost in new age territory here, and the production is clearer than A Sacred Cloud. The aptly named piece 'Glacier' is indeed reminiscent of the great North while 'Estuary' noisier take on ambient music is different in tones but similar in vibe. The minimal silk screened artwork is beautiful and it comes with a nice cardboard insert. If you're a fan of experimental ambient music, in the same vein as Celer, you'll be pleased by this ep. Note that the album is available for a pay-what-you-want price on Bandcamp.
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Artist: Of Earth And Sun (@)
Title: Uncoiled
Format: CDS (CD Single)
Label: Malignant Records (@)
Rated: *****
There's something inherently creepy about Of Earth And Sun's music. The sound of the bone trumpets offered on most of the tracks are spooky to say the least! They are the main ingredient of Matthew Hunzeker's music (the guy behind this project) as you can hear them buzzing throughout all the tracks of Uncoiled. Of Earth And Sun's artistic expression is a cross between well recorded harsh noise (and I stress on 'well recorded'), dark drone and ritualistic music. All the tracks on the album have been recorded live, which is an accomplishment in itself, especially when you consider all the computer based music that is released nowadays. Maintaining that kind of intensity throughout the nine tracks is impressive, it gives a sens of authenticity to a kind of music that can easily sound generic when produced on computers. Furthermore, the use of acoustic elements really ads texture and depth to the album. Also at play here are oscillators, vocals and a drum machine. While I can clearly distinguish the vocals in the music, the oscillators play a much more subtle role as it seems to be used to reinforced the buzzing tone of the bones trumpets by adding a much needed sub bass to the tracks (as heard on 'Antahkarana' and 'Consuming Of The Illusory Body'). On other pieces, the oscillators are used in both the low and high frequency range as it is the case in the sublime 'Veil Of Illumination' track. Of Earth And Sun's music could easily be the soundtrack of an horror film featuring cannibal rites. This is deep music that will certainly please drone fans as well as anyone interested in hearing something different and well constructed. If I had one complaint to do, is the similarity between the tracks, which makes a very coherent album but at the same time it lacks a bit of variety. That being said, I think it wasn't the point, the idea here was to create a chilling and intense sonic experience, something that transcend the body to bring you to another place and another state of mind. From this point of view, Of Earth And Sun's Uncoiled is an outstanding success. I can easily picture myself listening to this music while reading 19th century occult books about ghosts and witchcraft. Highly recommend!
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Artist: Digital
Title: Catch A Fire
Format: 12"
Label: Function Records (@)
Rated: *****
After a five years lasting period of inactivity, the appreciated producer Digital keeps on feedng his own imprint Function Records by a couple of his release. The first one "Respek Da Foundation", which includes a collaborative track with Macunian dnb producer N Owen aka Response and a remix of Digital's "Deadline" by George Ovens aka Dub Phizix, was a celebrative release for 20 years of activity of Digital. "Catch A Fire" is the second ring of the hopefully long chain of Function and includes many stylistical hooks to older rings by Digital. Such a welcomed connection with the past, which could be considered more as an act of devotion than a fit of nostalgia, is clear since the igniting track of this release, "Rejection", whose alarming sound, the solid clustered bassline and the double gangways where Digital lets amen break spin (a subterranean one, which is clearly audible on the beginnign of the track, before the one on a higher ground begins) are typical hooks of 90ies junglists, and a certain old school nuance seems to float around the more atmospheric sonorities of "Light Years", the new bicephalous tune he co-signed together with the above-mentioned Response. Digital reduces the spped, but not the effectiveness of his music, on the title-track "Catch A Fire", a really astonishing assay of likewise old-fashioned heavyweight dub. Unmissable release for all those listeners who miss those kind of vibes, which used to shake dancehalls in between the second half of 90ies and first part of new millenium.
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Artist: Natsuki Tamura + Alexander Frangenheim
Title: NAX
Format: CD
Label: Creative Sources (@)
Rated: *****
Every time I pick any random release from the heavy pile of releases I receive from Portuguese label Creative Sources, it's really rare that I find some banal item. This time I picked (by chance) an output by NAX, a collaborative project by double-bass player Alexander Frangenheim, whose name already appeared on some of my past reviews, and Japanese trumpeter Natsuki Tamura, whose name could be known by some ardent followers of jazz as a member of the eccentric vocal jazz band Gato Libre, but such a biographical note could be deceiptive in order to understand his role in this duet. If we had to speak by referring to some style of jazz, I would define their sound neither free jazz as such a label could be likewise deceiptive, nor irrational or illogicalas their tweaked approach to harmony or tonal (dis)organization is other than irrational or illogical. The name of the project as well as the cover artwork seem to refer to the mountainous region of former municipality of Nax (now a part of Mont-Noble) in the Swiss Alps, so that such an orographical reference almost implies that their seemingly undiscinated research that they spread over nine tracks - they called them "acun", which is the abbreviation of Swiss company mirrors the rough surface of Nax as if they wanted to make their style as a question of exquisitely physical realism! You could imagine the that "chaotic" equence of rocks, hanging valleys, cols, ridge, saw-toothed peaks is the main score or the guideline of the intersections of the mad alternation of pizzicato and arco by Alexander and the vocal and breathe emulsions within trumpet's pipe and valves by Natsuki. Such a matching could tease the listening experience that comes from NAX.
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Artist: Erik Friedlander
Title: Illuminations
Format: CD
Label: SkipStone records
Rated: *****
Many works of brilliant cello player and composer Erik Friedlander seems to look for a symbiotic connection or take a linking to the environment where he performs or to specific events that deeply signs a community or a place. This aspect was clear on his soundtrack for Nothing on Earth, that I recently introduced on Chain DLK, and is also particularly relevant on "Illuminations", his latest solo release that combines a double source for inspiration. The first one was the environment where he performed this suite, that was originally commissioned by the Jewish Museum in New York City, which hosted an exhibit of ancient books and manuscripts from Oxford University's Bodleian Collection: "I found myself in this darkened room surrounded by these gorgeous books and manuscripts that seemed to be talking to me. They were telling me a story of patience and craft, ritual and dedication that was inspiring". The second one is merely compositional and is mainly related to Erik's life-long studies on Bach's cello suites, which seem to have been one of the starting point for his scores on "Illuminations": "I was inspired by Bach's Preludes which are technically challenging and musically formidable. Scriptorium is a serious place where work gets done. Scribes sometimes spent their entire lives working in this room". Unlike Bach, who mainly used French dances for his sublime cello suites such as Courante and Bouree, Friedlander preferred to adapt Renaissance vocal forms, ritual dance movements (such as "Cham", named after the trance-inducing mystical Tibetan dance and "Tarantella", the notorious Apulian dance which was supposedly caused by the bite of tarantula), Chants and Madrigals (the tonal counterpoints at the end of each phrases on Erik's amazing "Madrigale - The Virgin and The Unicorn" or the remarkable work on the harmonic textures of "Siddur", the other madrigal which was named after the collection of Jewish daily prayers, are just a couple of tricks to let these definitively old-fashioned styles more contemporary). Wisely opened by an invocation to Seshat, the Egyptian Goddess of writing and science, who got invocated during the ancient religious ceremony of the stretching of the rope (a clear reference to the strings of cello), this release shows the ability of Erik in turning the sound of cello in a way that could cheat listeners by letting them believe he's playing a lute or a gamba as well.
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