Music Reviews



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Artist: Monochromie (@)
Title: Colors in the Dark
Format: CD
Label: Time Released Sound (@)
Rated: *****
I had not heard of Monochromie, which is the work of French artist Wilson Trouvé. I am often not one for piano albums, but this is absolutely beautiful. Monochromie provides lovely, delicate piano compositions that seem to be woven from of a mixture of sadness and hope. But these are not straight piano compositions. There is also the effective use of field recordings, as with the sounds of children in 'Childhood,' the hum of a film projector in 'Old Times,' and crackles of noise in 'Katedra' and 'Thorns of Roses,' as well as lush synthesized strings and heavy reverb that keep the piano from sounding too sterile. The best descriptor I have for this album is 'sentimental,' but not in a maudlin way; rather, this is music that reminds you that the soundtrack to everyone's life is limited and goes through peaks and valleys and changes along the way. If you liked Nature and Organisation's 'Death in a Snow Leopard Winter,' but found it too straightforward, this is what you are looking for. Very well done. This album weighs in at around 54 minutes.
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Artist: Ovro
Title: Id|entities
Format: CD
Label: Some Place Else (@)
Rated: *****
Ovro is a Finnish musician who has also collaborated with Niko Skorpio under the name Hæretici 7o74. The press release describes this as 'a bunch of stories told by different personalities. Whether the stories told are true, or just true to the one(s) telling them is left to the listener to decide.' And Ovro knows how to tell a story. If the mini poster that comes with the disc is any indication, this won't be the kind of story that has a happy ending, either. We begin with some minimal music of drums, bells, and drone and spoken word samples like 'he who summons the magic controls the magic.' This gives us an idea of what we're in for. The use of samples on this album is a lot more pronounced than usual in this kind of music, but this is by design. As she put it, 'It all began with a sudden urge to start collecting samples: 'Go forth and sample!'. Not only my usual field recordings, but samples from movies. Some were recorded straight from TV when the movie was on, some were nicked from movies in our DVD collection. There are bits from good movies, from bad movies, famous movies, obscure movies and everything in between ' but all more or less from the horror et al genre (I wonder how that happened, heh).' At times the samples become a bit heavy handed though. For example, 'Fate Dealer' repeats 'You're my hate disposal unity.' Still, overall this is good ritualistic ambiance with interesting use of samples throughout to build atmosphere. If you like your dark ambient extra dark, this is one to check out. This album weighs in at around 64 minutes and is limited to 250 copies.
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Artist: Shock Frontier (@)
Title: Mancuerda Confessions
Format: CD
Label: Malignant Records (@)
Rated: *****
I was unfamiliar with this band, as well as the bands which spawned this. Shock Frontier is the work of Robert Kozletski from Psychomanteum and Kyle Carney from Defiantly Fading. But I am very familiar with Malignant Records, so I had some inkling of what I was getting into. The label describes this album as 'an expertly composed and finely honed collection of shape shifting, nightmarish emissions and radioactive tonalities, drawing inspiration from some of the early death industrial pioneers, but adding an unique, densely layered and atmospheric style. This is a soundtrack to a world that ends not in a cataclysmic, fiery fashion, but one that slowly decays and rots into oblivion, where swathes of ghostly textures, samples, and disembodied noises morph into murky ambient realms, and caustic frequency reverberations pierce through a bleak, post-apocalyptic haze.' Sounds like a good time. We open with 'Paroxysm,' which includes some spoken word with statements like 'it's their fault that I tortured them.' This monologue melds well with the suffocating atmosphere and slow, plodding beat. This sets the tone for the rest of the album, which then moves into a noisy, ominous, mechanistic industrial nightmare with 'Angels Upon Iron Horses.' Other standout tracks include 'Understand the Extent of Our Disintegration' which layers sparse atmosphere with samples of reports from the 9/11 terrorist attacks and 'This Is Paradise,' which showcases the harsh side of things with grinding noise, but even this has a hypnotic quality that is almost peaceful. Throughout the album Shock Frontier maintains a tension between atmosphere and noise, which keeps things consistently interesting. This is an incredibly intense, well constructed album. I get the feeling that we are going to see a lot of this project. If you like your music rusted and charred with a side of death atmosphere, this was written just for you. This album weighs in at around 72 minutes.
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Artist: Ed Osborn (@)
Title: Stone North
Format: CD
Label: Estuary (@)
Rated: *****
I was unfamiliar with Ed Osborn's work, but he is currently on the faculty of the Visual Arts Department at Brown University and has received grants from the Guggenheim Foundation, the Creative Work Fund, and Arts International. He uses modified electric guitar, bowed 'electric skis' (yeah ' I'll bet you haven't heard of that one), ebow, and real-time processing. Sounds promising. We kick off with 'In Memoriam Elisha Blakeman & Tabitha Babbitt,' with just over five minutes of guitar improvisation and heavy drone. Here is where we get to hear electric skis; 'monochords built from skis are laid flat and bowed using another pair of skis.' I found this to be interesting, but a bit slow moving for my tastes. Next, the album takes a turn or the better with 'Guitar Mechanical,' which is some serious guitar abuse. My wife thought that something was wrong with the player, which is always a good sign. But this is someone who is actually playing the guitar, so there is skill on display here, not just destruction. Still, everything is cut up and overdriven for maximum distortion. Osborn continues his assault on your ears with 'Stone North,' which is really heavy on the dissonance, making it a bit hard to listen to at times. The squalling guitar drones slowly shift between different levels of coherence and dissonance, keeping it interesting and engaging but always unrelenting. Make no mistake about it ' this is music that refuses to blend in to the background. It will have your complete, undivided attention. File this with some of Fear Falls Burning's noisier outings. This album weighs in at around 43 minutes and limited to 300 copies.
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Artist: Gushing Cloud (@)
Title: Beat Wings in Vain
Format: CD
Label: Intangible Cat (@)
Rated: *****
The individual behind Gushing Cloud is Chicago based musician Cory Bengtsen (stage name: Gus Kumo). Bengtsen has also worked with Amalgamated and Rebekah's Tape and plays baritone saxophonist in the avant-prog-rock group Lovely Little Girls. I very much enjoyed the other album from this label (Dog Hallucination), so I was interested to see how this fit in with the label's roster. The opening track is like finding long lost instrumental tapes of late 1980's era Cure ' just a touch of psychedelic poppiness. 'Witness' keeps the weirdness going but gets a bit more mellow. As I continued through this disc, I couldn't help wondering if Bengtsen is a big Legendary Pink Dots fans, because I would be surprised if they weren't an influence. I could definitely see Gushing cloud on tour with them. Still, it is clear that Gushing Cloud has its own sound, as evidenced in the relentless march that is 'Return to Hunger' as saxophone and analogue synth merge with pulsing beats. Others, like 'Gesturing Stream' are soothing and melodic. Overall, this is really well put together jazzy instrumentals that make for some pleasant listening. This album weighs in at around 54 minutes.
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