Music Reviews



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Artist: Lars from Mars
Title: Americanino
Format: Download Only (MP3 + Lossless)
Label: clang (@)
Rated: *****
An interesting matching between minimal techno and mathematical functions - I wonder how some reviewers are still reluctant to accept the association of the adjective "intelligent" to the label "dance music" - came on Clang's catalogue from Danish producer, programmer and sonologist Lars Graugaard, whose passion for David Temperley's research into probabilistic melody generation (if you don't chew such a matter, have a look to his essay "Music and Probability" to have an idea what he means), musical rule systems and temporal morphing could let you think he's deepening mathematical knowledge on some digital sequencer or playing music by means of Matlab or Lisp while performing in real time - neither pre-packed phrases, grouping nor overdubs - on his laptop. The funny way by which he inoculates smartly crafted sounds and computational melodies stand out over the four track of this digital release. I particularly enjoyed the title-track "Americanino", whose twisting micro-techno groove sounds like trawling for resounding electrons in the thought of mad scientist, and "Drawn and Quartered", where a sort of embryonic break got blended into a crude "fruity loop"-like movement and free jazz-like synth-piano jam, but both "Later That Night" and "Decay and Slip" are nice specimen of the above-mentioned matching. Have a listen!
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Artist: Beatriz Ferreyra
Title: GRM Works
Format: 12"
Label: Recollection GRM
Rated: *****
Some sonic stuff by Argentinian composer Beatriz Ferreyra, a living legend from the glorious Groupe de Recherches Musicales by Pierre Scheaffer - she worked alongside him on the development of the notorious Solfege de l'Objet Sonore (Music Theory of the Sounding Object) in the 50's and 60's before getting out from the prestigious institution and focusing on even more challenging musical researches - couldn't get missed on the growing catalogue of Recollection GRM, the excellent series that Peter Rehberg, the head behind Editions Mego, is intensively building with the precious collaborations of Christian Zanesi and Francois Bonnet. It could sound strange thinking of something sounding aesthetically more changelling than most of stuff that those pioneers of electroacoustic music already developed, but what your eardrums are going to check on this release are the best evidence; considering also the exuberance of her musical personality, you can imagine how impressive could be the listening experience she can provide. The release makes this comparison easier as it includes two earlier works - 'Demeures aquatiques' (an impressive electroacoustic collision between solids and liquids, where Beatrix, according her own words, "wanted to show the contrast between the rhythmic repetition of a sounding object, which gives out a feeling of fixity, an electroacoustic flavour and the continuous re-creation of the same sensation through similar yet not identical sounds") and 'Medisances' (an electroacoustic piece for 4 channels produced "by manipulating such items as orchestral instruments, a mouth bow, breath and some unexpected technical defects") and the headbanging pieces that she made in more recent times: "Un fil invisible" (2009) got inspired by the stages of Medieval Alchemy, which sound mirrored by the gurgling sequence of sonic permutations she wisely rendered, while "Les Larmes de l'inconnu" (2011), featuring the flutist Hernan Gomez, "draws its fundamental inspiration from the schemes bult by letters and numbers, added to the three levels of understing of the universe - the level of the archetype, that of the event and the incarnation, and the universal and cosmic level", according to Carlos Suares, Rivka Cremic and Shinta Zenke, three Qabalists to whom Beatriz dedicated this piece.
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Artist: Steve Reich / Ensemble Avantgarde
Title: Four Organs / Phase Patterns / Pendulum Music
Format: 12"
Label: Karlrecords (@)
Rated: *****
A must-have for all the lovers of Steve Reich and minimalism came from critically acclaimed Ensemble Avantgarde, the Leipzig-based ensemble that got founded by pianist Steffen Schleiermacher in 1989, when it reinterpreted some early compositions by one of the key figures of contemporary music in a stunningly vibrant way. The first recording got released by Mainz-based imprint of Dr.Werner Goldschmidt in 1999, but it's nowhere to be found, so that Karlrecords decided to re-release a version ona smaller scale which doesn't include "Piano Phase" and the third version of "Pendulum Music". The first pressing in late December got soon sold-out, but some copies of the second pressing should be available yet. The first two versions of "Pendulum Music", a process piece whose only set benchmarks were three or more swinging microphones which had to oscillate above a set of speakers in order to generate phasing feedback tones, are maybe affected by the shorter length of playing time (below five minutes), so that their abstract lags could sound a little bit obsessive, but the longest reworks of "Phase Patterns" (a piece for four electric organs that got masterfully interpreted by Josef Christof, Klaus Steffes-Holländer, Michael Obst and Steffen Schleiermacher himself) and "Four Organs", where Stefan Stopora plays the part for maracas (serving as a sort of metronome!), are significantly more hypnotical by means of exciting tonal whorls.
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Artist: Radian + Howe Gelb (@)
Title: Radian Verses Howe Gelb
Format: CD
Label: Radian Releases (@)
Rated: *****
The nice Texan songwriter and globetrotter Howe Gelb, guest star of this new release by Viennese trio Radian, incontravertibly stated that this collaboration is mainly "a Radian album", where he "is only living on it", according to the words of one of the forerunners of the so-called desert rock - a brilliant fusion between alternative rock and country - within Giant Sand, but the creative soul of the trio that transpires and pulsates more is the one by Martin Brandlmayr, as his knack for the reshaping of typical songwriting is the main aspect of this musical meeting. The compositional process sounds described by the opening "Saturated" and its follow-up/reprise "Saturated Beyond", where it's even clearer the way Radian smear electronic on bass and drums, while the sensation that Howe Gelb acts more like an explorer within Radian sonic freaks becomes vivid on the following "I'm Going In" - the aesthatic acme of this album according to my ear response -, when his voice sounds like coming from an an astronaut before wearing extra vehicular activity spacesuits and waving in the dusty cosmic clouds where he lets some enchanting guitar and lovely piano chords float into the void. The following "From Birth To Mortician" could be re-labelled "how to strangle psych-song and letting it breath by means of noisy interferences", while the crying baby on the dirge-like sad piano theme of the following "...And Back" sounds like the rendering of the mood where the childish creative wit meets crooning, which knows a sort of enlighted reincarnation by Howe Gelb, who can easily indulge such an awesome moulting as well as the reptile-like mutation that follows, on "The Constant Pitch And Sway". The funny reprise of "Piacacho peak", a song by Howe from "The Coincidentalist", and the "McEntire--ian" reprise "Pitch and Sway" precede another beautiful moment of the album, an amazing transfiguration of "Moon River" by Henry Mancini And Johnny Mercer (do you remember Breakfast at Tiffany's?), when Radian finally turned their laptops off.
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Artist: Za La Thu (@)
Title: Ritual of the Abyss/77+ (7+7)/7 +77=156
Format: CD EP
Label: self-released
Rated: *****
Za La Thu is a ritualistic occult metal band from Enterprise, Alabama consisting of The Awakened One (instrumentation) and Katera (vocals). I know what you're thinking - Jeez, yet another black/death/doom metal band with occult overtones, ie, Black Sabbath, Morbid Angel, Burzum, Candlemass, etc., etc, insert name of your favorite satanic metal act...well, no, not really. The Awakened One has been on this path since 1995 and throughout the years the band name has changed from Muses of Chaos, DRALA, The Awakened One, The Inverted, Aethyria, Servants of Twilight and now ZÄ Lä Thü (pronounced ZAY-LAH-THEW). I don't know if there were any releases under those previous monikers, but what we're concerned with is the NOW, these two releases, 'Ritual of the Abyss', and '77+ (7+7)/7 +77=156', which they call "demos", but are available for sale on their website, so I call them "product". Although they're home recordings, the sound quality isn't bad, just not as polished as they'd be in a professional ($$$) studio, but I'm not complaining. As I implied, this isn't your typical occult metal outfit, and although the music is guitar-based, also employed are Roland Guitar Synth, drum machines, sitar, sax, Udu drums, native flutes as well as other world music instruments.

The CDs (actually, CD-Rs) are really EPs, being just a few not very long tracks. The first CD,'Ritual of the Abyss', opens with an invocation by a famous occultist (no, not Crowley, but his personal secretary, Israel Regardie) on "Opening of the Portal" which instrumentally is a combination of metal and gothiness. There's quite a mixture of metal styles in the music, and although well played, tends to be a little chaotic. Za La Thu gets down to business in the next track, "Into the Void, Beyond the Sun" which instrumentally is more straight-ahead riff-based metal with dual vocals by The Awakened One and Catera. Lyrics are Ritual Magick-based, and nicely melodic. In fact, the track is more prog-metal than death, doom or black metal. I could see this going down a storm live. "One Star in Sight" is closer to death-doom-black metal with deep, growly, screamy vocals, but then it gets riff-fancy in the guitar leads halfway through. No bout a doubt it, The Awakened One has put his many years of basement practice to good use here honing his guitar chops. So that wraps up the first disc.

Second disc, '77+ (7+7)/7 +77=156' is way different. For one thing, Catera handles all the vocals. The music also seems more Goth. "Hail, Hail Babylon" makes few concessions to metal, being primarily synth-based. "Flame of Torture" is more in the metal-mode again, and although an okay track, doesn't have the impact of the opener, but it does have a sort of middle-eastern overtone. "Val-Kree" is really a strange tune. metal at the core, yet with a sitar lead and some clever changes and effective chanting. People looking for something really different should dig this. Before you know it, it's over, leaving you wanting more.

Definitely worth checking out, and probably worth buying too. They also have some pretty neat Za La Thu tee-shirts for sale on their website as well. The Awakened One made a good choice in adding Catera to Za La Thu, and I think they may still be looking for a drummer (adding a bass player and keyboardist might not be a bad idea either) but if you're thinking of applying, you might want to bone up on your occult texts, and I'm not talking about the Necronomicon or LeVay's Satanic drivel. These folks seem to be passionate and serious about what they're doing; posers be warned.
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