Music Reviews



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Artist: Jeff Burch (@)
Title: s/t
Format: CD
Label: Important Records (@)
Rated: *****
Jeff Burch is originally from New Zealand, but now makes his home in New York City. According to the label, Burch 'hoists his sounds up through the remnants of the 60's downtown drone spirit, through the fetid fruits of post-war central Europe and the scattered output of present-day suburban outsiders.' Hmmmm.... Let's see if this holds up. This album consists of two tracks, so let's look at each of them. 'The Nine Points' features slow, strumming guitar and flute mixed with some peaceful drone. The guitar and drone take turns coming to the forefront; it's a simple composition, but it never gets boring. 'La Perouse' is a bit more driving, with a relentless guitar line and some noisy synth washes. This eventually mellows out with a warbling synth line over some line-noise drone. Then suddenly it sounds like it cuts off, but thisisn't really the case. It's just that the last few minutes were mixed so quietly that you had to crank it to hear anything at all. This is a shame because it is nice, crackling noise. Overall this is pleasant music, but doesn't really push the envelope too much. Imagine the guitars from Durutti Column with the synth from old Aphex Twin (Ambient Works). This album weighs in at around 32 minutes.
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Artist: Lawrence English + Stephen Vitiello (@)
Title: Fable
Format: CD
Label: Dragon's Eye Recordings (@)
Rated: *****
Lawrence English is a composer and artist based in Australia and Stephen Vitiello is an American musician who is also a professor of Kinetic Imaging at Virginia Commonwealth University. According to the label, this collaboration focuses on their 'joint interests in modular synthesis, field recordings and the blurry boundaries between acoustic instrumentation and electronics. . . . Its palette, whilst diverse remains focused and as the album progresses themes of arrhythmic percussion, electronic-like field recording, prepared piano and vintage synthesis begin to take form.' We open with 'Over Inland' which maintains a nice juxtaposition as vibraphone provides a peaceful, pleasant melody over clanging bottles, pipes, chimes, snippets of voice, and field recordings. But this is not random; it is composed together well. For me, this was the standout track of the disc. 'Encased In Blue Marble' takes a more spacey approach, with pulsing drone and analog sweeps thrown in for good measure. Kind of peaceful. 'A Chime For The Fable' clangs its way through, giving you the impression that you're in a clock factory and you're in the testing room. 'Forecast The Dawn' is like listening to incidental music in a film (and you know something is about to happen....). Not too bad, but not as engaging as the first two tracks. This blends into 'A Fable For The Chime,' which continues along the same trajectory. Once again, you get the sense that this is well crafted, with nothing left to chance. 'That Caress, Inverted' brings back some of the spacey feeling, with a wheezing synth and plodding, thudding bass. Finally, 'Tender Unison' finishes up with some pleasant drone. Overall, this was interesting but sort of a mixed bag. The first few tracks were great, but the middle section was not anything that would stand up to repeat listening for me. It was well crafted, but just not as engaging for me. This album weighs in at around 32 minutes.
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Artist: Golden Diskó Ship (@)
Title: Invisible Bonfire
Format: CDS (CD Single)
Label: Spezialmaterial Records (@)
Rated: *****
Golden Disko Ship is the work of German artist Theresa Stroetges. The label describes this album as 'one might imagine Ma- rumari played live by The Boredoms via The Hototogisu after a session with Sonic Youth and Felix Kubin. But this would be completely reductive and unfair.' Well, reductive is what we aim for here, so let's get to it. We open with 'These Thoughts Will Never Take Shape,' which begins with sultry female vocals and stripped down percussion before adding just a hint of processing. It then kicks into a mix of synth, percussion, and guitar, until it almost sounds like a pop song, although one colored by years of listening to Cocteau Twins. 'Fake Horse' features some nice ethereal vocals and synth; once again, this is almost like a pop song, but not quite. 'Little Stream' puts the 'disco' in Golden Disko Ship, with a nice grooving beat and bass line with a lot of analog synth weirdness and some guitar. Imagine if someone broke into Autechre's studio with a bag of shrooms. It's a good time. 'Movie Theatre: has a nice apocalyptic folk vibe going on until the vocals suddenly get run through a fuzz pedal with a more driving beat; it tacks back and forth between mellow and distorted throughout. 'Snowflake Helicopter' is a nice, somewhat peaceful track, while 'Say Goodbye To This Island - Over And Out' mixes it up by getting noisy after the first half and distorting everything. The mixture of her lovely vocals while everything gets run through layers of distortion makes for a fun juxtaposition. 'New Year / Under The Wave' is one of the more interesting tracks, where her vocals seem like they are being heard at a distance from the other end of a large drainage pipe as a muddy bass line plods along. 'Swan Song' wouldn't be out of place alongside Sol Invictus' 'Trees in Winter.' Overall, the most endearing thing about this album is its ability to walk just on the other side of the line of what most people would consider to be 'normal' music. I would love to hear this in a coffee shop or a bookstore to gauge the reactions. The compositions are interesting and her vocals are beautiful, but then she tweaks it ever so slightly. Quite enjoyable and worth checking out. This album weighs in at around 48 minutes.
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Artist: Yvan Etienne (@)
Title: Feu
Format: CD
Label: Aposiopèse
Rated: *****
Yvan Etienne is a French 'artist and activist' whose 'sound art research questions the perception and physicality of sound spaces.' He is also the founder of the sound workshop at HEAR/Mulhouse, Art school of Mulhouse and co-manager of SONIC, master of sound research. Other than a note that he 'composes and plays pieces using electronic, phonography, analog synthesizers and the hurdy-gurdy,' there isn't much to go on concerning this album, so let's dive in. We begin with 'Une Nuit,' a short piece that sounds a lot like being in a factory, with static, air blasts, metal scraping and clanging. We're off to a good start. 'De La Charge' has a lot more going on. As we begin with clinking metal, you begin to notice layers of music underneath the sounds. There's a lot of complexity, and you get the sense that this was carefully put together. However, as the piece continues on it becomes much more stripped down, with crackling static over the noise of quietly howling wind in a tunnel. At just over 21 minutes, this felt like it went on for a bit too long, and he could have cut the last 5 minutes without much effect. Finally, we close with 'La Lueur,' with swirling waves of digital tones - like listening to modem transmissions ' that dissolves into drone. This then shifts into a sawtooth drone with what sounds like a flute or recorder underneath. This also became a bit dull, as it shifted just slightly as it proceeded along. There were definitely some interesting points, but I found this to be a mixed bag. At times it was interesting and engaging, but then toward the end of the track, the idea would get beat into the ground. This album is limited to 300 copies and weighs in at around 41 minutes.
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Artist: Galati (@)
Title: Mother
Format: CD
Label: Psychonavigation Records (@)
Rated: *****
Galati is the work of Italian artist Roberto Galati, who explains that 'I make slow, psychedelic, ambient music' and that 'synthesizers, guitars, basses are my means of expression.' He describes this album in a pretty long discourse that begins, 'Mother is a diary of a long trip, reporting my personal search for answers and for my own self. It's about letting go, leaving behind; it means gaining simplicity and innocence. I've been observing a metamorphosis in myself, it started in Greenland, it continued during the winter months between 2012 and 2013, and went on to far-off lands of Tibet, in the shadow of Mount Everest, the Mother Goddess of the Universe.' OK... let's see how it translates musically. 'Mother I' kicks it off with some nice, spacey synth-based ambient. Imagine a soundtrack to a science fiction space film, and you'd be off to a good start. But this has some good complexity to it; it isn't just heavy drone. For example, there is a nice melody of chimes running through the piece. 'Mother II' is a nice slab of noisy dark ambient, where everything seems about ready to blow away on the force of the wind. 'Mother III' Keeps the same gritty feel going, but adds a marching snare and indecipherable vocals. It is like listening to an army coming toward you in the distance. 'Mother IV' changes it up a bit with some orchestral drone. The overall feel is like hearing a band warm up in slow motion, stretched out over 10 minutes. It is much more pleasant than it sounds, and reminds me of Russian dark ambient artist Kshatry. Finally, 'Mother V' brings it together with drone that blends into marching percussion and crashing cymbals. This is like hearing a parade in your dreams. Overall, this is nicely done soundscape that avoids falling into the trap of becoming uninteresting. Galati mixes it up and brings just the right blend of noisiness and drone to keep everything engaging. This album weighs in at around 75 minutes.
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