Music Reviews

Artist: Malfinia Ensemblo
Title: Varsovia
Format: CD
Label: Kvitnu (@)
Rated: *****
I'm not sure if the lovely scent of sweet almonds I perceived when I took the CD off its plastic wrapping belongs to the release, but I think it's the first time a musical release manages to hit my nose before my hearing. I've not tried to lick the cover, whose effective silk printed artwork got designed by Zavoloka, but if so, I wouldn't be surprised if it tastes like paczki - the delicious Polish donuts - or piernik - a notorious kind of gingerbread that you should taste at least once in your life in Poland -! On the bright side now, Malfinia Ensemblo amalgamates electronic entities from analog synths by young American composer and sound artist Norman Teale aka The Norman Conquest, who also cared mixing, sound manipulation, mastering and recording and added some instrumental patterns (electric cello, electric bass, charango) and Austrian drummer Andi Stetcher - all drums are "real"! -, who met and imagined the amazing crossover you're going to listen on "Varsovia" while they were in the Polish capital city, the main source of inspiration. The opening "Mensa Lavango" immediately grabs listener's attention by fuming drums and wild synth-brass which could resemble the ones that many EBM and industrial names often inserts before a computational melody, which could suit the soundtrack for a phuturistic version of "Age Of Empires", suddenly breaks into the song; the bitonal low frequencies and the angelic singing by Agnes Szelag which opens the first moments of the following "Lumo" reminded Beaumont Hannant's "Heavenly" to me as there are some similarities with the use of voice by Lida Husik on that song, but the song soon turns into a sort of zombified march; Szelag's hypnotic voice also marks "Fulmo", the following track where some brilliant overlaps by Stetcher really stand out; whereas the sound of "Lumo" could evoke marching zombies, the vibe on following "Eho" could let you think the awakening of a starving vampire. The narcotic trip-hop of "Malfinia Ondo" get listener prepped and ready for the lenghty final anthem "La Universo Estas Atomo", where the meticulous electroacoustic workings by these guys seem to render a "big bang"-like approach to composition in their own image and likeness.
Artist: Uncodified (@)
Title: Hardcore Methodology
Format: CD
Label: Old Europa Cafe/Elettronica Radicale Edizioni (@)
Rated: *****
This new release by Uncodified, the most abrasive brainchild by brilliant Italian sound artist Corrado Altieri, could turn pale with fear the most radical sonic scourges that shored power electronics and noise shapers scenes up. Even if there's a certain concordance with the most impetuous Japanese drill-men or some "noisists" from Cold Spring, Uncodified lets spurt gushes of creepy industrial sounds from his violent timpanic perforations by means of obsessive electronic tidal flows and streams of disturbing electrons that emulate the methodology of hardcore movies directors. Some vocal and sonic samples from hardcore movies have been inserted into the stubborn avalanches of wisely controlled noise since the initial "Welcome!"; in spite of the almost continuous rashes, which got occasionally interrupted as it occurs on "Catalagues", a track which features the collaboration of Gianluca Favaron, where the electrical storm got suddenly disrupted, or "Anterooms", the collaborative track with Bologna Violenta, where a motif that seems to come froman horrorific cabaret resounds from the magmatic mush, listeners will vividly perceive that flow costantly changes as if an inner balance of seemingly chaotic elements resounds from the heart of each virulent maelstrom that plough the deeper layers of aural tolerance on the violent discharges of "Methodology 2", "Complete Actress" (featuring Caligula 031), the vicious "Preparatory Study" (feat.Gianluca Favaron) or the dreadful trephination on "Dubbing" - one of the two collaborative tracks with Paola Bandera's Sshe Retina Stimulants and dives into magnetic pools of post-industrial and dark-ambient on tracks like the increasingly disturbing "Cotton Pads" or "Summer Instructions" - both of them comes from the firm friendship with Simon Balestrazzi - or "The Teachers" - the other collaborative track with Bandera -. Altough the creative supply of his collaborators cannot be underrated, Corrado achieves outstanding quality standards of noiseshaping on this output.
Artist: Jess Rowland (@)
Title: Spambots
Format: CD
Label: Edgetone Records (@)
Rated: *****
Jess Rowland is an experimental electronic musician/composer from San Francisco. Here on this recording she is joined by drummer Pete Stalsky. 'Spambots' is not Jess's first walk in the park though as she has a number of releases preceding this one. Let me quote from the accompanying one-sheet "The Spambots have been tagged and released into the sonic ruins of consumer bliss point singularity... With! Many text-to-speech Spambots, Corporate Mascots, Smooth Jazz Damage, Data Mines, Foundation Pits, Melodies without notes . . . . and then the spambots attack." That might give you a better idea of what you're in for...sort of.

Opening track makes copious use of 'Mittens' Romney's infamous "corporations are people, my friend" soundbyte juxtaposed with the bizarre Chinglish "Exterminate Capitalism Lobster Package" phrase rendered by a female voice, both diced, sliced, slipping into an off kilter semi-melodic rhythm, and mixed with a cacophony of babbling voices towards the end. "Whose Pockets" features alternating two-tone bass, chewy electronic noise, weirdly melodic random sample & hold and another cacophony of babbling voices towards the end. Transmuting pop culture soundbytes into incoherent babble offset with quirky rhythms seems to be Jess's modus operandi here evidenced to the max on the title track, "Spambots". Hmmm...a new musical form out of media garbage? Maybe.

On "Plastiglomerate" Jess gets down to some serious electronic composition. Bass tones take the melodic lead in whalish sort of way while other echoed sonic effluvia bounces around it. Kinda psychedelic. "Invisibility" is an eerie, minimalistic piece with bass again taking the lead against a slow, repetitive sine wave tonal phrase. Minimal drums just sort of marking time from middle to end. Nice! "Hot Dog Acid" repeats the sampled phrase "I first dropped acid..." amidst a choppy, chaotic free jazz improv. We hear more of that acid story as the piece goes on. Part2 of "Hot Dog Acid" samples a loungey instrumental version of "Satin Doll" which morphs into an aural LSD trip as the acid hot dog story continues. "Satin Doll" makes a cameo reprise on the outro.

This kind of musical mayhem - cut, paste, staple, fold, mutilate, speed-up, slow-down, repeat, add weird electronics, abstract percussion, etc., carries on for the rest of the album, but you get the drift. It would be an interesting experiment (and I'm not advocating you should personally try this) to play this CD at a party where the guests are all imbibing hallucinogenic substances and see what reaction you might get. But perhaps 'Spambots' is hallucinogenic enough on its own, no drugs required. Interesting in small doses, unpredictable when swallowed whole.
Jan 14 2015
Artist: Nanovoice (@)
Title: I Sell Sex
Format: CD
Label: self-released
Rated: *****
Nanovoice is German band comprised of Mils - rapper, singer, songwriter/composer, show design, video production & visual effects; Sklas- singer, songwriter, composer & booking; Velroy- producer, composer, arranger & audio engineer; and Phillah- rapper, singer, songwriter, composer, video production & visual effects. Music is in the EBM/dark electro vein, with (you guessed it!) the rap component. It doesn't help that I don't much care for rap, no matter what musical stripe it's paired with. Well, okay, I did kind of like Nitzer Ebb back in the day, and that was sort of rap electro...good dance music but it gets old quickly. Add to that most of the rap lyrics by Nanovoice are done in German, and now I'm truly lost. But then again, we have the juxtaposition of Sklas's melodic voice, which although not particularly strong is very pleasant. She is most often relegated to supplementary parts, or the chorus vocals in English. From what I've seen of the videos on the band's website there is a strong fetish-sex/BDSM component to their visual presentation which permeates a good deal of their music as well. (The CD cover should have been a dead give-away.)

From the material on 'I Sell Sex' it's pretty obvious Nanovoice is a Berlin dark, decadent danceclub party band, intent on shocking their audience. I don't think it's shocking anyone inclined to give it a listen though, they're preaching to the perverted here. The music is decent dark electro, mostly synths and programmed beats, with the occasional dialogue sample thrown in for good measure. There are a few slower, ballad-type numbers, but the band is best when upbeat. I do like Sklas's voice, and she's even the sole vocalist on a few tracks. At least that adds some diversity. There are tracks where Mils sort of speak-sings the lyrics rather than raps, and this makes it a bit more palatable. Some songs are pretty catchy, but they'd be a lot more catchy if I could understand more than the chorus.

Bottom line, if you really want to appreciate this album, brush up on your Deutsche. And if the band wants to reach American audiences, sing/rap/speak in ENGLISH, for we are a still a mono-linguistic culture und das ist nicht etwa in absehbarer Zeit ändern, mein Freund.
Artist: The American Jobs
Title: Carne Levare
Format: 12"
Label: Savage Quality Recordings (@)
Rated: *****
The American Jobs is an outfit led by Nathan Reynolds of Columbus, Ohio. Here Nathan does all of the lead vocals, and plays keyboards, guitar and bass. Other members are Brad Hershfeldt - saxophone, percussion; and Aaron Klamut- bass, drums, guitar; with additional musicians Jan Burton - drums (on opening track "In Caves" only), and Ilanna Kristiansen, Chelsea Meckley, and Nikki Portman - backing vocals (on "Black Tar" only). 'Carne Levare' is their debut album on vinyl released by Savage Quality Recordings. The label describes them as "Dark experimental post-punk/art rock from Ohio that brings to mind early 4AD records, World Serpent Industries and Thirst-era Clock DVA. Gothic post-industrial psychedelia of the highest order!" No it's not. None of those labels would ever have given these guys a recording contract even in their early days.

From the opening track "In Caves" the record does sound like it was recorded in caves, drown in a miasma of reverb, a crawling, dismal sludgefest going nowhere slow...very slow. Is this a joke? Was I playing it at the wrong speed? Apparently not. "Velvet, Moss and Flies" shifts gears a little but not much. Heavier percussion and eastern overtones, still with Mr. Reynolds woeful baritone warbling. Imagine a talentless Brendan Perry and you have some idea. Psychedelic? A bit, but it's a batch of bad acid to be sure. "Black Tar" is aptly named and based on a "Smoke in the Water" (no, not the same notes, but similar in concept) style riff and augmented with some female backing vocals. I don't know exactly why, but this song makes me think of the Manson (Charles, not Marilyn) family singing 'round the campfire at Spahn Ranch prior to the Tate-LaBianca murders. "Grace" is just an awful, mournful moaning dirge with tweeting birds in the background.

Things don't get any better on side B. "Jailhouse" sounds like a practice session of the Velvet Underground in Lou Reed's quieter moments, but only if the band was stoned out on a mixture of heroin and hallucinogens. No point in going into the other four tracks on this side; I've had quite enough, than you. Recording quality is abysmal, but perhaps they were going for that sort of lo-fi sound. Weird thing is, some people are really going to like this. By some of things I've read, some people already do heralding it as great bleak postpunk/no wave. Just don't count me among them. One star for showing up, the other for releasing it on vinyl, for whatever that's worth.
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