Music Reviews

Artist: Locust
Title: After The Rain
Format: CD
Label: Editions Mego (@)
Rated: *****
Not to be confused with the San Diego-based bluntly grindcore band, Mark Van Hoen's Locust comes back on the high-quality catalogue of Editions Mego! Even if I didn't speak about it, "You'll Be Safe Forever", the album by which they landed on Peter Rehberg's label a couple of years ago, didn't manage to intrigue me like "After The Rain". Besides the presence of authentic masterpieces like "Fall From Me", "Just Want You", "Do Not Fear" or the dark catharsis of "Corporal Genesis" - the moment when traces of Mark's glorious past as a member of Mark Clifford's Seefeel more clearly resurfaced -, the former album included so many hints to 90ies golden age of electronic music that listeners could feel it lacked in homogeneity in a certain sense. Even if many moments of "After The Rain" sound like a memorabilia from past listenings and although that emotional substrate where nostalgia turns into sweetest melancholy and vice versa doesn't really differs from "You'll Be Safe Forever", these aspects don't tarnish its intrinsic consistency. Well-learned listeners could match some tracks to the symphonic breathes of Tangerine Dream, the youngest releases by In The Nursery (particularly on "Under Still Waters", which features spoken voice by Julie Manescau), the languorous rapture of some synthetic digressions by Harold Budd or even some similarities to Archive's stuff ("Downlands", "To Lonely Shores"), but the stream of consciousness that Locust manages to inspire into listeners since the opening "Snowblind" - thanks to the precious support of Louis Sherman, whose sound machines often revive European 70's electronic music, Mark's formative influences according to his own words, and the seraphic and deeply heart-rending vocals by Celeste Griffin and Candace Miller - and the reduction of the specific gravity of programming, due to the fact it was entirely live recorded, are just some elements of this work of art. Your headphones are going to disclose the other ones.
Artist: Gabriel Saloman (@)
Title: Movement Building Vol. 1
Format: 12"
Label: Shelter Press (@)
Rated: *****
His previous album "Soldier's Requiem" on Erik Skodvin'd Miasmah deeply captured my imagination as well as the imagination of many listeners a couple of years ago and I think that this new release by Vancouver-based guitarist Gabriel Saloman, one of the former wings of Yellow Swans alongside Pete Swanson. As many listeners already knowws, Gabriel followed completely different explorative paths to the ones that his former partner-in-art, who kept on diving into sonic explorations over rougher water, has beaten, but the choice of more etheric sonorities should stand for happy-making perceptions: the two-tone waves and the gradual implantation of other faint whispers over a background noise in between the noise of distant traffic and stormy waters has a somehow sinister nuances; the sprays of snare drums and other resonances sound like a dampened incitement to react against an oppressive flatness, even if this dynamic element paradoxically seems to amplify the creeeping friction of the sound, also when it sound like flowing on the second half of "The Disciplined Body". The cracks of the first that he opened on the first part seem to get filled by antacid, but still anxious, sonorities of the second part on the flipside, which almost renders the somehow tragic increased awareness that follows the tempered enthusiasm of a nascent state as well as a drifting heart-rending return to life.
Artist: Origami Arktika (@)
Title: Absolut Gehör
Format: Download Only (MP3 only)
Label: Silber Records (@)
At a slithering and supple momentum from the moment playback begins, the textured improvisations of 'Ro og hamle', the first piece on Absolut Gehör, are at once busy and gentle, attentive and restrained. "[Eight] men are playing," reveal the sleeve notes, "but softly". An analogy of rowing, a practice typically characterised by facing away from the journey forward, underpins the piece. The aim seems to have been to approximate a tentative, sightless navigation of the Northern seas so central to Norway's cultural history. The path is a meandering one with no clear trajectory, the interaction between the eight musicians adapting continuously, if gradually, and perhaps with an affected uncertainty. But every new step feels natural and harmonious, calling to mind the simultaneous sameness and ceaseless variation of the topical landscape. Ice, jagged shores and hills viewed from afar, fog and the awe-inspiring depths and temperaments of the sea.
When it comes to actual sonic associations, one very welcome image that endures throughout parts of the album is that of creaking, ancient wooden nautical machinery, such as oars. Gentle rattling of bells and a wide array of other items - including what sound like dinner plates - augment this setting, bridging percussive treble grain and set sound design. Very seldom is there a straightforward passage without soft rustles, clatters, scratches, things bowed and otherwise played.

Norwegian folklore and poetry - some of it very old, some as recent as the 1800s - underscores the entirety of this LP, by the beautifully named Origami Arktika (an offshoot of the networked collective Origami Republika, whose 'agents' now number more than three hundred). Absolut Gehör sees Origami Arktika articulating wistful, traditional songs within their own sprawling, improvised arrangements. 'Ro og hamle' is altogether original, but entirely consistent with its neighbours. The sound is articulated in a tenebrous, lo-fi mix of drums, droning guitar (e.g. 'Háttalykill'), bass, a considerable variety of instruments and a whole host of unknown activities and manipulations, all by and large tastefully applied. Over these warble the voice of the band's singer (though all personnel are listed in the sleeve notes, their roles remain unspecified), who demonstrates a studied skill in interpreting traditional balladry. He has a fine voice, dexterous and capable but also light; semi-spoken and unimposing.
Each song might rather unhelpfully be summarised as jazzy, improvised drone-folk, while the singer's style remains rigidly constant throughout. Yet no two numbers are really alike. 'Bryggja te jol' and 'Tora liti' make the most use of guitar - or at least guitar pedals - the former swelling into a formidable, droning climax and the latter revolving around a bristling set of metallic strums, with such a satisfying tone. Penultimate, eleven-minute 'Det syng for Storegut' is irresistible, with a funky brushed rhythm and locked bassline providing a more canonically modern context for the vocals. The brief, conclusive 'Skonde dig du jente - lurlokk' consists of almost-solo voice accompanied by discrete noises, which drop out with the vocal rests, framing the lines with a pondering silence.

The album's stark artwork comprises a series of contorted, deep red prints by Guttorm Nordoe. Described as "otherworldly" in the booklet, they definitely suggest elements of the fantastic, with inscrutable and misshapen unions of human- and beast-like characters. Yet these subjects also manage, probably intentionally, with their slight limbs and solid colouration, to evoke ancient cave paintings such as those found in Alta, Norway.

An intuitive and very impressive insight into what seems to be only a tiny fragment of the huge, varied and open Origami Republika collective. Certainly the most successful experimental folk album I've heard in a while.
Artist: Geins't Naït & L. Petitgand (@)
Title: Je vous dis
Format: CD
Label: Ici d'ailleurs (@)
Rated: *****
Geins't Naït is Thierry Merigout in collaboration with Laurent Petitgand, both from France. Geins't Naït has a number of previous releases going back to 1986, and prior to that, Thierry was a drummer with Kas Product on their 1981 tour. Laurent Petitgand is a multi-instrumentalist and actor who has worked on many soundtracks for theatre and also ballet. One you may know is Wim Wenders' 'Wings of Desire'. While the music of Geins't Naït is on the experimental/industrial side, Petitgand provides a more musical approach, though I'd hardly call it mainstream. These two have collaborated previously, on ' Si J'avais Su, J'aurais Rien Dit' back in 2011. Never having heard any of their music previously (except for Pettigand's contributions on the 'Wings of Desire' soundtrack), I was quite unprepared for what I heard on this album.

'Je vous dis' ('I Tell You') is an enigma wrapped in a puzzle. There is no easy way to describe this album; it so defies any genre categorization. It starts out with some kind of wind instruments that reminds me of Swiss horns but higher in tone with an effluvia of various electronic sonics, a wavering string drone, then a plodding industrial beat with various other musical snippets interspersed and an occasional warped vocal. A dark industrial drone loop begins the next track, then a piano playing a melancholy melodic theme with a vocoder-processed one-word vocal loop, other glitchy industrial percussive sounds, and so it goes. Third track "Iroshima" is the closest thing to a real song yet, with vocoder vocals, delicate guitar work, looped electronic percussion track and some kind of bass. Simply melodic yet kind of psychedelic, ultimately beautiful in its post-industrial way. 'Reste á la fenetre' is comprised of broken piano melody, sparse accordian riffs, a fast repeating synth-organ arpeggio, drum beat with light percussion loop in the background, occasional distorted French vocal, synth voices, wild LFO oscillations, choral synth, thrown together like some musical stew made of leftovers from another era. Title track "Je vous dis" offers an achingly beautiful piano melody against a strong industrial beat amplified with a compressed wall of distorted guitar and a raving Frenchman with tinkling percussion in the background. Midway through, saxophones riff off the piano melody and eventually the industrial ambience dies down leaving piano and saxophones with some of the tinkling percussion. It's like Erik Satie in the devil's workshop, and for those who really know Satie, not far off the mark.

"Jm Massou" uses a weird industrial rhythmic loop and electronics, while some French dude speaks conversationally then out of nowhere, breaks into a song. Transmitted radio chatter and something akin to a mellotron plays chordally in the background. really bizarre. It all dies down leaving some muted synth pads and the voice of the Frenchman, sometimes talking, sometimes singing. In "kkkk" a repeated muted, repeated ascending/descending chordal synth pattern plays behind a jarring clink/clank industrial loop accompanying a slow, low-key industrial rhythm track, interspersed with bursts of static-noise while tinkling bells play an odd melody. At the same time we get some odd-voiced conversation in French, and other unidentifiable electronic sounds. It all makes absolutely no sense whatsoever. The finale, "SMOSN" works much better, firmly establishing a mechanical groove Played off of by an array of different instruments and a really twisted vocal with other strange vocal samples interjected. Imagine the Residents jamming with Alien Sex Fiend and you get a slight idea of what's going on here.

So is this melding of the warped avant garde industrial and something more conventionally musical successful? Truth be told, I really don't know. There are moments when it seems to achieve brilliance, and others just too far out to fathom. I think 'Je vous dis' suffers from trying to go in too many directions at once. The first time I heard it I was floored. Subsequent listenings proved a little disappointing. This is something you really need to make up your own mind about, and to that end, it's worth a listen, if only once.
Artist: IRM (@)
Title: Closure
Format: CD
Label: Malignant Records (@)
Rated: *****
You probably already know that IRM is Martin Bladh, Erik Jahrl, and Mikael Oretoft of Sweden, and that they are an industrial noise/power electronics outfit that have been around since the late 90's. For those who need a stylistic frame of reference, think Brighter death Now. 'Closure' is the last chapter of a trilogy which began with 'Indications of Nigredo' (12"), continued with 'Order4' (CD) and ends here with this one. Along the way IRM has been refining its technique and changing direction a bit which was hinted at on 'Order4'. 'Closure' paints a new picture for IRM, one that is bound to leave a lasting impression and could even be taken as their "masterpiece". Divided into 9 tracks ("Closure I-IX"), the listener's attention is gotten with three thudding bangs accompanied by an old style TV drone tone, then the processed vocal and a mix of electronic noise comes in. Processing on the voice is a heavy wavering flanging that garble the voice for understanding the words but not the malevolent feeling behind it. Towards the end of this first track the voice engages in some type of indecipherable chanting audible in the background. This blends seamlessly into the next track, a blend of noise and mournful electronic cries and the processed voice returns. Syllables are drawn out for effect in a dramatic infernal recitation. If you want to know what that voice is saying, you can follow along with the lyrics in the 20 page booklet accompanying the CD. The scene changes dramatically in part 3, as you hear a slowly ticking clock or metronome the ambience of a crowd and morose narration (in a normal and unprocessed voice) describing a strange theatrical event while an intermittent ringing tone plays over some melancholy bass guitar playing. You suddenly realize that the narrator is an assassin who shoots the actor on the stage who is himself! It's a nightmare sequence that unfolds in sublime horror accompanied by sobs of various voices. The performance then being over, the spotlight goes out, the audience leaves and we are left with waves of noise, a music box playing an old march melody winding down, and a low, murmuring chanting voice with various ephemeral clattering noises.

The processed voice returns again reciting "cranium-crack-hammer, temple=blast-wall, lead-brain-flow, hung-sinew-chord, loose-car-thread, scratch-scale-line...DEAD-TIME-BLIND, DEAD-TIME-ONAN..." and more, to a slow doom beat and ringing tone in the background. This in itself is quite theatrical. Part 5 sounds like the eternal wail of souls punctuated by death knell thuds with various pitches of electronic noise drones ending with a decrepit voice singing about "a hellhound on my trail". Part 6 has a thrumming machine beat loop and singular sine wave drone while an interviewer asks stock one-word questions (name, alias, sex, age height, weight, etc.) and the respondent gives vague but surprising one-word answers. It could almost be a word association game. Another more piercing electronic drone tone takes over and then breaks into Part 7 with a blast of cacophonous noise and another recitation from the processed voice. I won't quote the words, but suffice to say the lyrics are rather morbid, to say the least. The noise blasts even more intensely at the end and the garbled voice is drown in an electronic storm. Part 8 takes us back to that theatrical event from Part 3 but with a completely different perspective. Part 9 is a reprise of Part 4, again from another perspective, more on the lunatic fringe order of things. I should mention that the work of guest percussionist Ulrik Nilsson is excellent throughout where he is employed, and another guest on this album is English cellist Jo Quail, but I was hard-pressed to pick her out amidst the chaotic sonics.

This is indeed one weighty opus. For industrial noise fans who are looking for something quite out of the ordinary, 'Closure' is surely your ticket to ride. IRM have raised the bar so to speak in the genre, and no description I can provide can come close to experiencing it for yourself.
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