Music Reviews



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Artist: Khotin
Title: Beautiful You
Format: LP
Label: Ghostly International
“Beautiful You” is an off-beat, downtempo, fairly balearic chill-out album from an artist with more pedigree in danceable material. In amongst the familiar sounds of birdsong (quite a lot of it), lapping waves, soft and leisurely organic hand-drum patterns, soft positive-sounding melodic synth pads and so on, are layered slightly more off-kilter sounds- detuned and processed pianos in the opening tracks, odd and slightly grating telemarketing samples in “Vacation”, and more electro-style beats on “Alla’s Scans”.

At its peak points, it channels the ambient house vibe of the 90’s into detailed, thoughtful electronica. Final track “Planet B” is particularly endearing, while the decidedly Wagon Christ-ish tones of “Dwellberry” are very pleasing as well. “Merged Host” is strongly reminiscent of some old Irresistible Force tracks, while the keys on “Somehow More Sad” make its broodiness just a shade more jazzy.

However at other points it could be accused of being a little ‘nothing-y’, as while it oozes a calm charm, in the flatter more sunbathing-house tracks like “Looping Good” it does feel a little short on ideas or on attention to detail. A sweet but perhaps just slightly too forgettable chill-out hour.
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Artist: Kalabrese
Title: Let Me Be Your Princess
Format: 12" vinyl + Download
Label: Zukunft Recordings
Zurich-based veteran producer Kalabrese is back with another assured three-track EP taking a fairly familiar but reliable formula. Essentially deep house structures, grooves stripped down and laid out with a confident flatness, are decorated with somewhat indie-ish male vocals (that put me in mind of Chris Rea for some reason), and some squelchy acid bleeps for decoration.

First track “Let Me Be Your Princess” is a steady complete journey that in one way seems to throw back to the classic early days of the extended mix, knowing full well that the right groove and very gradual change is sometimes all you need. With a gender-relaxed lyric which I’m fairly sure is saying “let me be your Santa” quite a lot, I guess it could also qualify as a Christmas record…?

“Dance Yourself Clean” ups the indie flavour, still maintaining the groove but in a more definite song structure with more of a live funk feel, and while the same elements are all still there in similar measure, somehow the result feels more dated. Both this and final track “Ligestuetz”, which foregrounds Lara Stoll’s spoken German tones, wouldn’t have sounded out of place on a mid-noughties ‘indie rocks’ compilation alongside Soulwax or DFA.

The title track is certainly the standout but it’s a confident and fairly satisfying release that falls quite far into the old “dance music for indie kids that don’t like dance music” territory.
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Artist: Anthony Pateras
Title: Collected Works Vol. II (2005-2018)
Format: CD + Download
Label: Immediata
This extensive 5CD, five-and-a-bit hour set methodically selects from Pateras’ back catalogue based on three categories, with either one or two discs for each. This has the effect of producing five compilation albums which have their own distinct character- you can certainly find a favourite disc and a least favourite disc- but which are fundamentally all based on the same principles- long, drawn-out avantgarde experimental and classical works blending organic and orchestral elements with some electronics and post-production trickery to generate long, drawn-out, deep and usually quite velvety sonic landscapes that are writ large and explored in detail.

First disc “Solo & Electronics [A]” represents some of the more ‘cosy’, intimate works, a collection of warm ten-minute drones and melodic blankets that- with the exception of the slightly squealy “Burning Is The Thing”- is decidedly relaxing and welcoming. “Solo & Electronics [B]”, the fourth disc, is perhaps a touch more sinister, with pieces like “Rules Of Extraction” making heavy use of high-pitched teeth-gritting tones that cut straight to discomfort and alienation. “TamTam +”’s low hum and distant industrialism is a highlight, as is the back-and-forth of electronics with Jessica Aszodi’s soprano vocal work in “Prayer For Nil”.

Second disc “Improvising Ensemble [A]” is slightly more purist, consisting of only two pieces, one of them over fifty minutes long, in which the live ensemble paints waves of sound that ebb gently and woozily. It’s reminiscent of Lygeti in parts, as is “Artifacts Of Translation”. Shorter piece “As Long As Breath Or Bow” has the edge though, with a masterful twenty-minute display of slow tension building. By contrast “Improvising Ensemble [B]” is made up of more impulsive pieces, such as the almost cheekily delivered and playful “Onetetradecagon”, certainly the most fun-to-play piece in this set- although the various parts of “Fragments Splinters & Shards”, which exhibit more of a leaning towards modern electronica, must also have been up there.

Third disc “Trios” opens with a series of short works for vibraphone and antique cymbals, a high-pitched and strangely itchy anti-groove affair. The first longer work has the same spiky tone transposed onto guitar and prepared piano, leaving “Three Mirrors”’s unusual interplay of eccentric saxophone work with electonic clicks as the most palatable part of arguably the least accessible disc.

I was thoroughly swayed by the opening disc and there’s a wealth of long, in-depth pieces to really get your teeth into here. It’s not all spectacular- the “Trios” disc in particular left me a little cold- but otherwise it’s a broad and very respectful anthology of work from a prolific composer with character.
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Artist: Gintas K (@)
Title: M
Format: CD
Label: gk rec. (@)
Rated: *****
Gintas Kraptaviius is a Lithuanian composer whose opus stands along the path of certain experimental music whose macro-category is microsound. Rather than being based on samples or loops, his music is based on small sounds which seems generated by tone or noise generators and their duration is usually small enough to be perceived as an isolated sound cell as a note.
This release collects two pieces: "M", in six sections, from 2012 and "Mimicry", from 2017, is in eleven sections. "M" starts with a long first section which with his almost eighteen minutes is more than half of the total length, which oscillates between complex noisy parts without any intention to create and quieter ones based on carefully crafted tones. Even when, as in the second or in the last section, fragments of melody appears, this is balanced by the other section where the shaping of sound and the overall architecture of sound events is prevalent. "Mimicry" is a more fragmented track as even rhythmic patterns appear, as in the third section, or drone, as in the fourth one, and pure silence as background, as in the ninth; the use of computer's possibility to create sounds is matched by a concept of structure where event seems more important than path.
The overall result is a complex auditory experience where the listener is called to a effort of comprehension towards something whose form is apparently chaotic and distant from the comforting cliché of the genre. It's not for everyone but it's a rewarding listening.
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Artist: Agencies (@)
Title: Drones
Format: Download Only (MP3 + Lossless)
Label: self-released
Somewhere between the sombre, darker moods, the brighter, mellifluous and the more meditative--resides Agencies, an ambient project whose key ingredient are, but not limited to, drones. Rather, Drones features billowing ambient and dense mist that form a kind of canvas where field recording fragments and bass tones fleetingly materialize and then dissolve into the ether. The listening experience is akin to dreams where moments come from and disappear into nothingness. While each track is fresh, they are not without touchstones. Tracks like "Ghost Mittens" are akin to Ghosts on Magnetic Tape by Bass Communion, for they share eerie, long, drawn-out tones with low end tremors and rather spooky melodic overtones. "Lullaby for the Blind" too is on the darker end of the spectrum with a similar gloomy mood, yet with a bit of an experimental Teutonic edge that channels Thomas Koner. In contrast, "Undercurrent" and "Landmarks of Nothing" are gently uplifting and serene with hints of secret joy that recalls the ambient-drone project, Celer. "Follow Me" has a cyclical sound that could be a bicycle or perhaps even a prayer wheel from a Tibetan Buddhist monastery while the long drawn tones evoke the dusty villages of Nepal or India where monks sit patiently before empty alms bowls. "The Secrets of Your Mind" suggests the same for the sustained bell-like tones accompanied with rushing noises that could be the wind or a series of prayer wheels in unison. While Celer has a connection with Tibetan Buddhism, it is not clear what connections Agencies has, so listener are free to draw their own analogies. "Good Morning Heartache" and Tarwater" has a more cinematic bent wherein ambient washes are layered like billowing silk scarves that set the canvas for sharper bass tones that give overall shape and emotion to the piece. Track by track, this release engages in a spectrum of emotions and textures that lead to a rich and varied listening experience. Drones is not so much an album to listen to as immerse and submit fully, like a dream state.
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