Music Reviews



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Artist: Neznamo / Siyanie (@)
Title: Sonans
Format: CD
Label: Moonsun (@)
Rated: *****
I was already familiar with Siyanie's work, but Neznamo was new to me. I am always interested to hear collaborations to see what parts become foregrounded from each act. The label explains that this was the result of a live improvisation recorded at the Otgoloski Festival in 2011 and describes it as 'lo-fi drone ambient.' The album consists of one 41 minute track, which makes sense considering its origin. This has a kind of ethnoambient feel to it; there is some nice drone with percussion elements and noise. However, I didn't find it to be as lush as Siyanie's solo work. This sounded sort of thin by comparison. Of course there is less that one can accomplish in a live setting without resorting to a lot of backup tapes, so this is understandable. It also began to get somewhat repetitive toward the end, almost as if you were trapped in a locked groove. This album weighs in at around 41 minutes and is limited to 111 copies.
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Artist: Siyanie (@)
Title: Shining of Unity
Format: CD
Label: Moonsun (@)
Rated: *****
Siyanie is the work of Segey Ilchuk, formerly of Vresnit. I had previously reviewed the collaboration between Vresnit & Kshatriy, so I had some idea of what I would be in for. This is really peaceful ambient work that allows you to drift off into your own thoughts. If I could describe this in one word, it would be 'contemplative.' The music reminds me of Vidna Obmana's 'River of Appearance,' with shimmering drone. When there are vocals (e.g., on 'Sunrise Lullaby'), they are slow and gentle. If you think that you're going to be delving into dark ambient because of his collaboration with Kshatriy, you're in for a surprise. Really calm, but very good. This album weighs in at around 57 minutes and is limited to 300 copies.
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Artist: Alexander Vatagin (@)
Title: Serza
Format: CD
Label: Valeot Records (@)
Rated: *****
Austria-based Alexander Vatagin is a busy man. In addition to running Valeot Records, he has also played with acts such as Port-Royal, Tupolev, Quarz and several other projects. And then there is his solo work, of which this is his third release. According to the label, Serza features 'a huge spectrum of common as well as unusual instruments, it takes you on a thirty minute trip full of delicate melodies, pushing drums, gentle noise, swirling celli, warm vibraphone chimes and sweet piano tunes.' I found this to be a strange mix of This Mortal Coil-like orchestrations mixed with noisy elements. It never gets too in your face with the noise ' just noisy. We have here a nice blend of calm, peaceful music and dissonance coexisting nicely together. Nice work. This album weighs in at around 30 minutes.
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Artist: Total Normal (@)
Title: Tales of the Expected
Format: CD
Label: Momental Records
Rated: *****
I always read the press sheets to get a sense of what the artist thinks that their music is supposed to be. Sometimes I read it before, sometimes after. This time I read it before, and had to call BS on this line when I heard the album: 'his composition methods under Total Normal can be considered acousmatic. Sampling is used for a found sound's intrinsic qualities, as an objet sonore, and not for its anecdotal or referential value.' Um.... yeah. That's why you lifted large parts of Bill Cosby's 'Junior Barnes' routine. Don't get me wrong ' it's a great sketch, but between that and the heavy sampling of Mr. Sandman (on the appropriately titled song) and more Bill Cosby with 'Froofie the Dog,' I could almost hear the cease and desist letters being written. Of course you're using it for its referential value. Plunderphonics is fine on its own merits without trying to sanitize it. That's what makes Negativland so brilliant ' they repurpose that referential value. So now with that rant out of the way, let's get to the music. Total Normal is the work of Paris-based Thierry Vaudor. As you may have figured, sampling plays a big part here. The press sheet describes the album as 'on the fringe of experimental, electroacoustic, post-rock, psychedelic, exotica and spoken word.' There are several different styles here, but all of it has a kind of retro feel to it. The opening track sounds like a modern day Henry Mancini, which then in the next few tracks adds a touch of Meat Beat Manifesto. 'The Trip to the Moon' has a lounge feel with a touch of acid jazz, while others ('Better Tell Me John' and 'Soft Cage') go for a more exotic feel. 'L'orfeo' takes us on a weird pitch bent and reversed trip. Overall, this wasn't bad, but didn't really blow me away. If you wish that Negativland was more retro, this could be up your alley. This album weighs in at around 61 minutes.
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Artist: Djam Karet (@)
Title: The Trip
Format: CD
Label: HC Productions
Rated: *****
You have to love a band who draws inspiration from 1970s 'stoner albums.' Djam Karet has been around for 30 years now, providing their take on the jam band. On this album, the press sheet states that 'The Trip' 'takes listeners on a psychedelic journey through the mind's eye. The unique offering is literally the soundtrack of a journey to places both familiar and otherworldly.' This is one 47 minute track of everything you would imagine. Improv jazz, mellow guitar, space age bachelor pad music with some electronic bleeps and bloops thrown in, and some prog rock guitar solos thrown in for good measure. About a quarter of the way through we kick into a pretty rockin' section. To paraphrase an old commercial, 'You got your prog rock in my jazz!' 'No, you got your jazz in my prog rock!' But like the aforementioned commercial, this is two great tastes that taste great together. This is a fun ride and it hangs well together. I can't help but think that this would be even better live. This album weighs in at around 47 minutes.
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