Music Reviews

Artist: The Gentleman Losers (@)
Title: Make We Here Our Camp of Winter
Format: CD + Download
Label: Sound In Silence Records (@)
Rated: *****
The Gentleman Losers is the experimental musical group of brothers Samu and Ville Kuukka, based in Helsinki, Finland. Since their formation in 2004, they have released three albums and one EP on labels such as Büro, City Centre Offices, Grainy Records and Standard Form. ‘Make We Here Our Camp Of Winter’ is The Gentleman Losers’ fourth full-length album, featuring eight new compositions, most of which were written during the summer of 2018 at a cabin by a lake in southern Finland. All in all, this is a much more spontaneous record than previous ones. That's what the label says anyway, and I have to take it on faith since this is my first experience with this project.

Taking in the first track, "Shelter From the Rain," I thought I wasn't going to like this album very much as it predominantly seemed to be spacey, slidey guitar noodling. Boy was I ever wrong! What follow is much more interesting but makes this an extremely difficult album to categorize. While some might pigeon-hole it as experimental (the patently catch-all category for music that's kind of out there and doesn't neatly fit into the prescribed genres), I think the stigma of that term tends to imply a lack of form, a tendency towards noise, and a free-form approach, none of which are germane to this work. Aside from the aforementioned opening track, there is an intense attention to detail, content and atmosphere throughout the next seven tracks. While an aura of ambient can be heard at times, this is by no means an ambient album. With some occasional similarity to Eno's 'Music For Films,' (along with some other projects he's collaborated on) little thematic ideas are expressed through various electro-acoustic environments that seem isolated from the rest of the world. Nowhere is this more apparent to me than on third track, “Book of Leaves.” At times on this album you’ll hear a sustained guitar with Frippish overtones, but no Frippertronics; piano chordal progressions that don’t quite resolve, and fragmented melodies that appear as under-developed musical fragments. The overall tone is gentle and genial, but haunted with a melancholy wistfulness. And yes, there is a wintery feel, readily identifiable to me because it happens now to be winter here, snowy paths, chill winds and all. Repetition plays no small part in some of these pieces, but it's not the kind of repetition that tends to bore you to tears, but rather the kind that draws you in to an inescapable whirlpool of swirling memories. It is soundtrack-like without being cinematic as it lacks the broadness and bombast so often attributed to that term.

The one thing I didn't particularly care for was the rather frigid recitation by Oliver Whitehead on "Fish Roam in Winter Water" although it was thematically consistent with the album in general, to me it just cracked the atmosphere. The album ends rather inconclusively on the track "Bend Low Sweet Branch, Bend Low," which is perhaps the only way it should have ended. Some tracks are more engaging than others, but as a whole 'Make We Here Our Camp Of Winter’ is still a worthy work. Limited to 500 CDr copies.
Artist: Umber (@)
Title: This Earth To Another
Format: CD + Download
Label: Sound In Silence Records (@)
Rated: *****
Umber is Leicestershire, UK musician/composer Alex Steward's ambient project, and 'This Earth To Another' is his second full-length release after his 2013 debut, 'Sunshine Young,' also having several EPs and a remix album to his credit. For the most part, Umber's style is melodic ambient, or what I term Melambient. The melodies aren't as defined as you might hear in a song, but the melodic content is there nevertheless. Melambient is the closest thing to modern New Age, laid back and kind of drifty-dreamy. 'This Earth To Another' begins with shimmering drones ("Altered Fragments") but the melambient aspect kicks in with the title track which follows, subtly creeping in. Percussion, where used tends to be subdued, discreet and minimal. The electronics/keyboards are complimented by ambient acoustic guitar making for some sonic diversity. The blending of elements is possibly the best aspect of this work which flows together in a harmonious musical mandala that easily achieves a calming and restive mood. The one track that seemed most different also happened to be the longest - "Harvest (Slow)," which begins with a nice droney electronic ambience, but then fills up with ambient guitar overtones from the same, producing a trancey sort of meditative psychedelia. It's twelve minutes with little variation once it gets going, but you can close your eyes and imagine just about anything on the plane of tranquility while listening to it. "Grape and Grain" is likely the closest piece resembling a traditional song, largely due to the guitar chording. Closing with "Low Tide," Umber leaves you with a sweet, nostalgic feeling of someplace you know you've been but can't quite put your finger on. Unlike some ambient albums that just pass through you like water, 'This Earth To Another' will leave you with a subconscious wistful feeling that is bound to draw you back again and again. As is the case with most all Sound in Silence releases, this is a limited edition (200 copies) handmade and hand-numbered CDr packaged in a lovely hand-stamped light blue cardboard envelope with the front cover image printed on a polaroid style photo paper and an insert sheet containing tracklist and information. Includes unlimited streaming of the album plus high-quality download in MP3, FLAC and more.
Artist: Fred Und Luna
Title: Im Tiefenrausch
Format: LP
Label: Compost Records
According to the press release, “Fred und Luna are two mannequins living in a fashion boutique in Karlsruhe, Germany. They serve as muse for musician, lector, poet and photo/video maker Rainer Buchmüller.” It’s a concept that’s more than a little reminiscent of Kraftwerk, and while there’s certainly a Kraftwerk influence in the music here- spotted in the steady mesmeric light electro beats of “Rutsch Ins Grune” or the plinky-plonk melody of “Polytonikum” for example- musically it seems to owe more to the lighter side of 90’s electronica and chill-out, and which invites comparisons to other artists, usually in a good way.

It’s a collection of six-to-eight minute synth mostly-instrumental works built from steady soft rhythms and long single-note basslines, topped with lush chord pads and delicate, minimalist melodies, it often seems to recall some classic Global Underground tracks, or even the softer side of the Underground Beats series. At its most wistful, such as on track “So Weit Wie Moglich”, there are Tangerine Dream-esque elements as well.

The steady, relaxed travelling rhythms of “Im Element” are an endearing highlight, while the slightly quirky house of “Canacananda” brings to mind Juhl Krøse. The fourth side of the LP wanders into slightly jazzier territory- the super-casual mostly-spoken German vocal on “Nichtmusikalische Stadt Unter Schritten” (as on earlier track “Blues Im Gepack”) reminds me of some Yello, and works well with some forgivably louche keys and an utterly lovely low stepping bassline. The piano on “Dolcefarnientex” is both a feel-good comfort and the album’s most unique-sounding moments and the saxophone on final track “Das Ist Halt So” tells us that the descent into electro-jazz is complete!

While it might not be awash with originality, nor with attention-grabbing dynamism, what you get here is a confident 78 minutes of lush and laidback electronica, perfect for backgrounds, walking, or otherwise steadying the heart rate, and it accomplishes that job very well.
Jan 31 2019
Artist: Pedro Vian
Title: s/t
Format: LP
Label: Modern Obscure Music
For his second LP Pedro Vian notes that he does not like “the overproduction of music”, and while that might potentially have been used as an excuse for something undercooked, here the simplicity of the instrumental downtempo electronica, built with a restrained use of layers and only a smattering of effects, is to its credit.

Icy synthetic melodies and pads dominate, while gentle, light-footed and sometimes unusual-sounding electronic beats, like the brooding post-dubstep of “Similar Faces”, are sometimes foregone in favour of more ambient pieces like “Platja”. Other tracks, like “San Morits” or the slightly edgier “Acid Brut”, are a little closer to house and contenders for inclusion in the most mellow and minimal of DJ sets. Some of the shorter tracks serve more like interludes, like the gently discordant “Desmai” which wraps up the first side of the LP nicely.

Highlights include “Seneca”, on which the soft vocals of Laia Nada guest to warming effect, and the strangely named “Tribute to Ligeti”, which doesn’t sound anything like the Gyorgy Ligeti drone I’d justifiably been expected, but instead is a lovely steady rolling house number to close on.

It’s a really nicely moderated and marginally introspective electronica LP with a nice balance of consistency and breadth, and really very pleasant.
Artist: Spookshow Inc. (@)
Title: Visions of the Blinded World pt. I & II
Format: 2 x CD (double CD)
Label: Thunder of the Distant Planet Records
Distributor: Bandcamp
Rated: *****
We already introduced this multi-international Electro-/Metal-Crossover-project almost 5 years before with its debut "Visions of the Blinded World pt. I". So this new double-CD is the follow-up release presenting again the reworked debut album plus the new and second chapter of their "Visions" release series. Spookshow Inc. is a productive trio consisting of the Norwegian-based mastermind Lucky Spook (composing & production) and his two Lithuanian-based comrades Soltex (vocals) and Sharaz (drums / bass).
Musically relying on idols like Rob Zombie, Skinny Puppy, Die Krupps or The Prodigy this trio creates a multi-facetted outfit which is a bit challenging to describe properly. And with all respect to their wide-ranging musically horizon, any comparion to the before mentioned global players would be unfair.
While the second part of their "Visions" trilogy has been produced between 2014 to 2018 and mastered in Vilnius, LT, it is also worth to have a detailed look back on the first part. Part I has been received two new bonus tracks with "Seven Trumpets", a true epic Industrial-Metal gem and "Lizard Eyes", which also allows some relaxing but still thrilling moments. Two further tracks received a rework treatment, "Game of Delusion" has received a new chorus, while "Dead Shot Baby" has been extended and revamped in collaboration with the US-based Subliminal Mentality. Still all good and quality stuff presented on here and the more I listen to it the more it becomes familiar.

Nevertheless my main interest belongs on the new second part of "Visions of the Blinded World". While continuing their musically expression into the wide field of Industrial-Metal music, it it obviously and easily recognizeable, that Spookshow Inc. have developed in their style. To me their newer tracks come out more matured and their more experimental textures somehow are fitting better and better. "Virtual Insanity" starts of with pumping breakbeats and Soltex' angry vocals. "Devil's Triangle" also warms the Industrial-minded heart with its grinding guitar riffs, while "Mindgame (feat. XRC)" leads into a more darker, experimental-oriented outfit with some chirpy acoustic-guitar inserts. Yes, their more experimental-minded tracks, which also vary between tempo and mood, show their real talent and potential behind this project. "Prison Planet" is another bright example which slanders between mysterious sample-work, various different rhythmic elements and multiple vocal inserts. "Falling Down pt I" is to my surprise featured on this newer second album, while the part II of this track was to me one of the highlights on the first "Visions of the Blinded World" album. As for naming another highlight, "Match of the Century / A. Crowley vs. A. Einstein" describing a virtual chess game between the both protagonists comes easily to mind.

"Visions of the Blinded World pt. I & II" in its beautiful-styled DCD package isn't your typically Industrial-Metal album to use as your daily background noise. It is much more! It is a challenging adventure into quite different moods which this music style has richly to offer and it needs a bit time and attention of the lsitener to be able to pick-up only a glimpse of the content. A fabulous spookshow, gentlemen, keep it on!

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