Music Reviews

Artist: Luciano Maggiore & Francesco Brasini (@)
Title: How to Increase Light in the Ear
Format: CD
Label: Boring Machines (@)
Rated: *****
Both the title these Italian sonic surfers chose for their second release on Boring Machines and the tuning sounds of the very first minutes of the two very long untitled tracks they assembled to increase light in the ear could remind those "therapies" with electricity some psychiatrists experimented in order to heal some mental diseases, particularly in the first decades of last century, an association which could come to mind by means of the buzzing, which is quite similar to the one neon lamps emit in hospital's wards. Afterwards, you will notice that these guys manage to "fray" this kind of electric whiz by stretching frequencies, occasional sharpening noises and inserting tones in order to shape the initial sonic stream; while the first track sounds focused on the insertion of mechanical cracks in the foggy, but somewhat bating flow, the second track looks like an eruptive process, based on the camouflage of an obsessive click/clock with three different covers of microtonal frequencies before the underlying loud bass tone, which sounded like a distant rumble, boisterously floods in the headphones. Even if this collaboration by electronic pioneer Luciano Maggiore - member of Phonorama, an improvisation ensemble with a turn out of some of the most talented Italian electronic musicians, one of the founders of the secret venue "Sant'Andrea degli amplificatori", whose sonic research's mainly oriented to the use of magnetic tapes, electrical devices, saturation levels through speakers and sound-data - and Francesco Brasini - hyperactive guitarist and sound researcher, who is hooked on self-building of prototypes of guitars, basses, analog effects and valve-amplifiers - has been introduced as a duo, it is clear that the amalgamation of their flows by Mattia Dallara on the mixing board is so essential that he could be considered the third element. Such a release could sound not properly an easy listening one for all those people who are not accustomed to the so-called post-serial avantgarde style, but I'm pretty sure the experience this duo/trio is offering might bring them many delightful moments and neuronal pleasure as well.
Artist: Outworld (@)
Title: Hidden Evolution Path
Format: CD
Label: self-released
Distributor: CDBaby
Rated: *****
Some might say that the unbelievable success of projects like Alien Vampires would animate several projects to express their musically path in a similar way. Also Outworld, a trio hailing out of the very south of Italy (San Severo / FG) have a past, which has its roots in a Metal-related sound-outfit, until the members decided in 2002 to establish this music-project to storm the dimension of a more Electronica-/Industrial sound-design. So far this plan has been followed with limited success and to be fair enough, I need to say in advance, that their music mixture isn't free of the notorious, nearly hatred 00ntz-00ntz attitude ('Distant Future'), which still infects authentic EBM / Dark Electro with Trance-/Techno-driven virus internationally. But - and not to lead this review in unnecessary negativity - these Italo-gentlemen have some good and own ideas plus they come up here and there with attitude, which could help them to reach a wide audience and to bridge mediocrity. 'Hidden Evolution Path' is already the fourth album of this band-project and offers some satisfying tracks with 'Scarring Memories' for example, this tune present crafty EBM bass lines and a sound-design knocking at VAC's door for entrance. Also the opulent arrangements of 'We Fall All Alone' bring a smile on the face of the listeners - dancefloor-compatibility included. Constructive criticism should be mentioned too: I would recommend them to continue generally in this direction, while a little bit help regarding professional mastering / polishing of some sound ideas wouldn't be a wrong idea. The vocals are following a bit too often that 'cookie-monster-through-whisper-box' attitude, also here a bit more own initiative can be helpful. There is nothing to complain regarding their artwork which features a text-/lyric-book and their overall dark and haunting presentation. I must admit that haven't heard of them before, so all I can rate starts with 'Hidden Evolution Path', but since they are a three-men-outfit, how are the things and reactions regarding live performances?
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Artist: Titans
Title: For the long Gone
Format: CD
Label: Progress Productions (@)
Distributor: Broken Silence
Rated: *****
A 3-men-collective from Sweden/USA and I remember to be quite entertained by their first EP 'All There Is', which came out nearly at Christmas day 2010. Musically they can be generally sorted into the Synth-/Electropop-genre, although they here and there like to give some harder dancefloor-compatible stuff more focussing to present straight old-school EBM-like bass line sequences. Globally I like their skilful sound programming and the calm, nearly sedating vocal performance. That 16tel bass-line programming is one of their most remarkable abilities and more or less always present - it allows them to enter a more late-80s/early-90s-inspired Pop-/Wave-/ Romantic-affiliation instead to be inspired by too often repetitive newer hypes - and that is not a bad reference in my book. The production of course fulfils all needs of Audiophiles. 'All There Is' may also here counts to the more calm and melodic highlights asides 'My Sorrow' - while that compilation appearance ('Born/Evolve/Progress 3') 'Dried Out' deserves a mention as well. Titans are far away to be a renovator of the scene but I would recommend checking their album out at a long car trip - their calm and unobtrusive sound programming, the well sounding male vocals, the crystal-clear production with a top-notch mastering by Hakan Ãkesson at Mutidstudio results in a good album worth a check.
Artist: Helm
Title: My Passenger
Format: Download Only (MP3 + Lossless)
Label: Substream (@)
Distributor: iTunes
Rated: *****
Surprising release by the Swedish cult-label Substream: This Swedish four-member outfit hailing out of Gothenburg and Eskilstuna, delivers a 2-track download-only release following pretty much the idea of a vinyl 7 inch release - and - damn it - I wish they would immediately release these both tracks on vinyl! An often used genre-description for them is low-key electro-trip-hop-synthie-grunge - in fact their music lives and falls with the influence of the compelling female vocalist. That female font woman does an awesome job and creates the needed mood and atmosphere between once fragile, and twice raw, if needed. 'My Passenger' and moreover the better-than-only-a-b-side-track 'When Romance Dies' draw both a perfect contrast between calm and romantic Synthpop and a raw, Grunge-like, with hefty guitar-riffs supported sound-massacre. Here hides the brilliance to be capable to manage totally different music-styles, and I'll highly recommend fans of the genres to give this music-project a check. In latest news they are currently hard at work for an upcoming new album to be released to the fall of this year. I'm curious about their efforts filled on album-length...
Artist: PAS (@)
Title: Flanked By Women And Pumpkins
Format: CD
Label: Alrealon Musique (@)
Distributor: Plastic Head
Rated: *****
From subterranean corridors to ghostly '50s living rooms, NY 5-piece (and guests) PAS take you for an odd, auditory journey. Described by spokesperson Robert L. Pepper as "more soundscapes than "songs" in the traditional sense," there is still a dystopian sci-fi vibe that makes for a coherent listen.

Employing a battery of traditional band instruments - guitar, bass, drums, keys, trumpets, and percussion - PAS then illuminates these grooves with sonic bric-a-brac - found sounds, field recordings, and countless synthesizers. PAS flirt with atonal jazz, sound collage, doom metal, and '80s horror movie music during its sixty-minute duration. What could have been a stylistic clusterfuck ends up instead as an engaging auditory hallucination; a streak through the collective HORRORSHOW id of its creators. Don't get me wrong, this record is not cloaked in shadows and soaked in gore. If anything, its more polished chrome and burning red neon than cobwebs and candles.

The band claims that 'Flanked By Women And Pumpkins,' conceived during a tour of Poland in 2011, is "uncommercial". "There are no clearly defined melodies, no structural landmarks that give you any sense of traditional anchor," says Robert L. Pepper. The thing they may not realize is that many of us have spent the last 10 years blowing the dust out of our Eustachian canals with krautrock, harsh noise, drones, and field recordings. I have found, after repeated investigations, that 'FBWAP' falls nicely in line with the current Zeitgeist. Anybody that gets off on the endless grooves of classic cosmische jams, retro-futuristic techno, or John Carpenter-esque synthesizer scores, will find much meat on this bone.

I was all primed to hate this record, initially turned off by the glossy cardboard packaging, but the initial warm bass pulse of 'Electric Rain On Adams Bridge' seduced me. It comes off like a techno record, before degenerating into noisy crackling, then sluicing through some disembodied jazz. Its not as incoherent as it sounds; there is a universal pulse to this record. Its got a groove. It worked its way into my kitchen CD player for a week, before moving onto my headphones, making my trips to the bank and the shoestore far more futuristic and abstract.

'Flanked By Women And Pumpkins' was produced and mastered by Robert L. Pepper, dispelling the myth that a musician can't mix and master their own work. He has a deft touch; the recordings are full and well-rounded, and help to distinguish this record from the legions of bland noise imitators. Every sonic element is glowingly rendered in spacious reverb; all the pieces work as a whole. There are no jarring changes in volume, surprising considering the varied genres and instrumentation. The spell is never broken, and the listener is treated to 12 surreal, walking dreamscapes.

Purveyors of art-house classicism and bored-room jazz, take note. There may be clues here as to how 'high-brow' 20th-century Avant-Garde techniques can come together with current DIY-sweaty basement experimentation.

Uncommercial, my left ear. Go buy this.

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