Music Reviews



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Artist: Jeff Carey
Title: [3:30]
Format: CD
Label: Forwind (@)
Rated: *****
According to his website, 'Jeff Carey makes hardcore digital noise music with a joystick, a gamer keypad, and an array of strobe lights. Computer based synthesis, noise, and improvisation combined with a no-safety-net aspect of gestural control makes his music totally physical and visceral. No overdubs and no backing vocals.' The liner notes likewise proclaim that there are no synthesizers or guitar on this album. Sounds like my kind of experimental music. This is experimental noise and it's done very well. The longest track is 'Phosphor' at 4:22, so none of them go on long enough to wear out their welcome. This is intentional because, according to the press sheet,' [3:30] takes its inspiration from that cornerstone of pop music ' the three to three and a half minute pop song.' There is a lot of digital noise, as would be expected, but there is also a lot of low bass drone and dynamic variety here. This is not in your face wall of noise stuff, but rather noise that makes you aware of both presence and absence. That's not to say that there isn't harshness here; there is and it is wonderful. I listened to this disc once in my car and found that it made a perfect soundtrack to the freeway noise that surrounded me. The staccato blasts of noise melded well with the siren of a fire engine, the hum of the road noise from my tires, and the sound of the wind coming through my open windows. Listening to it at home in headphones is a different experience, but you get a sense of Carey's sense of detail. Even if there is some element of chance in his music, it certainly doesn't sound that way. This album weighs in at around 21 minutes.
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Artist: The Glass Hour (@)
Title: Ever After
Format: CD
Label: self-released
Rated: *****
I had not heard of this band, but this is a duo from Chicago comprised of Tracy DeMarco (vocals, harp, and keys) and Brian Bradbury (guitars, percussion, bass, keys). I'm going to come right out and say that I was kind of surprised by this CD. When I looked at it and saw that it was harp and guitar and the first track was called 'A Faery's Song,' I figured I was about to take a harsh walk down Renaissance Faire Lane. The handwritten note from Tracy inside the case, which read 'Hope you enjoy some beautiful music' didn't really assuage my first impressions. But there is something for Chain DLK readers here after all, because this wasn't really what I expected. Rather, this falls more into the constellations of Ataraxia, Ordo Equitum Solis, early Miranda Sex Garden, and Love is Colder Than Death. DeMarco is quite skilled with the harp, and puts the compositions together well. The only real low point for me on this album was 'Lament,' which takes us on a prog rock detour. Thankfully, the album finds its way again and for the rest of the disc we are left with lilting harp, lush synth, and DeMarco's soprano vocals. If you are looking for medieval flavored gothic music, this is one to seek out. This album weighs in at around 42 minutes.
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Artist: Paul H. Muller (@)
Title: Sunbreak
Format: CD
Label: Ventura Contemporary Music (@)
Rated: *****
I had previously reviewed 'East/West' by James Ross and Paul Muller, so I was somewhat familiar with Muller's music when I received this disc. Of the two, Muller's work was the stronger, with nice droning ambience. On 'Sunbreak,' we see him continuing this trajectory, with slow moving, peaceful droning synth work. According to the liner notes, this slowness is by design: 'The original chords are notated on a standard treble and bass clef and then converted to midi. The midi file is sequenced using orchestral instrumentation and subjected to a stretching process such that the tones are extended 20 to 30 times longer in time but without changing their pitch.' This accounts for the almost glacial pace of the music. At times Muller breaks it up a bit by adding some piano over the synth lines, as heard in tracks like 'Tone Three' and 'Tone Four.' His use of piano seems more for accent than as a way to create a melody. Overall this is music that is blends into the background. It doesn't really push the experimental envelope, but sometimes that is not necessary. The closest comparison that I see here is Harold Budd's ambient work. You can check this out for free on the website, so if you're strapped for cash and looking for some peaceful ambience this is worth checking out. This album weighs in at around 63 minutes.
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Artist: Anzio Green
Title: A Day Without Distance
Format: CD
Label: Rednetic Recordings
Rated: *****
I had not heard Anzio Green's previous debut album, so this was a new one for me. This is a collaboration between Wil Bolton (Boltfish, Cheju), who is based in Liverpool and Mark Streatfield (Zainetica, Cyan341), who is based in New Zealand. According to the label, this album 'drew on their love of late 80s/early 90s guitar music Lush, The Cure, Slowdive, Jesus and Mary Chain and Snub TV.' Homage like this is a lot to live up to, but fortunately they pull it off. There's a lot going on in this album. We move from peaceful music, with lush guitars and soothing female vocals complements of Kate Tustain (Laska and collaboratively as Innerise) on 'Fall Down' to the slightly noisy 'Sunset Solitude' (I was wondering where the Jesus and Mary Chain influences would surface) and back to droning soundscape with a sparse beat on 'A Day Without Distance.' You can definitely hear the Slowdive and Cure influences here. But this is not all an attempt to bring back the 80s; some go in a bit more experimental direction. Parts of 'Thunderstorm' conjure the wind that one would find in such a storm before kicking into a glitchy beat over pulsating synth washes and a sparse piano line. 'Tall Grass' is like a ride at an amusement park that has gone on for so long that you begin to feel dizzy but you're having so much fun that you just can't stop. You keep spinning around and around and around and around. 'End of an Error' is also a dronefest that brings in just enough dissonance and white noise to separate it from the earlier tracks that were much more serene. Still, if there is one constant on this album it is the lush reverb that turns everything into an echo chamber induced hallucination. One current act that this reminds me of is Ovo Looven. This was pretty enjoyable, although I felt that they were at their best with the earlier tracks. This album weighs in at around 59 minutes.
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Artist: ket3m (@)
Title: syn3rgy
Format: 3" MiniCD
Label: self-released
Rated: *****
Ket3m is the work of Shay Nassi (who has also performed as Mise en Scene) and Tom Kemeny (who has also performed as darmock). They are based in Tel Aviv, Israel and have one previous release. Once I put in the disc, I realized that things were about to get a mite glitchy around here. With the leetspeak typography in the song titles, I figured that this would not be standard electronica, despite the fact that this is what the press sheet labeled it. This is glitch techno that displays considerable fondness for ground noise. Take a guitar cable and unplug it from the guitar but leave it plugged into the amp. That noise you hear while you're holding the end of the cable? That sound figures prominently in these compositions (which isn't necessarily a problem). The music is not bad, but it all began to sound the same after a while. This is no small feat, since the disc is only about 14 minutes long. This album is limited to 75 copies.
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