Music Reviews



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Artist: Phragments (@)
Title: New Kings and New Queens
Format: CD
Label: Malignant Records (@)
Rated: *****
I had previously reviewed Phragments' 'Earth Shall Not Cover Their Blood' and enjoyed it, so I was happy to see this another installment from this duo from Bratislava, Slovakia in the latest package. This is a pretty short disc for so much packaging, but it is pretty good. It maintains a consistent feel throughout, almost as if it could simply be one long track. This is by design, it seems. The press sheet notes that this album 'should be looked upon as a special, stand alone release, devoted not to the more daunting neo-classical atmospheres that make up the majority of Phragments' discography, but to something much darker and abstract; one long track, broken up into 6 chapters of slowly evolving landscapes of black and grey drones, sparsely interrupted by orchestral swells of golden light.' But consistency does not mean that it all sounds the same. It shifts and evolves as it goes deeper and deeper into the caverns. This is well-executed dark ambient with a lot of heavy drone. Overall a solid contribution to the discography of both Phragments and Malignant. This album weighs in at around 32 minutes.
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Artist: 303 Committee
Title: s/t
Format: CD
Label: Inam Records (@)
Rated: *****
There was not much in the package that gave any clues about 303 Committee, but the card that came with it described it as 'noise, drone and fuzz interrupt distant ambience.' The website credits 'Field Recording by Megan. Noise by RH.' I assume that this is Ryan Huber, who is also Olekranon, Sujo, and the man behind Inam Records. Megan is likely the Megan Abajian who does the artwork for the Olekranon albums, but who knows? The packaging is kind of lo-fi and reminds me of some of the Breathmint Records stuff. The music is pretty decent noisy drone. There is a cinematic feel to much of this and the synth layers work well with the noisy elements. This is not really harsh noise, but it is also not really dark ambient; 202 Committee chooses instead to blend the two and it works well. Overall, this is pretty good. This album is limited to 33 copies and weighs in at around 30 minutes.
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Artist: Olekranon
Title: Helminth
Format: 3" MiniCD
Label: Inam Records (@)
Rated: *****
Olekranon is the work of one Ryan Huber, who also seems to be the person behind Inam Records. There was little documentation with this disc and nothing by way of liner notes; the press packet described this as 'drone with beats,' and there is, indeed, noisy drone and there are beats, but this is not peaceful drone, nor is it the drum and noise that you would expect from Ant-Zen or Hands. This is a bit more disjointed and fluid. Olekranon also makes good use of ambiance throughout to keep it from getting too predictable. Overall this is a pretty good blend of noisy atmosphere and beats. This album is limited to 45 hand numbered copies and weighs in at around 19 minutes.
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Artist: no:carrier (@)
Title: Last Scene
Format: CD EP
Label: Electric Heresy (@)
The website describes no:carrier's music as 'Transatlantic Electro Pop' because it consists of songwriter/producer Christian Wirsig in San Francisco and singer Cynthia Wechselberger in Germany. The press sheet describes it thus: 'The background stays dubious and no one knows exactly what the protagonists have lived through. 'Last Scene' commemorates past things that may better not have happened, but might have led to success.' Intriguing premise, but this is a limited edition maxi-single, which is always a bit of a risk. First off, the song has to be something you would want to listen to over and over again. Second, the artist really needs to tweak it enough to make it warrant 5 different versions. This didn't quite fit the bill for me in the second regard. The original is kind of a jazzy straightforward pop song, with lyrics like 'The last scene of a play that we shouldn't have staged.' Only the last two versions really pushed the envelope here - the EBT Remix by taking the original and making it more of a techno-rave track and 'Last Seen' by stripping a lot of the vocals out and using it more as gesture than as lyrics. The first three were just too similar for my tastes. The song does tell a story and within the context of the larger album it may fit quite well, but I'm not sure it warrants its own maxi single. I would say that this is mainly for fans who are completists. This album is limited to 99 copies and weighs in at around 18 minutes.
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Artist: ][|][
Title: [__]
Format: CD
Label: Steelkraft Manufactory (@)
Rated: *****
File ][|][ alongside 'The Artist Formerly Known as Prince' for having unpronounceable names. This is the second album I have reviewed from this act, having previously reviewed 'Iter,' also on Steelkraft Manufactory. I was not too into the previous album, but this is definitely a step up from Iter. This album (again with the unpronounceable title) uses organ improvisations inspired by the Greek myth of the Labyrinth. These works were then heavily processed to create interesting washes of heavy drone. Where I found Iter to be too static and minimal, this album is engaging and continually evolving. The sound is dark, suffocating, and oppressive at times before shifting to quiet, peaceful moments, only to do it all over again. If you like atmospheric drone this is one to check out. This album weighs in at around 56 minutes.
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