Music Reviews

Artist: Sascha Funke & Niklas Wandt
Title: Wismut
Format: 12" vinyl + Download
Label: Multi Culti
A collaboration openly contrived by A&R rather than pitched as a musical love story, this collaboration between techno stalwart Sascha Funke and multi-percussionist Niklas Wandt is the confident sound of two professionals who can roll out laidback, jazzy and slick mid-tempo house work with their eyes closed. The result is a four-track EP of long steady grooves, measured progressions and all the right bits in all the right places. Organic percussion sounds meet light techno kicks and claps while some sometimes bizarre-sounding melodic elements wander quite freely over the top.

The opening couple of tracks feature spoken-word German vocals which, more by association than design, evoke thoughts of 80’s experimental and industrial, and very predictably Kraftwerk of course, particularly with the lo-fi stylophone-esque melody of “Die Sage” and the rhythm pattern which opens up “Lobotomie”, before “Umarmung Aus Holz” seems to put more emphasis on the modern production touches instead, with its wandering and pitch-shifting ghostly pads. “Fur Die Paar Heller” is the highlight for me, the longest track that draws out a pattern of gradually increasing urgency that’s beautifully well handled, and which adds slightly more sci-fi synth noises into the mix, before a nicely odd and very assured near-silent breakdown.

A very steady EP built from regular perspiration rather than inspiration, it’s certainly a product of quality, excellent music to walk to.
Artist: Bionulor (@)
Title: A.S.
Format: CD
Label: Oniron
Rated: *****
While he has already published eight CDs, this is the first time I came across the name of Sebastian Banaszczyk whose project is based upon a method called "100% sound recycling" i.e., all his sound material came from (pre)recorded media. "A.S." is based upon the music of Alexander Scriabin which was at the border between romantic music and atonal one and all the track titles seems taken from the sampled works; instead of hip-hop based forms where the source if reasonably identifiable, he stands along the path of heavily modified samples so there's a vague reminiscence of Skriabin's music instead of a citation.
The first track, "Rêverie", change a piano sonata into an abstract track where notes are prolonged and riverbed until a small fragment of the original track emerges. "Nocturne" uses silence to separate quiet moments, isolated notes and loops. "Fantaisie" has a great dynamics in its reassemblage of piano and forte moments. "Ballet acoustique" sounds almost as a piece for synthetic sources as the original moterial is heavily effected to obtain remarkable sound effects. "Poème" is a short track with isolated piano samples while "Poème 2" creates a continuos piece from similar sound sources. "Miniature" uses subtle sounds moving in space while "Élégie" uses a drone with isolated notes and melodic lines. "[r.c.]" is a meditative track where the piano samples are drowned in a quiet background noise and "Noir chamomile"closes this release with a beat obtaining something at the threshold between a dance piece and an ambient track.
Based on coherent sound sources and with a rather limited number of manipulations, the overall cohesion of writing ensures that it's perceptible how it was thought as a single release rather than a collection of tracks. Perhaps it lacks a real moment of sonic fascination as it's more oriented towards structure, but it will be enjoyed by a lot of fans of experimental music anyway.
Artist: Dahlia's Tear (@)
Title: Through the Nightfall Grandeur
Format: CD
Label: Cryo Chamber (@)
Rated: *****
After a long silence, Dahlia's Tear returns with a new release presented as a concept album based around a spiritual awakening during a search for meaning. As usual, his music uses elements from religious music, mostly voices and cymbals, as a counterweight to the sometimes abstract musical nature of drone and this creates a sort of emotive link with the listener.
The first track, "Encroaching Shadows Beckon to Chase the Fleeing Light", introduces the listener into a dark ambient form based on a long loop, rather than on a drone, with the addition of other sound elements like samples and voices creating something which is simple and complex at the same time. "The Keeper of Broken Dreams and Tattered Spirits" uses instead a drone crescendo as a backbone of the track while using voices to create a meditative atmosphere. "Forlorn Whispers on a Moonlit Path" uses a piano loop and an impressive barrage of samples and effects. After a quiet first part, "The Frozen Echoes of the Endless Moor" uses the samples to create a rhythmic structure for the samples. "Bitter Silence of Desolate Steps" is developed upon a drone and a variation of the piano of the third track giving the impression of an overall design behind the whole release. The stacking of sound masses of "Drowning in Delusions of Grandeur" is overwhelming and "Lamenting Memories Long Past in the Remnants of Darkness" continues instead with a crescendo which has the same means. "Drifting into the Void Grasping at Fading Starlight" is a suspended track with long tones and short loops. "Lost in the Crystalline Enigma" closes this release with wide spectrum drones which underlines the sparse cymbals.
This is one of the few release in this genre which shows a musical personality which uses a particular musical framework instead of repeating the canonical formula working only in the sound effects. Highly recommended.
Artist: Compactor (@)
Title: Technology Worship
Format: CD
Label: Oppressive Resistance Recordings
Rated: *****
Who is Compactor? The website explains that “Compactor is an interconnected set of machinery that is manipulated by an anonymous figure known as The Worker under orders from faceless corporation Waste MGT. Industrial, Noise, Techno, and other related sonics are crushed into something else. The project uses mostly obsolete equipment, which is set up, broken down and maintained by System Administrator Derek Rush.” Yes, that Derek Rush, of Chthonic Streams, Dream Into Dust, and for those on Facebook, the man behind the hilarious HNW Memes group. This should give you some insight into what you’re in for. First off, let’s get this out of the way. Buy this album. If you like noise, you need to just get this. I have been recording and listening to noise music for two decades now, and there are very few albums that blew me away like this one. This was not just enjoyable listening, but also inspiring to me as a musician. The rest of this review will just be more about why you need this album. First off, the liner notes frame this work with “Terms of Service” like “Long Distance Rage: Thou shalt cultivate greater irrational anger towards thy neighbors whom thou never see’est in the flesh (Externals 20.2).” In much of this, Rush seems to be channeling the eminent media theorist and critic Neil Postman, with his skepticism of technological advancement. Now on to the music. “Ease Of Use” kicks it off with heavy plodding beats and digital noise. This is pure industrial; factory music for the digital age. “Autonomous” is what you hear when the machines are no longer in spec. Grinding noise over the chugging sound of a gas-powered generator. “Cellular Degradation” is a nice mix of high-end crackling and low rumbling bass, as the sound of bottle rockets and analog sweeps blast through. In “Timeloss,” a relentless beat scrapes over a low-pitched static tone, as a variety of noise blasts enter the scene, only to leave as quickly as they entered. Just when you think it is over, it rattles your speakers with bass and piercing analog sweeps. “Interconnected-Isolated” starts off with dial-up modem noise before hammering you with overdriven bass as the modem continues to peek through. It all dissolves into an almost subdued throbbing bass tone. “Long Distance Rage” is pure, grinding, staticy noise, once again giving us a good mix of high and low range. “Vaporware” is more subdued and atmospheric. This is the point in the soundtrack where the protagonist discovers the robot uprising plot, building until the climactic moment when the protagonist is suddenly discovered. “Unclean Power” is pulsing waves of noise that has an almost hypnotic quality. This also collapses in on itself with harsh noise squalls and rumbling bass. “Screen Hypnosis” is a short track of subdued crackling sound, which is almost peaceful by comparison. Finally, “Church Of Virtual Reality” illustrates how what is not done can sometimes be more important than having a overwhelming wall of noise. There is a good use of dynamics and silence here, with bubbling noise that is punctuated by pounding thuds. Overall, the compositions are wonderfully complex, with a clear attention to detail. This is well worth getting for noise fans. This album weighs in at around 65 minutes.
Artist: Daimon (@)
Title: Dust
Format: CD
Label: Silentes Minimal Editions (@)
Rated: *****
I was unfamiliar with this band, but their Facebook page describes Daimon as “Obscure deep drone audio-visual project run by Paolo Monti (The Star Pillow), Nicola Quiriconi (Vipcancro, Lisca Records), Simon Balestrazzi (T.A.C., Dream Weapon Ritual, Candor Chasma, AZOTH, etc)." As an aside, I was interested to see that this label came out of the ashes of Amplexus, which used to put out gorgeous releases back in the day. Now on to the music itself. The band In The Nursery had a series called “Optical Music.” I always liked what that term evokes – what Aristotle would call “bringing before the eyes.” It is this sense of bringing an image to mind that Daimon excels at. The music is cinematic, evoking different emotions as it evolves and shifts over time. The album opens with “All the Dead Dreamers” (a nod to H.P. Lovecraft, perhaps), which begins as a quiet droning number, but slowly shifts over time, increasing in dissonance and overall noisiness. If this were a movie scene, this would the point where the protagonists realized that the water on the lake had become far too still and the birds have vanished, just before a creature broke the surface of the water and bit someone in half. “So High So Close” dials it back a bit, with vibraphone breaking through the drone. The overall feeling here is a long journey, leaving home for an uncertain destination. The piece builds on itself, over and over, as time and the miles stretch out before you. “Leonard” brings the dissonance to front stage, opening with bits of metallic tapping and percussion, but getting more and more harsh. It never becomes harsh noise, but the overall feel is that of pressure, grinding away at you. If there is a story to tell, it is that not all battles are outside of one’s mind. Finally, “Awash” closes the album with dissonance in full effect in their droning wall of sound. Bits of clanking metal and horn squawks peek through, broken up by a brief spoken word passage before ending with what sounds like overdriven woodwinds. Overall, this is nicely done and does an excellent job of evoking a sense of imagery to go along with the sound. Well worth checking out for fans of noisy dronescapes. This album weighs in at around 44 minutes.
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