Music Reviews



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Artist: Tomahawk (@)
Title: ”Oddfellows”
Format: CD
Label: Ipecac Recordings (@)
Rated: *****
WTF?? Look at this album cover (courtesy of cartoonist Ivan Brunetti) ' does that give you any idea what this latest release by Tomahawk sounds like? Hell no! But it's a hoot anyway. To be perfectly honest, I'd never heard (nor heard of) Tomahawk before this. I've heard of, and heard (a little) of a couple of Mike Patton's other bands ' Mr. Bungle and Faith No More, and can't say I'm a fan of either of them. With no proper basis of comparison, I began listening with more or less virgin ears.

Tomahawk now is Mike Patton- vocals/keys; Duane Denison- guitar; John Stanier- drums; Trevor Dunn ' bass. The latter, from Mr. Bungle, replace founding member Kevin Rutmanis. The guitar on opening and title track 'Oddfellows' sounds like latter-day King Crimson slowed down quite a bit. Patton's sinister wailing reminds me a bit of Swan's Michael Gira. It's a deliciously creepy vibe augmented with some wild-assed soloing by Denison toward the end. Great way to begin. Didn't care much for the next track, 'Stone Letter,' as it sounded like a pretty standard alt-rocker to me, except for the flanged gothy guitar break. 'I.O.U.' raises the bar a bit with its slow and simmering dark tension verse and rising, wailing chorus. Sort of minimalistic but really good! 'White Hats/Black Hat' is an absolutely brilliant rocker; a low-down, dirty, sexy, and dangerous burner, of the ilk I don't hear enough of nowadays. 'A Thousand Eyes' is a spooky little change-up. 'Rise Up Dirty Waters' has a really spiffy detective jazz motif that heats up on the chaotic jumpin' jive chorus. This is the track that really sold me on the album. I'm such a sucker for stuff like this! 'The Quiet Few' is anything but quiet, a real nightmarish raucousness on this one, right up to its manic conclusion. In 'I Can Almost See Them' I can almost see shades of Ennio Morricone. 'South Paw' sounds like one of those rockers that's more effective live than in the studio and reminded me too much of Faith No More. 'Choke Neck' on the other hand is a creepy downtempo number that is typical of what I am coming to expect from Tomahawk. 'Waratorium' sounded like filler, but at least it was well-done filler. 'Baby Let's Play__' is the closest thing to a love ballad on the album, but think of it as a Dexter-serial killer sort of love ballad. Final track 'Typhoon' is an uptempo hell-raiser I could imagine Iggy & the Stooges doing. Too short at 2:12 but always leave 'em wanting more I guess.

I made it a point after I finished this review to search out some of Tomahawk's earlier work and there is no doubt that a good deal of it was a lot more experimental and out there than this album. It's not that they sound like a completely different band (they don't) but they've managed to refine and focus their energy and trim some of the ragged edges. Song construction is generally better too. If you were a big fan of their previous work, you might be disappointed that there aren't extended excursions into weirdsville. However, if you truly appreciate the band's essence, you'll appreciate that 'Oddfellows' is a cohesive work with some absolutely stellar tracks.
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Artist: Niton Cage
Title: Cage
Format: 12"
Label: Seja Records (@)
Rated: *****
A new release for the stubborn Netherlands-based Seja Records, again strictly limited to 300 exemplars and pressed on golden old vinyl only. Yes, here is another must-have release which brings back the warm-sounding analogue touch in times of digital coldness. I had the German duo Traffic AM a while back with a remarkable debut for Seja Records and this Niton Decay-project somehow consists of the same musicians. Officially labelled as being Traffic AM's vocalist Stefan Gonzer's solo effort, his partner in crime, Michael Kissing, has produced this first 7-track album. By checking the first tracks on the A-side of this release I somehow thought on a musically darker sounding Alter Ego-project to Traffic AM, especially after the ominous, sample-driven introduction tune 'Strange And Silent'. Also 'Don't Mind' and 'Deny The Decay' aren't hymns to celebrate a kids' birthday on a sunny afternoon, but clever sounding Downtempo-like Dark Electronica tracks with a constant Wave influence inspired by the golden 80s. The b-side then brings generally in more pace and a bit more of their New Wave influence, it could be said, the 3 tracks are coming very near to the cleaner produced Traffic AM project. 'Cage' is another well produced effort by these German protagonists. The fact, that this release comes again out on good old vinyl just helps to integrate the analogue warmth so evident for this style of music and it sounds much more 'alive' and edgy than the usual plastic Pop chart music effort.
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Artist: Absenth (@)
Title: Erotica 69
Format: CD
Label: Artificial Sun (@)
Rated: *****
Another Cyber-Metal / Crossover project, which has already earned several praise in their home country Russia, while their international recognition still needs to get animated. Absenth is a quintet hailing out of the city of Voronezh, about 460 km away from Moscow. According to their given information, they are active for more than 11 years in the Russian Metal/Underground scene. After having had their musically roots based on Doom / Goth Metal, they nowadays are trying to conquer into the Industrial-driven Cyber-Metal field, but somehow I doubt, that they are able to earn more than a small success. It is not, that I need to question their talent, but some parts in their production process annoying me more than they can entertain. First off, the quite unusual vocal performance of band leader Oleg Govorov one needs to get used to. They also manage hard to tarnish a bit their musically past but unfortunately with a minimal amount of success. The Electronica elements are rather installed as a cheap fx element to pretend a relation to that Cyber Metal genre. Actually I doubt, that Absenth have already reached their defining style, because the Electronica elements do generally need a bit more dedication and a better worked-out outfit. The title track comes out as being one of the most appealing and energetic tunes and I don't rate the female voice sighs in the back of this track. But generally this album fails to reach higher recognition. Too much mediocrity placed in an almost boring, repetitive Metal outfit.
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Artist: Rob Mazurek Octet (@)
Title: Skull Sessions
Format: CD
Label: Cuneiform Records (@)
Rated: *****
The strong assonances between this impressive release by Rob Mazurek, who shuffled his cards of talented collaborators to give birth to a majestic octet, and monumental sessions like "the notorious "Bitches Brew" by Miles Davis are fortuitous as the sparkle for "Skull Sessions" came when the We Want Miles exhibition at SESC Sao Paulo asked Mazurek to highlight the propinquity of his musical research with the one by the legendary Miles Davis. Instead of recreating themes of that great jazz innovator, Rob revamped some compositions by himself by rearrangement which could fit the peculiar features of each musicians and the whole sound of the octet. The final result goes beyond any better expectetions and the different stylistical drives he managed to aggregate in this octet sound so perfectly balanced that you could have the impression to listen a proper crossbreed between Sao Paulo Underground's rhythmical tropicalism, Exploding Star Orchestra's sonic orbits and Starlicker's mesmerizing energy. Such a motley metabolic variegation derives both from the "syncretic" attitude of Mazurek's compositional approach and from the different "alma mater" of each musician of the octet, who already belong to the above-mentioned ensemble and come from North and South America, including drummer John Herndon, vibraphonist Jason Adasiewicz, whose finespun hits play a key-role to bridle listeners in the charming weaves of these sessions, Guilherme Granado on electronics and keyboards, skilled flutist Nicole Mitchell, guitarist Carlo Issa, Sao paulo Underground's Mauricio Takara on percussion and cavaquinho (Brazilian ukulele) and Thomas Rohrer on C melody saxophone and rabeca (a rustic viola from North-eastern Brazil). The role of Mazurek's cornet is somehow close to Davis' trumpet in the above-mentioned "Bitches Brew" as it often seems to tune other instruments on a melodic sketched line before giving emphasis to the sonic spirals they generate by means of a ring modulator, which seems to function as a catalyzing agent together with the fleet of drums and percussions. This coagulant effect is quite clear in the opener "Galactic Ice Skeleton", a wonderful piece Mazurek composed for Exploding Star Orchestra where cornet seems to direct the ebullient molecular soup of the other voices, which sound shaking within a plasmatic cloud, and the following "Voodoo and The Petrified Forest", an elemental dancing whirlwind whose main theme seems to resurface from rough water, even if it often runs into the highly energetic whirling impetus the octet succeeds in bursting forth as it happens in the amazing crescendo of "The Skull Caves of Alderon", which follows a pacific entrancing introduction on a disabled vibraphone which sounds like a Balinese gamelan, or unleashes other elements like in the lopsided ballad "Passing Light Scream", a composition Rob tributed to the legandary French/Chilean filmmaker Alejandro Jodorowsky, whose initial folk theme and elaxing chimes turn into a mindblowing twist. Some surreal setting of Jodorowsky's movies could be resembled by the final gossamer improvisation for flute, rabeca and electronics of "Keeping The Light Up" as well. Strongly recommended listening.
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Artist: Andreas Gehm
Title: Black Pukee
Format: 2 x 12" vinyl
Label: Solar One Music
Rated: *****
Coming from Cologne, Andreas Gehm is better known as Elec Pt.1 and few months ago I already wrote about him into my The Exaltics Meets Elec Pt.1 review. As I wrote, he has releases out on Bunker, Creme Org., Mathematics, to name a few. The next month he will release on Solar One Music his first album, "Black Pukee", under his own name. Available on double 12", CD and digital, it contains twelve tracks influenced by acid, Chicago house and underground techno. TB 303 bass lines, TR 808 drum sounds, vocal samples and pads are the main elements used to compose the tracks which could fit and ideal undergound dance hall thanks to their dark atmosphere. The album opens with the almost Kraftwerkish, "Gehm Technique": a sort of manifesto having a robotic arpeggio opens the dances. "1000 miles", the first track to let the listeners understand how part of the album sounds like: dark, with acid bass lines and raw. Tracks like "Shake Your Acid", "Xpress URself" or "It Feels So" (this one has been released also on the label compilation "SOM Compilation 5" as Elec Pt.1), sounds haunting, rhythmically obsessive (there's the sum/alternance of different drum lines that create an hypnotic effect). "I Don't Dare" or "The Road Not Taken" are sounding more Chicago house with exotic melodies mixed with ambient pads. "Acid House Music", as the title suggests, is pure acid and despite the fact that I'm not into that genre, it convinced me thanks to its raw energy and its crazy resonance filter. The overall mix of genres makes of this release a winner, because the track list sounds well balanced, powerful and inspired. Check some excerpts at this page (http://www.solaronemusic.com/94-0-Gehm-Black-Pukee.html) and reserve your copy!
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