Music Reviews



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Artist: The Phone
Title: Songs For This Nuclear Age
Format: 12"
Label: Attractive Co
Rated: *****
The Phone is the minimal synth musical project of Johnni Mogul. He released something under his own name about ten years ago but I don't really know how it was. Anyway'¦ "Songs For This Nuclear Age" is The Phone's first album as well as it's the first 12" release for Attractive Co-ordinates, Steve Lippert's label which is exclusively distributed by Anna Logue Records. Limited to 500 copies, "Songs For This Nuclear Age" contains fourteen tracks. Three of them were available on the first two 7" EPs previously released but two of them are new versions and are: "The Phone - Version 2", "Cabaret Noir" and "Discreet Affair - Version 2". The album containing synthpop songs as well as minimal wave cold chirpy sounding tracks (like the opening "Inner Refuge", "Element 115" and the closing "When The Warming Sound"), is well balanced and offer about forty minutes of 80s influenced sounds. Tracks like "Perspex", "Jonni" and "Cabaret Noir" sound like outtakes of Soft Cell's first self produced 7" "Mutant Moments", while "Pylon To Pylon" or "Nuclear Winter" have the same post punk urgency of late Ultravox / early John Foxx. Jonni succeeded into making the songs sound his own and made a great album which contains cool analog synth sounds, catchy melodies as well as bites of experimental solutions like the noisy synth inserts on "Zero Dub" or the great chirpy frequencies cavalcade of "Inner Refuge". Be sure to check out this release. You won't be disappointed!
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Artist: Aaron Dilloway / Jason Lescalleet (@)
Title: Grapes and Snakes
Format: 12"
Label: PAN (@)
Rated: *****
I won't start this review with expressions like "once upon a time", but I have to admit I felt tempted to do so while speaking about releases like this one, whose explorations by means of old fashioned analogue synths, recording techniques or tools, including the glorious tape recorder, which could inspire the same enchantment of a well-stocked antique store, could lead some listeners to believe that the apex of sonic research is not the perfect cleanliness of digital sound. I have no precise idea about the explanation of the title "Grapes & Snakes", even if a friend who owns a recording studio told me that he heard the slangy use of both words from some sound engineers - grapes, rhyming with tapes, could allude to green led lights under peak levels on mixer decks (similar to bunches of grapes), while snakes could refer to the typical pattern of soundwaves -, but I don't like puzzling with similar oddities. However I noticed some similaraties of the stereophonic movements of the sounds on the first track "Shattered Capsules" with the ones of water serpents, portrayed on the very elegant silkscreened pvc sleeve, when they wrap around something as well as the amazing and somewhat estranging pricks on sonic patchy fog and other (sometimes primordial, but extremely seducing) ways for interlacing sounds. Whereas the progressions on the above-mentioned "Shattered Capsules" sounds more straight, the second 20-minutes lasting track on B-side, "Burning Nest", sounds like a psychoacoustic storm, which gets gradually drenched with trembling low frequencies and droney dirty injections. The stylistical garment, which might recall some combinations between tape records and primordial industrial - not so far from some experiments by Mika Vainio -, could be explained by the background of the musicians: Aaron Dillaway was one of the most imaginative member of Wolf Eyes and borrowed his mindblowing, highly energetic and emotionally purging climaxes to a plenty of important projects of the experimental and noise electronic scene, while Jason Lescalleet scouted old-fashioned equipment and tactics in order to explore microscopic audio detail and really extreme sonorities. Their collaboration could be better appreciated if listened with close eyes, just like some stuff by Conrad Schnitzler or other forerunners of this sonic researches.
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Artist: Mark Harris
Title: An Idea of North/Learning to Walk
Format: CD
Label: n5MD
Rated: *****
Very quiet, almost silent. A faint whisper of sound begins to fade in; very ambient, casual field recordings begin to sparsely populate this space before a light texture begins to comfortably drone in. So begins the opening track on 'An Idea of North/Learning to Walk' by Mark Harris. A refreshing effort that is extremely easy to listen to and get lost in, but doesn't slip away into the background some releases of its kind. The entire record is very soothing, emotional and dreamlike. It almost puts the listener into a trance with its airy textures, harmonics and ambience. Harris says his intent was to create a journey through various landscapes and environments and he has done that with fierce precision. Song to song it flows seamlessly and effortlessly with such a calming effect that even soothed this savage beast. Through his amazing arrangement of delicate space and tone interwoven with field recordings, gentle white noise washes and even a single lone melody has ensured this will be a journey you'll want to take again and again.
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Artist: Thought Broadcast
Title: Emergency Stairway
Format: 12"
Label: Mego (@)
Rated: *****
The very first beats of "Conflict Dub", the first track of this interesting release by Ravi Binning's Though Broadcast, recalled to my mind a group of fuddled chemist while grinding fictitious molecules with a peddle conducted by the suspicious gaze of a dour hunchbacked accounted, but beyond any kind of fuzzy associations of broadcasted thoughts such a music could inspire one of the most interesting aspect of this strange creature is its bizarre aesthetics. Even if there are some tracks such the claustrophobic pitting of "Breaking Test" or the sooty and dirt minimal dub of "Portrait Heads", which looks like recorded with a toy keyboard powered by almost dead batteries, whose recording is so well-done that listeners cannot easily recognize they've been extracted from a cassette, the painstaking and excellent work of recording and mastering at Dubplates and Mastering in Berlin from a pair of cassettes doesn't removed the whoosh of tape, so that "Emergency Stairway" could be associated to some forgotten or unpublished tape by some leading figure of the most bizarre and esoteric branch of industrial music, such as Suicide, Throbbing Gristle (many moments of Ravi's work recalled their recent "The Third Mind Movements") or some insane experiments by Wolf Eyes (particularly the ones on "Dead Hills") or The Residents, but - that's one of the most bizarre aesthetical aspect! - seemingly performed by a stiff and paranoid mad dubster. It could sound grim or wicked, but I recommend a listening, particularly if you appreciate the above-mentioned historical industrial activists.
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Artist: Shining (@)
Title: Live Black Jazz
Format: CD + DVD
Label: Indie Recordings (@)
Norwegian band Shining (not to be confused with the Swedish metal band by the same name) is a jazz-metal band with a cult following in Scandinavia. My Norwegian friend, label-mate and Chain D.L.K. contributor Eirik Havnes first told me about them and I had the pleasure to check them out live at SXSW in Austin this year. Their concert was phenomenal and in order to attend I walked out of an admittedly quite amazing show by Bruce Springsteen that I had won tickets to and was happening at the same time across town.
Their latest release is a CD + DVD entitled "Live Black Jazz", which follows their last full length album "Black Jazz". It is a recording of a recent live performance in Oslo which looks and sounds even better than the show I saw in Austin. This multi-camera shoot has great sound and video quality and you can choose to watch it or just listen to it, since it's a double release.
These guys take metal and add in acoustic and electric saxophone, keyboards, distortions, triggered drum sounds and they play intricate tunes with unusual time signatures and fast-paced changes. Did I mention they do so with maniacal precision and absolute mastery of their instruments? When you hear somebody switching around with such fury and precision, it's hard for me not to draw a comparison with John Zorn's Naked City, who pretty much were the first to mix saxophone with metal and to experiment with lighting fast changes, odd tempi and juxtaposition of such distant genres such as metal and jazz. Although it the case of the Shining, the link with jazz is pretty much only to be found in the way they can play and in the instruments, they do keep the link with experimental (and in a way prog) music alive with their use of keyboards, which besides layering sounds, usually plays lead lines or perfectly doubles the lead played by the guitar, the sax or the Akai EWI electronic wind instrument. For the headbangers out there, don't be put off by what I am writing and embrace the future because this band is looking ahead! There's still plenty of rocking out to do with the Shining and the distorted guitars and metal riffs are in extra large abundance.
I'm hooked.
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