Music Reviews



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Artist: Mantra
Title: Many Worlds (The Crystal Issue Cycle 3)
Format: 12"
Label: The Crystal Issue
Rated: *****
Solar One Music is an hectic label that is producing quality music and is always in evolution. With The Crystal Issue sub-label, they deliver music focused on Acid/Chicago/Detroit/Techno/House, genres which deeply influenced Robert and Nico, the two label's bosses. The releases will be issued only on one sided colored 12" in limited run'¦ no digital files available. The first release of the series is by Mantra, project of a guy called Craig Stainton, who is also active with the Acid Phreex, Craig Stainton, Monofonix, Myriadd monikers. He has at his active an LP ("After Dark") and three EPs on Bunker Records as well as another EP released the last year on Abstract Acid. Mantra's is pure acid techno with tiny house influences where the classic TB-303 and TR-606/808/909 sounds are used to create a hypnotic loop where sampled vocals, sparse deep bass lines and some synth effects. On this first release presented on orange vinyl as opening track we find "Beat That House", a tune characterized by an house bass line that is joined by TB-303 on the pauses, just to start again with the "mantra". "Many Worlds" follows and this is focused on TB-303 sounds, drum machine blasts, tiny distorted synth reverbs and vocal samples scratches. Trancey, obsessive and dancey, these tunes are two of the best produced by Mantra. If you are into acid or techno, check this out!
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Artist: Atiq & EnK
Title: Fear Of The Unknown
Format: CD
Label: Mindtrick Records/Tympanik Audio (@)
Rated: *****
"The oldest and strongest emotion of mankind is fear, and the oldest and strongest kind of fear is fear of the unknown", said the legendary American writer H.P.Lovecraft and this fresh and somehow unknown twosome by Guido Van Den Brink aka Atiq, founder of Mindtrick Records and known in Rotterdam for its intense activity as a promoter of many notorious parties such as "Jungle Soundclash" and "Rave!!!", and Pim Arnoldus aka EnK, music producer and guitar player in the Dutch nu-metal band Brainshake, trace the ancestral sense of the above-mentioned definition and above all the strength of its semantic and spiritual payload by means this remarkable debut album, which encapsulate many acts of IDM and electronic hybrids as well as the most interesting declension of heavy dubstep - I could namedrop Hecq, Venetian Snares, Burial or even some oldest acts such as Beefcake, Flint Glass, Elixir (a project by Martin Stovey, Steve Jones and Richard Pushong, which dropped some interesting stuff on Quatermass, sub-label of SubRosa) or Bill Leeb's Synaesthesia - with a deep penchant for psychedelic orchestral inserts. In reality they don't depart from Lovecraft's quote, but these skilled guys cite some words by Dr.Wayne Dyer they sampled in the initial track "Stay With The Familiar" ("Fear of the Unknown...They are afraid of New Ideas...They're loaded with Prejudices, not based upon anything in reality, but based on if something is new, I reject it immediately; because it is Frightening to Me. What they do instead, is just Stay with the Familiar. You know, to me, The Most Beautiful things in all the Universe, are The Most Mysterious"...a very meaningful message for our troubled planet), which perfectly sets listener's mood for the whole album, whose main quality lays in its intimate narrative structure. There are many stylistical peaks all over the release: the cathartic suspense, which have been enhanced by entrancing female vocals, of "Moonlit Tea Party", the heavy lock step, the suffocated melodies and the sinisterly silvery atmosphere of "My Obligation", the somber crystalline music box on "The Glass Kingdom", the cinematic Gregorian chant-driven mesmerizing dubstep of 'Like an Angel's Feather' - absolutely my favorite track! -, the meteor craters of the mercurial dub on "Sim One" (nice track with samples of Orson Welles' narration of "Future Shock", a documentary by visionary American writer Alvin Toffler) and "Three Minutes", the bites of dubstep on a Jarre-like synth-driven melodic sequence on "Shards Of Brilliance", which precedes the final resolution "The Moment Of Truth", which got spelled by Mike Redman's rapping. Fear of the unknown must be beaten and these guys proposed their amazing sonic strategy.
May 14 2013
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Artist: Nuvo West
Title: Nuvo West
Format: 12"
Label: Synthetic Shadows (@)
Rated: *****
Nuevo West born from the ashes of a Phoenix band called The Red Squares which disbanded at the end of 1983. Their singer/guitar player Sonic Mike Stephens and the other guitarist/keyboard player Roger Lee Chavous, decided to form another band when they met the bass player Walter Charchuck. Together they had the crazy idea to mix synth punk and country music. The drummer Greg David combined his drumming with the rhythms of a drum machine and dressed like Arizona cowboys, they started playing at art galleries and other unconventional places. Finally, Nuvo West were born. Soon after, they took their four tracks Tascam recorder and started to record their first MLP "Scary". The record was containing six original tunes of which three instrumentals. "Accidents don't happen in my world", "Dogs have their days"and "Little yellow pills" were sounding modern and pop: a sort of Devo meet Wall Of Voodoo. Lyrics were talking about the neurosis of the modern world with an ironic twist. The three instrumental tracks "Androids love", "Shades" and "Theme for alienation", were sounding more adventurous compared to the previous three and even more experimental. Melody, spacey atmospheres or post punk upbeat tempos were the main elements of those cool tracks. The year after, the band went to the studio again and recorded their tape: "Twankin'". Containing six new tracks, the tape sold twice compared to the MLP. Country music was the biggest influence for those tracks: the main tune is a clear example of that, thanks to that classic way of playing guitar and those double snare beats, "Desertate 7" starts with an harmonica and has a massive use of cowbell, "Shades of yesterday" is a melancholic instrumental with a bit of space atmospheres, "Love made a fool of me" is a nice pop song and the closing "The town the winter forgot & The night is over" (they are really two different tracks mixed together), are a nice synth punk song and an upbeat country punk one. Personally I prefer "Scary" to the second release as to me it sounds more inspired and less linked to the American musical tradition. Probably on early 80s mixing synthetic sounds, punk and country was something innovative but I prefer alienation to tradition... Anyway this, by Synthetic Shadows, is a really good remastered reissue which gathers all the releases recorded by the band and it also contains an insert with history and the lyrics from "Scary".
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Artist: The 49 Americans
Title: We Know Nonsense
Format: CD
Label: Staubgold (@)
Rated: *****
This funny release on Staubgold records moments of extemporaneous musical wit, which sound in the balance between plagiarism and parody, by an ensemble of musicians and non-musicians (but fully involved in music scene) which we won't call "a band, in the conventional sense", as suggested by one of his most known member, David Toop. In accordance with the references to the number of united stars/states in North America, we could consider The 49 Americans, a do-it-yourself supergroup joined together by Andrew "Giblet" Brenner, as a confederation of American musicians (including people like Lol Coxhill, Viv Albertine, Vivien Goldman, Steve Beresford, Max Eastley, Eddie Saunders, Bendle, Terry Day, Nag and Keith James)who don't really look for any kind of celebration or wax sculptures in spite of their amazing and amused activity and their clarion calls to meaningful non-sense and possibly missing 50th star (!) in the boiling British scene between late 70ies and early 80ies. They whipped stylistical rinds by a carefree attitude and a funny insouciance over their occasional appearances, so that you could imagine that they composed most of their songs (and their seemingly nonsense dandy/dadaist lyrics...) in total idleness and this pleasant reprint of their second full-length, previously released in 1982 by Choo Choo Train Records, which include 23 (it's not a mistake...they're really 23) bonus tracks from their first releases "Toop Young To Be Ideal" and "E Pluribus Unum", validate their bizarre eclecticism and the above-sketched attitude. A wholesome shake of references (I'm pretty sure you'll recognize many preceding and following musical acts while listening their somewhat lopsided pastiches and pastimes of doo-wop, swing, rock'n'roll, gospel, childplays, acapella, easy listening pop, jazz or whatever) has been combined to lyrical cinches, whose naif sublimation are really intriguing. Have a listen and these odd American fellows will manage to lift your mood up.
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Artist: Juno Reactor (@)
Title: The Golden Sun Of The Great East
Format: CD
Label: Metropolis (@)
Rated: *****
If we leave aside a couple of interesting remix collections, "Inside The Reactor" and "From The Land Of The Rising Sun" (the second part of "Inside The Reactor"), the phenomenal project by talented British producer Bew Watkins, which has gained a certain notoriety and a lot of approval for the fact he managed to put goa-trance, psychedelic techno, orchestral layers and ethnic music in the blender in order to squeeze highly synesthetic and powerfully magmatic condensed soups, has been out of service since 2008, so that many fans of Juno Reactor will be happy for this resurgence which sounds as a comeback as well due to some resemblances with his past works. The cover artwork itself could resemble both somehow profane/sacred references Mr.Watkins often recall, mainly justifiable by the intent of representing the deranged absurdity of the exploitation of religions for undermost purposes which marks human history than an act of groundless blasphemy (gas-masks into Nativity scene and rifles for little angels are really meaningful and bright ideas), and collage art he often recalls - think about artwork of his goa-trance explosive release "Beyond The Infinite" -, whereas the sound seems to be related to the frenzy whirling goa-trance of the above-mentioned "Beyond The Infinite" (particularly on incendiary tracks such as "Guillotine", "Final Frontier" or the frightening "Zombie", which got inspired by these monsters who became somehow fashionable for no other reason than the "gene mutation" or the imaginary evolutionary step from humanity to "zombietude" seems to be provoked by the brand new capitalistic slavery nd its inner inferences), flaming ethnic insertion of "Shango" and "Bible Of Dreams" (the catching heavy "gipsy" guitar strokes on "Final Frontier" could be the first clue), post-apocalytic nuances and a bunch of tricks he transplanted from music for the silver screen: the initial "Final Frontier" itself seems to include many references to the final theme of Blade Runner, whose contributing factor could be the inclusion of some horns who are not so different from the ones Vangelis used for that notorious soundtrack. Moreover Juno Reactor keeps on interlacing a solid narrative congruence together with an immediate emotional impact, which penetrates sensory system to the point that listeners could vividly experience the heat of flames, the mystical flight ofa prayer, the heartache of a mother, the terror of an air raid, the bewilderment of an orphan, the aloneness of a recluse, the pain of a whiplash by means of headbanging breaks, mesmerizing sequences, breath-taking sonic architecture and a remarkable effort on sampling and building of motifs. From the initial ignition of "Final Frontier" to the final woebegone anthem of "Playing With Fire", which could resemble the sense of tragedy of some moments of "Songs from Beuern" in the end, "The Golden Sun Of The Great East" radiates dazzling light to ears and brains.
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