Music Reviews



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Artist: Ballo Delle Castagne
Title: Surpassing All The Kings
Format: CD
Label: Blood Rock Records
Distributor: Black Widow
Rated: *****
"Surpassing All The Kings" is the newest Ballo Delle Castagne album and the first one to be released by a different label than HR!SPQR. Issued by Blood Rock Records and distributed by Black Widow, this album probably is their one which sounds more influenced by progressive rock. I don't know if this depends to the fact that all the music have been wrote by Diego Banchero (also active with Il Segno Del Comando, Egida Aurea, etc) but the ten new tracks offer strong hard rock influences (see the guitar riffs on "Il Risveglio" and the following "Il Viaggio" or the massive use of organ) and powerful drumming. While the old recordings by Ballo Delle Castagne where mostly resulting from improvisation sessions, "Surpassing All The Kings" sounds definitely less psychedelic, more focused on on progressive rock and also a bit more experimental (check "Rorate Coeli" which is based on strongly filtered bass guitar sounds, synth noises and Latin lyrics). Checking the songs' titles and the lyrics "Surpassing All The Kings" seems to be a sort of concept album where life and the quest for true self are seen as a long voyage that knows no limits: there's no time and nor matter. Maybe because of this, the opening and the closing songs refers to Gilgamesh, the king of Uruk, two-thirds god and one-third man and to his search for immortality. Harder and stronger than the previous releases, "Surpassing All The Kings" is the best Il Ballo Delle Castagne release to date...
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Artist: Locrian & Christoph Heemann (@)
Title: s/t
Format: 12"
Label: Handmade Birds (@)
Rated: *****
This is one of the few releases I luckily managed to save from the hard disk of my old laptop (summer's hot temperature and bad architecture of different parts almost melted condensers and motherboard so that it was turned into a fused silica filled sandwitch which could cause over excitement to a Luddite!). I have to say this salvage was a good thing: even if releases coming from artists and musicians who fed or keep on feeding the mass migration from metal-related stylistical grounds to electronic or more cinematic stuff usually sound disappointing to me as most of them cannot totally detach some compositional schemes, this collaboration between appreciated Chicago-based post-metal band Locrian and Christoph Heemann, an hyperactive sound artist, whose remarkable hidden "militancy" within the 80ies industrial and noise scene (collaborations with Current 93, John Duncan, Organum, Merzbow and many others) facilitates the interconnection with above-mentioned resettling migrants, give rise to a really visionary release. On this occasion both drums and guitars play a different role than in previous releases by Locrian: Steven Hess' drumming and Foisy's guitars just emerge in the first visionary track "Hecatomb", an impressive clotting of fatal visions and hypnotical post-industrial drones, which could evoke baleful and disastrous allegorical scenes and a sense of forthcoming collapse, highlighted by low piano keys, which mark the rhythm in the guise of a death toll, the ventricular fibrillation of fluffy tapping on drums and the threatening bustle's buzz, which sound like swallowed by the following track "Loathe The Light", where drums move towards fringe side of the drone in order to build the scenery and guitars weave a net of low-frequencies which emphasizes the hefty sonic setting, disrupted by the crummy cries by a Terence Hannum in deep grief, the highest peak of metal-imported brutality. The physical consistency that sinister guitar-driven low frequencies sounds more noticeable in the following "Edgeless City", where Locrian and Heemann vividly render the feeling of angst related to disquieting desolate and abandoned places, the artistic habitat of this band, before the prostrate chant of the grey and dusty final track "The Drowned Forest", where the drone sounds like singed in accordance with the general clouded atmosphere of the track.
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Artist: Xander Harris
Title: Snow Crash
Format: Download Only (MP3 + Lossless)
Label: Mishka NYC (@)
Rated: *****
This 6-track EP, available as a free download from Mishka NYC, is based upon the influential cyberpunk novel by Neal Stephenson. Snow Crash predicted the rise of the Internet, and the way it would shape our lives, as well as tripped-out musings on reality hacking, artificial intelligence, corporate warfare, and the building blocks of reality. At the time, it was merely cool gritty dystopian Sci Fi, but the themes the novel explored are becoming our daily lives. It is appropriate that Austin, TX electrician Xander Harris puts out this homage, in honor of the books 20th anniversary.

Cyberpunk always seemed antiquated and futuristic at the same time; the cities were all rusted and rundown, ancient tribal warriors would mingle with data hackers, under the glittering chrome and burning neon of the wasted cityscape. Xander Harris' retro-futurism emulates this sensation admirably. On previous albums, Harris explored neo-Vangelis kosmische synth etudes, the clinical image of white-suited inquiry. Pure radiophonic fury; but here Xander Harris has created a dancefloor miniature, full of rippling synth arpeggios and thudding kick drums, the better to help you get that pizza to its destination on time. Its like he's distilled every overhead driving scene made in the '80s, and mainlined the serum. The EP brings to mind the time when studios were full of tangled cables and flickering sequencers - a remarkable update on proto-industrial EBM. It is a fine ode to the dystopian, futurist '70s-'80s, an intimate emulation of analog grit. But there's no hiss, no fuzz, no linenoise; its a THX soundtrack, cleaned and polished, but i miss the grit. One main distinction, which is not a fault, is that the original purveyors of technological sounds had no way of knowing what they were doing was special, that it would go down for posterity. They were hacks and innovators, mad grandiose DIY wizards, trying out everything. There was a sense of wacky adventure, on all those private-press synth LPs and old Dr. Who episodes. Xander Harris, and the current era of recreationists, know what they like and know what works. Its a clean, polished, streamlined dancefloor mechanism, but you won't find a moment of stream-of-consciousness revelation.

The one thing that Xander got right, that he's always gotten right, is the attention to the SOUND, the TONE. The drums kick like DeLorean backfire, and the synths come straight out of Detroit, sparkling rich and robust. Like the recent movie Beyond The Black Rainbow, Xander Harris (and a whole generation of analog fetishists) show what is possible, selecting the bits of 80s culture that we love, and updating them with 30 years of additional technology and production wizardry. Say what you want about modern culture or music: we know how to make music sound good in 2013. Its such a valuable service, to have Xander Harris and ilk drawing attention to works of early sci fi innovation, showing it to a new generation in a way they can understand. Cyberpunk was daydreaming the future, before we fell into a decade of gothic decadence and decay. Now, perhaps, it may be time for Cyberpunk, early '80s hardware techno, and other lost genres, to rise like a skyscraper made of black glass, for all to see.

This is a free download, available here (http://mishkanyc.bandcamp.com/album/snow-crash). If you like dance music, synth exploration, sci-fi literature, or supporting new and interesting music, there's no reason not to hear this. Get back to the Metaverse!
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Artist: DVA (@)
Title: Fly Juice EP
Format: 2 x 12" vinyl
Label: Hyperdub
Rated: *****
Leon Smart aka Scratcha DVA already demonstrated his fine approach to sound as it were a true gourmet in his acclaimed debut album "Pretty Ugly" (such a title could let you surmise he probably assimilated the rules of British understatement!). That's the reason why Hyperdub always gave him carte blanche with the only restriction of avoiding to prepare mid-tempo dubstep stuff as they maybe noticed that shelves in the supermarket are full enough. The culinary metaphor is not so casual as the modified clap Scratcha DVA often uses could remind the sound of the knife on a wooden cutting board. Moreover his way of cutting samples before putting them in the frying pan reminded some Japanese samurai whose sonic katanas got famous since the end of 90ies such as Boom Boom Satellites, Tatsuya Oe, Ken Ishii as well as some stuff released on David Moufang's Source Records, but DVA's paraphernalia seasons the sound with tasty spices such as hypnotic Detroit techno chords and similar tricks ("Long Street", "Walk It Out"), delicious garage-house nibbles and jazz-funk Rhodes organ appetizer ("Fly Juice"), dogged shuffling drums ("Do It"). All those listener who will opt for digital edition will be delighted by double portion as they could grab four more tracks, including the smoky dub knocking remix of "Ganja" by French Fries, the amazing swooshing garage-dub feast of "Rumors" which features "drunken" delicate vocal guest Inga copeland (Hype Williams), and the catchy "Shook", whose funny lolloping tastes like a sort Mr.Oizo in aspic. Why am I feeling peckish now?
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Artist: Blitzkrieg Baby
Title: Porcus Norvegicus
Format: CD
Label: Neuropa Records
Rated: *****
"Porcus Norvegicus" is the first album by Blitzkrieg Baby, project headed by Kim Solve, guy active on the scene since 1999 thanks to his design studio (Trine + Kim Design Studio - www.trineogkim.no). He started playing in 1992 but he didn't release nothing since his first 2008 album "The Silver Hour" with the Swarms and "XXX" by Pronounced "sex" the same year (this was a one-off collaboration with his close friend, mutual Black Metal veteran and noise artist Zweizz). In 2010 he released on Neuropa Records, his first solo album "The Vault Of Apparitions" under the K100 moniker (then K100 has been signed by Cyclic Law). Now it was time for a new project and Blitzkrieg Baby born. Kim started to work on the thirteen tracks of "Porcus Norvegicus" twelve years ago, really, without the intention of releasing them. Born as a outfit for all the destructive things that he had inside, Blitzkrieg Baby has it's like a solo project where Kim release his personal instincts like a wounded wolf who wanders through the city like a condemnation. Even if he's responsible of most all the sounds, Kim was helped by some friends that contributed with vocals, instruments, etc. They were: Anders B. (from Mind & Flesh, Three Winters) who did vocals on "Pig Boy" and "Children In Uniform", Petter Berntsen (formerly of Virus) played bass on "Viva La Morte", Bjeima (of Virus, Alfa Obscura ++) did some drums and synthesizer and his friend Alan did vocals on "Fuck Me Like You Hate Me" and "Sperm Crawling Back Into Its hole". Musically we have a perfect thirty years sum of Wagnerian industrialism plus a good amount of irony and great arrangements. The press infos name NON, early Laibach and SPK as main references but Blitzkrieg Baby sound goes beyond these names, even if I doubt it would exist without those people. Most of the tracks have fine dissonant orchestration coupled with powerful drumming and noises with the add of declamations (like on "Pig Boy", "Fuck Me Like You Hate Me" or "Children In Uniform"), atmospheric moments ("Viva La Morte" sounds like a perfect track for a thriller movie) and black humor (check titles like "Disneyfied, Delirius And HIV" or "Sperm Crawling Back Into Its Hole"). What amazed me is the quality of the sounds and the richness of the arrangements and if you own "Children Of The Black Sun" by Non, you can understand what I mean but, mind you, "Porcus Norvegicus", sounds even more varied and rich compared to that great Boyd Rice's album. I really suggest you to check this out! P.s. Stay tuned for the upcoming tape that will be released for Belaten, the label run by Thomas of Trepaneringsritualen/Dead Letters Spell Dead Words.
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