Music Reviews



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Artist: System 56
Title: System 56
Format: 12"
Label: Synthetic Shadows
Rated: *****
Formed in the winter of 1981 near Cleveland, System 56, armed with a Teac 3340-S reel to reel tape recorder, started to work on their songs. Influenced by early Ultravox (the Foxx period), Cars, Simple Minds and so on, the band had four different line-ups and the only permanent members were Steve Simenic Guitar/vocals) and drummer Vince Scafiti. In early 1982 they released their first single "Metro-Metro b/w In the Old World', two songs that showed really well their style which was a mix of synth melodies backed by a driving bass/drums section and guitar riffs. Melody was also an important part of their music and they started to gather fans and soon after they started to play live. Unfortunately, at is at that point that the first split happened. The duo went to the studio and recorded the six tracks EP 'Beyond The Parade'. 'Brave New Toys', 'Through Other Eyes' or 'Hands Of A Stranger' didn't suffer from the split and they sound bright, melodic, powerful and inspired. A good mix of new wave, synth wave and that sort of proto punk characteristic of early Ultravox. For the next single 'Life On A Cool Curve b/w The Other Side Of Science', the duo was joined by Paul Teagle on synths and they had as guest, Phil Capone on sax. The first song had a synth arpeggio as main bass lines and synth pads to thicken the atmosphere. Steve's guitar riffs gave to the mix a certain rock wave atmosphere that on the B side was less present as 'The Other Side Of Science' is a atmospheric mid tempo with guitar sparse arpeggios and cool synth lines. A curiosity: this song has the same atmospheres of some that Type O Negative did but System 56, recorded it ten years before. The band, with a new line-up that integrated Tom Lash on bass guitar, released their last 12' in 1984. 'A Man Needs A Motor b/w Shapes Of Things' were the songs and the first on is a good post wave guitar driven song with dissonances and nice synth lines. From the same recording session we also have 'The Sounding', 'Your Car Is Waiting' and 'Next To X' but not on this compilation released by Synthetic Shadows as this has the same track list of the CD-r 'Retrospective: 1982-83' that the band self released in 2003 but those three songs are missing. Anyway, System 56 songs sound really nice and they grow with the listenings. As usual, you can check all of them at the label's Bandcamp page here http://syntheticshadows.bandcamp.com/album/system-56-s-t-ss10
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Artist: Staer (@)
Title: Daughters
Format: CD
Label: Horse Arm (@)
Rated: *****
On the occasion of a chat, that followed the launch of their impressive self-titled EP, we had on this space last year, Stavanger-based Norwegian experimental rock (someone could prefer to label their sound "noise rock", "rockish noise", "art noise", "brutal prog", "apocalyptic rock" or whatever...you are free to choose your favourite one) Staer announced their second album. Well, here it is! The guy on mix desk opens to the listeners the possibility to avoid the sonic assault to their eardrums by a sort of graduated fade-in, which could be perceived as a flattery as well, on the initial "Flashing Teeth Of Brass" before these sonic arsonists set fires around a skinned guitar and somewhat tribal drumming, a pyre they keep on feeding with the furious two parts of "Daughters", where temporary breaks which last no more than 3-4 seconds or 6-8 bars are just cues to add fuel to the fire of the corrosive stream of devastated chords, melodic wreck, unpredictable percussive flare-ups, cacophonous squeaking and piercing sonic throttling. Despite the whipping of noises, both first and second part still include an inkling of something steady, which got totally eclipsed on the following "One Million Love Units", where one sonic constituent got strained at the impervious surfaces of pure blunt improvisation with some short pauses that could let you think about the sequential detonation of many explosive charges, primed by fusillades of kick drums. Whereas "Neukolln" deploys a sort of lopsided and befuddling sonic clot, the final "Future Fuck" combines strident dissonances on a combustive pinwheel of accelerations and decelerations where the hobgoblin-like appearance of the saxophone by Ultralyd's Kjetil Moster is the cherry on top. "Daughters" is that kind of stuff that could delight eardrums of people who follow the stylistical scents of Steve Albini and Merzbow at the same time.
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Artist: DECA
Title: Modulectron
Format: 12"
Label: Synthetic Shadows (@)
Rated: *****
Deca is the moniker of Federico De Caroli, a guy coming from Liguria, Italy, who is active since the mid eighties with is musical project. Interested into electronic sounds and lover of the German and French music of the seventies, Federico decided to take a different approach on the matter thanks to his piano studies. He started to record his experiments with polyphonic synthesizers and in 1986 he released, for the Video Radio label, his first album "Alkaid", release inspired by a science fiction story he wrote. The following year "Synthetic Lips" followed and this one was mainly inspired by German space electronic music. Things changed in 1989 with the album " Claustrophobia": the atmosphere got darker and obsessive and musically it sounded like a new wave/industrial mix. With 1992's 'Premonizione Humana", he started to collaborate for the visual part with Gianni Bacino, whom took care also of the live side of this aspect. Musically, the atmosphere got more evocative thanks to the use of piano and strings along with the electronic sounds. On 1998, Old Europa Cafe released "Phantom", an experimental electronic album with melodic inserts that you can still easily find on Discogs (all the other releases are quite hard to find). On 2000 we have 'Electronauta', a compilation of unreleased tracks and on 2002, "Simbionte", an album that has been sold only through the website created for the occasion. These are the main releases Deca did, but there are many more on tapes. Now, let's talk about "Modulectron". This album issued by Synthetic Shadows, is a collection of tracks recorded during the 1984/1986 period using only a Roland Jx3p synthesizer, no other instrument involved, not even a drum machine. The twelve tracks of the album sound minimal, experimental and create an atmosphere of their own but most of the time, they sound quite obsessive and alienated. Based on multi layered recordings or on arpeggio/sequencer/filters variations they hypnotize the listener thanks to dissonances, noises and warm sounds which suddenly turn into a cold atmosphere. I enjoyed it and you can check the whole release following this link http://syntheticshadows.bandcamp.com/album/deca-modulectron-ss11
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Artist: Tattered Kaylor (@)
Title: Sombre Nay Sated
Format: Download Only (MP3 only)
Label: Stasisfield (@)
Rated: *****
"Sound does not know our rules regarding walls, corners and closed doors. It travels through and beyond - being numerous in place, yet existing as a single entity. Under the guise of being unseen it permeates our surroundings, expanding and contracting space, warping the edges we construct with our perceptions of reality". Such a fascinating and embraceable observation by Australian sound artist Tessa Elieff aka Tattered Kaylor, which middles sound as a sort of an autonomous entity which prescinds from its receptor by emphasizing the role of perception and got marvelously epitomized by her acousmatic releases, could let you guess that an adaptation for personal fruition of her live works could be considered a challenge within a challenge. This attempt consists of three interesting adaptations of previous performances where she tried to link real sounds to their perceptions by a sort of overlapping between sonic "realities" such as steel, stone or architectural (both artificial and natural) cavities and a multi-speaker system, which got inspired by the original project of the Acousmonium by Francois Bayle: the tubular thin undulations of "Waves 2009", a stereophonic recording for a live performace she built with Cadif's Jacques Soddell, which soon turned into a sort of drone with sounds which could come from the bottom of an obscure well and seemingly disembodied female words, starts this immersive listening experience, which continues with a couple of tracks commissioned by Kunstradio, "Taken To Booroomba", a sort of reshpaed "take" of Uli Kuehn's "ROBOT" whose thunders and storms got played back at granite Booroomba Rocks in Australian Capital Territory, and the sinisterly claustrophobic "The Broken Return", which got derived from "Minigit", a sound installation by Andreas Trobollowitsch, which was performed at Moozak Festival in Wien in 2012. You can download this release for free with the possibility to send donation here: http://www.stasisfield.com/releases/year11/sf-11001.html
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Artist: Miracle (@)
Title: Mercury
Format: CD
Label: Planet Mu (@)
Rated: *****
It's not the first time I diagnose that there's love-in-the-air syndrome within esteemed Paradinas' label as Miracle could be considered the outcome of an artistic and musical love by American electronic composer Steve Moore and British multi-instumentalist Daniel O'Sullivan, which blossomed during a tour of respective bands: O'Sullivan used to be the leading voice and the "electronic" recipe of Guapo, whose excellent recent release "History Of The Visitation" on Cuneiform, the first which followed the departure of Daniel, has some trace of his visitation yet, while the skittish Steve Moore was touring with Anthony "Majeure" Paterra as a leg of Zombi. After their meeting, they kept on flirting on Internet by which they exchanged ideas and files and forged the tracks of this good album by adding arrangments and enhancements, which preceded the definitive studio recording, which can be reasonably considered a proper upgrade of 80ies synth-pop rather than a calque in spite of the more or less recognizable similarities and influences. A sort of exegesis of the title "Mercury" could be the pretext to show some features of Miracle's debut album: "Mercury" could be a reference to the smallest planet of Solar System as well as the closest to our star, whose proximity eminently conditions its magnetic shield and its visibility from our planet or to the notoriously Greek messenger of Gods due to his winged footwear and helmet. Both interpretations could be related to some features of their synth-driven sound, whose divine halo is unavoidably magnetic and seems to be derived by a lofty perception and a certain detahcment from human recurring dynamics, but I can guess the above-mentioned possible interpretations could refer to the audio equipment, or at least to a part of it, which paved they way for the lovely cosmic route they offer to the listeners, as I'm pretty sure Steve Moore could have used a Prophet 5 or maybe a Prophet 600 to notch the long sonic chains of each song - and phophets are commonly considered a messenger of gods just like Mercury... - and the lyrics of the title-track seem to run on such an ambivalence. Many reviewers insisted on the similarities between the sound of Miracle and the one by Depeche Mode, which can maybe be reminded by some tracks of the first part of the album - the initial "Good Love", "Neverending Arc 1" or "Falling Into The Night"- even if they could be remind more stuff by former Depeche Mode-collaborator Bomb Da Bass at most, but the strongest influences I can perceive are the ones by some cosmic knights of late 70ies and 80ies, italo-house or some scorer of horror and sci-fi movies such as Claudio Simonetti due to some resemblances on the synth-organ attacks, but I can ultimately say that the sterling and upright way Miracle pop astronauts up is somehow original and so intriguing that many listeners will wish for a follow-up of "Mercury".
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