Music Reviews



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Artist: Jason Van Wyk (@)
Title: Attachment [remastered]
Format: CD
Label: Home Normal (@)
Rated: *****
Ian Hawgood's label Home Normal and his sister label Eileen are already known to act like smart smugglers of high-quality ambient music and soundscapes. Such a reputation got confirmed by very recent outputs, but also by some past entries, that Ian decided to remaster such as this very good album by South African prodigy Jason van Wyk, who started making music (trance music to be correct...quite far from the compositions he spread in recent years) since he was 14. He's 27 now, but the music he made features a level that many composers only reach the adult age. The intersection between gentle breezes of electronics (some sonic strategies actually resemble the ones that featured the so-called chilled side of Trance music of the late 90ies/first 00ies... stuff by Chicane, Ocean Lab some stuff by Francois K and so on), a balanced sound design and lovely piano melodies filled this "Attachment" - a real gemstone of that branch, combining ambient and post-classical music - when he was first pushed out, but according to Ian's words (Ian mastered and remastered this album), the first clean master should be better appreciated by some glitches, so that he kept some dust of the sound, including the ones rendered by the use of close-mic to record an instrument. In Ian's words "after inviting Jason to release his follow-up on Home Normal, we also agreed that a complete remaster using tapes would be a lovely way of approaching ‘Attachment’ again. Alongside his follow-up ‘Opacity’, with its searing vision, clarity and electronics twists; we are so happy to present another side to Jason’s wonderful work with this remaster.". All those listeners, who already appreciated the "clean" master of "Attachment", as well as listeners, who missed it, will appreciate the way by which the emotional intensity and the flowing piano elements, gliding over daydreaming melodious pads, got enhanced by this "dirty" remastering.
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Artist: Forest Management (@)
Title: The Elevated Quiet
Format: Tape
Label: Constellation Tatsu (@)
Rated: *****
Another lovely roll of magnetic tape in the catalog of Constellation Tatsu, belonging to the spring/summer bunch, got signed by American producer John Daniel aka Forest Management. As you can easily guess by looking the detail of a white and supposedly warming jumper standing over a snowy field (I guess it's snow at least), there's something in this release that is somehow out of seasonal (considering it came out in April) and that vague sense of detachment, sometimes pushed into some people's mind by wintertime low temperatures, maybe influenced the forging of the sound, which occurred close to the end of last year. According to John's words and memories, he composed "The Elevated Quiet" in the very last days of 2016 and finished before joining his friends to celebrate New Year's Eve. These are some eloquent words attached by him to introduce the emotional framework of this stream of "ambientness": "Residing in a high place of luxury, above everyone else. You look down at thousands of people every night, but they become increasingly distant. A hustle and bustle that’s always present, but up here it’s quiet - your environment is your own. There are countless opportunities to do countless things every year, but as the New Year approaches you reflect on who you’ve been, rather than what you’ve done. Midnight arrives, but it mostly feels the same. You finish the bottle, and come to a resolve in your mind to finally pursue what’s in your heart.". As he currently resides in Hemet, California, I guess he decided to spend this moment of the year in the cozy atmosphere of some detached cottage on the mountains behind that area or close to Los Angeles. By the way, the sound of the entire album is really ethereal and evokes the above-mentioned feeling - something in between that kind of escapism, which gets rising claimed as a human right in many over-crowded urban jungle, and strong need of brooding on a self, that goes out of personal focus, blurred by more or less wanted active social life. Best tracks according to my ear response: "Until Midnight" (...where John managed to render a sense of constant ascension by playing on the volume pitch of some frequencies), "The Girl of My Dream" (you'll think John dreamt of engaging with a woman from outer space, maybe!) and "I'm Just Going to Lay Down" (I hope it's not what he thought some minutes after joining his friends for New Year's Eve celebration!).
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Artist: Olivier Alary (@)
Title: Pieces for Sine Waves Oscillators
Format: Download Only (MP3 + Lossless)
Label: LINE (@)
Rated: *****
On the occasion of Olivier's output "Fiction/Non-Fiction" on Fat Cat's sister label 130701, the Toulouse-born producer told us something about his forthcoming projects (including an attempt of intersecting Lachenmann-like "concrete instrumental music" and post-tonal language developed by many American minimalist composer), but he didn't tell anything about this release. That's the reason why I can say it's a sort of unexpected sonic gift. There's nothing but sine waves (obviously squeezed by oscillators) as you can easily guess by the title, but the imprint and the sensitivity by Olivier Alary is the really important recipe. You can imagine he took a break, lighted a cigarette up, but just to observe the wreaths of smoke to turn them into sound instead of inhaling them. The way by which he blows the smoky impalpable sine waves out of his oscillators sounds remarkably influenced by the somehow cinematic imprint of Olivier's sound. The six entrancing pieces placidly enclose listeners into amniotic whispers, that get detached by underlying pure tones to dissolve into the sonic sphere, and fine tonal mists, that could be thought as a minimalist derivation of organ-driven sacred music. Besides a good pair of headphones or a good set of amplifiers, I recommend to enjoy it in the dim lights just before nightfall.
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Artist: Peter Zirbs
Title: Firmament
Format: Download Only (MP3 + Lossless)
Label: Fabrique Records
“Firmament” is a compact EP of 3 tracks from the moodier side of piano-pop.

The instrumental title track sets slightly Glass-like repeating piano arpeggios with a steady basslines and triphop-ish beats. “Ritual Vitality” starts with the same structure but with far more pace and energy, with an slightly acid bassline that eventually unfolds into an unusual 12/8 sort of lightweight, glam rock/techno hybrid.

Tom Walkden’s vocal on “You Don’t Feel Like This” makes it the centerpiece of the EP, but while it’s a strong and sorrowful song, the musical arrangement falls into some slightly flat, pop ballad clichés.

The result is reminiscent of a late 1990’s era CD single- a main vocal track (a touch flat) and two interesting and slightly more experimental B-sides, all intended to draw your attention to an album (which in the case of Peter Zirbs I have no information about), but not a complete mini-work in its own right.
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Artist: Kalbata
Title: Obskuur
Format: 12"
Label: Brush & Broom
African drum loops meet deep acid basslines in these two unusual slices of minimal instrumental techno. While the DJ-challenging time signature of “Obskuur” makes it more of a home headphone listen, the more conventionally structured “Rumoured” is more set-friendly and strongly reminiscent of mid-set tunes from Josh Wink.

While I’ll never reconcile myself to the fact that a 2-track 12” is now called an “EP” when there’s nothing extended about it at all, this is a solid pack of two multi-purpose tracks that are quite bold in their simplicity but very well executed.
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