Music Reviews



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Artist: Giovanni Lami (@)
Title: Hysteresis III
Format: Tape
Label: Soft Error
Rated: *****
While the previous two parts were recorded in Ravenna and Solfatara, "Hysteresis III" was recorded in Valencia and, more or less consciously, this in another step forward an organic sound object from the noisy and abstract introduction to this modus operandi heard in "Hysteresis I", where the manipulation to enhance the typical noises of a reel to reel tape recorder as the Nagra V, used in this project, created a sonic representation of a ghost.
As the first voices of the first side are heard, this third chapter is marked by an approach closer to the canonical field recordings release with the tape manipulation reduced to the minimum; the great cure for spatialization creates a realistic environment and the tape noises are mainly used to separate the section of the track. The B side is instead more on the path of the previous chapter as more time is devoted to the tape manipulation at the beginning and at the end of the track while the central part is based on the playback of the voices recorded and this is another cue of the character of this release, while the first two parts were recorded in a probable uninhabited environment, in this tape the human presence is underlined.
Instead of repeating himself, Giovanni Lami decided to take his project in a slightly different direction so it could probably be enjoyable by a wider audience as it's less noisy and more evocative. I'm curious to hear the last two chapters.
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Artist: Kotra (@)
Title: Cicada
Format: CD
Label: Kvitnu (@)
Rated: *****
The info-sheet attached to this new release by Ukrainian label Kvitnu doesn't mention the reason why the six tracks of this output by label boss Dmytro Fedorenko didn't reach the audience after they were forged, but better late than never. Actually there's an analogy between the long delay between the birth and the surfacing of this release by Kotra and the life cycle of the insects quoted in the title: before resurfacing and living for a short period (between some weeks and a few months) as adults, they spent years (the genus mentioned in the opening track "Magicicada" - mostly living in America - requires between 13 and 17 years) under the ground where they complete the growing process. After their growth, they resurface together after digging intricates web of tunnels and males uses the known whisper to group the other members of the community. The six tracks of "Cicada" (as you can easily guess by their titles as well) render this life cycle by means of finely sharpened rhythmical noises, whose constant elements are shaking high frequencies and a sort of flickering vibrations over elastic tremors of low frequencies, that resemble the trembling choruses of cicadas and all the stages of their life. A life that you could consider pretty strange, but smarter listeners will find some tragically surprising similarities with many human lives, heavily influenced by the unwritten laws of many industrial and post-industrial communities, or a remarkable parallelism with some political processes...
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Artist: N-qia
Title: Fantasica
Format: CD + Download
Label: Noble
I’ll be honest, perhaps embarrassingly Tokyo-based duo N-Qia were a new name to me, but as soon as I’d heard this, their third full-length album, I immediately Googled their previous two albums (“Popical” and the digital-only mini-album “Audio Illustrations”). It isn’t even necessarily my usual fayre, but there’s something about this particular blend of upbeat, lush, bright Japanese dream-pop that really strikes a chord.

Lots of organic sounds- pianos, some guitars and strings, clapping, and an airy, willowy vocal- are arranged in a gentle electronica space with chord pads and some subtle electronic ornamentation.

Every song runs very close to the 4-minute mark and if I were looking to criticise, I might say that there’s perhaps not quite enough variety between the 11 tracks, which do end up merging into one smooth sonic carpet. Notable tracks include “Time Leaper”, which brings an extra layer of Planet Mu-esque glitch to the rhythm programming without ever spoiling the flow, and final track “Neondrive” which skips effortlessly between soft J-pop, house and near-jazzy complex electronica patterns. The urgently-paced and nicely dynamic “Love Transmitter” is just crying out for some drum & bass remixes. The slightly rockier “Lost Kids” has hints of Lemon Jelly about it.

If asked to pick a weak spot, it would probably be “Lover’s Rock”, which feels a little uninspired and insipid compared to what precedes it.

It’s got a relaxed, feel-good and weirdly cleansing mood to it throughout, a real headspace-clearer. It’s one of those albums that will leave you thinking, “lovely”.
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Artist: Ricardo Tobar
Title: Luturgia
Format: 12" vinyl + Download
Label: ESP Institute
“Liturgia” is an EP of four eight-minute-long, gentle and atmospheric instrumental house music taking some organic-sounding rhythms and blending with quite melancholy slow chord pads and smatterings of electronica bleeps and clicks. Both sides of the 12” pair a clubbier tune with something a little more out-there.

Opener “La Dormida” has a faintly South American percussive flavour and feels steady and determined, whereas “The Lake” is distinctly more glum, with an interesting use of sawtooth-edged, semi-patterned, slow-rising high synth line. “Liturgia” is a more regular, bass-driven steady house track, and then “Star Alliance” wigs out somewhat with a really unusual lead line that sounds like a pitched-up didgeridoo, but, erm, better.

It’s a really strong and immersive EP- or at 36-minutes perhaps I ought to describe it as a mini-album- with a quality imbued with confidence. Definitely one to check out for fans of thoughtful deep house.
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Artist: Dream Weapon Ritual
Title: The Uncanny Little Sparrows
Format: LP
Label: Boring Machines
Simon Balestrazzi and Monica Serra’s music as Dream Weapon Ritual is an unusually textured blend of Middle Eastern-style folksy plaintive drone work with electronic hums and digitally sawtoothed noises. Long vocal notes, reverberant cymbal crashes, processed found sounds and metallic hits and scrapes meld into odd, deeply expressive and somewhat sinister atmospheres.

The first side of the LP is one 18-minute track, “Bird Mother”, which is a melancholy and relatively busy affair with a sustained approach whereby the same elements fade and return in a variety of patterns but without any real sense of progression. It’s quite guttural and wears its emotions on its sleeve, but it perhaps doesn’t have quite enough variety in it to justify filling the whole side of vinyl.

The second side is four shorter tracks with greater breadth. “Mating Call” is bordering on playful, a short arrangement of vocal bird noise impressions that morph into an odd robotic tango rhythm. “Two Little Sparrows Sitting On A Bough And Waiting For Enlightenment” is a much tenser affair than the title suggests, with twanged melodies and tension notes that sound like a sort of horror / spaghetti western hybrid. “Tittle-Tattle Among Secret Devices” is more percussive and has a greater sense of urgency, underpinned by some almost anachronistic steady hand-drum patterns and a frankly bizarre breathy male vocal that sounds like at times like a cartoon animal impression, before “The One With The Iron Beak” is the most prog rock-like piece of the set, eerie with a slightly more retro and live feel.

It’s an unusual release, oozing with character and probably an interesting live proposition, a sort of prog rock drone electronica that certainly stands out in a crowd.
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