Music Reviews



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Artist: Gtronic
Title: Sergeant Bass EP
Format: 12"
Label: Dim Mak (@)
Distributor: Downtown Music
Rated: *****
I thought that samples of military snares and similar references in dance music were a little bit old-fashioned, especially after many stylists spoke out for the hoped disappearance of combat jackets, helmets, camouflage trousers, admiral coats, uniforms and insignia from wardrobes, arguably related to that smelling-like-teen-spirit feeling of being enlisted by strict rules of society - maybe many workers, retirees, businessmen or jobless people are feeling the same for the heavy tax regimes and the general rising of cost-of-living indexes related to financial crisis, even if such a situation could result in a feeling of belonging to a firing squad -. However that may be, many techno followers are joining to the rowdy forces of Gregory Grauwels aka Gtronic, a young techno maker dealing with the rougher and more contagious side of hard techno and the assault he normally mounts is sensorial as confirmed by this hard-ditting EP, wisely titled "Sergeant Bass" and issued by Steve Aoki's label Dim Mak- he still needs some seniority to reach golden stripes and gleaming medals, but he looks like quite resolute as he says with ogre-like voice in the title track between pasty bass pulses, harsh cuts and sharp sounds -. After he sets himself the target, Gtronic grinds his weaponry to reach the goal: military snares and dirty techno sounds in "March of Evil" are going to inflame the army (the snares used a long time ago by Dutchman Hans Weekhout's brain child Capricorn in "20Hz", which could came to listener's mind, will appear stuff for washouts) and a session of hard training has been scheduled on course sonic surfaces and whirling skretches of "Bubba", a sort of reminder of the dynamics which made Gtronic sound so notorious and beloved. An instrumental version of "Sergeant bass" has been included in the Ep for the sadic pleasure of lieutenants, who are going to recruit new forces in many clubs of the planet. Mission is going to be accomplished.
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Artist: Stefan Paulus (@)
Title: Becoming-Dissolve
Format: Download Only (MP3 + Lossless)
Label: Earth Mantra
Rated: *****
The author of this release, Stefan Paulus, conveniently calls his sonic stuff by using the expression "psychogeography drifts", a reminder of the notorious method for investigation on surrounding reality as well as an eccentric approach to the studies of a place, defined by radical theorist Guy Debord, and while listening this contemporary sonic "flaneur"'s "Becoming-Dissolve" and in spite of the theoretical limits of such a method, which have been recognised by its inventor, some words by Debord himself look like having been echoed back by Stefan's sound: "When freedom is practiced in a closed circle, it fades into a dream, becomes a mere image of itself. The ambiance of play is by nature unstable. At any moment, "ordinary life" may prevail once again. The geographical limitation of play is even more striking than its temporal limitation. Every game takes place within the boundaries of its own spatial domain". The so-called "derive" resounds in the three moments of this becoming, a kind of narrative sequence of long-lasting field recordings which have been injected with entrancing sine waves, electronic rarefied atmospheres and humoral resonances so that it seems an emphatic cruise across a nebula of daily aural stimulations: the overwhelming solipsism combined with a certain feeling of self-alienating during a train trip in "Becoming-Endless", the glacial lethargy and the freezing surges in "Becoming-Imperceptible", the entrancing absorption of the ego within a natural landscape, emphasized by heavy rain, nocturnal chirring of cicadas and the blowing of strong winds over a wintry land, in "Becoming-Molecular" are the daydreaming stages of this suggestive dissolving. "Becoming-Dissolve" is available for free on Earth Mantra's net-label web-site.
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Artist: VV.AA. (@)
Title: Tectonic Plates 3
Format: CD
Label: Tectonic Recordings (@)
Rated: *****
Tectonic Recordings has had a formative influence on the evolution of Dubstep and its various bass-y tributaries. Run by Rob Ellis, aka DJ Pinch, over they years they have released a slew of classic Dubstep records by the likes of 2562, Distance, Skream! & Benga. It is fitting that on this most recent installment of the Tectonic Plates compilations, that they freeze and take stock of the current state of the bass.

Over the course of 13 tracks, it is possible to hear and identify many mutant strains of late-night LFO tweaking; from the now classic sub-woofer shredding of Kryptic Minds' "The Talisman," through the hypnotic tribalism of Tunnidge's "Universal" to the ends of an ATARI universe of Ginz's "Chrome". It draws a straight line straight from the earliest dubstep sounds, like Burial and Kode 9's wailing ghost divas and half-tempo locked grooves, to Skrillex's laser eyes and monster drops. Most of the tracks keep to the consistent 140 BPM, which makes for a smooth listening experience, well sequenced and well produced. There is also a pervasive mournful mood, brought on by heart-tugging strings, that harken back to the earliest days of dubstep, that sense of melancholy and immanent dread. Easy on the ears. Some of the tracks seem like works in progress, like Kevin McPhee's "Outs," which sounds like a dubplate rushed hot to the presses to someone's DJ friend, which seems like techno in its purest forms, utilitarian jams to make people dance.

In this day and age of media overload, trusted labels and selectors are more important than ever, and Pinch has been on the scene since the get go. Not every track on Tectonic Plates is essential listening, just like any DJ mix anywhere, but any of them would go over the for the late night faithful. Its interesting to speculate on where bass music will go from here.
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Artist: Maurizio Bianchi
Title: CeltiChants
Format: CD
Label: Alone at Last records (@)
Distributor: Alone at Last records
Rated: *****
I think the name of Maurizio Bianchi / MB did not need any introduction here. He is simply one of the great fathers of electronic music in Italy and Europe and is long been considered a cult musician, recognized and enshrined in all our musical environment.
MB is an excellent artist and musician and tight end capable of producing, in over thirty years of activity, real masterpieces of music and ranging experiments at the boundaries between electronic and noise. Many of his records have become genuine landmarks of this genre.
In recent years, Maurizio has also become a point of reference and a friend for the work individual and collective for many of us. Always willing to work with many other artists in the electronic scene, he has managed to create a kind of permanent musical laboratory around them.

Into this second "sonic youth" the great MB gave us a wide range of excellent discs created by several people. And even when such collaborations have not reached the levels of the highest quality of all his previous solo work is still important and valid evidence of the symbiosis possible between his music and the artists who have collaborated with him. This MB work, however, is not in collaboration with others artistis. Maurizio plays alone (at last) and present to us a long and unique suite of sound entitled "Celtichants" that lasts just one hour. But, if you listen this suite, you feel like you take a few moments and you will do everything to try and play it back in the hour immediately following. Even'll be the last hour of your life. Because this "Celtichants" is a very beautiful work. Work i believe is also very, very important. For two different reasons.
The first reason is that, unlike other works of MB more extreme and perhaps less accessible, this work revealed from the beginning in all its splendor. Celtichants represents, for me, really "a new form of beauty" because it not only keeps intact the quality and the best creativity and artistic research of MB's music, that we always used to, but exceeds them instinctively and from the first listen. A real seminal work of which he felt the need after so much noise.
Listen to him with respectful silence then this beautiful "Celtic Songs" by MB! But do not expect human voices or ethnic harmony of the Celtic tradition. Because these Celtic songs come from a sound dreamy and unknown elsewhere and bring us up to the sound of his ethereal and stellar wind. These are our songs of Maldoror for a "fifth dimension", evidence of distant and remote place that belongs to us but in the depths of our being. A place where the spirit of Isidore Ducasse hovers behind every breath of cosmic wind that carries them. I will not say more words on the beauty of this work by Maurizio Bianchi to invite you to buy and listen to this record. But, if the first reason is not enough for a new disk of MB, I will give you a second reason why it fascinates me and I think this album is a masterpiece not to be missed. For fans of the genre but also for the neophyte listen to electronic or industrial music for the first time.
This record I came to me, last week, directly from Moscow. Together with other work which I will label the same way of speaking. The work of MB is the third title included in the catalog of a small fledgling independent label that was for me a revelation.
This label is Russian and is called "Alone at Last" and was born in march this year. On his website (www.alone-at-last.com) looks like a label focused on the realization of very limited editions of artists known and recognized in the electronic scene. It 's also the reason for not accepting demos.
If you visit his site you will sense the line and the painstaking care with which the "Alone at Last" creates their own records.
Rarely in the independent and industrial scene, I got to see this level of packaging. Each disk has a cardboard box, carved on many layers of different dominant color, each designed so as to be then folded by hand on the other in sequence. Each disc is a small gem of paper, carefully close like an ancient Japanese Origami around the jewel it contains. And the first 50 copies of each limited edition is also signed by the artist.
A few meager liner notes accompanying the content. No self-celebration of the label or artist. What is said is used as a theme track for the imaginary linked to each work. And the imagery of this is a poetic song. A deluge text composed by the terms of our technological imaginary. A poem dedicated, as all the work, to Ducasse, Comte de Lautreamont. Each disc also contains within it also precious polychrome photographic prints, based on the work of several photographers. In particular, the three prints that accompany Celtichants, are photographs taken by Siegmar Fricke in the Canary Islands over some beautiful basalt stones of Miocene epoch.
I believe I have nothing more to add. I want to give a final friendly advice: GET FAST THIS WORK by Maurizio Bianchi for Alone at Last Records. You will not regret.
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Artist: Ergo (@)
Title: If Not Inertia
Format: CD
Label: Cuneiform (@)
Rated: *****
Even if Ergo sounds deeply rooted in jazz, the comparisons of their release "Multitude, Solitude" with sonic germs which have nothing to share with jazz such as Autechre, Sigur Ros, Steve Reich or Radiohead (some occasional listeners travelling in my car while "If not Inertia" was playing from hi-fi system detected even some similaratis with Colleen, Murcof, Efterklang, Sun Ra Arkestra - the most fitted touchstone in my opinion - or Kammerflimmer Kollektief) don't appear so orthogonal to me after the listening of this great album, the most recent act by this combo, founded by trombonist (as well as laptop musician) Brett Sroka, who decided to push his musical boundaries beyond jazz after some training years at Manhattan School of Music by embracing the wide range of compositional possibilities, offered by electronic devices and prompted by many improv and free jazz refluxes. It happened by chance that Ergo's music sublimed my reading of a passage from "Notes from Underground" by Fyodor Dostoyevsky during a dreary afternoon and you could imagine how I wondered when discovering they mentioned that great Russian storyteller (together with Charles Baudelaire, William Bulter Yeats, Joseph Campbell and Mark Gonzales - ! -) amidst their sources of inspiration. Metronome's sob in the initial "Sorrows Of The Moon", followed by wise piano strokes by Sam Harris, sets the mood with a sort of an anguished ballad, where Shawn Baltazor's drumming and Mary Halvorsen's guitar sounds like the adhesive tapes or the musical pebbles thrown into the mental pond where all tormented thoughts by some hard thinker gradually debouch. The sweet melody of a prepared piano sounding like a toy instrument and the ligneous creaks placidly carry the framework of the following track "Two For Joy", a sort of roving digression of melancholic brightening before the imaginary storyteller behind this musical tale starts twirling in the smoke again in the lovely solipsistic hyperboles of "Little Shadow" where trombone's convolutions ascends on steep and crumbly walls, whose bricks look like pressed by drums and piano, till the moment when in the moving title track, "If Not Inertia", those smoke rings seems to turn into something palpable and concrete, whose melodic piano dragging blurs with the lonely whistling, a background silent moan of the wind. The title-track acts as watershed of the album, as the second part better highlights the remarkable inputs given by two guest guitar-player: the talented above-mentioned Mar Halvorsen adds a certain obliqueness on the snare augmented by an electronic pulsation in "The Widening Gyre" and duels with the sliding trombone by Sroka just like they were cool-headed gun fighters in some desert place of the glorious Far West while Sebastian Kruger's acoustic guitar took part in the choral breezy melody of the final "Let's". The release also includes a film by Donya Ravasani on its "making of". I warmly reccomend a listening of this nice musical work out by Ergo.
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