Music Reviews



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Artist: Ran Slavin
Title: Digital Junkies In Strange Times
Format: Download Only (MP3 + Lossless)
Label: Crónica (@)
Delving deep into the laptop, “Digital Junkies In Strange Times” is a genre-ignoring collection of electronic ambiences that draws ethereal samples shamelessly from any source that appeals. Most prominently this is R&B acapellas (some re-recorded presumably for legal reasons), processed to drift in out of our consciousness like a distant radio broadcast, but other found sounds are thrown in too. Under this, the core of this album is a gentle electronic soundscape which is soft yet glitchy.

“Turbulent Sphere”, at 13 minutes, is a relatively steady piece with a digital heartbeat. Processed bell sounds and warm chords ebb above. The beginning and end of the piece are weirder than the middle; twisted attempts at key changes towards the end sound playful or positively tongue-in-cheek at parts.

At only a minute and a half long, “Acousmatis” is a wonky processed acoustic guitar loop that seems to be present for two reasons, firstly because it’s a little silly, secondly to increase the track count. The other short track “Teen Haze” is more worthwhile, an almost radio-edit-y bit of anti-pop instrumental with deep flangey bass notes and a lightweight, crisp laptop-hip-hop beat, degenerating into metallic creaks as it develops.

The main meal of the release is the 41-minute “Moonlight Compilations”, which walks a fine line between being a single electronic work and a mix album. There are some steady tempos and recurring elements throughout. Sometimes there’s several layers in play, sometimes there’s a pure single element standing alone. At points it drops to nothing more than distant birdsong, reminiscent of The KLF’s “Chill Out”, with which it shares a sense of live, improvised fader-riding. At other points, it’s a heavier electronic throb, with a womb-like ambience, sometimes pale hisses and windy tones. The on-and-off languid female vocals are a little Leftfield-y. It evolves slowly and it’s generally melancholic, but the electronic pulses are prominent enough that you’re rarely allowed to proper relax in listening to it. Though it’s never out-and-out silly, things do get more wig-out at the end with the brass sounds of some bizarre Latin-sounding TV theme and some random plucked harpsichord notes.

Arguably “Moonlight Compilations” is a little self-indulgent and is a little longer than is warranted, but as an improvised bit of electronic soundscape, there’s a lush, rich feel to most of it that makes it an enjoyable listen.
Apr 03 2017
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Artist: Wolf & 111X
Title: Final Star
Format: Download Only (MP3 + Lossless)
Label: Infinite Machine
Wolf’s second release on his own Infinite Machine label is a thumper, consisting of two original tracks and two remixes.

The title track is generated by taking the ingredients commonly used in cinema trailers for sci-fi and action movies- gut punching brassy bass notes and super-thick single kick drums at the bottom, alien-sounding tension strings and sharp effects at the top- and reworking them into a post-dubstep thumper. The ‘Zimmer horn’ is used liberally and despite the relatively slow pace, it’s a relentless exercise in non-subtlety.

Second track “Wounded Alien” has the same sonic core but is a little more cleverly structured, with a hint of large-scale industry and a sense of heightening tension. While the opening track takes soundtrack soundscapes to extremes, the second track could potentially have been an actual soundtrack- with a little more ebb and flow this could have been the score for a superhero fighting robots in a giant warehouse- that’s the universe we’re in with this.

Astrosuka’s remix of “Wounded Alien” takes the track into deep space, thinning out and glitching up the percussive elements and bringing the softer plaintive top synth lines forward, with W3C’s elongated take on the same track gives things a more methodical feel, with a heartbeat-like kick drum and very slowly building, tribal-meets-industrial drumming.

It’s a thick sci-fi-meets-slow-techno package that will appeal to people who love cinema trailers for the sheer thrill of the subbass and who aren’t too fussed what the film is actually about.
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Artist: Pharmakon
Title: Contact
Format: CD + Vinyl
Label: Sacred Bones Records
While the creative theme of this album is a form of nihilistic animalism, it’s not perhaps as organic as you might expect. This is a melding of harsh electronics drones and repetitive bass notes where the human element is just one part of a mostly harsh and dissonant electro-scape.

Like the artwork, Margaret Chardiet’s vocal elements scream for attention, with a violence that sits somewhere between orgasm and primal scream therapy, heavily distorted to meld into the tracks. It’s deliberately affronting, angry and cathartic.

While the press release explains at length that the record is structured to represent the four stages of trance states- preparation, onset, climax and resolution- musically the structure sounds rather different in my opinion. Opening track “Nakedness Of Need” sounds more climactic, while “Sleepwalking Form” in the centre of the album has a tone that feels more resolved.

“Transmission”, with its pulsing bassline and rockier vocal, sounds like a fantastic intro to a screaming rock track that never arrives. “Somatic” has slow, almost industrial loops that are on the point of becoming mesmeric when the distortion abruptly jams your hearing. Closer “No Natural Order” is a furious super-slow techno soapbox for the barely discernible screamed polemic.

Never have I heard such a vitriolic, distorted and challenging piece of music described with words like “empathy” and “trance states”. This is darkness and fury realised as a half-hour of scream-noise.
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Artist: Hey Exit (@)
Title: Caudata
Format: Tape
Label: self-released
Rated: *****
Be careful if you decide to rise up the volume to catch the words by the disembodied voices, which seem to come out of a encrypted radiophonic transmission, while your mind is maybe getting ready to flow into the lulling stillness in the short opening track "Olm", as Brooklyn-based sound artist Brendan Landis aka Hey Exit will unexpectedly ignite a sonic blast that could let your eardrums bleed on the following "Irises", the harshest part of this excellent release, whose extreme and somehow magnetic virulence seems to be a preparatory storm to fertilize the listening soil for upcoming tunes. Residual electric charges and occasional muffled thunders fade out while the ambient layers, some chimes and a warming rising guitar tone begin to enfold listener in a soothing silent symphony on "But Is Not Consumed", a sort of anaesthetic following the previously described sonic fury. The metallic squeaking of sharpened blades and some scratches on scorched guitar chords are the elements that slightly disturb the static catalepsy of "So They Spoke", the track at the end of side A. The length of the last track I described is the same of "Small Burials", the almost ethereal mist which opens side B, leading to the catchy nostalgic sonorities of "Twin Moss", getting more and more "strangling" and estranging by the final short electric storm. The only moment where the listener can perceive a silent diving line is the one between these two tracks and the last "Lanterns, Chrysanthemum", the longest one where Hey Exit builds a sort of quiet cinematic drone over pulverised occasional resounding entities. In spite of the seasoned nuance of the sound rendered by the hissing of the tape, "Caudata" is a fascinating listening experience, including some field recording that Landis took in the desert of Arizona at the very end.
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Artist: SiJ
Title: The Time Machine
Format: CD
Label: Cryo Chamber (@)
Rated: *****
According to the liner notes this release is based on the concept of time travel and, while it's not particularly evident during the listening of this release, this is the reason why there's a so massive use of field recordings. SiJ makes little use of drone as it's used mainly as a structural glue which ties together all tracks and relies instead on a descriptive musical language based on a the choice of samples with an evident influence from movie's sound design. In such choices samples are chosen not only for their technical properties but also for the fact that they are so culturally connoted to be even descriptive of a mood e.g., the sound of rain.
Over the usual drone which is the skeleton of this music, "Forwards in Time" exposes a series of small field recordings / samples whose technical craft is simply impressive. The childs' voices of "A Place to Live" amplify the sense of menace given by the soundscape. As the drone is almost inaudible, "In Ancient Times" sounds as a crossover between a field recording piece and an audio track of a movie while "Instantaneous" is a return to the canon of the genre that is even reassuring after all the previous deviations. "Floating Clouds" borders the territories of some new age with his peaceful atmosphere and the use of a flute while "Realm of Eternal Rain" is based on the juxtaposition of a drone and the field recording of the rain and "Particulate Matter" is a short and complex track where field recordings, drones and electronic effects are juxtaposed in a descriptive manner. "Morlock's Path" and "The Death of the World" are almost canonical dark ambient tracks that sounds as a sort of rest, while "Vision of Hell" marks a return to the use of field recordings and "Shine of Dark" closes this release with a return to the peaceful atmosphere of "Floating Clouds".
This is one of best release from this label at a technical level and it's even courageous to explore territories out of the canon of the genre. Truly recommended.
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