Music Reviews



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Artist: Alina Kalancea
Title: The 5th Apple
Format: CD & Vinyl
Label: Störung
Alina Kalancea’s debut album is a rich collection of analogue synth and electronica layering, a brooding collection of slow pulses, artificial heartbeats and atmospherics that is certainly not a new recipe in itself, but which is well prepared and confidently produced so that it will certainly draw you in.

Built in waves, both micro (as in sine waves or sawtooth waves rather than literally microwaves, that would be terrible), and macro, as layers and elements meander in and out of presence with an assured languidity. In pieces like “Fears” you can practically feel the gradual knob-turning as you wallow in a rich sound, with plenty of long slow bass and subbass tones that wash over you in a strangely luxuriant fashion. The title track is the most coarse of the collection, but textured rather than sharp.

As the release progresses, it starts getting both wider and colder. “Poisonous Girl” raises the bar and is a definite highlight, bringing in sparse and perfectly measured string orchestration and a sorrowful sung vocal. The result is powerful and has a cinematic breadth. The string sounds fold back nicely into the established synth elements nicely in “Behind The Curtains” before the sinister lullaby notes of “Limbo” offer up another texture of soundtrack-style work. “Devil’s Lullaby”, despite the title, is a rather calm and natural conclusion.

The whole release is pitched as electronics framing a spoken word core, but in actuality many of the pieces are at least partly if not wholly instrumental. For me personally the whispered, sleepy text readings may be the weakest link here, with shades of a half-asleep Yoko Ono but not, unfortunately, in a good way. The poetry of opener “Imbalance” almost mis-introduces the album, while the “listen… shhh…” layer in “Poisonous Girl” feels faintly unnecessary and “Insider” an interlude which wasn’t necessarily required.

For a debut it’s very assured, and with good reason. While it would be a stretch to call it innovative, it’s got a polished and clear sonic vision to it that deftly draws you to repeat listens.
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Artist: The Gentleman Losers
Title: Make We Here Our Camp Of Winter
Format: CD + Download
Label: Sound In Silence
Helsinki-based brothers Samu and Ville Kuukka created most of this, their fourth album, at a cabin by a lake in Southern Finland in late Summer 2018, musing on thoughts of the approaching winter. The result is eight tracks and forty minutes of gentle mostly-instrumental work, built primarily around slow layered guitar plucking and analogue synths providing the warm, and crisper digital atmospherics and hints of electronica providing the cold.

It’s sometimes thoroughly ambient, but at others, bordering on poppy, giving credence to the fact that the brothers also have a synth pop side-project. Sometimes this works well, with the title track a rich and accessible M83-esque number and final track “Bend Low, Sweet Branch, Bend Low” taking on slightly folkier sounds, but “Turning To Gold” drifts rather too close to sounding like an instrumental version of a Coldplay ballad.

“Always Crashing On The Same Wave” introduces a super-soft electronic beat that keeps things ambling along nicely. Perhaps less successful is the indulgent and muffled poetry of “Fish Roam In Winter Water”, which doesn’t quite hit the mark.

It’s a little glib in parts, where the simplicity of it accidentally wanders into naivety and predictably, but for the most part it’s a sincere, heartfelt and relaxing soundtrack to a Finnish winter.
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Artist: W/V
Title: s/t
Format: 12" vinyl + Download
Label: Silken Tofu
The ‘W’ here is James Welburn, on gritty electronic electric bass drone and feedback, undisclosed objects and effects. The ‘V’ is Juliana Venter, on lyricless wailing experimental-theatre style voices and further undisclosed objects. Together they’ve produced this half-hour long, two-part improvisational catharsis that grumbles, groans and whines in equal measure, a coarse-textured sonic bath of noise and reverb.

While the first fourteen-part has the raw energy of the single session it was recorded in, the second part is the product of three later sessions during which the collaboration has clearly begun to mature, with a greater use of lower dynamics and space that allows some of the more subtle atmospheric sound to shine through. However a lesser emphasis on the vocals ends up being to the detriment of the work, which is in danger of becoming run-of-the-mill drone when it loses that distinctness.

It’s a strong coming together of like-minded ideas with a gritty end product that deserves to be heard.
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Artist: Umber
Title: This Earth To Another
Format: CD + Download
Label: Sound In Silence
Alex Steward, as Umber, offers up his second full-length album, though his discography is much longer when collaborations, EP’s and remixes are taken into account. It’s a straightforward and fully realised ambient album, melding together some elements that are certainly familiar on paper- dreamy and shoegazey guitar work, positive-sounding reverbs, pads and drones, occasional synth keys and super-soft atmospherics that only occasionally dip their toe into percussion or rhythm.

Tracks like “Harvest” and “Grape and Grain” are more steadily paced and with their more dominant and pop-song-ish guitar work, teeter towards sounding like instrumental versions of moody guitar-pop ballads, while tracks such as the title track or “Altered Fragments” are a little more spaced-out and openly atmosphere-led.

It’s all very familiar-sounding, and sonically it certainly makes you think that you’ve heard all of this before, but in music with this apparent target, perhaps that’s part of the point. This is passive, sleep playlist stuff, not overtly “chill out” but full of gentle positivity and unchallenging calm, but with just enough detail- just- to entertain and keep the interest of more alert listeners.

It’s a rather lush sound, certainly nothing new but nevertheless a very pleasant 43-minute album to drift off to.
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Artist: Adam Mańkowski (@)
Title: Dźwięki z Offu
Format: CD
Label: Attenuation Circuit (@)
Rated: *****
Adam Makowski is a sound artist and improviser which has an already considerable discography under the name Limited Liability Sounds but it's more or less unknown outside Poland. This seems its first release under his own name and it's something apparently along the path of certain minimal electronic music based on patterns and short samples but it has also melodic apertures based on traditional instruments as piano which removes a certain cerebrality to the framework.
The first track of this release, "Bez wyjcia", is a quiet minimal track colored by small glitches and noises. "Milczenie i szaro" is instead reminiscent of classic avant-garde, that could be the source of a couple of samples including the chorus at the beginning of the track, as the fragmentation is only apparent. "Poranek" is centered upon a melodic loop upon an irregular noisy beat. "Tam bya mio" is suspended in his unresolved lines and "Portret" is apparently static until some sparse piano notes appear and "Serce Malisza" is hypnotic with his long tones and the final bells doubled by the piano. "Próba" uses the piano in either a classic way and as a sound source. "Mordercy i ofiary" starts quietly and ends noisy and "Niewidzialny ledczy" could be a modern classical piano piece if it wasn't drowned in a noisy environment. "Ona i On" closes this release in between between being a piano piece and a noisy experimental track.
While he owe much to his influences which are clearly audible, he has so carefully crafted this release that it will be well received by all fans of IDM and minimal electronic music. It's worth a listen.
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