Music Reviews

Artist: VV.AA./Athana (@)
Title: Athana Remixed 2012 NO:US
Format: CD
Label: West Audio Productions (@)
Rated: *****
Although I didn't it, this Norwegian project, named after initials of its main mind Alf Terje Hana, has already been introduced on these pages and looks like based on the extravasation of guitars in a sonic blender whose blades have been turned rust-proof by the involving dynamics of drum'n'bass and its possible crossbreeds, so that by Athana's admission the concrete turning point as well as a source of inspiration (or even enlightenment) for his approach to composition came after seeing a TV broadcast by Roni Size in the golden era of drum'n'bass. Such an interest for new musical language pays off and after four years from its last appreciated collection of remixes - Athana Remixed 05-08 -, Alf decided to build a bridge between his home country, Norway, and USA taking the wraps off two of his songs ("Picazzo" from "Corridor" album and "I.O. Roni" taken from "Beats & Pieces", the one inspired by that inspiring perfomance on BBC's Jools Holland show) to a couple of Norwegian remixers and a couple of American ones. Those ones who remixed "I.O. Roni" are almost unknown to me, but they exhibit an interesting sonic weaponry. I've heard just a couple of releases (with Dialect Recordings and Crosstown Rebel imprints) by Ost & Kjex, but it seems they are so notorious in their country that they gained a nomination in the Norwegian Grammy 2010 and on this occasion they assemble a nice electronic/house movement, whose main elements (reverberations on claps, diluted synth bells, a certain funky gear combined with relaxed mood and a sound close to a mobile's dial tone acting as a metronome) recalls that style which radiated from some Scandinavian clubs (think about Plej, Hird or Ben Horn to name a few). In spite of his remarkable number releases, the name of California-based project Uberzone aka Timothy Wiles is totally new to me: his treatment of "I.O. Roni" blends together electro and breakbeat sensations, nice tablas, bleeping sizzles (turning into an 8-bit melody in the end of the track) and those centrifugated swirls which are normally used during dnb dj sets, which are going to delight ears of breakbeat and dubstep addicts as well. I'm more familiar with name and sounds by NY-based producer Dennis De Santis (his name gained some visibility for being involved in the astonishing Aphex Twin acoustic project "Alarm Will Sound"), who proposes a very catchy set of breaks & brakes flavored with sonic recipes such as guitar chords, synth brass gabbles, treated vocal slices, and by Mungolian Jetset, a nice Norwegian duo, which often build moody and daydreaming grooves with a sort of prog-rock approach, which seems to have been preferred on this occasion with the precious support by Emil Nikolaisen, whose additional guitar acts as an enzyme for dream processing.
Artist: K.
Title: There's a Devil Waiting Outside your Door
Format: CD
Label: Ur Muzik (@)
Rated: *****
I'm pretty sure after reading the title of this release by the mysterious Polish producer K., who puts in an appearance on a number of different compilations and on the occasion of the issue of a mini CD on a Chinese label, most of readers who have some confidence with Nick Cave's songs could have striken up by murmuring "How much longer?" according to the notorious lyrics of "Loverman". There could be some conceptual link with that song, but K.'s music is remarkably different and somewhat more visionary. In the attempt of making any filing easier, Ur Muzik mentions Bohren und der Club of Gore and Heroin and Your Veins (even if I think a comparison with Janne Perttula's project sounds more reasonable than the one with that German band), but while listening the 11 untitled tracks (maybe to give the freedom of choicing titles to the listeners on the basis of their mental movie), other cells of the musical memory could be activated since its beginning, whose first moments could recall the mood of some jazzy contemporary stuff such Ian Simmonds, Xploding Plastix, The Mount Fuji Doomjazz Corporation or Angelo Badalamenti's scoring for Twin Peaks even if K. avoids overloading any tune with too many frills or preciosities, so that its sound results somewhat austere and pithy, but sonically impressive and magnetic. You could experience the feeling of having a thoughtful cigarette with Sam Spade or other tobacco-addicted Bogie's character during a break from investigations (particularly on 7th track which starts with the sound of someone who strikes a match), breathing heavy fug in a labyrinth of muddy streets of some ill-famed district in search of clues related to an unsolved homicide case, walking arm in arm with a femme fatale who whispers her plan to kill her rich husband in your ear or snapping your fingers white getting entartained by a swinging dwarf getting out of some red silk curtain adorning the walls of some lodge. K.'s music so seducing that listener cannot make devil wait outside door for a long time. Be polite!
with image
Artist: Noise Nazi Featuring Bagman (@)
Title: Mind Altar
Format: CD
Label: Medical Malfunctions Records (@)
Rated: *****
Noise Nazi is the enigmatic and often offensive harsh noise project of Matthew Bonk of Wisconsin. Noise Nazi boasts an intimidating catalog of over 100 albums, EPs, and split releases in a variety of formats. Bagman is a power electronics noise project from the United Kingdom. I have had limited exposure to Bagman's work, but he appears to have released almost 30 albums, EPs and splits since 2008.

Mind Altar is a CD-r released by Medical Malfunctions Records in a plastic sleeve, which is pretty standard for this genre. The album consists of 4 tracks ranging between 6 and 10 minutes each. The sounds presented in Mind Altar are dense and old-school: gritty, harsh, and dominating. This release captures Noise Nazi doing what he does best, creating a world of his own, tempting the listener to play Mind Altar loudly, but leaving the listener in fear of severe hearing loss. Bagman provides a vocal compromise to the noise that manages to perfectly match the intensity--sometimes yelling, sometimes talking, never decipherable--but ultimately becoming a source of comfort amidst the aggression.

Mind Altar album would fit nicely into any noise collection, reminiscent of Massonna or Merzbow, but with less churning and more cohesion. By the end of Mind Altar I actually have the impression the artists have reached into my brain and are massaging it for me with their violently soothing work. Certainly now that the album is over there is a numb feeling where my brain is supposed to be.
Artist: SND/NHK (@)
Title: Split
Format: 12"
Label: PAN (@)
Rated: *****
Another interesting release by PAN, whose juicy catalogue fattens up with this split 12" on white vynil by two couples whose moniker is a three-letter one. The first side has been signed by SND aka Blir, a Sheffield-based duo made up of Mat Steel and Mark Fell, who gained a remarkable respect for their sonic artefacts on Mille Plateaux, which managed to influence the so-called "clink'n'cut" scene even if they don't assimilate to it, and a number of smashing live performance, sound installations, events and tours (including the European touring with Autechre as support performers and sound design for The Designers Republic). SND fills it with "15/16", an hypnotic stuttering loop based on nice cuts on claps, gamelan, swooshes, bumps and hats who recalled to my mind "Chinese Flow" by D'Arcangelo Bros'project Monomorph (without those chirping crickets...maybe as a dire consequence of pollution they died...). The second couple of sound-shapers is NHK by Japanese producer Kouhei Matsunaga and Toshio Munehiro, who assembled four jerking engines for the occasion: the deviant ticking of a mechanical clock whose movement appears stopped by means of metal melting acid in "fu2", soaking overcompressed buzz which sounds suffocating a sort of ska-punk rhythm in "111230_2ndhalf", the disturbing drilling of "Hydra_a" (I imagined an attempt of pollination by a confused bee with metal powder or digestive troubles by some bug created by David Thrussel) and the funny electromechanical jumps and hiccups over an assembly line in "stomp1_s".
Artist: The Hiram Key
Title: Amerikafka
Format: CD
Label: Echozone (@)
Distributor: Masterpiece
Rated: *****
If you imagine Goth/Wave music as a bunch of ancient secrets, you could find a possible explanation of the bizarre name these grown lads led by Gary Clarke (former member of Nosferatu and head of Cureheads, official cover band of the legendary band by Robert Smith): The Hiram Key is the title of a book written by Freemasons Christopher Knight and Robert Loma, an attempt of demonstrating the origins of Masonic rituals are older than the ones normally fixed by historicians (1717), whose theories have arguably been opposed for some hasty conclusions (such as the one according to which Jesus was a Mason...), which aren't explained with the support of persuading arguments. Similarly this band looks like discovering (again) the most authentic remains of Goth civilization (!) and misteries for the likes of initiate in a style which expressly revives some old glories so that you'll recognize footprints of The Cure as well, but also many ones by Joy Division, Bauhaus, The Psychedelic Furs, Gary Numan, Sisters Of Mercy and David Bowie. It's quite clear they're very competent in these matters and moreover the decision of giving a narrative involucre to the album, borrowed from the notorious novel by Kafka, America - it seems Gary identified himself in Karl Rossmann, the young protagonist of the plot, whose features (particularly his ability to resist against some fatal oppression in spite of his condition of victim) are quite unusual for a character portrayed by the pen of that genial writer - immediately confutes any possible attempt of taxing The Hiram Key with the label of a tribute band. Even though it could appear a little bit "seasoned"or maannerist, their style immediately sounds catchy and charming and it will be easier to enjoy the above-mentioned literary aspect if you've read that novel (if so, you shouldn't have any problems in recognizing a direct connection with some episodes of it in songs like "Amerikafka", "the Lift Boy", "Karl's Song", "I couldn't help it" or "The Nature Theatre Train"). Such a release is going to be highly regarded not only by nostalgic and incurably romantic people.
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