Music Reviews



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Artist: Simon Scott (@)
Title: Below Sea Level
Format: CD
Label: 12k (@)
Rated: *****
Cambridge-based drummer and "electronic" musician Simon Scott, whose name and musical skills emblazoned a number of remarkable post-rock, shoegaze and post-minimalism emanations (he replaced Adrian Sell in Slowdive and collaborated with Rafael Anton Irisarri and his band The Sight Below as well as with Machinefabriek, Lowgold, Klimek and many other), looks like taking listener by the arms in order to let him discover the wonderful marshy region of Fenland in East Anglia by means of natural sounds of that former wetland, grabbed with hydrophones and self-built recording devices, and his music, whose emotional charge and sonic chromaticism sound emphasized by the filter of nostalgia, as the so-called Fens and its controversial environment were the places where he spent some moments during his childhood. "Below Sea Level" - the title can be explained with the fact the Fens host the lowest land points in United Kingdom due to drainage and higher grounds are so rare that it's maybe one of the few places in the world were occasional hills are called "islands"! - immediately gets listener inside the environment (both natural and emotional) and every musical ingredient (mainly processed guitars, waves, synth horns and other sonic sketches deriving from digital signal processing) seems to look for a symbiosis with natural auditory inputs, so that it seems a sort of osmosis between acousmatic pastorale and lively natural elements occurs track by track till the moment when such an amalgamation has been accompished in the final entrancing track. This release is just a part of a wider project - there should be a limited edition of it as well -, which include a 68-page-color journal with snapshots, Scott's entries in his travel diary over a period of two years when he explored the Fens and essay entitled "An Exploration of the Subterranean Fenland Environment", which could help the listener in understanding the creative process behind it.
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Artist: Cyberpunkers
Title: EPIC - The Remixes
Format: 12"
Label: Freakz Me Out! (@)
Distributor: Groove Attack
Rated: *****
The issue of the second act of Cyberpunkers'EP trilogie Epic suits the astonishing success of their worldtour - feedbacks from their first European stages have been enthusiastic as Cyberpunkers themselves reported while describing crowd's reaction by using meaningful adjectives like wonderful, exalting and rich of funny episodes such as the loss of mask from one of them, which was instantly returned by fans - to the ground by an attendant selection of four remixes. All the hothead followers of this duo of Italian masked gladiators of the beat box, made up of djs and producers Massi Arena and Fabio Liuzzi, will be delighted likewise by proposed treatments as they mainly keep the energy of what these guys consider as the next evolutionary step of the so-called Moombahton (an hybrid of house music and reggaeton, whose paternity should belong to Washington DC-based Dave Nada) they called it Moombahpunk. I particularly enjoyed remix of "Dungeon" by Oli Cash aka Far Too Loud - an authentic uplifter with nice slapping beats, funky spots, housey chords, sudden accelerations and brakings as well as some rhythmical and sonic tricks taken from the glorious tradition of some Dutch tech-house acts - and the one of "Are You Ready" by Belzebass, focused on a bizarre intertwining of different steps - from dubstep to traditional breakbeat and phat electro -, but trance-oriented version of the same track by The Boomzers and the fire-starting remix of "Epic" by The S - a remarkable and straightforward electro anthem with the addiction of military snares and some melodic italo-house allures - are smashing anyway. While on the waiting line for the final chapter of the trilogie, enjoy this one, also available on live format (maybe it's the best format!) by intercepting them during their globetrottering on various stages. Cyberpunkers have already announced they will take part to a number of forthcoming summer festivals such as Beatpatrol, Arenal, Nature One, Creamfields and many others, sharing their stage with important names of the scene such as Steve Aoki, Crookers, Digitalism and so on. Check it out!
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Artist: Wastelanders (@)
Title: Cosmic Despair
Format: CD
Label: Basses Frequences (@)
Rated: *****
When men stare at the ineffable sight of Milky Way in a conveniently dark point of observation from Planet Earth, they could be overwhelmed by that feeling of solipsistic littleness combined with that somewhat controversial astonishment or ecstatic ravishment. An insignificant creature who can even make a fool of itself in the frantic attempt of framing such an infinity through intellect, but who cannot close the doors of perception in spite of the awareness and the acknowledge of its limitations. This one seems to be the conceptual launching pad of this second act of Wastelanders, side-project by Dean Costello, member of Michel Spiegel's Chicago-based metal band Harpoon, who looks like suggesting cosmic wandering where the above-mentioned inevitable frustration collides the wonder of constant discovery and travel, which cannot be but powered by music. "Cosmic Despair" mainly rests on introspections and contemplations aided by dilutions of guitar loops and moulding of analogue synth organs, which could recall some similar stuff by Christian Fennesz, Sunn O))) or Oren Ambarchi. The first three tracks sound like a mental tuning, based on lingering drones and the title track, "Cosmic Despair", is the most remarkable of them for its inspirational and hypnotic hooks, while "Expanding Mental Universe" and "The Crossing" are more guitar-driven mystical journeys, the first focused on crystalline sparks evoking a mesmeric cosmic roaming, the latter - and my favorite track as well - sounds closer to an ambient (then getting more rhythmical) translation of Indian raga-inspired enlightment. "Cosmic Despair" is also available on digital format through Hewhocorrupts and on tape (!) through Space Idea (check spaceideatapes.bigcartel.com). Just keep on wandering!
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Artist: Florian Hecker
Title: 2/8 Bregman 4/8 Deutsch 7/8 Hecker 1/8 Holler
Format: 2 x 10" vinyl
Label: Presto!? (@)
Rated: *****
Some listeners who already approached stuff by Florian Hecker are aware about the fact that behind his baffling look which could fit a trade unionist coming from some guild of electrical engineers or a nerdy clerk who's too interested in developing circuits, getting through uncountable pieces of work or settling infinite matters to choose a new pair of sunglasses, there's a really skittish musician and this bizarre sound compilation on double 10", made with the contribution by Carsten Holler, whose funny title enlists its theoretical, sonic and conceptual ingredients, confirms such an attitude at late. At first blush, many unlearned people could think he's trying to cheat them by undergoing trials of sap sounds without understanding what he's able to cheat is mainly their auditory perception so that for instance you could have the illusion he's practicing some scale whereas he's just playing with pitch modulation or sound intensity or other gimmicks some sound engineers should know and in order to make his intentions clearer (no, he's not trying to use you as guinea-pig for elegant instruments of sonic torture, which can be purpose-built to exhaust or move away unsymphatetic neighbours...), he suggests some readings which could be useful to go into details of psychoacoustics and better appreciate such a release. If you don't have the time to consult Albert S.Bregman treatises on auditory scene analyses, Rudolf Arnheim's interviews, Brian C.J.Moore's lessons on the "Psychology of Hearing" and so on, consider them as pure auditory games - my favorite ones are those dealing with voices as they recalls similar experiments (check the bizarre "Sometimes behave so strangely" for instance!)by Diana Deutsch, a quite famous cognitive psychologist who made a plenty of researches on auditory illusions, mentioned in the title -.
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Artist: Sao Paulo Underground
Title: Tres Cabecas Loucuras
Format: CD
Label: Cuneiform (@)
Rated: *****
This new tropical fever arrived on my decks or, maybe I'better say it infected my body, just some days ago, but this sample of audio-viral engineering by one of the wittiest composer of our times, Rob Mazurek - most of readers will remember his name for his releases on Thrill Jockey or for his precious collaborations with Him, Calexico, Exploding Star Orchestra or Isotope 217 - doesn't appear like a wishy-washy t-shirt. The contagion of this new musical hybrid - worthy continuation of the incredible melange of their "The Principle Of Intrusive Relationships" issued by Aesthetics in 2008 -, played by Rob with his consolidated partners-in-art Mauricio Takara (adding the typical sound of cavaquinho to the line-up, a sort of small guitar, with an higher timbre), Guilhermo Granado and the fourth head, Richard Ribeiro, together with a number of guest musicians - ears open on Kiko Danucci, a very talented musician - could be instantaneous. Even if maybe its sonorities are less daring and experimental than the ones SPU gave to the listener on their previous release, "Tres Cabecas Loucuras" cherishes a fun crossover approach and many listeners could have the impression Mr Mazurek poured some of its most prominent musical insights into this tropical juice, flavoured with a palpable compositional joyfulness and wit. In order to give you an idea of the funny music Sao Paulo Underground wrapped, I could invite you to imagine what Jaga Jazzist or late Stereolab (it's not a mistery Rob's hand was there as well) would play if they were born in Brazil. Some similarities with that kind of psychedelic freeform, which was booming between 60ies and 70ies, are quite logical, but the fact this combo refreshes that spirit by winking at certain musical traditions is what makes it so attractive. Warmly recommended!
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