Music Reviews



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Artist: Jolana Havelková and Lucie Vítková (@)
Title: Návrh na změnu partitury – Proposal for an Alteration of the Score
Format: CD
Label: LOM (@)
Rated: *****
I had not heard of these Czech artists; Jolana Havelková is a visual artist, experimental photographer, and curator, and Lucie Vítková is a composer and performer who focuses on the accordion, voice, and other reed instruments. The label explains that 'The work is an allusion to František Kmoch, a 19th century composer who lived in the Czech city of Kolín. Jolana has created new interpretations of Kmoch's works and turned them into graphic scores. These were then played and recorded by Lucie (on accordion, piano, organ and voice) at different places, each somehow relating to Kmoch's life. The result is a minimalistic and riveting work, combining lost memories and flashbacks with Kolín's contemporary sonic environment.' The liner notes reproduce the graphical scores, which sometimes resemble quilts and collages more than scores. The resulting music is a set of improvisations that sound like someone cut up specific parts of an orchestra rehearsal and put them together. At times we hear the pulsing of an accordion, other times we hear beautiful operatic female vocals with strings and drone, still other times we hear pounding percussion and a high pitched harmonica. Overall this is interesting material, and I really like the concept behind it, but I found it a bit too minimal to have it spend much time in my CD player. As an installation it would be great but this is one of those cases where it doesn't translate as well to CD. This seems to work best when you think of the music as sketches of music rather than fully completed pieces. This album weighs in at around 77 minutes.
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Artist: Electric Sarajevo (@)
Title: Madrigals
Format: CD
Label: self-released
Rated: *****
The press sheet that came with this disc describes the album as 'a path that leads the imagination of the listener through the streets of a city raped by the tragedy of war . . . . In 'Madrigals,' Electric Sarajevo tells you nine stories, which have in common the multifaceted and kaleidoscopic nature of love, with post-rock shades, dark melancholy and soft electronic arrangements.' Wow ' that's a lot to live up to ' let's see if this Italian quartet can pull it off. Like most press sheets, it writes checks that the album can't cash; it makes it sound like this is a kind of concept album, but this didn't seem to be the case. Still, this is pretty good goth-tinged rock, with much more emphasis on the rock part of it. The vocals kind of remind me of Rosetta Stone for some reason. 'If You Only Knew' gets angry with screaming vocals, but for the most part this is pretty straightforward guitars + synthesizers music that would be right at home on your local indie / college radio station. Well executed, but not as much of an experimental bent as Chain DLK readers may expect. This album weighs in at around 39 minutes.
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Artist: Andrea Pellegrini / Tanja Zapolski / Martin Hall (@)
Title: If Power Asks Why
Format: CD
Label: Panoptikon (@)
This is one that doesn't quite fit in with the typical Chain DLK reviews. Musically, this is straightforward classical music, although lyrically it is far from it. That this project managed to get production support from the Danish Arts Foundation, Danish Actor's Association, and Danish Musician's Union while having song titles like "MILFs and Cum and Schopenhauer" is pretty impressive. But this isn't just about shock value. The lyrics may explore the darker side of human emotion, which likely hearkens back to Martin Hall's background in the Danish punk scene, but the music is well done. We have operatic vocals served up by Mezzo Soprano Andrea Pellegrini, beautiful orchestrations composed by Martin Hall and Alexander Zapolski, and the piano work of Tanja Zapolski. There is a variety of styles on this disc. "MILFs and Cum and Schopenhauer" has a nice tango feel, "The Stench of Your Pity" transports you to a small stage with a high class diva in a smoky piano bar, and "Hope is a Lack of Information" is a great foray into sonic agitation. This was a fun disc to listen to and the music was excellent. Throughout the whole thing, all I could do was imagine the ruckus that would be caused by slipping this into the local classical radio station's playlist for a day. Would anyone even notice lyrics like 'You're a male but you're a cunt' when sung so well? This album weighs in at around 42 minutes.
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Artist: Dónis
Title: Bars bars
Format: CD
Label: Dangus (@)
Rated: *****
Evidently this is the 10th album by this Lithuanian composer, but I was previously unfamiliar with this project. The label describes it as 'Surprisingly fresh, warm and nostalgic neofolk,' which is 'based on lyricism of traditional songs and magic symbols of birds.' Sounds promising, but when the opening track, "Mergyte mano mylima," kicked in, I thought that I was in for the worst of 1980's new age music. My brother came in and asked if I was listening to Yanni or something like that. Thankfully it gets a little better. For example, "MoÄiute, Å¡irdele" has a nice rhythm to it that becomes almost hypnotic and "Sulijo..." is a nice instrumental piece. Still, I'm a fan of neo-folk, but this doesn't quite work for me. If you're looking for a Lithuanian version of Current 93's "Of Ruine or Some Blazing Starre," this probably isn't going to be it. This album weighs in at around 43 minutes.
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Artist: German Army
Title: Burushaski
Format: Tape
Label: Beläten (@)
Rated: *****
German Army is not German, nor are they an army. They hail from Los Angeles and, according to the label, engage in 'Cabaret Voltairesque post-punk deliciously mixed with outright disturbing tape experiments.' Here's how the label describes this album: 'It echoes of dead languages and archaic tribal rituals, but all filtered through an array of analogue synthesizers, drum computers and lo-fi samplers, further compressed by a 25 year old VHS tape.' I agree that this album hearkens back to old school experimental and early industrial. This is some interesting stuff. If you find things to be too cleanly processed today, this will be a refreshing breath of fresh air. Imagine old Hafler Trio with vocals reminiscent at times of Clock DVA with a fair amount of tape experimentation and a bit of noise thrown in for good measure. If this sounds good, this will be up your alley. Quite enjoyable. This album weighs in at 29 minutes.
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