Music Reviews



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Artist: Anthony Pateras
Title: Collected Works Vol. II (2005-2018)
Format: CD + Download
Label: Immediata
This extensive 5CD, five-and-a-bit hour set methodically selects from Pateras’ back catalogue based on three categories, with either one or two discs for each. This has the effect of producing five compilation albums which have their own distinct character- you can certainly find a favourite disc and a least favourite disc- but which are fundamentally all based on the same principles- long, drawn-out avantgarde experimental and classical works blending organic and orchestral elements with some electronics and post-production trickery to generate long, drawn-out, deep and usually quite velvety sonic landscapes that are writ large and explored in detail.

First disc “Solo & Electronics [A]” represents some of the more ‘cosy’, intimate works, a collection of warm ten-minute drones and melodic blankets that- with the exception of the slightly squealy “Burning Is The Thing”- is decidedly relaxing and welcoming. “Solo & Electronics [B]”, the fourth disc, is perhaps a touch more sinister, with pieces like “Rules Of Extraction” making heavy use of high-pitched teeth-gritting tones that cut straight to discomfort and alienation. “TamTam +”’s low hum and distant industrialism is a highlight, as is the back-and-forth of electronics with Jessica Aszodi’s soprano vocal work in “Prayer For Nil”.

Second disc “Improvising Ensemble [A]” is slightly more purist, consisting of only two pieces, one of them over fifty minutes long, in which the live ensemble paints waves of sound that ebb gently and woozily. It’s reminiscent of Lygeti in parts, as is “Artifacts Of Translation”. Shorter piece “As Long As Breath Or Bow” has the edge though, with a masterful twenty-minute display of slow tension building. By contrast “Improvising Ensemble [B]” is made up of more impulsive pieces, such as the almost cheekily delivered and playful “Onetetradecagon”, certainly the most fun-to-play piece in this set- although the various parts of “Fragments Splinters & Shards”, which exhibit more of a leaning towards modern electronica, must also have been up there.

Third disc “Trios” opens with a series of short works for vibraphone and antique cymbals, a high-pitched and strangely itchy anti-groove affair. The first longer work has the same spiky tone transposed onto guitar and prepared piano, leaving “Three Mirrors”’s unusual interplay of eccentric saxophone work with electonic clicks as the most palatable part of arguably the least accessible disc.

I was thoroughly swayed by the opening disc and there’s a wealth of long, in-depth pieces to really get your teeth into here. It’s not all spectacular- the “Trios” disc in particular left me a little cold- but otherwise it’s a broad and very respectful anthology of work from a prolific composer with character.
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Artist: Gintas K (@)
Title: M
Format: CD
Label: gk rec. (@)
Rated: *****
Gintas Kraptaviius is a Lithuanian composer whose opus stands along the path of certain experimental music whose macro-category is microsound. Rather than being based on samples or loops, his music is based on small sounds which seems generated by tone or noise generators and their duration is usually small enough to be perceived as an isolated sound cell as a note.
This release collects two pieces: "M", in six sections, from 2012 and "Mimicry", from 2017, is in eleven sections. "M" starts with a long first section which with his almost eighteen minutes is more than half of the total length, which oscillates between complex noisy parts without any intention to create and quieter ones based on carefully crafted tones. Even when, as in the second or in the last section, fragments of melody appears, this is balanced by the other section where the shaping of sound and the overall architecture of sound events is prevalent. "Mimicry" is a more fragmented track as even rhythmic patterns appear, as in the third section, or drone, as in the fourth one, and pure silence as background, as in the ninth; the use of computer's possibility to create sounds is matched by a concept of structure where event seems more important than path.
The overall result is a complex auditory experience where the listener is called to a effort of comprehension towards something whose form is apparently chaotic and distant from the comforting cliché of the genre. It's not for everyone but it's a rewarding listening.
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Artist: Agencies (@)
Title: Drones
Format: Download Only (MP3 + Lossless)
Label: self-released
Somewhere between the sombre, darker moods, the brighter, mellifluous and the more meditative--resides Agencies, an ambient project whose key ingredient are, but not limited to, drones. Rather, Drones features billowing ambient and dense mist that form a kind of canvas where field recording fragments and bass tones fleetingly materialize and then dissolve into the ether. The listening experience is akin to dreams where moments come from and disappear into nothingness. While each track is fresh, they are not without touchstones. Tracks like "Ghost Mittens" are akin to Ghosts on Magnetic Tape by Bass Communion, for they share eerie, long, drawn-out tones with low end tremors and rather spooky melodic overtones. "Lullaby for the Blind" too is on the darker end of the spectrum with a similar gloomy mood, yet with a bit of an experimental Teutonic edge that channels Thomas Koner. In contrast, "Undercurrent" and "Landmarks of Nothing" are gently uplifting and serene with hints of secret joy that recalls the ambient-drone project, Celer. "Follow Me" has a cyclical sound that could be a bicycle or perhaps even a prayer wheel from a Tibetan Buddhist monastery while the long drawn tones evoke the dusty villages of Nepal or India where monks sit patiently before empty alms bowls. "The Secrets of Your Mind" suggests the same for the sustained bell-like tones accompanied with rushing noises that could be the wind or a series of prayer wheels in unison. While Celer has a connection with Tibetan Buddhism, it is not clear what connections Agencies has, so listener are free to draw their own analogies. "Good Morning Heartache" and Tarwater" has a more cinematic bent wherein ambient washes are layered like billowing silk scarves that set the canvas for sharper bass tones that give overall shape and emotion to the piece. Track by track, this release engages in a spectrum of emotions and textures that lead to a rich and varied listening experience. Drones is not so much an album to listen to as immerse and submit fully, like a dream state.
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Artist: Randall Dunn
Title: Beloved
Format: 12" vinyl + Download
Label: Figure Eight (@)
Rated: *****

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Randall Dunn is a fantastic producer, best known for his work with Sunn O))), Anna Von Hausswolf, Tim Hecker and many others. This is his debut as a solo artist and, as you can imagine, it comes loaded with years of his experience as a producer and as a connoisseur of all things analog and all things synth. Reading the credits of the album is like reading the history of analog synthesis (PPG Wave, Minimoog, Elka, Arp QUadra, Juno 60, Ems Synthi 100, OB8, OBX, Buchla, Roland system 700 etc), something Randall went looking for, exploring and recording all over the world, like in the South Tirol area of Italy bordering with Austria, in El Paso Texas and Brooklyn New York, where Randall lives and where his record label Figure Eight has the Figure8 recording studio owned and operated by label founder Shahzad Ismaily (who also played some bass on this record).

The seven cuts on the vinyl are dark and atmospheric, droney and melodic, melancholic and anguished, perfect for fans of Vangelis and Johann Johannsson. I can't help to think that it also reminds me (especially tracks like "Mexico City") of the latest BladeRunner soundtrack by Hans Zimmer and Benjamin Wallfisch (which coincidentally was initially going to be done by Johannsson, and that Dunn was working on himself).

Some of my favorite cuts are the ones where organic old school synths are joined in by acoustic instruments, such as cello and bass clarinet (like in the fantastic "Lava Rock & Amber", where Jeremiah Cymerman plays the reeds and Will Smith plays the cello), although such pairings of instruments happen on almost every one of the songs on the record. There are almost no beats in the whole record, except for a subtle electronic heart beat in "Something About That Night" (which also features vocals by Frank Fisher of Algiers) and a pulsating EMU Emulator pattern in "A True Home" (featuring guests vocalist Zola Jesus). Other notable players are Eyvind Kang on viola, John McCowen on contrabass clarinet, Justin Morris on flanger boss, Ulfur Hansson on guitar and Buchla and Timm Mason on various synths.

Although you can listen to this record on Bandcamp, I would highly recommend getting the 180 gram vinyl album, which, other than obviously sounding better than digital, also features photography by Lauren Rodriguez and Una Blue, cover art work design by Stephen O'Malley of Sunn O))) and a zen poem by Gesshu Soko which he wrote close to death and became the lyrics that Frank Fisher sings.
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Artist: Ben Chatwin
Title: Altered Signals
Format: 12" vinyl + Download
Label: Village Green Recordings
After last year’s excellent original album “Stoccato Signals” and its companion/rework “Drone Signals”, the release of remix album “Altered Signals” could be accused of over-milking the source material. Such suggestions are quickly put to bed once you start listening though, because far from squeezing the last life from the ideas, this is an example of remix compilations at their best- taking excellent source material, sharing it around carefully selected and like-minded individuals who breathe new ideas into it, and curating it into 49 minutes of supremely high quality cinematic electronica.

Sevendeaths’ remix of “Castle” opens proceedings and gives shades of synthwave which are perhaps a slight mis-sell to an album which goes deeper and more atmospheric and doesn’t maintain the retro synth sound.

Visionist’s remix of “Fossils” or From The Mouth Of The Sun’s “Substrates” exemplify the album better- bringing the acoustic string and piano elements more to the fore in looser, more laidback environments that wear their hearts on their sleeves. The electronic elements are frequently just decorative icing, but worked sympathetically in.

Ital Tek’s take on “Silver Pit” is absolutely esquisite, revelling in Chatwin’s string sounds and playing them confidently alongside a piercing and dominating synth bass for a layout that’s unorthodox but captivating. Steve Hauschildt’s version of “Helix” with its rubbery speed shifting squeaks, and Konx-om-Pax’s “Claws” with its slow dubby synth stabs, are both a little reminiscent of some of the Orb’s more recent and more overtly digital work. The latter also gradually brings in an acid 303 pattern which is an inexplicable direct line to happiness for people with fond memories of early 90’s proper trance- people who’ll probably respond well to the perkier sounds of the Vessels version of “Hound Point”.

Pye Corner Audio’s remix of “Knots” feels like it may have been pushed to the back of the pile as it stands out slightly, with a synth-electro make-up and heavier kick that’s very strong, but feels like it’s the beginning of a different style of remix album.

Apart from the last track though, the sonic quality is generally so consistent- and so consistently high- that you could readily believe this was an artist album, all creatively drawn from the same source, and for the genre in question that’s a compliment.

Ben Chatwin’s managed to generate three high-quality albums for the price of one here, in a manner of speaking. It’s another mesmerising release that deserves broad attention.
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