Music Reviews



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Artist: Ensemble Pamplemousse (@)
Title: Raana Jedaku
Format: CD
Label: Carrier Records (@)
Rated: *****
Ensemble Pamplemousse, a collective of composers and performers, are exploring the blasted landscape of 21st century landscape, that has been napalmed by the likes of Stockhausen, John Cage, Varese, Luigi Russolo; musical anarchists who introduced the concepts of randomness and improvisation, field recordings and tone generators to the acceptable palette available to the modern composer. On 'Raana Jedaku', EP are looking for new rules, new techniques, investigating unlikely combinations of sounds, instruments, and techniques.

The seven pieces of Raana Jedaku are split between two discs, the first being dedicated to symbiosis, the interplay and exchange between performers, sonics, experimental electronics, and the second disc given over to absurd limitations, but the two halves seem of a whole, not that dissimilar. What you can expect to find is classical instruments stretched and strained into unfamiliar dimensions, slurring gasping flutes, gasps, barbed-wire cello, detached electronic clicks & chirps.

With their intricate, flow-chart like musical scores and conceptually intriguing sound edits, Ensemble Pamplemousse are making some hyper-minimalism; moving parts, interlocking and precise, like some crystalline Swiss watch, they seem to be commenting on the hypertextual reality which surrounds us, becoming machine-like themselves. The problem with emulating machines, is that binary logic is by definition cold and devoid of feeling, it is clinical and analytical. 'Raana Jedaku' seems like a series of interesting algorithms, that has produced some curious sonic anomalies.

'Raana Jedaku' works best when they embrace the electronics and make them more of a part of the whole, like on 'Nest' with its skittering geiger-counter textures, or on 'Symbiosis II' with its insect larvae fluttering. I dig the interplay between the electronics and the classical instruments, and i feel like these tracks will appeal to the more adventurous noise-heads and neo-classical connoisseurs out there. The more straight-ahead classical material, like album opener 'On Structure II' are too cartoon-like and spastic of me, with their slide whistles and clip-clop woodblocks. Seeing as how their press release speaks of, "skitters of hyper action, and masses of absurdity into impeccable structures of unified beauty," it shows me that this is intentional, and i can be a bit serious for my own good.

The liner notes for this record, the way they describe their music and the theories behind it, have lured me in, made me want to pay closer attention, and has rewired my hearing a bit. This is not music to listen to in passing, it requires engagement, repeated investigations. It asks the listener to stop for a moment and consider, to think for yrself and draw yr own conclusions. A lot of the moments on 'Raana Jedaku's seven tracks are supremely interesting, i love to listen to different combinations of instruments and sounds, spread out through-out the stereo field. I would just like to see them reel it in, a bit, refine their approach, and make it more approachable, more heart-felt. Saying something.

The problem with modern classical music, and much of the current experimental avant-garde, is that they have jettisoned the whole of musical history, starting all over from scratch. But our nervous systems are wired to respond to pitch and rhythm and dynamics, and this machine music ends up sounding dead and unemotional. A sonic experiment, that yields some interesting result, like a generative synthesizer, or La Monte Young's Dream House, something that you walked in on, a chance encounter.

Ensemble Pamplemousse are clearly dedicated composers and performers, they've been playing together since 2002, and judging from the elaborate ribbon-tied packaging on 'Raana Jedaku' they clearly care about their craft. On top of this, the performances are dialed in and the recording is crystalline, meaning that if you are a person who attends the New Music series at yr local university or art gallery, than this may yield some auditory treasures, but for those looking for such pop sensibilities as melody, harmony, or rhythm, you won't find them here.
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Artist: Sutcliffe Jugend
Title: With Extreme Prejudice
Format: CDS (CD Single)
Label: Cold Spring (@)
Rated: *****
Many horror movie fans complain about the fact current movies don't manage to scare anymore. Well, if they're not scared enough by a critical reading of financial reports, daily news, pop culture, media addiction or just ordinary life, they could reach their goal with this new frightening release by Sutcliffe Jugend, a renowned project led by Paul Taylor and Kevin Tomkins (former member of Whitehouse...in very truth Sutcliffe Jugend, whose name derives from the combination of Hitler Youth and the one of Peter Sutcliffe, a tranquil British citizen also known as The Yorkshire Ripper, who's currently serving a number of life imprisonment, recently confirmed by British High Court, for the homicide of 13 women and many aggressions, born as a sort of Whitehouse side-project). I'm not reproaching the result at all, quite the opposite! If it was not specified these psycho-thrillers, whom many music filing clerk have been considered one of the most violent exponent (as well as forerunner) of the so-called power electronics, recorded "With Extreme Prejudice" in Vortex Studios, someone could assume they've recorded it nearby a snuff movie set or in some frightening chamber of horrors, rented by John "Jigsaw" Kramer: vocals could often make listener's flesh creep as well as its wide gamut of disruptive atmospheres - astonishingly motley if compared to some past releases - since the initial title-track where after a sort of 1-minute lasting intro of unidentified crumpled sounds, the voice tears the stage up with a creepy alternation of piercing shouts and a dramatic voice-over which looks like a running commentary of a torture while some sinister sounds draw an obsessive whirl around the listener. Suspense is even more palpitating in the following tracks, such the unsettling narration of a meat lover (let's call him so) in "Lucky", the scary sonic collage of "I Have Kissed This Sick Sick World, Goodbye" (a possible sound track for The Ring-like videotape...), the claustrophobic sense of oppression evoked by other "narrative" tracks like "Oblivion" or "Death Of A Post-Christian Humanist", the disquieting pulses of "Fuckrage", the sensation of being tied on a ducking stool while a revolving saw blade gets closer and closer in "Bound" or the one of gradual constriction by the obscure sonic gluts of the final "Fall Of Utopia". Dreadfully absorbing.
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Artist: Industriegebeit (@)
Title: Wer Schoen Sein Will Muss Sterben
Format: CD
Label: Koerperschall Records/Echozone (@)
Distributor: Masterpiece
Rated: *****
Almost in conjuction with the issue of last Ellipse's album I've recently smuggled in Chain DLK's server, this second rise under Industriegebiet moniker by the mind behind Korperschall Records corroborates my good opinion on Massimo's hyperkinetic creativity. Its stomping steps, the asphyxiating pumping in the groove of distorted drum machines' snarls, synth trumpets, sinister industrial noises, phat beats and other stylistical elements could lead to an easy association of other notorious acts of industrial dance such as Combichrist, Eisenfunk or Nachtmahr, but Industriegebeit's sound often hitches other sonic wagons such as hard techno, breakbeat and goa without disdaining the addition of funky breaks and psychedelic digressions insomuch as projects such as Eat Static (maybe because of braking noise and toytronic sounds in Erniedrigung recalled tracks like "Crash & Burn") and many other "ravenmeister" of that scene. Moreover he joins to the interesting musical flow which tries to vehiculate social exposure, current affairs related to the devastating bequests of the dying beast of capitalism and most morbid misapplication of liberalism by the humorous usage of samples. The title itself, "Wer schoen sein will muss sterben" (whoever wants to be beautiful has to die), might refer to the distinctive feature of some contemporary culture systems, where every aesthetic and even ethical say-so must go through a burial ceremony. This album is rich of sonic firebombs for dancehalls, being my favorite ones "Traum, der nie zu Ende geht", "Gott hat Urlab", "Herzblut" (it really seems Massimo made a sonic and rhythmical translation of recordings taken from interventricular or coronary arteries of a giant!) and "Auf den Tisch hauen". It's possible some devotional Kraftwerk fans - I refer to that kind of fan who thinks a musical track could be sacred that cannot be transfigured - can turn up their nose at that cover of Die Roboter, but its presence doesn't jar with the rest of the album.
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Artist: Bill Shute and Anthony Guerra (@)
Title: Subtraction
Format: CD
Label: Volcanic Tongue/Black Petal (@)
Distributor: Volcanic Tongue
Rated: *****
'Subtraction' is a CDr of poet Bill Shute reading some of his poetry accompanied by Anthony Guerra on guitar. Chances are real good you don't know who the heck Bill Shute is. Mr. Shute has been a rock music critic/writer from a good ways back, perhaps beginning with his DIY fanzine, 'Inner Mystque', and also wrote a column for Chris Stigliano's 'Black To Comm' underground punk fanzine, among other things. Shute is a Boston born, Colorado raised and currently Texas dwelling poet/publisher of some repute in the underground poetry scene. He's published numerous chapbooks of his poetry, has a hardcover book titled 'Twelve Gates To The City,' and runs Kendra Steiner Editions, a very small D.I.Y. publisher of contemporary poetry, based in San Antonio, Texas. (They also have a series of CDr releases of experimental music: drone-noise-ambient, electro-acoustic, free-jazz, higher-key psychedelia, etc.) Bill has collaborated with other musicians such as experimental ambient artist Derek Rogers with his poetry readings on CDr releases. Anthony Guerra is an Australian guitarist who has worked with Antipan, Green Blossoms, Vodka Sparrows, and other projects.

'Subtraction' was recorded in 2010 and 2011 and consists of six long poem tracks (well, one is rather brief). There is something intriguing about a poet reading his own poetry, something you can't get from reading the poems; just a sort of feeling. 'Marion, Texas' begins the session, and Shute's opening line imagery of this little Texas hamlet gives a good clue as what's in store ' 'Marion Texas'¦a train whistle'¦deep, textured, prolonged'¦.spreading and melting across the west side of Marion, Texas'¦like a cheap, yellow oleomargarine on burned day-old bread'¦' It only gets better (or worse for Marion) from there. Shute paints a melancholy picture of Texas suburban and rural life- economic destitution, social dissolution, and political disenfranchisement with the oberservational trappings of everyday life throughout these pieces. A surreal quality that can only be gleaned through the examination of the mundane.

For some reason Shute's reading reminds me of a skewed combination of Robert Ashley and Joe Frank. Shute's reading/vocal style is rather laid back and soothing but subtly expressive enough to convey the feeling, and that's what it's all about. Guerra's minimal guitar accompaniment with mostly minor key repetitive chordal phrases supports this throughout, and the only time is becomes a little off-kilter is on 'Kerrville, Texas' but it's not much of a digression.

All in all, I rather enjoyed this CD. I realize this may not be for everyone but we seem to get so few spoken word CDs submitted, and Bill Shute is definitely a modern American poet worthy of attention.
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Artist: Ellipse (@)
Title: Verlorene Zeit
Format: CD
Label: Koerperschall Records/Echozone (@)
Distributor: Masterpiece
Rated: *****
In spite of such a title - "Verlorene Zeit" means "wasted time" and refers to the concept this release revolves around -, lending an ear (or two) to Maximilian Wall aka Massimo's third album with his moniker Ellipse is not a waste of time. Maybe his ideas will not appear so bright or groundbreaking to experienced listeners, but I'm pretty sure some stylistical hooks and a certain indie aftertaste are going to please many young listeners, who are approaching to different genres and looking for both entartaining dynamics and lyrics of significance, so that it seems that Massimo blazes an eliptic trail around EBM, darkwave and techno in order to seed it with good guitar phrasing, various instrumental parts (there are many tracks with catching "orchestral" melodic hooks) and well-chosen female back vocals (Serathina on the mic), which succeeds in polishing the peculiar brutality of this kind of musical stuff without appearing too convoluted. Any insert isn't obstructive so that any song goes straight to the ears and body of the listener, which will be enchanted by the balance Ellipse's sound manages to hold between technology and a vague sense of classical beauty combined with a strong hook to the surrounding reality (maybe overcrowded by other kind of hooks, which steals our precious time, which could be devoted to the research of this balance, as songs like Fakeland, an occasion for Massimo to introduce a new voice of the scene, the one by Pete, whose project Pain Lavel should be launched soon, seems to suggest). I enjoyed tracks where he let pulse a dark-folk vein more ("Grenzwert", "Zeitmaschine", "Herzwalzer"), but there are many highlights such as "Wir schaun uns dumm", "Ich weiss nicht mehr wer ich bin", "Bleib bei mir" (the one entirely sung by Serathina) or "Geldsucht" which are ready to inspire wild dances and climb dedicated charts.
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