Music Reviews



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Artist: Andy-Moor & Anne-James Chaton (@)
Title: TRANSFER
Format: CD
Label: Unsounds (@)
Rated: *****
We already introduced some parts of TRANSFER, the fecund collaborative project about the themes of transportation and transition by The Ex's guitarist Andy Moor and spoken-word poet Anne-James Chaton, whose creative secretions have been impressed upon four vinyls whose side A got built on real or factual information or material (metro maps, major plane crashes, notorious news report such as the deaths of Princess Diana and Grace Kelly) and side B on fiction or fantasy (including Jules Verne's "Around the World in 80 Days", Agatha Christie's "Murder On The Orient Express" and so on) as their mental glands, which got hopped-up by many different and almost casual real or fictional sources of inspiration, emitted them. Unsounds finally bundled them in one full-length, which gives the listener the possibility to appreciate all the stages of this awesome modular project, which combines spoken words by the "rhythmic" and somewhat burdensome Chaton's voice and a sonic style, whose concision runs parallel to its intimate mesmeric hook coming from a balanced dosage of obscure beats, smokey cinematic atmosphere, guitar riffs and loops, live samples and abstract noise. Three previously unreleased tracks have been added as well, including the "USA" version of "Metro", "Journey On The Pequod", inspired by Herman Melville's "Moby Dick" (the fictional side) and "Journal d'un Naufrage", inspired by the sinking of Titanic (the factual side).
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Artist: Parallel Worlds & Dave Bessell (@)
Title: Morphogenic
Format: CD
Label: DiN (@)
Rated: *****
This is my second review of a Parallel Worlds collaboration, the first being a while back with their 'Exit Strategy' collaboration with Ian Boddy. You probably already know of Parallel Worlds, the project name of Bakis Sirros from Greece. Dave Bessell has been active in the field of popular music for many years, he also studied classical composition and orchestration at the Royal College of Music, jazz guitar with John Etheridge, holds a Doctorate in Music and currently teaches Music and Music Technology at Plymouth University. He may be best known as a member of the electronic group, Node, along with Flood, Gary Stout and Ed Buller. In a sense, 'Morphogenic' could be considered a 'dream team' for this type of electronic music. Just a quick look at the equipment used on the album ' Bakis Sirros: Euro/Doepfer, Serge, Buchla 200e modulars, MS20, Odyssey, Xpander, 4Voice, string machines and software. Dave Bessell: Macbeth M5n, Gibson Les Paul & custom software. (Ed Buller plays Moog Modular on one track- 'Heterodyne'.) You just know there are going to be some interesting sounds here.

'Morphogenic' is not just interesting sounds, but elaborate compositions that although varied, have a similar vein running throughout. While a good part of it seems to be amorphous and abstract, there are plenty of defined moments ' massive, weighty and grand themes; inventive and propulsive rhythms; wonderful sequencer work; dramatic orchestration, and more. The overly-used term 'cinematic' comes to mind but 'Morphogenic' is far more space music than soundtrack, although some themes employed on it could be considered motion-picturesque. Bessell's guitar work on the album is a perfect blending in the context of this kind of electronic music (something Edgar Froese never could get quite right with Tangerine Dream) adding power, depth and dimension, not just soloing over the top. Overall, 'Morphogenic' is a dense and heavy listen; a multilayered journey into the unknown that may have you exploring the outermost regions of your consciousness. Majestic, spiritual, sublime ' Parallel Worlds and Dave Bessell seem to have created the perfect environment for analogue space synth freaks to explore on visits that are bound to be return trips. The album was mastered by Ian Boddy and copies are limited to only 500 so get it while you can.
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Artist: Emotikon (@)
Title: s/t
Format: CD
Label: self-released
Rated: *****
Emotikon is a Dusseldorf, Germany based duo consisting of the Japanese Mine Voss (vocals) and the German Tom Tron (synths, programming). Mine trained as a musical theatre actress and Tom was a video game composer but they decided to combine their talents into the synthpop entity they named Emotikon. The self-titled 'Emotikon' is obviously their debut album.

When it comes to synthpop bands, I have certain expectations. One for sure is the 'pop' element; I expect to hear memorable songs with good melodies. I expect pretty good melodic (or at least quirky, interesting, intelligible) vocals. I expect solid synth and rhythm programming. Interesting visual presentation is a plus. A potential hit is icing on the cake. For the most part, Emotikon seems to have what it takes. Perhaps in a certain regard though, they sound a tad 'too commercial'. Some of this in part may be due to the nature of Mine's voice which has a traditional J-pop sound, but the vocals are (mostly) all in English. (Might I suggest a song complete in Japanese for the next album.) Songs are in the lighter pop vein; nothing I would call dark or goth, even though the album begins on a slightly melancholy note with 'The Eye in the Sky,' augmented by Lilian Mann on cello. Think Saint Etienne or Freezepop, although Emotikon sounds like neither of those bands.

Tom writes the music and lyrics but Mine seems to have a hand in adapting the melody to her voice. The synth and rhythm programming aren't adventurous but competent; simple and effective for the material. Mine's voice is smooth and clear with good range and tonality. The album is self-released by choice allowing them ultimate control and flexibility they might not have had with a label. Also, their music is royalty free, but I'd encourage supporting the artists by buying and not just downloading (stealing) it.

Of the album several songs are worth noting ' the oriental themed 'Walk Among the Clouds,' incorporating real cello in the music, and also with some German and Japanese lyrics; 'When Does My Life Begin' (gotta love their Lego video for this one); 'Money Isn't Everything' (another cute, inventive YouTube video); and what I would have chosen for a hit single ' 'Big Bad Dragon'. This song is just so cute, it's adorable! Sort of based on the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster and Godzilla movies, there's nothing serious about it, it's just movieola & popcorn good fun. I'd be surprised if it didn't turn up on the soundtrack for some animated dragon movie in the future. (Are you listening DreamWorks?... Disney?...) Emotikon should be of interest to those who like breezy synthpop. I'm looking forward to their next release to see how they grow. I'd also like to see a live performance video sometime in the future.
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Artist: Jean-Luc Fafchamps (@)
Title: Back To...
Format: CD
Label: Sub Rosa (@)
Rated: *****
This "back to" what he fondly defines "an old buddy of mine" by Belgian pianist and composer Jean-Luc Fafchamps smells like a liturgical anamnesis: "back to my first musical feelings, but also my first writing techniques, which werequite remote from my current aesthetical concerns; back to the music pieces engrained in my fingers through practice; finally, back to the numerous hours of free improvisation of my lazy youth...[...] those back to...are works about memory" and such a mnemonic elegy and idyll got crystallized in three touching pieces performed by Stephane Ginsburgh. Fafchamps' return to piano could be thought as the comeback to workout of a sportsman after a crippling injury while listening to the first suite "Back To The Pulse", where you can imagine a session of emotional high hurdles: the engaging rolling of legatoes and staccatoes manages to put a further strain on the insistent and somewhat feverish harmonic progression which could render an idea of motion with awesome and sudden ligatures, interruption, tumbles and variation like the amazing one after 4-5 minutes when the imaginary hurdler looks like running in the dark and the seriousness of the situation got emphasized by the insistent stroke on the lower and higher tones, before the last ones begin to get closer to the central octaves, keep on running and diving into a sort of ragtime till the end. Those breaks, those tonal dull thuds and frenzied slurs sound like expedients to highlight the evocative power of piano on the following "Back To The Sound", as if each element means to say "listen to the range of emotions I can inspire and fan into you...", while more emotional outgrowth intertwines with soulful quotations of Fafchamps's mentors and peers in the final brilliant "Back To The Voice".
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Artist: Daniel Menche (@)
Title: Marriage Of Metals
Format: 12"
Label: Editions Mego (@)
Rated: *****
Almost simultaneously with the release of his album Vilke', Portland-based prolific (nearly fifty releases on his bandcamp and an almost uncontrolled growth of his discography are good evidences) sound artist Daniel Menche diluted his abrasive style with a deluge of sounds he grabbed from the studio of the Venerable Showers of Beauty, a Gamelan ensemble hosted at Lewis and Clark College in his hometown that fosters artistic and musical exchanges between Javanese and Balinese culture and Portland artistic community. The compatibility or I'd better call it the marriage between Gamelan sonorities and electronics that Menche succeeds in tempering and shaping is so full-blooded that you could think such an association cannot be but elective. The wide palette of gongs, including the gigantic 'Gong Ageng" with his remarkably deep sound, and metallophones, got processed and immersed into scorching and somehow restless sonic Styx over a couple of almost 20-minutes lasting tracks. The first act of this sonci concubinage started off with a padded peal and an abrasive sneaking flux, which gradually shroud the sonic space. Its mesmerizing charge got amplified by the supplement of slenthem which soon reaches the saturation level. On the second part of "Marriage of Metals", the order of appearance of sonic inputs has been inverted and the sound of slenthem is more recognisable, but the mesmerizing effect on listeners, which are going to lapse into the slightly corrosive and somehow lulling float, is likewise absorbing and cataleptically purging.
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