Music Reviews



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Artist: Jean-Luc Fafchamps (@)
Title: YZ3Z2Z1S2, a Five-Letter Sufi Word
Format: CD
Label: Sub Rosa (@)
Rated: *****
Even if Belgian pianist and composer Jean-Luc Fafchamps is neither a Sufi, nor a Muslim and there's any properly esotheric purpose behind this sonic research, he drew inspiration for his Sufi Letters from the Jawahiru'l Khamsah, an old table by Sheikh Abul-Muwwayid, which linked the 28 letters (even if according to some essaysts they're more than 28) to a plenty of symbolic meanings, which he tried to translate into music by a potentially monumental collection of suites for each letter of this mysterious alphabet. Such a bizarre methodology and compositional pattern Monsieur Fafchamps is working on by developing an impressive network of cycles, a proper stylistic rhetoric and correspondences between instruments and letters (T for ensemble and electronics, K for orchestra, A for ensemble and orchestra, Z3 for trombone and electronics, and so on) could sound partially unrealistic, a sort of capriccio inspired by a passing fancy where this composer channeled his past and present interests for alchemy, arithmetic and arcane knowledge, but the fact this composer takes this sonic research seriously is clear from the circumstance he's working on it for more than 13 years. I'm not sure about the underlying relations between compositional aspects and all the intricate matters (the names of Allah, the attributes of divinity, the so-called jinn, zodiac, planetary movements and so on...) embraced by the above-mentioned mystic treatise, but the melodramatic plot of these five suites which got performed by Jean-Marc Sullon and Ensemble Ictus seems to go beyond a pure combinatorial game as it is clear not only from an "ear response", but also from the explanation of the composer: "The pieces are written for different instrumentations, according to the needs of the selected letter and the vagaries of life, and the global project is not a priori unified. On the contrary, the unit proceeds from the work method itself, from the inclusion in the moment, the lack of resistance to accidents and digressions, the return - years apart - to the same obsessions, etc., instead of a general preconceived design. [...] These letters are channels of transformation. anything is likely to appear in it, to naturally emerge from the playing and the transformation taking place. The thing taking shape seems to have a life of its own, to evolve adrift.". The five "letters" of this second chapter of this research smells of life by means of labyrinthine itineraries, sudden accelerations, dust devils, bolting harmonies and perfect intertwining of instruments and electronics, winning rolls of heavy accents - I found remarkably engaging the ones on "Z1" -, emboli on the musical score where sometimes recurring tonal sequences got entangled by sudden sonic spurts and gripping dynamics, which often resembles mixtures of film-music or "contemporary classic" stuff by Berio, Lygeti or Cage (particularly the suites "Y" and "S2"). It could be equally considered a brain-teaser for students and academics of composition and an engaging listening experience for listeners who don't really deal with more technical matters.
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Artist: German Army
Title: Burushaski
Format: Tape
Label: Belaten (@)
Rated: *****
Coming from Los Angeles, German Army is a very active musical outfit of a mysterious entity which on the last couple of years have produced twelve releases of which "Burushaski", released on tape by Belaten, is one of the latest. "Burushaski" is a language isolate spoken in northern Gilgit'Baltistan, Pakistan and, chosen as title, seems to indicate a sense of isolation and difficulty or a will to avoid the communications with the globalized world. The music of the nine tracks of the album oscillate from synth post punk catchy tunes ("Stone Walls") to minimal synth industrial experimental collages of melodic sounds and treated vocals/samples ("Mirror Analyst", "Breaking The Head", "Express Rate" or "Clan Bride") where obsessive drum machine beats mark the rhythm of a obscure ritual. Check and buy it here http://belaten.bandcamp.com/album/burushaski
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Artist: Mirt
Title: Healing South
Format: 12"
Label: Backwards (@)
Rated: *****
The theme of is new album from Mirt is "derived from exotic vision of class B old adventure films and cheap comic stories". The musical result is an attempt to obtain a crossover between a pop song structure and some experimental effort to obtain the typical atmosphere of sci-fi and adventure movie, the first genre to historically feature electronic and experimental music.
The first side is opened by "Disaster", a track focused con dreamy lines of synth and found sounds. "Soul" is instead a proper pop tune with vocals even if it's more structured than the average. "Papa Legba" closes the side with an almost meditative mood created by the loops and the oriental beats. Side 2 opens with "Bury Me Here" a soundscape created with a sparse noises, a drone and some effects. "Hunger" is based on the juxtaposition of a glitchy beat and a textured sonic landscape "South" closes this release with the dreamy synth and a beat created with the baseline.
Some lines could be a sort of "looney tunes" but, as the linear notes stated, this has been consciously done searching for this kind of mood. It worths a listen when it's not season for avant-garde but for something to hear while reading a comic book and drinking a wine. Nice.
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Artist: Vultures Quartet with Schuyler Tsuda
Title: Sui Generis
Format: CD
Label: Zoharum (@)
Rated: *****
This recording is the result of a collaboration between Vultures Quartet, that seems a trio, and Schuyler Tsuda and is the result of a series of recordings made while playing with vintage analogue synthesizers, various orchestral instruments provided by University of Minnesota.
After various listening the result reminds, in some sense, to the experience of the first AMM albums in their use of noise and drones for the creation of a musical universe, in his dialogue with silence, rather to the creation of a sound barrier.
The first track "Narc By Accretion" is based on the dialogue between the electronically generated noise and the subtle metallic sounds barely audible in the silent moments of the track. "[Sic]s"is a mostly quiet development of small sounds while "Three Folds For Desmond Briscoe" returns to thick masses of sounds that introduce the juxtaposition of metallic beats and percussion above a soundscape. "Ostia" and "Max Enrst In Arizona" are evocative tracks with the musical development of his small and noisy musical lines.
"Ire_Xeno_Ire" is an alternation of silent sounds and sharp drones. "Halo, Then Rhetor" creates a soundscape with the layers made by the four performers while "Dead Hen At Ipatiev House" end this release quietly with carefully constructed textures and sound sculptures.
This quartet has developed a way of playing that could sounds as without form but, as AMM years ago, is able to be almost polysemantic and so every member is part of a whole even with his unique voice. This is a wonderful release but perhaps could only be fully appreciated by curious ears of EAI fans.
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Artist: Marrow Mandler
Title: Escapist Grounds
Format: Tape
Label: Belaten (@)
Rated: *****
Personal project of Sascha Mandler, Marrow Mandler has just released for Belaten his second tape titled "Escapist Grounds", after releasing his first "Sensual Seas",' always this year, for Aufnahme + Wiedergabe. This new release contains five new tracks that are deeply influenced by early industrial synth precursors as well as by the first synth wave bands. Listening to "Considered Asunder" or the opening "Hate Mate" I think about early Thomas Leer (also the one who collaborated with Robert Rental for the Industrial Records release "The Bridge"), 2nd Layer (the one off band of The Sound's Adrian Borland and Graham Green) or Fad Gadget. On Madler's music melody, synth noises, hypnagogic atmospheres and paced rhythms are the main elements and everything works just fine. If you are a lover of early 80s analog synth sounds and you love electronic new wave/industrial, you'll be pleased to check this out. You can check and purchase the release here http://belaten.bandcamp.com/album/escapist-grounds
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