Music Reviews



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Artist: Norbert Möslang (@)
Title: Killer_kipper
Format: 12"
Label: Cave12 (@)
Rated: *****
We're surrounded by a plenty of sounds and waves we don't really care about during our ordinary day as they're often overwhelmed by inner sounds or noises or just because they acclimatize within our sensorial sphere. Nevertheless, we're immersed into clouds of microwaves, light and sound waves, magnetic fields, which are sometimes close tot the threshold of perceptibility or silently cross our bodies and interfere with our neuroelectrical activity. The sonic research of Swiss improvisor, clarinetist and saxophonist Norbert Moslang seems to be focused on the channelization, the moulding and the organization of those sounds and grated this bump on his past collaborative projects such as Voice Crack, an interesting experimental free jazz collaboration with Andy Guhl, or the amazing quartet Poire_z. This performance has been recorded on 23rd September 2011 after the Cave12 and fmac associations invited him to perform in the conporary art festival Mac 11 in Geneve and gives a remarkable sample of his performative art. Compared with other Moslang's recordings I listened before, noisy sneaking movements of "killer_kipper" sound less random and better organized: there's an inner syncopated pacing which often resurfaces and more or less silently control the traffic of noises and electrons Norbert grabbed by cracked everyday electronics. The 27-minutes lasting performance has been splitted into two tracks and sides: on side A, this regulatory function got fulfilled by a subtle low frequency which gradually turns into a sort of pumping machine and the reaching of saturation levels seems to be more gradual than the dynamics on side A, where the constant flow of electrons rolls on a sort of hiccuping knock. Very interesting trial of noise manipulation.
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Artist: Kamil Kowalczyk (@)
Title: Nova
Format: CD
Label: self-released
Rated: *****
Kamil Kowalczyk, originally from Poland, now based in Edinburgh, Scotland is a minimalist electronic musician who has released six albums in mp3 format on the U.S. net label 'Zenapolae' and another in CD format ('Aurora', 2011) plus this one available in CDr and digital download. If 'Nova' is any indication of what he's been up to, I'd say Kamil is certainly someone you might want to check the back catalogue of. 'Nova' consists of nine sort mostly lengthy pieces, with one short one at 4:33. From the album and track names, you can tell these pieces are "space-oriented" (as in outer space), but don't expect anything akin to classic 'space music'. This is actually much closer to the coldness and sterility of space, or as it might be imagined. The soundscapes are primarily composed of drones of various colors, tonalities, and densities, using different LFO and filtering techniques to blend and contrast them. Voices, sometimes echoed, sometimes not occasionally appear, some seeming like astronaut/mission transmissions, and others, eerie disembodied voices...in space. (I won't spoil your experience by telling you what they say.) As minimal as the soundscapes are though, there is still an amount of aural variety in sonic events and incidentals. Throughout the course of the nine pieces you will likely feel you are traversing the void, and experiencing light cast from the stars, shimmering and shifting in your perspective. At a point in the recording there almost seems to be a dimensional bending, as if space was being folded. This is a very heady album and I'd encourage listening in both headphone and open speaker environment to experience it fully. 'Nova' is certainly one for more contemplative, relaxed moods when you can take the time to fully absorb it. If you haven't listened to this kind of music since Tangerine Dream's 'Zeit,' and loved it, I'd say this is a 'Must Buy'. (Album is limited to 250 CDr copies.) It is very deep. You could easily get 'Lost in Space'.
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Artist: Mike Oldfield (@)
Title: Tubular Beats
Format: CD
Label: earMUSIC (@)
Distributor: Eagle Records
Rated: *****
I was a little surprised to find this one in my reviewing bag. Mike Oldfield? He's still around? Although he's been releasing music regularly throughout the years, I pretty much moved on to other things after the first four albums. That sort of put me at a disadvantage since I haven't paid much attention to what he's been doing in the last 30 or so years. Despite the 'Tubular' in the title, this ain't your prog-rockin' daddy's Tubular Bells; it's more like your EDM-lovin' daughter's last trip to Burning Man or Ibiza. Speaking of Ibiza, Oldfield lived there for a while, and it's likely had some influence on these remixes. You must have figured out that that this is a remix album, sort of a 'greatest hits' from Oldfield's past reinvented and reimagined for EDM. Oldfield's partner in this is Torsten 'York' Stenzel, a long-time noteworthy EDM composer-producer formerly based in Ibiza. Turned out Oldfield and York were neighbors there but they didn't actually meet until years later through a third party in the Bahamas. Obviously, Oldfield and York clicked musically, and the result is this album.

The album is not just York's remixes of Oldfield's past material (although he had a big hand in the remixes); it was a collaborative effort with Oldfield adding new parts and sounds as well as input. The result is something nearly completely different than the original songs. 'Let There Be Light,' from Oldfield's 'The Songs of Distant Earth' (1994) is extended and expanded and given a Delerium-style groove, and I actually like it more than the original. The spoken voice sample and guitar part are still in there. So far, no radical departure. 'Far Above the Clouds' comes from 'Tubular Bells III' (1998) which is a continuation of the original 'Tubular Bells,' Oldfield's first album from 1973. Comparing that track to the remix on this album, the original percussion has been submerged and jettisoned in favor of a more club-friendly beat. It actually works great and the additional synth parts are in keeping with the track's momentum.

'Ommadawn' may be the most difficult track for dyed-in-the-wool Oldfield fans to appreciate. Both Oldfield and York are equally 'guilty' for this track as it was a 50/50 effort. It takes the most classic part of this 1975 album spread over two sides. It's a trancey prog-house take on the piece and except for certain elements (such as the vocals and the progression) bears little similarity to the original. Oldfield fans may consider it soulless sacrilege, but I think it's clever. A lot happens in it too; it's not just one big 4-on-the-floor beat fest from beginning to end. 'Guilty' from Oldfield's 1979 'Airborne' album sounded discoed-out (and a little bit silly) in the original but here it is given a modern club feel.

The remix of 'Tubular Bells' is a much more spacey affair than the original, and also very EDM. Of course, like 'Ommadawn' it's only part of the original with the Exorcist-riff as the most prominent theme. Some very nice things are done with this track, including the piano outro by John Gentry Tennyson. Once again, stubborn old-school Oldfield fans will likely hate it. 'To France,' from Oldfield's 1987 'Discovery' album featured Maggie Reilly on vocals, but here the vocals by Odessa are jazzed up with autotune and effects. Not wild about this one as it turned a very nice Celtic-inspired, acoustic-based number into an overblown pop dance tune. Odessa fares better on 'Moonlight Shadow' (from 'Crises,' 1983) even though it's geared for dance it still has a magical quality about it. Never cared much for Oldfield's reworking of 'North Star' by Philip Glass, but it works a lot better in this remix with a stronger beat. The second remix of 'Guilty' was absolutely unnecessary and time could have better spent tackling something else from Oldfield's extensive back catalog.

If you haven't gotten enough Tubular Bells by this time, the remix of 'Tubular Bells II' should sate your appetite. Here again it's very tranced-out and, and the theme (the riff taken from the section where the instruments are verbally introduced) is perfectly suited for it. I doubt I could actually stand listening to the original 'Tubular Bells II' album in its entirety, but I could listen to this multiple times. Final track on the album is a new Oldfield tune called 'Never Too Far' with vocals by ex-Nightwish vocalist Tarja Turunen. Oldfield's had a good track record working with female vocalists and this one continues his winning streak. Turunen's vocals are wordless for nearly the first half of the song, with suitable melodic ambience and no beat until 5:40. The passage where her voice goes operatic is a very nice touch. Although the song isn't exceptionally memorable, it is very nicely done, and much different than anything else on the album- soothing and mellow. It certainly helps that Tarja has a great voice.

'Tubular Beats' may have the effect of gaining Oldfield some new fans and losing some old ones, but I don't expect you'll find him playing any major EDM events. As for me, I quite liked most of the album. I found it creative and very different from any Oldfield I'd ever heard before, and the production is stellar. York deserves a lot of credit for making that happen. It would be interesting to hear what he might do with some of the other old prog-rockers out there. Next stop- Pink Floyd?
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Artist: Kool Thing
Title: Kool Thing
Format: CD
Label: Mad Dog & Love
Distributor: Pale Music International
Rated: *****
Formed in Paris and now based in Berlin, Kool Thing see Julie Chance and Jon Dark, originally from Dublin and Sydney, teaming up with Valentin Plessy on drums for the release of their self named debut album for their own label Mad Dog & Love. Containing fourteen songs, of which three coming from a previous self produced CDr and a 12", "Kool Thing" is a good album which mixes echoes of 90s shoegaze (the opening "Low Love" recalled me Lush thanks to the female voices), a bit of alternative electronic dance funk (see tracks like "The Sign" and the following "TV Tower"), new wave and a bit of experimentation (check "Versterbro" and its dark atmosphere made of multi layered synth arpeggios and effected guitar). The atmosphere of the album passes from powerful electronic/guitar wall of sounds to smooth atmospheres which slowly turn into dancey 4/4 blasts (like on "Lost Days"). The album contains different highlights: catchy melodies, good rich rhythmical patterns, sensual vocals, good arrangements, energy and varied atmosphere. You can check it the whole track list at this link http://koolthing.bandcamp.com/album/kool-thing
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Artist: Ensemble Skalectrik
Title: Trainwrekz
Format: 12"
Label: Editions Mego (@)
Rated: *****
A plentiful nourishment for lucid visual mental imagery comes from Ensemble Skalectrik, the most radical performance-based side-project of Nick Edwards aka Ekoplekz, which got assembled on the basis of one-take improvisational sessions and a heap of sounds he pulled out of old vinyl (mainly collections of sound effects and easy listening records), turntables and other devices before moulding them by means of a wide set of filters, loop-pedals and equalizers. Even if this project dangles on sonic experiments, there's a strong connection with other offsprings from this talented Bristolian sound-artist, as its distinctive declension of turntablism which often sneaks up on the pulpy sonorities of Dub, Industrial, Musique Concrete, random electronics and electroacoustics as well as a certain concatenation of the sonic insertions are features which recur in many Ekoplekz tracks. You can savour this record track by track as the way Mr.Edwards messes with sounds is really amazing or as if it were a continuum. You can easily imagine a surreal journey on a train before, during and after the "happy" ending the title of the album quotes, so that the initial track "Wreckwahn" could let you think about the beginning of the ride: looping chugs, the unstoppable rhythmical march on the rail, the red-hot iron which begins to condition the temperature inside the compartments seems to pressurise the listener. On "Wrecktoo", Nick seems to translate the financial term "liquid assets" into sounds by inbreeding the typical chiming of old cash register and other concrete sounds with gurgling waters and bubbling sounds, a crossbreed which sound like an abstract psychedelic and somehow nightmarish carousel. You could imagine that the running train became covered by a thick fog where lights could look like laser beams and its clattering got muffled as if it crossed the gate of fourth dimension while listening to the last track of the first side, "Wrekfree". On the flipside, Nich seems to emphasize the hypnotical progression of the journey by means of the disquieting other-wordly progression of "Wrekfore" and the sinister sequences of "Wreksank" which could let you think about the wreck as a spite by wicked goblins, who dwells in the tunnel your unlucky train must pass through. And what about the lovely twitters of the final "Wreksikz (for Louis Johnstone)" the label describes as a "serene ornithological drift"? Is it possible you are experiencing the heaven some believers fantasize about? The noises of the wreck, which gradually resurfaces and disturb those heavenly transmission, could be the clue that those lovely chirping birds just belonged to the reverie caused by a pharmalogical coma...
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