Music Reviews

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Artist: SRMEIXNER (@)
Title: Ten Thousand Ways to Die
Format: CD
Label: Segerhuva (@)
Distributor: Black Rose Recordings
Rated: *****
SRMEIXNER's 'Ten Thousand Ways to Die' draws its inspiration from the old spaghetti westerns that were so bountiful in the 60's and 70's. However, Meixner has chosen to focus on the less obvious elements and themes of these movies, many being borrowed from behind the scenes or the subtle undertones and hidden meanings within the films, though there are certainly moments when you don't have to be as well versed in their subculture to pick up on their influence. The opening piece entitled 'Something to Do With Death' spends more than two minutes teasing the listener with brief fade-ins of the buzzing of flies separated with awkward silence. The wait is paid off when more field recordings of insects and animals and darkness and night begin to layer in, really transporting you to the desert, under a pale, moonlit night where the echoes of the wild begin to ring in your head until maddening, deafening; until you're certain you may just be eaten alive and picked clean. The piece continues to evolve out of this with some more quiet ambience and manipulated dialogue samples. The record progresses through 6 songs full of field recordings, audio manipulations, drones and the occasional lone melody. 'Once Upon a Time, The Revolution' invokes a brief foray into darkness with its tense, dramatic layers which eventually melt away into an ambience broken only by more modified dialogue samples, which are quite effective. 'Too Much Gold is Bad For Your Health' opens into a pretty little melody almost baroque in nature, giving fast way to light ambience. Parts of this piece have such openness that they leave the listener little to invest in, but don't get me wrong, what DOES exist in these spaces is both light and beautiful. 'I Am Your Pallbearer' is both one of the more sinister pieces herein and also one of the few obvious references to the theme with some mean harmonica work which makes you think of hopping open train cars full of straw and drifters. Beneath that comes and goes, among other things, some very fitting Native American samples. The entire album has a rather seamless flow and is a good, solid listen from start to finish with plenty highs and just a few lows. Not to mention being the last release on the Swedish label Segerhuva, 'Ten Thousand Ways to Die' has not only a fitting title, but I think is a great swan song for the label.
Artist: Lydia Lunch and Philippe Petit (@)
Title: Twist of Fate
Format: CD + DVD
Label: Monotype Records (@)
Rated: *****
The lights are out, tensions run high, you break a cold sweat... That is the image I get as 'Twist of Fate,' the collaborative effort of Lydia Lunch and Philippe Petit, begins to trickle down my ear canals. It is instantly eerie, with Petit providing dense textures and thick layers, creating an unsettlingly perfect bed for Lydia's occasionally melodic, always intense 'storytelling.' She does go back and forth every now and again, between spoken word and haunting singing, which surprisingly at times seems vaguely reminiscent of Ogre from Skinny Puppy's side project Ritalin. The layers and digital manipulations come and go, slowly fading in and out like some ocean of sonic fury whose waves relentlessly beat against a shore of bone dust and ash. At times Petit's soundscapes are so sparse, and light that they'll actually relax you just enough so that when the disembodied drones and reverb washed samples quickly creep back in, you feel that much more uneasy. This collection of just 8 songs is both dreamlike and haunting, with swirling evil, enveloping the senses. It'd be the perfect soundtrack for a psychological mindfuck. Not only that, but it comes with a 45 minute companion DVD of a live set performed by the pair, which features versions of many of the songs on the cd. The DVD is definitely more tense, jarring, dramatic. Petit's layers, textures and manipulations are even thicker still, with more of a harsh edge and noisy feel. Lydia's vocals are also noticeably darker and more frenetic; at points nearly reaching a banshee-like screech. She takes the original lyrics and brings them to new places, shifting tempos, ad-libbing, and just overall increasing the intensity tenfold. It's also quite interesting to watch Philippe working his craft, using Theremin like devices, laptops and even using such mundane items as a blown up balloon to build up the audio walls around him. The entire video portion is superimposed with a plethora of mood setting images such as visual textures, and even a wide variety of stills of Lunch, seemingly spanning her entire career. The music is definitely edgier and tenser on the DVD, and while the vocals have a certain magical sense of urgency to them, they are a bit more smooth, refined and evilly seductive on the CD. Together the DVD and CD make a great set; both a great listen and a great watch.
Artist: Monty Adkins (@)
Title: Fragile.Flicker.Fragment
Format: CD
Label: AudioBulb Records (@)
Rated: *****
Fragile. Flicker. Fragment. So fitting a title for this, Monty Adkins' latest offering. A seasoned veteran of electroacoustics, has found a new direction of growth with not only this, but his previos release '5 Panels' as well. While his earlier work was more glitchy, erratic (not in a negative way) and densely populated, his newer work shows a different side of his psyche. Fragile. Flicker. Fragment is a very airy, sparsely populated, calm, meticulously crafted world. Here he has come up with an amalgam of field recordings, layers of textures both light and rich, digital manipulations and glitches with a small dose of traditional instrumentation embedded beneath. Pieces like 'Memory Box' truly evoke a feeling of browsing and accessing old memories of everyday life, while a just a few songs such as 'Remnant' build tension with a touch more noise, and deeper bass notes and tones. While this is definitely not an edge-of-your-seat ride, it's not meant to be. It's a single carefully constructed piece broken down into 9 songs, which flow seamlessly together. It's a thought provoking, intelligent listen. There may be a few moments where you find yourself distracted by the goings-on around you throughout the piece but you'll come right back when those textures begin layering back in or pings of music boxes draw a lonely melody or when the native jinglings change things up a bit. Overall it's a very calming yet evolving and transcending release that may be a little slower than planned at points, but remains interesting enough that you'll want to listen the whole way through without missing anything.
Artist: Taming the Outback
Title: 1986-1989
Format: CD
Label: Equation Records (@)
Rated: *****
Every now and again I find a band or artist that I just am absolutely in love with, only to find upon further research, that they have fallen to obscurity and little to no more material exists to be had. That is very much the case with Taming the Outback. Being a big fan of the post-punk movement as a whole, I was certainly excited to give this disc a spin, but I had no idea what was in store. A 'definitive' collection, culled from the entirety of their 3 year lifespan, '1986-1989' may just be one of the most quintessential post-punk records I've experienced. From the opening notes of 'Fire & Smoke' to the moving, dramatic leads of 'Mistrust' to the final notes of 'American Dream' this cd is a near flawless listen. So many classic influences are channeled throughout this disc, while not a single one of them can quite be used for comparison. The Outback were able to draw from these influences and really put their own stamp on it all. From bass sounds very reminiscent of the Cure's 'Disintegration' album, coupled with certain melodies containing the ghosts of Joy Division's early work to the angst of Killing Joke and hint of the western vibe of Fields of the Nephilim (with whom The Outback shared the stage for a tour) to the tension building vocals of Echo and the Bunnymen and Mission UK'¦ The list just goes on and on, yet I can't stress enough, that at no point does it sound like any of these bands have been recycled in any way. Taming the Outback had something so magical that this world just couldn't accept it, and after just three short years, tensions grew to a head, and the magic was no more. Lucky for us the trio, after 2 decades, decided to release this retrospective of singles originally slated for an abandoned LP, demos, and live tracks. While the quality of some of the live tracks isn't 100% pristine, some of the almost inaudible tape noise, really at its worst just adds a warm, nostalgic feel the latter half of the album. Even the packaging is impressive. A thick, heavy, double gatefold style cardboard sleeve is adorned with the band's infamous crucifixion publicity shot, and comes with a poster, and full 24 page booklet containing lyrics, interviews and reprints of more than a few press clippings about the band; and a second edition limited to just 75 copies (which at last inspection were still available) comes with the same, as well as 4 badges, a mini reprint of 'Alive and Kicking' fanzine from 1987 featuring the band, and an original copy of their only 7' in a picture sleeve. Once again, just a phenomenal record in every way; go out of your way if you must, just make sure you get this one under your belt before you die.
Artist: Koji Asano (@)
Title: Polar Parliament
Format: CD
Label: Solstice
Rated: *****
As I said while reviewing "Solstice Eclipse", a title who can be misinterpreted as a possible elegant way to wriggle out of the scene, Koji Asano's game is not over at all and "Polar Parliament", his 46th release, is the best proof this fecund Japanese sound artist could produce. I could say Koji looks like having polarized this release not only as he splitted it into two very long drones, so that setting two opposite polarities, but it seems that these two drones have different physical-chemical properties so that someone could imagine he carried out a rheological experiment or a sort of electrophoresis on his sound-machine's viscous exudates. The first drone has been built on tiny variations of a single sound, which could remind some listeners of their recent scaling and root planing to remove plaque from teeth, as it's similar to the sound produced by an energic brushing on teeth but it could also be associated to different images such a strong pressure during a convulsive drawing with a pencil on a sheet of paper or deposit removal from water pipes by acids; such an hypnotic sonic homogeneity has been just occasionally broken by extrusions which sound like surfacing this corrosive stream. The second movement features bubbling liquid sounds, which rises trepidation of listening experience till the moment when after some hits which are similar to the noise of locked doors they are transformed into something close to effected train chuffs or helicopter's blades, so that its dynamics are aybe more catching than the ones in the first movement. "Polar Parliament" could be interpreted in a different way as well, as suggested by some clues of the release: many reviewers had some troubles in explaining the choice to put the wheels of a garbage bin on the cover artwork as well as the one to enclose a packet of kleenex with a sized portrait of Mr.Asano inside. A possible explanation could be based on some references to the urban riots occurring in reaction to the way some governments controlled by bankers opted to afford financial, economical and social crysis and consequent "polarization" of societies so that those garbage bins could refer to the typical way protesters use to build barricades and that packet of kleenex an help by Koji against tear gas!
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