Music Reviews



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Artist: S.P.O.C.K. (@)
Title: The Best Of The Subspace Years
Format: CD
Label: Artoffact (@)
Rated: *****
Artoffact wisely thought that the time for setting US coordinates of the starship which carries this funny Swedish synth pop band mainly inspired by Star Trek saga (but there are many references to other notorious sci-fi movies as well - is ripe, so that SPOCK - acronym for Star Pilot On Channel K! - come out from their capsules to spread their music in the States with this limited deluxe edition, which includes 19 of their most successful tracks, including some authentic club hits such as "Dr.McCoy" (if you followed Star Trek you should know who's this character), "Klingon 2000", "Alien Attack", "E.T. Phone Home", "Not Human", "All The Children Shall Lead" and many more. The circulation of bizarre and somewhat odd theories about human origins, alien role in the development and building of civilization and technology, fake religions or conspirational theories (think about David Icke's list of alien races such as Reptilians or Greys, Church of SubGenius, Illuminati and other subcultures which argue some external intervention, which could explain the collapse of human civilization and its spread over Internet during last years, particularly in times when the discrepancies between people needs and policies adopted by governmeents are getting so wide that someeone could believe they came from some malevolent alien race!) will make the understanding of the caustic and amazing irony of S.P.O.C.K.'s songs and lyrics whereas the evergreen liking for synth-pop (it's so evergreen that Depeche Mode still manages to fill arenas even when they issue mediocre releases), which this Swedish guys wondrously interprets by adding some piquancy with a considerable dosage of irony, meaningful vignettes and nice sounds as well, is going to facilitate rocket-propelled dances engineered by these lads.
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Artist: Konx-Om-Pax (@)
Title: Regional Surrealism
Format: CD
Label: Planet Mu (@)
Rated: *****
Scottish graphic artist and 3D film director Tom Scholefield, who could justifiably be considered a sort of man-behind-the-curtain due to his prolific videomaking for some famous fellow citizens such as Ross Birchard aka Hudson Mohawke and post-rock band Mogwai - he also toured as a dj with them - as well as Jamie Lidell, Martyn, Kuedo and Lone and his graphical tribute for sleeve artwork of many releases. His closeness to talented musicians as well as his passion for music he usually composes for personal pleasure and for scoring have been poured in this debut album, where many similarities with his own personal listenings (particularly some tracks follow traces left by cosmic fugues and lullabies by Ash Ra Tempel, alien technoid ambient or liquefied electronic ambient stuff by Arpanet, Sprawl or Drexciya or sound like Aphex Twin's primigenial ambient works or sonically neutralized versions of Richard James' acid soups) he didn't hide when speaking about "Regional Surrealism" as well as a certain stylistical homogeneity - that kind of homogeneity which make glimpse a sort of surrounding narrative polt-line within a record - as well as with notorious countrymen such as Boards Of Canada, whose dark melancholic sketches often come to mind during the listening of this intriguing recording, or some nice crossbreeds between techno and ill ambient from Scottish labels such as Soma (such a stylistical national - or I'd better define it as "regional" - imprint cannot but please!) are quite easy to recognize, but its saccharine cogency makes so many quatations acceptable. Its hook to scoring (or rescoring) appears confirmed by the inclusion of "Glacier Mountain Descent", a track intended as a sort of OST remake of the opening scene of "Aguirre - Wrath of God", a movie by Werner Herzog, whose notorious multiphonic OST was composed by Popul Vuh, but a "cinematic" feeling rises all over the album: the every-day life mentalism evoked by "At Home With Mum And Dad" (the stylistically closest track to Aphex Twin's ambient weaponry), the disquieting atmospheres of "Sura-Tura-Gnosi-Cosi", where the dim vocal distortion by Steven Retchard in the middle of a religious rave ("I am Jesus, I am the lord, I am everything") combined to a surface noise or a tape-hiss looks like the tape recording of some inmate during a religious brainwave taken from the archives of a lunatic asylum, or "Chambers", whose supple sine-wave on metallic light hits make me think about a mystical and pensive moment of a frustrated housewife while brushing a dirty frying pan, the stateliness of the crystalline humming of a celesta in "Pillars Of Creation", the enchanting solipsism of "Silent Reading", the sweet swin in an ocean of nostalgic memories of "Let's Go Swimming" and even the childish electricity of "Zang-Tumb" (the guitar in the funny web of toytronics has been played by Mogwai's Stuart Braithwaite). Even if sometimes you could feel the impression it's based on vintage electronics, washed with bleach, "Regional Surrealism" could offer some pleaseful meditative moments. Konx-Om-Pax sounds like pure (led) light in extension!
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Artist: Parade Ground
Title: A Room With A View
Format: Tape
Label: Other Voices Records
Rated: *****
Formed by the brothers Jean-Marc and Pierre Pauly in 1981, in Brussels, Belgium, Parade Ground channelled their energies into energetic music made of hard beats, paced synth lines and the melodic voice of Jean-Marc. In 1982 they participated to the Nationale Rockmeeting LP compilation and soon after they met Daniel B. and Patrick Codenys of Front 242, beginning a collaboration that is still active. In all these years, the band has on their back only two full length releases. Their first album "Cut Up" was released by Play It Again Sam Records, as well as their following singles released on 1987/88. For they second official album "Rosary", we have to wait until 2007, but a couple of months ago, Minimal Maximal, released the band's 1989 lost album, titled "The 15th Floor". Their real second album. This tape "A Room With A View", gathers songs recorded in 1988 that, as far as I know, were unreleased. The eight tracks mix e.b.m. atmospheres with new wave songwriting structures. It's like they felt the urge to release their energy without forgetting to give to the songs something more to the "in your face" approach. In this way, we have semi synthpop tunes with upbeat hard rhythms, melodic vocals, strong bass lines and some dance moments like on "Cursed By My Name". They sometimes recalled me Fad Gadget but with more melody. You can check the whole release here http://othervoicesrecords.bandcamp.com/album/vox-15-mc-a-room-with-a-view.
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Artist: DVA (@)
Title: Botanicula Soundtrack
Format: 12"
Label: Minority Records (@)
Rated: *****
If I didn't know this funny release by Czech duo DVA from Trebechovice pod Orebem made up of Jan Kratochvil and Bara Kratochvilova (it cannot be but a duo, as DVA should mean "two" in most Slavic languages) had been composed for a videogame, I'd have thought they managed to observe vicissitudes of a community of leprechauns, pixies or other fairy inhabitants of some enchanted underwood and translate it into music. The idea of this collaboration came from the mind behind the curtains of Botanicula, Jaromir Plachy, who had already made a nice animation clip for DVA's "Nunovo Tango" with a style not so dissimilar from Burton's one, and even if these kinds of release are influenced by what they're bundled into, the plot of Botanicula, based on the adventures of five plant freaks (Mrs.Mushroom, Mr.Lantern, Mr.Feather, Mr.Twig and Mr.Poppy Head!) fighting against evil parasites which contaminated their treehouse (!) to save its last seed, makes DVA's more dadaist attitude come out, so that together with patent similarities - DVA never disguised them- with notorious Icelandic bands such Sigur Ros (atmospheres of tracks like "Gobbledigook" could come to mind since you listen the initial track "Juchu") or Mum (musical memories from their "Finally We Are No One" could eemerge when listening Botanicula's "Finale"), it seems DVA merge together elements from Saami, Baltic, Slavic, Finnish and even Breton folk music, chamber music, electronic glitch-pop, toytronic marches and motifs (I particularly enjoyed "Letejono", "Zatoichy" and the funny "A Major For 12 Frogs") and even some quotes from pop culture (the nicest is maybe the one in "Mrs.Mushroom Likes Lcd Soundsystem"!) with the amused creative approach of a lively baby! It's no coincidence that Botanicula won the "Excellence in Audio" award at Indipendent Games Festival.
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Artist: Ernesto Rodrigues, Christine Abdelnour, Axel Doerner
Title: nie
Format: CD
Label: Creative Sources (@)
Rated: *****
While Lisbon children were walking around the city, knocking doors to repeat "Pao-por-Deus" (Bread-by-God), asking for chocolates, fruits, candies, food or money on the occasion of a celebration, which could look like Halloween, even if it was born to remember the devastating earthquake, the worst one to hit Lisbon in 1755, on 1st November 2008, a group of improvisers made up of Creative Sources' label manager Ernesto Rodrigues, the talented and somewhat bizarre German trumpet player Axel Doerner and French/Lebanese saxophonist Christine Abdelnour joined together at Tcha3 Studio to record this odd session. In the liner notes, Richard Pinnell says this record confirms his idea of actual improvised music, which recalls to his mind a drawer at his grandmother's house, full of tangled cotton and wool threads, and his children's game in pulling them in order to see how far each thread would unravel before taking "a hold in the enmeshed bundle". Pinnell's nice comparison with his childish memories keeps on focusing on the most relevant aspect of this release, id est the lack of structure, but even if there is no architecture and all canonical aspects of composition appear upside down, behind the interesting experiments on breathe insufflation, string smacking and tonal modulation, some listeners will notice a certain structure from the impression one of the three elements sounds like propping the intimate brittle skeleton of each moment, so that it seems that the intriguing techniques this trio exhibit represent a non-building made up of a pile of sounds, which seems constantly toppling as well as impossible to notate.
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