Music Reviews



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Artist: Total Science presents /VV.AA. (@)
Title: Tuned In 2
Format: CD
Label: C.I.A. (@)
Rated: *****
More than ten years after the first sampler, which fully uncovered their wide-opened vision on drum'n'bass, one of the most prolific and innovative British dnb producers, Jason Greenhalgh and Paul Smith, who paired up under the lucky moniker Total Science, delivers their renowned perspective by means of their notorious label C.I.A., whose acronym means Computer Integrated Audio and doesn't have any reference to that club of dangerous Peeping Toms, who usually bothers our planet with their megalomaniac spy perversions. Even if the above-mentioned first release was certainly more seminal, "Tuned In 2" seems to suggest many possible sylistical pathways, which sometimes bridge the gap between old school and new sounds besides pleasing many dnb listeners due to the wide range of styles it explores. Although soulful dnb (that stuff some hotheads and imps ironically connects with the sampler which enhances the productivity of gay bartenders) is not my favorite one, I could state the obvious when I ascertain the high quality of such tunes: the astonishing sentimental digression by Sinistar & Grimm, which is going to surprise those ones who knew the couple through harsher tracks such as "Dead Idolz" or other hard tracks by Jeremy Howard aka Sinistarr for the unavoidable influences from Detroit techno, on "Anything" alternates piano-driven sentimental moments with more popping parts, which both mantain a certain "Detroitesque" terseness, and such a duality comes out from other sweataned tracks such as "Lowend theory", a track signed by the impressive collaboration of one half of Total Science, J.R.Greenhalgh, aka Q Project and 8 Bits, who spill acid rains from the initial pink synth cloud, or "Stolen Moments" where Total Science integrate jump-up engines on Riya's enticing singing and synth-piano spotty melodies. Beyond more mysterious and "gothic" tunes such as the gloomy "Dream Demon" by Spirit - integrating Upbeats-like grime with mayhem sounds -, the entrancing "Trust" by French-born producer and MC Proktah, who combines grinding neurofunk beats with a foggy atmosphere, which could evoke a nuclear holocaust, the exquisitely suffocating sounds on Break's "Slipstream" or the nice metallic and gummy beat rolling on Fracture's "The Breaks", there are many tracks, which cling more tightly to my eardrums: my favorite one is the intial remix of Total Science & S.P.Y.'s "Past Lives" by Lenzman, who perfectly balance liquid funk, jump-up, uplifting tones and the vocal floating by Kevin King, but the snapping crystalline jump on "Clipper Man" by Calibre, the somewhat epic Riya's song "Cold Blooded" by Total Science, Break's "floral" contagious remix of Total Science's "Going In Circles" and the final dry and high jumping beats by Beta 2 on "Perceptions" stay at close range in my personal rank. A split version on vynil of "Tuned In 2" is also available. Just turn on, tune in and move out!
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Artist: Sutcliffe Jugend (@)
Title: Blue Rabbit
Format: CD
Label: Crucial Blast (@)
Chances are you're much more familiar with (the previous works of) Sutcliffe Jugend than I am, which is to say, very little. Rather than rehash Kevin Tomkin and Paul Taylor's previous noise/power electronics history, let me just say that 'Blue Rabbit' seems to be quite different than anything else they've attempted. It's sort of an ambient album, with a certain amount of subtlety for these guys, although it's chock full of electro-acoustic sounds. Musically, it's not far removed from some of the releases on Vresnit's Vetvei label but there is an insidious creepiness throughout the eight tracks of this little over an hour soundscape that makes it extremely unsettling. There is also an undercurrent of vocal recitation that occasionally surfaces, that has something to do with the abominable short story inside the digipak involving a little girl and her pink and blue stuffed rabbits. It's a depraved tale of self-mutilation that will make you reconsider the innocence of stuffed bunnies and/or little girls. For me, this became a little too problematic to appreciate the album as its theme and soundscape are so intertwined.

It's really too much to describe everything on this album, but the last track, 'The Death of Pornography' deserves some description. It employs several different types of staticy noises, drones, small feedback bursts, rattling, child voices, sustained string plucks, that (aforementioned) vocal recitation, electronic sounds, flutey intonations, a stuttering harmonica, and eventually, what sounds like a mournful goose honking intermittently. It's weird, and cacophonous, but still brilliant in a way. Perhaps that's what I find so disturbing about this album. If it weren't for this thread of child-mutilating psychosis thematically woven throughout 'Blue Rabbit' I'd be inclined to laud it as a commednable work, but as is, I cannot condone it or recommend it.
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Artist: T.O.M.B.
Title: UAG (Uncovered Ancient Gateways)
Format: CD
Label: Crucial Blast (@)
Rated: *****
I used to attempt to wax eloquent in reviews, a meager outlet for creative writing and musical insight. But not no more, not after this album. Being totally unprepared for T.O.M.B. (Total Occultic Mechanical Blasphemy) and with not much frame of reference for this kind of noize, I have to say I was steamrolled by it, nearly literally, or at least my ears were. As I understand, T.O.M.B. Has its roots in Black Metal, but this doesn't sound like any Black Metal I've ever come across. Ritualized harsh noise ambient might be a more accurate assessment, pervasive throughout 'UAG'.

The rather lengthy description on the one-sheet that accompanied this monstrosity is a much better review than I ever could have written, and I am not inclined to plagiarize or paraphrase it, not because I don't agree with it (it is mostly spot-on) but because after experiencing this morbid noisefest, I just don't have the energy. Allegedly (hey, I wasn't there, who knows for sure?) these are field recordings made in abandoned sanitariums, morgues, crypts, and other creepy places , often banging on the walls of the structures and making use of their natural reverberation. Some of the distortion in the recording could be attributed to that. This is a hell-ride to be sure, with bits of industrial mechanical sounds, electronics and processing as a subtext for the brutal pounding. There a few quieter moments when 'UAG' resembles something close to Dark Ambient, but they don't last long. Actually, for a noise album this is kind of multi-faceted and creative, and I can tell a lot of energy and work went into this. There are parts that seem like they could fall into the avant-garde, and for harsh noise enthusiasts, it could actually grow on you.

At first it was unclear to me whether T.O.M.B. is a collective of participants or just one guy guy running around at night breaking into the haunts of the insane and the dead to work his demonic aural visions. Then the name Jack Gannon (aka No One) surfaced, previously with Goreaphobia, Deteriorate, Zahgurim, Hazarax, and Mourn Thy Passing (formerly Cemetery Earth), Death Metal bands near Philly, PA. So T.O.M.B. Is Gannon's project or No One's, if it's any one's at all. With those bands he mostly contributed vocals, but it would seem as though his talents have been better utilized here. Any vocal contributions to this album though will hardly be recognized from his previous work.

One particularly disturbing aspect of this album is the track 'Cadaver Transmissions' in which supposedly a contact mike was rubbed against an actual dead body. Well, there are scraping sounds, but puleeze! How far into the morbidity tables does an artist need to delve for authenticity's sake? Purists will love it though, I suppose.

'UAG' is a tough 63 minutes to digest, but noise enthusiasts should have a field day with a smorgasbord of raucous racquet, cavernous cacophony, and putrid pandemonium. Since this album has been out awhile, I've had the opportunity to read some reviews, and all were very positive, no one panned it. I'm not going to either. I wouldn't dare, even if it's not my cup of meat. Great graphics on the digipak and booklet though. Recommended only to those who fear not to tread the path where No One (else) will go.
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Artist: VV.AA.
Title: Traces One
Format: 12"
Label: Recollection GRM/Editions Mego (@)
Rated: *****
I've already introduced the project Recollection GRM, based on an interesting series of records focused on the huge archives of Pierre Schaeffer's Groupe de Recherches Musicales and supported by Editions Mego. This release is the first compilation, fed with the experiments of various scholars of that legendary smithy of sound researchers, who intercepted noises and built more or less encrypted sonic codes from that creative process which arises from the silence of the author or of the composer and from the resulting capture and elaboration of impulses from external world or machines, which get maneuvered in the dark by composer itself. On the first face of the record, the Argentinian music therapist and sonic researcher Beatriz Ferreyra separates electronic factors from concrete ones for the preparation of L'Orvietan - the choice of such a title which mentions a panacea against poisonings sounds on the beam! -, where she gradually extracts abstract (and sometimes scary) pseudosymphonies from polyphonic stratifications, while French composer Philippe Carson manages to build a sort of industrial suite in three movements by recombining noises grabbed in the Stuyvesant factories where twist drills, grinding machines, sizing press, hydraulic pistons, chain curtain, gas pipes, hot-air ducts, power drills, cog wheels and other machines sound like uttering in unison after they grabbed listener's attention with their intrinsic pace and before they intensity and thickness increase. Other three cheing gems have been cut on the second face: Edgardo Canton sonically renders homage to Italian composer Gaetano Donizzetti by composing an electroacoustic aria by means of quivers, pulses and shivers, which could abstractly define the Italian word "palpito", which that composer inspired to Edgardo, while "Chemins d'avant la mort" is a true rarity, one of the rare works by GRM technical coordinator Francis Regnier, where two linear sounds, rising from the silence, experiences a sort of strong sonic tremor before returning to silence. The last track of this collection, the only known compostion by Mireille Chamass-Kyrou, is the oldest one as well: "Etude 1" is an astonishing application of physical processing to sounds, whose transitions could let you think of the first stages of the evolutionary sonic processes by contemporary sonic pathfinders such as Alva Noto or Mika Vainio, even if Mireille completed this sonic study in 1960!
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Artist: VV.AA.
Title: Mise En Place pt.1
Format: 2 x 12" vinyl
Label: Ingredients Recordings (@)
Rated: *****
Powered by Bramley apples kindky recommended by Kinetic & Mark Recoil for the preparation of Granny Recoil's Apple Cake, the widely respected Ingredients label puts the first part of a series of EPs, wisely called Mise En Place - a French expression, which refers to the organization and the arranging of ingredients a cook needs for his delicacies -, in the oven, and I'm pretty sure these hors d'oeuvres are going to tickle the tympanic palate of many drum'n'bass fans. Beyond two well-known chief cooks of the scene - the former member of the supergroup Bad Company dBridge, who remixes Kodo's "The Jackal" by abounding with dry and trenchant jump-up, and Villem, who dresses Foreign Concept's "Jaipur" with perfect cut-ups and charming female chants which could remind some stuff by Aphrodite -, there are two skilled debutants: while the above-mentioned producers, Kinetic and Mark Recoil, offer a somewhat haunting tune on "Cold Streets", a combination of eerie atmospheres which sound like coming from scaring alleyways of a decadent suburb, Stealth & Stylus raises the air temperature and the buotant force of the montgolfier with airy daydreaming sounds and crunchy beats on "One Way", a title which perfectly describes the uplifting vector which is going to rise listeners up. There aren't any rotten apples in this delicious pie.
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