Music Reviews



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Artist: µ-Ziq
Title: Chewed Corners
Format: CD
Label: Planet Mu (@)
Rated: *****
I could try to explain the difference between that sort of appetizer of welcomed return of Mike Paradinas on self-signed production we introduced on this 'zine, "X-step", last May and this proper album on the basis of the cover artwork. Whereas "X-step" was nearby the shores of the stylistical fields he's exploring by means of other artists' contribution with refurbished declensions of electronic dance, the audible gusts of wind and the robotic sirens (or supposedly alluring finny synths) of the initial track "Taikon" could let you imagine Mike raised the anchor and hoisted the sails for an intriguing journey on an ocean of memories he rekindled by listening back some stuff by Aphex Twi, Orbital, Art of Noise, Japan, Rustie, Kuedo, Chicago Footwork (but I could surmise there could be some mnemonic acid-soaked reemergences of Moroder, Vangelis, Boards Of Canada, Jean-Michel Jarre, Alan Parsons Project or Tangerine Dream) while his inspiring sweetheart Lara-Rix Martin, who inspired Mike's recent Heterotic project, was outside their love nest and such a metaphor could be corroborated by the following "Christ Dust" where its glistening synths and the somewhat regal portamento could let you hail as a miracle while rendering an attempt by Mike of walking on the surface of water! Jokes aside, even if Mike's lonely domestic listening left some traces on many moments of "Chewed Corners", I cannot say it's a pot-pourri of soundbites and quotations: both its inner calm mood and the agnition with above-mentioned classics belong to an emphasis which is going to produce pure epic listening pleasure by triggering memories or swimming on the above-mentioned ocean within a stylistical diving gear, whose workmanship will be easily recognized Paradinas' lovers. Pinpointing highlights within this wonderful traversal is almost impossible. I could pick a bunch of personal favs at worst: the mammal synths of Houzz 10, the jaunty tech-house of "Weakling Paradinas", the daydreaming old-fashioned sonorities of "Mountain Island Boner" or "Melting" and the ethereal coziness of "Hug"... but I warmly recommend to hold your breath and peroxide your musical brains in the depths of this seemingly unruffled emotional sea.
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Artist: Abandoned Asylum (@)
Title: Derelicts of Distant Hope
Format: CDS (CD Single)
Label: Malignant Records (@)
Rated: *****
Abandoned Asylum is Lukasz 'Dani' Czajka from Poland and 'Derelicts of Distant Hope' is his first official release, CD in a 6-panel digipak with self-produced artwork limited to 500 copies. It was mastered by John Stillings (Steel Hook Prostheses) at Steel Hook Audio Mastering, a place surely sympathetic to dark ambient. Every once in a while a newcomer to the genre manages to create something really astonishing, and such is the case here. Although somewhat noisy in places, 'Derelicts of Distant Hope' isn't what I would call noise; it is more atmospheric dark ambient with deliciously malevolent drones, eerie electronics, and reverberating soundscapes of vast proportions. There's a nod to Raison d'être with a brief passage of Gregorian chant. There's Alio Die-like subtle electronics. There's the ghostly rise and fall of heavily reverbed oscillators, and rattling chains. There's a sense of dimensional distortion and time dilation. And the mood ' daunting, fearsome, ineffable. This is cosmic horror on a grand scale. Many dark ambient composers have tried to tap into the realms of Lovecraft's Outer Gods, but few have succeeded in conveying that kind of cosmic horror the way Abandoned Asylum does in 'Derelicts of Distant Hope'.
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Artist: Steel Hook Prostheses (@)
Title: The Empirics Guild
Format: CD
Label: Malignant Records (@)
Rated: *****
Steel Hook Prostheses is John Stillings and Larry Kerr out of Texas. If you're unfamiliar with the name, let's just say they are an industrial dark ambient and sometimes noise/power electronics outfit with an obsession with the bizarre, abominable, and macabre as related to medical and surgical procedures. The medical/surgical aspects in nearly anything (I can't even watch hospital-themed TV shows) really creeps me out, so it was with some trepidation that I finally got up the nerve to listen to and review this disc, and I have to say my fears were nearly justified'¦.nearly.

First, if you like the usual kind of creepy dark ambient Malignant is known for but don't care much for NOISE, move on. You won't find much solace here. Second, if human (or unhuman?) suffering, or even the thought of it turns your stomach, you'd best be leaving now. You've been warned. Steel Hook Prostheses's discography goes way back to 2001 with such visceral titles as 'Torturous Anxiety,' 'Hell Hospital' and 'Wounds Bathed in Piss Water' to name a few. I haven't heard any of them so I had no clue what I was in for. Creepy isn't the word for this stuff. It didn't really hit me until the third track, 'Sadomedica' full of female moans and groans in an oppressively bleak atmosphere while some subtle but hellish machinery is in operation. 'Debrided Necrotic Tissue' begins with what sounds like a lecture from an ex-Nazi doctor commenting on Third Reich medical experiments but it isn't long before hissing noise and unintelligible distorted processed vocals take over. 'Gula' has a distorted industrial percussion rhythm and more waves of noise, distorted vocals, ominous gloom drone, and occasional electronic squalls. 'Emaciated Angel' sounds as if conjured from the abyss. I suppose the distorted whispers were supposed to add a spooky touch, but they were lost on me. 'Disfiguring Aesthetics' has a dark throbbing drone supplemented by permutations of noise and later a distorted mechanical loop and evil processed vocal. In 'Decrepit Hands Emerge' nefarious processed voices rant over a background of noise opening up into a chasm of monstrous proportions. 'Scald' features an annoying buzz of noise with infernal drones in the background and more ghastly processed voice. 'Disease Incubator' sounds like some kind of infernal ritual where a horror of epic proportions is about to be released into the world. 'The Blood Cough' builds into a monumental tower of noise before it all comes crashing down. Furious noise begins 'Antiquus Morbis' but the track goes through a variety of sonic changes, a real potpourri of mostly noisy industrial elements often vivisecting the oppressive gloom. I know I skipped over the first two tracks, 'Rendering Human Tallow,' and 'Leprosaria Dross,' but let's leave a little something to the imagination, shall we?

Overall 'The Empirics Guild' is not quite as appalling as I thought it was going to be and contained some interesting excursions into the netherworld of dark ambient industrial noise. It has enough elements of horror without completely saturating you in it, but still you may come out xsomewhat scathed and haunted. I have to comment on the artwork on one panel of the six-panel digipak the CD comes in ' four skeletal figures (one wearing religious mitre headgear) stand around a vivisected human on a stone slab while one of the skeletal figures points with a pointer to the lowest rib on'¦a skeleton! (of all things), the other hand pointing to a place in the vivisected guy's body. There's a weird occult medical symbol, an open tome on a stand and skeletal faces peering in the background. Hmmm, quite gruesome but in a black comedy sort of way. It could be Kerr's attempt to lighten the mood, or just his morbid sense of humor. In any case, I wouldn't recommend listening to this in an altered, anxious or depressed state, or late at night alone. You might begin to question your sanity'¦or worse.
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Artist: terminal11 (@)
Title: self exorcism
Format: CD
Label: Hymen Records (@)
Rated: *****
Tempe, Arizona electronic music artist Michael Castaneda working under the name of Terminal11 is well known for his breakneck breakcore and barrage of often cartoony cut-up samples. Here though on 'self exorcism' Castaneda distills his process to a formulaic routine that comes off more stultifying than stupefying. The opener, 'runs from the rain' begins with a collection of sample elements from Terminal11's toolbox before it coalesces into a sort of loosely melodic tune. Slight, to be sure. 'paralysis' has the aural earmarks of old-school Future Sound of London minus the expansiveness. 'start over' inhabits the breakcore world Terminal11 is known for and you wonder why it took him so long to hit his stride. Problem is, the repetitive, dissonant descending synth riff is kind of a buzz-kill. With a track name like 'fury' you'd expect to get some, but although the beats are fast, and eventually the samples too, once again the music devolves into the formulaic, coming off more 'furry' than 'fury'. 'anxiety acid' shows some neat creativity sounding like rush hour on the Toonville Freeway, with a lot of squinky analogue synthwork, but the followup, 'gruesome things' (title taken from one of the vocal samples) is based on a boring electro motif and too much clichéd claps. 'covered in demon blood' attempts to meld spooky vocal samples with an electro dance beat but yet another descending synth motif assures it a fast track to Nowheresville. JUst before the end it just completely falls apart. More electro dancebeat on 'phoenix,' a track that has no hope of rising from the ashes. There are places in this that sound like the synthwork is improvisational, like Castaneda was trying to figure out where to take it next. There is a return to form just before the end, but it's too late in this mess for coherency now. Terminal11 isn't quite done with the electro dancebeat yet and a variety of themes amidst the sample clutter of 'tension' but he seems to be searching for the golden ring just out of grasp on this not so merry-go-round. 'spanning time' begins with an amusing sequence of cut-up samples and 80's glissy synth chords with cakewalking staccato banjo-like rhythm that unfortunately isn't expanding on and doesn't last long enough. It falls apart heading into darker territory and never recovers.

Hopefully Terminal11's 'self exorcism' was successful in driving out whatever demons have been haunting Castaneda, but it comes with a price; few are going to appreciate this exercise in 'do whatever the fuck you feel like' aesthetic on this album. No doubt there's plenty of programming talent here but I don't think the means justices the end result.
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Artist: Thuoom (@)
Title: Resonant
Format: CD EP
Label: Textural Healing (@)
Rated: *****
This one is kind of hard to explain. Imagine a mixture of minimalist synth mixed with percussive melodies created by an improvised junkyard vibraphone and you're getting close to what Thuoom is laying down in this short disc. As the press sheet explains, 'For this release, I've only used alarm clock, bird cage, and wine glasses.' The end result, through much processing, sounds far more than the sum of its parts. This is interesting work and pretty good overall. The only one I was not into was the last track ('Glasses'), which goes more for a glitchy feel at times which didn't quite work as well as the other two tracks. Still, you have to like someone who observes, 'I rely heavily on chance in my works.' This disc is limited to 50 copies and comes in a simple handmade paper sleeve held together with Velcro. This album weighs in at around 18 minutes.
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