Music Reviews



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Artist: Funerary Call (@)
Title: Nightside Emanations
Format: CD
Label: Malignant Records (@)
Rated: *****
Harlow MacFarlane began his Dark Ambient project Funerary Call back in 1994 and has had about a dozen releases under that name since then. He also has a somewhat similar (although possibly more abrasive) project called Sistrenatus which has about half a dozen releases going back to 2005. Prior to receiving 'Nightside Emanations' I was not familiar with any of MacFarlane's work, which is too bad because if 'Nightside Emanations' is any indication, I've been missing out on a lot.

The first thing you'll notice about the CD is the unconventional 4-panel digipak, more DVD than CD size with interesting artwork by Russian artist Denis Forkas. The music was recorded in various locations (2009-2011) using wood, bone, metal and stone, in conjunction with analog and digital hardware. From the elongated opening bell tone in the first track, 'Wand of Fire' and the flutes and gongs that follow, you'll know you're in for a ritualistic romp through uncharted territory in primordial terrain. The crackling, snapping sounds (an aboriginal campfire?) reverberating in natural chamber suggest some kind of underground location, and sustained bellish drones and similar tones add an eerie and somewhat mournful effect to the gloom it evokes.

Title track 'Nightside Emanations' is punctuated by slow, sparse percussion with higher sustained tones and drones, scraping sounds, the rumblings of feedback distortion like the waking of some ancient beast, but all in a very controlled, calculated environment. I can hear much of this owing to Stockhausen, and other early purveyors of the avant-garde. 'Thee I Invoke' is possibly one of the best ritual ambient tracks I have ever heard. Beginning very sparsely with some zizzing metallic instrument it builds slowly bringing in another defining sample that I can only describe as a melodic rattling sound, then a hint of drone, the low thudding of deep echoed drum, and a demonic voice pitch-adjusted to the lowest frequency possible (while still making it semi-intelligible) repeating 'Thee I invoke..Serpent of the Deep...' followed by snippets of backward voices and swirling spirit chatter. Parseltongue? This ain't no Harry Potter, kidz!

'Seven Candles Burning' begins a with low frequency bell-tone rhythm while a higher bell tone is struck on the first beat of the measure. Processed noise flows though the aether like a spirit-wind as other spooky elements emerge. I like the way the bell mutates tone in this. Everything becomes woozy and warped as this spirit-wind rushes in and shifts the scene into a completely different dimension. 'The Calling' starts with mournful horn tones possibly blown from the horn of some prehistoric beast, and the supporting sounds employed (including water) augment its weirdly primitive cry. 'Upon the Heath' is purely tribal, with low martial ritual drumming, a sustained low drone, and pitch-shifting higher tone that could be construed as a primitive melody, albeit an ominous and morose one. Very cinematic here, and the perfect close to a perfect album. Funerary Call has created what I would call the ultimate Ritual Dark Ambient album, and even though it is only a little over 49 minutes, there is nothing whatsoever to complain about. The subtlety and nuance Funerary Call evokes on 'Nightside Emanations' is nothing less than sublime. I have come to find that Malignant Records rarely disappoints in this type of music, and they have another winner with Funerary Call's 'Nightside Emanations'.
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Artist: John Cage
Title: Song Books
Format: 2 x CD (double CD)
Label: Sub Rosa (@)
Rated: *****
"To consider the Song Books as a work of art is nearly impossible. Who would dare? It resembles a brothel, doesn't it?". That was the amazing description John Cage himself made about "Song Books", a huge composition where he applied the principles of aleatory music to human voice. In the jungle of celebratory ventures and memorials related to the first centennial from Cage's birth - nearby my homeplace, there's one of the most interesting "memorial" connected to Time Zones festival just today and tomorrow, held in Bari, but there're a lot of releases, which celebrates this key-figure of music history... we recently introduced a very good one by Australian musician Lawrence English on this space -, this impressive reissue of his gargantuan opus, from SubRosa, which can brag about being the first label to have the merit of having collected and published the entire opus and not just parts of it, focuses on Cage's explorations of human voice is one of the best homage to this seminal American composer. It seems that Cage applied the above-mentioned aleatory principles since the beginning, as after the commission by Cathy Barberian and Simone Rist, he consulted the Chinese oracle book "I ching" to decide about the number of the songs to do before the close deadline (just three months). The divination system gave its responses: 56 and 34. That meant that Cage had to compose one solo a day. The final result was written on a 317-pages manuscript, which mainly included a set of performative instructions and guidelines, including those ones about the bizarre classification he adopted: the starting point was the choice of a theme and it seems that Cage took a casual line from his diaries ("We connect Satie with Thoreau"), so that any song which had references to Satie or Thoreau got labelled as "relevant", the other ones were "irrelevant"; moreover, each solo could be classified in further four categories (song, song using electronics, theatre and theatre using electronics), while the last variable cannot but be related to method (already used one, partial variation on previously used method or new one). Wisely performed by Lore Lixenberg, Gregory Rose and Robert Worby, this release includes 7 amazing mixes (randomly placed in the tracklist...) of shorter soloes. I reccomend to have a read about Cage's guidelines while listening as well as in compliance with his "compositional laws" just listen it...randomly!
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Artist: Break, Fields, Mako & Villem/Getz
Title: Dilligence/My Soul
Format: 12"
Label: Utopia Music (@)
Rated: *****
The tenth release from Bristol-based young imprint by talented producer Mako, Utopia Music, looks like a lively family gathering as the label boss convoked a number of producers, who already stuffed Utopia Music's catalogue, for the preparation of a delicious soup of beats. On A Side, eight hands and four heads, belonging to Break, Villem, Fields and Mako himself, kneaded samples and percussive sketches which seems to be inspired by the distinctive style of the very first tunes, signed by the legendary producer Dillinja: after an epic intro, which could also remind that daydreaming and organic style, that notorious producers such as Makoto or LTJ Bukem pushed up, the track, wisely titled "Dilligence", diverts towards more aggressive sounds and a beat-rolling swinging rhythm, which sounds more distinctively close to Dillinja metal-grinding stuff. On B Side, you'll find "My Soul", a track by Sergey Bodryakov aka Getz, who adhere to his own style, an experimental mishmash of unpredictable samples - sometimes closer to lo-fi, techno, trip-hop sound banks -, which gets riddled with percussive bullets on somewhat monotonous, but catchy rhythmical gallows, by this interesting and quite unknown producer.
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Artist: A Guy Called Gerald (@)
Title: How Long Is Now
Format: 12"
Label: Bosconi Records (@)
Rated: *****
Manchester-born evergreen innovative producer and dj Gerald Simpson, most notably known as A Guy Called Gerald, comes back with this little, but appreciable appetizer after a relatively long period of silence and although many dnb lovers, who still remembers and praises authentic his masterpiece "Essence" are maybe hoping he could borrow his talent to the scene, he seems to like digging techno and house grounds more. To be frank, there's something more than just a sort of assertiveness training behind this release, as it has been released as a sort of devoted tribute to the Tacheles, an inspiring place after the reunification of Germany for the cultural renaissance in Berlin and homeplace of Gerald himself when he decided to move to the lively German capital, whose presence and impulse to the scene was so deeplt related to that place that some mysterious writer drew Gerald's face on the right side of that building together with the equally mysterious words "How Long Is Now", which have been reprised for the title of the doping and subly gloomy track on Side A of the vinyl edition. That's why you don't have to wonder too much in order to explain that subtle feeling of nostalgia, which seems to lie on the foundations of tracks on B Side as well: it seems that Gerald just renovates some stylistical facades which propelled Tacheles' parties both on "Groove Of The Ghetto" - a tribal-funky house track with seducing soulful vocals, which gets shattered by a phat bass frequency - and on "202" - a clicky'n'clappy computational restyle of acid techno -. A good way to celebrate those good old days of that area of Berlin by a qualified witness.
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Artist: Holy Hole (@)
Title: Plan Z
Format: Download Only (MP3 + Lossless)
Label: self-released
Rated: *****
This release is the debut ep from an italian duo whose music is guitar driven drone music. According to the press notes this is a young project born in Berlin aiming to develop a blend of psychedelic, math rock and drone music but the result is a carefully produced drone music with a meditative mood.
"Excerpt1" opens this release with a heavy guitar drone colored by a quiet tape loop until a voice line emerge from the darkness. "Excerpt2" is an intro to "excerpt3" a long track beginning quietly until a metallic beat and a guitar line begin to appear and slowly return to silence as the guitar take full control of development of the track. "Excerpt4" close this release with a subtle work of resonance.
Even is the result is relatively distant from the aiming of the artists, it's a solid work worthing a listen. Recommended for drone fans.
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