Music Reviews



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Artist: Amalgamated (@)
Title: TO
Format: CD + Download
Label: Aubjects (@)
Rated: *****
Somewhat recently I've reviewed solo projects by two member of Amalgamated - Phil Klampe (Homogenized Terrestrials) and Bob Newell (forM). Other members include Cory Bengsten and Mike Richards, with production assistance (mixing/mastering) by D. Petri of the Aubjects label. This Illinois-based collaborative makes some astonishing instrumental electronic music that crosses the genres of elctronica, industrial, psychedelic, ambient, dark ambient, noise, IDM, experimental, and what-have-you since about 2004. On their own, these guys are quite formidable. Together, just amazing and enigmatic. You really never know what you're going to get with an Amalgamated recording, and to be honest, this one almost slipped through the cracks, being accidentally tossed on my "already reviewed" pile. At first I wasn't even sure what it was. It comes with a piece of patterned vellum, a 36 page mini-booklet of mostly abstract black & white images and the CD has a fuchsia stenciled spray paint design on it. The printing on the vellum is hard to see, but it did have the basics on it to tell me that it was Amalgamated. (The physical version of this is limited to only 36 copies.)

'TO' consists of only five tracks - Euhedral (7:38); Chronometeorite (22:44); Phlebneutrics pt. 1 (4:48); Phlebneutrics pt. 2 (6:37); Stoichiometry (12:55) recorded in 2014-2015. Each is quite different from the other. "Euhedral" begins with a bassy, bouncy, springy synth amidst an atmosphere of noise pads, wild echoed oscillators and other spacey effects. Eventually it deconstructs into some type of randomized computer code, or so it would seem. There's an awful lot going on here and it's hard to keep your head above water through it all. "Chronometeorite" has a touch of the old Eno~Moebius~Roedelius to it with a sustained string synth, rhythmic bass synth sequence (morphing into a fuller rhythm) and then a carnival-like synth as it chugs its way into the nether-regions. When the rhythmic impetus disappears, you'll find yourself adrift in quantum spacetime, where all sorts of particle variables come into play. These are difficult to describe without going into the minutia of the sonics, best experienced on your own. Suffice to say the listener will be drifting through sound elements familiar and unfamiliar, like a psychedelic experience. As you pass through that, you step through the radiance to "the other side," back to a physical industrialized soundscape that's almost comical in its mechanization. "Phlebneutrics pt. 1" is the most strictly ambient piece so far, containing events but with the major element of drone. "Phlebneutrics pt. 2" is a richer, more developed sort of ambient with far more layers and elements to it than part 1, and a different feel. Towards the end there is even a chaotic sort of breakbeat rhythm. "Stoichiometry" begins with a rhythm reminiscent of Cluster & Eno and high open-filter synth sequenced along with it giving it a very musical feel. Various modulations along the way change and transform the piece until it consolidates into a singular drone, then mutates into a rainy city evening. There is a tinnitular background ambience that fills the space between the raindrops. There you have it.

"TO" is probably best listened to without focus as it's best appreciated without dissecting the sonics and just letting the feeling wash over you. For those who don't care much about physical product (if there are even any left) you can buy the digital album from the Aubjects Bandcamp site for only 4 bucks which is pretty cheap for this much creativity.
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Artist: Mazut (@)
Title: Atlas
Format: CD
Label: BDTA (@)
Rated: *****
The sample of the famous words by American theoretical physicist (known as the "father of the atomic bomb") Julius Robert Oppenheimer, who spoke about his crisis of conscience that justified his refusal to collaborate on the project to make the hydrogen bomb by quoting the well-known line of Bhagavad-Gita syaing "Now I am become Death, the destroyer of worlds", quoted in the title of the opening track of this album, perfectly ignites this good album by Warszaw-based duo Mazut, whose bitterly ironic cover artwork depicts the mythological Atlas, a Titan who was condemned to hold up the sky and the whole planet, while despairing as the planet slipped out of his giant shoulders. The kind of techno, that Pawel Starzec and Michal Turowski (the real names of the guys upholding Mazut) forged by a wide set of drum machines, synths, vintage radio receivers, a 4-track cassette recorder, samplers, a toy keyboard and a truckload of other gears (according to the wide list of equipment they wrote in the line notes), could fit a world blown to smithereens like the one we're experiencing. The nine tracks of this album run fast on the rails of some industrial-tinged progressive techno makers (Terence Fixmer, Derrick Carter, Mount Sims, Metro Area, Underground Resistance) and vague resemblances of some harsh sonorities of EBM (DFA, Bigod 20, Front 242, Nitzer Ebb), where you can feel like travelling on a train getting close to destruction while running at insane speed. Dirty lo-fi acid techno patterns over squealing metals, piercing signals, obsessive thumping and synth-driven engines - I particularly enjoyed the one quoting the brave Canadian suicidal activist Malachi Ritscher, the short but intense "Perverse Incentive", the obsessively menacing "Treatment Resistance" as well as the sweltering tentacles of "make A Threat", preceded by the two minutes of "That's a Razor and You" - the soundtrack for a suicidal temptation? -) are not elements of the usual way of escapism but are savagely anchored to our ferocious reality. Do not eject it out of the CD reader when "Blunted Affect"(the last track) finished...is the ghost track you can hear a sort of rudimentary sonic representation of the primitive elements, mirroring the urgency to begin something new through the debris left by the collapse of the world we uncontrollably forged?
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Artist: Out Of Fuel (@)
Title: Isolation EP
Format: Download Only (MP3 + Lossless)
Label: Translation Recordings
Rated: *****
This is the second EP (after the interesting 'Ghost Notes' in 2016) for Washington DC-based label Translation Recordings by the Finnish duo Out Of Fuel. As far as I can understand by listening to this "Isolation", the drops of fuel by which Otto Andelin and Matti Kaivanto fed this new sonic engine are mainly atmospheric. They forged really good and immersive sounds and such a skill sometimes make them forget to handle the rhythmical pattern in a more structured way, as you can hear since the opening "Minus 25", whose masterfully made sound and the whole icy dub-like movement really render the idea of a machine flooded by extremely low temperature, but where the percussive elements manage to make the track a little bit warmer, but without any staggering variation (maybe a choice arising from the paralyzing frost...). We find similar dynamics and configuration on the following tracks "Cabin Fever" and "Chain Reaction", where these guys get closer to the style of some dub techno entries that people like Lars Fenin, Daniel Meteo and Deadbeat were dropping ten years ago. My favorite track is "Hypersensitivity", the one where the catchy atmospherics of the sounds gets intertwined with a likewise catchy and finely crafted rhythmical pattern. The package also includes a very good remix of "Ghosts", where Resound, another knight of Translation Recordings seems to chew acidulous low frequencies and distant smokey reverbs in a rising feverish way.
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Artist: Cesium_137 (@)
Title: Rise To Conquer
Format: CD
Label: Metropolis (@)
Rated: *****
The saddest thing of this seventh album by FuturePop band Cesium137 is the fact that this soufflé that didn't arise is a dedication to Matt Cargill, co-founder of the band together with Isaac Glendening when they were students at high school, who left it to pursue a military career (firstly in the Army and then in the Navy) before his death for natural causes at the age of 22, occurring on April 2017. The baffling aspect of this album is the combination of uplifting EBM/EDM sonorities (a way to cheer them up by themselves?), memory-loaded lyrics and clues of "eschatology" that are clear since the intro of the opening "Tempest" (sounding like the soundtrack for a Baptist funeral oration...), but sadly (as I said) there are too many (genuinely musical) aspects of this release, that make me feel really perplexed. Lyrics are quite poor from the literal viewpoint and the flat vocals (often out-of-tune) don't really help to make them up; forthermore the synth-driven choruses and the celestial artificial fanfares, that sometimes resurface in the tracks of this "Rise to Conquer" (someone couldn't really understand why flaunting a feeling of militancy while reminiscing a dead friend, even if he was a soldier...), don't counterbalance a certain lack of stylistical originality and a couple of good tracks ("Diver" and "Consequence") are not enough in my opinion. Maybe the worshippers of the band could find other reasons to buy and listen to it...
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Artist: Astral & Shit
Title: Divo
Format: CD
Label: Black Mara (@)
Rated: *****
Astral & Shit is the prolific project of Ivan Gomzikov from Russia. This release is presented with evocative words hinting a sort of gnostic inspiration behind it and this usually means that it's a dark ambient release. In fact, the music of this project is a canonical dark ambient but there's a more structured writing behind it i.e., it's not a simple drone but there's a more layered approach to sound using evocative samples.
The first track, "Riphean Mountains", has a quiet first part based on sparse samples on a pulsating background, a second one based on a sharp drone and third one based on a sort of hum. "Ursa Major" is a crescendo which surrounds the listener. "Polota Crossing" has a first part based on evocative foley sounds introducing a more canonical second part which evolves in "Mugodzhar", static track based on a too slowly evolving drone while "Taganay" make an effective use of noise to generate the illusion of movement. "Beryls Eyes" closes this release with a moving drone carefully constructed and developed.
While not exactly ground-breaking and somehow trivial in some solutions, it has good moments when the sound construction has the lead instead of a too contemplative drone. Only for fans of the genre but they will enjoy the release.
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