Music Reviews



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Artist: John Tilbury / Keith Rowe / Kjell Bjørgeengen
Title: Sissel
Format: CD + Download
Label: Sofa
Recorded live in 2016, “Sissel” is a sombre, single 48-minute live performance from the trio who seem to avoid describing the instrumentation they use- to my ears it’s almost exclusively piano and analogue electronics, with hints of found sounds and atmospherics. Soft and very sparse piano notes and simple repetitive chords play both with and against hard-edged raw electric sparking, gritty rumblings and percussive noises. Prolonged periods of emptiness or near-emptiness, particularly towards the end, give rise to phenomenally awkward silences.

Performed a few weeks after one of the artists suffered a great personal loss, there’s undoubtedly a sense of eulogy and space here, with sorrow worn firmly on the sleeve. To the retrospective listener this gives it a decidedly cathartic function. It’s a properly sobering listen, and not altogether enjoyable from an emotional point of view. But it’s remarkably calm, never angry, and that’s why it’s likely to find a place in other people’s hearts as well. But it’s not for the emotionally faint-hearted.
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Artist: Andrew Tuttle
Title: s/t
Format: CD + Download
Label: Someone Good
Andrew Tuttle has collaborated or performed with a wide body of artists- Matmos and Julia Holter included- but can still be described as a “best-kept secret” of Australian music, rather than a truly established artist. Hopefully this release, his third album, will help change that.

It’s an unusual homemade concoction of banjo strumming, acoustic guitar work and synthesizer drones and atmospherics that successfully hybridises country music banjo tones into an electronic space. It’s always shifting, either in tempo or style, sometimes teetering towards energetic hoe-down knees-up territory (though thankfully not too close), and sometimes way off into sparse melancholic improvisations over single synthesized chords- whilst generally retaining a fairly bright atmosphere and never quite devolving into overlong grumpiness (“Reflections On The Twilight” is the closest it comes to this)..

“Transmission Interruption” exemplifies the whole work, so if you fancy checking out a single track on Spotify, perhaps make it that one. “Boarding Zone” has quite an expansive, Americana-type feel to it that makes the pulsing synths seem like a rare but honoured guest, helped along by a quite catchy melody motif. Some tracks, like “Garden Development”, have their edge taken away a little by slightly excessive effects processing. “A Winding River” has got shades of Mike Oldfield’s more laidback guitar meanderings at points, without the more showy Spanish guitar flourishes, before “The Coldest Night” wraps things up in quite a New Age-y fashion.

It’s a properly unusual construction, and at 33 minutes, it’s simply too short, in a good way. As an experimental fusion of guitar and banjo playing with complementary electronics, it’s a definite success, and Tuttle clearly knows his own strengths too.
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Artist: Ana Dall'ara-Majek
Title: Nano-Cosmos
Format: CD + Download
Label: Empreintes Digitales
Composed across a period of more than five years, “Nano-Cosmos” is a five-piece cycle of acousmatic pieces dedicated to insects, small arthropods and microorganisms. Fifty-three minutes of arhythmic granular clicks, glitches and sharp biology lab sounds running over long drones, tuned synthetic hums, irregular heartbeat sounds and electric growls, it certainly emphasises how alien the microscopic world is relative to what we would call familiar.

If you’re squeamish, don’t worry- despite being rooted in biology, sonically there’s quite a digital flavour to it, often sounding more sci-fi than organic, particularly in pieces like “Bacillus Chorus” or the expansive synth opening of “Pixel Springtail Promenade”. The biological aspect exhibits itself as much in the unpredictability as in the tones themselves.

“Pixel Springtail Promenade” is a notable highlight, a self-contained 15-minute work in many sections where the synthetic pads evolve into larger more orchestral sounds with a luxuriant quality that emphasises the dichotomy of the insect clicking noises- twisting into weirdness towards the end with a soundscape that to my ear sounds decidedly more like a frog chorus than insects.

Final piece “Xylocopa Ransbecka” is also an opus, accompanied by the hard-to-beat conceptual description: “features a carpenter bee and twenty doors, recorded in Belgium”. After a series of disorientating vignette-style sections, again more orchestral elements appear in the second half, building steadily to an almost conventional crescendo that then devolves into a digital equivalent where the insectoid clicking and glitching multiples exponentially until we approach white noise. It’s a fitting finale, both successful and strange.

Inspired by and sourced from a selection of very specific biological phenomena, this release really does seem to blur the lines between music and science- and the result is a nicely immersive bit of complex soundscaping that you really can get into.
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Artist: MZ.412
Title: Ulvens Broder
Format: 12"
Label: Cold Spring (@)
Rated: *****
As the last releases of MZ.412 were reissues or live recording, "Infernal Affairs", released in 2005, was considered the creative swan song of the project which has taken Industrial under a more clever use of noise taking inspirations from the most peripheral rivulets of the genre and merging them with a certain personality. Now this EP announces the release of new full length and the first question is how is aged this sound now that the sound which was called 'Black Industrial' has spread its influence.
After an atmospheric intro with almost imperceptible voices "Ulvens Broder" explodes with a monolithic beat and a orchestral loop and a sort of sample from choral music that makes clear that, even without the novelty effect, their craft is able to raise the bar and exhume a sound at the crossroad between surgical precision and physical impact. "The Father Uncreated" starts uninterruptedly and it's more stratified track where noises are juxtaposed not to fill completely the audio spectrum but to create a menacing atmosphere or underline a precise moment of the track where the distorted voice evokes proclaims something until the final crescendo evokes something that rises from the earth. The B side if a reworking of "Algiz (Konvergence Of Life And Death) from "Nordik battle signs" which shows the evolution of their sound as it removes the sharp noises of the original to create more homogeneous passage from the instrumental part to the vocal line of Tomas Pettersson as the musical elements of drones and noises are developed on the whole track while the original was based on the dialectic between the almost silent part of the vocal and the noises of the music.
An event for fans of industrial music as what it could end as a nostalgic reunion reveals itself as another chapter of a journey which has changed the form of industrial. Seems that "Svartmyrkr" is a candidate for album of the year.
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Artist: Fauna
Title: Infernum
Format: 12" vinyl + Download
Label: Ventil Records
“This is my second album and it was recorded under dangerous circumstances”- so begins Rana Farahani’s second full-length, which unfolds into something sonically much more relaxed and casual than the prelude may suggest. This is gentle synth work, mostly very calm, sometimes bordering on slow old-school trance (“Exit”), sometimes wandering more closely to full-on synthpop (“Death Fly”, “Went Home Got Lost”), sometimes more stripped-back and rumbly with glitch and post-dubstep influences but still in perky synthpop soundspace (“Drive-By”, “Holle”), sometimes going deeper into rumblier industrial techno structures (“Unbehagen”) but never really going ‘hard’.

The bitterness is in the lyrics, often sparse and spoken-word affairs infused with a fair amount of cynicism and resentment that plays cleverly against some of the quite optimistic synth sounds running underneath. Apart from the expletive in the chorus, “Lonely At The Top” is a bright, perky, fairly radio-friendly bit of electropop

It’s got a healthy blend of variety and consistency in a compact 34-minute, 10-track dark synthpop album that never really shines extremely bright, but still draws you in with some deceptive complexity and authentic emotion that’s not writ so large as to be discouraging. Interesting stuff.
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