Music Reviews

Artist: VV.AA.
Title: Aural Hypnox - Underworld Transmissions
Format: CD
Label: Aural Hypnox (@)
Rated: *****
On the occasion of the issue of this precious release - or rather a sort of re-release actually! -, some members of the Helixes collective performed some transmissions at Les Voutes in Paris, where they performed some transmissions for the listening and maybe spiritual pleasure of the people, who managed to take part to such a rare event. A certain secrecy, maybe related to banal geographical reasons, considering that the centre of their lodge is in Oulu in the icy region of Northern Ostrobothnia in Finland - is far from any big fancy city, and maybe as they're not really interested in large audiences, made some of their material not so easily accessible also due to the strictly limited editions of the stuff under the imprint of Aural Hypnox. This CD (in 150 copies coming in an awesome package) is the collection of the remastered versions of a series of even more limited (just 50 for each recording) cassettes called "Underworld Transmissions", rare improvised recordings filmed and captured on tape in their subterranean lodge, made by different artists of the Helixes collective, differently combined in different seances. Those boxes of cassettes, including six sessions recorded between February 2014 and April 2015 were sold out quite quickly, so that this edition sounds like a bargain for all those listeners who got trapped by the impressive quality of the output of this mysterious imprint. Some sessions (in particular "Seance II/2014" or the entrancing "Seance III/2014") feature opening stages that sound like preparatory for the transmissions that the artist gradually forge, but it can be normal and I'd say it's the fascinating aspect of any improvised recordings. My personal seances are the opening and, if they are in chronological order, the elder one "Seance I/2013", due to the ancestral fascination of the combination between a sort of sinister horn and a dark choir, supposedly recorded by some techniques adopted for binaural recordings, considering their heavy hypnotic power, and the last two recordings "Seance IV/2014" and "Seance I/2015", mostly for their dynamics whose ascensional crescendo runs parallel to the saturation of the sonic spheres, but the remaining three sessions are likewise catchy. If you're a lover of ritual dark ambient, but simply if you're relatively new to these sonorities (maybe cause you got fascinated by some performance of projects like the one by Phurpa) grab your copy, if you don't have to wait until another re-release.
Artist: Nāda Mushin
Title: Mono No Aware
Format: CD
Label: KysaliSound (@)
Rated: *****
The meaning of the intriguing moniker that Paolo Iannantuoni choices for his project, Nada Mushin - an Indian metaphysical system according to which the cosmos bricks are just resounding vibrations, a concept closer to many contemporary perspectives offered by contemporary physics -, could let you think that its sound could orbit around the usual loaf of soft frequencies of many cheap new age records. Yoga practitioners maybe know that Nada yoga is that branch of yoga that makes large use of music (nowadays they have been adapted to the more or less induced needs of stressed or depressed communities, but the primal meaning is much more interesting), while Mushin is actually a concept that doesn't belong to Hinduist culture as it's a more general idea, belonging to many Japanese martial arts as well, whose translation as 'state of no-mind' can be somehow tricky, as it doesn't refer to a state of absence of consciousness, but to a sort of awareness of the flow of events in the present time. You can search by yourself in you want to deepen or explore this subject, as what really matters here are the way the sound artist tried to translate some concepts into sound. And besides, they are concepts that are not so easy to translate in different languages. Likewise difficult to translate is the concept of Japanese aesthetics known as 'Mono no aware' that gives the title to this album. It can be roughly described as the awareness or the mindfulness of the decaying and the transient beauty of things, that inspires a bittersweet feeling between astonishment and a fit of nostalgia, even if nostalgia would be a likewise difficult to translate word in Japanese or Hindi! Assuming that you didn't catch or at least guess its meaning, a sort of sonic explanation can be given by Paolo's music, flowing over the vast stylistic territories of guitar-driven ethereal ambient and tape music, which are contiguous to the ones explored in the last years by Lawrence English, who cared the mastering of this release, as it's clear since the listening of "To Drift Like Clouds" and the following "Ki", the poignant tracks that can be able to magnetize listener's ears. The Japanese rite of "Hanami" (literally "flower viewing") is emblematic to explain the 'mono no aware' and the music that Paolo forged for the same named track perfectly render the mood. I would say the same for the final "Wabi-Sabi", referring to another concept of traditional Japanese aesthetics, strictly related to 'mono no aware', that is the acceptance of the transience of things and their beauty that get described as 'imperfect, impermanent and incomplete'. Natural elements are aural recipes of many of the best ecstatic raptures of this album such as "Bloom", "Dawn" and "Vento" (it's really weird that the tracks where listener can easily perceive some chirping birds features exactly the same length... 5 minutes and 9 seconds), but nature is an essential element of the whole album and its conceptual framework. There are many moments that could break the hearts of both audiophiles and lovers of Japanese culture and I would say that the album is just a sample of the skills of its author, who maybe needs to get out of some conceptual fences to forge a recognizable sound.
Artist: James Murray (@)
Title: Embrace Storms
Format: 12" vinyl + Download
Label: KrysaliSound (@)
Rated: *****
Following the collaborative release "Remote Redux", the joint venture between the head behind the evanescent curtains of KrysaliSound and London-based ambient producer James Murray continues along the editorial trail by this output by Mr Murray, released both on Francis' label and on Slowcraft, James' one. In details, the album should be available on a limited edition vinyl and FLAC with the imprint of KrysaliSound, and on CD with the one of Slowcraft. The sonic content behind the interesting concept of "Embrace Storms" has been described as "calm music for chaotic times" and seems to play on the same idea of the apparent dichotomy between two contrasting elements, a sort of sonic translation of yin/yang philosophy (or if seen from another perspective, the translation of the myth of Demeter and Persphephone!), that belonged to the conceptual engine of the above-mentioned "Remote Redux". The invitation to embrace the storm is extended to the two halves of the album, the first ideally related to the storms of thoughts (as I can guess by the title "In Your Head"), the latter to the storms of feelings and emotions ("In Your Heart"). These two approximately 20-minutes lasting suites are gentle collages, wrapped in cycles of elongated electronic whistles (or maybe a sort of synth or effected flute) and overstretched lulling frequencies, show almost no delamination or creaking on the first half of the album, with the only excepetion of what sounds like a random downbeat muffled rhythm made through the hissing of empty vinyl tracks after four minutes and a set of distant roars and noises of rotating spools over boosted high frequencies over the last minutes of the suite. The second half "In Your Heart" seems to render an unusual scan of heart activity (a sort of heartbeat can be perceived over the 19 minutes of the track), where the artist sounds like having traced the dynamics of emotions and the effect of them on heart pulsations with moments of temporary peaks, elastic extension of frequencies, ventricular back-flows and occasional drains. A superficial listening could be sometimes boring, an attentive one will reveal more interesting details.
Artist: Timothy Clerkin
Title: Psalm EP
Format: 12" vinyl + Download
Label: Insult To Injury
Prepare to party like it’s 1992 again with this four-track 12” of feel-good, optimistic acid techno.

The title track has more than a few shades of 808 State about it, stretching Pacific-ish chords over curt drums and squelchy bass. It’s got a strangely lo-fi vibe about it, with even the digital promo sounding a little like an MP3 rip of old vinyl, just without the crackle and pops. The Balearic-style breakdown works very nicely, albeit a little on the formulaic side.

“Slave Too” ups the energy level substantially, chucking in a classic breakbeat and then *that* rave stab sound. It may have been out of fashion for many years but the sheer joy associated with it deserves to reverse that. It flirts with cheesiness a little with its hoover bassline and sounds left behind from the first albums of The Prodigy and The Chemical Brothers respectively, and I almost begin to expect jungle rap samples to appear, but it keeps it together for a stomping rave workout. Jas Shaw (of Simian Mobile Disco) offers up a remix which keeps the same energy but takes it much, much deeper, taking one of the source sounds and filtering and sweeping it sharply, with a percussion loop reminiscent of Josh Wink tracks but faster and more aggressive.

“Exist Between The Spaces” is the odd track out, a three-minute downtempo number that sounds much more modern. It’s a curious sketch, with an almost poppy melody, and feels like it could be building to something, but it does feel quite out of place given the three tracks it’s sharing vinyl space with.

Even the vinyl has the appearance of a classic white label about it, a plain white sleeve individually ink-stamped with the label discreetly in the corner. A release that feels tailor-made for retrospectively slotting into middle-early-ages techno history.
Artist: Kimmig-Studer-Zimmerlin & George Lewis
Title: s/t
Format: CD
Label: ezz-thetics
When the established trio of Harald Kimmig (violin), Daniel Studer (double bass) and Alfred Zimmerlin (cello) are joined by legendary avantgarde trombonist and electronics exponent George Lewis, the artist name is so unwieldy that there’s no room on the front of the CD for a title as well- so it’s probably just as well it’s an eponymous release. And the reputations of this pair of acts jammed and jamming together speaks for itself.

Across five pieces, ranging from nearly twenty minutes to just over five minutes, all recorded live in Zurich in 2018, the quartet let the energy flow, wildly at times. From the aggressive opener of first piece “Very Nice” on, there’s a vibrancy that often borders on urgency throughout. At times this is flirtation with chaos, in musical form.

The sounds in play are a mixed bag. From the string trio there is, unsurprisingly, an array of pitch-bending string notes, spontaneous plucks and bowing and scratching, of the kind that sometimes feels like foley work, attempting to describe violent real life events with strings. But the trombone and particularly the electronics certainly bring something new. Reprocessed and effected noises catch you unawares, breaking the naturalism being expressed by the strings. The result is still firmly in jazz territory, never straying into electronica, but nevertheless there’s a fascinating hybridisation going on here that throws up some unexpected results.

Like it or not, the trombone has comedy associations, and there are some moments here that are, perhaps inadvertently, a bit on the playful side- such as sixteen minutes into “Very Nice” where the strings are squeaking and the trombone is walking down the notes in a lardy fashion. But more often than not, this is music with its straight face on- as evidenced just a minute later, with the extremely tense string drama in full flow.

There are more barren sections too, like the slow landscape-like opening of “Seven Colors And Number Ten” which, with its heavily effected trombone vibrations, gradually turns into a soundtrack for an old school horror film called ‘Assault Of The Bees’. This buzzy, toothy electronic approach also infuses “Night Walk”, which again starts off in misleadingly sedate fashion before unfolding into a form of balanced cacophony. After the relative stagnancy and hiatus (mostly) in “Natura Morta”, this exemplary hour ends with a flourish with “Tactus And Tatum”, an excitable skip through a variety of different environments, both reprising previous elements and bringing in new tones- like the bizarre but captivating bubbling sounds around the 1:30 mark.

It’s hard to argue with the sheer class of this release, and the sound of four established artists whose work remains true to the meaning of avantgarde, yet also fresh and exciting.
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