Music Reviews

Artist: VV.AA.
Title: Traces One
Format: 12"
Label: Recollection GRM/Editions Mego (@)
Rated: *****
I've already introduced the project Recollection GRM, based on an interesting series of records focused on the huge archives of Pierre Schaeffer's Groupe de Recherches Musicales and supported by Editions Mego. This release is the first compilation, fed with the experiments of various scholars of that legendary smithy of sound researchers, who intercepted noises and built more or less encrypted sonic codes from that creative process which arises from the silence of the author or of the composer and from the resulting capture and elaboration of impulses from external world or machines, which get maneuvered in the dark by composer itself. On the first face of the record, the Argentinian music therapist and sonic researcher Beatriz Ferreyra separates electronic factors from concrete ones for the preparation of L'Orvietan - the choice of such a title which mentions a panacea against poisonings sounds on the beam! -, where she gradually extracts abstract (and sometimes scary) pseudosymphonies from polyphonic stratifications, while French composer Philippe Carson manages to build a sort of industrial suite in three movements by recombining noises grabbed in the Stuyvesant factories where twist drills, grinding machines, sizing press, hydraulic pistons, chain curtain, gas pipes, hot-air ducts, power drills, cog wheels and other machines sound like uttering in unison after they grabbed listener's attention with their intrinsic pace and before they intensity and thickness increase. Other three cheing gems have been cut on the second face: Edgardo Canton sonically renders homage to Italian composer Gaetano Donizzetti by composing an electroacoustic aria by means of quivers, pulses and shivers, which could abstractly define the Italian word "palpito", which that composer inspired to Edgardo, while "Chemins d'avant la mort" is a true rarity, one of the rare works by GRM technical coordinator Francis Regnier, where two linear sounds, rising from the silence, experiences a sort of strong sonic tremor before returning to silence. The last track of this collection, the only known compostion by Mireille Chamass-Kyrou, is the oldest one as well: "Etude 1" is an astonishing application of physical processing to sounds, whose transitions could let you think of the first stages of the evolutionary sonic processes by contemporary sonic pathfinders such as Alva Noto or Mika Vainio, even if Mireille completed this sonic study in 1960!
Artist: VV.AA.
Title: Mise En Place pt.1
Format: 2 x 12" vinyl
Label: Ingredients Recordings (@)
Rated: *****
Powered by Bramley apples kindky recommended by Kinetic & Mark Recoil for the preparation of Granny Recoil's Apple Cake, the widely respected Ingredients label puts the first part of a series of EPs, wisely called Mise En Place - a French expression, which refers to the organization and the arranging of ingredients a cook needs for his delicacies -, in the oven, and I'm pretty sure these hors d'oeuvres are going to tickle the tympanic palate of many drum'n'bass fans. Beyond two well-known chief cooks of the scene - the former member of the supergroup Bad Company dBridge, who remixes Kodo's "The Jackal" by abounding with dry and trenchant jump-up, and Villem, who dresses Foreign Concept's "Jaipur" with perfect cut-ups and charming female chants which could remind some stuff by Aphrodite -, there are two skilled debutants: while the above-mentioned producers, Kinetic and Mark Recoil, offer a somewhat haunting tune on "Cold Streets", a combination of eerie atmospheres which sound like coming from scaring alleyways of a decadent suburb, Stealth & Stylus raises the air temperature and the buotant force of the montgolfier with airy daydreaming sounds and crunchy beats on "One Way", a title which perfectly describes the uplifting vector which is going to rise listeners up. There aren't any rotten apples in this delicious pie.
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Artist: Velvet Acid Christ (@)
Title: Maldire
Format: CD
Label: Metropolis Records (@)
Distributor: Metropolis Mailorder
Rated: *****
One of the few in advance praised albums, which really caused curiosity: Velvet Acid Christ returns two years after the rather acoustical arranged 'The Fine Art of Breaking Apart'. 'Maldire' - so it was promised - would pick-up again the more Electro-/Industrial-dance oriented phase of Bryan Erickson, comparable to his classic albums 'Fun With Knives', 'Twisted Thought Generator', or 'Hex Angel: (Utopia - Dystopia)'. What shall I say? It turns to be out as such, although one can recognize Bryan's ongoing development regarding synthesizer programming. For all of you who don't know it: Bryan himself writes several reviews on stuff like movies, games, concerts, and of course music at his Hexfix93 blog at, plus he introduces hard- and software-based synthesizers - several examples with links to software synth plug-ins can be checked out through his web resources. No doubt, Bryan knows every trick in the book and can rely on his experience. His programming skills, as well as the sense for the right 'industrialized' mood has helped him always through the years. 'The Art of Breaking Apart' was in most cases a difficult album. Not for Bryan himself, as he saw the insertion of real guitars and a more Goth-oriented direction as a quite logical evolution for VAC, but the acceptance of fans and reviewers was rather limited. Hardly understandable, that album was a real good one, only the unnecessary EP release 'Caustic Disco' suffered from the lack of artistically valuable ideas. 'Maldire' now brings back that sound which seemingly all love: I wouldn't go that far to call this album a milestone, because Bryan has already produced milestones for the books (see above) but it nevertheless can be called a very good VAC-album. 'Evoke' opens this album and reminds a lot on his rather mid-tempo tunes like 'Pretty Toy', or the often recognized classic 'Phucking Phreak'. With 'Septic Rinse' follows an instrumental track, but a rather unspectacular one, Bryan can provide better. 'Bend The Sky' then is a first favorite with a calm and catchy song progression and also Bryan's voice sounds pretty much relaxed and well integrated. 'Wasted' and 'Ominous Rattle' both are picking-up the traditional Electro-/Trance-driven style, which has made this project that famous. In between we have with 'HyperCurse' a second instrumental tune, but this time better conceived, as it strongly remembers to some tunes out of 'Twisted Thought Generator'. The title-track, 'Christ Whore' and the last one 'Mysteric' are highlighting this album and are ideal tunes to join the dancefloors of the darkest clubs. All of them feature the 'HIT'- factor and won't let you unimpressed. 'Dream Curse' is at least the most unusual, Downtempo-inspired tune with cumbrous and bizarre synthesizer arrangements. Bryan's voice sounds haunting and depressive on here, some relations to Rudy Ratzinger at his darkest moments can be recognized.
A lot of good things are happening on here and this album proves to be an excellent addition to his above mentioned classic recordings. I actually spin it quite often because it is nearly unrivaled with a fair overview of releases during the last 3 months. No retirement in sight for Bryan Erickson, he still sounds that fresh and full of inspiration to continue with his fabulous music-project. Good news also, that he's actually preparing for a new tour.

Artist: The Rum Baba
Title: 80s Animal/Stop Talk
Format: Download Only (MP3 + Lossless)
Label: Ninthwave Records
Rated: *****
There could be a dispute about the true source for inspiration of the name of this beatmaster. According to his own words, it comes from Jamaian rum, but there could be many the true origin could be a delightful Neapolitan cake, which usually gets dunked in rum and filled with pastry cream. The thesis about a possible reference to that Indian funkster who supposedly materialized rings, golden eggs and other jewellery has been borne out, but it's not so convincing... Anyway, the Rum Baba could be one of the potential guru of the newborn tropical bass movement, an infectious style, which whisk Caribbean sounds, bumping loud basses and sonic shrapnels from Jamaican block parties: this delicious sample includes "80's Animal", which could be imagine as what The Bug should play after a temporary love for some Depeche Mode's hits, and "Stop Talk" (no words!), which sounds like a dancehall, ruled by a gringo with the passion for decks and snare, which sounds played by a monkey under the influence of cocaine. A true tropical electrocution, which is going to make you definitively move. Have a taste of this!
Artist: Grunt (@)
Title: Someone Is Watching
Format: CD
Label: Force Majeure (@)
Distributor: Nuit Et Brouillard
Rated: *****
On 'Someone Is Watching,' a re-release of a cassette originally released in 1998, Mikko Aspa utilizes the traditional pallette of Power Noise - rumbling static, vomitous vocals, haunted drones and tape loops - to construct a mental movie of paranoia and dread. Predicting the panopticon that has become the future, where every move and every motive is monitored by closed-system surveillance camera, and endlessly cataloged in neverending data-streams, Grunt's music sounds like the old avant garde's rage against the coming simulacrum. The barrages of white noise and hellacious howling has the carnal heft of circuitry and overblown speakers behind it, meat tearing at the blank screens of modernity, trying to pierce through the vile veil of data and figures to something primal and real. The id tearing through the machine.

At this stage, Grunt's music was composed mainly of loops made from live recordings, with scraping metal, howling feedback, and vocals added on top. Its got the ragged, live feel of a archetypal power noise performance - imagine thyself in a dank concrete bunker, with young men with closely cropped hair writhing like maggots in the pale light - to complete the picture. Mikko Aspa never had any intention of escaping the underground, this is noise music for noise fanatics, but it is not merely a bland genre study, either. Tracks like 'Information' has a digital sheen to it that predicts the MAX/MSP hackers soon to follow, and the synthetic chorus on album opener 'Watch Your Back' recalls Lustmord's earliest material. Grunt is bringing in outside influences, prying the lid off the hermetically sealed Power Noise genre. In short, he doesn't give a fuck. You can listen, or not.

This is not the most revelatory PN release out there, and may not be the best starting point if yr ears have not already become accustomed to listening to malfunctioning electronics and paranoid ranting, but the sonic pallette of the harsh noise world does lend itself well to the feel of industrial ruin and dystopian unease. Its like spirit of '77 punk rock taken to its logical, unfriendly conclusion.

Its cool to see underground, scene-only releases getting re-issued and re-evaluated. For most of its blighted life, Noise records were esoteric secrets, sold out of pulp paper magazines, at shows, out of basements and the boots of cars. Commercial pressures were irrelevant - no one was going to hear it, and no one was going to care. Its pure art, pure catharsis, pure release. Mikka Apsa, with his Freak Animal imprint, has released boatloads of gnarly crunchy noise, over the span of almost 20 years, and 'Someone Is Watching' is a chance to hear what the freaks were up to, before the simulacrum took over.
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