Music Reviews

Artist: Simon Balestrazzi (@)
Title: The Sky Is Full Of Kites
Format: CD
Label: Boring Machines (@)
Rated: *****
After I made the introductions of some of his collaborations and projects (Dream Weapon Ritual, Candor Chasma) on this space, I think you don't need further words about Simon Balestrazzi's eminent resume as well as about his talent in let sounds "speak", but it's the first time I present a record with the real name of this pioneer as signature. His third full length album seems to be focused on time as a subjective dimension and its paroxysms and not only for the mention of "The Persistence Of Memory", the notorious painting by Salvador Dali', whose famous melting pocket watches made it one of the most known emblems of Surrealism as time scansion sounds a leitmotiv during the listening of the three long-lasting tracks of this recording: "Under Pressure", the first one, could be associated to a sort of awakening, where the mechanical ring of a traditional wind-up spring-driven alarm clock rend the sonic space before it turns into a grandfather clock, foreshadowing the following immersion in daily life which drags the perceiver away from the perception of time by distorting it through its intricate web of sources of distraction, carefully portrayed by Simon till the moment when, more or less self-consciously, this sonic ego-narrator becomes itself a spring or a gear train of the gigantic engine of time. The above-mentioned "The Persistence Of Memory" could be considered a sort of hallucinatory journey inside that paint, where listener could even feel dial, spring or hands trickling on its skin while some sonic elements such as the elastic pulsation of burglar alarms, silent tolls, hyberbolic strindencies or the hypnotic noise which looks like grabbed during a nocturnal journey on a stream train amplify the voice of desires, fears or dreams while exploring that surreal landscape, before the immersive title-track where the listener will be surrounded by an entrancing thundering ocean of buzzes and feedback. Although "The Sky Is Full Of Kites" offers a very abstract and cerebral listening experience, the astonishing accuracy Simon used to mould sounds in a captivating way gives a certain concreteness to it. Each track has been associated to some black and grey paints by Daniele Serra, which could be considered as possible hazy interpretations of Rorschach diagrams by a contemporary man. Maybe you?
Artist: Gareth Dickson (@)
Title: Quite A Way Away
Format: CD
Label: 12k (@)
Rated: *****
This delicate and intimistic release by young Scottish guitar player and songwriter Gareth Dickson could sound a little bit unaccostumed for 12k catalogue, as label got a reputation for abstract electronic stuff, but it's not the first time Taylor Deupree's label veers towards organic or acoustic sonorites so that it's not totally proper to speak about a stylistyical shift. Let's cache this lightweight matter of record keeping, I prefer to focus on the terse musical dainties Gareth profusely frees in this record, which seems to be inspired by a series of events occuring in his life I will not dwell on (you'll find more on label's introduction), which justified its temporary estrangement from composition as well as that mild (but not invasive at all) feeling of anxiety exuding from his music. To be honest, he's not a golden voice, but it tightly clings to the sounds he produces with his acoustic guitar by alternating gentle strumming and entrancing finger-picked melodic clothes (you could listen to a sort of combination in the wonderful tapping, which, mute in the beginning, turns into a lovely melody, in "Happy Easters"). Some phrasing as well as Gareth's vocal could induce an immediate comparison with Nick Drake or Bert Jansch and Gareth himself mentions them among most influential musicians (he also mentioned Aphex Twin, Brian Eno and Glenn Gould, but if you focus on compositional schemes you could listen many others...I even heard some similarities between the touching "This IS The Kiss" and Sebastian Tellier's "La Ritournelle") but it almost seems some of his ballads get closer to 17th century styles such as passacaglia or chaconne. A certain "ripeness" could be deduced by the semantic coherence joining together all tracks from the emotional upheaval of "Get Together" and "Noon" (an interpretation of Stevie Smith's poem "Not Waving But Drowning") to the final haunting metaphor taken from the biblical tale of Jonah, where the repetition of God's declaration of love to the anti-prophet ("I will love you forever") is going to lull the listeners to the end.
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Artist: Hybryds
Title: Soundtrack for the Antwerp Zoo Aquarium
Format: CD
Label: Zoharum (@)
Rated: *****
This album is the reissue of a obscure classic album from this Belgium outfit, a duo formed by Sandy and Hermann (of Ah-Cama Sotz), constructed upon what is supposed to be field recordings of the underwater world. The project was set specifically for the 150th anniversary of the Antewerp Zoo Aquarium and, so, most of the recordings used sound of this particular place.
"Orca" open this album with an immersive ambient soundscape upon the chant of this fish while "In de koalijne schijndiepten" is filled with subtle sound transformation of a sample and the juxtaposition of various sound samples. "Het enigma der dolfijnen" sounds like a Resident's outtake and, just to be clear, this is a compliment. "In the wake of the great Sea-serpent" is based upon a long drone coloured with samples while "L'ivresse des grandes profondeurs" deals with a more evocative, and cinematic, soundscape. With "Archeozoicum" begins the final part of this release with a more ritualistic mood. "Into the ultrasonic dephts" is a dark, obscure track filled with field recordings and "Wailing for the wales" use even an usual instrument, a saxophone, to extend the musical palette used. "Coda by Ivo and Dolly" is followed by an hidden track, the longest of it all, that close this album with a sparse beat giving unity to a variety of musical setting (from the almost noisy beginning to the cinematic ending.
Instead of using the particular field recordings to develop an almost freak album, this album tries to create a musical discourse out of this sounds reveling a particular depth in the construction of truly evocative soundscape. Recommended to fans of truly experimental music.
Artist: Heroin In Tahiti (@)
Title: Death Surf LP
Format: 12"
Label: Boring Machines (@)
Rated: *****
One of the most interesting release from Italian musical undergrowth, wisely gathered by Boring Machines, has been signed by Heroin In Tahiti, a project by Valerio Mattioli (one of the pen of renowned Italian music zine Blow Up as well as pulsing mind between noise band Thetlvmuth and DVD-r and VHS Rome-based label AAVV Videos) and Francesco De Figuereido (one leg together with Valerio Mannucci of Opium Child), sons of the so-called Borgata Boredom scene, an eccentric and very active group of musicians based in East Rome, whose lively cultural atmosphere, which got a certain visibility thanks to some notorious movie makers such as De Sica, Visconti or Pasolini, often related to folk daily life and its situations of social distress or intellectual alienation, facilitated digestion, revision and "italinization" of the most radical wing of American alternative-noise-indie-folk music due to its appropriateness with specific subjects. The uncommon adaptation of the so-called Exotica generation (if you know something about Les Baxter and other parsons of Tiki God, you'll easily understand what I'm speaking about), whose hints are broad in the stylistical references to Piero Umiliani as well as in the name Valerio and Francesco coined for their project, and the eccentric crossbreed between that cliched exoticism (totally stripped of its hedonistic nuances) and the typical "spaghetti western" sound is the main feature of Heroin In Tahiti's sound, so that they offer a synaesthetic listening experience where Mediterranean sultriness blurs with the stereotyped warmth evoked by a picture postcard from Polynesia, where grim cow-boys sip exotic cocktails after duelling amidst huge canyons of toxic waste, rusty car shells and burning tyres. Ho`olohe pono ("Listen carefully" translated from Hawaiaan to English!)!
Artist: Sektor 304 (@)
Title: Subliminal Actions
Format: CD
Label: Malignant Records (@)
Distributor: Malignant Records
Rated: *****
This is my first experience with Sektor 304 and HOLY CRAP! Is this ever an INDUSTRIAL album, in the truest sense of the word. No this isn't dance-floor Industrial; no EBM, 16th note sequenced electronics, catchy choruses, etc.; it is much closer to the Test Dept., Crash Worship, early Einstürzende Neubauten, form of Industrial music. Sektor 304 hails from Portugal and the members are André Coelho, J, Filipe, Henriques Fernandes, and Gustavos Costa. Sektor 304's instrumentation includes Junk, Metal, Powertools, Noises, Ambience, Amplified Objects, etc. as well as the more conventional Percussion, Beats, Synths, Trombone (trombone??, yes trombone) and vocals, usually of the shouted variety. There is nothing conventional about this battery and its coterie though. From what I can tell Sektor 304 has been around since around 2008 with a couple of previous releases, but this one is likely to dwarf prior efforts.

Opening track, 'A Carving on Metal Skin' provides a descriptive title for the bombast that follows. It sounds like a huge dumptruck of junk, garbage and industrial waste is being emptied right on your doorstep. ('Back up the truck boys and put it right there!') 'A Vessel of Guilt' features pounding post-apocalyptic tribal rhythm and angry shouted vocals accented with the screaming of circular saws and other powertools, breaking glass, twisted metal, and other dark matter. This is maniacal to say the least. If 'A Carving on Metal Skin' is the soup, and 'A Vessel of Guilt' is the appetizer, 'By The Throat' is the main course where you're thrust into an arena of death, pain and destruction that makes Mad Max's Thunderdome seem like a wimpy version of 'Hunger Games'. Gotta love those staccato percussive accents and barked orc vocals that break up the tribal polyrhythm.

This is a very dark album, and I'd expect nothing less from a band on the Malignant label. This music is all about atmosphere; an atmosphere of oppression, malevolence, torture, violence, despair, decay, and corrosion. Effective use of noise squalls, keening electronics, doom bass, and primitive percussive elements (banging on metal drums?) and dark ambiences with growled shouted vocals makes 'Subliminal Actions' a listening experience to be reckoned with. What impresses me most about Sektor 304 is that they don't stick to the same formula on every track. I imagine that a good deal of this was improvised and just sort of came about, rather than being calculated. A track such as 'Friction' with its diverse sonic elements and muted percussive aspects could only have been planned in the most rudimentary way. The further you go into 'Subliminal Actions' the more it moves away from the tribal rhythms of the earlier tracks, and seems to descend into the bowels of the hellish sound engine that drives it. This is where the tortured souls of the damned dwell; Sisyphus-like in their futile tasks to keep it all running. But there's a lot more than that- in this thick, sludgy atmosphere of desolation, the ordeal is far from over. While 'Terminal Stage' gives an impression of a long unguided tour through the abyss, 'Concrete Islands' is a trip to a demonic factory that is making God-knows-what in its abominable lair. 'A.A.D.S.' provides a measure of some relief from that environment but has an ominous quality to it; even moreso when the mechanized percussion kicks in, accented by a light tribal rhythm until the whole thing spews out a dense squall of noise right in your face. Even this machine runs out of steam, as machines often do. Final track, 'The Prismatic Sun,' begins with a thick, low frequency feedbacky drone and a whispered recitation. An oscillating tone creeps up the frequency range disappearing into dog-hearing territory and you get the sense this thing is about to come alive. And come alive it does! The most definitive pounding rhythm yet erupts and dominates the proceedings. If there was a pep rally in honor of the great Cthulhu, this would be it. Okay, well there is no chanting of 'Ph'nglui mglw'nafh Cthulhu R'lyeh wgah'nagl fhtagn'¦' but it wouldn't be out of place.

This album is so worthy as an example of what real 'Industrial' music should be that it seems hard to top. However, I'm reserving half-a-star out of a perfect rating just in case Sektor 304 does manage to do just that with their next release.
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