Music Reviews

Artist: X-Navi:Et (@)
Title: Technosis
Format: CD
Label: Instant Classic (@)
Rated: *****
Despite the fact the phenomenon is still evolving, the theme of consequences of technology on humanity and the (also biological) mutations related to this unprecedented technological acceleration as well as the development of an addiction to technological devices is not so new as a plenty of sociologists, anthropologists, psychologist and many other expertises in different branches of human knowledge wrote a lot about this subject, but the way by which such a fear got translated into sound in this last output by Polish producer Rafal Iwanski (I already introduced many projects he's taking part of such as HATI, Innercity Ensemble and Alameda 5) is fascinating. The title "Technosis" itself is a quotation of the definition ("civilization disease related to technology"), taken from "Philosophy of Civilization", an essay by Polish philosopher and educator Jozef Marian Banka, who keeps on studying this phenomenon. The opening track "Matnia" (Polish word for the French expression "cul de sac", referring to a path of no return) immediately sets the mood by a well-balanced mix of rising crippling percussions and thrilling sounds (close to the ones you could hear in horror movies when the watcher expect the appearance of a dangerous entity from some dark place of the scene); the breath you'd hear in the following "Ex Homo Sap" seems to render the above mentioned human mutation with the burden of concern that it could imply, while the following "Oto Technosis" sounds like the summoning digitalization of some old African tune. The whispered murmuring of Ewa Binczyk in the sinister mist evoked by the sonorities that Rafal assembled in "Medium" could mirror that diaphragmatic phase when the expected changes are still in progress but could let you guess what the next stages are going to bring about. Rafal wisely absorbs different ethnical influences in this unusual rendering technology-driven civilization disease: besides the previously sketched connection of the described tracks, it becomes clear in the following "In Extremis" as well as in the disquieting chimes of "Orient: Melancholia". All ethnic percussions you could recognize in his melting pot (an Irish bodhran, a South African mbira, a Chinese hulusi, an Egyptian zummara and a Moroccan bendir) are real, but the whole release is made by real entities: a relevant feature of Rafal's sound in "Technosis" is the total lack of field recordings, synths, samples or drum machines (besides the list of ethnic instrument I already mentioned, he just used Shanti chimes, bells, metal objects, contact mics, analog filter machine, a tone generator, a loop system and so on ) and such an aspect can be logically related to the conceptual framework of the album. The natural soundscape in "Pseudo Ambient" could be considered as another claims of forgotten human roots, while the final "Alchemy of Sounds", whose length (23 minutes and 23 seconds seems to be a desired aspect, due to the "esoteric" meaning of number 23), could keep on feeding the in-depth meditation a listener could be absorbed by. Do you remember the "fearful symmetry" of William Blake's tiger? Well, "Technosis" could be the roaring of that tiger in a sense. After its genetical mutation, of course...
Artist: Norman Westberg (@)
Title: Jasper Sits Out
Format: CD + Download
Label: Room40
Norman Westberg, from the experimental rock band Swans, has been creating his own modestly simple but powerful solo product on the side for some time. Initially selling CDRs through Etsy, of all places, one of the earliest of these has been picked up and re-released on the Room40 label, with a new bonus track making 3.

It’s a very simple premise consisting of guitars and some effect pedals, yet the result is an extremely rich and textured synthesis of long tones and soft rhythms that sounds like it could have been crafted over many hours with many thousands of pounds’ worth of equipment. Here are some long and careful ambiences with a delicate touch.

The title track undulates initially around 60 beats per minute, the bottom end of a regular heart rate, very conducive to curling up and relaxing. As things evolve and develop, a sense of alarm slowly creeps in, so that after twenty minutes, you realise almost in awe you are now listening to a melodic siren that is failing to panic you- yet you don’t mind.

“Homeset Trunc” tenses things up a little, with choral-esque sustained tones affixed above a stepping rhythm that’s loosely 120bpm and which somehow manages to sound womb-like and industrial in equal measure. Lighter guitar patterns later on keep things comforting as the deeper rhythm ebbs away.

Bonus track “A Particular Tuesday” drops the rhythmic component almost completely in favour of clear, gently contoured and interwoven guitar tones with a glass-like fragility.

All in, it’s an exemplary exercise in simple, beautiful experimental tones that’s far more than the sum of its parts.
Artist: Andrea Natale
Title: Time To Go Back
Format: Download Only (MP3 + Lossless)
Label: Basserk Records (@)
“Time To Go Back” is 4 tracks of heavy-footed, steady techno, all taking acid riffs, simple kick-and-hihat drums and plenty of slowly twiddled effects and producing something with simplicity and drive.

The title track has a supremely dark but brief dark electro breakdown before looping back into a spoken-word “time to go back” vocal sample that has hints of the 90’s about it, but with 2017-level subbass.

“Ouch” employs that classic heart rate monitor beep for tension above a flangey, busy synth line and a strangely infectious tempo-stepping bassline. A rave-era vocal scream is used sparingly to good effect.

“Unexpected Places” is a simpler and weaker affair, a constant sequenced synth loop squealing over a more lightweight rhythm, brightened a little by some percussive sonic frills and a vocal snippet which you’ll be unsurprised to hear says “unexpected places”.

By contrast, final track “Vault” is much thicker, a throbbing and pulsing kick and an alarm-like bell sound kicking in with immediacy and not relenting for six minutes. Muted synth stabs wander in and out in this tightly-focussed track.

This is no-nonsense stuff that’s as dark as the artwork suggests, with an appealingly heavy thump.
Artist: Mensimonis
Title: Clone Fever
Format: CD + Download
Label: Opa Loka Records
The story of how Radboud Mens and Lukas Simonis came to work together as Mensimonis is remarkably prosaic. Both independent audio experimenters in their own right, they both helped run recording and improvisation workshops in secondary schools, whereupon they found themselves on stage performing together in front of a bunch of teenagers who, they say, preferred playing “a stupid game on their iPhones” to listening. It’s a refreshingly unpretentious beginning.

But unfortunately, the story behind it is arguably more remarkable than the sound itself. Simonis runs spontaneous guitar notes and short patterns which are sustained through feedback until the result is a thick soup of guitar drone that carefully tip-toes towards howl-round but stays under control. The more electronically-minded Mens meanwhile is generating deep drone tones that sit underneath, much of it slightly buried in the mix and supplementing the overall tone.

While long tracks are never a problem, the succinctly-titled 22-minute-long opener “The individual is handicapped by coming face-to-face with a conspiracy so monstrous he cannot believe it exists” doesn’t quite warrant its own duration. There’s not enough progression, nor is there enough detail in the sound, to sustain interest for that long. Second track “Few believe me when I tell them that the rulers of this planet are of reptilian bloodlines” is less patterned, a more consistent wall of electronic drone and hum with occasional hints of metallic industry.

“Give the clone a soul, god is watching over your shoulder” is a little bit more twinkly, with the bass tones lolling around in space vacated by stripping back the guitar feedback, and the gentle balance is certainly more palatable- the strongest track of the bunch. Final track “All rumors being investigated” brings plain and persistent rhythmic guitar twanging back to the fore in a slightly more ingratiating fashion, but shifts towards the familiar feedback drone in the second half more successfully.

This is one of those extended drone releases with such a steady hum that when it finishes, your ear begins to feel alienated, as though it has normalised this music as its new base level. While it isn’t spectacularly innovative or eventful on the surface, it’s a coherent and simple package of long drones that will take your thoughts into a different place.
Mar 07 2017
Artist: Beta Evers
Title: Delusion
Format: LP
Label: Bodyvolt
Rated: *****
Personally I knew Beta Evers, a.k.a. Brigitte Enzler, because of some tracks I listened on compilations or for her collaboration with Gerald Donald on the projects Gedankenexperiment and Zwischenwelt, basically because I own and like those one. He material wasn't really easy to get for me, so when Fulvio Guidarelli (a.k.a. Lisfrank) told me that she did her first album, I was quite curious. Even if this is her first album under the Beta Evers moniker, Brigitte since 90s has been active, first with a band (i didn't find its name) and with a small label, then after a hiatus, on the late 90s she started to organise parties and then in the early 00's she founded the Kommando 6 collective. After a while and until 2006, Kommando 6 became a label devoted to electro music. The following years see Brigitte busy with collaborations and Beta Evers 12"s releases. On late 00's she founded the label Bodyvolt and its sub-label Venus Noir (which is focused on producing electronic music female vocalists). Briefly this is her past and now I can talk about "Delusion". It has been released on vinyl by Bodyvolt and on CD by Daft Records (in this edition, as well as on the digital download, you can find two bonus trakcs: "Hit Me" and "Kalt"). Listening to the tracks of the album, the first thing that pops out to my attention is the detached style of Brigitte's vocals. Since we have titles like "Frozen Breath", "Sore Suspense", "Nothing But Art And Pain", "Torrid Illusions" or "Kalt", the impression I had is that she wanted to use the tracks like a personal journal where you find her emotions there, naked. For that reason they didn't have the need to be overexposed using vocal melodies or pathos. "On a day without light, you touched me...", she's saying opening the album and the cold atmosphere starting with "Velvet Leaves", will carry you through all the record length. Musically we pass from upbeat tempos like "Frozen Breath", "Stirring Dreams", "Torrid Illusion" and "Hit Me" to mid tempos like most of the remaining tracks, where electro wave and minimal synth are the main influences. For the synths timbre, analog is the way to go: you can hear the sawtooth and the square waves making their ways, like claws tearing a curtain, through the dry beats of the drum machine. "Delusion"'s even if it's containing songs it's not an easy listening album and it grows every time you listen to it. She will play live in Germany in 2017, keep an eye on the live events list!
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