Music Reviews



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Artist: Big Bold Back Bone (@)
Title: Emerge
Format: CD
Label: Wide Ear Records (@)
Rated: *****
The idea that a record can be the anti-epos of another one is quite fascinating and interesting. According to the description by the artists-run Wide Ear label, "Emerge" could be considered so against its musical twin "In Search Of The Emerging Species" (released by Portuguese label Shhpuma). Both of them got recorded in the same studio session in Lisbon and they last the same time (approximately 43 minutes), even if the latter featured only one immersive track (titled "Immerse"), while "Emerge"'s length has been split into seven shorter tracks. I only listened to some parts of "In Search Of The Emerging Species", and to be honest, the approach to the sound of "Emerge" sounds quite similar to me, in spite of the above mentioned differences. Both of them have been filled by drone-like sonic streams, roughly structured and performed in a way that could let you think the four members of Big Bold Back Bone (Marco von Orelli on trumpet and slide trumpet, Sheldon Suter on prepared drums, Luis Lopes on electric guitar and other objects, and Travassos on electronics) never played their instruments before, as if they were mysterious artifacts they found on the bottom of the depths they explored during their search for emerging species. The amalgamation they made often sounds like an easy debriding of fibrous tissues, where just some instrumental elements seem to have been completely resurfaced (Marco's trumpet on "Silent Stream" or "Tidings" or some shell-like percussions on "Sealust"). Electronics and percussions sometimes evoke the removal of water or air infiltration of some submarine vehicle after an immersion and can mirror other mysterious technical maintenance following an immersion and any related issue. If you consider this record in this way, you can also explain the reason why the last track "Ground Found" is the one which sounds more vaguely musical of this gradual surfacing.
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Artist: Christopher Ledger & Luigi Ranghino's Trio
Title: Cielo Intonato
Format: 12"
Label: CL Series
“Cielo Intonato” is a vinyl-exclusive set of sparse minimal electronica, with gentle rhythmic patterns treading with extreme softness under long, slow atmospheric pads and environmental sounds in a lush, mellow way. Luigi Ranghino’s Trio add organic and acoustic piano and woodwind sounds that give proceedings an exceptional elegance.

The main pieces are just three parts, each less than four minutes long, with the first setting the tone, the second adopting a slightly bubblier flavour, and the third a more conventional ambient affair.

The B side of the vinyl is taken up by an eleven-minute remix of the whole work by Ion Ludwig, who adopts a clubbier but still gentle approach that’s quite Ricardo Villalobos-ish in style- steady, minimal, progressive house where the elements of the original performance are looped politely over the steady drum machine bed.

This isn’t a release that vies for your attention, but instead is happy to sit on a wall and aspire to be beautiful sound art, flitting at the edges of electronica. It works well, it’s certainly very pretty, and leaves you wondering what it would sound like realised on a larger scale.
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Artist: Jemh Circs
Title: (untitled) Kingdom
Format: CD & Vinyl
Label: Cellule
Using the cultural appropriation attitudes spearheaded by Negativland and taking pop music and YouTube rips as the (possibly sole) sonic source, and mangling and mashing those sources with the experimental outlook of early Steve Reich tape experiments but using modern tech to pull those sound clips past the bounds of recognisability and far beyond, Marc Richter, as Jemh Circs, offers up twenty-four short, often awkward, sometimes impenetrable noisy soundscapes of short loops pulled into unconventional time signatures, processed found sounds and electronic glitching, many of them shorter than this sentence.

But there’s more musicality at play here than the ‘borrowing from YouTube’ concept may imply. The pitch shifting of choral noises into chord patterns in “(AA)” is well constructed and successful. Perhaps by appropriating string sounds from film soundtracks (I’m speculating there), pieces like “Lac Dali” have their own noisy take on an emotional symphonic atmosphere, while the title track embodies the entire concept quite neatly

There’s a fair share of more sparse and melancholic pieces, but plenty of noisy rough-edged pieces like “20/20” and broken-rhythm-experiment “L.V” to keep you on your toes throughout the 64-minute listen.

It’s a strong concept, well executed, and while the result isn’t necessarily a pleasant listen and you do find yourself wishing that some of the ideas could’ve been fleshed out a little further beyond the three-minute mark (I particularly wanted to hear more of “Metabolismus”), it’s a piece of work worthy of some attention.
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Artist: House Of Blondes
Title: Time Trip
Format: CD & Vinyl
Label: Alrealon Musique
Though they cite influences like Steve Reich and Brian Eno, John Blonde and Chris Pace’s work as House Of Blondes sits quite firmly under the umbrella of synthwave, albeit on the more sombre and serious side of that playing field. Across nine pieces, all instrumental with the exception of one single word in one track, they combine layered synths and samples with a mix of real and electronic drums and some authentic bass guitar.

It’s a steadily grooved, measured, road-trip atmosphere most of the time, with pieces like the title track evoking images of steady, trouble-free open-road driving in some warm synthetic forest. “Why It Happened In The West”, with its steady repeating ‘remember’ mantra, feels like it wants to make some important political statement but the result is probably more suited than the musicians intended to winding the car window down and turning cruise control on. There’s a positivity to “The Tilted Earth” that feels genuinely warming.

Things do get a little darker and colder in pieces like “Modern Clock” with its forefronting of quite droney pad sounds, but a predisposition towards melody is never too far away. Gentle ballad-like “The Rise Of The Equal Hour” is a prime example. “Intimate Seconds”, with a slightly darker distorted synth bass, sounds like it might be about to rip into speaker-busting drum-and-bass imminently, but it never arrives.

It’s a pack of atmospheric and thoughtful synthwave that at points threatens to deteriorate into blandness but generally manages to keep it together as a synth soundtrack well suited to those times when you’re actively looking for something that’s uneventful but in the nicest possible way.
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Artist: iety (@)
Title: hope you were covered up
Format: CD
Label: Wide Ear Records (@)
Rated: *****
After I saw a couple of video live recording, I certify that a live concert by iety, a Luzern-based trio by the funny Elio Amberg (playing a tenor sax and a bass clarinet on this output), Laura Schenk (on piano) and Amadeus Fries (on drums) could be much funnier than listening to them through an audio-only support (as 90% of improv and free jazz collective or solo projects), but the deprivation of visual and scenic aspect can't really overshadow the chance to appreciate their amazing sounds. They're perfectly aware of the kind of puzzlement their sound can inspire into a listener, who could ask - for example - if they perform composition or if they're improvising. Well, they seem to say they do something in between improv and composition and such an ambiguity can be related to other aspects of their awesome sound, where sterility can coexist with emotion, and "uncontrolled energy sallies on celebrating the details", according to the introductory words by the label Wide Ear. The two video clips I found are live performances of the first two tracks of this album (the opening 9433 and the title track "hope you were covered up") an I invite you to check them out to have an idea of the energy and the above-mentioned ambiguity sprouting out of iety's sound. A similarly dada-punkish approach to improvisation can be heard on the following tracks such as "kick etude" or the evocative "ophelia" - the tonal thuds and its bitter mood as well as its similarities with some soundtracks of 70ies soap operas (a resemblance that gets more clearly audible on the final "petrol") could let you imagine a modern portrait of the Shakespearean character -, even if this approach could thinly veil a (desired?) certain rawness in some moments of their experiment.
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