Music Reviews



Artist: Overmamba (@)
Title: Crawl Out
Format: Download Only (MP3 only)
Label: self-released
Rated: *****
Without having seen a picture of the band or having a listing of the band lineup, yet, I imagine onstage Overmamba is a single person with a computer, a couple of keyboards and a drum machine. He doesn't look at or acknowledge the audience. He just dances to himself while pushing buttons.

Listening to 'Crawl Out,' it's hard to get a feel for who or what Overmamba is. The influences are apparent and every song sounds like a different song by each of those influences. There's no identity. Nothing that says, 'we are Overmamba.' It's like listening to a cover band that plays all the obscure tracks by different bands. 'Crawl Out' sounds like a demo of an electronic artist trying to discover who he is.

There's not much in the way of songs here. The songs can be categorized as either trying to be clever, long and rambling, or short and incomplete. The short songs end before you get a chance to hear the chorus; the long songs have nothing that catches your ear and are cluttered with vocal gymnastics akin to a Goth R&B singer; the rest... imagine a Goth jam band. If it weren't for the singer you would think that you were listening to a different band with each song.

Sonically, 'Crawl Out' sounds like the demo a band makes before recording the album. The synths harken back to the classic FM synths you would hear in 80s electronic pop, which are great, but Overmamba makes them feel campy and amateurish. The production eventually gets cluttered with cheesy synth horns, hokey organs, orchestra stabs and thin, cheesy guitars.

After checking out the website I learned that my impression couldn't further from reality. Overmamba is two guys with 'supporting musicians,' that describe their music as 'an incredible hybrid between electronica, pop, new wave, dark and eighties vibe.' This is all music I like.

If I'm being hard on these guys, it because I really wanted to like 'Crawl Out.' There's a little something in each song that grabs me. 'Crawl Out' is an album that was released too soon. With the help of a producer and a songwriting coach this could have been a really good album. It will be interesting to see how they progress. With some help, I could see Overmamba evolving into a band like Indochine.
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Artist: Newclear Waves
Title: Newclear Waves
Format: 12"
Label: Desire Records
Rated: *****
Three years in the making and after producing a split tape and a split single with Opus Finis, two CDrs and different remixes, Newclear Waves, a.k.a. Alessandro Adriani, are ready to deliver their first vinyl album through Desire Records. Alessandro, is also knows as the man behind Mannequin Records, label that brought you two volumes of 80s delicatessen under the "Danza Meccanica" brand and different Italian 80s reissues (Degada Saf, Chromagain, Janitor Of Lunacy, Intelligence Dept. to name few) plus several electronic/wave releases of nowadays bands of the such of Led Er Est, Soviet Soviet, The Present Moment, Frank (just Frank), etc. Printed in 300 copies, black vinyl, printed inner-sleeve, four panels die-cut sleeve, the self titled LP contains ten tracks. Nine out of ten have already been issued on the previous releases (on the tape, the CDrs or the double vinyl compilation "Doppelhertz Vol. 2") but if you think that the tape and the second CDr have been printed in fifty copies and the first CDr in ten copies available at a live concert, we could think of them as brand new and in any case, they have been re-recorded. Anyway... Newclear waves base their sound on the warmth and richness of vintage synthesizer sounds creating a strong core of pusating bass lines and rhythms where stripped to the bones synth melodic lines are added. Also the vocals tend to be straight like a razor cut. No thrills or frills, just a bit melodic but sorta cold with a bit of filtering. It takes a while to find these atmospheres comfortable but step by step, beat by beat, you find the path to follow and then the light dissonances and the 4/4 rhythms start to lead you through nightmarish scenarios made of buzzing noises and crying filters. It's like being in front of a wall which is melting realizing that under the wallpaper there's the portrait of the old householder. If you love post punk, cold wave and minimal wave, you'll find all this like home... As last note; on two tracks we find two guests: Lou Chano of Der Noir, Ivs Primae Noctis and Tiresia Raptus on bass guitar on "The End Of The Cold War" and Oksana Xiu on vocals and synth on "Tishina". Cool one...
P.s.: You can preview all the tracks here http://newclearwaves.bandcamp.com/album/newclear-waves-s-t-lp-cdr-desire-records
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Artist: Bit-Tuner (@)
Title: Signals EP
Format: 12"
Label: Hula Honeys (@)
Rated: *****
After his appreciated EP "Drome", issued by Trepok with the blessing of the Nome King, one the most frightening antagonist of Oz villains imagined by L.Frank Baum in his notorious novel, evoked by its cover artwork and its rocky dubstep, a collaboration with Manuel Oberholzer aka Feldermelder and a good remix of "You Say I" by countrymen Filewile on Mouthwatering, Swiss producer Marcel Gschwend hits again dubstep grounds with another wicked release, whose dry and vigorous blows partially recall the ones heard in many tracks of "Low-Speed Detonation". On side A, a straight thud precedes overpitched trumpet tones and catching dub tailspins in the initial "Gone", just a warm-up before the mindblowing wobble of "Cranberry Temper" whose acidity has been tempered by a 3-tone melody which recalled to my mind a relatively old ambient-dub tune by Adam Douglas, Deeper Than Space's "Spaceship Melody", and the weird atmosphere of "Hymn", where it seems Marcel sometimes give a sauce of corrosive acids a mix. An hefty step marks the beginning of B side as well, even if Marcel place some funny samples which recalled a bizarre sample Naohiro Fujikawa aka Bisk used on "Moonstruck Parade" before melting rhythmical pattern with snappy viscous sounds. In spite of the alchemical camouflage, "Veteran" (enjoy the way Marcel fuses some burbling sounds with some hymnal pads) and above all the final uplifter "Up-Stairs" (it's really funny the 8-bit-like rollover) look like cultivars of "traditional" electronic dub more than dubstep-oriented.
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Artist: Dead Voices On Air (@)
Title: Michael And The Angels Fought
Format: CD
Label: Lens Records (@)
Distributor: Lens Records
Rated: *****
I don't know why I've held off so long on reviewing this CD; maybe I just needed time to absorb it...then there was a period of about 2 weeks recently that my computer was down...but that's another story. Anyway, we're all familiar with Mark Spybey's DVOA to some degree or another, aren't we? If not, you certainly should be. DVOA has been a staple on the Industrial-Ambient music scene since 1993 or so, and before that Spybey was a member of Zoviet France. During his career Spybey has participated in numerous collaborations, remixes, tours, etc., but you can make your own connections there; this review is likely to be lengthy enough without the full back-story.

I admit that I'm not acquainted with the whole DVOA catalogue. I own a few of their CDs owing to a DVOA phase I went through a number of years ago, but lost touch after the 'Frankie Pett Presents The Happy Submarines...' album. I'm sure that many would lump the music of DVOA in the 'Ambient' category, but it really isn't ambient per se. I've always thought of it as more 'sound collage' utilizing many different elements, some of which inhabit the industrial and ambient realms, and others more experimental, improvisational, noise, electronic, and uncategorizable. So to get a better picture I spent a little time cruising iTunes track previews for the DVOA albums I hadn't heard (which turned out to be quite a few) just for some frame of reference for this review. It couldn't have been a more varied listening experience. There was plenty I liked, as well as things I didn't care for. When you're a leading edge experimenter though, you take chances and not everyone is going to love everything you do. Goes with the territory. Taste changes over time too, not only for the listener but the creator as well, always a factor in whether or not an artist's latest work is going to trip your trigger or not.

As far as 'Michael And The Angels Fought' is concerned, my trigger was definitely tripped. The album is more focused and not as diverse as some other DVOA releases, but I tend to think of that as refinement rather than reduction. The album features a supporting cast that includes contributions from American-Serbian singer Ivana Salipur; the British cellist Bela Emerson; Portland, Oregon throat-singer Soriah; the French auteur and high-wire artist Philippe Petit; Toronto based electronic musician, Michael Morton (Displacer); Massachusetts based guitarist Michael Page (Sky); Utah electronic keyboardist Lori Cole, and also Robin Storey (Rapoon), and Jared Louche (Chemlab). In a sense, 'Michael And The Angels Fought' is like no other DVOA album you have ever heard, although some sonic elements may be familiar at times.

The album consists of five tracks that clock in at one hour. It could be one of the most mesmerizing hours you've spent listening to music of late. Opening track 'Shadow' has classical overtones courtesy of Bela Emerson's cello weaving in and out of clouds of drone. It's a melancholy sort of tranquility, but cellos tend to foster the lachrymose. 'Voice' features the voice of Ivana Salipur, and a heavenly voice it is too. It's not wordless singing either; there are lyrics. Think of This Mortal Coil, or something that might belong on a Heavenly Voices compilation, or if you remember it, 'Celestial' by Heavenly Bodies (sure wish I still had that album), but perhaps even more gorgeous. The track is less ambient-oriented and more structured in a sense with a few simple repeated string-section chord phrases. No less ethereal though. I don't think there is a single DVOA track I've liked better than this one. Absolute perfection! You WILL think of angels when you listen to it.

'Pulse' opens with even more cello which morphs menacingly through some distortion processing before regaining its classical footing. Slow, long, sustained notes and an orchestral pillow of radiance propel the track. At the end, it almost sounds like a viking horn being blown in the distance across the fjords. 'Moon' is at first a dense, breathy track with more overly electronic elements than previously, rumbly bass, static, high timbre drones from Petit's electric psalterion, and eventually Soriah's throat-singing, which gives the piece a truly unearthly feel. The dynamics get very low-key in the middle of the track with hardly-there gentle layered drone supported by similar strings. This is the longest track on the album at 19:36. A bit further on there is an increase in the dynamics as a repetitive chordal phrase emerges, and then disappears as the whole is replaced by a sort of rhythmic loop akin to the sound of a muffled top-loading washing machine during the wash cycle, with an arrhythmic tapping of something made of plastic on a drinking glass, and celestial synth chorus. This culminates in a muffled explosion of chambered noise, but the voices carry on. There is a lot of subtlety to this track, and much more to it than I am describing here. It's one of those things you just have to hear. Especially toward the end, it becomes most typical DVOA, although it's hard to classify anything DVOA does as typical.

Final track, 'Sudden' is perhaps the closest thing to Dark Ambient on the album, although even that categorization could be construed as a misnomer. It has a darker, more ominous tone at first, utilizing swells of phased processed noise in conjunction with Lustmord-style deep drone on the low end. In a sense, it has more of an industrial quality to it, confirmed by the eruption at about midway (7 minutes) through the track. Things get loud and cacophonous for a brief while, suddenly ending in a very different subterranean environment which is eventually transformed into something more brilliant and beautiful (perhaps even hopeful?) courtesy of the sustained strings. We are also treated to some esoteric DVOA sound looping and eerie but intriguing higher timbre sonics. Jared Louche throws in a few words towards the end that is more or less a cameo on his part.

As a whole, this is the most ambient-esque album I've ever heard from DVOA. To me, it also seemed to be the most rewarding. There is undeniable genius at work here and not one iota I didn't care for. If for some reason you've lost touch with DVOA, this is an album you must own to reacquaint yourself with the project. Spybey has created something special with 'Michael And The Angels Fought' and you owe it to yourself to experience it in its entirety. Even if you're not familiar with DVOA (it hardly matters as far as this release is concerned) I recommend this without hesitation, because I have no doubt you'll be thanking me that I did.
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Artist: Simon Scott (@)
Title: Below Sea Level
Format: CD
Label: 12k (@)
Rated: *****
Cambridge-based drummer and "electronic" musician Simon Scott, whose name and musical skills emblazoned a number of remarkable post-rock, shoegaze and post-minimalism emanations (he replaced Adrian Sell in Slowdive and collaborated with Rafael Anton Irisarri and his band The Sight Below as well as with Machinefabriek, Lowgold, Klimek and many other), looks like taking listener by the arms in order to let him discover the wonderful marshy region of Fenland in East Anglia by means of natural sounds of that former wetland, grabbed with hydrophones and self-built recording devices, and his music, whose emotional charge and sonic chromaticism sound emphasized by the filter of nostalgia, as the so-called Fens and its controversial environment were the places where he spent some moments during his childhood. "Below Sea Level" - the title can be explained with the fact the Fens host the lowest land points in United Kingdom due to drainage and higher grounds are so rare that it's maybe one of the few places in the world were occasional hills are called "islands"! - immediately gets listener inside the environment (both natural and emotional) and every musical ingredient (mainly processed guitars, waves, synth horns and other sonic sketches deriving from digital signal processing) seems to look for a symbiosis with natural auditory inputs, so that it seems a sort of osmosis between acousmatic pastorale and lively natural elements occurs track by track till the moment when such an amalgamation has been accompished in the final entrancing track. This release is just a part of a wider project - there should be a limited edition of it as well -, which include a 68-page-color journal with snapshots, Scott's entries in his travel diary over a period of two years when he explored the Fens and essay entitled "An Exploration of the Subterranean Fenland Environment", which could help the listener in understanding the creative process behind it.
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