Music Reviews



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Artist: Hybryds (@)
Title: Soundtrack for the Antwerp Zoo Aquarium
Format: CD
Label: Zoharum (@)
Rated: *****
This immersive release by this Belgian band (in the beginning a male/female duo before Leen Smets aka Yasnaia's departure), actually made up of Sandy Nijs aka Magthea and Herman Klapholz (better known as Ah Cama-Sotz), which can be reasonably counted among the legends or the masters of ritual music is the reissue of the not re-issued part of an intriguing project, commissioned by Antwerp Zoo Aquarium on the occasion of its 150th anniversary, as the original version was a split release, co-signed by another great name of the Belgian experimental music scene, Vidna Obmana, whose "half" has already been reissued by Hypnos a decade ago which unfortunately didn't comprise the precious contribution by Hybryds. Thanks to Polish label Zohar, this interesting work, which differs from other Hybrys' releases even if filing it under new age just beacause it's environmental somehow appears to me a misleading twist, surfaces from the abyss of forgetfulness with his tentacular sonic charm, intensified by some samples from underwater realm, including the notorious dolphin ultrasonics, given by the dolphinarium staff. Listeners are going to be surrounded by crossbreed of ritual drones, sonic crafts and tricks and hydrophonics in particular when human imprint sounds totally absorbed by sealife's emanations, so that it's able to evoke that appeased apprehension which sometimes accompanies explorations in unknown worlds which are normally inaccessible to people and excite the sometimes forgotten charm of discovery: this intriguing absorption looks highlighted in tracks like "L'Ivresse Des Grandes Profondeurs" where soft vocal tunes by Yasnaia coalesce with the cries of dolpinhs, "Archeozoicum" and "In the Wake of the Great Sea-serpent" where the guessed combination of powerful electronic bunches of frequencies and didgeridoos manages to catch listener's attention and the highly hypnotical textures of "Into The Ultrasonic Depths" emphasize the illusion of gradual diving, who becomes more and more enthralling in the final explorations, amidst "Whom Waling For The Whales" towers above other tracks for the bizarre interaction between those wonderful colossal creatures and a lovely phrasing on saxophone. The final track "Coda" can be considered an imaginary collaboration between Hybryds and two performers of the Aquarium, Ivo and Dolly, who stage a sort of duo on the texturing of the Belgian band, who managed to record their heartbeat and other underwater impulses to add some dynamics to their permormance. Reissuing this soundtrack was a right and proper act.
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Artist: Nite Jewel
Title: One Second of Love
Format: CD
Label: Secretly Canadian (@)
Distributor: SC Distribution
Rated: *****
On One Second Of Love by Nite Jewel, the project of Ramona Gonzalez from L.A., we find the singer emerging from the fog-machine obfuscation of her previous record, 2009's Good Evening. In the ensuing clarity, she pries back her rib cage, to reveal her day-glo chrome ventricles.

Nite Jewel, like other recent 80s re-creationists like Zola Jesus or Portland's Vice/Device, romanticizes the early days of MTV, days of roller-rinks and hot pink futurism, but where
Zola Jesus is calling upon early Cocteau Twins or Siouxsie and the Banshees, Ramona Gonzalez is summon the phantoms of Prince, Madonna, or Grandmaster Flash. Funkier than the rest, less cold too, One Second Of Love shows Nite Jewel to be a romantic: it's music for getting ready for a night out, 'This Story', or dancing next to a floor-length mirror in a shadowy night-club, 'In The Dark'. Gonzalez is a talented producer - working with longtime collaborator producer Cole MGN, who has also worked with Ariel Pink's Haunted Graffiti - she has a knack for picking the right synth setting at the right moment, with crisp tasty beats, expertly placed in the stereo spectrum, they show her hip-hop tendencies. It keeps the record moving along, engaging and textured, it doesn't get boring, it RACES to its end, it is STREAMING towards the future.

One Second Of Love stands up well to scrutiny, Gonzalez has a warm pleasant voice with emotionally stirring lyrics, and her beats and synths are crisp and clearer than what would've come out in 1983. At first i was irritated by the stylized funk, but i gave it a chance, spinning it again and again, while washing dishes or reading or staring out the window. Nite Jewel didn't reveal her facets until i paused to listen, digging in with with a pair of headphones, listening to her older records, which i hadn't heard in a while, stopping to consider the context. The strength of the revisionist is that they can call upon the greatest strengths of whatever genre they're working in. Nite Jewel pulls out the romance and optimism and glamour that was buried in records from Hall and Oates or Michael Jackson; the sleek sexiness, the bright colors, the decadence, while the superficiality and greed get parsed out in the sieve.

Ramona Gonzalez is growing and getting more confident as an artist. One Second Of Love will mainly appeal to old goths and fan of the new New Wave, like Fever Ray, The Knife, or underground Witch Haus screwheads. This wave of sonic archaeologists are re-imaging the past, creating an alternate History to conjure a Present they can bear. They are striving for romance and passion and excitement, a sense of adventure, of purpose and direction. They are taking stock of what has come before, and deciding which way to go from here.
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Artist: Glitterbug (@)
Title: Egress EP
Format: CD
Label: False (@)
Rated: *****
An egress is the act of coming or going out of a place. On Glitterbug's Egress EP, the seventh release from German producer/sound artist Till Rohmann, the four original tracks evoke images of departure, of emptiness, venturing out into the unknown.

Egress is a work for string ensemble and electronics; it is at times soothing, at times foreboding. The strings give a sense of tension, like an old Orson Welles shadow noir. Many comparisons have been made to film music to describe Egress. If this were to score a movie, it would be by Ridley Scott or maybe Tarkovsky; it implies the void, the cold emptiness of outer space.

Egress starts out minimally on 'Vacuity': the sound of wind, flittering dusty percussion dancing around yr head, before bell tones emerge from the depths, with a tintinnabulum dream logic of their own that sounds like being underwater. The strings kick in about 3/4 of the way through 'Vacuity' and linger for the rest of the album; there is a sense that SOMETHING'S GOING ON, but its not clear what. Its like the haunted visitors in Solaris, hidden behind closed doors, leaving you guessing. 'Span' sounds like a mid '70s Klaus Schulze outtak, with its rich colorful amniotic synth pads, a moment of optimist, the euphoria of leaving, before settling into the paranoid dripping dread of 'Appraise', all sustained string dissonance and insectile flourishes bouncing willy-nilly around the stereo field. 'Stagger', the last of the album's four originals, sounds like finding a pulsating brain at the center of a meteor belt, or perhaps stepping into the rusting carcass of a mechanical beast, before discovering that it still lives.

The remixes of 'Span' and 'Vacuity' by Tilman Ehrhorn and The Sight Below are less cold and introspective than the original source material, and will probably get more mileage on the dancefloors. The Sight Below's 11-minute re-imagining of Vacuity's windy desolation into a club friendly mnml tech-house voyage is a real treat and an album high-light, bearing Rafael Anton Irisarri's usual hallmark of excellence and the smoothest, roundest bass tones conceivable.

Egress gives us something to dream about while we wait for Glitterbug's newest full-length, Cancerboy, is due in May, and its a pleasant lull for the late winter months. Fans of out of body experiences and Lustmord will dig this, and anybody with ears can hear the stunning production quality. The strings add a nice human, emotional touch, and give it a real sense of class, of sophistication. Till Rohmann recommends giving this a spin on a decent hi-fi or a good pair of headphones, and i would have to agree. Go big or go home, this music works best when it is appreciated. I look forward to hearing more from this talented artist.
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Artist: Pentatones (@)
Title: The Devil's Hand
Format: CD
Label: Lebensfreude Records (@)
Distributor: Rough Trade
Rated: *****
Forestalled by a nice single release including some remixes of "The Devil's Hand", the homonymous long-awaited album by this versatile and kaleidoscopic Leipzig-based (that's maybe the reason why there's some gothic nuances in their sound...too near to Treffen's radiations!) band began to sprout on the occasion of a sort of mystical experience its members had while surrounded by the desolate nature of the Mecklenburg-Vorpommern County, a place they arguably elected as ideal for their sonic explorations, where they made up their mind in a sort of chilly trance by playing clarinet and moving over the surface of a frosted lake! "The Devil's Hand" comes from a sort of thorough musical revision of that experience, a sonic scanning resulting in a kind of electronic pop, which is not easy to classify for its quick stylistical mutations, an intricate web of sonorities onto which the talented singer Franziska Grohmann aka Delhia de France moves with the agility of a spider. Her voice adapt to all the sonic backdrops built by the intriguing melodic moods crated by Albrecht Ziepert, by Hannes Waldschutz's terse basslines and by Le Schnigg's crossbreed of analog and electronic beats and samples. Her meaningful onomatopoeic spokenword in I.A.M. (the second part of their previously released Fasermarker) - a nice track whose style let imagine a sort of revision of the so-called nu soul by Zero 7 made by Funkstorung - could be immediately linked to Ursula Rucker's art, her voice rapidly changes from a virginal falsetto to more seducing tunes, so that it parallels musical changes from a sort of childplay to a bittersweet dance song in "Out Of The Woods", it evokes a dynamic motionless in some catching electro-pop tunes such as the title-track, "Supervisor" or "On Our Own", it regain some semblance of a chanteuse in the noir-tinged electronic fox-trot track "Determiner" (stylistically close to some stuff by Matthew Herbert and Parov Stelar) and manages to highlight the emotionally tragic sense of suspense and the lovely crescendo of the final track "This Is An Ocean". Even if maybe they don't add nothing new to the scene, their overwhelming peformative passion and the feedbacks from those who took part to their live performace, during which they mix and process sounds in real time aroused my curiosity to see them performing on some stage.