Music Reviews



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Artist: M. Todd & L. Kerr (@)
Title: Beyond the Threshold
Format: CD
Label: No Visible Scars (@)
Rated: *****
M. Todd is Transcendent Device and L. Kerr is better known as the force behind Steel Hook Prosthesis. Kerr is the only one I was familiar with, but it provided some street cred when the press sheet compared the music to Yen Pox, older Lustmord, and Archon Satani. For once, the press sheet was right. This is really good dark ambient that builds a heavy atmosphere without being too oppressive. They aren't trying to be 'evil' like some in the genre. There are sampled voices and what sound like radio transmissions, but thankfully these are used more as atmosphere than the standard cheesy horror movie samples. Also, they mix it up and keep it interesting and engaging, rather than keeping the same drone for the whole disc. This is great for putting on and getting into a good book, preferably something along the lines of H.P. Lovecraft or Thomas Ligotti. If you like good dark ambient, this is certainly one to pick up. This album weighs in at around 35 minutes.
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Artist: Fear Falls Burning (@)
Title: Disorder of Roots
Format: CD
Label: Tonefloat Records (@)
Rated: *****
Fear Falls Burning is the work of Dirk Serries, also known for his ambient project vidnaObmana. According to the label, Serries had decided to end Fear Falls Burning, but 'resurrected [it] for a concluding album statement . . . and a last salute.' I have previously reviewed one of the noisier releases from Fear Falls Burning ('I'm One Of Those Monsters Numb With Grace'), and although I quite enjoy noise, it didn't really work for me. This album, on the other hand, was wonderful. If this is what the future holds for his new Microphonics project, I need to check out where he's heading. In some ways this is a combination of the styles of both vidnaObmana and his other work as Fear Falls Burning. When I put it on, I was surprised at how much like vidnaObmana the opening track was. The guitar drone was present, but it was much more peaceful. The progression moves closer to the Fear Falls Burning end of the spectrum as we move through the album.
The final track, 'I Provoke Disorder,' includes yelled vocals buried in the mix of slowed down, dissonant guitar drone mixed with slow pummeling percussion. What keeps it interesting is the use of dynamics throughout, drawing the listener in through the use of calm, quiet passages. Overall, this is a slab of droning dissonant goodness that is well worth picking up. Evidently this also comes in a limited edition clear vinyl double 10 inch in gatefold sleeve, complete with a CD copy of the album (limited to 200 copies), and a CD in a deluxe mini album gatefold sleeve. I can't really speak much about this, because I just have a regular CD promo copy. This album weighs in at around 52 minutes.
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Artist: Black Depths Grey Waves (@)
Title: Nightmare of the Blackened Heart
Format: CD
Label: Aesthetic Death (@)
Rated: *****
I had not heard of Black Depths Grey Waves, but when I read the title of the album to my wife, I had to do it in my best black metal Cookie Monster voice. I was not far off. The label describes BDGW as 'a black occult industrial noise project from the sickened minds of Clint Listing (As All Die, Long Winters Stare, When Joy Becomes Sadness) and Saint Ov Gravediggers (Ordo Tyrannis, Grim Pig).' They describe the album as 'a full on noise industrial fest, yet within the intense noise lies a subtle and mellow darkness' and compare the album to MZ 412, Valefor, In Slaughter Natives, Schloss Tegal. OK, let's see how the album holds up to such comparisons. I would say that it really isn't bombastic enough to compare to ISN and it's a bit too repetitive to be Schloss Tegal, nor would I call it a full on noise industrial fest. It is pretty hypnotic ritualistic stuff, with spoken word (e.g., 'The Hunt For Greater Truth') and sometimes a kind of chanting (e.g., '3rd Candle For The Fallen'), but the music itself doesn't seem to change much. Although it does provide a sense of continuity throughout the album, it doesn't seem to progress much. It's nice and bleak, with metal scraping and deep drone, but I really would have liked them to push the envelope a bit. I know that Clint Listing, in particular, is capable of this from his work as As All Die. This album weighs in at around 44 minutes.
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Artist: VV.AA.
Title: SID Chip Sounds - The Music of the Commodore 64
Format: CD
Label: Robot Elephant Records (@)
Rated: *****
Who knows if Jack Tramiel aka Mr Commodore heard some SID sounds by one of his most skilled collaborator, Bob Yannes, a genial engineer, who later co-founded Ensoniq Corporation together with Bruce Crockett and Al Charpentier, while he was passing away (or powering down) last sunday, but I'm pretty sure many enthusiastic aged lads, who have been recipients of that computer literacy his brisk work fostered (being the main reason he managed to endear himself to many people), will be glad to know there's a rich underground production related to C64 sounds while joining in offering condolences to his family for such a bereavement.

One of the most exhaustive selection of tunes, mainly coming from glorious pixeled C64 videogames, is the one offered by Robot Elephant, which didn't beg the question the main diffuclty those composers had to face, i.e. the fact SID chips gave the possibility to record just three voices at once. But, so they remark, human beings' genius normally emerges when they have seemingly limited means, an attitude which looks like corroborated by many compositional pearls, which have been included in the tracklist: some tracks should be quite easy to recognize, such as "Last Ninja" - Armakumi's adventures against Kunitoki, the evil shogun of the Ashigaka clan, became very popular for his score as well, which has been remixed a plenty of times even in recent times - and "Trap" by Ben Danglish, a composer who keeps SID's memory alive with SID'80s, a protean retro C64 rock band, performing at notorious retrogaming and abandon ware events such as Chris Abbott's Back in Time or Retrovision, "Commando" (a real cult for C64 enthusiasts) and "Sanxion" (also known as "Thalamusik" from the name of Sanxion's developer Thalamus, inspired by Jean-Michel Jarre's "Zoolook") by Rob Hubbard, "Arkanoid" (his composer admitted it looked like a collection of farts and burps when speaking about the innovative process behind that!), "Wizball" (a gig for those ones who will buy vynil version of the release) and chiptune "Comic Bakery" (ohhh those racoons!) by Martin Galway, while other tracks are maybe less notorious, but equally amazing. My favorite ones are "Cybernoid 2" by Jeroen Tel, which is every bit as good as best italo-house and euro-dance hits, LEDStorm by Tim Follin, a mad 8-bit version of "Smoke On The Water" by Deep Purple (!), whose compositional approach was known for including many musical quotes of progressive rock (Led Zeppelin, Jethro Tull, John Martyn and so on) as it's clear from two tracks composed with his brother Geoff for Gauntlet 3's score, "Glider Rider" and "Panther", two thrilling tracks by David Whittaker, Chris Huelsbeck's "Giana Sisters" (which looks like inspired by Depeche Mode's "Just Can't Get Enough"!).

Not to be abandoned.

Press Play On Tape!
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Artist: Listening Mirror (@)
Title: Resting In Aspic
Format: CD
Label: Hibernate (@)
Rated: *****
It's quite rare to find releases whose concept cannot be thought totally new, but sounding so carefully assembled that are still appreciable in the field of organic and aural ambient. This collaborative project named Listening Mirror, founded by Jeff Stonehouse and Kate Tustain, manages to reach that goal by a selection, wisely titled "Resting In Aspic", from some of their most intriguing recordings, mainly issued on out of sale EP, digital postcards or samplers of DIY labels such as Audio Gourmet, Rural Colours, Heat Death and Hibernate, by a thorough operation of extraction and filtration of what could be considered objectively beautiful from daily din which normally drills our ears. The listener could reckon a certain unutterable cathartic property while listening Listening Mirror's calliphonies, either when they insert simple piano melodies and other unobtrusive instrumental spell (like in "Falling Under" or "Outside Heaven"), field recordings grabbed from natural settings (it's really absorbing the swarming pond life portrayed in "The Leechpool" or the astonishingly moody lagoon scape of "Venice Boxhead") and social life of playing children (such as in "The Organist" or "Wet Roads", whose ethereal combination with searphical choirs and samples which visually recall a sort of liquefaction process of the air could remind some works by Robert Rich) or when they offer pure drones (like in the entrancing "Without Saying Goodbye", one of the highlight of this selection). This aspic sounds apt for intimate catharsis or sonic prophylaxis.
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