Music Reviews



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Artist: Alien Hand Syndrome (@)
Title: The Sincere And The Cryptic
Format: CD
Label: Echozone (@)
Distributor: Masterpiece
Rated: *****
As I've received the CD version of this Vienna-based band's debut album (on iTunes you're going to find two more bonus tracks and maybe more keys for interpretation), I could just suppose its title "The Sincere And The Cryptic" could be partially related to band's name: Alien Hand Syndrome is a neurological disease belonging to those kind of disorders known as apraxia, normally caused by some surgical operations of separation of brain's emispheres to relieve worst cases of epilepsy, whose symptom is the loss of voluntary control of one hand, a disease which became acquainted by movie maniacs with Kubrick's Dr.Strangelove, whose main character suffered from it, so that the hand under control could be "the sincere" while the one beyond control could be "the cryptic" (or maybe vice versa?), that could be a reference to the terminology used by some occultists in order to connote the typical duality of beliefs, ceremonies and spiritual paths (Right-Hand and Left-Hand Paths). Such a dichotomy could be recognised as a subtle reference in the lyrics, which often looks like impregnated of a vague sense of vacillation, wavering or confusion, partially mirrored by the wobble of some ballad-like songs and singer's singsong, which sometimes get close to the typical lullaby style. Such a complementary groove between vocal performance by Clemens Engert (and its meaningful content) and performed music is the most interesting aspect, as there's no particularly staggering invention from the musical viewpoint, whereas there's an alternation between sad dark-rock (songs like "The Evil and The Lovelorn" and "A New Day" are maybe the most winsome stuff of the album), nice bilious attack-like uptempo stuff, including "Guernica", the song which can mislead many reviewers letting them speak about Placebo as possible term of comparison due to the way Clemens "gnashes" his voice close to Brian Molko's way, drunken downtempo ballads ("Claret", "Chainsaw Mascara" - what a hint for responsibles of marketing of some cosmetics company which want to gain some profits amidst goth movement! - and the lovely "The Incredible Whiteness", an highlight of the whole album where Clemens duets with the talented singer Erynnia) and uptempo diversions ("Raison, Raison"). In spite of many similaraties with existing sonic stuff, it seems AHS wants to run its own stylistical course and this cannot be but good.
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Artist: Lysergene
Title: Critical Mass
Format: CD
Label: Aesthetic Death (@)
Rated: *****
Lysergene is the project of Gordon Bicknell, who is the guitarist for Esoteric. Aesthetic Death's website was not coming up and I only had a press sheet for Sector 37 in the same package, so the only thing I had to go on was his myspace page. He describes the album a consisting of 'electronic darkwave/EBM and heavy guitar drones with ethereal undertones.' With influences including Skinny Puppy, Download, Throbbing Gristle, Velvet Acid Christ, Mother Destruction, Nine inch nails, Gary Numan, etc., this makes sense. The music is pretty much what you would expect with the aforementioned, although with a nod to Mother Destruction/Sixth Comm, I expected a bit more experimental vibe (we get this later on in the disc, though). There are some tracks that break out of the EBM mold though, like 'The Groke,' which is a noisy atmosphere of crushing oppression. This is not noise in the Merzbow sense, but just noisy. I wondered if this was a nod to 'The Choke' by Skinny Puppy, but if it is, it is so deconstructed as to be unrecognizable as such. This trend continues through the end of the album. Overall this was pretty decent stuff, although some of the EBM started to get a bit repetitive. Perhaps part of this is because the songs are generally pretty long, with about half of them over 9 minutes. This album weighs in at around 74 minutes.
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Artist: Annie Barker (@)
Title: …for a better place.
Format: CD EP
Label: Beautiful Revolution
Rated: *****
I had not heard of Annie Barker, but this EP is her second release. The press release says to file under 'dream pop, ethereal, electronic, dakwave.' On reading further, we find that this was produced by Robin Guthrie of Cocteau Twins, so that should give you a pretty good idea of what you're in for. In fact, the main issue I have with this release is that it is a little too much like Cocteau Twins (except that you can actually understand what Barker is singing!). As someone with several of their albums this may not be a bad thing, but it's sometimes hard to tell where Barker ends and Guthrie begins. The music is ethereal and Barker has a nice voice that meshes well with the music. Overall, this is reminiscent of what Projekt was releasing in the mid-1990s. If I had to make a comparison, I would say Love Spirals Downward's album 'Ardor.' If this all sounds good, you can check out her website and actually listen to the album and see what you think. This album weighs in at around 21 minutes.
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Artist: El Torpe (@)
Title: Movin’ On
Format: CD
Label: No.Mad Records (@)
Rated: *****
I had never heard of this 'electronic blues' project, but the artist explains the album thus: 'Movin' On is a title that carries all of the blues' ambiguity. One day it sounds like an enthusiastic exhortation, the next it has the bitter taste of disillusionment.' With covers of such luminaries as Muddy Waters and Big Bill Broonzy (and an interesting rendition of Sixteen Tons, which is one of my favorites), El Torpe pays tribute to some jazz greats while still making the tracks his own. Only the first track is his own creation. The instrumentation is spare, with atmosphere and heavy percussion, but this helps draw attention to the voice'which is almost always the hallmark of a good blues musician. On the other hand, the songs start to sound a little repetitive. However, this was an interesting disc and I think this would be great live. Think of this as experimental blues. This album weighs in at around 36 minutes and mine came in a cool recycled handmade package sewn together. The disc is limited to 300 copies, so get it now for your favorite blues aficionado.
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Artist: Necrophorus (@)
Title: Underneath the Spirit of Tranquility - Redux
Format: CD
Label: Wrotycz (@)
Rated: *****
I have several of Peter Andersson's albums as raison d'être and Stratvm Terror, but this is my first exposure to Necrophorus. The label describes the album as 'a painted story canvas for the otherwise unreachable astral world. Adorned with esoteric ambiences, one feels as though embarking on a path of inner ascension while breathing the immaterial tranquilities.' Evidently this is a remix of an album originally released in 1996 with two additional tracks. I think of this album as two separate sections, and although neither of them is raison d'être, they each share elements of that project. The first half of the album is ambience bordering on new age music. It's not quite to the point of being on a Narada sampler, but it seems to lack the dark and ethereal feel of raison d'être. The second half gets a bit noisier and more experimental, although nowhere near the noise of Stratvm Terror. Throughout there are the characteristic chants and distorted voices that mark Andersson's work. Maybe it's a matter of taste, but I prefer his work as raison d'être partly because it seems so otherworldly. However, this was a pleasant listen and would definitely be one to give someone who was just starting to check out dark ambient stuff.
It is also beautifully packaged, reminiscent of the old Amplexus releases. The artwork is quite nice, consisting of a folding cover with postcards of drawings by Elinros Henriksdotter that are connected to the tracks. This album weighs in at 74.59.
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