Music Reviews



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Artist: VV.AA.
Title: Historische Aufnahmen / Historical Recordings Vol II
Format: LP
Label: Gagarin Records
Eight years after the first volume, Felix Kubin again compiles ten archive recordings ranging from 1930 to 2002 into what essentially serves as a sampler of rare found sounds, and an exploration of where found sound ends and sonic art begins. Ten tracks, generally between two and four minutes long, are accompanied by extensive notes, although somehow the release is more appealing if you avoid the notes and try to imagine what it is you’re listening to based purely on what you can hear- it’s a challenging game.

I’m normally loathe to copy and paste from often over-florid press releases but there’s one paragraph in this release’s notes which tells you pretty much everything you need to know. So I’m going to control-C control-V, just this once, as follows:
“[...] the focus has been put on the quirkier corners of recorded sound: curious events, remarkable characters and fascinating tales - revived and restored for the edification and amusement of modern ears. Listen to a wooden automaton piano player, a microtonal choir of larynx patients, the sound of a rescue device used for the purpose of evacuating miners, the demonstration of a water leak detection microphone, a violent demonstration accompanied by Christmas carols and many more. The sound quality of these recordings is not perfect and the inevitable imperfections are audible.”

It’s a weird and wonderful- if rather brief- set of found sounds that’s engaging and rewarding. Many are strongly musical; “Etude pour un larynx écrasé” sounds like the kind of Lygeti piece Kubrick would have put into 2001 A Space Odyssey if he’d known about it, “Pianist” is a novel but conventional bit of automated wooden piano. “Island Of The Pig Men” is strongly reminiscent of Radiophonic Workshop-esque electronics. “Eiscreme-Krieg Jingle” is a decidedly weird piece of proto-experimental oddness that in terms of context feels like a highlight, as well as a real ‘WTF?’ moment.

More overt voiced recordings like “Lecksuchmikrofon” and “Anti-Schill Demonstration Hamburg” seem a little less worthwhile somehow, reminding me prosaically of German comprehension tapes from school and old reportage newsreel respectively, and certainly not feeling exotic.

Collectors of found sound will appreciate the diversity of this compilation.
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Artist: Jessica Sligter & Wilbert Bulsink
Title: volume 01, 2018: Untitled #2 (The Mute)
Format: LP
Label: Unsounds
Commissioned by Gaudeamus and premiered in November 2016, this is Sligter and Bulsink’s second collaboration, and it’s an unusual blend for sure. Across a forty-minute work, divided into five very uneven parts simply lettered ‘A’ to ‘E’, there’s a fusion or at times a counterpoint between abstract drones and sustained acoustic textures, and crooner-like bluesy vocal work that stands often in isolation, with clear English-language lyrics, like freeform beat poetry without the beat.

On paper it ought not to work, yet in practice it does, drawing such starkness from the subtly uncomfortable soundscaping and the sorrowful and reflective voice work. In longest track “D” you are pinned to your seat for sixteen minutes, never being able to take the next moment for granted, as though your concentration itself is being toyed with. Background music, this is not.

The instrumentation at times feels like avant garde classical, heavily string-driven, but will transmute into purely electronic tones with subtle graduations that are hard to follow. It’s technically very proficient and there are certainly a few “how did they do that?” moments.

Perhaps as an indicator of my limited tolerance for jazz lectures, relatively mellow track “A” and the overtly theatrical stop-starting of final piece “E”, both of which with their vocals reduced to long sustained notes rather than language, are perhaps the tracks I’d be most happy to revisit.

It’s a bold jazzy performance statement that commands your attention.
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Artist: Shock Frontier (@)
Title: Tumult
Format: CD + Download
Label: Malignant Records (@)
Rated: *****
Shock Frontier's 'Tumult' was released in December of 2017, but it was one of a number of albums sent to Chain D.L.K. central and not to me directly. The review wheels grind slowly when that happens as my reviewing time is limited, and it could take a while before I get to something when it comes through an indirect channel. Shock Frontier is the duo of Robert Kozletsky (Apocryphos) and Kyle Carney, and 'Tumult' is their second release after 'Mancuerda Confessions'. (Haven't heard that one.) Kozletsky and Carney are assisted here by Kristoffer Oustad, Grant Richardson (Gnawed), Noculture and Christopher Angelucci in certain areas on some tracks. The program is a varied one but most certainly weighted on the dark side with very little light entering this oubliette. By definition 'Tumult' means highly agitated, distraught and/or turbulent, and there is plenty of that on the album. Opening track "The Cold Illucid World" sounds ritual-industrial with a blaring warning horn and mechanical thudding as Carney's morose funerary intonations turns into screams as the piece progresses. A jarring, but effective way to open this opus. Shock Frontier is not adverse to employing dialogue samples (movies or otherwise) to achieve their morbid objectives, and sometimes it's highly effective while others somewhat of a distraction (a bit of an overkill on "What We Are"). Some of the atmospheres such as "I Am Afraid & Bringing Fire" are quite chilling and creepy fostering an aura of apprehension like a cold sweat tricking down your neck. Others such as "Duress" and "Our Vain Illusion" are heavily industrial-percussive with all the subtlety of being bludgeoned by huge mauls in a reverberation chamber. Some tracks such as "Ashes of Others" are simply inscrutable with what sounds like raining shards of something metallic, abrasive and unpleasant with hoarse screaming arriving later in the piece. "Forefallen" sounds like it would work as a good background environment for nearly any horror-oriented computer game. I was particularly impressed by the final (and title) track "Tumult" which utilizes a good amount of Oustad's sound sources. As with most things I’ve heard that he’s been involved in, the dark ambient atmosphere is predominant, eschewing some of the noisier aspects of death industrial in favor of thick, joyless drones that weigh heavy on the soul. All of this was mastered to perfection by John Stillings of Steel Hook Prosthesis, someone who definitely knows his way around this genre. While some of 'Tumult' does recall the darker acts from C.M.I. such as Brighter Death Now and Peter Andersson’s harsher industrialized recordings , this isn't some tribute to the founders of death industrial, but rather an exploration of new terrain for a new age of darkness. While I can't say I love it all, there is enough of value here to please most death industrial enthusiasts.
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Artist: Mytron & Ofofo
Title: Ceremony
Format: 12" vinyl + Download
Label: Multi Culti
Though hailing from Switzerland and Poland, much of the tone of this six-track, 26-minute EP feels like a Mediterranean or African take on mellow mid-tempo house with shades of old-school analogue disco. Gentle hand-tapped rhythms with light drum machine house patterns, soft bass guitar grooves with a strong funk thread, and sunkissed atmospherics combine into a generally feel-good pack of mostly-instrumentals to strut to.

The soft funk and sexy vocoder of “Medicine Man” is a highlight, as is the lovely brass work on the title track. The lead promo track is “Lebanese Red Bird” which highlights the exotic flavours really well and is a good indicator of what you’ll get here.

Each track’s relatively compact, everything under five minutes, but still generally DJ friendly and it’s a neat pack that will help add some extra texture to your downtempo set.
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Artist: Murcof
Title: Lost in Time
Format: CD
Label: Glacial Movements (@)
Rated: *****
One of the most known names in electronic music, at list from his "Remembranza" release, returns with the soundtrack of the movie by Patrick Bernatchez of the same name (properly this is the CD edition of the vinyl release in 2014 by Casino Luxembourg). The movie is described in the liner notes as based on two parallel narratives intertwine and, so, the Murcof's music revolves around two distinct elements: traditional, and quiet, instruments and electronic, and loud, ones.
The first track, "Intro", shows an idea of ambient music far more complex than many of his colleagues: while it starts as a canonical ambient track based on a drone, it evolves by accumulation until even a melodic line could be heard in the development of the sound layers. When it seems that the release could continue along this framework, "Chapitre I" is based on church's chant (it's the Goldberg Variations sung by Les Petits Chanteurs du Mont-Royal, but Bach music is religious) which continues in "Chapitre II" until the reverb applied to this chant announces the the return of a drone introducing the return of masses of drone, some of which are even noisy. Then, "Chapitre III" begins a series of tracks, based on dynamics, which are at the threshold of audibility and "Chapitre IV" is constructed as a series of sonic events isolated by seconds of silence. Underlining the narrative framework of this release, "Chapitre V" and "Chapitre VI" feature a short return of the chant of "Chapitre I" as one of the layers emerging from the resulting drone. "Chapitre VII" is a really quiet, and barely audible, drone acting as an interlude to the second part of the release. "Chapitre VIII" starts as a loud track based on sharp tones and ends with a quiet track. "Chapitre IX" is characterized by a melancholic line of piano. "Chapitre X" is a droning crescendo which continues in "Chapitre XI". "Epilogue" closes this release with an apparently static drone decorated with the slight return of the piano of "Chapitre IX". A track not included in the original soundtrack, "Chapitre N", closes this release with an evolving synth drone.
Impressively multifaceted, it's a release which confirms the status of its author as one most interesting ambient composer around. Chapeau! Highly recommended.
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