Music Reviews

Artist: Anworth Kirk
Title: Shacklecross
Format: 12"
Label: Pre-Cert Home Entertainment
Distributor: Boomkat
Rated: *****

Shacklecross is the newest transmission from the Andy Votel's shadowy alter-ego, Anworth Kirk. Its a double-sided psychogeographic sojourn, that takes you on a voyage through the communal id of a hamlet in Central England. Shacklecross is a non-descript village in Derbyshire; not much information is available. When you look it up, the only image that pops up is of an antiquated Lock, in a barren urban no-man's-land. Like the music contained on this vinyl, the image is mysterious and alluring, pulling you in and making you look further.
Every release on Pre-Cert Home Entertainment, the label run by Andy Votel and the Demdike Stare folks, brings to mind the era before the internet, before the simulacrum took over, with its self-satisfied mapping, cross-referencing, and immediate archiving. Votel and co. serve to remind us that there is much wonder in the wondering, in the thrill of discovery and curiosity, of finding something unknown and brilliant. Or just plain weird. Andy Votel, Demdike Stare, and all the artists they work with, seem to genuinely cherish the strange and half-bad. They love the beautiful losers, and are pulling them back out into the spotlight. Votel was one of the founders of the brilliant British re-issue label, Finders Keepers, that have pulled so many records out of the dustbins of history that it makes you slightly fearful for the social lives of its curators. In the process of archive diving, researching and investigation, putting together obscure mixes, Votel has built an intricate sampledelic style completely his own, also being refined by Demdike Stare, and others are starting to catch on. Taking tiny fragments from movie scores, Indian tabla records, sci-fi musings, and seemingly blending them with his own recordings of wheezy pawn-shop instruments, yr just never entirely sure what is going on. How is he making all these sounds? Who is this person? These people? Its a weird wormhole, that will take you further than you are comfortable with. The world inhabited by the Pre-Cert folks is strange, horrible, brilliant, dusty. You'll be watching cannibal flicks before you know it, and stopping to sample the muzak, down at the supermarket. It gets inside you.
'Shacklecross' is a travelogue through time, space, and genre. There are seperate tracks, but its blended as a seamless hole, and its hard to tell where one ends and another begins. It starts with some noxious, growling synth that lets you know this record is going to take you to the darkside, but things get decidedly less cut-and-dry from there. The image that i was left with was of leaving the safe civilization of nearby Derby, travelling through picturesque Borrowash, leaving the modern world behind. As you get further and further away from society, you leave the touchstones of consensual reality behind you. You fall out of time, you even leave the Earth behind. This is a world where faeries gather in toadstool circles, and gypsy curses level the fields. You fall in with an uncanny gypsy caravan, trip-trapping down gravel country lanes, who take you to a Persian hashish ceremony, then lead you to the burial mounds, once yr seeing stars. Lying on the grass, with these impossible companions, you let go and let loose, drifting off into space. Yr no longer in yr body, sensory data is just not the same. You can see sounds and hear colours, and yr just not sure WHAT yr going to say to the blokes at the office on Monday. But fear not! Anworth Kirk will not leave you floating in the stars. He guides you back, quick as you like, the same way that you came. As you exit the strange terrain of Shacklecross, leaving yr phantom companions with regret and also exhiliration, as you backtrack down those gravel lanes that looked so VERY different in the starlight, the world begins to solidify. You begin to wonder if it were but a dream. But yr trousers are still damp with the dew, and there are scratches from black twigs on yr neck.
Its a disorienting affair, and not for those that like their techno bright and quantized, but the possibilities raised by Anworth Kirk's masterful sample-stitching are hair raising. Maybe, finally, we shall finally arrive at a newform of music, not merely refining staid genres, to win cash and prizes. These are sonic alchemists, bemused at possibilities. The whole Pre-Cert roster's dedication to soundtracks make all of their records like a surreal story. Sounds leave so much more to interpretation and imagination than film, and the images conjured while listening to these headphone opuses are layered and dense and moving.
Andy Votel, Demdike Stare, Pre-Cert Home Entertainment, Finders Keepers, and a score of others, are redefining music, and offering a light in the grim postmodern tunnel. We're assimilating our influences, and weaving the future. It's thrilling to watch it unfurl in realtime, waiting with baited breath for each uncanny release. 'Shacklecross,' like every Pre-Cert Home Entertainment release, is dreadfully limited, and may be long gone by the time you read this. But now you've been warned! Don't sleep on these gents. Let them invite mystery to yr hearth.
Artist: Robert Normandeau (@)
Title: Palimpsestes
Format: CD
Label: empreintes DIGITALes (@)
Rated: *****
Many followers of electroacoustic music and fans of one of the most renowned imprint, the Canadian label empreintes DIGITALes, were asking themselves about this skilled performer Robert Normandeau, who already signed a plenty of "movies" for the ears according to the way many reviewers described his art, but after listening to his long-awaited album - his last release on the label was "Puzzles", which came on the unlucky DVD-Audio format -, I could say it's worth the wait. The initial title-track "Palimpsestes" is an amazing collage of hubbubs, gargles, sniggers, grumbles, soughs, wheezes, snorts, pants and other bizarre expression of human voice, whose opening "disorganization" seems to get gradually organized so that they looks like staging a sort of gargantuan machine in the second part of the track, while the following "Murmures" is an interesting acousmatic sample, where Robert seems to amplify metallic, plastic and gummy noises in order to render a certain sense of perceived mechanical degradation, whose incessant sinister swarming sounds constantly transposed from urban to natural settings. On "Jeu De Langues", he manages to render flushed and flustered sides of the nocturnal hot dreams he grabs and the subtle flutes he added vividly depict the worming of wantonness and tempting reveries which silently sneak into a bed. The following track "Anadliad" - the one I like most - has been named after a Gaelic word, which means breath and inspiration, and the great work he made by combining the sound of a bagpipe and a pigborn, a Welsh wind instrument, and the strong winds and intense storms of that lovely place of the planet could let you feel like a particle, which get pushed out of the drones to meet the violent electric energy of thunders outside before getting inhaled again into bagpipe's bag, a listening experience which anticipates the final "Palindrome", a mesmerizing track, where various sonic elements seems to overwhelm listeners after wrapping them up by a series of eruptions which feed a persisting mental strain.
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Artist: Night Sins
Title: New Grave
Format: 12"
Label: Avant! Records
Rated: *****
Night Sins 'is a band coming from Philadelphia that born in 2011 from members of hardcore bands Salvation and Mother Of Mercy. "New Grave" is their first album released by Italian label Avant! and it doesn't sound nothing like hardcore or such. "New Grave" is a nice nine tracks album which musically is inspired by 80s darkwave. If you are already fans of The Tunnels or The Soft Moon you could easily find yourself comfortable into listening tracks like "Playing Dead", the experimental "Introduction" or "The Eternal Giver". Mixing shoegaze vocal melodies to paced drum machine drumming, powerful bass lines and guitar lines which now are clean arpeggios and then "clouds" of distortions, the duo wrote cool songs which will please the lovers of 80s new wave music as well as lovers of modern indie sounds who'd like to paint their music playlists with darker sounds... As usual with Avant! releases, I'm writing their Bandcamp page where you can listen to the whole album and then make your purchase.
Artist: Ballo Delle Castagne
Title: Surpassing All The Kings
Format: CD
Label: Blood Rock Records
Distributor: Black Widow
Rated: *****
"Surpassing All The Kings" is the newest Ballo Delle Castagne album and the first one to be released by a different label than HR!SPQR. Issued by Blood Rock Records and distributed by Black Widow, this album probably is their one which sounds more influenced by progressive rock. I don't know if this depends to the fact that all the music have been wrote by Diego Banchero (also active with Il Segno Del Comando, Egida Aurea, etc) but the ten new tracks offer strong hard rock influences (see the guitar riffs on "Il Risveglio" and the following "Il Viaggio" or the massive use of organ) and powerful drumming. While the old recordings by Ballo Delle Castagne where mostly resulting from improvisation sessions, "Surpassing All The Kings" sounds definitely less psychedelic, more focused on on progressive rock and also a bit more experimental (check "Rorate Coeli" which is based on strongly filtered bass guitar sounds, synth noises and Latin lyrics). Checking the songs' titles and the lyrics "Surpassing All The Kings" seems to be a sort of concept album where life and the quest for true self are seen as a long voyage that knows no limits: there's no time and nor matter. Maybe because of this, the opening and the closing songs refers to Gilgamesh, the king of Uruk, two-thirds god and one-third man and to his search for immortality. Harder and stronger than the previous releases, "Surpassing All The Kings" is the best Il Ballo Delle Castagne release to date...
Artist: Locrian & Christoph Heemann (@)
Title: s/t
Format: 12"
Label: Handmade Birds (@)
Rated: *****
This is one of the few releases I luckily managed to save from the hard disk of my old laptop (summer's hot temperature and bad architecture of different parts almost melted condensers and motherboard so that it was turned into a fused silica filled sandwitch which could cause over excitement to a Luddite!). I have to say this salvage was a good thing: even if releases coming from artists and musicians who fed or keep on feeding the mass migration from metal-related stylistical grounds to electronic or more cinematic stuff usually sound disappointing to me as most of them cannot totally detach some compositional schemes, this collaboration between appreciated Chicago-based post-metal band Locrian and Christoph Heemann, an hyperactive sound artist, whose remarkable hidden "militancy" within the 80ies industrial and noise scene (collaborations with Current 93, John Duncan, Organum, Merzbow and many others) facilitates the interconnection with above-mentioned resettling migrants, give rise to a really visionary release. On this occasion both drums and guitars play a different role than in previous releases by Locrian: Steven Hess' drumming and Foisy's guitars just emerge in the first visionary track "Hecatomb", an impressive clotting of fatal visions and hypnotical post-industrial drones, which could evoke baleful and disastrous allegorical scenes and a sense of forthcoming collapse, highlighted by low piano keys, which mark the rhythm in the guise of a death toll, the ventricular fibrillation of fluffy tapping on drums and the threatening bustle's buzz, which sound like swallowed by the following track "Loathe The Light", where drums move towards fringe side of the drone in order to build the scenery and guitars weave a net of low-frequencies which emphasizes the hefty sonic setting, disrupted by the crummy cries by a Terence Hannum in deep grief, the highest peak of metal-imported brutality. The physical consistency that sinister guitar-driven low frequencies sounds more noticeable in the following "Edgeless City", where Locrian and Heemann vividly render the feeling of angst related to disquieting desolate and abandoned places, the artistic habitat of this band, before the prostrate chant of the grey and dusty final track "The Drowned Forest", where the drone sounds like singed in accordance with the general clouded atmosphere of the track.
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