Music Reviews

Artist: Belbury Poly
Title: The Belbury Tales
Format: CD
Label: Ghost Box (@)
Rated: *****
The new album from Belbury Poly; the alchemical organ by which Jim Jupp, head of Ghost Box Records, releases his distinctive brand of pastoral weirdness. The music of Belbury Poly is at times joyous and naive and at times shot through with terror or supernatural wonder, Jim Jupp is striving to create the idea world of his childhood, an Interzone that exists everywhere and nowhere, located somewhere in the vicinity of 1953 and 1978.

'The Belbury Tales finds Belbury Poly expanding their palette of harpsichords and Chappell Records samples, even going so far as to collaborate for the first time, like on the italian prog journey, 'The Pilgrim's Path'; this record seems far looser and more organic, more 'jammy' than the previous, 'From An Ancient Star'. It seems like Jim Jupp is getting into Italian soundtracks and 70s groove compilations, maybe he's been hanging out with Johnny Trunk more often. Its seems less fussy, funkier; Its still got the classic Ghost Box fanatical obsession with detailed re-creation, the rinky-dink roller rink are tight and crisp, and although eccentric, Jupp's dancey trancey synths are really quite catchy, its actually quite good electronic music, but rather than trying to sound 'of the moment', rave's usual pre-occupation with the present and the future, Jim Jupp is only interested in investigating the sounds that he likes, which involve Radiophonic music, musty children's soundtracks, and apparently now, prog rock and Bollywood boot sale tapes. He is resurrecting the lost, the forgotten; a true crate digger, Belbury Poly is digging the past, refining the strengths, creating a better yesterday.

'The Belbury Tales' design is impeccable, with artwork by in-house graphic designer and Ghost Box's co-founder Juian House, from The Focus Group. Ghost Box is all about the details, the presentation; from the production, like the way that Jim Jupp baked the backing tapes on the track 'Goat Foot' to give more of an authentic Turkish psychedelic quality, to Julian House's signature style, which has been recognizable and fully-realized from Ghost Box's first release. 'The Belbury Tales' is available on CD, on scrumptious vinyl, and digitally, and comes with a short story by Rob Young, author of 'Electric Eden', printed on nice paper in the booklet.

Ghost Box have created a whole world, a sub-continent, that never was and always will be. Their music makes the world a stranger, more adventuresome place, and 'The Belbury Tales' has something for the long-term Ghost Box devotee, and for somebody stumbling on to their late-night transmissions for the first time. Jim Jupp is continually refining his meticulous, archaeological re-creation, but 'The Belbury Tales', is unlocking new revolving doors and showing a glimpse of the future, proving, yet again, that Belbury Poly, and the whole Ghost Box roster, are not a two trick slowpony, but rather, an abundant fountain of some of the most interesting sounds, ideas, and aesthetic, that are happening right now.

Top shelf. Must hear.
Artist: Diodati (@)
Title: Diem supremum obire
Format: CD
Label: Koerperschall Records/Echozone (@)
Distributor: Masterpiece
Rated: *****
Such a title - "Diem supremum obire" is a Latin sentence literally meaning "go round the last day" - let easily guess the conceptual framework of this release (co-produced by Echozone and Korperschall Records) focuses on the theme of death and this worthwhile Bavarian gothic/wave ensemble properly chooses an austere composure to flay this delicate matter so that Diodati musically depth any aspect of death by embracing gothic half-lights without renouncing a certain compositional zing: so it happens that recognisable classical arias gradually turn into a sort of bolero in "Lady Medusa of Suffer", tackling the theme of mother's death, it occurs that the track about the death of culture (I admit I don't know what the Sanskrit word they used to give a title to it means) sounds like a mixture between a Schubert's Lied and a sped piano part of some Brahms' requiem or that dark folk songs such as 'Hinnen Fuor Der Sun Ze Helle' (around the death of faith) or the lovely "Taim sinte ar do thuama" (taken from an anonymous 17th century Irish poem, which was played even by Dead Can Dance some years ago) get inflamed with a mystical ardor. Diodati's above-mentioned compositional austerity doesn't mean their music lacks of ornaments as showed by the vocal polyphonies when Anja haunting voice melts or duets with Gwydion Enbarr's one, being this element the real third instrument beside Elias Wonka's piano and Max Sellmeier's cello for its impressive versatility, whose intense baritone lends itself to the general atmosphere of the record and dramatic tension. Edgar Allan Poe's quote from his "Romance" printed on the artwork, saying "I could not love except where Death / Was mingling his with Beauty's breath", describes quite well "Diem supremum obire"'s absorbing inebriated moodiness.
Artist: Ericm & Michael Doneda (@)
Title: Razine
Format: CD
Label: Monotype Records (@)
Rated: *****
Velmir Khlebnikov was a famous Russian Futurist poet, active at the beginning of the twentieth century; Razine by electronic manipulator Ericm and saxophonist Michel Doneda calls upon the spirit of zaum, Khlebnikov's transrational language, which sought to 'liberate words, of parts of words, letters and sounds from their accepted meaning, so that they could take on new meanings within a higher system of logic that literally transcends reason. Where Khlebnikov sought to liberate the poem, splashing words and letters across the page, Ericm and Doneda liberate the sound of a saxophone, via live electronic manipulation and sampling, creating grainy delays and sheets of sound, like Coltrane getting together with Keith Rowe, to listen in-between radio stations.

I am always somewhat surprised when i actually like a free-jazz fire skronk electroacoustic improv record; i mean, i LIKE Albert Ayler and Don Cherry, i own a couple Otomo Yoshiide albums - but this music is FIERCE, clawing up and down the side of yr skull. Noise music and free-jazz work best when they're sort of aggressive, not too polite, pandering to the crowds, its a little militant. The three tracks on Razine sound like they took place in some white-walled gallery someplace (actually the Journees Electroniques in March of 2009), perhaps with snacks and discussion afterwards. However, the music is not so easily caged - i feel like proper avant garde-ists only need the slightest provocation to freak the fuck out. Just give 'em some time and a place to do it in, and they will exorcise their demons, for all to see.

Razine whiffs of the art gallery or the lecture hall, but it also has an after-scent of the vaudeville, or cabaret; sweat and booze and greasepaint. There's a hint of the carnival-esque, reminiscent of Mingus' bump-and-grind, in Michel Doneda's sax playing. These two don't take themselves too seriously, but they make some pretty serious music. 2 of the tracks on Razine are over 20 minutes long, the second one, 'Rain', had me up and boxing in the basement, this is fire jazz, with minimal onkyo textures, crackles and hums. The intimacy of a duo, how quickly and fluidly they can respond and play off of each other, matched with their combined skill and deft wit, makes for a quicksilver sparring match, between two adept improvisers.

If you don't like skronk jazz exploration, stay the hell away from this record, but if you dig adventuresome leftfield improvisations, look no further. Ericm and Michel Doneda are breaking new ground in electroacoustic improvisation, they are bring worlds together, the conceptual worlds of theory and performance art, with the hot-blooded burlesque of jazz. Packaged in an attractive flat-black digipack, slick presentation on the part of Monotype Records, and Razine is a document worth checking out and spending some time with.
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Artist: Maciek Szymczuk & Slowmotion (@)
Title: Ways
Format: CD
Label: Zoharum (@)
Rated: *****
This new release from Zoharum is a collaboration between Maciek Szymczuk, a polish musician active in ambient territories, and Slowmotion, an almost apparently unknown british guitarist. The result is a strange mix between ambient, trip hop, glitch and shoegaze.
The opening track "which way" relies on the female vocals for the construction of the atmosphere while "northern wind" reveals the glitch influence of the authors involved. "Hesitating" is a short interlude to "the hills" a dreamy track involving shoegaze influence with his heavily effected guitar lines. "The edge of the forest" is a slower and darker track while "the night has come" is another short bridge to another part of the album. "Windy north" is another juxtaposition of guitar lines and glitchy beats while "step by step" returns to the dreamy atmosphere of the best moments of this release. "Like a dream..." is the introduction to the last part of this record: "At the crossroads" is a noisy dialogue between the two artist while "go through the green gate" close this release with a long shoegaze jam.
This could probably not be an important or innovative release but is declared by his authors so this is a breath of fresh air in a situation where average release are filled with overloaded linear notes. It worths a listen.
Artist: Herzparasit (@)
Title: Fromme Lammer
Format: CD
Label: Echozone (@)
Distributor: Masterpiece
Rated: *****
In order to quieten any doubt about filing the music they play since their debut release, Herzparasit stated they situate their style in the so-called Deutschen Herz-Industrialmetal (literally meaning German heart industrial metal) definition and, as it's clear from what they sing in "Scharfer Schlaf", they don't like any comparison with well-known bands such as Rammstein (I've noticed many people clumsily lug this best-seller band any time they recognize a band singing in German and using distorted guitar even if it plays lollipop blues!) or OOMPH!. In reality, this formation, made up of singer Ric-Q (former frontman and singer of Redline) and guitarist El Toro (Monztafarm), could be placed in a sort of stylistical enclave, surrounded by the above-mentioned notorious bands and other quite famous ones such as Eisbrecher and Unheilig, but they arguably sieved their wheat in order to propose a personal way to reach listener's heart (in order to poison them?) through a blend of those ferocious industrial-metal embodiments and dark, electronic and gothic-metal elements, so that holding Herzparasit up as plagiarists wouldn't be so fair. More than Rammstein or OOMPH!, it seems the real starting point of this band is gothic-rock stuff, which sounds really refurbished with such a crossbreed with industrial metal musical syntax, as someone could guess by concentrating on the lyrical content (a little bit specious in some moments and too close-fitting with some "spiritual" cliches of the scene, but quite intense and metaphoric) and on the use of synths and effects. I don't really like some songs when Ric-Q looks like emulating power-metal way of singing with high note prolonged vocalzing, but discerning it as discord could just be a matter of personal taste, whereas there're some nice songs where he juggles with voice in a funny way (such as in "Alphatier", "Flaschengeist", "Blut will fliessen" - one of the highlight of their weaponry - or in the duet with Nemesis on "Giftschlange"). In some days, Herzparasit will support Umbra et Imago during their German tour, a good occasion to spread their music and outline their personality by making those differences some music press has often missed clearer to trained audiences. I'm pretty sure they'll reach their goal as well as I'm sure you're not going to find their cd inside an Easter egg due to the provokingly nice cover artwork!
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