Music Reviews



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Artist: Ashbed (@)
Title: If We Should Part
Format: Download Only (MP3 + Lossless)
Label: self-released
Distributor: iTunes
Rated: *****
Sometimes the unspectacular looking releases have got the richest musically content to offer. Ashbed is the Electronic music project of David Tatlock, who hails out of New Waterford, NS, Canada. In his earlier years he has been often supported by Nightwaves zine-editor and Synthpop supporter (... and Chain D.L.K. author...) Gary Flanagan through some compilation appearances. Also some of Flanagan's reviews on his early demo recordings have been throughout positive, although Ashbed's music is for the most part far away of Gary's preferences. 'If We Should Part' is filled with haunting and dense athmospheres, the music combines darkest Electro with Noise, Dubstep and Ambient. Skinny Puppy gets often mentioned, but also Controlled Bleeding, Gridlock, Scorn plus I would add the ominous textures of projects like Little Sap Dungeon as being quells of inspiration for Mr. Tatlock. Mostly his tracks are drowning into Downtempo-like sick and noisy sound-walls. 'So It Goes' is such an example, which adds a monotonous Dubstep-rhythm to lead the track. 'In Between Dreams' stands for a clearer, more Puppy-an Dark Electro-inspired tune. Also thanks to the inclusion of vocals this one is a nice addition to fans of this beloved genre. 'Third Coming' then brings back the abstract, Experimental-infiltrated side of David, and this style still leads most tracks of this album. Also 'The Hidden' or the title-track are dwelling pretty much in obtrusive synthesizer sound-drops, plus the drastic rhythm section brings both near to a Gridlock-like experience. While I would recommend here and there adding a bit more clearance in his song structures, maybe too with a consideration to present more vocals like on 'In Between Dreams', I am generally quite impressed by the efforts of Mr. Tatlock. Regarding the above mentioned artists for possible comparisons it should be quite clear, that this album won't satisfy meaningless dancefloor attributes. Ashbed could need a bit more exposure by press and listeners for a better out-coming, while the talent is without doubts presented on here.

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Artist: Lata (@)
Title: Starlings
Format: CD
Label: Exotic Pylon Records (@)
Rated: *****
Thirty-six hours on a train could become a so mind-altering experience for the most inveterate traveller that you can easily argue it could be a prodrome for mystical experiences and result into a safe-conduct for any kind of barrier, which locks any door of perception. Jacob Burns, former bass player with Scottish band Damn Shames and one of the youngest force of post-punk experimental band Cindytalk, was none the worse for such a train travel across India (hopefully not for a delay or I could surmise this record could have been more harsh and bloody furious than it is...) and maybe he couldn't imagine after he stepped down the train, the sensorial feast he experienced inside Tundla Station could be so inspirational. According to his own words "the arches of the place were alive with birds, flicking off the walls and the top of the crowds, delicate bodies who seemed drawn up, in ever more numbers, to the vaulted roof, where they were coming into roost. The host of them were all singing, in a high, pure pitch that was contained and multiplied by the masonry of the station into an incredible noise, loud but not painful". The second source for inspiration Jacob poured into "Starlings" was his toing and froing over East London Line. Both of these two excitements astonishingly merge on this one-track album, whose 9 parts are easily recognisable while sliding on impressive sonic interbreeding between tweets and chirps on one side and mechanical clattering, puffing brakes, jumps on rails and other typical noises the ear usually grab during a train journey. An appetizer of "Starlings" already delighted eardrums of all those who bought the July edition of The Wire Magazine's Tapper CD, who could confirm the remarkable way this sound designer followed to encapsulate two of the most proper juggernauts and inspirational sources for many contemporary electronic jugglers: transport and birds!
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Artist: Pinkcourtesyphone (@)
Title: Elegant and Detached
Format: CD
Label: Room40 (@)
Rated: *****
This entrancing operation of sonic prophylaxis comes from American sound designer and minimalist sound artist Richard Cartier, mainly known for his brisk activity within his label/artistic platform LINE, who signs his second release under the Pinkcourtesyphone moniker, whose title "Elegant & Detached" tautly describes its main features. Richard seems to pour sonic splits of echoed female voices, sonic objects and other listenable entities into pools of seemingly flat and looping close frequencies, whose "flambe" treatment with light distortions could remind that underlying wind on membranes of abandoned microphones or the typical noise of jet engines when the surrounding atmosphere gets remarkably rarefied, so that you could imagine that each track is the resounding of some lunar module while wandering out of orbit in a void, which gets occasionally filled with rings, quavers, pitched echoes, repetitive airy melodies, background radiation, dull thuds, silenced clangors, imaginary porpoises ("Sans Motif/Closer To Here Than You Care To Be"), squawks ("Petraglyph (for Ranier)") or even barking birds, as those one appearing in the astonishingly cinematic journey of "An Awaiting Room (for Tati)/Starts Fell" - maybe together with some hints in "Sans Motif/Closer To Here Than You Care To Be" the one which recalls some hallucinated audiotrips with ironic and iconic sonic clues by The Orb more than other moments of the album -. All these sonic appearances sound like wavering in amniotic solvents and belonging to a sort of encrypted and somewhat tricky code many listeners could understand. His long-lasting entrancing journeys could be approximately associated to that cerebral branch of ambient which had a certain rush in the 90ies and first year of new millenium (I could mention some stuff from Kim Cascone's Silent, Bent Recknagel's Syrup, Lagowski, laudanum sonic juice by Todd Gautreau's Tear Ceremony or even Robin Storey's Rapoon) as well as to the vague daydreaming of some ghostly womanizer.
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Artist: Neon Rain (@)
Title: Of The Dead
Format: 3 x CD (triple CD)
Label: Steelwork Maschine (@)
Rated: *****
French Industrial/Noise/Experimental project Neon Rain is Serge Usson (who also co-founded the Industrial/Post-Industrial Steelwork Maschine label with Kris G., aka Christophe Gales of Westwind) and David Delwiche (on this album) of Hyperbarich Yperite Therapy Chamber and The Groovie Goolies (both Industrial Noise projects, I think). Usson has also been involved with a number of other groups ' Acarus Scopt, Ligne Claire, Fin De Siècle, Storm of Capricorn (his neoclassical martial folk project), and likely others I am unaware of. Neon Rain came into being in 1998 with the release of a self-produced tape of Serge's recordings from 1992-1997, and has released a few CDs under the Neon Rain moniker since then, perhaps the most recent work prior to this triple-album being the double-disc 'We Are Meat/The Vultures' in 2008. 'Of The Dead' is a triple-disc set, a most ambitious undertaking dedicated to George A. Romero's first zombie movie trilogy ' 'Night Of The Living Dead,' 'Dawn Of The Dead,' and 'Day Of The Dead'. Consequently the discs are titled 'A Night,' 'A Dawn,' and 'A Day.'

I have to say that when I opened the CD package, I wasn't quite prepared for THREE CDs to review. (I don't usually bother with the one-sheet that would have clued me in to it being a triple disc until I'm ready to do the review.) So obviously this is a lot to take in. My impressions of the first disc, 'A Night' is of noisy old-school electronics intersperesed with movie dialogue samples (from NOTLD, I presume)>Lots of oscillators going wild, some spooky themes. Actually, the disc opens up with perhaps uncharacteristic stately piano chords but descends into weird world midway through the piece. By the end of the first track it turns industrial. I'm not even going to attempt to say how well it all relates to Romero's movie; been a long time since I've seen it and no real desire to watch it again for this review. Never saw the other two movies, so I can only relate how the CDs sound as electronic-industrial noise. Impression of the first disc was 'pretty interesting and atmospheric in places'.

'A Dawn' begins with movie dialogue samples morphing into droning background and noise, then higher pitched drone and various shades of gray background noises, settling into a morose sort of ambience. For the most part it is more placid than the first disc, although a bit weirder in a way. Thing's get quite strange on track 5, 'Entertain! Now!' which begins with something like a marching band sample and morphs into gothic calliope music. The rest of the disc is industrial noise electronics atmospherics, with the noisiest passages being on the final track. I suppose you gotta love the cliché movie music ending though.

'A Day' may be the most (conventionally) musical of the three, presenting a number of brief electronic compositions with rhythm tracks, interspersed with movie dialogue samples backed by a modulated drone. It doesn't get very experimental until track 7 ('Dr Logan & Major Cooper'), but that's not for long. Some of these ditties remind me of the kind of minimal synth & drum machine experiments I was doing in the 80's before I discovered really dark music. They're okay in a very retro kind of way but seem out of place for zombie movie music. Things get dark and noisy again for a while on track 11 ('Here They Come') but the old-school synth & drum machine creeps back in and it's an atmosphere killer. (Reminded me a bit of SA42 without the vocals.) Overall, this was the least appealing of the 3 discs, but some might like it because it's the most accessible.

While not a landmark achievement, 'Of The Dead' has its moments, with a few really creepy bits, and moments to satisfy electronic noise junkies, and maybe even fans of Romero's zombie flicks. (There's plenty of movie dialogue passages.) The album sounds like it was recorded a long time ago though, even if it wasn't. Maybe if it was, it would be a retro classic. For those who can't get enough, there is also another disc (which I didn't get) titled 'More Of The Dead' dealing with Romero's second zombie trilogy. It's supposed to be quite different, more in a lo-fi noise-folk style.
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Artist: Velvet Condom
Title: Stadtgeil
Format: CD
Label: Cymbeline
Distributor: Pale Music
Rated: *****
I already had the chance to listen to the second Velvet Condom's second album titled "Stadtgeil" as it has been already release by their personal label Cymbeline the last year on vinyl and digital format (which I bought). To tell the truth I didn't know them and Valentina Faith Guida, a dj from my city Torino, pointed them out to me when their "Menace" video was running on the screen of the place where we were drinking. I wrote down that name, because their mix of electro and cold wave intrigued me. The day after I checked their album and I realized that there was more to find out as the opening song "Funeral For My Love" is already different from the song I already knew as it's a bit more shoegaze sounding with cool dreamy atmospheres sustained by bouncing bass lines, noisy guitars and hard drum machine beats. Already by listening these two tracks, you can realize that the French/German duo is aware of how taking care of production: they are alternating bass guitar to deep synth bass lines while guitar riffs cross tiny melodic parts that will stick into your head. The album is balanced from electro wave hit singles like the aforementioned "Menace", the following "Rouge City", the dancey cold wave influenced "Samt Und Stein" or synth based sensual "Ice Disco" and noisy guitar shoegaze influenced tunes where Jesus And Mary Chain meets early My Bloody Valentine like on "Funeral For My Love" , "Separ-Hate", "Faint-Hearted", "A New Fall" (this one recalls me a by "Just Like Honey") and "Scars Shine". This new edition released by Cymbeline and distributed by Pale Music has as bonus track "Little Death", a song that has a bass line which recalls me Suicide, the guitar is building a reverberated distant wall of noise which on some parts sound almost rockabilly while the vocals are cold and and quite tense. For me this album is a must have. Check it!
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