Music Reviews

Artist: Dirk Serries + Jon Attwood (@)
Title: The Sleep Of Reason
Format: CD & Vinyl
Label: Tonefloat (@)
Rated: *****
A monumental (three LPs plus one single sided live LP, recorded at Paradox, Tilburg on 27th February 2011, and one CD with a selection of tracks taken from above enlisted studio albums) and unmissable release for guitar-driven ambient lovers and audiophiles comes from the excellent Dutch label Tonefloat with the signature of the collaborative project by notorious Belgian ambient musician Dirk Serries, who already singed the impressive "Microphonics" series on Tonefloat, even if he's still mostly known for his purist sonic research under the moniker Vidna Obmana, and English minimalist guitarist, keyboardist and composer Jon Attwood aka Yellow6. Their sound has been properly labelled as post-blues-drone for many intrinsic stylistical factors, but in spite of any kind of possible raving related to the somewhat inexplicable need to label things, what's more important is the response to the listening experience they offer: towering plait of clear frequencies and effected guitar which gradually seems to descale sonic clots in order to make them sediment and keep on emitting subtle sonic radiations, which embrace a remarkably wide range of moods through slow mutations. There's a logical and thin concatenation between each album which is going to be catched by most careful listeners. It could easily refute the adage according to which the sleep of reason brings forth monsters. Just 200 copies have been printed, I warmly recommend to grab yours.
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Artist: Synapsis
Title: Officina Ferraria Reworked
Format: CD
Label: Zoharum (@)
Rated: *****
his release is a compilation of remixes from the first album of this polish band that, according to the linear notes, stand "firmly in the industrial stylistics with hints of dark ambient and noise" but is not the band to be reviewed but his remixers.
Starting with the dark ambient oriented remix made by Wolfram of "Illuminacja W CiÄgarni" and ending with the quiet almost lowercase Tomasz Krakowiak's treatment of "Sill Weave" the card played by this kind of release is variety and, so, there's remixers that emphasize the industrial aspect as GEttNER's remix of "Opór Materii" or the noise one as VilgoÄ's remix of "Pater Noster" or, even, the field recordings aspect as the remix operated by Tyko Ching.
In my opinion this is an enjoyable release but this kind of release are material for djs rather than objects for fans as they suffer the lack of an unifying tract for all the tracks. Nice but, musically speaking, only for collectors.
Artist: Phil Tangent (@)
Title: Restitution/Squaring The Circle
Format: 12"
Label: Soul:r
Rated: *****
Brighton native dnb producer and dj P.Winn aka Phil Tangent reinforces the firm belief by many dnb followers about the beaming moment of his musical creativity by means of another pair of winning shots for Markus Intalex's Soul:r. "Restitution" manages to ventilate listener's eardrums and minds with daydreaming suspensive synth-pads, uplifting sounds, exstatic female vocals and propelling beats, the hastening element for the headphones-driven sublime ascension which could be experienced by listeners. Such an ascension is going to be followed by the sonic sideslip of "Squaring The Circle", where this bad boy pours absorbing phat bumps, airy trumpets and sourer basslines, whose counterbalances for flotation are some dazing and dazzling vocals by Bjork. A real touch of finesse to the scene, which is going to be rolled over by a lot of dnb djs.
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Artist: Sarth (@)
Title: The Book of Sarth
Format: Download Only (MP3 only)
Label: The Gralbum Collective
Distributor: Apple iTunes
Rated: *****
Brooklyn-based electronic musician/composer/improviser Sarth Calhoun a.k.a. Sarth has spent the last few months working on what at first sight looks like just any other iPhone/iPad app but actually has a lot more to it than that: it's a book, it's a story, it's an illustration, it's an album, it's a graphical album (hence the name "The Gralbum Collective")... and it might even, potentially, be a new way of distributing music all together!

The book is an easy 10-15 minute read of one-liners distributed across 8 short chaptes. It tells the tale of two children who find a device that generates transmissions which create mass hallucinations that the government wants to suppress. The story flows easily and is well augmented by the visuals. I have to say I am not sure I liked the ending though, which felt a bit inconclusive and open-ended (unless of course Sarth is setting it up for a sequel).

Graphic novels and comics are not my strong suit so I won't be commenting much on the visuals but I can tell you that there are several styles interacting to tell this story, almost as if it they came from different pens. You start with the Pixar-style cartoon type images with soft colors and round edges (think Toy Story) and you get to the more stylized, straight-lined and vectorial asian-inspired comics that in the app get filled with colors in stages and get various other photoshop-filter treatments. Reality then shifts once again and takes the shape of black and white pictures that have been treated to look like drawings. Then the black and white gets slowly colored in and eventually, by the Epilogue, you have pixellated, vectorized and almost art deco new modernist minimalistic paintings. The cool thing about all of this is that you can interact with these images by tapping, zooming, swiping and thus re-ordering the 80+ page animated novel with your touch.

Musically speaking, "The Book of Sarth" is an interesting album of experimental electronic music which draws from a number of inspirations... At times it sounds like Clock DVA, at times like Brian Eno, at times it reminded me of some '80s avantgarde electronica and kraut. The album is instrumental for the most part, but there are several tunes where vocals are pretty front and center... Sarth has a beautiful voice, especially when he does spoken word stuff in the lower register, and my only criticism is that having spoken word parts on top of music that is playing while you are reading a book that is also a graphic novel can be a bit distracting... Inevitably, when the words of the songs came in, my mind started listening to those and forgetting the words my eyes were reading... Unless Sarth is trying to create some kind of state of confusion on purpose, or unless the words in the music are supposed to somehow interact with the words on the screen (which, if they were, wasn't clear to me), I would have opted for some entirely instrumental music to go with this kind of release.

Design wise the app doesn't feel as polished as it could be (at least not when it comes to controls, buttons, scrolling etc)... As much as I am a fan of small text, I have to say I felt the text is a bit hard to read, especially when the unfortunate choice of colors makes it even harder (think light green font on light yellow background... seriously!?!?!). A black Sans-serif font instead of a colored Serif font would have way easier on the eyes, or even increasing the font size a little bit would help on the iPhone version (it almost feels like the app was programmed on/for iPad and then just downsized for the iPhone).
In my opinion, navigating the app is not very intuitive and could be re-designed a bit better, with function in mind. The good thing is that you can navigate the images and the story separately from the music. The bad thing is that if you want to listen to the music again after having read the book (which I found myself wanting to do) there is no way to do that with the app running in the background (if you quit the app or switch to another app, or even if you lock your screen, the music stops). Also the stop/play/skip/rewind button on my headphones (which by the way is highly recommend you wear to enjoy "The Book of Sarth") as well as on the Apple earbuds doesn't work with this app, which is a pity. Allegedly it's possible to download/extract the tracks from the app into iTunes so that you can listen to them while doing something else, however it is not sufficiently clear how that is supposed to be done and that too should be made more obvious/functional. Other than that the app works pretty well and except for one crash while swiping quickly to skip ahead it's been stable for me.

Aside from the fact that the title sounds a bit pompous and pretentious, I think calling it "The Book of Sarth" is almost a bit misleading, since I'd argue that it is more of an album and/or a graphical novel than it is a book. What I think is the most impressive and admirable part of this whole thing is that by delivering his music and his ideas in this way, Sarth has handed us (the general public) and the music industry at large an exciting and potentially lucrative new way of distributing words, music and images. With the music industry in a deep state of crisis, the publishing industry in an even deeper financial black hole and the creative industry always looking for new ways of being creative and deploying and distributing creativity on a large scale, the Gralbum could really be an amazing and entirely new way for artists to make a living. We've seen some isolated instances of artists releasing apps that contain their music or their videos, but the Gralbum, could be a platform for everyone to release albums with liner notes, lyrics, cover art work and so much more!! The Gralbum could be the album of the 22nd century! As a hardcore music fan who is deeply concerned for the future of music and unhappy with the current state of things, that is truly very exciting to me! My hat goes off to Sarth for having come up with this brilliant idea!

At $7.99 it might be seen as expensive when compared to the rest of the apps in the Apple ecosystem, but the price is right when you consider that you spend at least $9.99 for a new album from the iTunes store, which will be just music and no graphic content.

I give it 4 stars because I think the implementation deserves 3 stars, the content deserves 4 stars and the vision behind this entire project deserves 5 stars!
Artist: ∆AIMON (@)
Title: Flatliner - expanded
Format: CD
Label: Artoffact (@)
Rated: *****
California-based duo 'AIMON has been considered as one of the most interesting emerging band from the fertile witch-house in reason since their first releases: foggy synth-pads, slow and solemn marches, mantra-like songs, occult mists and plasmatic and creepy atmospheres get blended together by means of a remarkable knowledge of recording studio techniques, whose result is so cinematic that you could imagine them while gathering around their hot cauldrons in the act of employing mysterious witchcrafts. Canadian label Artoffact sensed what many listeners suddenly perceived the stylistical ductility of their sound after listening the previous release on Bay-Area appreciated label Tundra Dubs, whose crossbreed could be considered a sort of vampiresque half-cast creature in the liminal region between dark industrial and witch-house, so that it summoned some artists from both those scenes in order to highlight their sonic findings by detaching their coalesced "souls". Their placement in the tracklist roughly seems to be based on a rising level of sophistication by different guest around their cauldron: it could sound paradoxical, but most interesting remixes come from industrial front, whose advantage could be explained by the fact they could exhibit an affine, but distinct stylistical territory, whereas witch-house bands had to preserve their own declension of the same language. I particularly enjoyed remixes of "Black Cross" by Dead When I Found Her (I'm pretty sure it's going to delight many dancehalls), cinematic and grave remixes of "Choke" by Chrysalide (a complementarity which was clear since 'AIMON remix of "I Do Not Divert Eyes") and "Flatliner" by Haujobb (one of the remix I liked most), while on the witch-house front, amazing Unison remix of "Current", "Flatliner" blending by Encephalon and the deconstruction of "Emptiness" by Textbeak have that extra oomph.
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