Music Reviews



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Artist: Pete Von Petrin (@)
Title: Smoke & Mirrors
Format: CD
Label: self-released
Rated: *****
I had not heard of this artist before this disc arrived in my mailbox, but when I saw what it was, I was definitely interested. The album consists on the single track, 'Smoking Mirror,' which the press sheet describes as 'A symphony for springs and delay pedals in thee movements with an interlude.' With a blurb from the creative director of NorCal Noisefest, I was ready to check this out. Luckily for Von Petrin, this lives up to its credentials. This is solid waves on waves of noise, constantly shifting, and constantly evolving. He mixes it up so there is always a consistent thread of droning static throughout with a nice mix of midrange and high pitched tones. This is like listening to a recording of the ocean while on a subway. But it really does seem to function like different tracks at times, when toward the end we have what sounds like a man having a fight with a trash can in a dumpster in a parking garage. Yes, it is every bit as cool as it sounds. Overall, this is quite enjoyable noise music. Even the packaging hearkens back to the old school DIY noise scene with a 100% post-consumer recycled sleeve with spraycan art hand applied by Pete von Petrin on the front and rubber-stamped art by Iggy Vans on the back. He is quick to note that 'despite the hand-assembled nature of the package, this is a glass-mastered CD with offset print art.' If you don't want to take my word for it, you can check it out on his website for free. It's definitely worth taking a look. This album weighs in at 42.22.
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Artist: Earthmonkey
Title: Alms of Morpheus
Format: 2 x CD (double CD)
Label: Beta-lactam Ring Records (@)
Rated: *****
From the opening track, I was quite surprised by what I got. When I got the disc, Earthmonkey was billed as a collaborator with Nurse With Wound, so that put me in a particular frame of mind. Earthmonkey put me in a quite different frame. The opening track, 'Scene Not Herd' has an almost jazzy feel to it that makes you move whether you wanted to or not. In fact much of the disc moves along with a nice slow groove. It isn't until 'I'm Just a Naked Man Screaming Here,' about 20 minutes in, that we get any real vocals and the addition of some grinding electric guitar. From here is gets funkier and more disjointed, but always holding together with a solid rhythm. Eventually we come back to the soothing jazzy sounds of Earthmonkey, tacking back and forth between dissonance and peaceful, head nodding grooves. It's hard to explain but it's damn good. Disc 2 takes a similar trajectory, but has a more improvisational feel to it. Alms of Morpheus is an epic 21 minute track with beautiful female spoken word that sounds like it is describing how to make a string butterfly on your fingers (a la cat's cradle). But then 'Earthmonkey's Boom Band' hits the scene. This has a much harder edged feel, with vocals that reminds me a lot of J. G. Thirlwell / Foetus. This is what I would expect the live version of Earthmonkey to sound like. Overall this was quite enjoyable. If Beta-lactam Ring Records were interested in recruiting people to the experimental side of music, this would be one to push pretty hard. It isn't too out there, as some of their releases can be (and isn't that why we love them?), but it is incredibly well done and accessible. One last thing about this set is that Earthmonkey did not skimp on the music. Where some albums are a 2 disc set only in name, they would have had a hard time cramming more music on these discs. Disc 1 weighs in at around 77 minutes. Disc 2 weighs in at around 79 minutes.
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Artist: Tecumseh
Title: Return to Everything
Format: CD
Label: Beta-lactam Ring Records (@)
Rated: *****
There are only 3 tracks on this disc, but they flow together as if they are one. 'When We Loved' is the shortest, at 3.31, with plenty of gritty atmosphere punctuated with distorted beeps and whining tones. I really wanted this to go on for much longer ' definitely my favorite track on the disc. 'Apophis' brings in some nice drone before busting out some nicely distorted guitar, which serves more as atmosphere than as a guitar solo. If you like Fear Falls Burning, this may be up your alley. The label states that this is for fans of Earth, Sunn0))), Lustmord, and Organum. That said, it just doesn't strike me as atmospheric enough to fit in with Lustmord. For me, it got a bit repetitive after a while. 'oakca' finishes the disc with a 13 minute track that takes us on a similar trajectory with slow moving guitars and noisy atmosphere. Overall, I would have to say that this was decent, but it didn't really do much for me. I get the sense that this would be much better live. If you like guitar drone/noise, this is worth checking out, but BlRR has much more interesting offerings to choose from. This disc weighs in at around 25 minutes.
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Artist: Inien (@)
Title: Favoriten
Format: CD
Label: Schraum (@)
Rated: *****
I had never heard of this project before receiving this in the mail. It's a duo consisting of Axel Haller on Bass and Johannes Tröndle on Cello. Now if you think that this is going to be peaceful chamber music, remember where you are reading this review. This is interesting experimental classical. One gets the sense that they are playing the wooden bodies of their instruments almost as much as the strings, as the entire album is washed in a layer of heavy grinding static. At times the bass comes to the fore for some heavy droning resonance. The only issue I saw with this is that it is a bit too minimalist for my taste, as the compositions become repetitive, which is likely a result of having only two artists. If you think Kronos Quartet is too mainstream, this may be one to check out. This disc weighs in at around 47 minutes.
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Artist: May Roosevelt (@)
Title: Haunted
Format: CD
Label: self-released
Rated: *****
It really isn't too often that I get something to review that prominently features theremin. As usual, I had not heard of May Roosevelt, but I had to admit that when the press sheet busted out the work of Jacques Derrida, I had a suspicion that I was in for a pretentious album (at least it wasn't Lacan). Thankfully, it wasn't. Here's how the press sheet describes the album: 'May Roosevelt's new album "Haunted" opens doors to phantoms of the past. The work's eight musical compositions are supernatural entities of modern technology that hover in the air, bursting open the chest of rustic tradition only to be transformed into rhythms of Greek dances.' I was pleasantly surprised by this disc. I had expected some heavy electro-experimental knob twiddling with a lot of bleeps and bloops. This was quite well orchestrated work in which the theremin was simply another instrument in an ensemble of synthesizers, drum machines, and vocals - the main instrument, of course, but this wasn't just some person making science fiction sounds. Rather, she plays the theremin with skill. Nicely packaged in a foil embossed folder. This album weighs in at around 37 minutes.
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