Music Reviews

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Artist: 80s Stallone (@)
Format: Download Only (MP3 + Lossless)
Label: self-released
Distributor: bandcamp
Rated: *****
As it is often the case, whenever a music scene/movement gains popularity, there's always the 'danger', of it getting saturated, soon, with people jumping on the bandwagon or just repeating the same thing over and over. The dreamwave scene's popularity is rising rapidly, and for a music lover - like me - this marks the beginning of a search for originality, talent and 'character' in the music, that will put things in perspective.
Well, look no further. The first 80s Stallone 12 track album 'HOTLINE', has just been released and it is a milestone and a point of reference for the genre. 80s Stallone, is one of the elusive godfathers of the dreamwave scene, with his very own, unique and instantly recognizable sound, a blueprint for those who follow, having released 2 singles and 1 e.p., and having done some of the best remixes. If you have already heard his music, you know what i'm talking about. If not, now it is a very good time to start listening.
With 'HOTLINE', 80s Stallone, presents a 'whole' package, covering every base, offering sides of his music, never shown before. There is a of variety of styles and moods on the album, some are faster electro disco tracks, some moodier and slower, with the majority of the sounds, provided by his hardware synths and drum machines, spicing things up, with some added vocoded vocals. His addictive arpeggiated analogue basslines, combined with his natural talent for melody, his trademark synth chords and disco beat patterns put together, provide a magnificent sonic result, which is pure joy for the listener.
Expertly mixed and mastered with punchy beats, deep low end and crisp and clear synths, the overall sound is warm and transparent.
For me, 'HOTLINE', is the dreamwave album of the year, VERY highly recommended.
Artist: Vatican Shadow
Title: Jordanian Descent
Format: Download Only (MP3 + Lossless)
Label: Hospital Productions (@)
Distributor: Midheaven
Rated: *****
It seems like Dominick Fernow, aka Vatican Shadow, also known as Prurient, may be intent on becoming the next Muslimgauze. Since its inception in 2010, Vatican Shadow have spewed out 4 Albums, 2 EPs, and 11 assorted cassettes, downloads, and ephemera. The subject matter has been grindy, mesmerizing post-industrial techno, slathered in Gulf War propaganda and middle-eastern mysticism. Like muslimgauze, the material is largely rhythmic, trancey and repetitious in nature, luring you into a theta-state lull of grimey opium dreams. On 'Jordanian Descent,' one of 3 EPs offered up as digital downloads by Hospital Productions, seemingly to whet appetites for the forthcoming 'Ornamental Walls' LP coming out on Modern Love, later this month.

The question with Vatican Shadow is "do you like repetitious grinding, lulling techno?' If the answer is yes to this question, then you will undoubtedly love 'Jordanian Descents' 20-minute mantras. Both tracks kick and boom with a hypnotic low-end, characteristically warm and sanguine with Fernow's loving cassette-tape treatment. Vatican Shadow tend to play with a set-up of multiple tape decks, and assorted sound machines, synths and drum machines presumably. Songs tend to go on as long as the tape lasts, and Fernow gives the masses a sneak peak into the noise underground where he grew sharp and dangerous. With Prurient, he vomitted out twelve years of harsh-noise catharsis, but grew bored with the stale, predictable moves. He became more tuneful still playing synth with coldwave misanthropes Cold Cave, and developed an endless techno habit during constant touring.

'Jordanian Descent' seeks to hypnotize, endless crunchy beats with evolving layers of incoming soundscapes and sub-rhythms, clicking in like glass clockwork. They go on long enough, they can really pull you in and put you in a serious trance. Its like watching oily water, lightly rippling - through the layer of grit and scum, subtle ecosystems emerge. If you stare into the dark waters of 'Jordanian Descent' often enough, perhaps you might notice the care and craft with which it was preserved and brought to you? Originally released as a cassette, before becoming digitized, everything was lovingly analog and homespun. With Vatican Shadow's ubiquitous Gulf War graphic design, featuring Heroes of the Gulf War playing cards, it seems like Dominick Fernow is driving at a point, hacking out his slice of the world. After over a decade in the underground, making music and running his label/store Hospital Productions, we look to people like Dominick Fernow to see which way the ship is sailing.

The thing is, being surrounded by the BitStream, we must all pick and choose with allies we shall take on, which aesthetic we shall wear. Time is our commodity, and we don't have time for everything. With people like Dominick Fernow, they are unrelenting in their vision. They're doing their thing, and inviting you to partake. Delving into his catalog, current and past, can lead you to gloomy realms of inspired otherworldly darkness and joy, people like Regis and the Downwards Records crew or the aforementioned Muslimgauze. Beat junkies with camouflage and leather jackets - they drink from the same virulent well poisoned by William S. Burroughs and Throbbing Gristle. Smart punks with good taste, but often times unfriendly or socially awkward.

The two tracks of 'Jordanian Descent' draw you in, and keep you there. 'Jordanian Descent (Sharia Law)' is 20:06 and 'Jordanian Descent (Guantanamo Military Commission)' is 15:13. Both feature a consistent beat throughout, with other loops, rhythmic and melodic, shifting in and out, oftentimes imperceptibly. Each side is about long enough to walk to the store, or ride to work, and i highly recommend giving this a spin during yr commute. It can block out urban grit, and put you in a really sensual lull for the task that lay ahead. I can't wait to hear the other two singles, as well as the new full length. I am getting intrigued by this man and his actions. You should pay attention.
Artist: Hit By A Rock (@)
Title: Wounded
Format: CDS (CD Single)
Label: Cherry Red Records (@)
Distributor: Cherry Red Records
Rated: *****
I didn't think I'd be starting off this batch of (late arriving) CDs with this particular title, but the blatancy of the project name and album title compelled me to. Frankly, I was expecting something completely different- harsh, blasting, or totally obnoxious. This is anything but that. Hit By A Rock is the project of London U.K. producer, remixer and soundtrack composer Jim Whelan. Not being familiar with Whelan's other work, I can't comment on it, but even though this is the first release under the HBAR moniker, you can tell he's no rank amatuer. Far from it.

To put it in a nutshell, 'Wounded' is atmospheric dub-dubby dubstep, and often dark at that. Cool, well...mostly. In a way, I am reminded of some of the best work of Massive Attack, although this album doesn't quite have the substance of 'Mezzanine'. It does have a fair portion of the atmospherics though. The album opens with 'Black Lily White Lotus' and is aided by the vocal talents of acclaimed British Tamil singer Susheela Raman, who has about five albums of her own. Raman's voice lends an exotic, Indian flavor to the track pulling you in. It's a great way to start this outing; brooding, mysterious, yet seductive. 'Seven Stones' features (manipulated) vocals by Zayna Daze (another Londoner), and while not as compelling as the opener, still adds a bit of depth.

Title track 'Wounded' is another matter though. The mood breaks, out comes a piano and vocoder with autotune that makes the vocal track sound like Donald, or maybe Daisy Duck. The sappy commercial melody is a real buzz-kill. I could just imagine the Disney's sailor-suited fowl warbling 'I've been hurt before...and now I'm wounded, wounded...' Okay so this didn't work, press the skip button.

'Silkworm' gets back in the groove again with Susheela on vocals, singing in English this time. Sort of reminiscent of Delerim melodically. Nice! Another highlight is 'Surgery,' featuring poet/spoken word artist Raymond Antrobus. He's a bit loony but it works well withing the context of the music; urban yet somewhat urbane.

I have to hand it to Whelan, he knows his way around sounds. It's a rich pastiche he presents here; nothing you haven't heard before, just maybe not in this way. Hope your sound system is up to the task though as the low end is really going to give that subwoofer a workout. 'East of the River' features the voice of Zewditu Johannes woven into its fabric adding more exotica. 'Closing' is a vocoded exercise in hypnosis, and perhaps an effective one under the right circumstances. The rest of the album is pretty decent but nothing that knocked my socks off.

In total, 'Wounded' is a good debut, and with only one real misstep, worthy of adding to your collection. I'm curious to see where Whelan will take HBAR from here. I'd like to hear something with more song-substance (I'm sure he's capable of it) that still retains the dark and delicious flavor he's presented throughout most of this album.

Artist: Dream Into Dust (@)
Title: So Beautiful and So Dangerous
Format: CD
Label: Chthonic Streams (@)
Rated: *****
Dream Into Dust is a New York City based band headed by Derek Rush (vocals, synths, guitars, bass, drum programming, etc.), and also features Bryin Dall (noise guitar, synths), Scott Reiter (synths and other electronics), and Mario Padron (bass). DID has been around since 1997 or so, had a few CD releases and also a couple of 7's, and appeared on a number of compilations. 'So Beautiful and So Dangerous' is their first album in nearly a decade. Having never heard them before I have no basis of comparison and it's difficult to categorize too. There are elements of a lot of different genres here- darkwave, industrial, electronica, shoegaze, etc., but what really makes DID stand out from the pack is Derek's melodic vocals. You don't hear a male voice like this too often in this type of music. His voice is very emotive without being pretentious. Make no mistake though, this is no pop band (or even synth-pop); it is often hard and heavy stuff with an experimental industrial edge. Yep, it's gonna get noisy at times, but that's a good thing!

The electronic elements are solid and inventive, the songwriting expressive and compelling, and the production, in a word ' great. Yes, it's dark and gloomy, but not in the way might you'd expect There is a depth here that is often found lacking in some of the giants in the electro-industrial genre. A lot of this is due to Rush's songwriting skills and vocals. He brings the drama, he brings the melody, and wraps it in a very dark soundscape. This is the kind of album Muse or Radiohead might make if they took a deep plunge into the industrial world, but you know they never will. Pop music pays the bills.

No doubt that Dream Into Dust is going to draw comparisons to other artists ' Nine Inch Nails comes to mind, especially in the opener, 'Counterfeit'. I'm hearing some Collide in their arrangements, but maybe that's just because I think Collide is an exceptional outfit. Most of the album isn't geared to the dancefloor, although 'Counterfeit,' 'Suspended in Fear,' and 'Perfect Vision' are beat-worthy enough to deserve club play. But that's not what this album is really about. It's Rush's personal dystopian concept album expressed in pain, sorrow and angst. It's uncompromising, as it really should be.

In order to get this album manufactured, Dream Into Dust had to solicit backers on Kickstarter. (Hey, getting CDs made is expensive; been there done that.) Any time you put out product without a major label bankrolling you, it's a risk, especially in the age of the DIY digital download. This time though, I think it's paid off. 'So Beautiful and So Dangerous' is a worthy album, one deserving of a lot more attention than I could possibly give it.
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Artist: La Mort De L'Hippocampe
Title: Cheminement De L'Extase
Format: 12"
Label: Enfant Terrible (@)
Rated: *****
Always co-produced by Enfant Terrible and Verbascripta, "Cheminement De L'Extase" is the second and last release by La Mort De L'Hippocampe. Recorded before "Symphonie Neuronale", this album has been released after that, following the wish of its creator Jerome Fontan, who passed by on June 2011. Best known for the electro project Porn.Darsteller, Jerome on this album created, as for the first one, two long suites which musically are different from what proposed on "Symphonie Neuronale". On the A side we have "Cheminement Surreel", which contains a mix of experimental, synth industrial and classical sounds (violin, piano, etc.) that function as a soundtrack to a metaphysic poem. In eighteen minutes, this track changes many times and it's a particular catchy one thanks to its atmosphere which passes from industrial synth noises to melancholic organ/violin duets in a natural way. On side B we have the main title which is mostly based on texts from Hildegard von Bingen read by Jerome and Isabelle Toro, who also collaborated on the first release. This suite is mostly based on old school industrial synth sound but mixed with medieval instruments like "vielle a roue" and the "bombarde bretonne". If you loved the first record you won't miss this one and you have to act fast, because it is already sold out at the label's shop but Verbascripta ( has still some left.
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