Music Reviews



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Artist: Mark Harris
Title: An Idea of North/Learning to Walk
Format: CD
Label: n5MD
Rated: *****
Very quiet, almost silent. A faint whisper of sound begins to fade in; very ambient, casual field recordings begin to sparsely populate this space before a light texture begins to comfortably drone in. So begins the opening track on 'An Idea of North/Learning to Walk' by Mark Harris. A refreshing effort that is extremely easy to listen to and get lost in, but doesn't slip away into the background some releases of its kind. The entire record is very soothing, emotional and dreamlike. It almost puts the listener into a trance with its airy textures, harmonics and ambience. Harris says his intent was to create a journey through various landscapes and environments and he has done that with fierce precision. Song to song it flows seamlessly and effortlessly with such a calming effect that even soothed this savage beast. Through his amazing arrangement of delicate space and tone interwoven with field recordings, gentle white noise washes and even a single lone melody has ensured this will be a journey you'll want to take again and again.
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Artist: Thought Broadcast
Title: Emergency Stairway
Format: 12"
Label: Mego (@)
Rated: *****
The very first beats of "Conflict Dub", the first track of this interesting release by Ravi Binning's Though Broadcast, recalled to my mind a group of fuddled chemist while grinding fictitious molecules with a peddle conducted by the suspicious gaze of a dour hunchbacked accounted, but beyond any kind of fuzzy associations of broadcasted thoughts such a music could inspire one of the most interesting aspect of this strange creature is its bizarre aesthetics. Even if there are some tracks such the claustrophobic pitting of "Breaking Test" or the sooty and dirt minimal dub of "Portrait Heads", which looks like recorded with a toy keyboard powered by almost dead batteries, whose recording is so well-done that listeners cannot easily recognize they've been extracted from a cassette, the painstaking and excellent work of recording and mastering at Dubplates and Mastering in Berlin from a pair of cassettes doesn't removed the whoosh of tape, so that "Emergency Stairway" could be associated to some forgotten or unpublished tape by some leading figure of the most bizarre and esoteric branch of industrial music, such as Suicide, Throbbing Gristle (many moments of Ravi's work recalled their recent "The Third Mind Movements") or some insane experiments by Wolf Eyes (particularly the ones on "Dead Hills") or The Residents, but - that's one of the most bizarre aesthetical aspect! - seemingly performed by a stiff and paranoid mad dubster. It could sound grim or wicked, but I recommend a listening, particularly if you appreciate the above-mentioned historical industrial activists.
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Artist: Shining (@)
Title: Live Black Jazz
Format: CD + DVD
Label: Indie Recordings (@)
Norwegian band Shining (not to be confused with the Swedish metal band by the same name) is a jazz-metal band with a cult following in Scandinavia. My Norwegian friend, label-mate and Chain D.L.K. contributor Eirik Havnes first told me about them and I had the pleasure to check them out live at SXSW in Austin this year. Their concert was phenomenal and in order to attend I walked out of an admittedly quite amazing show by Bruce Springsteen that I had won tickets to and was happening at the same time across town.
Their latest release is a CD + DVD entitled "Live Black Jazz", which follows their last full length album "Black Jazz". It is a recording of a recent live performance in Oslo which looks and sounds even better than the show I saw in Austin. This multi-camera shoot has great sound and video quality and you can choose to watch it or just listen to it, since it's a double release.
These guys take metal and add in acoustic and electric saxophone, keyboards, distortions, triggered drum sounds and they play intricate tunes with unusual time signatures and fast-paced changes. Did I mention they do so with maniacal precision and absolute mastery of their instruments? When you hear somebody switching around with such fury and precision, it's hard for me not to draw a comparison with John Zorn's Naked City, who pretty much were the first to mix saxophone with metal and to experiment with lighting fast changes, odd tempi and juxtaposition of such distant genres such as metal and jazz. Although it the case of the Shining, the link with jazz is pretty much only to be found in the way they can play and in the instruments, they do keep the link with experimental (and in a way prog) music alive with their use of keyboards, which besides layering sounds, usually plays lead lines or perfectly doubles the lead played by the guitar, the sax or the Akai EWI electronic wind instrument. For the headbangers out there, don't be put off by what I am writing and embrace the future because this band is looking ahead! There's still plenty of rocking out to do with the Shining and the distorted guitars and metal riffs are in extra large abundance.
I'm hooked.
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Artist: Frank Riggio (@)
Title: Psychexcess - Presentism
Format: CD
Label: Hymen records (@)
Distributor: Ant Zen mailroder
Rated: *****
Frank Riggio is an Italian-French artist based near Toulouse, France. He's been making music and releasing records for a long time, but his first official debut release dates back to 2007, shortly after he closed the label he was running (Sagaloops). He then embarked on a more sophisticated musical journey, the effects and results of which we are seeing in "Psychexcess I - Presentism", the first of a three part installment which showcases Riggio's abilities as a composer, sound designer and engineer. The album is masterfully executed and you can tell from the compositional style, the versatility of the sonic palette and the quality of the final mixdown and mastering that Riggio is a talented professional who excels in his field. The low end of this album is just amazing (present, controlled, thought out) and comes through even on smaller speakers and without a subwoofer. You can also tell that he works in sound design and music/sound for film/TV because he uses some of the same techniques and types of sounds that you often hear in that world (a great example of that is the fantastic sounding track "Venusian Philosopher (Future Vision I)", which would make a great Hollywood action-suspense movie trailer sound track).
I really like this album because it finds a great balance between the electronic realm and an organic truthfulness that only real instruments can provide. To describe these textures with classifying words is hard: in a way it has elements of classical composition, but it doesn't have any classical instruments (except for the occasional strings line), obviously it is downtempo electronic music at its core, but it goes way past its purest and simplest form and it also doesn't have a lot of beats or rhythmical patterns that you would expect in that genre. It kind of flows through your life as if it were it's own self-contain sonic universe, taking in elements from a variety of genres and making it own. Sparse elements of glitch, french chanteusisms, dark-ambient soundscapes, sci-fi sounds, There are field recordings, obviously there is a lot of sound manipulation and there is a strong footing in the experimental world too.
Definitely a very mature record that enjoyed listening several times and exploring in depth, both sonically and mentally. Looking forward to part II.
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Artist: Louis Laurain/Rodolphe Loubatiere/Yoann Durant (@)
Title: Au Dehors
Format: CD
Label: Creative Sources (@)
Rated: *****
After I introduced his amazing collaboration with guitarist Olivier Dumont, another interesting release co-signed by creative French percussionist Rodolphe Loubatiere is an outdoor performance recorded with Yoann Durant (trumpet) and Louis Laurain (saxophone). Beyond the typical fuzzy way of playing instruments, one of the funniest aspect of "Au dehors" (French for "outside") is the occasional weird symbiosis between surrounding setting and musicians, who sometimes sound like the copycat of what happens nearby their dais, so that winds seem to talk to the tweeting birds by mocking them (Monsier Laurain manages to imitate even a dove) and percussions look like hacking and sputtering after people's coughs, while the interplay between the musical instruments is really amazing as there are many moments when it seems they exchange their roles. After the initial tuning when Rodolphe sounds like rubbing any trace of musical score out by wiping his metallic objects off while his playmates starts blowing dust off their tools, mikes intercept amazing jokes and really weird sounds which seem to fall faul till the final crumbling. It certainly deserves a listening.
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