Music Reviews



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Artist: Tranquilatwist (@)
Title: Down About the Ceiling
Format: CD
Label: self-released
Distributor: Trouble Street Records
Rated: *****
Seldom do I go out of my way looking for trouble, er, I mean new music to review but every once in a while something comes to my attention that I can't resist. Such is the case with Tranquilatwist. I was thumbing through the glossy pages of a well-known Goth zine when I came across a small review of this band. It sounded interesting enough to check out so I headed to their MySpace page to give them a listen. Liking what I heard, I decided to request the CD from the band for a full and proper review.

Tranquilatwist is an outfit Rochester, NY, only a hop, skip, and a jump from where I'm at. It's a delight to find a band in this neck of the woods doing something different as most Upstate NY bands seem to be fairly conventional. Tranquilatwist is a female-fronted gothy-dark trip-hoppy group'¦think sort of Portishead, Hungry Lucy, Collide, Tapping the Vein, and the short lived Violet Indiana. Yet, Tranquilatwist seems to take some of the best elements of this style and fuse them together. The main reason it really shines is due to the amazingly emotive and soulful vocals of Karlie Cary Lanni. In some places she's as smooth and placid as Sarah McLachlan and others as over-the-top as Siouxsie Sioux. (It doesn't hurt either that she looks the gothic chanteuse.)The other two band members, Anthony Lanni and David Michael provide a solid and varied musical backdrop for the moody songs on this debut outing.

'Down About the Ceiling' is 8 tracks (well, seven really since one is only a 46 second interlude) that falls somewhere between an EP and a full album. Overall, there is a dark and melancholy tone to this collection of tunes; more moody than depressing. Sometimes Lanni's vocals are bluesy, perhaps in a simlar vein to Beth Gibbons, but less fragile. The musical arrangements are spot-on for the material- a good blend of guitar, keyboard and electronic work, bass and rhythm tracks; inventive and ominous enough but never overwhelming. The perfect foil for Karlie's vocals. The songwriting is solid too. (I occasionally hear shades of Kate Bush.) There really isn't a bad track on the CD, although some may grab you more than others. Perhaps the most commercially accessible tune is 'Grounded,' but if I had to pick a favorite, it would probably be 'Charade' for its gut-wrenching drama. I even like the artwork on the CD ' cutesy surrealist goth courtesy of Abril Andrade Griffith. And the CD itself looks like a little black vinyl record. (You can find it at their website, CD Baby, iTunes or Amazon.)

This is very worthy debut effort from Tranquilatwist, and you're sure to hear more about them in the future, most certainly if and when they tour. In the future I'd like to here them stretch their musical boundaries even further afield. But who knows what the future has in store'¦
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Artist: High Watt Electrocutions (@)
Title: The Bermuda Triangle
Format: CD
Label: self-released
Distributor: Introspection Records
Rated: *****
High Watt Electrocutions is a Canadian band spearheaded by Ryan Electrocution and they've been around for some time. Some of there previous stuff falls into the category of 'Stoner Rock,' heavy psychedelic fuzz-guitar oriented stuff, but 'The Bermuda Triangle' is quite different. Here, HWE are a lot more laid back, and while guitar dominates (both acoustic and electric), there are also some other elements- keyboards, and (programmed?) drums but used sparsely. The whole album (a little over 38 minutes on a single track) is primarily comprised of guitar motifs, chord progressions that are repeated quite a bit, although they change in different sections. Often the guitars are effected (phased, flanged, reverbed, tremolo, mild distortion to psych-fuzz, backwards, etc) which are nice touches but I still felt a certain ambivalence about what I was hearing.

To be perfectly honest, my initial review, which I trashed, also trashed this album as a cliché-ridden empty hull of a vessel sailing the sea of prog-rock cheese. The only 'Bermuda Triangle' I envisioned was the black hole it might disappear into in its cruise to oblivion. I imagined Spinal Tap's David St. Hubbins putting out a solo album called 'Songs with No Words.' 'No man, it's not an instrumental album,' I could hear him saying in an interview. "It's an album of songs'¦ with no lyrics. That way the listener can fill in their own.' And in this sense, the album actually works.

Shoegazer, Pink Floyd and some other progressive rock influences can obviously be heard in the style. The majority of it is fairly simplistic in form, almost minimal in a way. There is lots of atmosphere, but not much depth. One theme flows into another, and they sound like usable ideas that could have morphed into actual songs. I suppose it could be called 'New Impressionism' in its purest sense, where the familiar meets the oblique. I find it unusual that I kept coming back to listen to it again and again and each time find myself enjoying it more. I think it makes good background music, unobtrusive but enjoyable ambience. It would probably be excellent at a laid back party when the bong was being passed around.

So my initial impression of this work has changed quite a bit over time. This album tends to grow on you, and you pay less attention to the structure of the individual components than the overall mood and ambience. One caveat- if you don't like Pink Floyd type prog 'rock (especially something like 'The Narrow Way' on 'Umma Gumma'), you're probably not going to like this. Yet, 'The Bermuda Triangle' might have appeal for those that aren't looking for anything too defined.
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Artist: VV.AA.
Title: Music For Personality Disorder
Format: CD
Label: Beta-lactam Ring Records (@)
Distributor: Beta-lactam Ring Records
Rated: *****
Beta-lactam Ring's Summer/Fall 2010 Sampler of 16 tracks by twelve different artists, is quite an eclectic potpourri. First up ' Sand Snowman's 'Hemlock Garden' from their 'Nostalgia Ever After' album. Gentle, pleasantly harmonious vocals over acoustic guitar and a progressive rhythm section. Nice atmospheric changes with some adventurous instrumentation. Think Brit psych-folk, along the line of the Art Bears or Henry Cow but somewhat more restrained. Pepe Wismeer's 'A Lie in Heckless' from 'Between Sheep and Pigs' is a Pink Dots-esque ballad steeped in the ambience of the dark faerie wood. Aidan Baker's 'Feed Me Your Kiss' from 'Songs Of Flowers & Skin' just didn't grab me. Nice whispery vocals but the song's chord progression was far too repetitive and monotonous and much too bassy in the mix. Maybe his other stuff is better.

Moving on, we have Earthmonkey's 'New Cheese' off of 'Alms of Morpheus'. This is a reworking of the Mothers of Invention's 'Duke of Prunes' from their 'Absolutely Free' album. It's as if the Boards of Canada were covering the song on ludes. If Zappa were still around he'd probably approve (of the song, not the ludes) as long as he got his royalty check. Speaking of Pink Dots as I mentioned in a comparison in the previous paragraph, here's Edward Ka-Spel's 'The Beast With Six Fingers'(edit) from his 'The Minus Touch' album. Typical Ka-Spel, and nobody does it better. I love the line in the song, 'So jerks like me can rant and rave, and call it art.' You tell 'em Eddie! Any LPD fan will undoubtedly already have this album.

Sand Snowman are back with 'Wide Awake' from their 'Seekers Hide & Seek' album. More mildly adventurous stuff in the same vein as the song that led off this album but with some added piano. Perhaps just a wee bit more avant-jazz-rock, and although not a bad track, I liked their first one better. Pepe Wismeer returns with Devilame,' (edit) again from 'Between Sheep and Pigs.' Again it's Dots influenced with stabs of industrial. Ka-Spel returns too with 'Lines' (edit) from his latest, 'Chyekk, China Doll' with some help from Steve Stapleton and Patrick Wright. Since Brian Eno isn't making good albums anymore (don't get me started) this will fill the void. I want this album, and you should too. Last of the reprises is Earthmonkey with 'Ahmet Another,' an unreleased track from 'Alms of Morpheus.' It's a piece of psychedelic garbage that should stay that way; unreleased.

Seven That Spells offers 'Terminus Est' from their 'Future Retro Spasm' album. Imagine latter day King Crimson, Gong, and John Zorn thrown in a blender and set to puree. Totally chaotic and dissonant. Fans of obscure outfits like Amalgam should love this. Ilitch presents 'La Quantique des Cantiques' from 'La Maieutique de la Quantique.' Psych-stoner guitar and drums with electronic washes and analog synth effluvia...that's about it here. No song structure, just improvisation. Nadja contributes 'Skywriting' (edit) from the 'Transmit Acoustique Abstraction One' album. The piece is somewhat ambient guitar drone electronics; sort of reminds me of Frippertonics. Subdued drums are introduced in the latter third of the track here. There was sort of a muffled quality about it that made it sound rather lo-fi. Expo '70's 'The Gathering' from 'Sonic Messenger' could have fit right in with the previous track. More experimental droning and electronics. Best thing about it is that is was brief.

Anyone really familiar with the Legendary Pink Dots knows The Silverman (Phil Knight), and he presents an excerpt from his 'Time On Thin Ice' album with 'This Side of the Door' (edit). It's dark atmospherics with a gloomy monologue by Ka-Spel. Sounds like he's trapped in a sinister asylum. Very eerie. Tecumseh contribute 'Apophis' (edit) from 'Return to Everything,' another slow-moving droney guitar-driven piece. It's really pretty boring with little variation. And last we have Else Teicher with 'Near Dead Pachycephalosaurid on I-75' (edit) from her 'Whored' album. This is experimental electronic drone of a different sort. I found it kind of annoying. So did my wife, who told me to 'TURN THAT $#!+ off !!!' so I did.

Overall, this comp has a lot of merit even though there are things I didn't like on it. The fact that BLR's giving it away for a penny should make you want to grab a copy before it disappears. And with the money you save on this, you should probably buy something else from them while you're at it.
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Artist: Sadiztik Injektion (@)
Title: Global Genocide
Format: CD
Label: Advoxya Records (@)
Distributor: Poponaut
Rated: *****
Turkey hasn't been so far that place, where to hunt for the freshest, international operating Electro/Industrial artists, although this one-man project, established by Samet Ozgur, can already look back on some years into the Harsh EBM genre. Samet made his most well-known compilation appearance on 'Noise Terror Vol. 2' so far, released by Dependent in collaboration with their side-label NTP, which got founded by Johan van Roy of SUICIDE COMMANDO. So at some point, Johan has been responsible to introduce Samet to a wider audience. 'Global Genocide' in its kind, and in its cover art, is simply that kind of an album, you would have expected: a highly danceable work featuring a straight 4/4-on-the-floor-attitude, rough and distorted vocals with lyrics proclaiming another end-of-mankind-drama, cool sounding scream- and cyber-war-like samples, and Techno-/Industrial-inspired synth sequences and bass lines. So far so good, I can certificate Samet a good talent to service the right drug for all dancefloor junkies out there in the international based dark clubs. Tracks like 'Mechanical World's Chaos', 'Realize The Suicide', or 'Cyber Terror' are hot enough produced, to cause an ultimate stomp-feast. But what 'Global Genocide' definitely misses, is an own and unique outfit, a problem, which most releases nowadays are suffering of. Samet falls a bit too often into repetition of his chosen sounds and rhythm elements, and he also doesn't allow one or another of his tunes to break with its straight and harsh attitudes. A bit more courage to try something different, something, what could add more personality into his tunes would help. A good addition for all the still hungry distortion-kidz for sure, but in no way stuff to discover, if you're longing for a more demanding experience under a pair of headphones for example.


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Artist: Black Hole Nine (@)
Title: V. 2.0
Format: 2 x CD (double CD)
Label: Mutant-Tek Records (@)
Distributor: Disconexus
Rated: *****
Congratulations, the relatively small Spanish label Mutant-E, here in form of their newly established side-label Mutant-Tek, could arrange the deal with this Venezuelan Harsh-EBM talent, which has left impression by an international audience with their freely available last album 'Velocidad de Escape'. In between, and only a few months ago, this band has additionally released a 4-track-EP 'Rebirth & Remixed V. 1', with which the band has picked out 4 tracks of 'Velocidad...' to re-vamp them a bit with a more dancefloor-oriented sound design. To set all of this a crown on the head of the responsible musicians, this simply entitled new album 'V. 2.0' puts an end to the previous recognized phase of this band. Unfortunately this band currently suffers a bit of some problematic conditions, because it seems, that Siva Black, the leading protagonist behind this project, had to move and has left Columbia to settle down in Mexico. Not a problem normally, but it seems, that the band formation itself consists out of thin ice, because the new audio part 'V. 2.0' got completely produced and recorded by Siva Black alone. That is really a pity and alters the quite good impression, which the predecessor has left, because it has been some of the good inserts of the second official band member Kaiper, who could integrate vocals and some Black-Metal-like guitar assaults, which have been synonyms for a relative unique outfit of this band. The new tracks, especially those stomping tunes like 'Shoot It In The Head', or 'Cheap Shepherd', are convincing in its typical Hellectro-/Harsh EBM-environment, but they lack of this tiny influence, which Kaiper normally would add. And vocals, no matter, how much distorted and fx-processed like a cookie monster they may sound, are still the most important instrument in a mix, 'V. 2.0' completely avoids this essential element. Too bad, because to offer only instrumental versions leaves an unready impression of this album, so let's hope, that they can decide to collaborate as a complete unit again. This DCD set compiles all three releases of this band to an important collectable-item, also and because if you don't like to hunt for their free downloads available at their web resources.

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