Music Reviews



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Artist: Erkki Veltheim
Title: Ganzfeld Experiment
Format: 12" vinyl + Download
Label: Room40
“Ganzfeld Experiment” is a single 44-minute work, pitched as an audiovisual work for electric violin, video and signal processing, but it is being released as an LP and I’ve only been sent the audio, so I am reviewing it on its sonic merits only.

Finnish-born, Australia-based Veltheim is a violinist, in a word, but he describes his practice as spanning “noise, audiovisual installation, improvisation, notated music, electroacoustic
composition and multidisciplinary performance”- and it’s the latter rather than the former we get here. Violin tones are barely recognisable as the source, especially at the beginning of the work, as they have been bathed and deconstructed by processing, pulsing and transformation into something decidedly more electronic in texture.

Instead the result is more akin to a crisp, lo-fi proto techno, with gradual speed and amplitude changes applied to gated and harsh metallic tones for something that’s a little sandpapery and a little dark sci-fi. Tone shifts draw out a form of melody that has the appearance, superficially at least, of randomness. Around fifteen minutes in arpeggios begin to form, followed by more distinct melodic pattern loops, offering a more overt compositional structure without really changing the sonic make-up. The natural progression for the melody is into frantic chaos, which duly follows, but by the final stretch of the listen, steadiness and flatter drones have been reestablished, giving a sense of coming full circle.

A couple of times, the pulsing fades away so thoroughly that it becomes inaudible, leaving behind nothing but crisp flavoured noise with echoes of rhythm in it- and it’s this level of variation that keeps enough listener interest to make it appealing, and the cyclical structure adds to that somewhat. Harsh for certain tastes, and perhaps lacking in variety for others, I’d still regard this as a strong bit of work in the rare field of violin-meets-noise.
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Artist: Aidan Casserly
Title: Black Eyes
Format: Download Only (MP3 + Lossless)
Label: House Of Analogue
Rated: *****
Aidan Casserly is always on the move and just after releasing his newest album as Empire State Human, he's already releasing a mini album of Dead Or Alive re-interpretations. For "Black Eyeas", he picked up five songs, all coming from albums and not as famous as other ones released as singles and re-imagined them acustically. Three out of five ("Then There Was You", "Special Star" and "Come Inside") are coming from "Mad, Bad And Dangerous To Know". The original ones have an Euro pop flavor (even more commercial than their most successfull album "Youthquake"), with a bit of orchestration while Aidan versions strip them to the bone and slow them down. Piano, sax, a bit of strings and an intimate atmosphere give to them a new light. "Far Too Hard", from their first album "Sophisticated Boom Boom" already had an orchestral opening and a bit of French dramatic touch, so it was just ready for such treatment. Aidan pushed harder the "drama" pedal and gave a really nice performance (maybe the best of the lot). "My Forbidden Lover" was the closing track of the 1989 album "Nude" and was a dance pop track and in the new version is sounding heartbreaking and with a nice distorted guitar on the backgroud that help building the atmosphere. Nice EP not only for Dead Or Alive fans.
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Artist: Bushman's Revenge
Title: Et Hån Mot Overklassen
Format: 2 x 12" vinyl
Label: Hubro
In attempting to represent “A Mocking Overclass” or “A Mockery Of The Upper Class” (two alternative translations which in a way mean quite different things), Norwegian multi-instrumentalist trio Bushman’s Revenge offer up a broad palette of instrumental music that spans prog rock, experimental jazz, and to a slightly lesser extent, contemporary experimental and electronics as well. It comprises ten quite distinct pieces, that showcase the trio in more conventional drums-bass-guitar arrangements but also leave room for plenty of the more esoteric noises and found sounds- and even the odd dash of Wurlitzer.

Of the above labels, prog rock is the closest fit. Tracks like “Happy Hour For Mr. Sanders” are energetic prog to the core, it oozes the indulgences of the 1970’s in both its virtuosity and its skittish groove, while “A Bottle A Day keeps The Wolves At Bay” is a prime example of the more tripped-out and meandering swagger of the genre. “Toten” could stand its ground if squeezed onto a Pink Floyd or King Crimson album, “Hei Hei Martin Skei” ticks the obligatory ‘very long track’ boxes at 14 minutes of relaxed melodic and more jazzy noodling, while “Greetings To Gisle” brings the drums to the fore initially before, two minutes in, breaking out into a very coherent funk groove.

A greater breadth is on show though in tracks like “The Curious Case Of The Resting Blue Steel Face”, a rhythmless ambient drone layering that’s more relaxed yet also more than a little bit sinister. Despite its title “Ladies Night At The Jazz Fusion Disco” is similar too, not even remotely disco and only jazz in the most extremely broad sense, but with sitar-like drone noises that give a more Eastern-sounding flavour.

At times the anti-upper class theme is hard to spot, but- perhaps unintentionally- opening track “Sly Love With A Midnight Creeper” does sound like lift music from a very posh hotel, but with seedy undertones.

It’s another strong and fresh-sounding update of arguably old genres from the reliable Hubro label, and while I don’t think the upper class will be trembling in their boots or sobbing into their champagne as a consequence, it can still be considered a musical success.
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Artist: Ensemble Neon
Title: Niblock/Lamb
Format: CD + Download
Label: Hubro
“Niblock/Lamb” is the rather prosaic name for Ensemble Neon’s performance of “To Two Tea Roses” by Phill Niblock and “Parallaxis Forms” by Catherine Lamb. The two twenty-something-ish-minute ensemble drone pieces, both composed within the last decade, make excellent companions, displaying patterns of similarities and contrasts that make it a rewarding two-chapter listening experience.

“To Two Tea Roses” is relentlessly steady, a plateau magically generated from a large number of ebbing and flowing parts that manage to almost cancel one another out indefinitely, with no beginning or end yet somehow the feeling of progression that you can’t put your finger on, a progression that manages to prevent something so flat from being tiring.

“Parallaxis Forms” has the same broad timbre, but is far emptier. Individual drawn-out elements, most strikingly vocal sounds but also strings, suddenly find themselves in solo or very thinly layered environments where their separate textures can be more easily discerned. Melodic change is introduced, deliberate beginnings and ends of pitched notes with such length and sustain that the performance requires both athleticism and finesse, which Ensemble Neon clearly have in abundance. Calming, bordering on romantic, it feels like quite an indulgent experience.

A beautiful and intriguing pair of supremely slow works with a velvet touch.
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Artist: HIN (@)
Title: Warmer Weather (EP)
Format: CD + Download
Label: Sound In Silence Records (@)
Rated: *****
Once again we delve into another offering from the small custom label, Sound in Silence Records, and a new project called HIN, which is comprised of London UK based artist Jerome Alexander (his main project being the ambient/folktronica Message To Bears) and transatlantic partner from Los Angeles, Justin Lee Radford (his current project being The Kids And The Cosmos). Jerome has had several previous releases both under his MTB moniker and his own name, while Justin has cultivated extensive collaborations with film makers, environmentalists, astronauts, activists, scientists and social activists, composing music for films, VR, commercials, art installations, and theatre. Apparently these two were school chums back in the day, and likely social media renewed their acquaintance.

'Warmer Weather' consists of five tracks between 2:24 and 5:48 in length and clocking in at about 20 minutes. When it comes right down to it, the SIS one-sheet provides a better description of the music on 'Warmer Weather' than what I could have dreamed up- "HIN's debut deals with feelings of isolation, environmentalism and friendship, and is a perfect mix of dreamy electronica, elegant dream pop and soothing ambient. Utilizing wistful guitars, warm pads, hazy synths, enchanting electric piano melodies, deep bass lines, gentle male and childlike female vocals, intricate beats and glitchy electronics, HIN create an EP full of emotive textures and sublime soundscapes." Yep, that pretty much sums it up. The music is very engaging in such an innocent, naive way, with no agenda or attempt to pull you in a particular direction. It's a pop-ambient hybrid that succumbs to neither convention nor experimentalism. Perfect but not flawless, sweet without being saccharine, ambitious but not epic, and esoteric yet accessible, this is the way 'Warmer Weather' comes across. If I had to describe it succinctly though, I'd call it mini-marvelous. For that certain void in your listening experience when it seems like nothing in particular will do, try 'Warmer Weather'. I think it will hit the spot. As usual with Sound in Silence releases, this is a limited (to 300), numbered edition in a hand-stamped cardboard envelope with a color image printed on polaroid style photo paper. (Also give you a download code.) Otherwise available as a digital download.
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