Music Reviews



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Artist: Neunau
Title: Il Ciclo Del Vuoto
Format: LP
Label: Boring Machines
Neunau’s “Concrete” work in 2016 and 2017 was based on sound research of a form of industrial archaeology, recording the sounds of a traditional ironworks that still involved hand working and old sledgehammers. This work was released as an album, and in turn was performed live inside a disused thermoelectric power plant, and a recording of that performance is also available already.

In effect this LP is a ‘remix album’, of sorts, because it uses those original sound recordings and reworks them, recycling them (in deference to the work’s title) into a collection of mostly fairly minimal rhythmic electronica pieces that rub against the borders of other loose genre definitions as well- sometimes experimental, sometimes techno, sometimes ambient.

Highlights include “Movimento I”, which begins as a fairly conventional sounding broken-kick-pattern electronica workout, much like the attitude-laden title track, but which unfolds into more energetic and playful (and at times quite squeaky) territory.

“Anomalia” is more drone-based, a fairly familiar-sounding sonic wash and melodic hum derived from processing and softening industrial sounds into harmonies, that serves as a form of interlude, but there are also grittier moments, including the aforementioned title track, and the impulse rhythms of “Nel Vuoto”. The especially brutal distorted subbass of “Rullo Trasportatore” feels like it’s only one breakbeat short of being the best track on the next Prodigy album, and it partners well with the slightly milder “Nastro Trasportatore” to form an intriguing little self-contained journey.

It’s a very nicely presented limited-edition LP, with hand-printed typography that makes each LP’s artwork fractionally unique. Even when detached from its thickly laden context, it definitely still works as one of the more intriguing and characterful pieces of electronica I’ve heard recently.
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Artist: Kiwi
Title: You Want Her Too / Peeling Oranges
Format: 12" vinyl + Download
Label: Paradise Palms
Alex “Kiwi” Warren’s first contribution to Paradise Palms’ 7” series somehow squeezes a couple of 12”-length DJ-friendly house tracks onto a smaller piece of vinyl.

“You Want Her Too” uses the classic sound and structure of Chicago House, complete with piano and husky repeated vocal refrain, but slowed down to 105bpm for a more sultry and jazzy groove.

At around 120bpm, “Peeling Oranges” is more upbeat, built around a slightly Moroder-ish rolling synth bass groove with a slightly quirky synth-flute melody dancing over the top, again in quite jazzy fashion. The long drop-out of the bass synth extends the mellowness, then plonks back in to satisfying effect.

It’s a nice warm pair of grooves that’s old-fashioned dance music, in a good way, and should do well at infusing a sense of foot-tapping peace and satisfaction on sophisticated dancefloors.
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Artist: Nikos Stavropoulos
Title: Micro-lieux
Format: CD + Download
Label: empreintes DIGITALes
There’s a strongly academic approach at work in UK-based Nikos Stavropoulos’ first album (perhaps unsurprisingly for someone with a Doctor title). It’s a compilation of eight works dated between 2003 and 2017, each typically between seven and eleven minutes long and each accompanied by their own independent explanatory paragraph that describes or justifies it with reference first to its title, then by the musical process by which it was reached.

Despite being a compilation spanning works over more than a decade though, this still holds together with the consistency of an artist album, because of a relatively singular and persistent approach. Predominantly, this is electroacoustic music with quite a bubbly nature, transposing biological data and rapid but arhythmic organic noises into fragile-sounding synthetic tones. It’s frequently scratchy, but interspersed with occasional thicker and wetter bass noises and rumbling percussive grumbles that add an unpredictable drama. The result is both atmospheric and alien, with a generally intimate, sometimes almost claustrophobic tone.

Pieces like “Ballistichory”, despite being inspired by seed dispersal, sound organically alive in a way that is unlikely to appeal to anyone with phobias of crawling insects, sounding as it does like angry ant colonies microphoned up while they strategise and attack. Other works like “Nyctinasty” and “Granatum” are drawn from very similar source remedies but are a little mellower, despite still being rapid- like a sonic interpretation of what vegetables would sound like if they could tweet like songbirds.

“Granicus” stands out as an exception, by drawing from ancient-sounding Eastern European and Asian dance rhythms that are contrasted and contradicted against themselves to some degree, but which for the most part hang together as a dramatic piece worthy of a dusty, desert-based, before-the-battle-tension scene for a non-existent movie.

There’s something a little over-familiar about the release as a whole- the combination of wet and bubbly organic grain noises feel a little like an electroacoustic staple and it doesn’t feel like any new ground has been identified with it here. To its credit though it is a polished and accessible example of it, with accompanying texts that serve well as an introductory process for new or sceptical listeners.
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Artist: Western Edges (@)
Title: Prowess
Format: CD + Download
Label: Sound In Silence Records (@)
Rated: *****
It seems as though many of the artists who find their way to the Sound in Silence label have had their fingers in other musical pies, and such is the case with Western Edges. You may know its architect, Richard Adams from his Leeds, UK, experimental post-rock band Hood, or his Yorkshire, UK slowcore/shoegaze/semi-ambient outfit, The Declining Winter. (Mr. Adams has been involved in a number of other projects as well, but rather than get too far afield, you can investigate them on your own.) Me, I've never heard any of it previously, but I found some tracks to listen to just to get a sense of what he was doing- lots of DIY non-mainstream eclecticism, not all of it wonderful but flashes of brilliance here and there. While Western Prowess may be closer to The Declining Winter in tone and temperament than Hood, they really sound nothing alike. Western Edges is completely instrumental electronic/ambient. The approach here is minimal, in set pieces that vary little over time, but are different from track-to-track. The first, "You Look So Beautiful From Up Here" is reminiscent of early Tangerine Dream at its most ambient with no rhythmic sequencing. It's a bit stark but not unpleasant. "Suddenly: A Dream" uses two slow moving organish chords with some echo and a bit of semi-abstract melody. Innocuous but nice. "Western Edges" is bleak drone with some pitch changes. "Solid Gold Soul" has a rhythm track to it and is reminiscent of some of the ambient stuff you'd hear on the San Francisco based Silent Records label. "You're Going To Miss Me My Love" is a contrast in lows and highs with a low bass line and higher lead line playing the same minimal melody while another synth enters to fill in some gaps in the counterpart. "All Downhill From Here" is shimmery echoey and repetitive in it's less than two minute existence. Big sky pads and some eventual rhythm graces "Very Good On The Rushes" which adds synths as it goes along. "Absence" is the longest track on the album at 7:11, and perhaps the most intriguing as it unfolds and evolves, eventually incorporating a minimal beat buried deep in the background. When the bass comes in you're almost expecting it to turn into something much grander, but it just hangs in the air like a ghost. While simplicity can be beautiful, and there is no doubt that 'Prowess" is a simple affair, the scant 27 minutes in total of this work makes it seem more like a sampler platter than a full-course feast. Yet, it has its charm and pleasantry which adds to the replay factor. As usual with Sound in Silence releases, limited numbered edition (300), in a custom cardstock sleeve with photo front, and download code included.
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Artist: Nexus (@)
Title: The Taint
Format: CD + Download
Label: Agoge Records (@)
Rated: *****
Here's another band from the Italian Agoge Records label called Nexus, and this time they really are gothic rock, well, sort of a goth-metal hybrid. Formed in late 2009 by vocalist/guitarist/composer Vlad Voicu and bassist Tony Di Marzio, they added keyboardist Lorenzo "Il Diverso" Mastracci a short time later and put out an EP called 'Death of Art' in 2013. So 'The Taint' is Nexus's first full album, augmented by live guitarist Diego Aureli and drummer Daniele DiGasbarro. One listen to 'The Taint' and you can tell this is a young band still finding their footing as they go, with some moments of awkwardness in song arrangements, and lacking in sonic variety to a degree. Still, you can also tell the band has potential, and an affinity for the darker side, which is requisite if you're going to call yourself gothic. Melodically the band harkens back to some of the goth-tropes of the '90s but doesn't wallow in the overwrought melodrama that could often be symptomatic of bands of that era. As a vocalist Vlad is pretty good when in melodic mode, but the few times he tries to "gruff it up" (for the harsher side of goth-metal) it doesn't quite cut it. His voice is a bit different than what you might be used to in goth-industrial music, but in this case, that's actually a good thing and works to the band’s advantage. Guitars are full industrial strength, but the keys/synths, although nearly omni-present, seem to rely too much on certain similar (melody) sounds throughout. I'm guessing this may be remedied by their next outing. Most of the songs are catchy enough, but you still get the feeling than in time, this band can do better. They seem to have the ability to create the perfect hit single, and even an epic track, but not on this album. The atmospherics just aren't in place yet, and the album seems to have a "live in the studio" sound that leans more towards ‘demo’ than full-blown production. Still, Nexus is worth a listen, especially since good new goth bands that don't sound like generic alternative ones are hard to come by these days.
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