Music Reviews



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Artist: Heather Leigh
Title: Throne
Format: CD & Vinyl
Label: Editions Mego
“Throne” is an unusual and very personal blend of ingredients from Heather Leigh, that bakes together into a curious and very introspective sort-of-downtempo-indie-pop.

The most prominent element is her voice, sometimes working through nearly-conventional Americana ballads, at other points meandering more freely across beat poetry and individual floating ideas. Vocally it’s really quite Kate Bush-esque, but without slightly less dynamism and faintly more huskiness.

Underneath that sits Leigh’s own pedal steel performance, the sound of which remains loosely wedded to the Americana stereotype it’s associated with, but which thanks to delicate production manages to escape those shackles and sound fresh as a melodic and sometimes even drone element. It works well with some very distorted violin work from John Hannon and some quite straight underpinning electric bass from David Keenan to create a set-up that on a technicality might qualify as country music, but which has a totally different attitude at heart.

Highlights include the surprisingly catchy twang of “Days Without You”, and the folksier, almost FLK-like tones of “Scorpio And Androzani” (which surely can’t be a Doctor Who reference?). Opener “Prelude To Goddess” is a good way to get a strong impression of the album’s stall in four minutes.

To be critical, it’s a little short of variety across its 42-minute running time. Six quite languid songs, some four minutes long but with “Gold Teeth” almost hitting seventeen minutes, all share quite a similar melancholic approach that never feels like it’s evolving or even progressing. This is music for lying still and wallowing, for when you’re not in the mood for surprises.

Nicely unusual, husky and pleasantly indulgent, it’s an unusual little album that defies categorisation.
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Artist: Koray Kantarcioğlu
Title: Loopworks
Format: 12" vinyl + Download
Label: Discrepant
Kantarciolu refers to his process of treating samples from 1960s and 1970s Turkish records “databending”, and while that term maybe lacks precision, his approach is certainly substantially different to the mainstream sampling techniques of dance music and electronica. While there are loops here, there’s only the briefest shades of rhythm- everything else is delay- and effect-washed atmospherics that flows in waves, back and forth, sombre and thoughtful.

Prosaic titles like “Percussions A-1100” more suited to a sample library misrepresent the quite expansive, multi-layered tones and flavours on display. The plucky melody on tracks like “AC RU 29 Part 2” (a highlight) are reminiscent of Sasha’s forays into more ambient areas, while “Part 3” of the above is a firmly deep-space soundtrack piece. “Organ Extract KP 001” is, sure enough, based around an organ, but so thoroughly pulled and reworked into drone territory that it’s a solid understatement.

The final tracks on each side of the LP are both notable exceptions to the above, more overtly and almost tongue-in-cheek mangling old lounge groove into short afterthought pieces that borders on silly, as though intended as explanations of the audio trickery which so thoroughly disguised the rest of the sound sources.

Originally issued as a limited edition cassette two years ago, I’m glad “Loopworks” is getting a ‘proper’ outing on LP and download, as it’s an intriguing experimental work with a distinctive character and a surprising amount of charm too.
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Artist: Atrium Carceri
Title: Codex
Format: CD
Label: Cryo Chamber (@)
Rated: *****
After three years in the making Simon Heath returns with a new release where he shows his well known vision of dark ambient. This album is present with the usual synopsis, this time about prayer for the Demiurge to return so someone could return to Elysium. This is an hint that the core of this release if far more optimistic, and with a brighter sound, than the average of the genre.
As the first track, "The Void", starts the listener is immersed in a form of dark ambient where the compositional focus is, along with the usual elements of the genre, a fistful of small sounds which create an illusion of a real environment; after the quiet piano chords which close the track, "From Chasms Reborn" reveals how the use of effects gives the sense that the music is recorded in a specific place e.g., the piano chords have a reverb as it was in a distant place. After a static beginning, "The Seer" evolves in a noisy way, "A Memory Lost" is a languid pianistic interlude to "The Empty Chapel" where the detail of the background sounds takes the attention instead of the drone in the foreground. "Path of Fallen Gods" starts quietly with a bass drone which evolves in frequencies with foley adding movement until a final, and sparse, drone closes a really good track. "The Ancient City" continues in this sound path while "Sacrifice to the Machine" features an industrial beat to have a variation. "The Maze" is the most static, but spatial, track of this release while "A Hunger too Deep" is centered upon an almost romantic piano instead of a drone. "The Citadel" closes this release summarizing all the elements of the album.
Technically it's an impressive release from a veteran of the genre which shows its distance from a scene based upon a form replied in an almost dull mode. From a writing perspective, most fans will rate it among the albums of the year. Excellent.
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Artist: Katharina Ernst
Title: Extrametric
Format: 12" vinyl + Download
Label: Ventil Records
This is a drummer’s album- a revelry of rhythm and percussive sound, perfect time and attitude. It’s a compact 34-minute collection of dominant drumming, with a tribal and sometimes quite raw vibrancy but rounded off with judicious use of effects.

The seven tracks are numbered rather than named. The rumbling bass drone and gradual introduction of elements on the first track gives it the flavour of an EBM album intro, the time signature change just under three minutes in reminding me of Sub Focus, before the extra complexity blended with beefiness in the second track initially recalls the harder side of 90’s trip hop and late-era 808 State before heading off into much jazzier exercises.

As it progresses, it gets a bit more experimental and at times introspective. Track five is a more drone-based offering opening with long cymbal rolls and a gradually unfolding noise wall that eventually opens up into a sparse and continually arhythmic atmosphere, while track seven is a slow, faintly funky workout that loops back to trip-hop.

Never guilty of showing off, this is a skillful but restrained set of embellished drum works that finds that rare balance between being impressive and being really enjoyable.
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Artist: Polticical Ritual (@)
Title: s/t
Format: 12" vinyl + Download
Label: Ambiances Magnetiques (@)
Rated: *****
This was one heck of an album to track down the details for, which could have been solved simply by the inclusion of a one-sheet. If there was one it must have gotten lost en-route to me from Chain D.L.K. central, and just about everything about this album and its producers had to be sourced off the Internet. Have you ever tried Googling "Political Ritual" ? Just use your imagination as the results you'll get in this day and age. Fortunately, the artists, Félix-Antoine Morin & Maxime Corbeil-Perron, put their names on the album, but both being French-Canadian, much of the info about them and Political Ritual (the name of the project is also the album title) is in French. According to Morin and Corbeil-Perron, Political Ritual build their music in architectural and woven layers of harmony and polarity, arranging ethereal drone next to hard edged buzz or cinematic movements alongside pummeling beats. With live performance as their backdrop, Félix-Antoine Morin and Maxime Corbeil-Perron took to the studio in 2014 for their first album. Corbeil-Perron is a multidisciplinary artist who has created film and video work and interactive installations shown at international events and festivals, as well as making electro-acoustic and mixed-media music as Le Pélican Noir and solo – he also started a PhD at the Université de Montréal in fall 2015. A visual artist as well as an electro-acoustic composer, Morin works solo and collaborates with contemporary choreographers, videographers and several other musicians, finding inspiration for his poetic creations in the processual components of traditional and sacred music. Pushing the boundaries of abstraction, these expert improvisors in analog modular and digital synthesis incorporate invented wind instruments, traditional Balinese percussion, field recordings and digital signal processing into their compositions, intent on shaping a transcendent listening experience.

Okay, that's all well and good, but what does this album sound like? The album is comprised of two long pieces - "Ceremonie" (20:07) and "Projection cathodique" (21:35). While ambient in nature, this isn't a passive kind of ambient, but a very active, organic and highly charged sort of ambient. "Ceremonie" is full of crackling electronics and uneasy drones of indeterminate machinery. Over time it morphs into quasi-psychedelic Klaus Schulze territory before veering out into more experimental terrain. The oscillations employed are quite unsettling and throughout its droney demeanor, jarring events occur with some frequency in the background. Just when things seem to be humming along nicely the bottom drops out and the listener is transported to an alien construction site on some God-forsaken planet, replete with the distortion of heavy equipment until it grinds to a sudden halt.

"Projection cathodique" begins with a less forceful demeanor, the twinkling of crystalline high frequency particles over melodic sonorous low tones and held together with hollowish metallic drone substances. The latter sonority intensifies and echoes off in a feedback loop which morphs in myriad directions overtaking all other sonics present. There is a somewhat natural evolution to the unfolding of this piece that you just have to hear as any description fails to do it justice. Let's just say it gets pretty dense as sonic layers build on top of each other. By its conclusion there is a return to some of the elements that began this piece and so the cycle is complete.

To be perfectly honest, I didn't think a whole lot of the album on the first go-round, but after repeated plays the subtleties were revealed and the brilliance of the work became evident. That it was primarily released as a limited edition vinyl LP (500 copies, also available as a digital download) makes it an even more vital purchase.
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