Music Reviews



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Artist: Jeremy Keenan (@)
Title: Scripts
Format: Download Only (MP3 + Lossless)
Label: Forwind Press (@)
Rated: *****
While he's a relatively (un)known sound artist, this is the first audio release I heard of by Jeremy Keenan. Most of his output is an exploration and an actualization of the processes used by the avant-garde of the '60s, so his focus in on generative music process and the properties of sound rather than on melody and harmony. To fully appreciate this release it's quite recommended a proper setting e.g., headphone and the concern that a listener should place his attention on sound movements in timbre rather than pitch.
The short drones that open "Scripts" introduce the listener into an apparently static sound field, even if the three parts of the track are sharply delimited, which exposes his form when the listener is aware of the movements either in frequency than in space. "Intone" continues on the same path but with a process of addition and subtraction of the layers of well defined frequencies of the drones. As the elements of "Zapffe" enter and exit from the listener's perception, there's a sense of writing along with the construction of the timbres and this is further confirmed by "We Were Supposed to Drown" which is completely focused upon a single drone which is slightly but continuously modified to escape even the smallest moment of stasis.
This release with his impressive movement to be based mainly on drones is a sure pick for all fans of ambient music and with his wise choice of concision (it lasts only 29 minutes) it could be appreciated also by the casual listener of the genre. Recommended.
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Artist: Sontag Shogun and Moskitoo (@)
Title: The Things We Let Fall Apart / The Thunderswan
Format: 7"
Label: Home Normal (@)
Rated: *****
Some storyteller would say that this brief sonic tidbit on Home Normal - Ian Hawgood, its label manager, announced this will be the last release of 2017 - could be made of the same substance that dreams are made of, or I'd better say of the substance of fairytales. It's somehow true, as the two outputs on the tracks of this vynil could be matched to fabulous parallel worlds, due to the musical outfit that New York-based trio Sontag Shogun sewed for the enchanting voice by sound designer and vocalist Sanae Yamasaki, better known as Moskitoo (check her outouts on 12k to focus her style better): Ian Temple's delicate piano melodies, the amazedly guessed electronic entities forged and grasped by Jesse Perlstein (he's also the background voice you can hear in "The Thunderswan") and Jeremy Young, who also added some drops of squeezed oscillators in this balm for listeners' dreams. According to Jeremy's introduction, the idea behind these two tracks blossomed after Sontag Shogun tour with minamo, where they met Moskitoo. The band already appreciated Moskitoo's music, but they tried to give a sort of 'live' touch and put her evocative music out of glitchy and digitally marked sonic webs by drying Sontag's music to highlight the "soft, whispering voice" of the Japanese singer. "The Things We Let Fall Apart" mirrors this process, as they removed "a glitching beat created from chopped grain synthesized bits of radio static" of the initial version of the track. The shape of the sound in the mentioned "The Thunderswan" is similar, but there's a sort of fairytale as a framework for the track. Here it is the explanation of the story by Jeremy: "this piece is about a girl who doesn't belong in the town she's from. She wanders through tall reeds at night to a dark lake where she finds families of ducks and geese. She knows she doesn't belong here either, but they take her in, give her swan's wings, and teach her to fly. Eventually one night, she takes flight and leaves the lake, soaring over it, over the lights of the town, looking down on these places that mean nothing to her, and she gets stuck in a thunderstorm. She battles through some rains and wind, and decides to elevate herself to above the clouds, she breaks through the thick clouds, following the ever-brightening glow of the moon to find clear night skies. Below her are the tops of clouds, above her only stars, she's more alone here and now than she's ever been and starts to doubt that she'll ever find her true home. Just then, in an instant, from behind her and circling all around her, come 200 other boys and girls, flapping their giant swan's wings and gliding through the night air together. She's made it. She's home at last.". They's Home (Normal) at last.
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Artist: Ueno Takashi
Title: Smoke Under The Water
Format: CD + Download
Label: Room40
In seven numbered-but-not-named pieces, guitarist Ueno Takashi offers up a series of lengthy rapid-picked layered guitar pieces that breathe at length into an almost hypnotic but very very odd dream. Imagine if Philip Glass was a virtuoso Mike Oldfield-esque guitarist on a sugar rush going completely solo trying to score a suspense-driven horror movie, and you’re in the right area.

The longest track, opener “One”, feels as much maths as it does art, a fifteen minute exploration of different discordant arpeggiations that step almost systematically between pleasant melody and more devilled intervals. “Two” is similarly paced but with much milder plucking and less discomfort, before “Three” twists us back into a slower, more drunken wig-out environment, “Four” continuing that theme but with a darker rumbling ambience.

“Five” is like the most sinister music box lullaby pattern you’ve ever heard, and things just get weirder and weirder in “Six” which adds a relentless electronic hum and almost daft wobbly squeaks. By the time of “Seven”, which doesn’t do anything I haven’t already described, there is a slight sense of going-through-the-motions by the end.

It’s a bizarre hour-long head-bender of a listen, not short of character but certainly a bit of a struggle for all but the most dedicated of listener. Modern-day out-there, even by ChainDLK standards.
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Artist: Fallen (@)
Title: No Love is Sorrow
Format: CD
Label: AOsmosis (@)
A rather sombre follow-up to the dreamy-wistful Secrets of the Moon, No Love Is Sorrow tackles weightier emotional themes with its double-meaning laden title. With some exceptions, No Love... comes off as gloomy, but has more interesting electronic textures artfully merged with well-crafted guitar, oboe, keyboards, and percussion among other instruments. The opening, “Echoes and Sin” rolls in like a thick fog to then recede to keyboard and guitar melodies while oboe notes float gracefully above as the piece then builds into a dramatic finish. For some reason, the haunting oboe keeps evoking The Dream Academy debut album to this listener. “Eyes like Windows” has a lovely electronic textured opening that would do Tangerine Dream proud before it is overwhelmed by anxious guitar and string instrument note progressions which then collapse into wind-note melancholy. Title track, “No Love is Sorrow” is decidedly a more electronic work, punctuated with piano notes and cowbell clangs while overshadowed with gloomy overtones but somehow an oboe pierces through the overcast like sunbeams break through clouds, offering hope. “Soft Skin, Eternal Verses” is among the more intense pieces here with its fuzzier electro-textures and more dogmatic cowbell, more complex interplay of keyboard and organ almost Steve Reich-ian for their near geometric patterns that in turn give way to guitar and gun-shot like percussion. “Shimmering” seems to pick up where Brian Eno left off in Music for Films with piano and atmospherics, but carried along with restrained percussion. To wrap up, the optimistically titled, “A New Beginning” sounds like Phaedra-era Tangerine Dream until the piano notes sober the piece from the acid trip and an almost orchestral-like finish overwhelms with guitar, wind-instrument, percussion, string and atmospheric tempest delivered onto the calmer shores of organ and vibes. Perhaps Fallen is exorcising some emotional demons, but he does so in an mellifluous way. No Love is Sorrow is cloudy with sunny breaks and a well crafted expression of raw emotion wherein you can feel the artist put ‘his all’ into this lovely work.
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Artist: Svarte Greiner
Title: Apart
Format: 12" vinyl + Download
Label: Miasmah
It’s rare to find an audio work that is so precisely mirrored by its artwork as Svarte Greiner’s 20-minute collection of cello improvisations “Apart”. It’s curt, scratchy, deceptively simple, and it feels rushed (Greiner describes the difficult recording conditions in the press release). It has a limited palette and is difficult to interpret.

Between rumbling low pieces like “Second”, the strangely bluesy “Floor” and the more open “Barren”, the shorter pieces feel like single performance ideas explored to their short natural conclusion. In the middle of the mini-album there’s “Passage”, the longest and most evolving piece carefully tracing envelopes of pushing sound and letting silence breath between, before evolving into a more constant expression of sharp scratchy pain that will make classical cello purists wince.

It’s a brief and odd collection of improvised ideas with a decidedly sharp and angsty edge.
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