Music Reviews

Artist: Brume
Title: Mother Blast
Format: 2 x LP
Label: Grautag (@)
Rated: *****
If we consider the fact that most of the tracks included in this umpteenth release by French wizard of electronic industrial Christian Renou, who resurrected his notorious moniker Brume in 2008, have been composed in 2014 or are old tracks revisited between 2013 and 2014, could let you surmise this album was stored in some drawer before it could have been taken out of it at a moment when it could sound apter to the renewed fears of a forthcoming apocalypse. Nowadays the spectre of a nuclear holocaust got massively fed by a series of doomsayers and catastrophists, who seized the opportunity of spreading panic-inducing and tragic opinions related to the recent political facts, so that this time seems to be ripe enough for a release, that gives an X-ray to the more disquieting trace that mankind left on modern history. Christian always refused to be filed under some stylistic label by means of the same old argument according to which labels are just a tool of marketing (I don't entirely agree with such an opinion, to be honest, as labelling music is sometimes a useful way to give an idea to listeners) and he often succeeds in escaping any attempt of sticking a precise definition by melting techniques and references that belong to many areas (primarily industrial, electronic, dark ambient, musique concrete, but also some outputs by Richard Pinhas' Heldon, Boyd Rice or Death in June), so that I wouldn't mind such an idiosyncrasy is a hoity-toity symptom. Besides such a minor matter, Monsieur Renou masterfully focuses on a sort of soundtrack that could perfectly fit the waiting of a nuclear bombing inside a subterranean bunker since the opening "'Little Boy' Pilot", where he rendered the lucid insanity of Paul Tibbets, the American pilot who dropped the first atomic bomb (Brume included some vocal snippets by this ridiculously heroic US patriot, who showed no regrets for having killed more than 80 thousand people by invoking reasons of state), to the sinister squeaking and the roaring rattling electro-rock of the final "Panzerfaust" - many musical gemstones in between for the lovers of Brume's music such as the sadly evocative "Victorian Washing Machine" and "Ersatz-Stellungen" or the ominous kind of tragic tribalism of tracks like "Sluggy Tango" or "Wish You were not Here" -. The references quoted by Nicolas Moulin, label manager and founder of grautag, who released "Mother Blast" and considered Brume's seminal album "Permafrost" a source for inspiration for the artistic path of the label, are guessed: "Mother Blast could be considerate as the second step of Permafrost - with some updating, but not only- but overall, the eternal state of ultimate cold war music and its endless no man's lands, where rhythms are growing in sound layers like bunkers of Russian Test nuclear site « Semipalatinsk » or those witch haunting the Ireland of JG Ballard « terminal beach ».
Artist: Relay For Death
Title: Natural Incapacity
Format: 2 x CD (double CD)
Label: The Helen Scarsdale Agency (@)
Rated: *****
How many nightmares, fears, memory fragments or weird chats and visions occur during a long journey on a train you experienced? I guess one at least. The constant noise of the train fed the imagination of many movie-makers, writers and musicians of course, to the point it became the perfect set for a plenty of loves, crimes, historical happenings and a large assortment of psychodrama. That constant noise is the almost indisputable lead of the somehow disquieting listening experience provided by Relay For Death, the project of the twin sisters Rachall and Roxann Spikula. In reality, even if the noise of a running locomotive is the element that gives an idea of movement, the two-hours (split over two CDs) lasting sonic journey comes from an amalgamation of other items they cut and paste to supposedly render, as the title suggests, a series of unnatural elements that are so strictly distinguishing features of many of our current urban or suburban textures that they sometimes acts like a sort of natural inhibitors. Especially when they got melted and organized together as recipes of an incredibly powerful paralyzing agent, as it seems to occur on this "Natural Incapacity." As explained in the attached introduction by The Helen Scarsdale Agency, "Natural Incapacity was composed as a seamless, glacial accretion of locomotive grind, subharmonic environmental rumble, nocturnal street sweeping, and the quivering hum of toxic chemicals perpetually leached into the water table." The label itself relates the output of Spikula sisters to the apocalyptic works by Maurizio Bianchi, Kevin Drumm's "Imperial Distortion" and Organum's "Vacant Lights" (maybe this production dating back 1987 is actually the most similar one to "Natural Incapacity"), but the disorienting effect and the dizziness that can be induced by its continuous listening - you should listen so... you couldn't jump off a moving train! - is closer to the one caused by some earlier electro-industrial experiments. The limited edition of this release (just 150 copies) features hard-rust metal covers by Jim Haynes.
Artist: Alessandro Bosetti
Title: Plane / Talea
Format: LP + Download
Label: Holidays Records (@)
This is a remarkable, purist, “editor’s piece” of experimental composition. Vocal samples- mostly tightly recorded wordless performances in studio-like environments, some found sound voices with external ambiences- have been cut up into thousands upon thousands of microscopic, mini-syllable moments, reordered and looped. These have then been sympathetically layered, sometimes with long natural sustained choral notes as beds, sometimes rapidly glitched, all towards an artificial and ever-changing polyphony. No other processing or filtering has been applied- this is purely the voice, and the edit.

But while pure in concept, in practice this is still a mixed bag. Despite only being two pieces, both “Plane” and “Talea” have several unnamed but distinct sections with their twenty-one-minute-ish durations. Some of these are surprisingly fleeting, some sustain themselves for several minutes, as though the edit suite works-in-progress were still incorporated and while some ideas prove to be short-lived dead ends, very little ended up on the cutting room floor as it were.

The tone and mood skips abruptly also- sometimes suspenseful and almost panicked, sometimes mellow or reverential, sometimes playful, sometimes threatening, but always hard to anticipate. At times it’s choral, at times (for example 14 minutes into “Talea”) it’s practically acapella techno.

Three minutes into “Talea”, the growling and clicking notes make a sceptical reviewer question whether the PR sheet claim of “not processed or altered in any way” is completely true.

Some sections- for example around the 13 minute mark in “Plane”, or the opening of “Talea” with its discernible ‘take me away’ lyrics as seen on the artwork- feel distinctly less edited, more performed, a deliberate and theatrical arrangement of an ensemble of percussive voices. As such it feels like Bosetti has “done a Tubular Bells” and compiled a number of short pieces under the vinyl-LP-centric umbrella of “side A” and “side B”.

It’s an interesting work with noble principles, but with many abrupt shifts and without a true sense of overarching structure, it does end up being a stop-start listening experience.
Artist: Jeroen Search
Title: Z
Format: 2 x 12"
Label: Figure SPC (@)
Rated: *****
Techno and technival lovers should know both the name of Dutch DJ and producer Jeroen Search (one of the aliases of Jeroen Schrijvershof, named after his imprint Search) and the one of Levent 'Len' Faki, his German/Turkish mentor on this occasion, well-known Berlin-based DJ and producer, artistically grew in Bergheim. The first opened and recently closed the series Figure SPC, titled by each single letter of the alphabet, a subsidiary project of the imprint of the latter, after having signed (and sometimes co-signed) other releases/letters. This one, as you can easily guess, is the last chapter of this supposedly special chain. Honestly speaking, I'm not a great fan of this kind of techno. Furthermore, I heard better-forged things, stylistically close to it, but besides features strictly related to its style (most of you know what they and I mean when referring to minimal techno), there are a couple of interesting details. The first one is technical, as Jeroen prefers to make techno tunes by using hardware instead of software programming and most of his live performances and recordings get built on sounds that get edited in one take and in real-time: that's a somehow risky choice that could let you appreciate his output more and fully justifies the fact you wouldn't find so many edited sounds. A comparison against another kind of software-driven or studio-made sounds is, therefore, inappopriate: it's like attempting a comparison between an elaborate meal coming out of the prodigy of some haut cuisine chef and a fast-food cold delivery, but some fast-foods can do more delicious chips than other, and it's what Jeroen does. The second aspect is more conceptual: there are many interesting references to Buddhist spiritual practices in the title of his tracks as well as in some aural clues (such as the recorded speech in "Uphekka", a word referring to the last stage of a spiritual speech to get ready to nirvana, close to the Western concept of ataraxia and apatheia), which got interlaced to other references to physical-mechanical concepts (a sort of distinguishing mark of many techno outputs). Regarding the listenable part of the release, the nicest tracks are the ones where some apparent influences to Kenny Larkin and Jeff Mills are evident, such as on "Compressive Strength", "Tensile Force", "Karuna" or the final "Mudita" (maybe the best one).
Artist: W3C
Title: State Of Absolute Alienation
Format: Download Only (MP3 + Lossless)
Label: Infinite Machine
“State Of Absolute Alienation” is an EP that sounds like it’s been designed with post-apocalyptic movie trailers or gaming in mind. Packed with gut-punchers, dramatic stabs, suspense-building synth arpeggios, sinister drawn-out bass tones and sub-bass throbs, this is strong-formula, cinematic instrumental EDM. Labels like dubstep or techno can fit it, though not snugly.

After “Ascension”, which is credited as an intro but which is really a creditable bit of super-dark trap in its own right, you get “Xenotrak”, which adopts a clipped guitar sound that is vaguely chiptune-ish, adding to the sense of gaming. As the name suggests, “Bot-o’-War” ups the mechanical rhythms, adding sharper metallic tones, while “Short Circuit” thickens and distorts the low-end glitching in exhilarating fashion. This is a fresh slice of attitude-laden electro-punk, somewhat insular in parts but an excellent way to block out the world. Final track “Invasion” pushes this even further, eschewing higher-end elements in favour of relentless throbbing.

Structurally it falls between two stools at times, trying to follow the structures of techno and a score at the same time leaves it a little bit of neither, but overall it’s an extremely thick, headlong dive into full-on, cutting-edge, big-screen electronica for dark tense imagery.
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