Music Reviews



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Artist: LHZ + H (@)
Title: Scope
Format: CD
Label: Monotype Records (@)
Rated: *****
LHZ + H are Thomas Lehn - analogue synthesizer; Carl Ludwig Hubsch - tuba; Philip Zoubek - piano; and Franz Hautzinger - quartertone trumpet & delay, all from Germany. Lehn has an extensive academic background in recording engineering, classical and jazz piano, and electronic music, particularly modern composition and the avant-garde. In 1989 he initiated the chamber ensemble Trio Dario and four years later the Mengano Quartett, performing compositions of the contemporary avant-garde, in particular numerous first performances of commissioned works. Lehn has recorded with Marcus Schmickler, Keith Rowe, John Butcher, Phil Minton, Phil Durrant, Radu Malfatti, Axel Dorner, Cor Fuhler, Gerry Hemingway, Andy Moor of The Ex, and is a member of the electronic orchestra M.I.M.E.O. (Music In Movement Electronic Orchestra), as well as numerous other projects and collaborations. Carl Ludwig Hubsch grew up playing clarinet in the local brass band and drums in punk and rock bands, but around 1983 he exchanged the clarinet for a tuba. He also has an academic background in singing, music theory, drums, composition, and electronic music. Besides his own projects like Hubsch's Longrun Development of the Universe, Drift and Hubsch's Primordial Soup, he founded the ENSEMBLE X and co-leads the Multiple Joy[ce] Orchestra together with Matthias Schubert and Frank Gratkowski. Hubsch is part of many collective projects and ensembles and works as side man in various projects. Philip Zoubek studied jazz piano at the Viennese Conservatorium and the Musikhochschule in Cologne. He now plays in various jazz and improv ensembles in Cologne, Vienna, Zurich and Berlin, including Ensemble Creativ, Org, Cauldron, Camera Obscura, Ubik, James Choice Orchestra and Muche/Zoubek/Tang, and with the group Snaut, among other projects. At present Philip Zoubek is mainly occupied with his own ensemble Philz. Trumpeter Franz Hautzinger studied trumpet and composition at the Graz Academy of Music and the Performing Arts and at the Vienna Conservatory. He started on the Austrian jazz scene in the late '80s, recording a handful of albums for the Extraplatte label mostly as a member of the groups Muhlbacher usw., Nouvelle Cuisine, and Striped Roses. After a three-year recording hiatus from 1998 to 2000, during which time he extensively radicalized his sound, Hautzinger came back with the solo CD Gomberg (2000) and the debut by his group Dachte Musik (2001), both released by the then up-and-coming German label Grob. These, and his participation in the composers' ensemble Zeitkratzer brought his playing to the attention of an international avant-garde audience at the beginning of the 21st century. Whew! Those are extensive and impressive bios to be certain (and to a great degree, condensed), and I have to admit I'm a little intimidated in my capacity as a reviewer for this CD. Still, it all boils down to how the compositions actually sound, and you're about to find out.

'Scope' contains four tracks in about 45 minutes that makes good use of the combined talents and the collaborative instrumentation of the four participants. While Thomas Lehn seems to be the most active player overall, there is no jockeying to be heard, little in the way of stepping on toes (except when required), and the execution of a well-oiled 'weird machine' where everyone contributes just what is needed to give these pieces life and depth. The album opens with 'Zoom,' a piece a little over 12 minutes in length. It begins very low-key, and continues that way through most it with quiet tones from the horns, sparse piano sounds and subtle but ominous synth tones, drones, burblings and atmospherics. There is a palpable tension here threatening to burst forth into a cacophonous riot especially towards the end, but never does. Perhaps an exercise in restraint, 'Zoom' doesn't zoom, it more looms like a most uneasy soundscape. It ends seamlessly merging into the title track 'Scope,' the longest on the album at nearly 17 minutes. Here there are more percussive sounds provided by synth and piano; plinks, plunks, notes, noise and noises, scraping, rattling, bird-like sounds, ringing, etc., with soft moaning horn tones. Activity is intermittent, and little is constant with an impressive amount of variety. This is a fascinating sonic environment that sounds like it could have been a field recording in some electronic alternate universe. Business picks up more than halfway through the piece and there is a shift to louder dynamics and heightened activity. Sounds careen and collide; horns are emboldened staggering drunkenly; monstrous rumblings from the piano, and a variety of synthetic noises. It all subsides before the end into stray, sparse, brief sonic elements. 'Lense' (9:40) begins with sustained muted horn tones and occasional interjection of noises from Lehn's synthesizer. Except for the obvious, it is often difficult to tell what sonic element is being created by whom, and this feels like the most electronic piece on the album. Before it's over things get a bit frenzied and chaotic, like some mechanized junkyard sculpture coming alive despite the intent of its awestruck creator to remain static. 'Hal' is the shortest piece on 'Scope' and to me, is more typical of what might be expected in a collaboration of this sort, with nods to Berio, Cage, Stockhausen, Tudor, Varèse and Lamonte Young. There is quite a bit more activity and participation from the participants making this a very satisfying improvisation and fitting close to the album. There is no final resolution though; it just ends and you may hardly notice that it did.

For those who appreciate avant-garde music and/or unusual improvisation, 'Scope' is an intriguing prospect, and one that may have you coming back for more of its enigmatic flavor.
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Artist: Hildur Gudnadottir (@)
Title: Leyfdu ljosinu
Format: CD
Label: Touch (@)
Rated: *****
Recorded live at the Music Research Centre of York University by Tony Myatt last January, by means of a Sounfield ST450 Ambisonic microphone and two Neumann U87 microphones, with no audience and above all with no post-production, this 40-minute lasting release by talented Icelandic cellist and singer Hildur Gudnadottir stands like an act of devotion to her musical vision, merged during her career into many artistic felloships - she's a permanent member of Mum since "Go Go Smear The Poison Ivy" and she could boast about important collaborations with Throbbing Gristle, Hauschka and Pan Sonic -. After 5 minutes of tuning in Prelude, starting with a do (C) on cello and various harmonic flexing, and the beginning of her entrancing vocal mantra, which becomes ethereal and hypnotical thanks to vocal overlapping, "Leyfdu ljosinu" (Icelandic for "Allow The Light") transforms into an authentic sonic theophany whereas there's a cyclic alternation of empty spaces close to silence and sonic saturations and the performer looks like a medium experiencing and translating of the divine, a purpose she manages to reach by overloading ths onic space with an increasing metaphysical tension, which immediately grabs the listener, who could experience a weightless-like feeling of suspense. Little by little, cello and additional arches sounds like expanding like clouds, and such an expansion looks like unstoppable and endless even when bow-strings sound like stretched to the limit and amplify tension and overwhelming catharsis, according to an ascending movement which could remind the sonorities of records like the collaboration between Sigur Ros and Hilmar Orn Hilmarsson for the soundtrack of "Angels of the universe" or Zoe Keating's soundtracks. Highly recommended!
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Artist: Grant Cutler (@)
Title: 2012
Format: 12"
Label: Innova (@)
Distributor: naxos
Rated: *****
Listening to Grant Cutler's 2012 sounds a lot like drifting above a landscape similar to the one depicted on the creamy paper of the LP cover. An alien landscape, sparse and rocky, bright white light.

2012 was actually recorded in 2008, and is a snapshot of when the composer first moved to Minnesota. He had just moved into a new house, He'd just purchased a Roland JX-3P synth from 1983, and set about layering otherworldly drones onto his grandfather's reel-to-reel tape deck. The warmth and faded quality that the analog equipment gives these recordings make 2012,/i> delightful to the ears, and it gives one a chance to notice the wonderful musicianship at play. Like the sequenced-bass of "Talk To Me," which could sound at home in a Detroit Techno club, if some wise DJ were to drop a beat on top. The trancey-repetitive nature of this music gets inside yr head, inside yr bones, keeps you coming back for. Mesmerizing.

2012is like the soundtrack to the sweetest metaphysical space opera that was never made. a single panning camera-lens over unbroken deserts, the reddish monotony finally interrupted by a pyramid made of glass. There's nothing much going on, until the Makers reveal themselves. With track names like "Devotion," "Attainment," "Mountain Top," its like these Supreme Beings are blaring wisdom telepathically, straight into yr brain.

Grant Cutler was studying Zen meditation at the time of this recording, and it shows, songs periodically being swallowed up by unexpected trance-inducing drones. Its like a less-boring meditation record. Honestly, after several visits to 2012's hazy climate, i could say that there is nothing wrong with this record. Its for a certain type, sure, those prone to closed-eye meditations and walking around with headphones on, but for those visionary types, there is a very distinctive world etched onto the two sides of this vinyl.
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anymore
Artist: Rivolta Dell'Odio
Title: Osanna! L'Angelo Sterminatore
Format: 2 x CD (double CD)
Label: Sometimes Records (@)
Rated: *****
Coming from Ancona and active during the early/mid 80s, Rivolta Dell'Odio were a band which musically started with an hc/punk sound, ending with a particular kind of post punk sound. The story of Rivolta Dell'Odio is deeply linked to the one of the label Attack Punk/Toto' Alle Prese Coi Dischi, label born thanks to people involved with the band Raf Punk (Gianpaolo Giorgetti, better known as Jumpy and now as Helena Velena and Laura Carroli). Influenced by the anarchic experience of Crass Records, they produced about sixty records of different bands such as CCCP, Borghesia, Disciplinatha, Rivolta Dell'Odio, etc. Rivolta Dell'Odio never had their releases reissued and this double album "Osanna! L'Angelo Sterminatore", contains all their recordings plus four live tracks. The band lyrics incarnated the anarchist, vegetarian, anti-clerical credo and on their first two releases "L'Affaire Marat/Sade" (split 7" with Cracked Hirn) and "La Danza Del Sangue E Del Sole", mixed hc attitude with will to experiment (check the monophonic synth noise on "Casa Rossa"). Their sound was obsessive and dissonant (on some tracks they also recalled the no-New York guitarism) and the declamative vocals made the audience focus on their lyrics. With "Il Cuore Della Bestia" EP, their sound became a bit more influenced by post punk. Try to think about UK Decay and the following band formed by Abbo: Furyo. The sound is still powerful but the drums were more tribal and the guitar arpeggios created a more focused melodic schema. To me this single has been their best release because the recordings were kinda rough but really energetic. "Osanna! L'Angelo Sterminatore" was their last release. Some tracks are re-arrangements of old ones (the opening "Metanoia", was a reworked version of "Altari Del Terrore", "L'Anticristo" was also on the their first tape, "Terezin" was on their EP with the title "Dal Fumo Di Terezin") and then there were new ones: "La Caduta Di Babilonia", "Per Chi Ci Ha Amato", "Golgotha", etc were good tracks but in my opinion the mix, which exalted the drums (they have been constatly filtered through a reverb like on some Sex Gang Children early recordings), vocals and the bass guitar invalidate a bit the whole result. Anyway, this is a nice reissue and thanks to Sometimes Records and Fono Arte, another piece of Italian music which meant something for the scene of the past, won't be forgotten.
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anymore
Artist: Guilt Trip
Title: Feed The Fire
Format: CD
Label: Complete Control Productions (@)
Distributor: Sound Pollutions Distribution
Rated: *****
Chirugie Esthetique - a name with which I am still familiar with: it was in 1992, when this Swedish EBM-/Industrial-onslaught came up with 5 tracks published on the 'Malleus Malleficarum' compilation, brought to us by the small Death Publ. label. The music of these underground marauders has been a driving EBM/Dark Electro-inspired sound-design with some similarities to in those days rising projects like X Marks The Pedwalk and/or FLA at their best moments. So I always wondered that this project couldn't reach higher attention throughout the years. At least until today - 20 years later after this compilation debut, Complete Control Productions rewards us hungry listeners, who always lurk for new forces and talents, with this official debut album under the new moniker Guilt Trip. Yes, I had meanwhile to learn, that they've already renamed into Guilt Trip around 1999 and that they have self-released three albums in between. But it's clear, that these happenings around this Guilt Trip / Chirugie Esthetique - project have been mostly unrecognized to the international audience. So here they go and return like Phoenix out of ashes. Stylistically the music has developed and it can reported about changes in their expression. The often pronounced Canadian influence has obviously taken control of their compositions, Skinny Puppy, Cyberaktif, and almost some FLA-like influences you'll get to hear, while Guilt Trip are far away from being clones. Definitively Puppy-inspired somehow comparable to those melodic, classic tracks like 'Worlock', 'Testure', or 'Morpheus Laughing' are their rather mid-tempo-based tunes like 'Inanimate', the ominous and creepy 'Life Spit Love', or 'Braptism'. 'Inanimate' is also extra available as a 2-track digital download version, which features with 'Oppression' a non-album track. On the hand this duo offers us some straight, nearly American-Industrial-like tracks like 'Headplate', 'Breathe', 'One a Week, Twice a Day', or 'Crack Up', which all feature aggressive synth-bass sequences, snatching male vocals, and a solid kick- & snare-work, which should be able to fill the floors of alternative-/dark-clubs worldwide. Especially their excellent programming skills for ripping bass-lines have to be named as being one of the most remarkable points of their production process. Although holding a raw and tough produced sound-outfit in my hands, this duo hasn't lost its sense of humor: the track 'The Bright Side of Lies' earns a cup for being the most inventive song-title, maybe side by side with Snog's classic 'Born to be Mild'? Only good and promising things to report of this latest signing of the Swedish CCP-label, which rages pretty much against the daily, mediocrity Hellectro-overdose. Definitely music for elders and supporters of above mentioned idols, but also perfectly designed for all Electronica-listeners, who are longing for compositional depth. In short: a must-have album!
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