Music Reviews



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Artist: VV.AA.
Title: Robot Elephant vs Tundra Dubs
Format: CD
Label: Robot Elephant Records (@)
Rated: *****
This bridge built between two labels on the opposite sides of Atlantic ocean (Sebastian's London-based Robot Elephant and Ben's Oakland-based Tundra Dubs), which shares similar policies and do-it-yourself ethics, seems to rest on that phenomenon known as "witch house" or "drag", a bizarre name coined by Pictureplane referred to a sort of homemade music with references to occultism, whose main influences are a number of industrial and goth bands, but which is normally intertwined with a plenty of styles. This compilation has been splitted in two and includes many interesting declensions of "witch house": the most interesting stuff of the first half, the one which has been filled with Robot Elephant's trumpets, are related to forthcoming releases of the label, in particular Romanian HipDieBattery's "Bones", which sounds recorded during a Sabbath whose partakers put good dub and techno recipes together with dragon's claws and dwarf's guts in the cauldron, and Ourobonic Plague's "The Outer Alphabet", whose obscure nuances and ill-hop phat bumping could let imagine some devilish creature's foghorn possessed a mic to climb hip-hop charts, but also The Church of Synth's "Geh Ins Licht" dubstep imbued with Eurotrance typical trumpets is quite nice, while the most remarkable episodes on the second half are the ones by Funerals, a husband/wife duo from Columbus (Ohio), whose gloomy atmospheres could recall some shadowy trip-hop songs and the anxiety of musical acts such as Tricky's "Pre-Millenium Tension", Mascara's assemblage on "Sonnambula", which looks like a melting pot of elements taken from Sabres Of Paradise, Militia and G.O.L. and sticky minimal dubtech in "Korby Bryers" by Grimm Soundsystem, a freak by Tundra Dubs' owner itself.
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Artist: NHK'KoyxeN (@)
Title: Dance Classics Vol.I
Format: 12"
Label: PAN (@)
Distributor: Boomkat
Rated: *****
Many slices of the best IDM and techno, spread since the second half of 90ies and its intimate connection with those magical boxes full of coloured wires, leds and knobs, known as modular synthesizers (those machines which keep on inducing that kind of astounded wonder which let some musicians exclaim "what the f**k! How's possible these machines made this?!?!?!) are going to resurface from dusty mnemonical hold by means of this release by this fuzzy and very prolific Japanese musician (NHK'KoyxeN is just a rewrite of the name of Kouhei Matsunaga, half of Japanese minimal techno duo NHK and collaborator of renowned musicians such as Autechre's Sean Booth, Asmus Tietchens, Merzbow, Rudolf Eb.er, Jungle Brothers's Sensational, Conrad Schnitzler, Anti Pop Consortium's High Priest and many others, with Cyrillic alphabet script), who enslaves his sound machines to the noble undertaking of dance without any other hidden purpose and a special care for "vintage" analog electronic sounds. There're not only chopped bass, pulsations of polyphonic rhythms or diamond drills over the record, but also many interesting diversions such as entrancing lullabies, bare ill-hop masterpieces, crispy claps, viscous bubbling and many other sonic gem, which properly fit to dancefloors as well as solipsistic reflection under altered states, which could activate mnemonic cells where most trained listener store emulsions by AFX, Model 500, Joey Beltram, Solvent and many other legendary knights of that scene. Have a taste of this sonic gourmet meal!
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Artist: Anenome Tube (@)
Title: Death Over China
Format: CD
Label: Topeth Prophet/Silken Tofu (@)
Rated: *****
Death Over China is the second part of "The Suicide Series by German noise artist Anemone Tube, where he is contemplating humanity's headlong rush into extinction. As he puts it in the press release, 'Death over China' is a retaliation of nature against humankind. In the same moment it is a dedication to our untamed curiosity for the essence of death and our (inherent in our collective action) secret death wish."

Death Over China is made up of primarily untreated field recordings made during a trip to Nanjing and Shanghai in 2007, with occasional bursts of fluorescent white noise and screeching feedback. Album opener "Black Death Rise" is the most raw and unedited sounding, painting a mental scenario of a street scene in Shangai: the lull of traffic, the play of children, a police whistle. The reedy whine of small engines. The sounds are expertly manipulated in space and time, panning from left to right and back again.

The stage is set, and Anemone Tube lures you into the psychogeography of these places, getting progressively more abstract as the album goes along. There seems to be a story unfolding, a point being made, and the ghostly atmosphere is constantly evolving, textures appearing out of nowhere, new sounds emerging, then disappearing into thin air, like the tiny bit of synth on "I Shall Ever Invoke." Keeps things moving along, keeps things interesting. With a good pair of headphones and some attention, Death Over China is as engrossing as a good movie or book, creating eccentric imagery between yr ears, layers of levels of meaning, that can be re-visited again and again.

With "The Announcement (Death Over China)," the moral of the story is revealed, where an older woman's voice proclaims, "I just want to kiss life. Where there's life there's hope," over and over, with a banshee wailing in the background, before being swallowed by the crushing miasma of "The Desecration From Within," the album's apex and crowning achievement. Rusted behemonth machinery, a warning siren, transgressive poetry from a tin can, it has a basement industrial feel to it, like it was summoned to be broadcast through beefy distorted PAs. Heavy as lead, and satisfyingly gritty. Anenome Tube is clearly not foreseeing an optimistic outcome to the Industrial Revolution in China, bleak and existential and doom laden. The overall effect is more hypnotic and ghost-like than violent, however, even the power electronics have a soothing quality to them; its like walking by the waterfront in the mist.

Death Over China is Anemone Tube's first solo release since 2001, and when you look at the classy smooth paper packaging, you really get the sense that this album is something special, that a great deal of time and care has been placed in putting this album together, it is clearly a labor of passion. As a piece de resistance, Death Over China was mastered by James Plotkin, so everything is in its right place, placed just so, and sounds totally great. In about 2 years time, this will be considered a rare and precious sound-art object, so get one while you can.
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Artist: Simon Balestrazzi (@)
Title: The Sky Is Full Of Kites
Format: CD
Label: Boring Machines (@)
Rated: *****
After I made the introductions of some of his collaborations and projects (Dream Weapon Ritual, Candor Chasma) on this space, I think you don't need further words about Simon Balestrazzi's eminent resume as well as about his talent in let sounds "speak", but it's the first time I present a record with the real name of this pioneer as signature. His third full length album seems to be focused on time as a subjective dimension and its paroxysms and not only for the mention of "The Persistence Of Memory", the notorious painting by Salvador Dali', whose famous melting pocket watches made it one of the most known emblems of Surrealism as time scansion sounds a leitmotiv during the listening of the three long-lasting tracks of this recording: "Under Pressure", the first one, could be associated to a sort of awakening, where the mechanical ring of a traditional wind-up spring-driven alarm clock rend the sonic space before it turns into a grandfather clock, foreshadowing the following immersion in daily life which drags the perceiver away from the perception of time by distorting it through its intricate web of sources of distraction, carefully portrayed by Simon till the moment when, more or less self-consciously, this sonic ego-narrator becomes itself a spring or a gear train of the gigantic engine of time. The above-mentioned "The Persistence Of Memory" could be considered a sort of hallucinatory journey inside that paint, where listener could even feel dial, spring or hands trickling on its skin while some sonic elements such as the elastic pulsation of burglar alarms, silent tolls, hyberbolic strindencies or the hypnotic noise which looks like grabbed during a nocturnal journey on a stream train amplify the voice of desires, fears or dreams while exploring that surreal landscape, before the immersive title-track where the listener will be surrounded by an entrancing thundering ocean of buzzes and feedback. Although "The Sky Is Full Of Kites" offers a very abstract and cerebral listening experience, the astonishing accuracy Simon used to mould sounds in a captivating way gives a certain concreteness to it. Each track has been associated to some black and grey paints by Daniele Serra, which could be considered as possible hazy interpretations of Rorschach diagrams by a contemporary man. Maybe you?
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Artist: Gareth Dickson (@)
Title: Quite A Way Away
Format: CD
Label: 12k (@)
Rated: *****
This delicate and intimistic release by young Scottish guitar player and songwriter Gareth Dickson could sound a little bit unaccostumed for 12k catalogue, as label got a reputation for abstract electronic stuff, but it's not the first time Taylor Deupree's label veers towards organic or acoustic sonorites so that it's not totally proper to speak about a stylistyical shift. Let's cache this lightweight matter of record keeping, I prefer to focus on the terse musical dainties Gareth profusely frees in this record, which seems to be inspired by a series of events occuring in his life I will not dwell on (you'll find more on label's introduction), which justified its temporary estrangement from composition as well as that mild (but not invasive at all) feeling of anxiety exuding from his music. To be honest, he's not a golden voice, but it tightly clings to the sounds he produces with his acoustic guitar by alternating gentle strumming and entrancing finger-picked melodic clothes (you could listen to a sort of combination in the wonderful tapping, which, mute in the beginning, turns into a lovely melody, in "Happy Easters"). Some phrasing as well as Gareth's vocal could induce an immediate comparison with Nick Drake or Bert Jansch and Gareth himself mentions them among most influential musicians (he also mentioned Aphex Twin, Brian Eno and Glenn Gould, but if you focus on compositional schemes you could listen many others...I even heard some similarities between the touching "This IS The Kiss" and Sebastian Tellier's "La Ritournelle") but it almost seems some of his ballads get closer to 17th century styles such as passacaglia or chaconne. A certain "ripeness" could be deduced by the semantic coherence joining together all tracks from the emotional upheaval of "Get Together" and "Noon" (an interpretation of Stevie Smith's poem "Not Waving But Drowning") to the final haunting metaphor taken from the biblical tale of Jonah, where the repetition of God's declaration of love to the anti-prophet ("I will love you forever") is going to lull the listeners to the end.
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