Music Reviews

Artist: David Chiesa & Jean Sebastien Mariage (@)
Title: Oort
Format: CD
Label: Creative Sources (@)
Rated: *****
When I heard this record without checking anything related to the release, neither title and references nor musician's biography, one of the first thing I thought the players could have developed an addiction from Ballance, a videogame issued by Atari, belonging to that kind of games causing anxiety especially if you try to play it when you're drunk or differently gone. It's quite easy to imagine it: you just control a ball you have to lead till some checking points placed along difficult pathways hanging over the clouds, possibly avoiding the ball's falling in the void, but the music which keep company with the gamer over the thirteen levels is so outstanding that it has a primary role for the success of the game even if it's quite simple. The "distant" acoustic tones, some doublebass gong-like strokes and even the sounds of some wooden ball rolling over some surface I've listened in the first track "Kirch's comet" - referrinf to the so-called Newton's comet, the first one discovered by telescope - activated such a memory, but the style reprises such an idea here and there all over the recording, whereas this French duet made up of the doublebass player David Chiesa and the guitarist Jean-Sebastien Mariage (who also plays guitar with Hubbub and Chamaeleo Vulgaris) pointed at the remote region of the Oort cloud, an hyphotesized spherical area considered by some astronomers as the cosmic area from where the comets start their route crossing so many times the area of Solar system as a source for the inspiration of their style based on acoustic improvisations. They look like following their route, able to kindle amazement and apprehension, with acoustic sparks and a way of performing fitting the matter: taps, raps and flaps on guitar or doublebass chords have been placed in intervals, which are wide enough to give the listener the possibility to hear the vibes and the dying frequencies they emit till the moment the wave oscillations gradually turning flat, what looks like a sonic transfiguration of a comet's tide, while the instuments seem to echo their halo and the fascinating comas they draw in the sky. A record which is going to be appreciated even by those listeners who like contemplative stuff, even if they don't really cope with improv music.
Artist: Necro Deathmort (@)
Title: Music of Bleak Origin
Format: CD
Label: Distraction Records (@)
Rated: *****
London-based Necro Deathmort consists of AJ Cookson and Matthew Rozeik, and 'Music of Bleak Origin' is apparently their sophomore release after 2009's 'This Beat Is Necrotronic'. I don't know about that record, but 'Music of Bleak Origin' sounds comparable to early Nick Bullen-era Scorn to a degree; heavy distorted guitar, some electronics and minimal drum beats at a rather slow pace. (At least that's how it began.) I wasn't really much intrigued with this album until the hypnotic 'Temple of Juno' (3rd track in) that despite its repetitive overkill of a clichéd riff has something extra going for it sonically. At 60 BPM it's a lumbering dinosaur of a track but one you don't want to stand in the way of. (Longest track on the album too, but you won't ever be bored with it.) It has a kind of psychedelic aura without sinking into the histrionics of that genre.

After the doom-metalish 'Uberlord' you get treated to 'For Your Own Good,' a hypnotically pulsating piece with whispered vocals that had me thinking of a modern day Suicide, until it changed into something a lot more substantial. While still linear in its fashion, it carried a good amount of depth and guts. 'Devastating Vector' sort of picks up where then end of the sequenced rhythm of 'For Your Own Good' left off, and the percussive programming has picked up the pace and complexity. This track has a remarkable similarity to some of the best things coming out of Tympanik Audio these days; a dark instrumental with industrialized percussion leading the way, interesting synth work and some good changes. Have to admit I was impressed. While not much happens melodically, there is still a lot going on sonically. 'Blizzard' too has its moments of brilliance, stomping like a behemoth through a wasteland of synth distortion until it simmers down into a hissing sea of cymbalic sibilance. 'The Heat Death of Everything' slows the BPM down to about 40 and is reminiscent of 'Cop' era Swans, without the M Gira rantings. Wailing distorted guitar abounds. Devastatingly abysmal, but not in a bad way; just sliding into the void. Closer track 'Moon' indulges in an eerie moaning ambience backed by a slow minimal beat. It's a fitting conclusion to 'Music of Bleak Origin,' fully well living up to the title.

Another remarkable thing about this release is its packaging. The sleeve folds out into a 14' x 28' poster with incredibly detailed sinister artwork by Dominic Hailstone. It is limited to 1,000 copies and is sure to become a collector's item. I don't recommend everything I review, but I'm recommending this.
Artist: Majdanek Waltz/Sal Solaris (@)
Title: Tenebrae
Format: CD
Label: Zhelezobeton (@)
Rated: *****
'Tenebrae' is a joint project between Majdanek Waltz and Sal Solaris, two Russian music collaboratives along the Neofolk/Ambient/Dark Ambient/Industrial vein. Majdanek Waltz leans a bit more to the neofolk side, while Sal Solaris leans more toward the industrial side. The conceptual core of 'Tenebrae' is the poetry of Paul Celan, one of the major German-language poets of the post-World War II era. (His cryptic fractured lyrics are translated into Russian and spoken in a specific estranged way by Pavel Blumkithe on this recording.) Chances are the majority of readers reading this review will have no clue who Paul Celan was (and could care less) but the curious might investigate. Still, the recitation in Russian may put off Western ears even further unless you the language is familiar. I have to admire the execution though, even if I can't appreciate the core concept due to my unfamiliarity with Celan's poetry and the obstacle of the language barrier.

There is a remarkably claustrophobic, oppressive and foreboding ambience present throughout 'Tenebrae' as the setting for Paul Celan's abstruse, dour words. Even the mournful woodwinds and sparse piano evince certain desperation that might be typified in Edvard Munch's 'The Scream'. I couldn't help but notice an odd bit on the beginning of 'The Time's Eye' where it sounds like some radio transmission laced with a clarinet melody vaguely reminiscent of Zappa's 'Duodenum' instrumental off of 'Lumpy Gravy'. This is assuredly an aberration compared with the whole. In fact that track is largely dark ambient mixed with melancholy neoclassical. Unnerving atmosphere is the key component of 'I Heard That an Exe Bloomed Suddenly' (great title by the way) where a heavy dark ambient drone is the basis for much of the piece until what sounds like the steady drip of a water droplet enters the picture then becomes something more subtly mechanical. A sad line on the viola; a low note (or chord) played on the piano; the atmosphere shifts into something more fearful, then brief words of Paul Celan. 'Death Fugue' by its tile implies a dolorous state, and here the Neofolk/Ambient/Dark Ambient/Industrial elements combined with (WWII era) voice recordings in German make for a grim epitaph of that period. It would be a fitting soundtrack for a Holocaust documentary, although the implications of the track likely have a more far-reaching symbolism. Again Celan's words enter the picture, and perhaps their impact might be somewhat diminished spoken in Russian, rather than Celan's native German, although from a visceral standpoint, no language is better suited for bleakness than Russian. The haunting theremin-like voice of Rada Anchevskaya at the end of the piece adds a particular poignancy.

Point of fact is though that the Celan recitations are pitifully little of this work as a whole in terms of time allotted to them. They seem more as a footnote to the atmosphere that Majdanek Waltz and Sal Solaris have created. In that, there is still much merit in this work even if you don't care a feather or a fig for Paul Celan and his poetry. Undoubtedly the experience would be enriched (intellectually and possibly emotionally) by a familiarity with the poet and his works, but certainly not a requirement to enjoy 'Tenebrae'. I use the word 'enjoy' relatively though, as this is quite a depressive album. Before treading the deeper waters of 'Tenebrae,' it might be advisable to check out other works by Majdanek Waltz and Sal Solaris first.
Artist: Neznamo (@)
Title: Seme>Zemlya
Format: CD EP
Label: Moonsun Productions (@)
Distributor: Drone Records
Rated: *****
'Seme>Zemlya' is Russian esoteric experimental ambient music artist Nezamo's release from 2009 and was likely sent along by Vresnit at Vetvei (Russian experimental ambient label) with the copious package of other Vetvei releases, figuring the Western market hadn't encountered this release previously. Vresnit was right (at least for this reviewer), as the only prior experience with Neznamo was on the (recently reviewed here) 'Sonastroika' album whose participants included Lunar Abyss Deus Organum* + Hattifnatter & Neznamo & Kshatriy & Vresnit. Telling who did what on that album though would be next to impossible (unless you happened to be there) but it is at least some frame of reference for the music genre.

Founded in 1996 by Dmitry N. Shilov under the name Unknown, the main goal of the project was the exploration of human's "true ego", using sound/melodic patterns as the way to immerse into the Unconscious. During 1996-2002 the project released a few versatile drone / ambient / minimalism / neoclassical works. In the second half of 2006 the project has continued its explorations under the present name of Neznamo.

'Seme>Zemlya' is two tracks (one per name in the title, but reversed in order) of 9:30 and 10:14 in length which I suppose qualifies this release as an EP. The work is undoubtedly minimal, with the first piece 'Zemlya' utilizing a rapidly modulated noise sound alternating with a lower frequency hollow drone (with much slower modulation) with intermittent light washes of noise. Other subtle sounds can be detected (such as a sort of gentle rhythmic echoed tapping) as the piece progresses, but it never really strays from its basic concept, only expands a bit. It gives the impression of mystical but natural environment, a bit reminiscent of Alio Die at its most minimal. 'Seme' is a more overtly ambient drone piece with somewhat of a cosmic aural bent. A ways into the piece an undercurrent of thunder can be detected giving a sensation of disruption to the calming 'Om' that was set in motion from the beginning. It is an interesting contradiction and subtly played. For those that enjoy minimal ambient, this might be worth seeking out, although less than 20 minutes of play might have some feeling that it's skimpy in the 'bang for the buck' factor.
Artist: Aspec(t) (@)
Title: Waspnest
Format: 12"
Label: Fratto9 Under The Sky Records (@)
Rated: *****
Aspec(t) are SEC_ and Mario Gabola from Naples, Italy. SEC_ plays electronics through laptop, processed tapes, and analog synthesizer. Mario plays saxophone and feedbacks through a system of resonant drums and small speakers. Their music shares the timbrical research and the execution control typical of some radical improv music (Pateras/Baxter/Brown, John Butcher, Jim Denley, Bruce Russell,..), but meets the visceral intensity and the obscure poetic of the new aktionsm and of noise music (Rudolf, Dave Phillips, Joke Lanz) as well as the research on analog devices and concrete sound materials of the sonic poetry (Lionel Marchetti, Jerome Noetinger). The result is a fascinating and inextricable forest of sounds: frenetic structures, noise explosions, ancestral cries, an unceasing perversion of the soundscape and the time stream.

The preceding was pretty much copied from the Fratto9 Under The Sky Records website so I didn't have to explain the background of this project in my own words. (Lazy, I know, but still effective.) To some extent, the label's description is accurate, although I might disagree with the word 'fascinating' and substitute 'inexorable' for 'inextricable'. All of the 11 tracks on 'Waspnest'; are mercifully brief; the longest at 4:09 and shortest at 45 seconds. I still suppose it qualifies as a full album even though it is a total of just under 27 minutes in length as it has been released as a 12' LP with 6 tracks per side. (My copy is a CDr, but you can't get that.) Every track is an episodic excursion into sound collage and you really have to love uncomfortable noise and abrupt sonic disturbances to get into this record. There also seems to a fair amount of (wordless) vocal utterances, from grunts and gasps to burblings and ululations interlaced in the sonic current. Thinks are crackling and squeaking one moment, then squealing and squalling the next. It's not something one can even try and make sense of. As experimental avant-garde music goes, this is pretty much the fringe, and those who enjoy a walk on the wild side of this genre are bound to be impressed. Sometimes minimal and sometimes full-throttle, 'Waspnest' is bound to shock you out of musical complacency, and it could be the tonic you need. Just keep in mind, some kinds of medicine can be a bitter pill to swallow.
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