Music Reviews

Artist: Sylvgheist Maëlström (@)
Title: Lahar
Format: CD
Label: Connexion Bizarre (@)
Distributor: Ant-Zen
Rated: *****
Sylvgheist Maëlström is the recording project of Julien Sylvgheist from France, and 'Lahar' is the first album. His musical influences include Einstürzende Neubauten and Orphyx, and the theme of 'Lahar' is cataclysmic natural catastrophes, such as the eruption of the Mount Saint-Helen volcano in 1980 or hurricane Katrina. (There is even a picture of said volcano erupting in the album artwork.) From that description one might get the impression of something bombastic, but there was no register of any seismic activity of that magnitude from the music that I heard. What there is on 'Lahar' is industrialized tribal rhythms and synth electronics (much of them ambient) with lots, and lots, and lots of repetition. The rhythms are usually pushed up front leaving the ambient electronics in the background most of the time, like drones or pads and walls of controlled noise as well as other snakey effects. Even though there is a lot of repetition, the rhythms aren't without interest as they aren't your usual garden variety industrial. 'Mechanized Tribal' might be a good way to describe them. (If you had a marching band composed of Transformer-like robots, they'd be playing them.) Often the way certain beats are accented makes this an unusual form I don't hear a lot of people doing. This is experimental stuff often crossing the border into the noise genre, as well as being dark and ominous. I can tell an awful lot of work went into it. If you're looking for melodic elements though, you won't find them here. Every piece is somewhat different and some may strike you as being more engaging than others. The overall feel is a new 'Industrial Trance' concept, probably not one that will take over the dance floor, but will appeal to those who like rhythmically hypnotic industrial music. I think it's going to take a few listenings to really get into 'Lahar' as I wasn't bowled over by the first time I heard it. In fact, it took me three listening to appreciate what is being done here, and I found it quite innovative once I got into the groove and was able to appreciate the nuances of each piece. Kudos to Sylvgheist Maëlström for doing something really different. Although it may not be everyone's cup o' mud, this album deserves a listening (or three) by anyone with open ears for the experimental who aren't put off by lots and lots of rhythmic repetition.
Artist: Kryptogen Rundfunk
Title: Live 2005
Format: CD
Label: Zhelezobeton (@)
Distributor: Zhelezobeton
Rated: *****
Kryptogen Rundfunk is the project name of Russian electronic music artist Artyom Ostapchuk, and this is his second solo album since 2004, '22.SZ' on the French Mechanoise Labs label, although he's had several split/releases/collaborations with such of artists as Neznamo, Lunar Abyss Deus Organum, Sister Loolomie, Bardoseneticcube, and other artists in the interim. The music on the album is taken from liver performances the "Noise vs Glamour" festival in 2005 in St. Petersburg and Moscow, later edited in the studio. It should also be pointed out that Artyom also runs the Zhelezobeton label. Why he waited until 2011 to release material recorded in 2005 I really don't know, but I suppose he had his reasons. (Perhaps ambient noise is timeless?)

I was intrigued by the photo on the cover of Artyom fiddling with knobs so I listened to this CD much earlier in the batch I received from Chain D. L. K. HQ, but since what I heard wasn't initially as intriguing as the cover, I put it aside for later. Perhaps this was due to what I was listening to the CD on, the CD player in my car. Bad choice. This certainly isn't driving music. It can be classified as experimental electronic ambient noise, with the accents on experimental and ambient. First track (St. Petersburg performance, 11-18-2005) clocks in at 19:52 and is primarily drone with some feedback, oscillating electronics, bellish tones and miscellaneous noise. Very low key and minimal. It is fairly multi-layered and nuanced in places but I found the feedback elements annoying. The second piece (Moscow performance (11-26-2005) is 23:42 and I liked this one better. It has a larger, denser sound than the first piece; more spacey and cerebral. It is rather difficult to describe, but alien spaceship might be one way. There are times when there are just low drones, others when electronic squiggles are present, and sections when there are richly harmonic drone pastiches, sub-bass thrumming. This is still very low key ambient noise in an understated industrial atmosphere, something you don't want to crank the volume up for. The piece shifts and morphs subtly over time but nothing too far afield from the beginning course that has been laid out. Perhaps the exception would be the brief spoken word samples in Russian (in the middle) and near the end (in German) in the piece that were lost in non-translation to me (except for the obvious Deutsches-porn) but that was a very minor part of the composition. For those who enjoy subdued ambient noise soundscapes, Kryptogen Rundfunk's 'Live 2005' is a curiously engaging listening experience and even though I wasn't entirely thrilled with it, the second piece is amply rewarding. The fact that this was done live is a credit to its artistic merit.
Artist: Normotone
Title: Inward Structures
Format: CD
Label: Tympanik Audio (@)
Distributor: Tympanik Audio
Rated: *****
Normotone (or Normotone et alii) is the solo project of Bruno Laborde who has been working in electronic music since 1994. Former projects include Axonal Warfare (1994-1997) and Neon Cage Experiment (2003-2006), as well as producing remixes for such artists as HIV+, Ex_Tension, Necrotek, Babylone Chaos, and most recently Architect. This is his first release under the Normotone moniker. Other contributors to 'Inward Structures' include Laurent Kistler (Neon Cage Experiment), TAT, Serge Usson (Neon Rain), Angelika, Charlotte, and VX (Vincent Villalon) in the vocal and lyric department on several tracks, and Polygon and One Droid And Its Man for the two remixes at the end of the album.

'Inward Structures' is really difficult to pin down. On one hand, it is rather experimental (even for Tympanik) in places, and I had a very difficult time getting into it. On the other, some of the tracks are quite provocative and well-structured compositions. The first couple of tracks passed without leaving much of an impression at all, even after hearing them several times. There are still tracks that don't sit well with me, such as 'Confessions Of A Daydreamer" with its abrasive rhythmic component and deadpan recitation by Laurent K. With "Isolation Is My Achievement" however, business began to pick up. It's a slow, dirty track with delightfully doleful vocals by TAT. "The Unutterable Beauty" is a deliciously weird cinematic dark ambient piece with industrialized rhythm. It has this bass that sounds like a fog horn in the distance. Really kind of scary the way it all comes off sounding. Serge waxes nihilistically poetic on "These Hearts" with the music sounding little more than an industrial landscape for his recitation until more than halfway through the piece when it really began to come alive and build instrumentally. Probably not what you would expect with guitar entering into the fray, but I kind of liked it. 'Primer' was just too fragmented and fractured for me to get into; episodic bits of rhythm and electronics that lacked cohesiveness. "Milky Skin In A Yellow Fuzzy Light" features vocals by Angelika and is a cross between ethereal pop shoegaze and dubby downtempo industrial. One of the best tracks on the album so far. (Eh, I'm a sucker for shoegaze with female vocals.) "Frozen Leaves" is another nice track with female vocals, this time by Charlotte although they're more along the lines of Beth Gibbons, Allison Shaw or Kirsty Thirk; very moody and well executed.

'Black Horses of Destruction' is a messy piece of Industrial business and although the first part contains a rather interesting controlled industrialized martial rhythm with spoken (female) samples and tense strings way in the background, after a brief piano interlude, the rest of the piece becomes utter chaos with vocals from VX to match. I couldn't wrap my head around this one. Polygon's remix of 'Milky Skin In A Yellow Fuzzy Light" takes out the shoegaze element and substitutes a more subdued electro-industrial rhythm. Polygon also puts electronic processing on the vocals, and to tell the truth, I didn't much care for that. The rhythm and accompanying synth bass was good though, but I preferred the original. As far as what One Droid And Its Man did for the remix of "The Unutterable Beauty" I couldn't really tell. My copy of the CD skipped through much of it rendering it unlistenable for all practical purposes. At first I thought it was the remix, but apparently not. Nobody could make something that unlistenable. No matter how I tried to clean the CD, nothing worked. Chalk it up to a flawed pressing.

So here I am, ambivalent again, liking about half the album and not caring much about the rest of it. I think Bruno tends to be best working with other people and when he has a clear direction to shoot for. Perhaps I was missing the point, but on a number of tracks solely done by Bruno, the ideas, although composed of interesting sounds and rhythms sounded vague to me and lacked form and style; too scattered to be really engaging. If you're considering a purchase, I'd advise trying to find streaming tracks to preview in their entirety from this album first rather than clips, because in this case, clips just won't paint an accurate picture.
Artist: Janne Hanhisuanto
Title: circles in 3d
Format: CD
Label: Auraltone Music (@)
Rated: *****
The definitive proof the circles musically plotted by the Finnish composer Janne Hanhisuanto are not just projections on a plain of those musical spheres, according to that charming description by Plato unearthed by a plenty of electronic musicians and performers in order to give a conceptual framework to their stylistical explorations or researches, comes not only from the clarification they're in 3d! Beyond the geometrical simulacrum based on the intrinsic analogy between the circular shape and the idea of perpetual movement as any point on the circumference could be considered a beginning and an end without any recourse to the logical stratagems of reciprocity or complementarity, 3-dimensional circles can be thought as a way of mapping Janne's aesthetics as it seems his nicely moulded sounds move in circles within a sort of sonic magnetic field, whose "form" changes in the ten parts of the record (this magnetic pools are normally filled with space rock rides, placentar dub or amniotic ambient, so that you could be tempted to build stylistical bridges linking Janne's music with the ones by Richard Barbieri, Steve Roach or Jonn Serrie). The results are somewhat stunning: I particularly enjoyed the cosmic heartbeat-propelled ride of Part 8 and its aural whispering, the daydreaming mumbling of Part 2, the hypnotical circling of Tibetan bells in Part 4 (recycled in the powerful meditative drone in Part 7 as well), the liquid space rock suite of Part 5. You're easily going to join to the claiming for the right to feel beauty in Part 3 and 6 by the persuading voice of Jennifer Zheng.
Artist: Philippe Pannier / Isambard Khroustaliov
Format: CD
Label: Not Applicable (@)
Rated: *****
This album is the recording of a performance made by Philippe Pannier (Guitar, Banjo) and Isambard Khroustaliov (Computer) in november 2010 and edited by the authors. According to the linear notes, this performance has been prepared through four years of correspondance between their first meeting in 2006 at Ircam and the performance recorded. The result is a dialogue between the extended techniques of the guitarist and the conterpoints of Sam Britton at his computer.
"Coïncidence" is a dialogue between the glitchs and the reverse samples played by Isambard Khroustaliov while "Habituellement" is almost completely, almost apparently, based on computer output loosely coloured by sparse inserts of guitar. "Arrivée" features even some sparse violins samples to match the banjo playing and create a result different from simple juxtaposition of traditional instruments and software. "Légèrement" is divided between the first part based on the guitar played by Pennier and the second conducted by Khroustaliov. "Entre des" is a interlude from piano samples and guitar that introduce the listener to the final part of this release, "Unions", the longest track, divided in roughly three parts: the fist part is a guitar solo, then there's a lowercase interlude and, then, the dialogue between the two players constructs the rest of the track, "Recherchées" close this albums recalling all the musical elements viewed in the other pieces.
This album is introduced by a Jacques Derrida's citation that states: "I do not yet know [...] why I value them for their incompleteness even more than for their fragmentation" and is almost the same feelings I have for this records. A really good listening for EAI fans.
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