Music Reviews



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Artist: Puin+Hoop + Herman Wilken + Coen Oscar Polack (@)
Title: De Objectieve Lach
Format: CD
Label: Narrominded (@)
Rated: *****
This album is and long edit (the set lasted 105 minutes and this album is 60 minutes track) of a performance made by Puin+Hoop, a trio of electroacoustic improvisers with the help of Herman Wilken and Coen Oscal Polack. The performance happended in an art gallery in Haarlem, the Netherlands and edited in this shorter form. The result is a record of a slowly evolving but interesting music.
This edit is musically divided in five parts. The set begin quietly with layers of quiet soundscape. The second part is a crescendo of field-recording like soundscape with a lot of echo. The third part is composed of loud drone and noises that create a wall of sound vaguely reminiscent of the work of composers like Phil Niblock because all the musical movement is done by the resonance; the sax of Coen Oscar Pollack introduce to the field of the fourth part: meditative layers of noise which are the base for the sax improvisation. The end is a slow movements of noise and drones decaying into silence.
For those who want to make some clearer idea, photos of the performance is available from http://www.narrowminded.com/objectlag. It's worth a listen to those involved, or interested, in some form of EAI. A good pick.
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Artist: Leichenwetter (@)
Title: Legende
Format: CD
Label: Echozone (@)
Distributor: Masterpiece
Rated: *****
If you follow Leichenwetter since their debut album on EigenDistribution or even if you discovered them when signed under Metal Axe, you should already know their fixation for old German poems behind which there's no educational intent or attempt to arouse interest in poetry, but just the obsession by their singer Numen in mixing this form of art with gothic metal, which sometimes gives such interesting results that arguably even poets could agree with it if they had to possibility to know something different from Beethoven or Wagner. I don't know if there's a fil rouge joining together the poems Numen has chosen to musicalize in Legende, but I noticed he seems to give prominent way to expressionist poets (such as Ernst Stadler and Georg Trakl, whose musical tranpositions by Leichenwetter are maybe the ones which show an higher level of elated inspiration and lyricism...have a listen to Romanze zur Nacht for instance!) or recurring themes belonging to the somewhat anguishing ontological emotional space the so-called expressionist gave voice to, but there're also other poetical gems, such as Goethe's Erlkönig, inheriting the death of a child assailed by the supernatural being mentioned in the title inspiring a lot of metal bands including Rammstein, which followed its structure to rewrite a modern version, Dalai Lama, based on the crash of Japan Airlines Flight 123 occurring in 1985, the synaesthetic Schwanenlied (Swan song) by Clemens Brentano togethewr his poem O schweig (Oh hush), which has already widely studied by literature essaysts for his particular musicality, but the best transposition according to me is the one of Chor De Toten (Choir of the Dead-men), a text by Conrad Ferdinand Meyer, as Lechenwetter manate to keep it more atmospheric by introducing the track with funeral bells before climbing on scales throughout a powerful epic anthem, featuring a tremendous sequence or arpeggios by the guitarist Dawe. Their sound is more or less of the previous works, based on solid and majestically epic power-metal anthems mended on the mighty bass vocal tones of Numen, which, even if ostensibly moving in a not so wide vocal range, shows praiseworthy espressivo skills.
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Artist: Famine (@)
Title: Nature’s Twin Tendencies
Format: CD
Label: Tympanik Audio (@)
Distributor: Tympanik Audio
Rated: *****
Whoa! This is one MONSTER of a Breakcore/IDM album! This is my first experience with the Toronto, Canada outfit Famine, and I have to admit on first listening that my head was spinning around like Regan in the Exorcist, my ears were smoking and my brain was turning to jelly. Yikes! The first track sounded like Noise Unit on crystal meth. It seems like Famine is pulling out all the stops on 'Nature's Twin Tendencies' to give the listener the a MAX pedal-to-the-medal breakcore experience as possible in an IDM setting. The programming is relentlessly in hyperdrive and barely slows down to let you catch your breath before they're off and running daring you to keep up with the frenetic pace.

This is some amazingly complex and intricate stuff, and there is NO WAY whatsoever you are going to absorb it all the first time around. Be warned though, this is not for the meek. You may only be able to take some of it in small doses before your heart (or brain) overloads. (On one listening while shoveling snow, I found I had nearly completed the task in a third the time it usually takes, but had to quit lest I dropped of exhaustion.)

There is such an incredible variety of sounds and sonic incidents, especially in the rhythmic aspect that you couldn't possibly ever be bored with anything on this disc. Famine sometimes offsets the breakneck and chaotic rhythm with slower-moving synths and pads in contrast to give pieces a mood and tone that would be otherwise lacking in the hands of a less capable artist. Dialogue sample are kept to a minimum (just the way I like it) when used, and seem appropriately placed.

Famine doesn't sound as disjunct or as loopy as say, the Venetian Snares. There is a definite method to the madness of Famine. When I listen to the Snares, I can say, 'Wow! That was just over-the-top whacked!' What I'm hearing here I have a lot more respect for. To be fair, it's not all 160+ bpm and accelerating; there are more moderate tempo tracks, but that doesn't mean there is necessarily less rhythmic activity. And it isn't non-stop either. There are some beautiful (as well as frightening) interim ambiences and breaks too. Moods shifts occur often, sometimes even within the pieces as they morph effortlessly from one paradigm to another. The intensity of some changes is just awesome, like on 'Remorselness,' when things go from church-goth to heavy breakcore to speed-metal in less time than it would take to ties your shoes.

One highlight for me was 'Blasphemous Reverence,' a track that sounds so cinematic in the beginning, you'd swear it was lifted from a doom/horror movie soundtrack. Less than a minute and a half into it though, you know you've never seen this film before as it pummels you into submission. What I like about many of the pieces on this album is that even though the melodic content is generally simple, it's engaging and curiously satisfying and an excellent foil for the adventurous rhythmic elements. In fact, without all the glitch and breakcore beat programming, much of it would be rather dull. Everything is so intertwined as to make it inseparable; an aspect I have often found lacking in other breakcore projects I have encountered. Then again, a track like 'Weak' could stand very well on its own; even if played on a piano without any rhythmic accompaniment at all as it is so melodically rich. A good chunk of the title track ('Nature's Twin Tendencies') is dramatically cinematic too, and out of context, you wouldn't believe it was Famine if you were already familiar with them.

As marvelous as this incredible feat of beat programming is, the music is not going to sit well with some, especially those unattuned to breakcore. Over time, the hyperactivity and jitteriness on most (not all) tracks can be unsettling and overwhelming. I would recommend small doses at first until you've acclimated yourself to it. If you're already familiar with Famine, you may have some idea what you're in for. This may just be Famine's most ambitious, superbly crafted and accessible album yet (yes, I listened to their past couple of albums on their website), as it explores so many different terrains and does it so well. Recommended.
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Artist: C.H. District (@)
Title: Conclusion
Format: CD
Label: Tympanik Audio (@)
Distributor: Tympanik Audio
Rated: *****
C. H. District is the one man project of Polish electronic musician Miroslaw Matyasik. He started out in 1996 and has about a half-dozen releases or more to his credit. This is the first one I've ever heard, so I have no basis of comparison with the artist's other material. The best way to describe it is instrumental (for the most part) beat-oriented electronica. For the most part, the electronics are on the minimal and simplistic side, and the beat-work is pushed to the forefront. In my first listening run-though, I found the album too repetitive and lacking in changes. But first listens are usually filled with prejudices, musical and otherwise, so I never review an album until after I've heard it a few times at least.

My opinion now is that 'Conclusion' is fairly enjoyable and engaging beat-core electronica, if you're not expecting anything earth-shattering, and don't mind the rhythmic repetition. That aspect is certainly conducive to dancing, or at least some form of body-motion experience. In fact, as I sit here typing this review, I'm kind of grooving on the keyboard in time to the rhythm of the music. I'm sure a number of the tracks on this CD would work well in a live club environment where you can really feel the beat and let it just move you.

One thing I didn't care for though ' the vocal sample on the 'Conclusion' title track. Although it fit right in the rhythm, to me it came across as too 'clubby'. But that's a small quibble. C. H. District's rhythm programming doesn't hit you over the head with bombastic sonics or ultra-tricky programming; it is a bit more subtle than that. It will take a few listenings to really appreciate, and may be the kind of music you might want to play while you're doing something else. I found that when I wasn't paying a lot of attention to it, it seemed to permeate my psyche more than when I listened intently for analysis.

There is one track with a vocal on 'Conclusion' ' 'Like A Human,' courtesy of Tomtylor with lyrics by Alina. It's a nice change for the album, simple but very well sung and constructed. It would have been cool to have more tracks like that, but I know it wasn't the artist's intention. Still, for me, it was one of the highlights. One other aspect of 'Conclusion' that deserves mention is that the album has a nice flow to it as from track-to-track there is a sonic meshing that gives the impression of a complete work rather than just a disparate collection of pieces. The album is only a little over 42 minutes, and it will probably not even seem that long after a few listenings.

For some odd reason I couldn't find anything off of 'Conclusion' to check out on the C. H. District website, but Tympanik has a track off of it you can download for free if you go do their Downloads section. I would advise checking it out first to make sure it's your cup 'o tea, but there are also YouTube videos available. Worth a listen if you're hungering for something new in beat-oriented electronica.
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Artist: Todd is Each New Moment (@)
Title: Glass Sword
Format: CD
Label: self-released
Distributor: CD Baby
Rated: *****
What if, in the late 70's, early 80's Brian Eno decided to find and produce the worst minimal synth band in New York he could find. Not sure he could complete the task himself, he enlisted the aid of The Residents, and possibly one other (undisclosed) luminary English musical known for his bizarre music as a consultant. Upon hearing the finished product, the record company recoiled in horror and promptly shelved the recording burying it deep in its archives vowing it would never be released as it would ruin the reputations of all involved. Then, 30 or so years later, some lackey at the label discovered the recording and released it anonymously. Todd is Each New Moment's 'Glass Sword' could be such a recording.

Fortunately for Brian Eno, he has no such involvement whatsoever with this project. (Although he did play with, and produce the Portsmouth Sinfonia, a markedly low point in his career with classical music no-talents, but that's another story.) Unfortunately for Todd is Each New Moment, there is no Brian Eno, or Residents or anyone else to blame this misbegotten disaster on but Todd is Each New Moment. TINEM on this disc is comprised of guitarist Thomas Wilk and keyboardist Bryan Hamill, and singer Jake Davidson of Brooklyn and Athens, NY. Yes, it's minimal synth, and probably like nothing you've ever heard. It could have been a bad SNL skit, but Sprockets has nothing to fear here. The odd thing is, there are some interesting off the wall musical elements, but the vocals are just so gawd-awful that they can't be overcome. Davidson sings in this hokey overly affected pseudo-dramatic voice that just makes you want to roll your eyes and say 'what the fuck is this shit???' It's as if David Byrne had a brother who couldn't sing at all, but figuring since he had Byrne blood in him, decided to give warbling a go anyway. Perhaps with somebody who could actually sing (or enough processing on the voice to render it inscrutable) this mess could have made into something at least tolerable.

There are moments that TINEM bore a vague resemblance to elements of Eno's first solo album ('Here Come the Warm Jets'), but they were assuredly brief. Actually, there was one thing I liked- a brief minimal guitar solo in 'For Evan and Evan,' but that was such a small part of this disaster that it hardly makes up for any of the rest. Sometimes the weirdness approaches Residentsville, for weirdness only, not for talent or inventiveness. Even the Bonzo Dog Band, if they attempted to spoof the worst band in the world, could not achieve the atrociousness present on 'Glass Sword'. If you don't believe me, visit their MySpace site and check out some of the tracks.

I might be willing to give this band a listen on a future release if they dump Davidson and get a decent vocalist, but I wouldn't count on that. Funny thing is, there are some people who are going to love this stuff just because it's so bad and so out there. I suppose it could be considered Dada or Avant Garde synthpop, but for me, it was just cringe-worthy, and in my book, that's never a good thing.
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