Music Reviews



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Artist: Aidan Baker (@)
Title: Songs of Flowers & Skin
Format: CD
Label: Beta-lactam Ring Records (@)
Rated: *****
Wow. I'm not really sure how to describe this well, but I'll give it a shot. Some comparisons that come to mind are Godspeed You Black Emperor, old Cure, and 80s shoegazer pop like Slowdive. The promo sheet observes that this 'in ancient times 'Songs of Flowers & Skin' might have done time on 4AD, Creation, or even Sarah.' I agree that this would have been right at home alongside This Mortal Coil and Cocteau Twins. I expected similar work from what I've heard previously from Baker, but this was much more ' for lack of a better word ' traditional pop music. Of course this is not to say that it will be played on any top-40 station in the near future, and it is far more enticing, but still ' the structure is there. The shimmering guitars are still there, as well as the wall of drone that I expected. However, there is even a lyric sheet, which is useful as the vocals are buried in the mix to great effect. These are songs of becoming one, of love that is complicated, of getting into and under someone's skin (and having someone else do the same to you). Everything is put together beautifully. The best descriptor I can come up with to describe this album is 'languid.' It swirls around slowly but maintains a sense of order as leaves swirling around a whirlpool begin to form a kaleidoscopic image. There is a hidden track on the album; the last track, 'Flowerskin,' ends at about 14.30 but then starts up again at about 24 minutes in. As such, the disc weighs in at around 60 minutes, but is actually around 50. As with all Beta-lactam Ring Records releases, this comes beautifully packaged in a cardboard gatefold sleeve. Highly recommended.
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Artist: VV.AA.
Title: Thesis Vol. 1
Format: CD
Label: Impulsive Art (@)
Rated: *****
Compilations, as a general rule, are a mixed bag. Even if you really like the label, there are bound to me tracks on it where you think 'so the artist had to cough up a track to go on this compilation. They must have sent the weakest track they had laying around.' In other words, compilations often suffer from the perception that the tracks that made it on were those that were too weak to make it on to a real album. Luckily for Impulsive Art, the artists on this compilation brought their A-game to the studio. Overall, this is what you would expect from the label ' a lot of beats and a nice groove. In a way, much of it seemed to blend together in such a way that it was sometimes difficult to distinguish between artists. Some stood out, however. For example, Tapage throws down 'Last Inhale' with the kind of intensity that one would expect from such a title. Rapid-fire beats, clicks and electric pulses punctuate this track throughout. Larvae's 'Shogun' had a groove that made me take notice, making this one of the standout tracks. Andrey Kiritchenko goes against the grain of the compilation by laying down a lilting melody that was oddly soothing and peaceful. Overall, this would be a good addition to the collection if you want to hear some lesser known acts (the only ones I had heard of were Mad EP, Larvae, and Keef Baker) and get a feel for what Impulsive Art is putting out. This disc weighs in at around 60 minutes.
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Artist: Atmogat (@)
Title: Trigger Event
Format: CD
Label: Impulsive Art (@)
Rated: *****
I had never heard of this band, so I did the usual homework. Here's what the label had to say about the band and the release: ''Atmogat,' a well known and respected electronic duo from Germany, after many EP releases, contributions on compilations and remixes for Tympanik audio and Hands productions, are ready to release their first full length album. 'Trigger Event' reveals a world of intricate IDM/electronica experimentations, all with a futuristic approach that moves the electronic music standards a step further.' I'm not quite sure that this pushes electronic music a step further. While listening to this, my wife stated, 'this is just standard techno.' Well, not quite. I would state that it is well done techno beat that is well sequenced and tries to take an experimental angle. At some times the tracks blend seamlessly into each other in such a way that I didn't notice until I looked at the player and realized that it had changed. Much of this would work well on the dance floor, but it was also a pleasant listen. At times they did try to push the envelope by mixing it up a bit, and some had kind of a tribal feel that reminded me of Muslimgauze's Zul'm. Not bad, but at times it seemed a bit sterile. This disc weighs in at 72 minutes.
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Artist: Alarmen (@)
Title: Next
Format: CD
Label: Audiophob (@)
Rated: *****
I first heard Alarmen on the Audiophob compilation 'Hyperakusis' and found them pleasant. This disc offers up seven tracks simply titles 'Next 1' through 'Next 7.' The promo sheet that came with the disc describes it as 'either claustrophobic scraping dark ambient or . . . quite catchy electronica melodies.' Sounds about right. This disc wanders all over the place, but at least the journey is scenic. For example, 'Next 5' is a short track that sounds like toyboxes and lurching melodies. It's odd, but fun. However, 'Next 1' is a sparse ambient piece with subdued beats and a nice heavy atmosphere. You can sense that something is about to happen and it isn't going to be good. 'Next 3' sounds like it could have easily been done by the Orb. 'Next 7' is a beat driven composition of chirps, bleeps, and bloops that becomes increasingly sparse as the track progresses. Overall, this is one of those discs that is difficult to nail down. That is perhaps the greatest weakness of this disc ' it refuses to stick to any style in particular. I must admit that I was a bit disappointed when the rest of the disc seemed little like the opening track. There is something to be said for artists that refuse easy categorization, but sometimes a sense of coherence can be useful. This disc weighs in at 49.38.
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Artist: Cromwell Street (@)
Title: Rail Eater
Format: CD
Label: Deadsix Communications (@)
Rated: *****
Cromwell Street is the work of Canadian artist C. Stepniewski who describes the project thus: 'A fusion of industrial, electronica, noise and dark ambient captures Cromwell Street's perverse world of experimental industrial. 'Rail Eater' suggests an eerie and harsh atmosphere of pounding beats, relentless blare and odd moods.' This is a pretty accurate description. This album is an interesting mix of fast paced industrial and atmosphere that would be quite out of place on the dance floor. For example, Tenant is a mix of spastic broken beats that would be at home on the DTrash roster, but 'Gass' is a short track of slowly pulsing, noisy, ominous soundscape. The disc continues in this kind of back and forth manner reminiscent of Chemlab's use of 'sutures' that tie together the various tracks with seemingly unrelated noise bursts. This disc is a bit short, weighing in at around 36 minutes, which is pretty impressive for an album with 14 tracks. Two of these tracks are under a minute (46 and 48 seconds). However, this is one of those rare cases in which less is more. It never becomes dull as some albums of this type do. After all, you can only keep up this level of intensity for so long!
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