Music Reviews



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Artist: CHROMAGAIN
Title: Any Colour We Liked
Format: CD
Label: Anna Logue Records / Mannequin (@)
Distributor: Mannequin
Rated: *****
Chromagain formed at the end of 1982, just before one of the most successful independent concert held in Turin during the early 80s. The concert was "Rock contro il nucleare" and it has been held at the Architecture Faculty's courtyard for two days and it gathered many of the independent city bands: Franti, Blind Alley and I think also Monuments, among others. Chromagain's early line-up included Sivio Ferrero (keyboards and drum machine), Luca Pastore (bass, guitar, keyboards) and Riccardo Acuto (vocals). Acuto left after recording some demo tracks and after him, Dana (singer who later formed the Synthetic Sun), joined with Maurizio Gallero (keyboards). Dana left and formed, with Sivio Ferrero, Casino Des Images, a project that is still active. Davide Bassino (vocals) joined and with that line-up they recorded "Ethnicbox", a track for a vinyl compilation titled "Tracce" released by Shirak Records in 1984. The year after, they recorded for Supporti Fonografici their only MLP titled "Any colour you like". That release had five tracks which showed a multifaceted band, capable of playing new wave tunes with a dance attitude like the opening "Satisfied" and "Spot" (also Monuments opted for the choice of being influenced by dance music for their MLP "Age"), atmospheric synth ballads (like "Killing dome"), melancholic dark mid tempos influenced by the Joy Division of "Decades" and pure new wave synth pop songs like the closing "Season of steel". Recorded at the Monuments' studio TKS, "Any colour you like" gathered recognition around the Italian country but Chromagain decided to stop their experience just like many bands did during the mid eighties: disco music was the hype back then and maybe Supporti Fonografici (which was a label linked to the records shop of the same name) wasn't strong enough to face the change. Chromagain during the last twenty five years have been remembered here in Turin and I think that many people while growing up, recalled themselves dancing to the melodies of "Spot". Anyway, after all these years, thanks to Anna Logue Records and to Mannequin, you have the opportunity to have a close look to Chromagain's music thanks to the five tracks of their MLP plus nine other tracks (on the vinyl they are only three) coming from compilations and early demos (many with Riccardo Acuto on vocals). I'd like to point out the quality that their demo recordings already had: they were a bit rough but they showed a great taste into the creation of the atmospheres and into the sound mix. I'd like also to tell you that Chromagain weren't only music, they also had a visual side thanks to Luca Pastore, who was already active with his Lego Video studio. He worked at a video and made the artistic cover of the MLP, for example. He already started to work on other bands' videos back then (you can check on YouTube his videos for Blind Alley and Deafear) and he continued to do so producing many Subsonica videos (a really well known band here in Italy). Music wise he played bass guitar with Fluxus (they were a noise rock band with four albums on their back) and nowadays you can check his audio/visual project Sulle Uova on YouTube and his new band Maciunas. Also Silvio Ferrero played with different bands such as Loschi Dezi and later Munciausen Generescion and he also opened a recording studio called Bunker Studio.
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Artist: Laurent Pernice vs. Laurent Perrier
Title: play piano and sounds
Format: CD
Label: sound on probation (@)
Rated: *****
Despite the fact that there's a certain amount of recordings based on piano and electronics, there's some work that sort out of banality. According to the press sheet, this album was done in two clearly defined phases: half of this is made out of tracks recorded by Laurent Pernice, the other half is recorded by Laurent Perrier after the listening of Pernice's works mixing piano and ambient music. So, this is not the classic album made by the encounter of an electronic musician and a piano player, it hasn't that sort of neo-romantic mood that permeate those records but has a kind of industrial influence and an harshness giving substance to the whole compositional plot.
Laurent Pernice is more concerned with piano lines and sounds more classical, as in "solar", where a glitch beats gives movements to an almost static and slow melody. This approach is methodically applied to all tunes with truly enjoyable results as in "you take my heart forever" where beats, field recordings and piano collides creating an evocative mood without any obvious melancholy.
Laurent Perrier works more with electronic soundscapes and rhythms, so "situation" has less piano but a more subtle work with (probably) field recording and noises, "frolements" develops is a sort of ambient-dub piano piece constructed on a bassline and a piano melody that match his mate "Equation part.6".
In some track this is an amazing album, also because it doesn't sound like a split album, as it is, but as a complete record, and, probably, it will be in my playlist for a while. Recommended.
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Artist: MILLIGRAM RETREAT
Title: Falun Gong
Format: 12"
Label: Enfant Terrible (@)
Rated: *****
Coming from Holland, Milligram Retreat is a collaboration between electronic music producer Maurice Hermes and visual / performance artist Renée van Trier. We already had the chance to check their music on 'Kamp Holland' compilation but FALUN GONG is their debut album. Released by Enfant Terrible on vinyl (the first 100 copies have also a bonus two tracks 7"), the album contains eight new tracks by the duo. It starts with the industrial influenced analog noises of "Aim for the brain" (it recalled me early Nocturnal Emission) just to change atmosphere with "Emotion", a track which sounds like an obsessive minimal synth retro tune. This is the main element of Milligram Retreat: they take the past industrial / synth / experimental sounds and they make their own new ones by walking on the same path. So, if "Wife" is based on a two beats 4/4 rhythm, a distorted bass guitar riff, repetitive vocals and monophonic synth noises, "Separated" sounds like a Virgin Prunes first EP outtake (do you remember their twisted lullabies?), "Planemo" is psychedelic synth pop tune and "Orbang" a powerful industrial electro melancholic instrumental. Milligram Retreat sound classic but for sure, they don't sound old! Take a taste of their sound at Enfant Terrible's website.
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Artist: Brasil & the Gallowbrothers Band (@)
Title: In the Rain, In the Noise
Format: CD
Label: Cat Sun (@)
Rated: *****
Now this is one strange and enigmatic CD. My first listening experience with it was late at night while I was working with attention not really focused on the music, which might be the best way to experience it. Brasil & the Gallowbrothers Band seems an unlikely name for this collective of improvisational experimental musicians; more like a samba or bossa nova outfit, and there is no Brasil, and no Gallow Brothers in the group! There music seems to be the furthest thing from that moniker. The group consists of Tomek Mirt ' Guitar, Mbira & Samplers; Rafael Michalowski ' Voice, Duduk, Flute, Wavedrum, Harmonica; and T.E.R. - Yahama CS5 and Kaossilator. They're from Poland and have about four other releases under this name, some of which I checked out, but none of which I cared much for. But this- 'In the Rain, In the Noise,' is different; an absolutely astonishing CD of electro-acoustic ambient music that is sublime alchemical magic akin to In Gowan Ring's earlier, more out-there stuff.

I don't know what the group mindset was for this performance (and it was recorded live April and May 2010 at Antonin and Poznan) but it turned out to be pure genius! First track 'Do You Remember Our Holiday Camp,' is a 20 minute trip into the psychedelic woods of your mind. The gentle sounds of nature, low duduk and/or flute, mellow synth drone and mysterious melody, occasional echoed plucking of a stringed instrument; a sporadic hand drum rhythm; a barely discernable vocal all combine to form an incredibly mystical sylvan experience. It is as loose as you could possibly get but works incredibly well together.

'Voice of the City and the Rhythm of the Dunes' has a repetitive but hypnotic rhythm and melody with a spoke-sung vocal that is absolutely haunting. Exotic sitar-sounding improvisation, a ghostly synth background and other noises fill out the rest. Wow! This is really unusual and marvelous stuff! 'Another Night in Cottage 21' is just too difficult to describe; drone ambience with the plinks of echoed mbira, but that hardly does it justice. In fact, trying to describe any of the rest of it is becoming a futile task. Words are inadequate for music that is more about mood and feeling than any structural analysis or description. Let's just say that there is something about 'In the Rain, In the Noise' that is transcendental, enthralling, even mesmerizing, and I'd strongly recommend that if you're into psychedelic ambient, you get yourself a copy before it disappears. (I also quite like Tomek's cover art for the CD.)

This is a limited release of 350 (plus 30 of the 'Special Version,' whatever that is) and it might be a difficult acquisition for those in the U.S. The only place I can find it is directly from Cat Sun (Poland). There may be other sources, but I can't account for their reliability. In any case, it would be a worth quest, as I've never heard anything quite like this.
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Artist: Dirk Geiger (@)
Title: Autumn Fields
Format: CD
Label: Tympanik Audio (@)
Distributor: Tympanik Audio
Rated: *****
Dirk Geiger, from Rottenburg Germany may not be a familiar name to those in the U.S. interested in IDM glitch ambient electronica, but in Europe I'm sure he is as he is the head of German label Raumklang Music, and also a member of the experimental electronic industrial band Kraftmaschine, among other things. Obviously Geiger is no newcomer, although I get the impression 'Autumn Fields' might be his first solo outing.

There are some very nice things, and also some unsettling things on 'Autumn Fields,' an album of ambient glitchy IDM electronica, a style that I seem to be running into more and more of at late with new releases, especially from Tympanik. The album opens up well enough with 'Gewitterregen,' with a thunderstorm and moody piano to set the tone. 'Autumn Life' brings in the ambience of automobiles on wet pavement, some placid Boards of Canada style synth-work, ambient voices of children (playground?), something that sounds like a repeating dopplerized horn in the distance, and this annoying glitch repeating sound of a stylus on record on a turntable that has reached the end but continues to skip. If it wasn't for that one sonic element, this would have been a pretty enjoyable piece. That's what I mean by 'unsettling'. That glitchy turntable effect comes and goes, and versus the music, it is arrhythmic, which makes it all the more annoying. I suppose the artist something in mind when he used it, but for me it seemed out of place.

'Noise Format' is good descriptive title for the next track as little buzzes, whirrs, bursts of white noise, cut up voices and radio samples, and other sonic effluvia combine for what sounds like alien shortwave radio tuning. Eventually an off-kilter percussion track emerges intermittently with other glitch elements and a hollow bellish drone playing against it. Interesting in an experimental way, but I thought it went on a bit too long. 'Night in Haskovo' begins with some deep, somnambulistic ambience with indistinct voices steeped in underground reverb before a percussion track is established. Geiger's rhythms aren't your typical fare; they're a bit askew, and that's one of the things that make this artist's music different. He's willing to take risks.

'Botanic Garden' juxtaposes low rumbling with ambient sounds of birds, footsteps, and glitchy noises, before a junglesque talking drum rhythm emerges. Minimal but effective synth carries the melodic element. It is interesting the way it morphs over time in the piece. 'Minus 10' uses echoed snippets of voices, high ringing tones and low percussion rhythm with a repeating hollowish bass pattern to propel it. The rhythm is steady while other incidental elements drift in and out, until the rhythm disappears towards the end. 'Winter Senses' is comprised of ambient roadway, gentle sequenced synth, string pads, low drone tones, high bellish tones, and other sonic elements from which a semi-glitch rhythm emerges. Ah, I'm beginning to sense a pattern here. There are parts of this I really like a lot. There is a part where the bellish sound plays against the low bassy part which is really cool. Nothing quite stays the same in the piece though as there is constant change. Still, it has a good flow.

'Overhead Projection' brings in the beat a bit more quickly than some of the other pieces on 'Autumn Fields,' still employing outdoor ambiences along with some brooding synths. The beat work on this one is the closest to drum kit percussion yet, but nothing you'd be inclined to dance too. Nice track. 'Itch Glitch' begins with ambient voices and atmosphere followed quickly by a glitch rhythm, which goes on a while, then stops and changes for a more tribal pattern. One thing I've noticed about Geiger's music is how he likes to play certain elements off each other that you wouldn't ordinarily find combined. A heavy truck passing by; heavenly sounding synths; glitchy rhythm patterns; tribal drums; it makes you change your musical perceptions. Not everyone is going to like this, but real IDM/ambient freaks are going to find it stimulating and challenging.

The last two tracks are remixes of previous tracks on the album; Svart1's 'Night in Haskovo,' and Access to Arasaka's 'Overhead Projection.' (I'll be getting to a review for Access to Arasaka's CD soon.) 'Night in Haskovo' sounds even darker, stranger and more unworldly in this mix. I'm really liking it a lot. The percussion is very different, a low lower and somewhat smoother, less glitchy and disjunct. 'Overhead Projection' bears little resemblance to the original, although it uses some of the elements, it is even darker still. The work on this track is sort of a foreshadowing of just how potent Access to Arasaka is in the genre. My only complaint is that it was too brief!

Although I wasn't wild about everything on the album, Geiger's 'Autumn Fields' is still an interesting excursion in ambient glitch electronica, and there is enough that is provocative about it that will stand up to repeated listenings, and challenge you a bit in the process.
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