Music Reviews

Artist: Christmann/Frangenheim/Schipper (@)
Title: Core
Format: CD
Label: Creative Sources (@)
Rated: *****
There's a precise and very interesting conceptual framing about this amazing release co-signed by Gunter Christmann (cello, trombone), Alexander Frangenheim (double bass) and the surprising vocalist Elke Schipper: every tracks have been entitled RAC, a protein isolated in fruit flies which appears to regulate some mnemonic processes - according to some American and Chinese researchers, it seems that when activated, RAC causes the fast fading of newly formed memories, allowing new ones to come in and solidify, a sort of turn-over into human "ram memory" arguably very important for good functioning of brain. This talented improvisational performers were maybe trying to switch RAC on during this recording occured on the end of January 2010 at Studio Borne in Berlin. It's quite clear that Elke's vocal extended techniques are ear-catching and I'm saying so not to behave with gallantry: altough cello, trombone and double bass play such an important role in the rehearsal performative stage that they can be perceived as "very close" elements to Core's dramatics and sometimes even stand-alone elements (as you can experience in Rac 11 or Rac 12), most of listeners will presumably focus on amazingly gorgeous versatility and swiftness in changing compass as well as the dramatic power by Elke Schipper, whose vocal skills sometimes sound able to cause the eruption of some subcutaneous strong energies while stammeringly muttering, humming, crying, yodelling, trilling, retching, gasping, screaming and distorting in many different ways her vocal chords in order to render emotions in a so vivid way that you could physically and emotionally react when for instance it seems some cruel dentist is trying to extract her painful tooth without anaesthesia or when she sounds falling prey to atrocious spasms provoking some vocal gasping convulsions, strangulated shouts, silent snurls or excruciating yells. Really amazzzzzziiiiiing stu...uh..uh...uh...shhhhhhhhhh...uff! B...p...p...p...ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh... (sorry for this sort of onomatope-like induction!)
Artist: Polestar
Title: End of an Era
Format: Download Only (MP3 only)
Label: Boltfish Recordings (@)
Distributor: Boltfish Recordings
Rated: *****
I don't mean to grouse, but why does it seem to be so difficult for some publicists to include their artist's website and email address in their promo material or on the CD they send you? It is sort of a 'requirement for review' here at Chain D. L. K., and more often than not I have to play Sherlock Holmes to track the info down, and not always successfully either. That off my chest, Polestar is (or was) the alter ego of electronic musician Jon Elliott from Bristol, U. K. The fittingly titled 'End of an Era' is the final release from Elliot under the Polestar moniker, a six track EP, but hopefully not the last from Jon Elliott. Being unfamiliar with previous Polestar releases, I only have this one to go by, although I am somewhat familiar with Boltfish Recordings having reviewed a Winter North Atlantic album in the past. Eclectic electronica, IDM, inclinations towards ambient, some experimentalism, that seems to be the kind music Boltfish prefers to put out. Polestar is a perfect fit in that regard, although possibly less experimental than some of their other artists.

The first thing that strikes one about 'End of an Era' is just how pretty it all sounds. The synth sonics and melodies are very pleasant; percussion is light even when highly active, and sometimes hyperactive. In fact, the music sounds so sweet in a wistful sort of way, it almost verges on New Age. Almost. The inspiration behind this Polestar album has to do with the area of Bristol, once actively industrial, and now like Detroit, only a shell of its former self- abandoned, derelict factories, etc. Instead of doleful, depressing gloom, Elliott expresses a dreamy, contemplative nostalgia in the music. Through cute little arpeggiated sequenced melodies accompanied by playful, tinker-toy percussion, there are numerous occasions where the music is downright happy and smiley, and very bouncy.

There are tracks, or parts of tracks on 'End of an Era' that I could easily picture as background music in television commercials, tracks such as 'Seven Span,' 'A Person of the Past,' 'Music for Abandoned Factories,' and 'Ups320'. That's NOT a bad thing though. There is a LOT of money spent in advertising to get good, memorable music. (Commercial producers take note; you need to check this stuff out!) For the IDM enthusiast, there is plenty to latch onto, and the ambient lovers should enjoy the Enoesque cloud pads in 'Legacy'. Polestar's perky beat-programming gets quite elaborate at times with its infusion of glitch-click 'n whirr. Mostly, it works with the music, although there were a few occasions I thought it went a little overboard.

Still, I haven't heard an album of this ilk that was so instantly likeable in a while. Like a frisky pet, the music may surprise and delight you. It goes down easy, but not so mellow that you'll be bored. A high replayability factor makes this one a winner, and worth owning. Available from Boltfish as a digital download only now.
Artist: The Murder Act (@)
Title: Traum
Format: Download Only (MP3 only)
Label: self-released
Distributor: bandcamp
Rated: *****
As they put it, The Murder Act is a London, U.K. based five piece guitar-oriented band fusing elements of krautrock, shoegaze, industrial, punk and no-wave electronica with violently passionate and darkly humorous lyrics that had their inception in 2009. Well, that's the way they put it, not the way I'd put it, but more on that shortly. 'Traum' is their debut six-track EP, available on 12' vinyl (limited to 200) and digital download only. (My copy was a promo CD, but no real bearing on the music.)

Some review quoted on their one-sheet described the band as 'A vicious noise-drenched attack that smothers the dirty soul of Nick Cave around the Velvet's sodden corpse.' A highly imaginative description, but far-fetched to the point of incredulity from what I heard on this EP. Any resemblance to either of those two artists is purely coincidental in their 'noise factor'. I could just as easily compare The Murder Act to early Swans, Joy Division, or Sonic Youth, but there is no Nick Cave, Michael Gira or Thurston Moore in this band.

Leaving musical influences and the mode of the music aside for the moment, the biggest problem with 'Traum' is the sound quality. It sounds like the EP was recorded live in a warehouse on a cassette recorder. In this day and age there is simply no excuse for that. I've heard mediocre bootlegs from the 80s that sounded better than this murky mess. My advice- guys, get a good producer, or at very least a decent sound engineer and spend the bucks to do it right in the studio if you're serious about a career in music, even fringe music like this. There is just too much competition out there to sound so shabby. If the lyrics are supposed to be 'violently passionate and darkly humorous,' I can't tell; I can't much decipher them.

All is not hopelessly lost though. Beneath the muck and mire of the recording quality, I do detect a glimmer of talent. There is a Robert Smith / John Lydon quality about the lead singer's vocals, mixed with a little Ian Curtis/ Michael Gira intonation. 'Sew My Eyes,' a droning mid-tempo rock noise piece with vocals is somewhat memorable. (I could at least understand the 'Sew My Eyes' portion of the vocals.) So was the mostly instrumental title track, 'Traum,' with its forecful 'wall 'o processed guitar sonics and sequenced filter-sweep electronics. The vocals which come in later aren't bad either. Unfortunately, the subtleties were sabotaged due to the poor production. It's too bad that the majority of the material on 'Traum' is sub-par, wallowing in the clichéd emotional netherworld of goth-angst. Still, I detect the possibility of transcending all this with better production and more attention to songwriting. That the lead singer (and rest of the band, I presume) is English is a big plus for them, as the accent is a strong selling point. What this band needs is a new underground music scene to hone their craft in, and for all I know, there may be one taking shape in Britannia; although these days I fear it has a lot more to do with DJs and hip-hop.

In spite of my low rating for this debut effort, The Murder Act may be a band to watch (if they can hold together and stick it out), and if you're lucky enough (or unlucky enough, for various reasons) to live in or around London, you might want to catch this act in the clubs. (They'd probably sound better than they do on this EP.) It would be interesting to check their progress in six month to a year. You ought to judge for yourself though, and visit the band's website to listen to a few tracks. Won't cost you anything. For the adventurous, you can purchase the EP on bandcamp. (Link provided under distributor.)
Artist: Distorted Memory
Title: Swallowing the sun
Format: CD
Label: Noitekk (@)
Rated: *****
Another Canadian band on Noitekk as well as DYM, Distorted Memory unleash a pretty nice second album after "Burning heaven", released in 2006 on Noitekk as well. Jeremy Pillipow's creature is into harsh-ebm/industrial as you are expecting, dance-floor groundbreakers alternated to some slower-paced songs, pounding bass lines, usual arpeggios (with some hi-nrg hints here and there). But not the Combichrist kind of clones proliferating around if this is your question, though there are many points in common. Vocals are harsh but more natural and with less effects than the average, kinda more black metal. Rhythms are driving, but songs sometimes show some unusual (for the genre) middle-eastern music influences, and I must say that "Swallowing the sun", probably the best song, though the less catchy and danceable, of the record, reminds me a lot of Ministry's "Hezbollah" (from "The land of rape and honey" album). This is something noticeable witnessing the attempt of putting some new ideas in a kind of music often stuck to the same recurring standards. "Hand of god" remix by Die Sektor included. Fans of the genre should take note of Distorted Memory.
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Artist: Anamadim (@)
Title: Dymphne Sanctis
Format: Download Only (MP3 + Lossless)
Label: self-released
Rated: *****
A free download-able EP from a new Mexican talent, ANAMADIM consists of Javier M. N., who's maybe better in known under his pseudonym Yugao Otomo. He's also a talented graphic artist, as he proves his skills with the opulent cover artwork for this EP. ANAMADIM's efforts are sounding pretty much how a Mexican newcomer has to sound: mostly inspired by crafty countrymen like HOCICO, AMDUSCIA and the still rushing troops of the Hellectro-camp, these featured 5 tracks on this EP avoiding surprises. But his tracks do offer satisfying results, especially when it comes to figure out catchy harmonies of the lead synth programming, Think of above named idols combined with some smoother DECODED FEEDBACK for instance, and you'll an idea about Javier's outfit. His previously featured remix contributions to projects like MENSCHDEFEKT or STAHLNEBEL VS BLACK SELKET have been well noticed by the international based audience. But also here: an upcoming full-length album needs to be switched soon afterwards to approve this first good impression, otherwise ANAMADIM will swim relatively anonymous into the ocean-like flood of mediocrity.
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