Music Reviews



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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.
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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.
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Artist: Philippe Pannier / Isambard Khroustaliov
Title: CHALEUR
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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Artist: Mona Mur & En Esch
Title: Do With Me What You Want
Format: CD
Label: Artoffact Records (@)
Rated: *****
This album is the follow-up of last year's "120 Tage: The Fine Art of Beauty and Violence" and, again, they present a rock album carefully produced upon the Mona Mur's vocals.
The opening track, "Touch", is a relatively slow track where the producing quality of the arrangement covers the classical musical structure with an handful of modernity. "Eskalt" recall the past experiences of this duo with the use of electronics and danceable beats. These tunes features also the voice of En Esch as it becomes clear that the vocals are not an almost exclusive of Mona Mur as in the previous release. "My life" is based on a catchy beat and would probably be a choice for alternative dj, maybe in some remix version. Listening to "Le Weltanschauung" after "Justice" is almost strange as it takes the impression that the musical direction is undecided between the almost industrial metal influence and the search for dancehall. "New Order" is an interlude for the last more experimental tracks "Part Again" and "Do Widzenia" where they try to use some strange sounds to colorize this ballads.
As their previous release, this is the production of two solid producers able to use their skills to give a fine form to a relatively pop and accessible musical output. It would probably end in any playlist of the year but it will be in most dj set and radio playlist because is the result of a long and careful work.
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Artist: VENUS FLY TRAP (@)
Title: Nemesis
Format: CD
Label: Big Blue Records
Distributor: Spiral Archive
Rated: *****
Seven years after their previous studio album titled "Zenith", Venus Fly Trap are back with NEMESIS. On this one we have Alex Novak on vocals and Andy Denton taking care of all the other stuff aided by Paul Cox at backing vocals. The album contains twelve tracks and one of them is a particular sixties electro wave version of "Human Fly", one of the first tracks composed by The Cramps. The duo mix guitar feedbacks and electronics filtering them through new wave, post punk and a bit of sixties psychedelia, succeeding into creating a sound reminiscent of hundreds tracks you listened in your past but skillfully blended by Alex and Andy whom dosed all the elements obtaining their own sound. Sounding now dark then epic and after that, acid, Venus Fly Trap made a fresh album that will take you for a ride through dark lands but with intermittent green flashes and pink lollipops. Try to imagine a bus where Sisters Of Mercy, Doctor And The Medics and The Sound have a jam session and you'll have the idea of how this album sounds. You can check some tracks at Venus Fly Trap's Myspace page.
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