Music Reviews



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Artist: Vincenzo Vasi (@)
Title: Braccio Elettrico
Format: CD
Label: Tremoloa Records
Distributor: Fasol Music
Rated: *****
One of Italy's most active and daring composers and performers, is the Bologna-based multi-instrumentalist Vincenzo Vasi. Possibly best known in his home country for being part of Vinicio Capossela's band, Vasi has played with far more important and far reaching artists worldwide (John Zorn, Mike Patton, Alex Gimignani, Butch Morris, Otomo Yoshihide, Roy Paci, Marc Ribot, Vinicius Cantuaria, Jacopo Andreini, Scott Rosenberg, Alvin Curran, Jamie Saft, Ikue Mori, Trevor Dunn, Joey Baron, Cyro Baptista, Lukas Ligeti just to mention a few). Vasi also plays bass and sings but on "Braccio Elettrico" (italian for "electric arm") he prominently and exclusively features his theremin skills, which are outright amazing!. One of the most precise and in-tune theremin players I've had the pleasure to know, Vasi offers a collection of his own compositions which are arrangements for solo or multiple theremins (up to six at a time). As you may imagine the vibe is eerie and ethereal throughout the entire record. The theremin is enchanting and conjures outer-worldly images of bewitching beauty and bewildering mind states. The black and white cut and paste collage of the art work and the diluted atmospheres permeated with mystery and nostalgia all make for a spellbinding trip through time and space that I encourage you to embark on. Except for a couple of songs where he also employs a looper, a magnetic microphone, an omnichord, a tape echo and his voice everything else is theremin only. Of the nine tunes present two are covers by John Carpenter and Neal Hefti/Count Basie. Alessandro "Asso" Stefana (guitar player in Capossela's band) co-produced this CD and put it out on his own label Tremoloa records.
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Artist: Der Maurer (@)
Title: Der Maurer Vol. 1
Format: CD
Label: Parade / Trovarobato
Rated: *****
Enrico Gabrielli is a well known italian composer & performer. The kind Italy has very very few of, unfortunately. He plays keys in two bands called Mariposa and Calibro 35 but is also an excellent wind instruments/reed player. He has played with Afterhours, Capossela, Marta Sui Tubi, Mike Patton and many many others.
In his side project Der Maurer (german for "the Masons"), Gabrielli pays homage to some great composers, such as Steve Reich, Louis Andriessen and Giovanni Gabrieli (unrelated) and offers one of his very own compositions as well. A very reed-heavy collection of songs, Gabrielli manages to give compositions that are as old as 1597 a "new music" luster that is in many ways very familiar to the NY downtown scene. The opening 11 minute 1985 Reich composition is a fragmented and heavily multi-layer orchestration of clarinet lines that intertwine and interact subtly echoing Glass and Riley or even Jeremiah Cymerman's all-clarinet record from a few years back. Gabrieli's 1597 work sounds decidedly more European and although I wasn't familiar with this composer before, it sounds like the kind of piece that would have been written for a harpsichord and a baroque court, but is here offered in a rendition that features voices, clarinets and saxophone. Enrico Garbrielli's very own composition also features a number of reeds but brings in organ, wurlitzer, piano and clavinet. The closing 1975 Andriessen piece for clavinet, wurlitzer, sax and drums is the most bombastic and stochastic and relentlessly hammers away for 15 minutes evolving, constructing and deconstructing into an intense avantgarde climax of staccato notes played with the precision of a machine and the subtleties of a human!
The CD comes in a cardboard folding package with a poster inside in which the composer invites us to "unload free cement for modern sound buildings".
This is a prime example of new classical music that pushes the boundaries by taking the old and re-penning it for this day and age. As you might imagine this is definitely not an easy listening record, but Enrico Gabrielli's sophistication and background is way ahead of most of his local contemporaries and he should therefore be followed closely.
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Artist: Vresnit (@)
Title: Seed Solar
Format: CD
Label: Vetvei (@)
Distributor: Vetvei
Rated: *****
'Seed Solar' is Vresnit's 6th album on the Vetvie label and he gets a little help from Kshatriy, Hladna and Neznamo on this one. If you're familiar at all with Vresnit, you sort of know what to expect, but every Vetvie release I've come across has been a little different in subtle and sometimes not so subtle ways. 'Seed Solar' is four tracks ranging from a little over 8 minutes to a little over 24 minutes in length. "Preobrazhenie" begins with chirping birds and ominous drones in the background. A ways into the piece things evolve when a very basic tapping rhythm emerges along with bursts of white noise and other sonic elements that include some brief spoken word (Russian) and electronic squiggles. That's pretty much the piece.

"Zerno Sfera," the aforementioned 24 minute track, begins with a repeated (radio?) sample of some innocuous Russian music accompanied by a spoken phrase repeated in Russian. Tinkling windchimes (singing bowls really), drones and hallucinatory echoed electronic elements emerge growing in intensity and take over the piece fairly forcefully. Then out of nowhere there is a female voice singing some traditional Russian folk melody, an odd soothing contrast to the psychical storm of the swelling, ringing drones. This too morphs into something huge and unworldly and gradually subsides into an atmosphere cosmic and primeval, unfathomable in its evolution. It is as if you were witnessing the genesis of a newly formed planet sped up. Great and terrifying things happen within this opus and it is only limited by your imagination. There is an elongated 'come down' to the end somewhat mirroring the psychedelic experience too.

"Veda-Tanec" employs a simple looped rhythm that sounds a bit industrial, like an alien assembly line. More drones of both higher and lower frequencies are added and the higher timbres become flutey along with windchime like tinkling. After a long while the rhythmic loop fades, then the drones, leaving the tinkling sounds and flutes. The tinkling remains to the end after the flutes depart. That's it for this one.

Closing the album is "Zashitnyj Svet", a collaboration with Kshatriy that takes ambient noise to a new level. There is an ineffable vastness here that defies description, and yet there are slow moving modulated tones in the background that resemble some kind interstellar music. All too quickly it ends, at 8:10, the shortest piece on the album.
This kind of soundscape is assuredly not for everyone, but for those who can't get enough deep space in their ambient music, 'Seed Solar' is definitely for you. As usual, the disc comes in a provocative six-panel cover designed by Vresnit (Ilchuk Sergey) the guy responsible for making this all happen.
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Artist: Dreissk (@)
Title: The Finding
Format: CD
Label: n5MD (@)
Distributor: n5MD
Rated: *****
Dreissk is the project of gaming audio director and sound designer Kevin Patzelt who began experimenting with electronic music back in 1997 but put his own music on the shelf in favor of a more lucrative career as a sound designer in the computer gaming industry. So now Patzelt has decided to flex his creative muscles and Dreissk's 'The Finding' is the result. The music is part ambient, part shoegaze, part IDM and part industrial noise. It's the latter of these stylistic forms merged with the whole that keeps Dreissk out of Robin Guthrie territory and into something completely new and different. (Yes, there is a good amount of sub-aquatic guitar swathed in reverb.) I had to admit it was a bit unsettling at first reconciling the gorgeous shoegazey ambience with the turgid din of the (often distorted) industrial elements when they occurred, but you get used to it. If this is shoegaze at all, it is potent in a way My Bloody Valentine never managed to achieve, and more ethereal in a cosmic way than the Cocteau Twins ever envisioned. (To be fair to the Cocteaus though, this album is completely instrumental; nobody can out-ethereal Liz Fraser.) 'The Finding' is a moody, hazy ride from start to finish, although not a languorous one in spite of its calmer passages. Some tracks utilize drums but the pacing is measured, never frantic or rushed but still has the power of motion. I tended to like the dreamy sections better, but overall I found the combination quite intriguing. Repeated listening will prove there is much more going on than you may have thought at first as you catch sonic elements interwoven in the dense fabric of the music. Obviously Kevin Patzelt knows sound, and he knows how to sculpt it into a most engaging music form. And while there is a lack of melodic definition, I'm sure that's the intention here as there is enough melodic substance to evoke a feeling in its impressionistic fashion. If you can set preconceived notions aside about genre boundaries, you should find 'The Finding' very rewarding.
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Artist: Six Dead Bulgarians & Ogni Videniy (@)
Title: 2137
Format: CD
Label: Vetvei (@)
Distributor: Vetvei
Rated: *****
More interesting stuff from the Russian Vetvei label, '2137' is a collaborative project by Six Dead Bulgarians & Ogni Videniy (Fires of Images), both of the Northern Russian city of Arkhangelsk. The eleven tracks on this CD were recorded February 13-14 2010 when the moon year 2137 began, hence the numeric title. The work is supposed to be a symbol of deliverance of all negative, collected in the leaving year, and development of positive qualities in a new year. It goes back to an ancient Bon tradition with a Buddhist influence. For the record are used singing bowls, metal, wooden percussion and electronic devices, a jew's-harp, sand and voice. I am not previously acquainted with either of these projects, although I have of (but not heard) Six Dead Bulgarians vs. Moon So Far Away, another Arkhangelsk band that I am a bit familiar with. But this collaboration is quite different than Moon So Far Away's Gothic Neo-Folk.

In checking out both project's couple of tracks on their respective MySpace sites that were not on this CD, there is a little similarity in the elements used is this work but perhaps with more intensity here. Pretty much from the start my feeling about '2137' was one of ambivalence- on the one hand, the sounds are mostly intriguing, on the other, the combinations of them and the structure (if you could call it structure) of the tracks are perplexing. The basics involve chimey (think wind chimes) and klangy sounds with moaning, sweeping electronic oscillators and drone tones. Other elements are employed such as wooden percussion like claves and hand drums, but more as arrhythmic effect than anything rhythmic. A tone akin to a telephone dial tone might emerge'¦then other stray percussive elements. The percussion, chimes, singing bowls, etc., are often echoed off in slow delay. Also you almost get a feeling (no necessarily due to the echo effect) that this could have been recorded in a cave rather than a studio due to the reverberant (wet) space the recording seems to have in general. The music tends to be largely improvisational with a generally light touch and minimal, where elements don't seem to clash much with each other.

The vocals which first emerge in 'Got stuck in Sansara' are manipulated spoken word that are as intelligible as Ron Geesin's on Pink Floyd's 'Several Species Of Small Furry Animals Gathered Together In A Cave And Grooving With A Pict' from the 'Ummagumma' album. Yet where Geesin plays the mad Scotsman, these vocals sound more like a confused Euro tourist. They must have been employed to conjure a feeling more than say anything but the only feeling I got was befuddlement.

I have heard this project has been categorized as 'ritualistic ambient' but from what I've know of ritual ambient music, there tends to be some type of impetus or driving force behind it, at least in the rhythmic or vocal aspects. Here there is nothing you can really pin down as a rhythm, there is no chanting or intoning incantations, and the form seems to be amorphous. Perhaps the tracks 'Sacrifice' and 'Space Valley' are about the closest thing to the previously ascribed 'Buddhist influence' with their sonority of low Tibetan horns and a seemingly more serious approach. This actually seems to be when Six Dead Bulgarians & Ogni Videniy are at the top of their game. Unfortunately that moods ends all too soon and is replaced by the voice of the befuddled Euro tourist backed by jew's harp on the next track. He sounds like he's having a hard time of it too. Finally though on the last track, 'The Golden Age' we get something that really alludes to ritualistic ambient with low vocal intonation that could be construed as chanting, but is more like 'voweling'. It is brief though and minor as compared with the album as a whole.

For those that enjoy enigmatic soundscapes though, '2137' has a lot to offer, especially if you enjoy really out-there psychedelia. Expect a lot of ringing, clangorous tones on this one. '2137' is rather unclassifiable; not upsetting, just perplexing. As with most all Vetvei releases, the album comes in a six-panel jacket with intriguing colorful artwork by Vresnit.
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