Music Reviews

Artist: Gurun Gurun (@)
Title: s/t
Format: CD
Label: Home Normal (@)
Rated: *****
Japanese musicians are normally known to be imitators of Western musical styles. Good imitators by the way as they often reach very high quality tops by adding some frenzy stylistical elements, so that they cannot be considered plagiarist. However in the last decade, some of them elaborated pop and rock standards through a wise combination with electronics and a bizarre approach to composition, which is not averse to glitch "philosophy", based on the preservation of mistakes, which have gradually been turned into proper compositional elements, and fuzzy vocal experiments, partially drawn from other performing arts, resulting in a style, which lives on its own. Just think to innovating musicians such as Takagi Masakatsu, Cornelius, Shugo Tokumare and similar ones dealing with the above mentioned pop and rock standards in order to find confirmation to my consideration. It rarely occurs that a sort of inverse imitative process happens, as not so many Western musicians get really influenced by Japanese style, sometimes for an excessively conceited attitude. It's not the same for Gurun Gurun (name taken from the fictional planet of an old school Slovak children's sci-fi TV series titled "She Came Out of The Blue Sky"), a trio made up of the Czech guitarist Tomas Knoflicek and keyboardist Jara Tarnovski, who later involved Federsel in the band as well as a plenty of collaborators who are normally pleased to add their recipe in the boiling pot of this folks, who melt together Japanese music, glitch sketches and even some electroacoustic, after wearing their nice music in a lovely indietronics' suite. In details for this release Gurun Gurun called to arms the uvulas of three talented vocal performers, the soft one by Moskitoo from 12k label, who gives her lovely voice for the most daydreaming tracks (Fu, Ano Uta), the astonishing singer Sawako (maybe you know her name for some collaborations with Taylor Deupree) emitting astonishing sounds on tracks like "Yume no mori" and "Yuki ~ Hawaiian Snowflake", and the talented Rurarakiss aka Aki Tomita, lovely intepreting the most glitchy and noisy stuff, who have all been hired with a relevant group of performers, including Opiate (a notorious name from Berlin music scene, having signed many releases for Morr Music, City Centre Offices and Raster-Noton) and Kora et le Mechanix, Irena and Vojtech Havolivi (aka The Havels), Daniel Meier, Floex, Artem Vartanian. Most of the songs' spinal column rests both on the Japanese vocalizations intertwined with ethereal wailing and on a limited micro-sound palette whereas instrumental punching by guitar, brass and some wind instruments stains the sound space in a way which could be compared to painting technique of pointillism. All these elements have been combined in a way, which is less stereotypical than one can expect from bands who adhere to some kind of existing genre, even if they cross more or less the same stylistical territories. I personally appreciated the moments when the electric gentle activity gets on edge till something close to electroacustics pieces (have a listen to "Io"), so that it turns into a sort of disturbing element within such an overflowing melodic delicacy. I reccomend to purchase this album from Home Normal store so that you'll receive a bonus disc for free, including remixes by .Tape., pimon, Zavoloka, Orla Wren, Hearts+Horses, offthesky and Part Timer.
Artist: Bardoseneticcube & Vresnit & Kshatriy (@)
Title: Creation
Format: CD
Label: Vetvei (@)
Distributor: Vetvei
Rated: *****
This disc is just amazing! It is a collaborative project between Bardoseneticcube from St. Peterburg, Vresnit from Yaroslavl who runs the Vetvei label, and Kshatriy of Vsevolozhsk. Some tracks from each project are presented on the disk as the seven acts of creation. This is magical ambient music, the music of elves, fey, and veela, and darker things too.

Songs "Za verhom" and "Golymba", opening this disk feature the vocals of Alla Ryzhenkovoj with Bardoseneticcube (Igor Potsukajlo and Edward Dragunov), singing in traditional Russian. This is as heavenly as Lisa Gerrard or any number of Celtic chanteuses (take your pick) perhaps even a bit more mystical. The atmosphere is enchanting as well, absolutely stunning! The next few tracks- "Time is Art," 'Anahata,' and 'Creation,' are by Vresnit (Sergey Ilchuk) but I believe Kshatriy (Sergey Uak-Kib) had a hand in a couple of them. The first features that signature Vresnit jew's harp with some chaotic flutes and is more tumultuous and aggressive for the first 2/3 until it calms down a bit. It is also the longest track at 12:18. Anahata,' is much calmer and makes copious use of bellish drone tones. Lots of harmonic overtones and very meditative. 'Creation' is quite mysterious in its use of elongated drones, pads, babbling water, and what I assume to be processed field recordings. There is a feeling of witnessing something coming alive, perhaps the birth of a planet, as things grow and take shape. Twittering, chittering sounds evolve and the genesis of life begins. Kshatriy takes the final two tracks ' 'Well of Soul,' and 'Intention,' presenting some intensely deep cosmic drone in the former and some less intense drone undertone in the latter with repeating flute-like ethereal melodic overtones until the fade. Nice!

This CD is very different that the first Vetvie CD I reviewed a short while ago (Hladna & Vresnit's 'Inej Senju Kornej') and shows that there can be quite a bit of variety in the music of these ambient artists, even within the framework of their individual work. As usual with most of these Vetvie releases, the CD comes with gorgeous six-panel full-colored envelope and card Vresnit & Vevei Art. For lovers of ambient, highly recommended!
Artist: Ex_Tension (@)
Title: Desert
Format: CD
Label: Tympanik Audio (@)
Distributor: Tympanik Audio
Rated: *****
Leave it to Tympanik to host interesting talent and bring forth new concepts in the industrial/ambient/cinematic music vein. Ex_Tension is the French electronic music duo composed of Vincent Gendrot alias Vxt (composition, programming) and Pierre-Yves Hohmann alias PY (Composition, samples, noises). Although the project was created in 1997 with releases going back to 2005, this is my first experience with them. Much of this release is a reworking of their (first) EP in 2005, which contains two tracks on this album, the epic 31:53 piece title track ('Desert') and the following track, 'Journey'. As that EP was self-released, it probably didn't get the exposure it deserved. Except for the remastering, I presume those two track are largely as they were on the 2005 EP. Two additional previously unreleased tracks, 'Aura' and 'Tension 6' are also included. On top of that, there is also a remix of 'Desert' by Tympanik artists Access To Arasaka, Totakeke, Zentriert ins Antlitz, Geomatic, and Sonic Area who all take a turn at a different section of the piece.

The original 'Desert' is a space/ambient/trancey (but not exactly trance) piece with a good amount of industrialized drums and percussion. It begins with pulsing bass and atmos with layered electronics that build and expand as time goes on. The beat starts as a bit sporadic and chaotic until eventually a groove takes form with sequencers accompanying, but that doesn't happen until past the 10 minute mark. One it gets into the groove though, it become very cool, like Tangerine Dream at their zenith, but an updated version. It's difficult to sustain this kind of trip over such a lengthy period of time without becoming boring over repetition or diverging too much from the theme, but Ex_Tension manage to stay on target for the most part, and the pulsing monotone bass is the impetus that drives the track. Everything bounces along nicely until about the 18-19 minute mark when the vibe becomes marked tribal-Middle Eastern. It is not so much the rhythm as the pedestrian noodling melody line played with a sitar-ish sound that follows. It doesn't last long, but it sounds as if Ex_Tension just threw it in there because they couldn't come up with anything better. Those radio voice samples didn't add anything either. Still, they manage to extricate themselves from this and continue on their merry way to an elongated fade conclusion.

'Journey' would have been an okay piece of spacey rhythmically sequenced ambience if not for the processed claps (or is it bad gated noise snare) that sounds like beating on a heavy tinfoil pan. It is so much better when it leaves, but unfortunately, it returns, and that's just too bad. 'Aura' has a very spacey vibe punctuated by industrialized and other percussive elements, once again with the accent on beat and monotone sequenced synth, harkening back to old school trance. 'Tension' is another spacey piece injected with layered filter sweeps, punctuated with heavy industrialized beats. The rhythm never really comes together though in my estimation. The remix of 'Desert' though redeems the CD admirably. In the capable hands of five Tympanik artists, the piece is elevated to something truly cosmic. Access To Arasaka begins the process by putting his signature mark on the first 5+ minutes using elements of the original but adding his own special touches with a bellish melody and much better percussion, very spacey and atmospheric. Totakeke takes over for about 3 minutes with spooky sounds and gradually builds a steady rhythm, solid and cohesive with excellent ensemble synthwork. Zentriert ins Antlitz takes over at 8:27 for about six minutes with a very good sequenced synth basis and a simple but effective melodic stretched out synth line. The beat, with percussive embellishments, is commanding the layered sequencing is very good. Other industrialized percussive treatments are introduced with a cosmic voice-like pad in the background as this baby builds into some awesome. What drama! I am almost holding my breath in anticipation of Geomatic's participation at the 14:22 mark, and I am not disappointed. Geomatic cranks it up a notch with heavier percussion and a twisted synthetic intensity that so far has been unrivalled. It is almost impossible to explain what is going in; in a word 'EVERYTHING. Sonic Area takes 'Desert' out from the 18:54 mark and has a little over four minutes to play with. The chief contribution by SA is the heavy industrial drumming, and also the processing of some of the original elements. It's kind of an odd ending with what sounds like rain splattering on a tin roof, but what the hey. All-in-all, the remix is much better than the original.

If you're looking for some spacey electronic music with lengthy tracks, updated old-school sequencing and industrialized percussion, I'd recommend this.
Artist: Newton 2060 (@)
Title: Shot
Format: 12"
Label: fRatto9 uNder tHE sky records (@)
Distributor: Metropolis | The Shop
Rated: *****
Newtone 2060 is an Italian trio consisting of Marco Albert (voice and electronic effects), Cristiano Calcagnile (drums, objects, table-guitar), and Salvatore (old vinyls and old turntables). 'Shot' come in LP form limited to 100 copies, but mine was a promo CD, probably one of only a handful made. I suppose you could call what they do avant-garde jazz, or just plain weird, which it really is. It started out sounding like a Tuxedo Moon improv, and only got weirder as it progressed. The effect is deconstructed cut-up old jazz records and other musical snippets with freestyle jazz drumming and freestyle vocals, and a lot of unusual effects. Granted these 8 tracks are rich with all sorts of unusual elements, at times a hodge-podge collage of many disparate music elements- ostinato guitar chords, banging and clatter, a wailing operatic voice, broken piano melodies, pink noise sweeps, jazz horns, processed breathing, spacey guitar effects, analogue electronics, effected scat and freestyle vocals with abstract, nonsensical lyrics, and other strange sonic effluvia. Somewhere in this stuff extracts of Charles Bukowski's poetic works are interwoven into the fabric of the music. Lost on me though as I'm no fan of Bukowski. Newtone 2060's version of 'Goodbye Porkpie Hat' would have Mingus rolling over in his grave. Sparse cut-up snippets of piano on vinyl, electronic drone tones, low moaning drawn out vocals on the lyrics, the crackling of a scratchy record, and not a whole lot else makes this pretty abysmal. The last track, 'Every Time She Calls You,' with its military drill samples did absolutely nothing for me. I didn't even care what the singer was prattling on about ('how many cigarettes') over it. Some people might call this stuff great eclectic avant-garde or even art. I call it sonic garbage.
Artist: Pascal Savy
Title: Liminal
Format: 3" MiniCD
Label: Feedback Loop (@)
Rated: *****
More than just a title, Liminal looks like the brief and thorough description of the main property of Pascal Savy's last exploration, a sort of metalinguistic digression about liminality, that psychological and neurological state of being or feeling on the threshold, on the limen in between two existential phases, two different perspectives or states of consciousness. A liminal being according to an interesting essay doesn't avoid to choose between yes or no, but simply denies any positive responses considering it negative and viceversa, a state close to the garrison on a narrow line gradually turning its settlers in the line itself and partially reflected by the narrow tonal range inside which the composer let its creature oscillates as well as in the grey filter he lays over his shots. This Uk producer packs together four different stages of such an exploration of this concept by giving priority to eye, ear and imagination (as there're some short hermetic little poems by Leonardo Rosado "attached" to each track of this ep) and it's astonishing to notice that each vision, phrase or blend of frequencies interrupted by field recordings, crackling vibrations could be thought as perspectives from some boundary line which ideally detaches what can be perceptible or intelligible from whatever looks normally hidden from consciousness or perception till the moment when there's a kind of osmotic process, extraordinarily expressed by a line of the first poem attached to Falling Inward, the initial as well as the less contaminated track, saying "Dreams imitate reality/Opaque/Empty/My body crushed", which seems to establish the interchange between concreteness and abstractness, tangible and intangible, illusory and authentic. The other three movements have similar structure, based on the inoculation of different audible elements into a stream of slow-pitched semitonal transitions, gradually getting darker and darker, till the final Lying/Drifting whereas the process of disgregation of the two dimensions before and over that threshold appears to be completed, as suggested by the related poem: "Vertical building/Comatose/In my naked escape/My peripheral dreams turn into ashes". If you want to buy the physical copy of this release on 3", you've to hurry up as the label just issued 60 copies.
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