Music Reviews



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Artist: X-Navi:Et (@)
Title: Machina Nova
Format: CD
Label: Beast Of Prey / Eter Records (@)
Rated: *****
Co-produced by Beast Of Prey and Eter, this output by Rafal Iwanski (one of the main voices of HATI collective) side-project X-Navi:Et actually includes a new release ("Machina Nova") and a re-release ("Vox Paradox", previously on tape only). The level of visionary mysticism is higher like Iwanski's previous release, but the sound of X-Navi:Et on Machina Nova gets closer to the one of HATI. The key words to understand both the style, where Rafal wonderfully melts drone-like simple melodies, generated tones that envelop listeners in its pensive halo, ethnic instruments and percussions that constantly evoke something atavistic, as well as its spiritual ciphers can be caught in the title. The 'Machina Nova' (new machine, seemingly mirroring the obscure elegance of the disquieting 'Machina' on the attached album 'Vox Paradox') that Rafal seems to describe by means of sounds an almost mechanical process, where humans are unaware or unsuspecting gears, gradually leading to a regression to forgotten deities and beliefs, a sort of "new primitivism", quoted in the awesome track that follows the opening title-track. The mystical tension and hypnotical hooks of each track are almost palpable: the sneaking violin by Anna Zielinska (resembling Eastern folk music) over a thundering march and the surprising final where the surrounding melody of the first minutes gets played backwards, the chirping Shanti chimes rendering a seducing maze of crystals on "Pseudo", the abrasive sonic flaking around the hypnotical phrasing of the hulusi on "Weltschmerz" are just parts of the process leading to the catharsis of the final "Fiasko". "Vox Paradox" on the second half of the release sounds the specular and more tormented image of "Machina Nova" and each step of the process (every single track) doesn't really bring to a sort of liberation, but to the resolution of a more or less vague anxiety pervading the whole artifact.
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Artist: Quentin Conrate (@)
Title: sekametelisoppa
Format: CD
Label: Creative Sources (@)
By the help of a Finnish friend, I found out that the Finnish title ('Sekametelisoppa') of this release should mean 'bastard uproaring soup' (if such an expression has a real meaning). Whether it has or not, it could make sense as the drummer Quentin Conrate seems to cook a soup of really harsh and somehow unconventional noises in this recording, grabbed at Festival BeCoq on 27th July 2014, by giving voice (let's say so) to the walls of La Cooperative in Montolieu (a village not so far from Carcassonne. Even if not really an original idea, the way by which Quentin explores the space and the relation between his incomplete drum set and the surrounding walls, whose function of spacial delimitations is somehow highlighted by the claustrophobic effect following the long-lasting series of scrapes, scratches, and frictions of Quentin's instruments and the walls of the art centre where the session was hosted. The recording is not perfect (you can sometimes hear mobile interferences over its 36 minutes), but this output is a chance to see how this experiment works by itself. By the way, I think that an integration of other (non)musical voices and instruments could be a plus as well as a logical progression of Quentin's art.
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Artist: Hackedepicciotto
Title: Menetekel
Format: 2 x 12" vinyl
Label: Potomak
Married couple Alexander Hacke (Einstürzende Neubauten) and Danielle de Picciotto (Space Cowboys) channel their despair at worldwide current affairs into a dark album of slow and bold vocal underpinned by dark guitar drone, languid plucking and found soundscapes that starts relatively small but builds into something more epic as it evolves.

After the oddly medieval-sounding intro “All Are Welcome” we’re introduced to Hacke’s throat singing on “Dreamcatcher”, and it’s impressive stuff. “Jericho” is a highlight, taking a more cinematic turn with the opening brass work that has hints of Philip Glass or Anna Meredith’s “Nautilus” before folding back into a grungy, percussion-heavy slow step with emotive violin work on top.

The lazy poetic mantra of “Nosce Te Ipsum” shows that if looking for the duo’s potential weak spot, it might be in lyric-writing, but the gradual and deeply sinister build (at times reminiscent of UNKLE) more than makes up for that very slight deficiency. “Crossroad”, which is intended to be on the subject of human free will but ends up being about how all cats like milk, is perhaps the weakest example of this.

Though the instrumentation and tone generally remains fairly consistent, there’s a fair amount of musical variety, with “Pilgrim” showing a slightly lighter side, “The Long Way Home” darkly folksy, the more dream-like “Prophecy” and faintly more electronica-tinged poem-driven “Crossroad” providing a second half to the album that toes a fine balance between consistency and keeping things interesting.

Final track “The House Of Shadows With The Sound Of Light” is a twenty-minute self-contained work in its own right, a mellow and thoughtful near-ambient soundtrack decorated with soft banjo loops, soft vocal chords and long string notes. Again the brief appearance of some poetry feels a little unnecessary and I might rather have listened to the fully instrumental version, but it’s only a relatively fleeting cameo and the rest is really rather beautiful.

This is an unusual release overall- incredibly earnest, focussed, and delicately textured. The duo behind it are clearly working in the same direction and the result is something of very high quality. Though maybe it didn’t need quite so many poems.
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Artist: Ernesto Rodrigues | Axel Dörner | Nuno Torres | Alexander Frangenheim
Title: NOR
Format: CD
Label: Creative Sources (@)
Rated: *****
Lovers of the reductionist approach to improvisation will maybe adore this session that Ernesto Rodrigues (viola), Axel Doerner (trumpet), Nuno Torres (alto saxophone) and Alexander Frangenheim (double bass) recorded on 2nd May 2014 at Studioboerne45 in Berlin. They aptly titled it as NOR, the negation of logical OR in Boolean logic, which produces a value of 'true' (1) if and only if both operands are 'false' (0). If your mind chew these subjects as your eardrums chew reductionism, you will easily understand that this matching makes sense as well as the cover artwork: maybe it's not easy to see on the low-resolution image I'm attaching to this review, but there's a picture of the moon covered by nocturnal clouds inside that circle surrounded by a plain black field, as it seems that the Apollo Guidance Computer (if not engineered by Kubrick...), which supposedly brought man on the moon, was entirely based on NOR logical gates and three inputs. The 'false' or 0 operands are the instruments (two winds and two chords) in this session, as you can imagine: all of them are not played in a conventional way, so that you won't easily guess who is "playing" what, but the first to break what could be labelled as 'silence' and some sparse particles of sound in this silent colloidal suspension is Frangenheim's double bass, the most "silenced" voice in the first 21-minutes lasting of the three improv sessions you'll find in this release. The shortest session ('just' 13 minutes) is faithful to the same approach, but its general sonority could be thought as a wicked version of a soundtrack for a documentary focusing on the supposed moon-landing, and some sci-fi nuances get evoked by the brutalized winds in the third session, even if this one features more frequent of alternations between 'empty' and 'chaotic' moments than the second one.
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Artist: Nakama
Title: Worst Generation
Format: CD & Vinyl
Label: Nakama Records
Ostensibly a study of which is the worst currently living generation of people, 5-piece Nakama’s first fully improvised album is a collection of five journeys where a relatively conventional and faintly jazzy musical set-up (vocal expressions, violin, piano, drums and bass) set off in parallel and pull in a variety of directions to form something deeply unpredictable that traces a broad series of curves and envelopes. Long, drawn-out, pained notes, a dismissal of time signatures, counterpointing rapid playing with sudden silences, it’s some classic improv stuff.

Some pieces, like “The Silent, Lucky Few” are generally refined and controlled and benefit from a clearly defined vision. “Millennials” benefits from an apparent musical agreement to ‘stay deep’. Others, like “Gen X”, have all the typical hallmarks of loose improv as they build into a chaotic and seemingly formless crescendo. Final track “Plurals” is a highlight, blending a little bit of the attitudes of all the preceding pieces.

Agnes Hvizdalek’s wild vocalisations- never a language I recognise, sometimes gargled, sometimes warbled, sometimes guttural and throaty- are the most distinctive element at play here in arrangements that otherwise do begin to border on the characterless.

It’s a relatively short bit of quite raw improv work with a slightly bleak tone. It doesn’t necessarily stand out from the crowd, but for people feeling alienated by some of the divisions currently cracking through their society, this may well strike a chord.
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