Music Reviews



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Artist: Robert Haigh
Title: Black Sarabande
Format: CD & Vinyl
Label: Unseen Worlds
“Black Sarabande” is a collection of eleven short original piano works from Robert Haigh. Some, such as the title track or “Lady Lazarus”, are purist solo piano recordings, while others, like “Strangers On The Lake”, frame the piano in the centre of soft electronic ambience and gentle synthetic and sympathetic accompanying melody elements. Subtle production touches, like the backwards notes in “Wire Horses”, tip this release over into an electronica category, but only just.

The result is always spacious and calm, and sits in conventional piano ballad territory, painting sound pictures that are thoughtful, melancholic, sometimes romantic, but never really energetic.

Highlights include the icy, barren-sounding “Ghosts Of Blacker Dyke” (which was released as a single last year), which feels strongly pitched into soundtrack territory, and the memorable and faintly haunting melody in “Arc Of Crows”. The chord sequence in “Progressive Music” is calling out to be turned into a trance tune, Wim Mertens style.

Over the course of 39 minutes, though, there is a sense that it’s all a little flat. There are only occasional hints of dischord- the unexpected odd synth-strings in “Painted Serpent” feel like a new voice, albeit an oddly dated-sounding one- but overall the drama is limited just to slow introspection and doesn’t successfully progress. This leaves you feeling like you have spent two-thirds of an hour staring at a single painting. A beautiful sound, for sure, but it would have benefitted from braving its way further away from the conventional.
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Artist: Bouzidi
Title: Lazy Monday
Format: 12" vinyl + Download
Label: Tanzgemeinschaft
“Lazy Monday” befits its title for the most part, with the title track of this digital EP rolling out a steady synth house groove that takes a very relaxed, walking-pace attitude to life with its staccato synths and slow builds. What’s interesting, eventually, is that it manages to get somewhere in the end, bringing in melodic elements that start playing against each other in quite complex and unexpected ways that bring life into a track that starts out feeling like it may have nothing along those lines to offer.

B-side “Eve Master” has a more urgent percussion base, and slightly more freneticism in its high synth line, but the overall structure is again rather smooth and uneventful.

The package is rounded off by Alexis Tyrel’s remix of “Lazy Monday”, which offers up a fairly different vibe with squelchy low effect noises and a really rather loveable and quirky house groove that, for me, makes it the standout of the pack.

It’s a very casual pack of house tracks, with a confidence and a high production standard, but which seem to revel in their own lack of individuality.
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Artist: Dicepeople (@)
Title: Destroyer
Format: Download Only (MP3 + Lossless)
Label: Syndicol Music (@)
Rated: *****
London's Dicepeople are back with a new 4-track EP, the band being distilled down to Zmora on vocals and Matt Brock - music (electronics, keyboards, drum programming) and backing vocals. This streamlining allows Dicepeople to get their point across more succinctly establishing a firm, 21st century cyber-synthpop sound. Zmora's sexy but icy vocals sound like what I think Arisa (the female robot from the Netflix Russian series 'Better Than Us') would sound like if she decided to front a band. Truth be told, more than half of Zmora's lyrics on these songs are spoke-sung, which although it suits the material, the results are generally better when she actually sings the lyrics. The first track, "Rollercoaster," is the obvious commercial single as it has the best melodic content and a decent hook. Straight ahead and fairly uncluttered (for Dicepeople) it does make an impact in its club-friendly manner, even if not a huge one. Brock amps up the atmos on "Siren Song" with cavernous orchestration making this one sound much larger than it really is. Zmora's vocals on it are rather diminutive in comparison. "Don't Save Me" reminds me of some '80s/'90s female-fronted coldwave/synthpop bands such as XEX, Adult, Book of Love, and others along those lines. It's very good filler and dance fodder but doesn't rise much beyond that. The title track is plenty rhythmic with talky-echoed verses and a stutter-doppler chorus that could garner some positive club response. If anything, it seems like Dicepeople are moving away from the conceptual in favor of the accessible, and for them that could be a pretty good thing. Likely these tracks come off better live too.
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Artist: CHANGES TO blind
Title: Switellsbane Ploice Vairching
Format: Download Only (MP3 + Lossless)
Label: Silber Records
This review is really a nod to the whole of Silber Records’ Droneuary 2020 project, which is currently ongoing, releasing a new drone track once a day since January 1st. The intention is for it to last the whole month- but first time around, in Droneuary 2019, there were so many submissions that it went on until March. Although the releases are all name-your-price on Bandcamp, it’s worth subscribing to Silber for the period to have everything drop automatically into your collection, because there’s some fascinating stuff in there.

Some of it is drone in a fairly purist sense, such as The Gribschnobler’s sci-fi space station hums in “Versatile Solutions for Modern Living”, Determinist?’s musically dense “Live In A Rented Room At The Rehearsal Factory” or the harsh industrial pulse waves of Slicnaton’s “Unapologetic”, while there are more environmental and ambient pieces such as CNSNNT’s odd, alien-sounding wind noises in “Space To Breathe”, or the underwater bubbling and strange wet space of Subscape Annex’s 28-minute “Acephalia” (a word that’s worth googling).

But there’s extra breadth in the collection that goes well beyond what you might think of as drone too. There’s the beautiful, mellow slow arpeggiating synths and then chilled guitars of Larks’ “Swim”, the unexpected rocky synthwave elements in Fornever’s “Hum”, or the reverb-heavy piano ballad complete with vocal in Bodies That Matter’s “Are We Weird Enough?”.

I’ve arbitrarily picked out “Switellsbane Ploice Vairching” (three words I don’t understand) from CHANGES TO blind (honestly that’s how the capitalisation is given) as a particularly unusual piece, with analogue electronics throbbing, swelling and bubbling in a radiophonic style paired with horror-like vocal pads and edgy, blackboard-like metallic sounds, culminating in a particularly odd and disturbing soundtrack that just oozes character and menace.

If you think “Droneuary 2020” sounds like just a series of hums, think again, there is some fascinating stuff in the series- and like last year, apparently it’s set to run well into February and beyond.
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Artist: hackedepicciotto (@)
Title: The Current
Format: CD & Vinyl
Label: Potomak (@)
Rated: *****
Ask any rivethead about Einsturzende Neubauten and you're likely to get a "yeah man, they're great!" response. Likely they will know the name Blixa Bargeld, leader of EN. If they're really a longtime fan of the band, they may even know the name Alexander Hacke (EN's bass player) as well. Hacke is 1/2 of hackedepicciotto, the other half being Danielle de Picciotto, an NYC gal who moved to Berlin in 1987 to become the lead singer of the band Space Cowboys, co-initiator of the Love Parade, a collaborator of the Ocean Club with Gudrun Gut, a member of Crime & The City Solution, and also Alexander's partner in crime. 'The Current' is hackedepicciotto's fourth album, and possibly their most powerful one yet. For this release hackedepicciotto has amped up the percussive aspect of their music to create a powerful rhythmic feel, a wilder and more danceable element. Hacke's background with Einstürzende Neubauten can be felt in the many rhythmic tracks. Danielle's considerable contributions include violin, autoharp, hurdy gurdy, vocals, spoken word and electronics. And there is a fair amount of spoken word, giving the album a somewhat political flavor. Politics aside though, this is excellent experimental music, at times in the vein of Swans, at others Einstürzende Neubauten, with some passages reminiscent of Legendary Pink Dots, the electronic minimalism of Suicide, and others. 'The Current' is by no means a minimal album though; in point of fact, quite the opposite. It often sounds huge, much bigger than a 2-person project. There is not a single concession to "pop" on it, which I find quite refreshing, although the music isn't so esoteric as to be inaccessible. The overall aura is melancholic with a grim determination to leave stagnation in the dust. A good number of tracks have that Swans' improvisational feel, and there is a generous infusion of swirling psychedelia as well. de Picciotto's elfin voice adds an exotic element that saves things from becoming too dark and dour, and is a nice contrast to Hacke's more austere vocals. 'The Current' is where modern industrial music should be heading, not a rehash of KMFDM, FLA, Skinny Puppy or NIN dance music. (Not that there's anything wrong with that.) The album is being released January 31 on Einsturzende Neubauten's label Potomak, and I think they've got some upcoming live shows at venues in Europe. Einstürzende Neubauten has a new album ('Year Of The Rat') coming out soon, and a tour as well that I'm sure Alexander Hacke will be participating in as well, so it looks like 2020 will be a busy year for hackedepicciotto. 'The Current' is a worthy album you should just pick up on my say-so, Neubauten fan or not, you'll thank me later.
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