Music Reviews



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Artist: SixTurnsNine
Title: Spinning Numbers
Format: CD EP
Label: Echozone (@)
Rated: *****
SixTurnsNine is Philip Akot (strings); Lutz Bauer (keys/programming/electronics); and Anja Trodler (vocals) formed in 2015 in Dusseldorf. The genre is trip hop/electronica with an experimental edge. I believe the 'Spinning Numbers' EP is their debut release with only six tracks (and one of them a remix of one other track) clocking in at a little less than a half-hour. The musical ambiance of 'Spinning Numbers' is minimal and stark. Even though Portishead sometimes delivered some fairly stark trip hop, this is way more extreme than anything they ever did. The music is eerie almost to the point of being creepy. Trodler's voice, while melodic is cold with a touch of caterwaul to it. Mournful. Nothing moves quickly in SixTurnsNine's world. It's a slow, almost oozing sort of sludge that just flows over you suffocating any kind of joy or good feeling you might have had previously. While everything on 'Spinning Numbers' is haunting (or haunted), "Threat in the Neck" is particularly unnerving, perhaps because it's just so close to the edge of normal, with a beat to boot. It even gets a remix by Spherical Disrupted, which is kind of puts a completely different spin on it. I think this is the kind of music Jarboe would really like; it's just so twisted I have to recommend it.
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Artist: Analogue-X (@)
Title: Course Of Life
Format: CD
Label: RMP Records/Echozone (@)
Rated: *****
Analogue-X is an electropop band from Germany consisting of Rene Mussbach (vocals); Susie NLG (background vocals); ALexis Voice (synths, programming), and Clarke Gahan (synths and drum machines). Clarke Gahan?? Seriously? Isn't that a bit too Depeche Modey? Whatever. (Rene is a guy by the way.) Okay, so maybe musically I've given a bit away. Not that Analogue-X are Depeche Mode clones or anything, but what synthesizer band doesn't owe a little something to them. 'Course Of Life' is the band's debut album, after 2017's 'Rising in the Dark (The Remixes)' in which the band got a bunch of artists to remix one of their songs. Some of the remixers were Paralyzed RMX, Cyborgdrive, Jeff Appleton, Erwin Pempelfort, etc., etc. As much as I'm no fan of remixes, someone in the business once told me "if you want your music to get noticed fast, get some top-notch remixers to have a go at your songs. Apparently Analogue-X put this plan into effect before they even had put out their first album! (They've also released a remix album of 'Course of Life' but let's not get ahead of ourselves here.) So, what have we got to work with. First I can say that the synth programming and performance is very strong. Most everything works for the dancefloor too so the rhythm is potent too. Where we run into a little problem is in the vocal department. Rene's vocals are fine in a sense, melodic and pleasant enough, but not particularly strong or memorable. Susie's backup vocals, where present are fine too, occasionally bolstering the melody. The music is fairly melodic as well, and there are hooks a-plenty, just not particularly strong ones. I think the problem here is one of too much nuance, and not enough devotion to those big, obvious, infectious killer hooks. Right from the get-go on the opening track "Another Time," they put forth a good (chorus) hook but try and say too much in it. Second track- "Dark Shadow" (very reminiscent of Camouflage) has a lot of potential but the title of the song is reduced to a mere background afterthought. Too bad as it's one of the best tracks on the album. Don't get me wrong, as these songs aren't bad, they just lack some pizzazz, that certain quality that puts some artists on the top of the heap. Like Depeche Mode. Like Covenant. A strong, charismatic vocalist might have been able charge this material, but a merely good one doesn't flip the switch. There are still more good songs on the album, such as "Rising in the Dark," and "Never Alone," but as we keep chugging along, the songs begin to sound similar, mainly due to the vocals. Another part of the problem might be the lyrical content, which is largely from that Depeche Mode/Duran Duran school of romanticism, and tends to get bogged down in affairs of the heart. I think if the band headed in a bit colder, more austere direction they might hit upon that elusive magic bullet. But hey, that's just my own personal opinion. 'Course of Life' is a competent album, just not exceptional.
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Artist: Frode Haltli
Title: Avant Folk
Format: CD & Vinyl
Label: Hubro
Composed by Norwegian accordion player Frode Haltli, “Avant Folk” is a sombre 5-part, dectet ensemble performance that sets out to deliberately span genres- it’s got the instrumental qualities of music that fits under the broad umbrella of folk, both familiar Western European aspects and some more Eastern and African tones in the rhythms and melodies. But in Venn diagram terms it also falls comfortably within the circle of jazz, particularly avantgarde and atmospheric, improvised-sounding and freeform.

“Hug” opens with a feelgood, almost Celtic-folk-dance-like arrangement that, over the course of seven minutes, dips into darker, more chin-stroking territory.

“Trio” and “Gratar'n” are both more sombre, properly melancholic affairs driven by plaintive, meandering violin work, inbetween which “Kingo” is a work in several parts that feels like it has an undisclosed story-telling element, soundtracking a relatively jovial journeyman fairy tale the details of which are undisclosed.

Final piece “Nied” gives things a more jovial twist thanks to the ambling accordion work and gentle guitar playing, and slow tempo variations that give proceedings an almost drunken flavour.

Save for the light touches at each end, it’s a very sincere work, highbrow and in parts quite low energy, often frosty in a manner fitting to the artwork. As such it’s a piece of avantgarde crossover that’s more accomplished than it is accessible, and is more likely to be appreciated than it is to be liked.
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Artist: Actors
Title: It Will Come To You
Format: LP
Label: Artoffact (@)
Rated: *****
"Your lips are cold 100 years/frozen deep inside your fear/a touch of stone my disease/buried deep inside of me" are the sung words on the galloping opening track "L'appel du Vide" (French for "the call of the Void") by this Vancouver-based band for this debut album, a reanimator for the listeners (primarily) but also a way to revive some good old synthwave sonorities within a masterfully amalgamated jelly of post-punk, disco and glittering rock. The more important recipes of this (close-to)explosive jelly are undoubtedly the thunderous basslines twisting on the acute attacks of guitar and the vocals coming from the screaming lungs by the band leading voice Jason Corbett, but the professional setting of each resounding element and instrument in every single song combined with the stunning immediacy of their sound is the real distinguishing aspect of the drama played by these Actors. Except of the dark postmortem lividity of some songs like "Crosses" - sounding like a rock cover of some track by Boards of Canada, where Jason's falsetto almost mockingly repeats "It's a long way down / hide your crosses" - and some stylistic deflections such as the one of the instrumental theme of "Bird in Hand" or the dirty deranged disco of "Let It Grow" (very similar to some relatively old tunes by Fischerspooner), most of the songs wink at dancefloors by putting a swing on the tree of the growling sonorities of modern crossbreds between dance and rock and swiffered findings in the mausoleum of synth-wave, instead of the choice of "We Don't Have To Dance" to one of the brightest uplifters of the album. I'm curious to know how (and if) Actors are going to upgrade their palatable sound.
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Artist: Christopher Chaplin
Title: Paradise Lost
Format: 2 x 12" vinyl
Label: Fabrique Records
Christopher Chaplin’s second album is a truly curious beast, and probably the oddest setting of John Milton’s poem that you’ll have ever heard.

As the artwork suggests this is a properly theatrical work, merging sparse bits of English-language opera singing (Nathan Vale on the first and last tracks), beat poetry (Leslie Winer on the second track), sporadic and often very ominous-sounding string and woodwind orchestrations with some experimental percussive performance elements and an occasional smattering of modern electronica, drones and synth twiddling.

Sometimes meandering into abstract soundscaping, and at other times feeling more like an overtly staged performance piece, it seems to revel in the defiance of expectations on each level- including lyrically, being difficult to follow and inviting you to try and interpret that which may not actually be interpretable.

Personally I am more intrigued by the Nathan Vale-featuring “I Dread”, which has a greater sense of dynamic, than the sultry, smoky squidginess of Leslie Winer’s rambling lines on “Dave The Shoe”, on the grounds that the latter feels less distinctive. The shorter final operatic piece “Of This New World” feels somehow more conventionally vocally, but the offset of plaintive melancholic tenor singing against glitchy electronics is still a winning combination.

Although this work feels like it ought to make more sense in a live performance setting than on an album, it’s a properly unusual work that commands attention.
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