Music Reviews



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Artist: Voice of Eye (@)
Title: The Portland Improvisations
Format: CD
Label: Conundrum
Rated: *****
In the last batch I received from ChainDLK, I reviewed Voice of Eye's collaboration with Nux Vomica. Seems like Voice of Eye has been busy, because here is another disc for your listening pleasure. According to their website, this recording took place in August of 2009 when Soriah invited Voice of Eye to play for his Atlan CD release party in Portland, Oregon. 'Scouring Soriah's house for instruments, they commandeered some unfamiliar and handmade devices to play with. The result is The Portland Improvisations, where Voice of Eye are at their most raw and unadorned.' There are three improvisations, although in practice, there are only two, since 'Improvisation II: Valles Marineris' is only 19 seconds long and seamlessly blends in to the third track. In short, this is over 42 minutes of improvisation that create a wonderful atmosphere. Most bands wish they could create something this complex after hours in the studio. According to the case, 'all sounds herein are acoustic in origin.' Of course that does not mean that they stay that way. Everything seems processed, giving the listener the effect of listening to everything in a cavern full of echoes and reverb. Chimes, strings, ethnic percussion, and who knows what are mixed together to create a cohesive, dreamlike whole. The bonus track, 'The End of All Things,' is a studio recording about the loss of a hard drive. Stylistically it is a bit different from the other tracks, with a bit harsher edge. If the preceding tracks can be thought of as the dream, then this is the nightmare, with its ominous sawtooth waves and dissonance. Not bad, but I really preferred the improvisations. This disc is limited to 500 copies, so you will want to pick this up before it is gone. This disc weighs in at around 55 minutes.
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Artist: The Oratory of Divine Love
Title: s/t
Format: CD
Label: Cohort Records (@)
Rated: *****
I had not heard of this project, but the name of the project is certainly interesting. Evidently this is a reissue of a release originally put out by EE Tapes. The best way to describe this is sound collage. In 'Cur Deus,' random bursts of sound punctuate the almost calming wall of noise. This is not shrill noise, but rather the noise of a crowded place, the chatter of everyone around you. Some samples make their presence known (Rolling Stones' 'Satisfaction,' for example) over the din. The rest of the album follows in a similar fashion (minus the Rolling Stones). This is music for schizophrenia, with voices emerging at times only to become submerged again before you have completely recognized what they are saying. Electronic bleeps and high pitched squalls straight out of a 1950s science fiction movie punctuate the ambient noise. At times there are moments of coherence, as with the repetitive synth melody in 'Benedictus.' Overall this is a fun listen, although at times some of the elements are repeated a bit too much for my taste. If you like Nurse With Wound's cut up material, this may be worth checking out. This album weighs in at around 61 minutes.
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Artist: Wolfskin / Last Industrial Estate
Title: Stonegates of Silence
Format: CD
Label: Malignant Records (@)
Rated: *****
According to the label, this is Wolfskin's last album. I had not heard of Last Industrial Estate, which is the work of Anders Peterson of Objekt 4, which I had also not heard of. Here's how Malignant describes the disc: 'This is Wolfskin at its bleakest and most restrained, offering 5 tracks of enveloping ambience built around foggy, ambiguous textures and an endless flow of drifting isolationism, shapeless horrors, and oppressive subterranean heaviness. In the case of Stonegates, Wolfskin goes out not with a bang, but with a slow, evolutionary creep into the shadows, forever etched in the lexicon of dark ambient music.' The best way I can describe this album is that these artists understand the power of negative space. Unlike some who feel a need to have every second filled with sound, they leave breathing room for the atmospheres that they have created. The sounds are fairly minimal at times leaving one with the feeling of being deep underground with only hints and whispers from above. 'Amidst the Infinite Skies,' did get a bit repetitive at times, but for the most part this was quite pleasant dark ambient. One interesting element here is that I did not really find the overall feeling to be ominous, so I have to disagree with the label's description of 'shapeless horrors, and oppressive subterranean heaviness,' but this is by no means a weakness. In fact, if I wanted to introduce someone to dark ambient music without having them cringe over bad horror movie samples (Ixaxaar, anyone?), this would be a good start. This disc weighs in at around 51 minutes.
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Artist: False Mirror (@)
Title: Derelict World
Format: CD
Label: Malignant Records (@)
Rated: *****
This was my introduction to False Mirror, the work of German artist Tobias Hornberger. The first thing that you are confronted with is a substantial booklet with the disc, containing a short story by Bjørn Springorum. The last time I saw a CD with a story attached was Current 93's 'In a Foreign Town in a Foreign Land,' with the accompanying tale by none other than Thomas Ligotti. I don't know if I would put Springorum's story quite on par with Ligotti's work, but it is clear that they are working in the same vein and the story is enjoyable. The story tells the tale of a cataclysmic storm that essentially kills all humanity. I will spare you the details because I do not think that this is yet a spoiler, but reading this while listening to the disc certainly colors the music. This seems to be by design. According to the label, Derelict World 'offers a truly apocalyptic concept that blends perfectly with the dense wall of sound on this mysterious ambient challenge: Nothing less than the end of humanity, brought upon this world by the relentless forces of nature forms the basis on which the resonating and thundering tracks develop into chimaeras of terrible momentum, ever-changing and ever-increasing their dramatic potential.' As for the music, this is superb. Hornberger provides extensive commentary on the production of his tracks in the booklet, so we get a sense of what he is working with. However, like any musical magician, he can tell us where he got the sounds and even how he manipulated them without giving us the ability to recognize them in the final product. Source recordings weave together with synth drones and disembodied voices that hide beneath the soundscapes. Some of his source material includes various flutes, rubbing fabric, a creaking wooden floor, an old ironing board, and Dr. Oetker gelatin dessert (woodruff taste, whatever that is!). According to his website, he even programmed some of the software used to create the music. But all throughout, you still get the feel of an empty earth and water, water everywhere, largely as a result of reading the accompanying story. If this all wasn't enough, there is also an accompanying quest online with clues embedded in the booklet and CD. This leads to a 'bonus world' site with additional material. I must admit that I haven't taken the time to try to solve the puzzle yet, so I can give no info on that, but this is an interesting angle to take. In short, this is one of the best dark ambient releases I have heard for quite some time. Highly recommended. This disc weighs in at around 73 minutes.
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Artist: Phelios (@)
Title: Astral Unity
Format: CD
Label: Malignant Records (@)
Rated: *****
I had not heard Phelios before, so I judged it based on label, packaging, and title. Malignant is a fine purveyor of dark ambient, power electronics and noise. So with a title like Astral Unity and artwork of space nebulae, I figured it would be in the dark ambient camp and I was looking forward to hearing it. On putting it into my player, it began with heavy atmosphere and then kicked in the martial drums. This is not astral unity through peace, but rather unity through total annihilation as the drums of war pound away. This is great, ominous compositions that would be perfectly at home as the soundtrack to a medieval battle scene. The closest comparison I can come up with is In Slaughter Natives. At times the percussion is almost tribal, but always ominous. This is dark without resorting to cheesy samples and the like. There is nothing here but well crafted music that varies enough to tell the whole desolate story of life, death, and the places in between. If you like it dark, this is certainly worth checking out. This disc weighs in at around 51 minutes.
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