Music Reviews



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Artist: Alameda Duo
Title: The Luminous Guitar Craft of Alameda Duo
Format: CD
Label: Instant Classic (@)
Rated: *****
This intense avant-folk release by Alameda, the project by Jakub "Kuba" Ziolek and his long-lasting collaborator and friend Mikolay Zielinski on guitar, is an awesome musical bridge between the so-called American folk primitivism and the obscure (but really luminous indeed) tradition of ancient Greek music, that Ziolek knew through Rafal Iwanski, who let him listen a tape "Music of Ancient Greece" (dating back 1946 and reissued after decades by Orata records) where Christodoulos Halaris, a sort of archeologist of composition, who tried to study and recover some old ethnic traditions (mostly the Greek and the Byzantine ones), tried to remove the dust away of some ancient Greek music, including the notorious Delphic hymns. The environment where Alameda recorded "The Luminous Guitar Craft of Alamada" in a couple of nights (in order to avoid distractions and dirty interferences of daytime) in an evangelical church in Bygoszcz, the native town of Jakub in the Nortwestern Poland, could have influenced the blissful nuance of the melodies, the virginal singing and the "spellbound" sound together with the link to Greek music (people who only know sirtaki could notice some resemblances with the sonorities of the popular dance in the first part of "Laurel" only!) and the myths they quoted through titles and lyrics (not only the Greek ones of Ate and Daphne - "Laurel" is the alternative name of Daphne as she got transformed into this notorious and scented tree according to the moving notorious myth -, but they also quoted the Norse one of Yore). I particularly appreciated the alternation of moments when the almost hypnotical "quotations" of Greek music prevail and the ones where they push those melodies into more modernist styles, as it happens, for instance, when they unleash a hectic tapping after the first five minutes of the opening "The Silver Chant of Ate" or when they let guitars fade out to give space to some evocative field recordings, wrapping the recitation by Tomasz Nosinski on "Ming".
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Artist: Armoteque (@)
Title: Dusting the Plants
Format: CD
Label: self-released
Rated: *****
This has to be one of the oddest releases to cross my path of late- an avant-synthpop band called Armoteque from Italy that sounds anything but Italian. According to the accompanying one-sheet provided by the band they used to have a singer who went by the name of vanilla punk, but he departed a while ago, and now they have a new vocalist by the name of y:dk. He sounds quite American (sings in English) in an almost swampy sort of way on most of the tracks. The music is predominantly synthetic/electronic, provided by fredbo ( keys, sequencers, synths, fxs, programming) and jean-loux boka (guitars, basses, sequencers, synths, fxs, programmings) but a far cry from your typical euro-synthpop. While not directly emulating them, the band has a NIN sensibility that carries a definite edge. It's a dark, melancholy sort of synthpop that has no equivalent that I can think of, so comparisons with other acts are out the window. Unlike many synthpop outfits these days, Armoreque doesn't seem to be interested in making hit tunes, and that may be due in good part to y:dk's lethargic, baritone, drawly vocals. Yet there is a visceral, nihilistic quality about the songs that's almost painful. A lot of the synthwork is gritty and abrasive, pushing this project even further away from the mainstream. For some strange reason though, 'Dusting the Plants' really resonated with me, even though it isn't what I'd call a great album. It's just so different from anything else out there. The last track on the album, "So2speak," is the most atypical, yet perhaps the one track y:dk's vocal is perfectly aligned with because it's a slow ballad, and the main instrument on it is acoustic guitar. Yet, if the whole album was like that song, I'd probably wouldn't care for it. I have no idea if anyone else is going to find 'Dusting the Plants' an enjoyable album, but frankly, I don't give a damn.
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Artist: forM
Title: s/t
Format: CD
Label: Aubjects (@)
Rated: *****
forM is experimental electronic glitch artist Robert Newell, and this self-titled album on the Aubjects label is his debut solo release. Newell has been involved in electronic experimental music since the early 90s, and has been a member of Bob Hallucination, Headless Ballerinas Underwater, and perhaps most notably, Amalgamated. Of those three, the only project I'm the least bit familiar with is Amalgamated, who some passing acquaintance turned me on to some years ago. In taking a brief tour through some of Amalgamated's discography, I can definitely hear the connection, although Newell's forM debut is quite different than what Amalgamated seems to be about. The album is comprised of 14 pieces, all quite different from each other in tone and temperament, but unified by certain factors. One way or another there is a good deal of repetition, but not always. Some pieces seem highly structured while others are chaotic. Opening track "Fr0353" could almost be a sci-fi show theme with it's repeating melodic bubbly space synth over light mellotron chords in the background. The followup, "n30n" is a melodic haze of digital sounding synth pan-echoed to the nth degree. "00n0my" uses a repeating pattern synth melody and drumkit where in spite of a repetitious,rhythm, numerous rhythm embellishments develop as well as a whole lot of synth incidents and events. "Gran35" sounds like a cluster of musical Berbers taking a spin in a psychedelic dark ride, or maybe a Middle Eastern game arcade gone bananas. You could conjure up many different descriptions for these pieces, some wacky, others in a more serious vein, but most of them are quite intriguing, even if you can't really ascribe a theme or motif to every one. Unlike some experimental electronica, forM is pretty easy on the ears, so even if you're not a hardcore experimental enthusiast, you will probably find this very pleasing. I should also mention that Phillip Klampe (also from Amalgamated) is responsible for additional effects and sounds on this album as well as mastering and production. Limited to 75 copies in CDr digipak.
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anymore
Artist: Atrium Carceri, Cities Last Broadcast, God Body Disconnect
Title: Miles to Midnight
Format: CD
Label: Cryo Chamber (@)
Rated: *****
While, at first sight, this could seems a split album, it's a true and proper collaboration between three acts that already have a significant amount of release on Cryo Chamber. As it's now a sort of development for this label, "Miles to Midnight" is another step away from the dark ambient form; evidently inspired from noir movies, the most recognizable elements of the OST for this kind of movies are used: the drum played with brushes and melancholic piano lines.
The usual barrage of sound effects, almost canonical for this type of releases, opens "Miles To Midnight" evolving, just after a minute, in a form close to a song because, when the drum enters with a reverse loop, there a hint of melody in the background and a well defined structure. The piano of "A Thousand Empty Rooms" is ever more audacious in this exploration towards pop territories, so "Scene Of The Crime" with his sound details return to something closer to dark ambient but with an experimental twist. "Floor 6, Please" sounds like the second part of "A Thousand Empty Rooms" while "The Other Lobby" shows the technical abilities of this artists with a recreation of an old style sound spectrum and "Sorry Sir, You Are In The Wrong Room" starts as the first true approach to the canonical form of the genre. While "The Sleep Ensemble" is impressive with his sharp tones and detailed but quiet background, "Quiet Days On Earth" sounds more like the track which are usually used in the end titles of a movie.
This release could perhaps upset the die-hard fan of the genre as it has weak ties with the genre but it will be truly enjoyed by open minded fans and even fans of ambient in the wide sense. Recommended.
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Artist: The Verge Of Ruin
Title: Learn To Love Solitude
Format: CD
Label: Setola di Maiale (@)
Rated: *****
This project is presented by their members, Stefano de Ponti and Shari DeLorian, as "a research in sound and poetry" and, while it's not clear the meaning of this claim after the listening of this first release, sounds as completely focused on a idea of "writing as editing". This release sounds as developed by pasting fragments until the result is more than the sum of the parts.
The track starts in a relatively free form dominated by sparse sound mostly of concrète origin and percussion; after all this movement, there's a part based on drones of long tones searching resonances and juxtaposition. Then, the track begin to oscillates between static and dynamic moments so e.g., after a detailed drone there's an abrupt explosion of noise. Above all, there's the impression that, more than a sound research, there's an idea of musical movement based on short musical moments in direct contrast between them as a sort of dialetic without synthesis.
All those materials compressed in a so short span (the release lasts just over twenty minutes) means a demanding listening asking for a particular concentration. Not exactly a easy listening but it's full of subtle ideas that could have been perhaps more developed. However, it's recommended for fans of experimental music.
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