Music Reviews



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Artist: Seven That Spells (@)
Title: Future Retro Spasm
Format: CD
Label: Beta-lactam Ring Records (@)
Distributor: Beta-lactam Ring Records
Rated: *****
Seven That Spells is a Croatian Psychedelic Space-Rock band with elements of Math Rock and Avant-Garde jazz, at least on this album. Formed back in 2003 by guitarist/keyboardist Niko PotoÄnjak, aboard on this trip are: saxophonist Lovro ZlopaÅ¡a; drummer Stanislav MuÅ¡kinja; and Narantxa on bass. My first experience with STS was on the Beta-lactam Ring compilation 'Music For Personality Disorder' which I reviewed a little while ago. The track on the comp was 'Terminus Est' which is on this album as well. I described it thusly: 'Imagine latter day King Crimson, Gong, and John Zorn thrown in a blender and set to puree. Totally chaotic and dissonant. Fans of obscure outfits like Amalgam should love this.' Well that was an off-the-cuff description, accurate to some degree, but certainly not the whole picture of this album. In order to get a little musical background on the band, I went back through some of their tracks on previous albums and discovered that 'Future Retro Spasm' isn't a whole lot like some of the stuff they've done before. My general impression of their prior work was a less focused group, maybe in part due to the influence of Acid Mothers Temple's Kawabata Makoto. In any event, 'Future Retro Spasm' is an album that you can't just take blissfully lying back and expect it to waft over you. It will hit you on the head'¦HARD.

Spinal Tap's Nigel Tufnel's most famous amp may go to 11, but these guys' amps start at 11 and go to ??? 'Olympos' begins with Lorvo's frenetic sax riffing crazy arpeggios over an 'Astronomy Domine' style bass & drums until the Gong strikes'¦then a simple ascending motif begins and the band riffs off that on the improv. It is clearly Lorvo who is showcased here, although MuÅ¡kinja and Narantxa have their manic moments. Just when you thought it seemed like going to die down, it comes back FULL FORCE like an unstoppable freight train. Imagine LPD on STP and a totally freaked out Niels van Hoorn and you get some idea of what's going on.

'G' begins with a single repeating note anchor of guitar and sax before Muškinja and Narantxa strike up a tight Wetton-Bruford era King Crimsoid rhythm while the guitar holds down the single repeating note and the sax riffs off it all. It gets better when Niko abandons the annoyingly repetitious note and lays down a fast Fripp-like guitar pattern which the sax plays off of. There are some moments of magic here, and when Niko's guitar takes off into the stratosphere things really heat up. Absolutely wild in its semi-controlled chaos.

I've described 'Terminus Est' before but that description isn't entirely accurate. Sure, comparisons could be made to King Crimson and John Zorn (and his various offshoots), but there are also elements of Philip Glass and Steve Reich in the repetitive riff cycles employed on this track. It has the power and fury of a herd enraged charging elephants, as the sax squealing often gives the impression of the trumpeting cry of wild beasts. 'The Abandoned World of Automata' slows it down for a calmer psychedelic atmosphere, with repetitive heavily verbed guitar arpeggios as the bass moves in melodic lines. Eventually the sax sneaks in for a bit of laconic Eastern noodling, which goes on for a good while. And that's the problem with this track. At the halfway point of this 14 and a half minute opus, the guitar switches to an ascending 8 note scale patterns before taking off into cosmic territory. I suppose they were trying to build up into it, but it just took too long to get there. It is something else though in terms of psychedelic improvisation when they finally arrive. This track could have been shorter by a third, maybe even half.

'Death Star Narcolepsy' is sheer, uncompromising manic freneticism with a Middle Eastern bent, and it's well over five minutes they keep it up before there's a break. When it does come, it turns into a mad dervish dance ending in the inevitable chaos that follows. Last track, 'Quetzalcoatl' is the shortest on the album but in a certain sense the most varied, and a definite melding of Zorn and Crimson on amphetamines. Yikes!

I'm kind of ambivalent about 'Future Retro Spasm'; what Seven That Spells lacks in finesse they try and make up for in exuberance. It's that lack of finesse that bothers me though, as it seems that control (and structured songwriting) isn't this band's strong suit and the music often comes across as heavy handed, with little in the way of subtlety. As far as the improvisation goes, there are many passages of absolute brilliance, and incredible musicianship, and if that's ultimately what you're looking for, you just may find it on 'Future Retro Spasm'.
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anymore
Artist: INTELLIGENCE DEPT.
Title: Sleeping City
Format: CD
Label: Anna Logue Records (@)
Distributor: Mannequin
Rated: *****
Formed in 1982 in Ferrara, Italy, Intelligence Dept released only two demos ("Sleeping city" 1984 and "The big trouble" 1985) and participated in 1984 to an LP compilation titled "A white chance", along with Go Flamingo! (I still dig a lot their song "Come closer") and Plastic Trash. Intelligence Dept included three tracks picked up from their first demo: "Anger", "Too late to love" and "Sleeping city". One of the main characteristics of their music was to mix a bouncing wave bass guitar, synth pads and leads, drum machine beats, sax solos and the female voice of Susanna Zaghi. No guitars involved. Their choice to use instruments producing low/mid frequencies affected their sound making it sound smooth and sometimes sensual, Deeply influenced by new wave and with a good dose of pop melodies (I don't know why but listening to their tracks I thought about Altered Images, even if the latter were so pop) The four original tracks of their first demo (the fifth was a nice version of Psychedelic Furs' "Sister Europe", track that originally already a sax solo line which fit really well the band's sound) are capable to show a band in balance from sunny pop wave with dancey attitude (like the main track) to synth wave upbeat tempos with mysterious atmospheres (like "Anger). Their second demo tape showed a band that changed a bit their sound, shifting toward a kind of electro wave that sometimes recalls me of Propaganda (like on "Chains" and "Where are you"). Intelligence Dept played live mostly on their region if I'm not wrong and here (on the CD) you can check four live tracks recorded live in 1985 from the mixing board at the Arena Nuovo, Ferrara. Along with "Too late to love" and "Sleeping city" you can check two unreleased songs, "Nine faces" (an atmospheric mid tempo) and "Black widow" (an upbeat synth wave song with funk bass lines). These are nice songs for fans but I'd stick more on their first demo which is really deserving a proper distribution, even 27 years later. Thanks to Anna Logue Records and to Mannequin, now this is possible and you can choose the format that fits you best from CD and vinyl.
Jan 31 2011
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anymore
Artist: TESLA BOY
Title: Rebecca
Format: Download Only (MP3 + Lossless)
Label: Mullet Records (@)
Distributor: Juno Download
Rated: *****
Take a pinch of a ballad, a good spoonful of dance funk rhythm and then mix with a sensual vocal and you'll have "Rebecca" by Tesla Boy. The new remix EP released by Mullet Records is celebrating this great track with a radio edit and three new remixes. The first remix is by Satin Jackets and it's a surprise, because they enhanced the sensual atmospheres by turning it into a dance mid tempo with strings pad, atmospheric piano chords and fat funk synth bass lines. The result is so good that Justin, Mullet Records' boss, decided to include also the instrumental version. Solila, instead, beats hard with a 4/4 tempo, increasing the beats per minute and alternating synth bells, arpeggios, pads and catchy lead melodies. Estate did a bold enterprise by changing the vocal melodies, you know, "Rebecca" has a catchy vocal passage with a pitch down melody and Estate removed it and decided to bet on its dance quality with bouncing rhythms, synth chords and funk bass lines. They did a great job but I still miss that passage... Great tune and good remixes, so check this out!
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Artist: Steven Severin (@)
Title: Blood of a Poet - Le Sang d'un Poète
Format: CD
Label: Cold Spring (@)
Rated: *****
Leaving Cocteau's esthetics and way of thinking our of consideration while reviewing this catching soundtrack for his first movie, Blood of a Poet, proposed by Steven Severin, bass player and co-founder of the legendary and seminal band Siouxsie & The Banshees, could be unfair in my opinion. It's known that the Frenck artist was an admirer of the underestimated Erik Satie, inspiring the so-called Les Six, a group of six musicians claiming the musical inheritance di Satie as well and supported from the conceptual framework Cocteau erected in the aphoristic essay Le Coq et L'Arlequin. Cocteau's admiration for Satie could be explained by referring to the intent to go beyond the dicotomy between a style featuring a certain unaffected plainness so that it could appear close to the daily dimension of everyday life and the intricacy of the Absolute, an intent whose paradoxicalness was solved by the simple structures of Satie's compositions and its constant tension towards a mystical and somewhat cabaret dimension and its non-sense titles could tightly fit and undo this knot. ''All good music resembles something. Good music stirs by its mysterious resemblance to the objects and feelings which motivated it.'', Cocteau stated in that essay.

After this premise and after listening to his issue - I warmly reccomend to listen to it while watching Le Sang d'un Poète as Steven is trying to do during his live performances all over different stages in USA, Canda and UK -, I could say that Mr.Severin has ideally joined this groups of eclectic French musicians in their favorite bar, La gaya in the heart of Montparnasse, for some absynthe sips. Not a rookie with this genre of issue, having already composed other imaginary soundtracks for movies such as The Cabinet of Dr.Caligari and The Seashell and The Clergyman or real scores, among which the superb one for London Voodoo, Steven manages to underscore the dramatic tension and the powerful symbolism of that film through a sort of alchemical synaeresis leading to an entrancing distillate of suspended melodies, immersive atmospheres, thinned organs, crambled keyboards, reversed carillon-like sounds, hypnotical pitched tones and some delicious tensive crescendo, all truly inspired and wedging in each sequence of the movie exalting the symbolic cloud of Cocteau's vision; in this magnetic magma of cinematic thrills I mostly appreciated the frightening suspense of L'Hotel des Folies-Dramatiques, evoking the nightmares of the poet after he accepted the invite to enter into the mirror - maybe the most famous scene of Le Sang d'un Poète, a recurrant and highly meaningful theme in Cocteau's Orpheus as well - coming from the statue, awaken after the poet himself tried to free himself from his own mouth, impressed on the palm of his hand like a wound, as well as the pathos seeping out of the tones of tracks such as Glory Forever or The Desecration Of The Host or the evoked cheating transhumanation during the card game against his muse, his glory and his destiny during which the poet acts as a swindler taking from his childhoos what it's expcted to grab from his insight in the track entitled The Card Sharp & The Angel and the final redeemed self-condemnation inside the fatal ennui for the eternity in the closing track The Lyre. Moving stuff also for philosophical journeys of the mind!
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Artist: PHILIPPE PETIT
Title: Philippe Petit Scores Henry: The Iron Man
Format: CD & Vinyl
Label: Aagoo / Beta Lacta Ring
Rated: *****
This the repress of what I think is the unavoidable recording of Petit on Beta Lactam Ring is a sort of rework/reinterpretation of the Eraserhead soundtrack which I'm sure you know it's a cult movie but above all a real must a real must for my "alternative generation". The basic idea is not that far from many works Petit has done later therefore if you're fans of the French artist I'm sure you know what I'm speaking about and above all you know some of his early materials you also know they were basically drone based. I prefer it way more if compared to other works by this French dj/label owner/musician has put out, this' considerably different from his releases with String of Consciousness this cd/ (now)lp has that same dark feel you can hear in his collaboration with Pietro Riparbelli and with some of his other darkest recordings. Sure, we're dealing mostly with dark sounds, but to define it a drone-based release wouldn't be correct since it features some rhythmic quasi-industrial beats, some electronic sounds and the average atmosphere of this work is oniric and somehow melancholic. With these last words I just wanted to say if you're looking for the average dark ambient recording you're probably out of place but if drone based music with a high evocative feel and with a electronic feel it's your cup of tea, this will probably kill you for good. This cd features several long tracks that flow like a stream of consciousness (ah,ah...c'mon what an obvious joke!!!..;-), they pass from long and dense parts to quasi-ambient movements where you hear a piano, maybe horns and some feedbacks well melted in a nocturnal but yet gloomy magma. This repress is worth the price of the ticket, one of the best Petit's releases from his early days.
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