Music Reviews

Artist: VV.AA.
Title: All Aboard The Mulletship Vol 1
Format: Download Only (MP3 + Lossless)
Label: Mullet Records (@)
Distributor: Juno Download
Rated: *****
ALL ABOARD THE MULLETSHIP VOL.1 is the first Mullet label compilation and it greets its first two years of activity. Containing twenty five tracks hand picked by label boss Justin Winks, the compilation sums the many highlights of Mullet Records. As you may know, the label's growing catalog deals with synth driven electro funk, nu disco and cosmicboogie beats; music deeply influenced by 80s sound. Being a download only release and including one unreleased mix, you may ask me why this release would be worth the purchase. Well, first of all, price wise, this is a budget compilation as you can get twenty five tunes for the price of a normal album and secondly, its track list covers every genre released by the label, including tracks by Casio Social Club, Tesla Boy, The Diogenes Club, Sare Havlicek, Long Distance Analog, Baxter, Estate, The Artificial Arm, ODahl, Nuvo Rich, Two Cosmic Kids, Fatback 4Way, Dabeull, Long Distance Analog and Kouros. I can't say if this is a best of, because there are so many great tracks that didn't find space here, but for sure ALL ABOARD THE MULLETSHIP VOL.1 will give you a good view of what Mullet Records sounds like. Check it out and you won't regret it.
Artist: Spirit of the Matter
Title: Zuble Land
Format: CD
Label: Musea (@)
Rated: *****
Here's bit of retro for you; a psychedelic rock outfit from France called Spirit of the Matter. Maybe if they weren't so odd, they wouldn't be reviewed here on Chain D.L.K., but odd they are, and hence the review. Formed in 2007 by Ian Marek ((guitar, violin, theremin), El Jibi (keyboards, electronics), and Remi (drums), these guys do improvisational instrumentals in the old-school psychedelic mode. Think of Krautrock in the vein of Can, Cluster, Guru Guru, Neu! etc., and you'll get a pretty good picture of what we have here.

The cover of the CD looks like an early Gong album in its flying saucer alien goofiness, but you won't find any twee Daevid Allenism on this album, except for the song titles. Being entirely instrumental (except for the occasional mostly French dialogue vocal samples), there are no vocals to get in the way and color the music into something that might be off-putting. That the music is improvised and the tracks don't drone on like some boring jam is remarkable. There is actually quite a bit of inventiveness and interplay between the musicians. True, there was some overdubbing involved, but that just goes with the terrain of making a decent studio album.

While Marek is no Jean-Luc Ponty, but his violin work is competent enough for the material here. There is plenty of wah-wah guitar too, if you crave that sort of thing. Only a few tracks have much more than a skeletal song structure and some are very 'out-there.' Opening track, 'Space Cheap Trip' begins with burbling electronics and has a theme led with psych slide guitar and violin, enhanced by a bit of theremin. Obviously Remi subscribes to the Lieberzeit school of drumming and it shows, although Jaki has nothing to worry about. Although the first track sounded a bit generic, the rest seem to show more spunk and oddity, and most of the improvisation is remarkably interesting and engaging, even when it wanders into abstract reions as it often does. Track #10, 'Ublaie Stoned' has a pretty cool sci-fi sounding theme and seems to be the least improvisational song on the album.

Some people who dote on this old school style Kraut-psyche are really going to love this album, and it's eclectic and multifaceted enough to stand up to repeated plays. I'd like to see what would happen if they added some actual structured songs with vocals to their repertoire. I think the right kind of female vocalist might really work well in their sonic environment, but that's only my opinion. Worth a listen if you're craving Krautrock-style psychedleia.

Artist: Winter North Atlantic (@)
Title: A Memento for Dr. Mori Remixes
Format: CD
Label: Boltfish Recordings (@)
Distributor: Boltfish Recordings
Rated: *****
Winter North Atlantic is the music of Ed Carter (of Newcastle, U.K.), self-described as the utilization of live acoustic instruments, analogue synths, stumbling rhythms and dissonant melodies. This is the 4th release from WNA; lots more if you count collaborations and compilations. I am at somewhat of a disadvantage having never heard WNA before, and more importantly, not the original 'A Memento for Dr. Mori' album, so a full comparison with the source from which this remix album was taken is virtually impossible. The best I could come up with is listening to the few tracks form the artist's (original) album on his MySpace site and those pitifully short song samples in iTunes. Still, I got a pretty good (if not complete) perspective of what is going on here.

From what I've heard, the original tracks are more fully realized and solidly structured musical compositions; quite eclectic and hard to pin down genre-wise, but not necessarily ambient. What this remix CD does is bring them into the realm of ambient. There is a somewhat downtempo jazz feel to the original tracks, as far as I can tell, with a bit of folktronica flavoring the mood. The treatment given the tracks here is as if a bunch of hotshot IDM and Gitch Electronica producers had been given full reign to slice and dice as they wished in order to reformat the music to electro-acoustic ambient. First track, 'The Maid," remixed by Fieldhead (Home Assembly, Static Caravan) is virtually unrecognizable from the solidity of the original. All the acoustic guitar-work of the original (which reminds me of Bert Jansch) has been removed, but the little bell tones remain and are amplified in the remix as they play lightly against glitchy string scrapes.

'Cuts and Tears' (Dextro Remix) is a busy little piece with a lot of musical elements sounding as if Brian Eno, Laraaji, Dan Lanois and Michael Brook got together to record 'Music For Films IV'. 'Occam's Razor' is given a very subtle ambient remix treatment by The Gentleman Losers. I especially like the tremolous electric guitar chords that give this piece a lot of atmosphere. Although there is rhythm, it is downplayed giving the piece a free-flowing, laconic mood. 'Fallen Fruit' is only a scant 43 seconds of female vocal and electronic atmospherics on the original, and here it is expanded to 3:36 by the remixing of Paul Sleaze. 'He gets a lot of mileage out of the phrase, 'The apple tree'¦it fell from your window'¦' twisting around the words over a glitchy beat, interspersed with organ bits and other electronics. It's a tasty stew of mildly funky electronica and stands quite nicely on its own.

'Bokor,' remixed by Damien Shingleton sounded like Middle Eastern flavored nu-jazz in the original, and Shingleton retains a bit of the flavor but glitches up the beat and adds a wobbly heavy sub-bass. This was one of my least favorite tracks on the album. From what I can tell, 'The Flute Player' seemed to have a lot of acoustic guitar in the original, but it is not present on Mint's Loner Remix. It does have a very mysterious meditative Eastern sound, enhanced with effective background strings and crisp, simple beat work. The original 'Fall of Stone' (one other full track I was able to hear of the original on the artist's MySpace site) sounded like a quirky New Age Jazz guitar piece for the most part. Cheju's Remix of it removes the guitar and the drums and replaces the melody with xylo-glock-vibe synth and more muted percussion. The overall effect is somewhere between Pentangle (sans vocals) and something delicately Japanese. Bracken's Remix of 'Kinay 816' may just be the most interesting thing on the entire album. Spacey voices replace the fuzzy electric piano of the original, and the well-placed bass, brushed drums and ambient aural vibe makes this a pleasurable trip that could have gone on a lot longer.

The brief clip of the original of 'Guidonian Hand,' although predominantly acoustic guitar, seemed a bit heavy-handed to me. Animat's Can of Worms Remix eliminates any sign of heavy-handedness and turns the piece into a gorgeous ambient chill journey, doubling its length. Good music for the hookah bar. John Ashton's Remix of 'Opportunity Mist' may just be the strangest thing on the album. It is odd ambience to be sure. If John Cale were to do an ambient album, it might sound something like this track. The slow, repetitive harmonium riff with the drum machine that comes towards the end is something else. Makes me think of a march of dead pirates. The little clip I heard of the original of 'Barrel Organ' had a lively Circus-like flavor. The Declining Winter Remix gives it a bit more of a demented carnival atmosphere removing the vocal entirely. Perfect.

You can appreciate 'A Memento for Dr. Mori Remixes' all on its own without having the slightest idea of what the original sounds like. In fact, the Remixes are more like what a good segment of Chain D.L.K. listeners enjoy; ambience music with eclectic elements. A surprisingly good album, and recommended.
Artist: Hoodooengine (@)
Title: Egowhore
Format: CD
Label: self-released
Distributor: iTunes
Rated: *****
'Egowhore' is Hoodooengine's debut album and Hoodooengine is self-described as being spawned by the twisted masterminds of Marz233, James Curcio and Johan Ess, also featuring the creative work of Scott Landes, (Mankind is Obsolete & Collide), Jeff Hartman and William Clark. What we have here is an industrial metal outfit that reminded me somewhat of early Electric Hellfire Club, and a bout a half-dozen other bands, including one I recently reviewed called Everything Goes Cold. Still, it is competently produced, especially for a D-I-Y project done mostly on a Macbook Pro.

On the musical side, a lot of work has been put into the production to keep it inventive, energetic and engaging. Guitar is very good, drum (programming I assume) is powerful, elaborate and effective, and the electronics are varied and well-used. Dialogue samples are kept to a minimum, which is a big plus in my book. The songwriting is okay (you're typical dystopian themes), although there weren't any obvious standout 'hits,' but that's not a major drawback for this kind of music. On the vocal side, things are a bit bland. The lead vocal sounds monotonous over time, and I found myself looking forward to the odd vocal interjections (that comes from other voices, I presume) that surfaced sporadically. One the plus side, the lyrics are intelligible (and generally intelligent), and although some processing is used on the vocals (including the occasional vocoder), it's not the usual overused distorted mess that so many bands in the electro-industrial metal genre seem to dote on. (If I had my druthers, I'd take intelligible over stark-raving raspy-distoro.)

Still, there is so much going on in 'Egowhore' you may not be paying a whole lot of attention to the vocals. The sheer power of some of the 9 tracks on this under 38 minute album is apt to blow you away, at least instrumentally. If you like bands like Die Krupps, Orgy, KMFDM, Electric Hellfire Club, etc., you might enjoy this. I do think Hoodooengine needs to step up their vocal game though. A vocalist with more power and presence would prove helpful; maybe even a female vocalist to add some contrast. They've got another release slated for early 2011. I'd be interested in checking out the band's progress on that one.
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Artist: Sophia (@)
Title: The Collective Works 2000-2003
Format: 4 x CD (quadruple CD boxset)
Label: Cyclic Law (@)
This box collects the early works of the band formed in 2000 by Peter Bjärgö of ARCANA fame and well known for their mix of martial rhythms and ambient-like soundscapes. The press release, however, is a ten track selection from this box and, supposedly, a sort of best-of because the quality of the sound material is truly remarkable. The level of detail of "Aus der Welt" is able to evoke a tragic atmosphere of decadence. The "Herbstwerk" titletrack is a militar anthem probably inspired by images of battles between good and evil. "Strenght Through Sorrow" seems to deal with all the cliche of the genre, the lyrical-like chorus, the emphasis of the horns etc. but escapes them with the measure in the juxtaposition of the musical elements. "Watching it drown" is characterised by the use of a harsh distorted vocals that introduce a noise element in the musical structure. "Winterflame" is a battle between the loops that construct this track.
In some sense this album is not rankable because is only a relatively small selection of the entire work, but, supposing this is the quality level of all the box, this is a sure pick for fans of martial industrial music. A remarkable release.
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