Music Reviews

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Artist: Hot Club
Title: Straight outta Bagnolet
Format: 12"
Label: Monotype Records (@)
Distributor: Monotype Records
Rated: *****
I'm getting to the bottom of the pile of this batch of releases I had review, so Hot Club's 'Straight outta Begnolet' is better late than never, I suppose. This is French Avant-Garde at its Avant-Gardiest; a combination of spoken word, free instrumental improvisation and turntables (some playing of old records, some sound manipulation), in a way I suppose only the French can do, and get away with. Hot Club is comprised of Alexander Bellenger (turntables); Jac Berrocal (trumpet, voice); Francois Fuchs (bass) and Dan Warburton (violin).

There are only 3 tracks on this album ' 'Satan Sous La Pluie' (19:35); 'Lorsque Yvonne Descends' (4:31); and 'Danse Avec Les Poules' (23:21). How to describe? In a word- Weird, with a capital W. 'Satan Sous La Pluie' begins with some plucks and plinks while an old chanson plays in the background and then along comes some trumpet burbling, squeaky violin strings, stray percussion sounds, and bass rumblings. It sounds like an LSD inspired jam to a vintage music program on the radio circa 1920. A little past the half-way mark, Berrocal begins an impassioned free-form recitation in French (well, maybe it's free-form, maybe he's reading something, I don't know), as only a Frenchman can do. Like me, if you don't understand French, you'll be lost as far as comprehension goes, but it sounds'Ãæexotic and dramatic building to a climax of sorts; especially underscored by the violin and bass droning.

'Lorsque Yvonne Descends' employs the sound of a very old Japanese (?) pop record (maybe sung in French) slowed down with the addition of little bellish tones and plucked strings 'n things. Strange; just strange. 'Danse Avec Les Poules' is no less strange beginning with a cavalcade of curious, carnivalesque old jazz recordings with only sparse sonic interjections from other instruments. Things change approaching the 3 minute mark when the free improvisation takes over in a melancholy, eerie ambience, highlighted by mournful trumpet and underscored by a low, oscillating drone. It has the effect of an odyssey through a demented carnival sideshow, and then the recording of some 1970s French femme pop singer emerges, and I can only assume that's Berrocal attempting to sing along with it. Oh boy! It turns into this disco thing while the other musicians in Hot Club play around it eventually ending in a repeating loop which fades as the Hot Club improvisation continues with another record looping a rhythm in the background. Other chansons are introduced via turntable and still the improvisation continues. Berrocal's trumpet is a cross between a fly and an elephant; a combination of skittering annoyance and bellicose bellowing. Warburton's busy violin noises and Fuchs's furious bass turn up the heat in the kitchen. Who know what the hell is coming out of Bellenger's turntables by now. It's a madly insane dance to the finish; frenetic, bizarre, and out of control. Whew! That was really something else. I'm not sure I even know how to adequately describe this let alone rate it.

This release is limited to 250 LPs (30 with T-shirt & Badge, if you're interested) and I don't know about CD or digital download; I tend to think not. Unless you can get your friendly local underground Record Shop to order it for you, you'll have go through a European distributor. I find it strange that Hot Club seems not to have a website. The closest I could find was Jac Berrocal's MySpace site, so that will have to suffice. You are probably better off visiting the Monotype records site for samples of the music though, which I would recommend, for the truly adventurous only.
Artist: Donovan Tate (@)
Title: Scrapbook
Format: CD
Label: self-released
Rated: *****
From Birmingham Alabama comes self-styled electronic music producer Donovan Tate, not to be confused with the minor league baseball player or a couple of club DJs by the same name, or actor Tate Donovan. Apparently he's had a few projects or bands over the years including Donovan 2525, Echoes in the Dark, Code Bleu, Dawn Chorus, Wave Nouveau and currently, Xi-Vox. Unfortunately, none of them seem to have had much exposure outside of the odd message board posting, or the occasional submission reviewed here at Chain D. L. K. over the years. Tate's 'Scrapbook' is an album of 23 tracks of his aforementioned projects with some new tracks mixed in as well. Tate handles all the synth/keyboard work, sampling, and drum programming, as well as lyrics and vocals with occasional vocals from Carolyn Reid. His litany of influences reads like an English/Euro electro-pop record/CD collection straight out of the 1980s/ early 1990s ' Depeche Mode, Human League, Flock of Seagulls, Bananrama, Alphaville, Culture Club, Propaganda, New Order, OMD, etc. etc. you get the picture. Tate's 'Sheffield Sound' obsession seems to permeate a goodly portion of 'Scrapbook'; retro in nearly every way. This wouldn't be a bad thing if there was enough quality to back it up, but unfortunately, there isn't.

First track 'London,' feigns English hipness ala Human League/Heaven 17 and St. Etienne. Beginning with a British Airways voiceover and jet-sonics over a clubby beat, with a Berlin ' 'Sex (I'm a )' synth string pad, and a generic synth riff with pizzicato counter-melody, Carolyn Reid coos 'Ooooh, baby, we (or word that rhymes with it) maybe, you can go to London,' while Tate interjects a spoken 'London' for emphasis. A tad jejune, but passable retro synth pop, except the hazy production diminishes the song's potential. As a harbinger of what's to come, you quickly realize Donovan Tate loves to use a lot of echo and reverb, a common mistake of amateur music producers.

The slower second track, 'Tonya' features processed vocals over minimal synth and drum machine, but even with the vocal processing you realize that Tate has a problem; his singing isn't very good. Third track, 'Evermore' confirms this as he attempts a soulful-turned-mournful piano-based ballad that goes on way, way too long. It's a clichéd progression that in spite of bringing in other instrumental elements gets tiring quickly. The odd 'E=MC2' shows a bit of experimental flair but the repetition intended to be hypnotic comes off as irritating. The vocals swathed in reverb and echo (yet again) just don't sound very compelling. Nowhere are the vocals more painful than on 'Strange,' a minimal Tuxedo Moon style track. Winston Tong's voice may be suited for this overwrought emotional style, but Donovan Tate's pipes surely are not.

There are way too many tracks on this album to keep commenting on individually, and many of them are guilty of the same flaws of the aforementioned. As for electronica diversity, Donovan employs an 'everything but the kitchen sink,' aw fuck-it, let's throw in the kitchen sink too' approach, so some things are momentarily amusing, but nothing particularly compelling. By track #11 ('Wake Up!') he's sounding like a lo-fi Kid606 but getting that far in the CD is an endurance test. Tracks that follow are scattershot hodge-podge collage of feats of sampling, wacky rhythms, semi-realized ideas, and unfocused and under-developed sonic meanderings. His version of the 'Dr. Who Theme' which closes the album is symptomatic of all that's gone before; steeped in the past, and not taken to the future very well.

I really hate to come down hard on virtually unknown indie artists because they're the ones who need nurturing and encouragement the most. Sometime though, tough-love is called for if an artist is ever going to improve. It's really a shame too because I can tell this guy has some talent; it's just a bad mistake to not distill the best of what one is capable of into a few well-composed and well-recorded tracks, and leave the rest on the cutting-room floor. Few are going to want to turn all the pages of this 'Scrapbook'. It may be time to get a new 'Playbook'.
Artist: Jgruu / Grassa Dato
Title: s/t
Format: CD
Label: Buh Records (@)
Rated: *****
This release is a split betwenn JGRUU (two track), an industrial outfit from Peru with psychedelic influence and Grassa Dato (one track), an experimental band from Spain.
The first Jgruu track, "Tierra Muerta" is a, loop based, almost noist track reminding a manga like battle while "Communication fallida" is a noise drone in the vein of the previous track. "Humanos y otros insectos", the track from Grassa Dato, is a twenty minutes fully noise track that has no mercy for the (poor?) listener.
Even if not recommanded to everyone, this could be a good listen to noise fans searching nothing new to listen but quite funny to hear.
Artist: Hamann / Astro
Title: Limbo Split
Format: CD
Label: Buh Records (@)
Rated: *****
This split release is by Herman Hamann (Hamann), a kraut rock influenced musician from Peru, and Hiroshi Hasegawa (Astro), a noise artist influenced by seminal bands like C.C.C.C.
The first two track by Haman are a sort of spacey, with the use of sci-fi movie sounds, dark ambient while the third is a slow atmospheric tune wounderfully sustained by synth. The track from Astro is, instead, a noisy ambient assault above a dark drone; it has not much musical development, especially in dynamics but it's typical to japan outfits, but has a good sonic architecture.
This work has nothing new to offer but this could be a good pick to noise fans, not searching for pure assault but also interested to some sonic research. Nice.
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Artist: Incubico (@)
Title: Trilogia Incubica
Format: DVD
Label: GH Records (@)
Rated: *****
Incubico is an artistic movement created by Diego Arandojo and Sebastián Zurutuza aiming to join esthetic, philosophical and sociocultural elements that are related to a wide theoretical baggage. The result is multimedia release where images, made by Diego Arandojo, and sounds, made by Flor, search symbols to convey an almost esoteric message.
This release is formed by tree medium length movie: "Ciclo de Thule" is a 35 minute movie where words are used as punctuation to image distorted and juxtaposed. Using magick as theme, it seems to lack a proper plot looking more a video clip than a movie. Its soundtrack is the already reviewed album of the same name made by Flor, and largely better than this movie. "El panòptico del ìncubo" is a 23 minutes more evocative movie based, in his first part, on words and almost static images using noise as the medium for atmosphere and meaning. The apparently calmer second part lead to a third part where the influence of more abstracted visual experiments are paired with the narration of the story of incubus and succubus. The movie ends with the repetition of the initial visual theme. "Opus 23" is a reflection on discord, portrayed as a dark young girl, using pictures and words. Of course, the number 23 is widely displayed in various forms.
This could be a fine release as they have ideas but, as a movie, has a clear limit: the video part leave to the audio part the responsibility of conveying the meaning of the work. The votes are, in starts, 1.5 for the first movie, 4 for the second and 3 for the third so the result is an almost perfect three.
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