Music Reviews



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Artist: Stable Mechanism (@)
Title: Suspended Animation
Format: CD
Label: Imaginary NonExistant (@)
Rated: *****
Suspended Animation is the first full-length album on Joan Male's (aka Monoceros) label Imaginary NonExistant Records by Jorge Ortiz de Pinedo, young electronic weaver from Madrid also known as noi, or better by his most accessible alter-ego Stable Mechanism, a project whose rhythmicity and compositions are far clever and less inscrutable than the mentioned artistic identity he named noi. Its title could act as both a sort of conceptual framework and a guideline for listener: the so-called suspended animation consists of the slowing of organic processes such as heartbeat, blood circulation, breathing and other involuntary living functions by gradual decrease of temperature, one of the basic concept of the science of cryonics, successfully experimented on embryos, rats and partially dogs (as some dogs which have been submitted to this experiment of induced hypothermia experienced some mental diseases), which someone has proposed to experiment on astronauts for interstellar or intergalactic journeys.

Stable Mechanism's playset seems following such a process: Jorge erects rhythmical structures and sound sculptures on some chilled synth pad's 2-tonal drones, which could remind sci-fi soundtracks, acting as nitrogen for computer assisted freezing or alternatively fuel for space capsules going towards unexplored angles of the universe. Far-off echoes encounters ethereal and rarefied melodies (such as in the beat-spotted suspended crystalline celesta score of Spacetime Distorsion or in the enwrapping quasi-drone of Antimatter, maybe the best track of this issue), escorting the listener towards a mental journey throughout sidereal icy spaces, which doesn't lack of somewhat romantic moments (tracks like the above-mentioned Spacetime Distorsion, the "beepy" Intense Vacuum,featuring a bizarre mixture of that kind of ethereal restlessness marking the first steps of Autechre or Boards Of canada, or The Deep Loneliness reminded to me some reveries on sadly frustrated "human-like" robots falling in love each other induced by listening some melancholic-tinged Norken, Pole, Proem or Metamatics tracks!) or mystical diversions close to the ones noi recently showed out in some digital releases. I wish you a pleasant intergalactic mental trot!
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Artist: Stahlnebel & Black Selket (@)
Title: Memories
Format: CD EP
Label: Advoxya Records (@)
Distributor: Poponaut
Rated: *****
Two band-projects hailing out of Germany and The Netherlands, which have been united due to friendship, mutual interests and stronger forces regarding production and live performances. The united project STAHLNEBEL & BLACK SELKET is musically part of these new 'distortion kidz' from block, one of these up and coming new Harsh EBM/Hellectro-projects, which can rely on a strong fan-base and its support.
Mainly based and active at the German Ruhr-area with cities like Bochum, Cologne, Düsseldorf and its well-known dark clubs, they especially could make themselves a quite good name as being a powerful live performing project and well suited remixers. As for an example, the newest SUICIDE COMMANDO release 'Death Cures All Pain' features a remix contribution by this trio. After two own releases under this mutual moniker, they now present us with 'Memories' their first outlet signed to their new label, the Hungarian Advoxya Records label. 'Memories' and its 40 minutes long content therefore acts like an ideal appetizer to proclaim the new full-length album 'Blood And Passion', which will be out via Advoxya Records, while I am writing this review. Asides the title track in its original version and with both remix contributions provided by :A7IE: (clever idea, to leave out the overused 'attack ships on fire' voice-sample...) and THE TWILLIGHT FREAKSHOW, STAHLNEBEL & BLACK SELKET are rewarding their devoted fans with 'Black Treath' (no typo!), which is an unreleased and exclusive b-side-track. This tune pushes the pace in higher regions compared to the title track. Additional remix contributions for the tracks 'Staatssicherheit' and 'Angels & Demons' (by the Turkey-based SADIZTIK:INJEKTION, offering an unusual kind of delay/reverb-fx widely installed, but with a damaging effect into the stereo-field...) provided by lesser recognized projects (ELECTROVOT, VISION ANOMALY) accompanying this first release on Advoxya after 40 minutes. STAHLNEBEL & BLACK SELKET have produced a promising teaser release for their album, although they definitely haven't cooked the best Harsh EBM/Hellectro-dinner around. It can be clever to hold back the best weapons for their album, since they already promised, that it will offer all of their 'Blood And Passion'...
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Artist: Skúli Sverrisson (@)
Title: Sería II
Format: CD
Label: 12 Tónar
Rated: *****
I hadn't heard any new music by NY-based Icelandic bass player/composer Skúli Sverrisson's since his highly acclaimed 1998 solo-bass ambient-music release "Seremonie" on Extreme records (which I believe was re-issued in 2007). Although I discovered it only this year, after hearing his 2006 CD "Sería" it quickly became one of my favorite CDs and I've been listening to that one a lot ever since! The second installment in that series came out this year on the same small Icelandic indie record shop/label 12 Tónar and is appropriately called "Sería II". Both CDs feature a large number of international guests from NY, Seattle, Reykjavik and other places, including Amedeo Pace (Blonde Redhead), Ãlöf Arnalds (violin), Hildur Guðnadóttir (cello), the great viola player Eyvind Kang with his instantly recognizable tone, Anthony Burr (clarinet), Ãskar Guðjónsson (sax), Kristín Anna Valtýsdóttir and pianist Davíð Ãór Jónsson.

Recorded between Mosfellsbær (by Birgir Ãór Jónsson), New York, New Orleans and Berlin, "Sería II" represents a small departure from the intense and beautiful arpeggio-structured songwriting of the gorgeous title-track of "Sería" (although still very much present in pieces like "Moðir" or "Without Memory") and shines the light on sometimes more defined melody lines ("Instants") as well as introducing a few more singing parts (the only vocals in "Sería" were a spoken word part by Laurie Anderson and one sang piece called "Sungio Eg Gaeti"). On "Sería II" Múm vocalists Anna Valtýsdóttir and Ãlöf Arnalds deliver beautiful layers of vocal cords mastery, although not necessarily vocals in the "pop" sense of the word (in fact I believe there are no lyrics at all). The vocals are used as an instrument, almost like a keyboard pad (but not necessarily always just long notes), sometimes almost operatically, and blend into the music in a very organic and harmonious way, like in the opening track "Volumes", "Unbend", "Divena", "The Arrangement" or "The Sound of Snow" to the point where sometimes it makes you wonder whether you are hearing a voice or an instrument.
Skúli's compositions float in a space of their own, ethereal but dense, with a multiplicity of stringed instruments, acoustic and electric, untreated and processed. Equally comfortable on an unplugged acoustic bass guitar or on a five string electric guitar with a sea of pedals in front of him, Sverisson's strongpoint probably lies in his versatility, one that is showcased in this release. Needless to say the level of musicianship is sky high and the contributions of the guests are an extension of Skúli's multifaceted vision.

The whole CD is just so beautiful from start to finish that you are gonna wanna keep listening to it over and over, discovering new nuances and subtle arrangements after every pass. I've seen (and even worked with) Skúli Sverrisson in different situations, from playing fusion with Allan Holdsworth to playing alongside Ryuichi Sakamoto, Laurie Anderson, Chris Speed and he is an amazing bass player, tactful, with pocket and style, however I truly believe that his musical sensibility comes out most and best when he composes and plays his own music. I urge you to discover his musical genius by getting "Sería" and "Sería II" as soon as you can. I'm not sure whether this is a trilogy or how many chapters Sverisson envisioned this series to be made of, but at this point I'm eagerly waiting for "Sería III"!
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Artist: CRUISE [CTRL] (@)
Title: How's Annie?
Format: CD
Label: Divine Comedy
Rated: *****
Largely anticipated by the single "We've Met Before, Haven't We?" which I reviewed back in March 2009, HOW'S ANNIE?, the second album by the Belgian duo Cruise [CTRL], has just been released by Divine Comedy. If you already listened to the three tracks single, you already know what to expect, because those tracks are all into the nine tracks listing of the album. For whom didn't know what I'm talking about, you have to know that Cruise [CTRL] credo resides into the creation of tracks that follow these rules: all tracks at 120bpm, all tracks linked, only analogical sounds and textures, no melodies, no singers, no faces, no explanations, no rules. Being true to most of these "no rules", for HOW'S ANNIE?, they composed nine tracks where the minimal approach to melody (many times melody is only a looping two notes synth bass line) is the counterpart to rich intersecting rhythmic layers. Dry syncopated drum machine patterns beat their rhythm giving the time to clashing clanging synth noises, filtered guitars (which on tracks like "Henry's head" are reduced to a resonating feedback) and drones. The alternation and the quantity of the different elements are the key of the formula and Cruise [CTRL] are good at keeping everything in control. Besides the nine original tracks, on this album we have three bonus remixes: two of "Where's Alice? Alice who?" (Rorscharch Garden gave to the track a retro 80s flavor, turning it into an early e.b.m. tune, while Oil 10, true to their cinematic robotic rich synth sound, remixed it keeping alive also the light original industrial approach) and one of "Pomona road" (which remixed by No More, the famous band that composed "Suicide Commando", now sounds like an ambient e.b.m. tune).
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Artist: VV.AA.
Title: Einsturzende Neubauten: Ibero-Amerikanisches Tribut - from Alaska to Tierra del Fuego
Format: CD
Label: Tacu4ra Records (@)
Rated: *****
As Einsturzende Neubauten are touring the world in celebration of their 30th year anniversary (although the US dates have just been canceled due to visa issues), Argentinian Tacu4ra Records is revering Einsturzende with a 15 track compilation tribute of bands from across the globe covering Neubauten tunes. Bands hailing from Brasil, Chile, Germany, Argentina, Spain, UK, Colombia and France flocked to the label to rise to the ambitious task of paying tribute to one of the greatest industrial bands of all times.
Overall, the level of the tracks is pretty high although the bands are all up & coming. Lots of female singers somehow. Some bands from the latin-speaking continent even courageously chose tunes with german lyrics. My favorite covers are probably "The Garden" by Spain's Oblique or "Sabrina" by UK's ElectroXcentric, but in general the covers I usually like the most are the ones that sound the furthest away from the original (it's easy to copy, it's harder to make a copy sound original!). Some bands that really deviate from the original version are Argentina's Lastrax with their techno-dance version of "Youme&meyou", "Armenia"'s sadly out of phase power-glitch-breakcore version by Colombian Nina Terrorista & STH, Spain's Vondage's "Haus der Luege" power-noise-industrial-goth version and others. To tell you the truth, EN is so original sounding that copying them is so hard most bands attempting it would end up sounding different that the original anyway!
I applaud the label for coming up with this concept and for the bands that decided to participate. It would be great to see a similar kind of tribute to EN by more established bands that have an instantly recognizable sound, because that's when you really know how much of their own a band has put into it (it's harder to make that assessment when you don't know any of the bands). Nothing of what I am saying though should take merits away from this compilation. Everything down to the art work is very professional here. Great idea and great execution overall!
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