Music Reviews



Artist: MICHAEL VORFELD
Title: Flugangst
Format: CD
Label: Monotype (@)
Rated: *****
Monotype has put out some interesting releases so far and this definitely fits in the category, infact Vorfeld gave us a interesting proof of how one can put together an unconventional drumming/percussionism and sound installation style, in case you've never seen or heard anything by this german musicians he has many releases out on label such as Creative Sources, Trente Oiseaux, Rossbin, Esquilo and similar labels. Is that an hint to identify this work? More or less infact it would extremely reductive to paint this release as the ordinary electro-acoustic cd, it's a solo recording and it's a great thing since it proofs that sometimes to reduce the players and the instruments is not a bad thing but a good option. That could suggest minimalism is the thing, but it's not, not exactly that...it's sound art that goes really close to concrete music and if you remember the Metamkine serie of 3" mcd you know "the rules of the game" and probably the fact he's collaborated with Bernard Gunter may help to make it all clearer. The kind of instrument may introduce an easy parallel with Eddie Prevost but is no truer than an easy comparison to Bailey for every acoustic guitar improviser, so take it with a grain of salt. Vorfeld plays skins and stringed instruments with a different style if compared to Prevost and goes much closer to music concrete, electronic, post-industrial music than to any average electro-acoustic work. Why? the answer is there in the performative/ambient structure of every track, every suite is evolving around sound, a particular sound and it is developed to full blossoming. Flugangst is not far from some other releases like that, but compositional-structure and experience of this talented percussionist make the difference. If you add the recording give a vivid picture of the live session you know why I enjoyed so much this solo work. Sound plus space and the ambient of a room still makes the difference between a good solo work and a boring one. Somehow it also reminded me Enrico Malatesta a young talented drummer/perfomer from the north-east of Italy. Thumbs up!.

Artist: KINETIX + PYLONE
Title: sonology
Format: CD
Label: Soun on Probation (@)
Rated: *****
It's passed quite a while from the last release featuring Gianluca Becuzzi's release I've heard and now he's back with two brand new album. This collaboration ties the knot wonderfully with wintertime and that's has to do with the cold sharp sounds used by the duo and to the dark aura of most of the compositions. We are in front of a long long record since it features one hour and twelve minutes of music, but I think it has a lot to do with the "path of resistance" intrinsic nature of a release like that. While the first of the two twenty minutes long tracks is based on a monolithic drone occasionally pierced by acute frequencies and field recording, its twin track is not exactly different in nature, but the spoken word parts and the fact is more based on voice samples and less oriented on droned movements in some ways introduce some consistent differences even if the deep introspective feel of the opening suite is here maintained. While the opening piece of this work may suggest a drone based release most of the tracks deal with a sort of "cut up and reassemble" process, everything is done with a good craftsmanship so they usually avoid that "all of a sudden effect" (if no intentionally). The nature of the tracks and their shape has brought to my mind names like Zoviet France, Richard Chartier, Hafler Trio and some other post industrial sound artists. An abstract work with some interesting intuitions.

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Artist: Tranquilatwist (@)
Title: Down About the Ceiling
Format: CD
Label: self-released
Distributor: Trouble Street Records
Rated: *****
Seldom do I go out of my way looking for trouble, er, I mean new music to review but every once in a while something comes to my attention that I can't resist. Such is the case with Tranquilatwist. I was thumbing through the glossy pages of a well-known Goth zine when I came across a small review of this band. It sounded interesting enough to check out so I headed to their MySpace page to give them a listen. Liking what I heard, I decided to request the CD from the band for a full and proper review.

Tranquilatwist is an outfit Rochester, NY, only a hop, skip, and a jump from where I'm at. It's a delight to find a band in this neck of the woods doing something different as most Upstate NY bands seem to be fairly conventional. Tranquilatwist is a female-fronted gothy-dark trip-hoppy group'¦think sort of Portishead, Hungry Lucy, Collide, Tapping the Vein, and the short lived Violet Indiana. Yet, Tranquilatwist seems to take some of the best elements of this style and fuse them together. The main reason it really shines is due to the amazingly emotive and soulful vocals of Karlie Cary Lanni. In some places she's as smooth and placid as Sarah McLachlan and others as over-the-top as Siouxsie Sioux. (It doesn't hurt either that she looks the gothic chanteuse.)The other two band members, Anthony Lanni and David Michael provide a solid and varied musical backdrop for the moody songs on this debut outing.

'Down About the Ceiling' is 8 tracks (well, seven really since one is only a 46 second interlude) that falls somewhere between an EP and a full album. Overall, there is a dark and melancholy tone to this collection of tunes; more moody than depressing. Sometimes Lanni's vocals are bluesy, perhaps in a simlar vein to Beth Gibbons, but less fragile. The musical arrangements are spot-on for the material- a good blend of guitar, keyboard and electronic work, bass and rhythm tracks; inventive and ominous enough but never overwhelming. The perfect foil for Karlie's vocals. The songwriting is solid too. (I occasionally hear shades of Kate Bush.) There really isn't a bad track on the CD, although some may grab you more than others. Perhaps the most commercially accessible tune is 'Grounded,' but if I had to pick a favorite, it would probably be 'Charade' for its gut-wrenching drama. I even like the artwork on the CD ' cutesy surrealist goth courtesy of Abril Andrade Griffith. And the CD itself looks like a little black vinyl record. (You can find it at their website, CD Baby, iTunes or Amazon.)

This is very worthy debut effort from Tranquilatwist, and you're sure to hear more about them in the future, most certainly if and when they tour. In the future I'd like to here them stretch their musical boundaries even further afield. But who knows what the future has in store'¦
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Artist: High Watt Electrocutions (@)
Title: The Bermuda Triangle
Format: CD
Label: self-released
Distributor: Introspection Records
Rated: *****
High Watt Electrocutions is a Canadian band spearheaded by Ryan Electrocution and they've been around for some time. Some of there previous stuff falls into the category of 'Stoner Rock,' heavy psychedelic fuzz-guitar oriented stuff, but 'The Bermuda Triangle' is quite different. Here, HWE are a lot more laid back, and while guitar dominates (both acoustic and electric), there are also some other elements- keyboards, and (programmed?) drums but used sparsely. The whole album (a little over 38 minutes on a single track) is primarily comprised of guitar motifs, chord progressions that are repeated quite a bit, although they change in different sections. Often the guitars are effected (phased, flanged, reverbed, tremolo, mild distortion to psych-fuzz, backwards, etc) which are nice touches but I still felt a certain ambivalence about what I was hearing.

To be perfectly honest, my initial review, which I trashed, also trashed this album as a cliché-ridden empty hull of a vessel sailing the sea of prog-rock cheese. The only 'Bermuda Triangle' I envisioned was the black hole it might disappear into in its cruise to oblivion. I imagined Spinal Tap's David St. Hubbins putting out a solo album called 'Songs with No Words.' 'No man, it's not an instrumental album,' I could hear him saying in an interview. "It's an album of songs'¦ with no lyrics. That way the listener can fill in their own.' And in this sense, the album actually works.

Shoegazer, Pink Floyd and some other progressive rock influences can obviously be heard in the style. The majority of it is fairly simplistic in form, almost minimal in a way. There is lots of atmosphere, but not much depth. One theme flows into another, and they sound like usable ideas that could have morphed into actual songs. I suppose it could be called 'New Impressionism' in its purest sense, where the familiar meets the oblique. I find it unusual that I kept coming back to listen to it again and again and each time find myself enjoying it more. I think it makes good background music, unobtrusive but enjoyable ambience. It would probably be excellent at a laid back party when the bong was being passed around.

So my initial impression of this work has changed quite a bit over time. This album tends to grow on you, and you pay less attention to the structure of the individual components than the overall mood and ambience. One caveat- if you don't like Pink Floyd type prog 'rock (especially something like 'The Narrow Way' on 'Umma Gumma'), you're probably not going to like this. Yet, 'The Bermuda Triangle' might have appeal for those that aren't looking for anything too defined.
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Artist: VV.AA.
Title: Music For Personality Disorder
Format: CD
Label: Beta-lactam Ring Records (@)
Distributor: Beta-lactam Ring Records
Rated: *****
Beta-lactam Ring's Summer/Fall 2010 Sampler of 16 tracks by twelve different artists, is quite an eclectic potpourri. First up ' Sand Snowman's 'Hemlock Garden' from their 'Nostalgia Ever After' album. Gentle, pleasantly harmonious vocals over acoustic guitar and a progressive rhythm section. Nice atmospheric changes with some adventurous instrumentation. Think Brit psych-folk, along the line of the Art Bears or Henry Cow but somewhat more restrained. Pepe Wismeer's 'A Lie in Heckless' from 'Between Sheep and Pigs' is a Pink Dots-esque ballad steeped in the ambience of the dark faerie wood. Aidan Baker's 'Feed Me Your Kiss' from 'Songs Of Flowers & Skin' just didn't grab me. Nice whispery vocals but the song's chord progression was far too repetitive and monotonous and much too bassy in the mix. Maybe his other stuff is better.

Moving on, we have Earthmonkey's 'New Cheese' off of 'Alms of Morpheus'. This is a reworking of the Mothers of Invention's 'Duke of Prunes' from their 'Absolutely Free' album. It's as if the Boards of Canada were covering the song on ludes. If Zappa were still around he'd probably approve (of the song, not the ludes) as long as he got his royalty check. Speaking of Pink Dots as I mentioned in a comparison in the previous paragraph, here's Edward Ka-Spel's 'The Beast With Six Fingers'(edit) from his 'The Minus Touch' album. Typical Ka-Spel, and nobody does it better. I love the line in the song, 'So jerks like me can rant and rave, and call it art.' You tell 'em Eddie! Any LPD fan will undoubtedly already have this album.

Sand Snowman are back with 'Wide Awake' from their 'Seekers Hide & Seek' album. More mildly adventurous stuff in the same vein as the song that led off this album but with some added piano. Perhaps just a wee bit more avant-jazz-rock, and although not a bad track, I liked their first one better. Pepe Wismeer returns with Devilame,' (edit) again from 'Between Sheep and Pigs.' Again it's Dots influenced with stabs of industrial. Ka-Spel returns too with 'Lines' (edit) from his latest, 'Chyekk, China Doll' with some help from Steve Stapleton and Patrick Wright. Since Brian Eno isn't making good albums anymore (don't get me started) this will fill the void. I want this album, and you should too. Last of the reprises is Earthmonkey with 'Ahmet Another,' an unreleased track from 'Alms of Morpheus.' It's a piece of psychedelic garbage that should stay that way; unreleased.

Seven That Spells offers 'Terminus Est' from their 'Future Retro Spasm' album. 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. Ilitch presents 'La Quantique des Cantiques' from 'La Maieutique de la Quantique.' Psych-stoner guitar and drums with electronic washes and analog synth effluvia...that's about it here. No song structure, just improvisation. Nadja contributes 'Skywriting' (edit) from the 'Transmit Acoustique Abstraction One' album. The piece is somewhat ambient guitar drone electronics; sort of reminds me of Frippertonics. Subdued drums are introduced in the latter third of the track here. There was sort of a muffled quality about it that made it sound rather lo-fi. Expo '70's 'The Gathering' from 'Sonic Messenger' could have fit right in with the previous track. More experimental droning and electronics. Best thing about it is that is was brief.

Anyone really familiar with the Legendary Pink Dots knows The Silverman (Phil Knight), and he presents an excerpt from his 'Time On Thin Ice' album with 'This Side of the Door' (edit). It's dark atmospherics with a gloomy monologue by Ka-Spel. Sounds like he's trapped in a sinister asylum. Very eerie. Tecumseh contribute 'Apophis' (edit) from 'Return to Everything,' another slow-moving droney guitar-driven piece. It's really pretty boring with little variation. And last we have Else Teicher with 'Near Dead Pachycephalosaurid on I-75' (edit) from her 'Whored' album. This is experimental electronic drone of a different sort. I found it kind of annoying. So did my wife, who told me to 'TURN THAT $#!+ off !!!' so I did.

Overall, this comp has a lot of merit even though there are things I didn't like on it. The fact that BLR's giving it away for a penny should make you want to grab a copy before it disappears. And with the money you save on this, you should probably buy something else from them while you're at it.
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