Music Reviews

Artist: Zeller
Title: Turbulences
Format: CD
Label: Tympanik Audio (@)
Distributor: Tympanik Audio
Rated: *****
Another Tympanik release fresh to the dissecting table is the French electronic music project Zeller, with 'Turbulences,' an aptly named album. Zeller fuses space music with complexly programmed Industrial percussion, and does it very, very well. If ever an album could be called 'Futuristic Industrial,' it has to be this one. If this is the future though, be afraid, be very afraid. The depths of space are very cold indeed.

'Turbulences' is a helter-skelter starship ride through a wormhole in the spacetime continuum. The exotic matter of the particles of sound employed along with the propulsion of percussion jettisons the listener through universes at warp speed. Although there is a lot going on in the spatiality is incredible. Sounds don't compete with each other; they compliment and buffer each other to maximum effect. There is cohesion to this work that makes it compelling. You can easily get lost in it. Some tracks might be ideally suitable for a video game.

There is a quite a bit of echo effect on some sonic elements, but appropriately utilized, enhancing the cosmic ambience. Sometimes the percussion resembles that of an alien machine, while other times is some of the most effective IDM techno-industrial I've ever heard . The shifts in atmosphere are sometimes striking; just when you get acclimated to one environment, another comes along and sweeps away the previous. Nothing is ever static. Motifs are simple in a Kraftwerkian sort of way, but not kitschy or trite. The sophistication of form and construction is remarkable. At every turn there is something to dazzle your aural perception. The music is sometimes reminiscent of Future Sound of London; could this be Future Sound of Paris?

While many of the sounds may be things you've heard before, you've never heard them put together quite like this. Maybe if Amon Tobin was to drop acid and then ride Space Mountain at Disneyworld a few dozen times, he might come up with something like 'Turbulences,' (and I hear he's working on a space album) but Zeller beat him to the punch, and this punch packs a wallop.
Artist: Candle Nine (@)
Title: The Muse in the Machine
Format: CD
Label: Tympanik Audio (@)
Distributor: Tympanik Audio
Rated: *****
Out of Chicago comes Candle Nine, an apparently one-man electronic music project. On the website is a face, but no name we can put to it other than Candle Nine. He says he used to be an acoustic songwriter, but from his first experience in 2006 with a sequencer got hooked on electronic music. Influences claimed are such entities as Gridlock, Haujobb, Converter and Download. Candle Nine sounds like none of them though.

With the exception of vocal (dialogue) samples and maybe a slight vocal track, the music is mostly instrumental. There are Industrial leanings, with an emphasis on heavily programmed percussion, often in the glitch and IDM mode. In fact, the drum/percussion elements are so predominant most of the time that everything else takes a back seat. 'The Muse in the Machine' opens up with moody keyboard work and it's well over a minute before any significant percussion even enters the picture. Not a bad way of building atmosphere. When the drums do come in with a rolling sort of beat, they're strong and defined. Unfortunately, the underplayed keyboard work never swells into anything more defined, and just meanders along in its moody progression. This the way the tracks seem to continue throughout the album.

Track 2, 'Penumbra,' also starts with moody atmospherics (and those vocal samples, also present in track 1) before the drums and percussion hits with a barrage of chaotic and sonically twisted programming. For a time, its crazy and wild, then subsides and lets the synth string pads fill in the space'¦then it happens again. After the wild rhythm leaves for the second time, it returns in a more subdued and controlled form. This happens a couple of times, and then we're left with the synth pads again. I know this is a clinical description, but it's fitting; there isn't anything emotionally grabbing about this.

Candle Nine is good at moody atmospherics but seems lost as where to take them. One of the problems is the mix. The percussion is just so dominant that everything else seems to be the canvas the picture is painted on. One good example of this is 'Raison d'etre,' a track that has two simple synth melodies, a sparse repeating vocal line ('I can't find it on my own'), and a lot of heavy-duty percussion programming, which is the focus of the piece. There is even a time when one of the synth melodies comes to the foreground (with minimal percussion backing), but nothing is ever developed and taken further. It lacks vitality.

By this time I am noticing one element that is missing which could help out immensely ' BASS. There is not much bass, except as an occasional low end undertone. It was probably intentional to do things this way, but it could have been an important unifying factor to add some cohesion. What happens without the motion of bass is that there is often a lack of cohesion between the drifting and woozy keyboards and the percussion elements. What you end up with is a chillout juxtaposed with an Industrial/IDM hybrid percussion track. (And also, an overlay of dialogue samples.) The repetition of chordal progressions ad infinitum also gets old quick, and begins to sound New-Agey.

For me, the often raucous percussion and the gentle keyboard elements don't work well together. It often sounds like I'm listening to two different albums. It's unsettling, and not in a good way. There is no doubt there is some talent here, but it needs refining. Maybe the next album will be better if Candle Nine can find a way to fuse the elements he's using so they work with each other instead of against each other.
Artist: Lucidstatic (@)
Title: Symbiont Underground
Format: 2 x CD (double CD)
Label: Tympanik Audio (@)
Distributor: Tympanik Audio
Rated: *****
Yet another Tympanik Audio release comes our way in the form of Lucidstatic's 'Symbiont Underground,' a double-CD of 23 tracks. This is a collection featuring collaborations with such artists as Angel of Violence, Mothboy, Iammynewt, Mono Penguin, ESA, Human Error, Mangadrive, Experiment Haywire, Servo Hatred, Pig Fat, Manufactura and more; most of which I've never heard of. Come to think of it, this is my first acquaintance with Lucidstatic too. Needless to say, with this much collaboration, 'Symbiont Underground,' is a mixed bag for sure. Exactly how much Lucidstatic vs. other artists on each track is hard to say. On one level the work kind of needs to be taken as a whole, but one another level it sort of works like a compilation album. Obviously there's things I (as well as you will) like better than others. Still, most of tracks are interesting, and there are a good deal more hits than misses.

The sound quality is very good, in no small part due to the mastering by Justin Brink (Pneumatic Detach). Overall the album has a generally dark electronic-industrial tone with elements of IDM, techno, breakcore, ambient, electro, and more. With this much content I can't go into detail about every track, but I give some overview and highlights.

First up from Disc 1' 'Burning Embers' (vs. Manufactura) with its eccentric beat pattern, laconic vocal (imagine a combo of Haujobb's Daniel Myer and YMO's Yukihiro Takahashi on ludes) and shimmering wash o' synths background. We're off to a good start here. 'Nois3Rush' is industrial breakcore over spooky synths and ominous bass. 'Viscera' invokes Angel of Violence's 'VOICE OF SATAN' to set the mood for this tightly wound electronic piece with apocalyptic string padding. 'Dissection' (vs. Mono Penguin) employs effectively moody synths with mechanical percussion. 'The Awakening' (Mothboy remix) with its hypnotic percussion and bass is a nod to old school chillout. Moments at a Cliff' features the synthetically twisted vocals of Skullduggery over breakbeats and a fast moving bass line. 'Book of the Dead' (vs. Receiver) is an intense industrial stomper, kind of what you might get if you mixed Velvet Acid Christ with Hypnoskull. 'NEP' with Human Error is dreamlike and saturnine with celestial piano, supernal strings and a percussion track that rises and falls to the occasion. Longest track on the first disc, 'Desire To Be' (vs. Iammynewt), was sort of disappointing in that although it had good sonic content, seemed like a plodding collection of linear themes left unfulfilled. Business picked up a little with 'Misplaced' and Scalper's industrial style rap over breakneck beats and dour synth pads. I don't usually care for any kind of rap, but this was at least delivered with a bit of drama.

'Boneyard' (vs. Shad0w) opens up disc 2 in intense experimental foreboding industrial fashion. 'Re_volve' with Impurfekt brings back the rapid-fire breakbeats with more moody synth background, dialogue samples and whispered vocals. (Yeah, there are a good amount of spoken word samples used throughout both discs, but they're mostly effective and not overdone.) I liked certain elements of 'Invocation (vs. Pigfat) but wished it had a bit more substance. Seemed too disjointed to me. 'According To Plan' (vs. ESA) is an industrial dirge with suicidal vocals. 'A New Low' brings back Human Error's mysterious touch over variable breakbeat and industrial percussion. 'A.L.' (vs. Mono Penguin) is quirky and experimental yet still accessible. Maybe the most amusing track on the album with its oddball electronics and beats. More Mono Penguin antics on 'Head Hunter' (Filter Mix), which has quite a lot of sonic variety but doesn't seem to live up to the eccentricity of the previous track. 'Fractured' (Nick R 61 remix) is what Kraftwerk would sound like if they went Industrial. Best track for the dancefloor on this album would have to be 'We Created the Epidemic' (vs. Mangadrive), a high energy techno-industrial killer. 'Little Human Puppets' features the acerbic vocal styling of Rachel Haywire over appropriately tenacious electro-industrial backing. Disc 2 closes out with 'Fakt' and the vocals of Servo Hatred, perhaps the most typically industrial track on the album. Servo Hatred's voice ranges from a Trent Reznor whisper to a raspy Rudy Ratzinger croaking scream. In fact, the whole track had a Wumpscutish overtone.

I suppose calling 'Symbiont Underground' a mixed bag is somewhat of an understatement, but there's more on it that I liked than not. It bears repeated listening too, which is always a good sign. If you're feeling adventurous, you might just want to throw caution to the wind and buy this album. It will certainly keep you busy for awhile.
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Artist: Secret Druid Society (@)
Title: Restless
Format: CD
Label: First Fallen Star (@)
Rated: *****
There's one word for this album: drone, and in dark ambient field this means classicity. This album is devoted to the life of abiocen, a life without humanity, a life of pure nature. In the booklet, every track of this album is associated with a pictures and some words of tranquillity and sorrow. "Time is running slower [...] water stopped to run and stream [...]lonely moon is looking at the emptied city [...] heavy steps are slow and brooding [...] shadows coming out of rocks [...] going on and on in circles [...] ice is droning under strain". As the words suggests, the music is a slow moving layers of resonance made out of samples and instruments and, even without escaping the boundaries of the genre, has some good points in tracks like "Restless (Foreboding" and "Restless (Night is Here)" with evocative soundscapes.
This work has nothing new stylistically to offer but has a good choice on musical elements to work with, so could be a good choice for dark ambient fans.
Oct 10 2010
Artist: Urban Jedi
Title: Pathfinder
Format: Download Only (MP3 + Lossless)
Label: Binalog Productions (@)
Rated: *****
PATHFINDER is the second single by Urban Jedi. On this download only release Mike presents two new tunes. The main one is a mix electronic sounds, harpsichord arpeggios, long synth sweeps and 4/4 syncopated hard beats. Sounding melancholic and cinematic this instrumental track has a deep atmosphere good for a modern version of Blade Runner. "Extraterrestrial discjockey" mix long synth pads, upbeat beats which sounds like a train, pulsing synth sounds and few female vocal samples ("Can you imagine an extraterrestrial discjockey, like listening to radio...?" [I didn't understand the last words]). Both tracks have saturated sounds which give to the whole mix a dreamy sensation. Nice one! Exclusively available here
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