Music Reviews

Vivien Le Fay: Ecolalia

 Posted by Stuart Bruce (@)   Electronics / EBM / Electronica
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Nov 20 2019
Artist: Vivien Le Fay
Title: Ecolalia
Format: 12" vinyl + Download
Label: Boring Machines
Vivien Le Fay brings a diverse toolkit of experience to her debut album, citing sociology, guitar technician work for noise bands, and working on local radio as influence. The result is very focussed though, lands firmly in the realm of electronica- a brooding and dark layering of atmospherics, soundscaping, pulsing arpeggiators that feel analogue and warm, and sometimes melancholic vocal affirmations.

It has a strong feeling of soundtrack about it, particularly on tracks like the tense and driving, slightly synthwave-ish “Ex Self”. Opening track “Eve” and final track “Elim” are the only tracks to feature a real vocal, the former more melancholic in a faintly diva-ish way, and the latter a disturbing exercise in shapeless gothic heavy breathing, although the title track adopts the old ‘speak-and-spell’ approach, expressing aggressive eco-poetry through text-to-speech.

The steady patterns of “Each Point” or the workmanlike throbs of the title track both feel like they’re calling out for some sympathetic techno remixes- very little work would need to be done to bring this to the attention of a more dancefloor-minded genre- whereas pieces like the strangely synth-ethnic “Ecchymosis” are more ‘out there’, bordering on sci-fi-ambient for several minutes before a chatty, almost bouncy synth rhythm pops up.

It’s entirely a solo work apart from Sergio Albano’s contribution of aluminium guitar on half the tracks- most notably for its rotating-note pluck pattern on “Elim” that brings something quite old-fashioned and almost John Barry-like to proceedings, like the darkest and weirdest James Bond scene you’ve never seen.

It’s rich and expressive dark electronica that maintains the very high quality threshold of the Boring Machines label.
Artist: Ken Ganfield x Kurt Liedwart x Petr Vrba
Title: Something Wrong There
Format: CD
Label: Mikroton (@)
Rated: *****
What can you expect by an album title "Something Wrong There", consisting of two tracks titled "Unbearable" and "Nauseating", lasting more than 20 minutes each? One of the most logical answer could compile a list of side effects, related to intoxication or nervous breakdown. Well, some granola-heads could argue that it's better to avoid it, but besides a certain humour and a clear self awareness, the aesthetical choices by Kan Ganfield (synthesizers, electronics), Kurt Liedwart (synthesizers, cracked homemade and everyday electronics) and Petr Vrba (synthesizers and electronics) seems to assemble slices of electronics, fragmented crumbs of synthetic sounds and noises from dead radio transmissions into pulps of electric turmoils, that sound like feeding themselves. The ghost of ambient and cosmic music get violently pushed to the borders of something that could vaguely resemble an improvisational set, but where there's a willful sonic strategy, that could vanish the sometimes disliked label of 'improv'. Recorded in the August 2017 in Punctum, a cultural centre in the vibrant district of Zizkov in Prague, this turgid declension of electronics is often piercing and ferocious (in spite of occasional spray of flat pads and reassuring entities - vaguely resembling deformed pop melodies - in the middle of maelstrom) that you can surmise that the real purpose of this trio was to create a stress test for nerves and stomach for true, but I'm pretty sure both the testers/makers and the tested eardrums/audience enjoyed such a session.

Proem: Until Here For Years

 Posted by Ibrahim Khider (@)   Electronics / EBM / Electronica
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Nov 15 2019
Artist: Proem
Title: Until Here For Years
Format: CD & Vinyl
Label: n5MD
Latest from long time IDM-ster Richard Bailey aka Proem delivers us his meticulous brand of robo-beat-glitch constructions since 1999, meaning he really is Until Here for Years. There are a lot of musical ideas and approaches Bailey expresses, track-to-track, but to this listener, Proem hits best when he is on the ambient-atmospheric tip. First track, best track, “Rectangle Snake” with its moody melody and serene atmospherics intertwine into an uplifting slice of listening bliss. The following, “Cuddle Buddy” despite the name, comes off as sinister dub step with faint eerie nymph vocals accompanied by mechanical rhythms and warbly laser synth tones that instill a futurist bent, while “False Hope” has a nice yet somewhat menacing groove, track paused mid way for producer to have a sip of tea and then resume on a more serious-intent. I do like Bailey’s whimsical production approach. “Stick To Music Snowflake” is another slice of ambient atmospheric intermission before “Until Here Robot” where playful melodies mingle with juggernaut beats and manic sugar-rush melodies. “Pine the Bear” however, starts with the sluggish drowsiness of a robot undergoing a boot sequence and system integrity check before getting into a skittering drum n’ bass sequence that fizzles out at the one-and-a-half minute mark, perhaps alternating programs, to then get into strutting beat and melody science with elaborate, ornate rhythm constructions as complex and intricate as a Swiss mechanical marvel. By contrast “Chain Reaction” seems more impishly mischievous with the up-tempo gait-rhythm, understated melody that seems to bolt off. “An Effort Was Made” is stark, sparse notes that warms up with optimism into a nice atmospheric IDM bit. “The Sad Underneath” bodes darker, plucky guitar-note IDM, swaggering deftly crafted martial arts cool IDM. “Kids that Hate Live Things” is a favoured melodic IDM piece here, playful and well-crafted with joy laden overtones, cheerier melodies and a gorgeous balance of beat and melody. “Your Bones Back Together” caps the album with all to brief yet enjoyable vaguely melancholic and whimsical IDM. Until Here for Years, Elaborate, catchy IDM and emotionally evocative, Bailey continues to deliver, giving us the goods that tug at the heart strings and bumps the rump. Gorgeously produced IDM with a broad range of moods and a stream of textures a music filled with percussive consonants, shimmering, atmospheric vowels, that spells out deep and moving emotion.
Artist: Funeral Souvenir
Title: La Noche Del Anhídrido
Format: 12" vinyl + Download
Label: Verlag System
This is the second re-release for “La noche del anhídrido”, a cassette originally published by Miguel Ángel Ruíz in 1987 (which now goes for serious money on Discogs), and first re-issued on CDR in 2009 on Ediciones Toracic (an edition which goes for less money but which is still rare and prized). It’s now been dusted off again, remastered and made available to a wider audience.

So now a wider audience can sample this curious piece of rough, thoroughly experimental lo-fi instrumental industrialism. It was made with a relatively modest selection of kit- Casio Sk1, SW Radio, Yamaha DX7, and drum patterns provided by software called Cheetah SpecDrum for the good old Sinclair ZX Spectrum- so the passage of time has made it sound marginally dated, home-made and ‘small’ compared to what might be possible with today’s home tech, but the scale of the ideas is not impinged.

Dark brooding drone sounds infuse tracks like “Miedo al cricket”, where phased drum delays offer up tense disorientation. The pull of percussive repetition against long drawn-out sinister and distorted chords plays out in accomplished fashion in tracks like “Gas de Abidjan”.

“Entre palidos muros” is a highlight and also quite a curious track, an off-kilter arpeggiated synth rolling over dark synth pads and syndrums that manage to sound both filmic and 8-bit at the same time.

The limitations and thoroughly 1980’s low-ish-budget production values aren’t always compositionally hidden though, and in pieces like the rough-edged “Schlamm”, despite some nicely unpredictable radio feedback work, the EQ tonal quality of it really does throw you back to listening to obscure tapes late at night and hoping they wouldn’t mangle in the player.

The original six tracks from the tape have been supplemented by four bonus tracks previously only found on contemporary compilations (or two of them on the 2009 CDR edition). They’re consistent enough to form part of the album as a 49-minute whole. Of these, highlights include the dub-reverb laden gunfire and reportage sounds of “La noche del rail (Jovenes en el Horno)”, and the consciously noisier “Segunda noche del anhidrido (Feria del Flanger)”.

It’s got to be said that the artwork is extremely misleading. I’ve rarely seen cover artwork which represents the music inside as little as the artwork here! The new artwork is a polished and colour variation of the original 1987 release which used the same photo, and the choice of it, like some of the music, feels deliberately subversive, and intended to defy expectations.

There’s a form of sonic nostalgia here in the time and the attitude of the experimentation, but it’s also packed with enough interesting acerbic sonic texturing to make it a worthwhile listen in its own right as well.

C.A.R.: Pressure Drop EP

 Posted by Stuart Bruce (@)   Electronics / EBM / Electronica
Synth Pop / Electro Pop / Synth-Electronica
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Nov 13 2019
Artist: C.A.R.
Title: Pressure Drop EP
Format: 12" vinyl + Download
Label: Ransom Note Records
Chloé Raunet, as C.A.R., successfully blends elements of experimental punk-pop with electronica. I rated last year’s “Pinned” album. This is the first new material since then, and it’s from the some sonic world, but with perhaps an extra shade of maturity in there as well.

The main track has a steady, slightly U.N.K.L.E.-ish groove that mixes straight brooding rock-ish beats with ultra-epic pads and atmospherics, which the spoken word talk of loneliness matches well.

The Suzanne Kraft remix spins it really nicely, keeping the overall vibe not too dissimilar but shifting it over to a chugging electro pattern that’s steady, workmanlike, but varied enough to keep it all interesting.

Final track “Suture” is classic B-side / album track territory, a chance for something a little more experimental to see the light of day- in this case a grumbling ballad-like number laden with bleeps, effects and some quasi-ethnic melodic sounds. The “stop my heart!” mantra that comes in halfway through is really strong, but this feels like a strong standalone idea that couldn’t find a box to sit in.

It’s a welcome and fairly prompt return from C.A.R. and it bodes well for future releases, for sure.

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