Music Reviews

Federico Leocata: Gamma

 Posted by Maurizio Pustianaz (@)   Electronics / EBM / Electronica
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Jul 24 2019
Artist: Federico Leocata
Title: Gamma
Format: Download Only (MP3 + Lossless)
Label: International Deejay Gigolo Records
Rated: *****
After releasing many EPs and two albums "Mundus Subterraneus" and "ZunÄchst", Federico Leocata is releasing through International Deejay Gigolo Records, the label of the famous DJ Hell a.k.a. Helmut Geier, his latest album titled "Gamma". In the past, many times the style of Federico's music has been compared the Dopplereffekt's (I read that he has been discovered by Heinrich Mueller of Drexciya/Dopplereffekt/Arpanet fame), but I think that the thing they share the most is the love for Kraftwerk's music. Check for example the opening track "A Priori" or the following "Alpha" and you'll realize that the robotic motorik rhythms recall the solutions invented by the Düsseldorf quartet on albums like "Computer World". There's also a sort of homage at the end of "A Priori", as the bridge recalls the breathing rhythmical parts of "Tour De France". Besides these influences, Federico's music is deeply linked to psychology and visuals. The tracks are composed with the aim to link the atmosphere created with the inner/hidden senses of the listener, just to stimulate them. The dark atmospheres and the robotic rhythms and the visuals used are working like flashes of strobe lights or like images of the Rorschach test (check the video for the "Herr Klein" track available on YouTube, for example). This album contains eight cool tracks and at the moment it has been distributed only digitally. I hope that it will have great feedback and that Federico will get the attention he deserves.
Artist: Bana Haffar
Title: Genera; Live At AB Salon, Brussels
Format: CD + Download
Label: Touch # Tone
“Genera” is a live performance in five pieces (labelled ‘zones’), 32 minutes in total. Haffar uses a large array of modular synthesizers and is compositionally very free with them- melodies are present but spontaneous, non-repetitive, and unpredictable. Into the mix are thrown field recordings of environmental atmospheres, and snippets of traditional music performances- some possibly related to Haffar’s Saudi Arabian heritage, others more rooted in her modern North Carolina life. The result is a collage of disparate elements, presented expressively and emotively.

The first zone draws heavily on flute-like sounds that are twisted and shifted hypnotically, while in the second zone the synths form an organ-like drone for a flatter and more mesmeric landscape. This then brightens up into brighter and breezier synth arpeggios in the third zone. Unexpectedly and quite suddenly, zone four is a hollow cavern- low rumbles, trickling water noises, distant echoes- while the final zone, of stuttering chords and mellow Tangerine Dream-esque arpeggiators, both creeps up and fades away gradually, with a final devolution into crisp walking atmospherics and wind-like noises to close. Throughout, digital clicks and textures decorate the top end, providing a linking consistency.

It’s a short but sweet performance that would have been fascinating to catch live back in May. Fresh-sounding, despite familiar ingredients, it’s a premium package that represents modern electronic music well, and which could also serve as a strong entry point for people new to the genres being touched on here. The only awkward thing about it is the reference to the division into ‘zones’, ‘zone’ being one of those words that, once over-used, starts sounding quite silly somehow.

Antwood: Delphi

 Posted by Stuart Bruce (@)   Electronics / EBM / Electronica
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Jul 23 2019
Artist: Antwood
Title: Delphi
Format: CD & Vinyl
Label: Planet Mu
Tristan Douglas’ third album as Antwood is a curious hybrid, with an ambitious underlying concept. Delphi is the name ascribed to a fictional character, and ostensibly this is an album of expressions of modern life and modern relationships through Delphi’s eyes; but Delphi is also a reference to the ancient Greek sanctuary and there are elements of the fantastical or mythological thrown into the mix as well.

How this manifests itself musically is also a hybrid, but perhaps easier to pin down. This is energetic electronica, bursting with ideas and mostly with optimism, jamming together classic Planet Mu approaches to rhythm and structure with bright and sometimes lo-fi synth work and some fun samples. The title track sums most of the album up quite nicely in a single package, even down to the angry breakdown three minutes in, but there’s also breadth of ideas demonstrated in tracks like the downtempo, quasi-sleazy “Queasy”, the nicely cinematic, romantic “Healing Labyrinth” or the remarkably purist short piano ballad of “Delphi’s Song”.

Almost half of the thirteen tracks are just sketches or interludes, with snippets of spoken word narrative making tiny little snapshots of the title character’s narrative, with “Skype Ghost” acting as a prelude and “A Hostile Message” speaking volumes in under a minute and sounding like it ought to be the opening line of a chapter in a novel.

Musically though it’s tracks like the dark and frantic chiptune vibe and epic multi-part structure of “Portal” and the epic violin-sound-driven narrative of “Ecstatic Dance” are the meat of the release and keep the experience from getting too skittish. The soft strings and vocal pads of “Cave Moth” have an intriguing beauty as well.

The Delphi concept is a novel one but doesn’t really blaze through the heart of this release. However it’s still an exceptionally solid and listenable electronica album that maintains the label’s unbelievably high standard of output.
Artist: Magna Pia
Title: Daiauna
Format: 12" vinyl + Download
Label: Feral Note
Hüseyin Evirgen is still one half of techno duo Cassegrain, but for the last few years has also been putting out solo works as Magna Pia. This release, on German label Feral Note rather than the artist’s own Arcing Seas imprint, is far more art music than techno. Evirgen’s first instrument the piano is brought centre stage, gently and respectfully treated, sometimes drenched in reverb and echo, and surrounded by rumbling percussive noises, long synthetic pads and drones and a handful of electronica’s other trappings.

The result is a 41-minute work with a rich, emotive, cinematic feel. The title track is a scene-setter, tense and nervous, and hints of that mood never really go away. “Dionysys” has a sparing melody underpinned by a steady delayed drum sound that is the closest point to techno on this album’s distant orbit around it. “Sacred Ibis” is more romantic somehow, with a capriccio playing that feels fresh and honest, while “Tocharian Love” comes across as more of a lost love ballad, sad minor piano chords setting in odd, pulled-string-and-earth-tremor environmental oddness. “Inanna” takes a similar approach, with the drone atmosphere becoming some form of distant alien choir under quite a songlike melody.

Final point “And So We Crumble” is a quirky little finale, pitting pure piano notes against processed, detuned and cheap-sounding piano for a bizarre downtempo duelling-banjos affair, while the rumbling underneath grows gradually more displeased.

It’s an unusual combination, pitching ‘proper’ piano against both tonal and atonal sonic curiosities. However over the course of 41 minutes it does end up feeling a little languid and tired, without enough energy or enough diversity in approach that would really elevate it into something special. It’s perhaps unkind to say it’s one of those “if you’ve heard one track, you’ve heard them all” releases but there’s a degree to which that’s true. It’s certainly still worth checking out nevertheless- “Dionysus” is the place to start to get a flavour of it.

Glok: Dissident

 Posted by Stuart Bruce (@)   Electronics / EBM / Electronica
Synth Pop / Electro Pop / Synth-Electronica
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Jul 11 2019
Artist: Glok
Title: Dissident
Format: CD & Vinyl
Label: Bytes
Andy Bell- not the Erasure one, the one from Ride and the one previously a bassist with Oasis- yes, that Oasis- wanted to keep his middle-aged-guitarist status a secret so he could put out some much more synthwave works without prejudice and preconception, so for a couple of years, Glok was a mystery. The veil is now lifted, but given my lack of familiarity with Ride or affinity with Oasis, I find myself able to review it without prejudice anyway.

The nearly-20-minute title track is very much in the latter-day Tangerine Dream mould- a thoroughly digital, slowly changing and progressive bit of synthwave that’s not overtly retro but isn’t old fashioned either, decorated with enough care and detail to keep things balanced between interesting and mesmeric.

The rest of the tracks are less ambitious, but a bit broader in tone. “Kolokol” is sonically in the same ballpark, but with a more subdued structure that brings it closer to mellow belearic techno, but with the drums turned right down and the synth washes brought forward to dominate the track. “Pulsing” channels the 90’s trance vibes of Salt Tank or Union Jack into that format, to very successful effect and with a positive tone that makes it a highlight.

The four four-minute tracks that make up the rest of side B feel more like miscellaneous experiments and unfinished pieces than a coherent album conclusion, but they’re not without their merit. “Weaver” is faintly trip-hoppy, with a nice guitar melody line, but with a slightly flat and forgettable groove that perhaps skirts too close to library music, while “Projected Sounds” is gentle plinking over a Kraftwerk-esque rhythm pattern. The twangy guitar and synth blend in “Cloud Cover” is reminiscent of State Of Grace but without the vocal, and somehow ends up sound tired rather than relaxed, but final piece “Exit Through The Skylight”’s more complex drum patterns and just faintly toothy synth work provides a more interesting flavour to conclude with.

It’s the title track that really shines here, and along with “Pulsing”, the admission price is certainly justified, but it does run out of steam somewhat before the end.

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