Music Reviews

Fred Und Luna: Im Tiefenrausch

 Posted by Stuart Bruce (@)   Electronics / EBM / Electronica
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Feb 01 2019
Artist: Fred Und Luna
Title: Im Tiefenrausch
Format: LP
Label: Compost Records
According to the press release, “Fred und Luna are two mannequins living in a fashion boutique in Karlsruhe, Germany. They serve as muse for musician, lector, poet and photo/video maker Rainer Buchmüller.” It’s a concept that’s more than a little reminiscent of Kraftwerk, and while there’s certainly a Kraftwerk influence in the music here- spotted in the steady mesmeric light electro beats of “Rutsch Ins Grune” or the plinky-plonk melody of “Polytonikum” for example- musically it seems to owe more to the lighter side of 90’s electronica and chill-out, and which invites comparisons to other artists, usually in a good way.

It’s a collection of six-to-eight minute synth mostly-instrumental works built from steady soft rhythms and long single-note basslines, topped with lush chord pads and delicate, minimalist melodies, it often seems to recall some classic Global Underground tracks, or even the softer side of the Underground Beats series. At its most wistful, such as on track “So Weit Wie Moglich”, there are Tangerine Dream-esque elements as well.

The steady, relaxed travelling rhythms of “Im Element” are an endearing highlight, while the slightly quirky house of “Canacananda” brings to mind Juhl Krøse. The fourth side of the LP wanders into slightly jazzier territory- the super-casual mostly-spoken German vocal on “Nichtmusikalische Stadt Unter Schritten” (as on earlier track “Blues Im Gepack”) reminds me of some Yello, and works well with some forgivably louche keys and an utterly lovely low stepping bassline. The piano on “Dolcefarnientex” is both a feel-good comfort and the album’s most unique-sounding moments and the saxophone on final track “Das Ist Halt So” tells us that the descent into electro-jazz is complete!

While it might not be awash with originality, nor with attention-grabbing dynamism, what you get here is a confident 78 minutes of lush and laidback electronica, perfect for backgrounds, walking, or otherwise steadying the heart rate, and it accomplishes that job very well.

Pedro Vian: s/t

 Posted by Stuart Bruce (@)   Electronics / EBM / Electronica
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Jan 31 2019
Artist: Pedro Vian
Title: s/t
Format: LP
Label: Modern Obscure Music
For his second LP Pedro Vian notes that he does not like “the overproduction of music”, and while that might potentially have been used as an excuse for something undercooked, here the simplicity of the instrumental downtempo electronica, built with a restrained use of layers and only a smattering of effects, is to its credit.

Icy synthetic melodies and pads dominate, while gentle, light-footed and sometimes unusual-sounding electronic beats, like the brooding post-dubstep of “Similar Faces”, are sometimes foregone in favour of more ambient pieces like “Platja”. Other tracks, like “San Morits” or the slightly edgier “Acid Brut”, are a little closer to house and contenders for inclusion in the most mellow and minimal of DJ sets. Some of the shorter tracks serve more like interludes, like the gently discordant “Desmai” which wraps up the first side of the LP nicely.

Highlights include “Seneca”, on which the soft vocals of Laia Nada guest to warming effect, and the strangely named “Tribute to Ligeti”, which doesn’t sound anything like the Gyorgy Ligeti drone I’d justifiably been expected, but instead is a lovely steady rolling house number to close on.

It’s a really nicely moderated and marginally introspective electronica LP with a nice balance of consistency and breadth, and really very pleasant.

Bewider: Full Panorama

 Posted by Stuart Bruce (@)   Electronics / EBM / Electronica
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Jan 29 2019
Artist: Bewider
Title: Full Panorama
Format: CD + Download
Label: Folk Wisdom
Piernicola Di Muro’s work as BeWider on “Full Panorama” is an unashamed and pure album of instrumental synthwave and electronica with as broad and cinematic a scope as the title implies. Built almost entirely from crisp and quite pure sounds mostly from analogue modular synths, from which loops and patterns are set and then gradually twisted, there’s an era-spanning attitude here where some distinctively retro synth flavours are mixed with some more up-to-date production touches.

For the most part it’s very thoughtful stuff, quite brooding at times. Pieces like “No One Ever Became Wicked Suddenly” or the nighttime suspense of “Retina” seem custom-made to soundtrack a broody dystopian sci-fi movie. However in its more poppy moments such as the expansive opening track and the gentle “Latitude” it invites comparison with Jean-Michel Jarre or synthwave names like Power Glove, though never really scaling the same heights of memorable melody that would make it equal to J-M J. In amongst these you also get tracks like the boldly simple proto-techno of “Sartorius”, and the slightly more drone-minded “The Episode”.

With reviewing albums I usually try to wait a while between first and second listens to see if the appreciation of them changes. With this one, as soon as it was finished I clicked play on track 1 again. That’s perhaps as much to do with being in the right mood as the quality of the album itself- which at a push I could describe as a bit wishy-washy- but it’s a sure indicator of a big thumbs up as well.

Belp: Crocodile

 Posted by Stuart Bruce (@)   Electronics / EBM / Electronica
New Music / Downtown / Avantgarde Jazz / New Classical / World
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Jan 25 2019
Artist: Belp
Title: Crocodile
Format: LP
Label: Jahmoni / SVS Records
“Crocodile” is a playful half-hour mini album spanned by ten short ideas that disassemble electronic dance music production elements- in particular hi-hats and snares, which are a focus- and more organic percussive sounds, pulling the rhythms apart and playing with bending and twisting them into something that sounds like it ought to be danceable, yet defies you to be able to do so.

It’s exemplified by “Endless Preparations For A Ceremony”, the conscious tripping-up of rhythmic patterns structured akin to avant garde jazz. The title track takes a similar rhythmic approach but with more use of atmospherics and heavily reverb-drenched vocal sounds to give it a moodier and more well-rounded feel, while “Strand”, despite being the longest track (at over three and a half minutes!) is a more stripped back and minimal affair.

“One And A Half Years Later” is an example of the more denser tracks, taking some spoken-word music documentary narration and layering it over a bendy and squelchy downtempo groove reminiscent of Wagon Christ, while final track “Catch” is a bold and punchy flourish of untraceable some-kind-of-tribal samples.

Overall it’s an unusual collection of exercises in unexpected rhythm programming, but at times it does feel a little bit under-baked, like a collection of incomplete musical sketches- certainly worth a listen though.

Borghesia: Proti kapitulaciji (Against Capitulation)

 Posted by Steve Mecca   Electronics / EBM / Electronica
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Jan 23 2019
Artist: Borghesia (@)
Title: Proti kapitulaciji (Against Capitulation)
Format: CD + Download
Label: Moonlee Records (@)
Rated: *****
Bogrhesia is a Slovenian band I have heard of (all the way back to the early 1990s) but never actually heard as I could not find any of their albums in the pre-Internet commerce era when you had to find a record shop that carried product. I can attribute my discovery of them to the Trouser Press Record Guide, a book I consider responsible for awakening my interest in many non-mainstream artists such as Current 93, In The Nursery, Legendary Pink Dots, X Marks the Pedwalk and many, many more. Borghesia have been around since 1982, formed by members of the alternative theatre group Theatre FV-112/15. As you might imagine they've amassed a sizable discography over the years, none of which I've heard previously, unfortunately.

'Proti kapitulaciji' (Against Capitulation) appears to be their 13th album after 'And Man Created God' (2014) and 'Better Live Than Dead' (2016). According to the label-provided one-sheet, this album "is a free-floating rock epic based on Srecko Kosovel's modernist poetry that sits somewhere between an alternative soundtrack of 'Blade Runner,' the uncanny ambience of Coil, melancholy Berlin era David Bowie and the immediacy of Nine Inch Nails. After giving 'PK' an initial listen I can understand why the label stated those things, but I don't necessarily agree with them. Yes, this is a very unusual album with industrial and electronica elements, but it doesn't sound anything like Blade Runner, Bowie or NIN.

The first thing you need to know is the album is sung entirely in Slovene, and while that may be off-putting to some, it shouldn't be dismissed out of hand, because there is still much of value here. However, one caveat - there are more than just a few tracks where an English translation might come in handy. (You can get one at Borghesia's website.) The first track, "Odprite Muzeje," equates "Open Museums" with dead ideas and tombs haunting Europe. (How's that for inspirational tourism!) Vocals are dual male/female, as often done on this album. This is set to a backdrop of vintage analogue electronica. It has a somewhat surreal, trance induced quality as the lyrics almost seemed almost chanted. It is no less surreal on the following track, "Kons," about a hollow, empty, culturally dead Europe with an overwhelming aura of melancholy. Musically everything is well-integrated with a chugging rhythm, and instrumentation of guitar and electronics which support rather than detract from the melody of the vocals. "Na piramidi" (In A Pyramid) is where the album really comes alive though and all elements seem to be on an unstoppable dark track. Things only get stranger after this one.

The deeper you go, the more intense and wacky the songs get. There is absolutely nothing mainstream about this album, even though much of it is in a (sort of) rock format. It becomes evident that Srecko Kosovel's poetry, used as the song lyrics, is the most important element of this album. Thematically it speaks of how Europe is dead, art and culture are dead, and it all needs to be destroyed. Good people got sold out, civilization has no heart, capitalism ruins everything, and nothing can save you. Yes, it's a potent sort of pessimistic misanthropy more aimed at the collective than the individual, society in general. I'm sure a little gets lost in translation because even following along listening while reading the English translation at times it seems there is something missing that might be better expressed in the original Slovenian.

What I find interesting is that Kosovel lived way back in the first few decades of the 20th century (1904-1926), died quite young at age 22, but managed to complete 500 poems. He was labeled an impressionistic poet and a political poet, often compared to Rimbaud, and is now considered a Slovenian poetic icon. When you realize the time during which he lived was dominated by World War I, you'll understand better the reason for such pessimism and misanthropy. Kosovel's poetry still seems pretty relevant today (when I first read the lyeics, I thought they had been written recently!) and Borghesia's execution in the music makes it seem all the more contemporary. Although Borghesia are well-versed in the musical idioms of EBM, synthpop and industrial, there is no one genre they subscribe to here. Instead, the presentation is much more theatrical, is if in an electronic a musical. The closest prior work of theirs to this one is 'And Man Created God,’ but even that only hints at the full-bore of 'Proti kapitulaciji'.

This is an album sure to have only limited appeal outside of the Slavic region of Europe, partly because of the language, and partly due to unfamiliarity with Borghesia and Kosovel’s poetry. It’s a worthy venture for the intrepid explorer though, discovering a near century-old major modernist poet filtered through the more modern musical lens of his countrymen.

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