Music Reviews



T.e.s.o.: over a neutral landscape

 Posted by Ibrahim Khider (@)   Electronics / EBM / Electronica
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Jul 25 2016
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Artist: T.e.s.o. (@)
Title: over a neutral landscape
Format: CDS (CD Single)
Label: self-released
At once evocative of mid-to-late 90’s era Autechre with nods to Alec Empire and Apex Twin among other artists such as Arovane and Phonem, but countered with more ambient-abstract textural palettes for a dynamic listen. T. E. S. O. are a Milan-Italy based duo Matteo and Jacopo who mostly self-release digital files, cassette tapes, and CD-R’s of their abstract electro-acoustic atmospheric excursions, melded with construction-site-grade beats. However, they also have releases on Fat Cat, who put out music by exemplary artists. Over A Neutral Landscape tends to alternate between darker ambient atmospheric and frenetic IDM from track to track, but when the two styles blend, the result is marvelous. Case in point is the opening track, ‘Jaz’ which is akin to a robot or machine going into system malfunction and circuit overload whereas “Parte Prima” is an eerie bit with creepy audio samples, perhaps culled from a horror film with intermittent aortic beats. However, “Matin” is a standout track and easily my favorite; a melodic piece with intricate beats haunted with the ghosts of Burial-style dubstep and lovely keyboard hooks. That one goes for inspires repeated listens. In the following ‘Catalogue’, we are taken into subterranean passages through winding, dusty tunnels and sustained horror movie soundtrack tension. Still further yet the following “Pgm-Tik...” and “Akrp...” we are in pure abstract malfunctioning IDM beat territory with frenetic robots and unmaintained machines. Occasionally there are moments of melodic overtone as in the following track “Lezione su nastro”, but around this time we are more into Confield-era Autechre. The final track ‘K’, starts off ambient but over the course of nearly the next twenty minutes, gets noisier and gradually dissolves into madness. Over a Neutral Landscape is a CD-R release with handmade packaging, but that in no way diminishes the album, which is excellent. I look forward to listening to more fine material by T.E.S.O. who are clearly a talented duo bringing new things to the IDM genre.

Deadrow77: Dark Waves for Little Greys

 Posted by Steve Mecca   Electronics / EBM / Electronica
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Jul 24 2016
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Artist: Deadrow77
Title: Dark Waves for Little Greys
Format: 2 x CD (double CD)
Label: Facthedral's Hall (@)
Rated: *****
Deadrow77 is Fabien Della Roma, a farmer who grows organic saffron in the Oriental Pyrenees mountains. And no, the album was not made exclusively using farm implements, but exclusively using a MiniLab 25 Arturia synthesizer. This is the second release by Deadrow77, the first going all the way back to 2005, called 'Mi-Figue/Mi-Raisin'. Man, that was a long time ago. I haven't heard that one, so I can only tell you about 'Dark Waves for Little Greys'. It's a double album (2 CDs) comprised of 29 instrumental pieces. Don't let that doggie on the cover fool you; I can't find any connection with the animal and the music. The label, Facthedral's Hall, describes the music as "a mix of of electro-ambient, electronica, dark, cosmic, psychedelic, tribal, medieval..." In places that may be true to some extent, but overall, that seems like a stretch. What you're really getting is simple, quirky, melodic synthesizer pieces, with a slightly dark tone. Now the impressive thing is that the majority of these spontaneous improvisations were recorded in a single take. When you consider that, it makes a big, big difference. The CDs are ordered 2013 (CD1) and 2014 (CD2), which I would assume to reference when they were composed. Some of the track titles pay up the whimsical quirkiness as well - "My First Caroussel," "Blind Tightrope Walker," "Pariah's Groove," "Knockin' D. Lynch's Door," "Psychic Bleeding," "Sabatik Salsa," "Birthnight Today," "Carbon Circus," and others. As for what it sounds like, well, imagine if you will, a instrumental collaboration between Tonto's Expanding Headband (Malcolm Cecil & Robert Margouleff) and The Residents. It might sound something like this. The melody and structure is ultra-simple, but there is a wide variety of sounds employed. Often there is rhythm but it is electronic rather than any conventional drums or drum machine. Some of these melodies sound very serious, while others are sort of goofy. Circus fantasy, carnival, medieval, klezmer, Kraftwerk, and numerous other influences are at work here. To some extent, certain forms hearken back to the electronic experimentalism of the 70's and 80's. There is one track ("TechNoLogic Future") that utilizes a similar rhythmic impetus as Wall of Voodoo's "Ring of Fire." Occasionally some of the electronic sounds employed resemble real instruments, but mostly it does not stray from its synthetic origins. Undoubtedly the listener will find some compositions more interesting than others. Due to their completely improvised nature, some tracks sound more like ideas for songs (demos) rather than completely fleshed-out songs. Still, it might serve well as background music for mimes or other non-verbal theatrical pieces, maybe even animation. It's possible that the album could have been distilled down to a single CD's worth of the best stuff, but the buyer who's looking for the most bang for the buck should be amply rewarded. If you're into peculiar melodic synthesizer compositions, then Deadrow77's 'Dark Waves for Little Greys' is for you. Limited to 500 copies.

Technophobia: Flicker Out

 Posted by Steve Mecca   Electronics / EBM / Electronica
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Jul 17 2016
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Artist: Technophobia (@)
Title: Flicker Out
Format: 12"
Label: Working Order Records (@)
Rated: *****
Technophobia is a dark electronic band from Washington, D.C. comprised of Katie Petix (vocals) and Stephen Petix (analogue synths, drum machines and programming). They began in 2013 I believe, playing live and sharing the stage with such acts as Skinny Puppy, Laibach, Douglas McCarthy (Nitzer Ebb) and others. 'Flicker Out' is their first full-length release. This is actually one of the few reviews that I've been able to post timed with the release date (July 17), since I'm always getting backed up here and much of the product sent to Chain D.L.K. central that's handed off to me arrives well after it's been released. (They sent this to me direct, which helps speed things up.) Anyway, prior to the album, a 12" single of the track "Negative Space" was released, and I also received that, but the record arrived BROKEN. Not to worry, I was still able to check it out on the band's site, but we'll leave that to later and go straight to the album.

Opening robustly with "Shame," Katie proves to be a stong and capable vocalist with a very good melodic voice. There are nice harmonies and a ballsy beat with a decent hook. Synthwork is oldschool, and that's reflected throughout the album. There's definitely an EBM vibe here in the music as it becomes more evident in "The Principle," with a copious amount of sequencing and synth sounds you've heard a million times before, but good melody lines and harmonies keep it from heading into clicheville. The instrumental titled "Siroccos" is a sort of dark ambient mood piece with a simple synth line. Very effective. As we move further into the album, I'm noticing one thing I really like about the songs on 'Flicker Out' is the lyrics. They're poetic and meaningful without being pretentious, and a cut above what you usually find in a lot of dark electronic music today. They were written by Kristy Lupejkis and Katie Petix. The songs on the A side of the record were pretty good. Let's turn it over on the B side.

First up is "Negative Space," the song that was released as the first single. I'm getting a strong Depeche Mode vibe on this one, but in a good way. There's this dialogue sample they use in this song from Jean-Paul Sartre's 'No Exit' - "you can't throttle thoughts with hands". (It took me a while to find the source.) Although "Hands" figures prominently in the song lyrics, I'm not a big fan of movie dialogue samples in music. The band uses them in other places on the album, but so far it hasn't really worked against them. (It will, soon.) Still, the song is about the best so far, and the obvious choice for a single. "Trapped" will carry you back the the 80's. Speaking of the 80's and dialogue samples, "Factory 1981" begins by bludgeoning the listener with the (manipulated) dialogue sample "1981 began with the spectre of violence..." and carries on with an apocalyptic theme. Enuff is enough though with the dialogue samples. The kicker on the album though is the revival of an old song by The Cure from their 'Pornography' album - "One Hundred Years". I never really thought much of the song, figuring it to be rather minor in the band's ouevre, but somehow Technophobia manage to inject a new vitality into it and make it theirs; a powerful version and an outstanding track on the album.

So now let's take a look at that "Negative Space" 12" single. First you get the album version which we've already discussed. Then there is the hERETICS iN tHE lAB Meaning Nothing Remix which gives the song a more industrial edge. The Void Vison Remix is full of distorted beats, echoes up the vocal and strips away most of the music replacing it with some high-pitched synth sound in places. Garbage. Hated it. The Alter Der Ruine Remix keeps the vocals and uses minimal beat and minimal synths to begin with, then just changes it into this sequecner-heavy mess. Didn't care much for that either. Final track is a different song altogether called "Passing People". It has a nice groove, but the only vocals are dialogue samples. Overall, I'd pass on this unless you're a rabid collector of colored vinyl. BTW, I forgot to mention that 'Flicker Out' comes on soda bottle green vinyl. Now that I'd recommend buying. Your money will go to a good cause too because this altruistic band is donating 100% of the proceeds to their charity project, Life Pieces to Masterpieces, an arts-based, youth development, and mentoring organization for African American males ages 3 to 25.

Some final thoughts - Technophobia is a band with a lot of potential. I think if they lean heavily on their strengths (melodicism, good lyrics, powerful vocals and harmonies), cut down or eliminate the dialogue samples and rely a lot less on the 1/16 note synth sequencer they could be a force to be reckoned with. As is, 'Flicker Out' is a pretty good album with more ups than downs and has the potential to grow on you.
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Artist: Plaster (@)
Title: Mainframe
Format: CD
Label: Kvitnu (@)
Rated: *****
It's quite strange that this astonishing release by Plaster (dating back last November, but release dates sometimes don't really matter), the Rome-based project by Gianclaudio Hashem Moniri, has not received many feedbacks on well-known zines, even if I think it's one of the best acts from the liminal stylistic territory between power electronics, dark-ambient and IDM. The masterfully forged sounds and the grand strategies by which Plaster intersects superbly shaped noises, rhythmical engines, and abstract minimal flow place this output (the third album signed by Plaster) at the highest levels of electronic compositions reached by better-known names like Mika Vainio or Senking. The evocative banshee-like murmuring/moaning vocals by Valeria Svizzeri, the dark synth-driven flints and the rising harsh sonic talons by which Plaster grabs the attention of listener on the opening melted two parts of "Unicore" perfectly sets the mood for the listening of the whole album. I prefer tracks where this way of organizing sounds that subtly move towards overwhelming tidal of sound, such as "Blade", "Terminal" or the hyper-fragmented codified precipitation tests of "Cluster System" by far, but other configurations are likewise entrancing: the sinister crossbreed of suffocating tribal-industrial and technoid cog wheels of "Lucubra" and "Primal" or the unusual concatenation between "Redshift" and the third part of "Unicore" - a duet which could sound like an abrasive declension of dystopian cyber-industrial stuff, Bladerunner OST and psychotropic stuff by Ron Rothfield's The Infinity Project, Juno Reactor and even Banco De Gaia (the opening sequence of "Red Shift" reminded some things - I don't exactly remember which track - I heard in Toby Marks' masterpiece "Maya") and the unpredictable dark-enlighted sublime epic final "Coiled Heart" are other highlights of this excellent release., whose artwork (cut cardboard sleeve printed with pure silver paint and black abrasive inner insert) says something of the features of its sound!

Coppé: 20rpm

 Posted by Marc Urselli   Electronics / EBM / Electronica
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Jun 14 2016
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Artist: Coppé (@)
Title: 20rpm
Format: CD + DVD
Label: Mango + Sweet Rice
Rated: *****

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Coppé is one of the most eccentric and eclectic electronic music artists to come out of Japan, although she might as well be an alien from outer space... and although you might not have heard of her or her species in the western world she is actually celebrating her 20th anniversary with a very beautifully packaged and ambitious release available as a double colored vinyl LP + DVD or a CD + DVD occasionally even packaged and delivered in a soft see-through netting-type cloth with pins that you can put on your clothes or bag.

"20rpm" starts out with her 45 seconds "happy anniversary" prelude opera and then goes into 20 tracks of mad bubbling electronica with her vocals (and occasionally some guest singer) and music that was created in with her collaborators, including Hilotoshi, Atom, Nikako, Luna 9, Kettel + Secede, Terry D, Plaid, Lentils + Senzafine, Tone, Camel Season, T'mouse, 666, D3PTHS, Takachie, Chibaty, The Kitchen Cynic, Nico, Dijkin, DF Tram, Taz, Christ, Jacob Koller.

It's hard to describe music when the music is so collaborative and contains the experiences, influences and inspiration of so many guest artists, but the overarching common thread is obviously electronica, one that dances around edm ("Beethoven in Antennae" with Atom), flirts with trip-hop ("Golden Crushes (Luna 9 remix)" with Luna 9 and Nikakoi), pays homage to jazz ("urmythrill" with Kettle+Secede, "Ajisai [disguise]" with Jacob Koller), visits the intersection of pop/r&b/urban/hiphop ("I fall in Luv remix" with Luna 9), fumbles in dark cinematic ominous ambient ("777" with Nico & Dijkin), entertains corky glitch electronica ("Illegal Lingo" with DF Tram).

Coppé sings in English and sometimes in Japanese ("Ajisai" and a few other tunes only), which I find cool and actually gives the music and even more unique aura when she does. The DVD contains multimedia menu with information on her 17 records to date and retrospective of 20 music videos (dated between 1998 and 2015) directed by a number of different, mostly American, directors which come in all sort of varieties and styles (from odd, corky, weird to experimental, from absurdly Japanese to very futuristic and high tech). The DVD also contains 4 video footage bonus clips from an album release party in Tokyo, and a few mini features.
She releases all her records on her own label Mango + Sweet Rice. Coppé is a mover and a shaker and she is unstoppable and independent. If you wanna know more about her crazy eccentric career check out her Wikipedia page.

If I had to describe Coppé in one short and easy sentence I would probably say that she is the Japanese Bjork, and just like Bjork she is super talented and not contained within or limited by one musical genre. She collaborates with so many artists that it is only normal every album, or even every track, that she releases sounds a little bit different and is a sonic world of its own that Coppé orbits around with her alien spaceship making contact and engaging with the other species of the planet.

This is intergalactic planetary music for the future!


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