Music Reviews



Suplington: After Life

 Posted by Stuart Bruce (@)   Ambient / Electronica / Ethereal / Dub / Soundscapes / Abstract
New Music / Downtown / Avantgarde Jazz / New Classical / World
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Mar 15 2019
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Artist: Suplington
Title: After Life
Format: 12" vinyl + Download
Label: Youngbloods
Forming part of Youngbloods’ Spring Programme for 2019, Nakula Fogg as Suplington has offered up a fairly safe-sounding blend of ambient and avant-garde classical built from freeform elements, mostly plaintive violin and gentle percussion, generally served up on a bed of warm synthetic hum to create a sonic salad that’s mostly quite familiar-sounding and unchallenging, organic and fairly tasty.

“Limbo State” is a highlight, a very measured and balanced offering that explores empty space to strong effect and where the richness of the orchestral or pseudo-orchestral sounds can really breathe. This contrasts well with the glooper, more underwater textures in following track “Sore Eyes”.

At times though it does slip into cliché, with the wind chimes and seagull sounds of “Seagulls In Your Mind” drifting, particularly at first, perhaps too close to New Age meditation CD’s you might find in the kind of shops in Whitby that burn incense throughout the day.

It’s a calming, thoughtful and introspective work, but somehow it seems to stick on a single emotional note for too long, leaving me feel a little disengaged and cold about it.

Alder & Ash: Clutched in the Maw of the World

 Posted by eskaton   New Music / Downtown / Avantgarde Jazz / New Classical / World
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Mar 05 2019
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Artist: Alder & Ash
Title: Clutched in the Maw of the World
Format: CD
Label: Lost Tribe Sound (@)
Rated: *****
Alder & Ash is the work of Montreal-based artist Adrian Copeland, and I had previously reviewed his first album, “Psalms for the Sunder.” On that release, I felt that he played it a bit too safe and didn’t take as many risks musically, so I was interested to see how this album would play out, knowing that this was his second album. Like “Psalms for the Sunder,” this album features some well-constructed, pretty compositions. Thankfully, however, this one is more interesting from an experimental standpoint. For example, “A Seat Amongst God and His Children” has a touch of distortion and is not trying so hard to be pretty, with lots of fast, high-pitched runs on what sounds more like a violin than a cello. I also enjoyed the more slow, melancholy tracks like “Clutched in the Maw of the World” and “The Glisten, the Glow.” For me, though, the standout tracks were “The Great Plains of Dust” with its martial feel, harsh dissonance, and distorted strings and “Seeds of a Sallow Earth,” which provides a good case for negative space, where keeping things sparse kept things interesting through the use of quiet passages. Overall, this is a good direction for Alder & Ash and it was nice to see the evolution of this artist. If you are looking for some experimental cello, this is one to check out. This album weighs in at around 41 minutes and is limited to 150 copies.

Alder & Ash: Psalms for the Sunder

 Posted by eskaton   New Music / Downtown / Avantgarde Jazz / New Classical / World
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Mar 05 2019
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Artist: Alder & Ash
Title: Psalms for the Sunder
Format: CD
Label: Lost Tribe Sound (@)
I had not previously heard this artist, but the bio states that “Alder & Ash is cello taken to its absolute extremes of calm and violence. Montreal-based instrumentalist Adrian Copeland brings together elements of modern classical, noise, and doom, exploring the dichotomies of minimalism and maximalism, stillness and cacophony, terror and chaos.” This seems like a lot to live up to. I have previously reviewed some acts that take the cello in interesting directions and frankly it is a beautiful instrument, so I was interested to see what Copeland does. As a whole, much of this would be right at home on any classical station, and that was kind of the problem for me. It was well executed and well composed, but it didn’t seem to really take a lot of chances. I like some noise and weirdness in my classical when I am reviewing for ChainDLK. That’s not to say that there were not some moments where it got interesting. For example, I really enjoyed the thudding bass and dissonance of “At Night in the Slaughterhouse” and the use of the cello as a percussion instrument (while distorting it nicely) in “Children of Gomorrah.” For me the standout tracks were “Black Salt,” which featured rough strumming and a bit of cello abuse as Copeland alternates between calm passages and ragged intensity, and “Seen Through the Cedar Smoke,” which combined gritty chamber music with world music flavor. I could see this as a good introduction to experimental classical for someone who is just ready to dip their toes into the water. It is clear that Copeland is an excellent musician, and it will be interesting to see how his work evolves. This album weighs in at around 29 minutes.

From the Mouth of the Sun: Hymn Binding

 Posted by eskaton   New Music / Downtown / Avantgarde Jazz / New Classical / World
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Mar 05 2019
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Artist: From the Mouth of the Sun (@)
Title: Hymn Binding
Format: CD
Label: Lost Tribe Sound (@)
Rated: *****
From the Mouth of the Sun is the work of Aaron Martin and Dag Rosenqvist, whose work I was previously unfamiliar with. This project started in 2011, and they have released two albums previously under this name. The package, like the others from Lost Tribe Sound, is beautifully packaged in an interesting digipack that is screwed together. Now let’s get into the music. We open up with “A Healer Hidden,” which is a short, pleasant droning piece with a bit of static and noise added for good measure. The album then takes a cinematic turn with “A Breath To Retrieve Your Body” is a slow moving piece that would be right at home in the retrospective montage sequence in a soundtrack, with strings over whole note washes. Indeed, much of the rest of the album follows this formula of soundtrack-like work, with piano, strings, and a bit of grinding dissonance and noise just beneath the surface. Some of the standout pieces are toward the end, however. “Risen, Darkened,” for example, is a wonderfully ominous track that builds slowly over time. “Grace” starts off with some nice droning and gets increasingly more intense as it goes on, which provides an interesting counterpoint to the slow piano that runs through it. Overall, this reminds me somewhat of the music one might find backing early Projekt Records releases (such as Black Tape for a Blue Girl). Although I would have liked this to be a bit more on the experimental side, it was quite enjoyable and worth checking out. This album weighs in at around 41 minutes and is limited to 150 copies.

Bill Brovold: Superstar

 Posted by eskaton   New Music / Downtown / Avantgarde Jazz / New Classical / World
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Mar 05 2019
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Artist: Bill Brovold
Title: Superstar
Format: Tape
Label: Eh? (@)
Rated: *****
I was unfamiliar with Brovold’s work, either solo or as part of the band Larval, so this would be my introduction. The tape opens with a child talking and an adult replying, “OK, Star. Take it away.” Where Star takes us is to a nice, slow funky groove, but it’s just a bit off. Like if The Residents decided to cover a funk band (the album that I never knew I needed until now). As with most tape releases of this sort, the tracks sort of blend into each other, with subtle shifts in style and tempo giving the sense of change. Some tracks are more straightforward jazzy pieces, while others tweak things ever so slightly with some pitch shifting here and there. Touches of ragtime and blues peek through on some tracks, keeping things interesting. Some of the standout tracks for me are “Lost in the Fog,” a slow, plodding guitar number with raw, jangly percussion and cymbals that sound like sheet metal. In this piece the repetitiveness of the guitar really works and provides an air of hopelessness and desperation. The other would be “Absent Friends,” which opens with a hint of dissonance before morphing into a peaceful, almost meditative composition. Overall, this was a solid tape with some interesting themes and solid tracks. I have to admit that it didn’t really go crazy like a lot of the stuff that I have heard from this label. Still, it was a good time, and if you like jazzy experimental, this would certainly be worth checking out.
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