Music Reviews

Ueno Takashi: Smoke Under The Water

 Posted by Stuart Bruce (@)   New Music / Downtown / Avantgarde Jazz / New Classical / World
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Nov 11 2017
Artist: Ueno Takashi
Title: Smoke Under The Water
Format: CD + Download
Label: Room40
In seven numbered-but-not-named pieces, guitarist Ueno Takashi offers up a series of lengthy rapid-picked layered guitar pieces that breathe at length into an almost hypnotic but very very odd dream. Imagine if Philip Glass was a virtuoso Mike Oldfield-esque guitarist on a sugar rush going completely solo trying to score a suspense-driven horror movie, and you’re in the right area.

The longest track, opener “One”, feels as much maths as it does art, a fifteen minute exploration of different discordant arpeggiations that step almost systematically between pleasant melody and more devilled intervals. “Two” is similarly paced but with much milder plucking and less discomfort, before “Three” twists us back into a slower, more drunken wig-out environment, “Four” continuing that theme but with a darker rumbling ambience.

“Five” is like the most sinister music box lullaby pattern you’ve ever heard, and things just get weirder and weirder in “Six” which adds a relentless electronic hum and almost daft wobbly squeaks. By the time of “Seven”, which doesn’t do anything I haven’t already described, there is a slight sense of going-through-the-motions by the end.

It’s a bizarre hour-long head-bender of a listen, not short of character but certainly a bit of a struggle for all but the most dedicated of listener. Modern-day out-there, even by ChainDLK standards.

Fallen: No Love is Sorrow

 Posted by Ibrahim Khider (@)   New Music / Downtown / Avantgarde Jazz / New Classical / World
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Nov 09 2017
Artist: Fallen (@)
Title: No Love is Sorrow
Format: CD
Label: AOsmosis (@)
A rather sombre follow-up to the dreamy-wistful Secrets of the Moon, No Love Is Sorrow tackles weightier emotional themes with its double-meaning laden title. With some exceptions, No Love... comes off as gloomy, but has more interesting electronic textures artfully merged with well-crafted guitar, oboe, keyboards, and percussion among other instruments. The opening, “Echoes and Sin” rolls in like a thick fog to then recede to keyboard and guitar melodies while oboe notes float gracefully above as the piece then builds into a dramatic finish. For some reason, the haunting oboe keeps evoking The Dream Academy debut album to this listener. “Eyes like Windows” has a lovely electronic textured opening that would do Tangerine Dream proud before it is overwhelmed by anxious guitar and string instrument note progressions which then collapse into wind-note melancholy. Title track, “No Love is Sorrow” is decidedly a more electronic work, punctuated with piano notes and cowbell clangs while overshadowed with gloomy overtones but somehow an oboe pierces through the overcast like sunbeams break through clouds, offering hope. “Soft Skin, Eternal Verses” is among the more intense pieces here with its fuzzier electro-textures and more dogmatic cowbell, more complex interplay of keyboard and organ almost Steve Reich-ian for their near geometric patterns that in turn give way to guitar and gun-shot like percussion. “Shimmering” seems to pick up where Brian Eno left off in Music for Films with piano and atmospherics, but carried along with restrained percussion. To wrap up, the optimistically titled, “A New Beginning” sounds like Phaedra-era Tangerine Dream until the piano notes sober the piece from the acid trip and an almost orchestral-like finish overwhelms with guitar, wind-instrument, percussion, string and atmospheric tempest delivered onto the calmer shores of organ and vibes. Perhaps Fallen is exorcising some emotional demons, but he does so in an mellifluous way. No Love is Sorrow is cloudy with sunny breaks and a well crafted expression of raw emotion wherein you can feel the artist put ‘his all’ into this lovely work.

Romani Organic Crossover Group: As Serious As My Life

 Posted by Andrea Piran (@)   New Music / Downtown / Avantgarde Jazz / New Classical / World
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Nov 05 2017
Artist: Romani Organic Crossover Group
Title: As Serious As My Life
Format: CD
Label: Revenge Records
Rated: *****
This new release by Bruno Romani is performed by band formed with Giuseppe Nannini on Saxophone, Michele Menchini on Bass and Edoardo Vannozzi on Drums and the result is a relatively canonical release whose root is on the tradition of jazz. Instead of working on the form, the writing of this release is tied to an idea of jazz as a variation of the core element of music (melody) discarding the traditional idea of structure.
From the form based on musical lines of "Bàrtoklike" to the parallel lines of "Descending" and the quiet accelerations of "Retrò March". From the quiet meditations of "Ombre" to the almost droning "Climate Change" and the nostalgia of "Twelve Tone Tune". From the rhythmic structure of "Quicksands" to the resonance of "Love Song" and the accumulations of "Afropunk". The final organ of "Serious As My Life" closes a release composed with an ear on the last century.
The overall result is a release of difficult rating for a basic reason: if there's a listener searching for a quiet and really well performed academic version of jazz, this is truly something for their ears; if there's someone searching for a leap forward from a language that is perhaps the most equipped to be considered the real successor of classic music, it would be disappointed. Prior to the choice, anyway it's worth a listen.

Molecular: Warmest Regards

 Posted by Stuart Bruce (@)   New Music / Downtown / Avantgarde Jazz / New Classical / World
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Nov 05 2017
Artist: Molecular
Title: Warmest Regards
Format: 12" vinyl + Download
Label: Hiddenseer
Pete Simonelli and Lynn Wright’s open-ended ensemble Molecular offer up a live studio recording that jams together beat poetry, dark prog jazz and suspenseful drone into something

Opener “Berlinesque” is a slow burner, opening with gentle drone which gradually, element by element, gets busier as it unfolds. Other pieces, like “Broque”, are more relentless from beginning to end, while “Late August” and the sweary “Center St Monologue” have a broader dynamic between space and noise. There’s a dirty analogue feel throughout that at points make it sound like a remastered 1970’s wig-out, complete with some raw-edged distortion. The slightly rockier final track “Correspondent” is a relative highlight.

Simonelli’s vocal renditions are like a stoned Henry Rollins reading Jack Kerouac’s holiday postcards, and if I’m being honest, the acting performance has shades of William Shatner about at times. Despite clearly being a cornerstone of the band, his involvement ends up being the one element that you begin to wish you could hear this release without, as the experimental musicianship going on behind him deserves more of a pedestal than it gets.

The short title track is a genuinely irritating diatribe about the awkwardness of ending an email with “warmest regards” that, to me personally, comes across as particularly crass and unrelatable. Things don’t get any better on the following track with Simonelli turns his attention to joggers… not really attacking the heart of the human condition here, are we?

Somewhat falling into the clichés of edgy American tobacco-infused anger-poetry, “Warmest Regards” is not nearly as welcoming as the title suggests, nor are Molecular as musically scientific as their name may suggest, but neither do they manage to offer something as rich or striking as it would need to be to make it recommendable.

Michael Bonaventure: Works 2008 - 2017

 Posted by Andrea Piran (@)   Experimental / Avantgarde / Weird & Wired / Glitch / Noise / Field Recording
New Music / Downtown / Avantgarde Jazz / New Classical / World
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Nov 01 2017
Artist: Michael Bonaventure
Title: Works 2008 - 2017
Format: Download Only (MP3 + Lossless)
Label: Unexplained Sounds Group (@)
Rated: *****
Quite an obscure figure in today's music scene, Michael Bonaventure is introduced by the words by Raffaele Pezzella, the curator of the label, which express all the reverence for his works. This is a collection of works perhaps intended as an introduction or an anthology that portrays a composer trying to create avant-garde from the organ, the liturgy's instrument i.e., one of the most traditional still used.
The starting point of "Interlude VI" is based on a dual structure: the first is a classical one based on a melody while the other is a loop and the two parts are repeated in a sequence until a second melody based on drone is used instead of the first to introduce a variation and the reprise of the initial sequence is used to end the track. "Celestial Objects" is instead based on pulsating sounds and vocal processing to reenact the sense of old sci-fi movies based on space and other civilizations while "Sanctuary" start from the same sounds but exploring the high frequency resonances to obtain a spectral crescendo. "Doxology" develops drones from vocal lines using a layer of organ to obtain a link with the tradition and "Interlude" uses almost the same structure with the organ. "Dead Electronics" marks a partial departure with this quiet sound fields using some noises to obtain a vague sense of apprehension. "Carillon II" uses piano chords to create a link to tradition and a certain musical movement while in the background long tones create a static canvas as The vocal manipulations of "Encounters" are used to obtain a movement while the organ marks the rhythmic structure with simple lines played in loop. While the first part of "Terrestrial Ode" is static, the second part is marked by ticking of a clock that underline the sonic manipulation of short samples. "Carillon I" is a variation of "Carillon II" with a smaller role of the piano and a more elaborate electronic part. The large masses of drones generated by the organ of "Darenth II" is doubled by quiet parts where the listener has to catch sounds rather than be overwhelmed.
Not exactly that kind of music that fill in a trend, this album requires a listener which hasn't done a choosing of a battlefield between modernity and tradition as it's tied to both sides; someone would call it a barricade while another an equilibrium. It's worth a listen with care.
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