Music Reviews

Wordclock: Heralds

 Posted by Andrea Piran (@)   Ambient / Electronica / Ethereal / Dub / Soundscapes / Abstract
New Music / Downtown / Avantgarde Jazz / New Classical / World
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Jan 28 2018
Artist: Wordclock
Title: Heralds
Format: CD
Label: Cryo Chamber (@)
Rated: *****
As I already have a reasonable number of releases by Cryo Chamber already reviewed, and this is one of the last labels completely committed to a genre, I approached this release with a certain confidence about what to expect. As usual, this release is presented with few words and a generic inspiration about journey hunting for myths of forgotten sacred sites; so this is supposed to be dark ambient.
So, as the first notes of "Bell Ringing I" begins, there's a surprise in the acknowledgement of a framework closer to modern classical and without the pseudo-romantic cliche related to the genre: strings and piano draw quiet lines of sound with a production giving a feel to be recorded some time ago as there's a sort of blurring applied. "Bell Ringing II" is, instead, immersed in a background close to the form of the label but, as soon as there's a melody emerging, this is a canvas and not the drawing. "Bell Ringing III" close this track introducing the listener towards a proper song with a perceptible rhythmic structure. As "Beatrice's Euphoria" evolves there's a sense of writing as, instead of the drone emerging, there are melodic lines. While at first sight "St. George" seem static, it's only because the loops are almost imperceptible in a noisy environment. While "Where Mercy Lives" is almost danceable in his catchy elements, "Thames Does Flow" is more dreamy in his gentle musical tones. "Heralds" closes this release blending all the elements of the previous tracks leaving the listener with the feeling that something is missing.
Almost impressive in his détournement of the elements of the genre, which are present but relegated in the background of a form deeply rooted in the pivotal use of the tune, so that it could be even appreciated by the casual listener. It's able to escape both the trap of dark ambient (boredom) than the ones of modern classical (triviality). Applauses.

Akira Kosemura: In The Dark Woods

 Posted by Vito Camarretta (@)   Ambient / Electronica / Ethereal / Dub / Soundscapes / Abstract
New Music / Downtown / Avantgarde Jazz / New Classical / World
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Jan 28 2018
Artist: Akira Kosemura
Title: In The Dark Woods
Format: CD + DVD
Label: Schole (@)
Rated: *****
Ten years ago, Akira Kosemura was sneaking into many headphones and music lovers' heart of "western" world by means of the masterpiece "It's On Everything" (coming out on Lawerence English's Someone Good). Over ten years, I followed this brilliant artist through Schole Records, his playground and his label, through which he also released some stuff by artists (such as Quentin Sirjacq and Dakota Suite) akin to his style as well as his own albums. Ten years after that sort of debut by which he breached the gates of the hearts of many lovers of piano-driven music (many fans of musicians like Dustin O'Halloran, Nils Frahm or Max Richter got closer to Akira's outputs), he comes back by another set of piano fugues, "In The Dark Woods", where he kept many of the known features of his sound (the central role of piano, minimal but intense compositions, an elegant crossover between electronics and acoustics and, last but not least, an emotional set where a certain anxiety continuosly fades into a peaceful search for a contemplative symbiosis and an interplay with nature), but he developed an interesting theme on this new album: according to the introduction on the label's website '“Treasuring a serene feeling and an intimate conversation with oneself.” is the main concept of his new work, which recalls vivid emotions, as music goes into one’s body and feels a blood flow deep into a heart. As indicated in the title, an entire album is filled with an obscure darkness and a world of misty sounds never to be feared of, like a comfortable quietness in the dark where a child in the womb is hearing mother’s heartbeat'. Such a cross-over between dim and light emotional sets can explain the reason why he also composed a dedication to Laura Palmer, the notorious fictional character of David Lynch's TV series Twin Peaks, as well as the alternation of melodic moments, embracing slightly different dosages of obscurity and light, electronics and acoustics, whose core and apex lay in the two final tracks, the title track "In The Dark Woods" and the piano solo reprise "Letter From A Distance". As usual, Akira has regard for the visual aspect of his art by attached a DVD including five video clips, a booklet including snapshots of "In The Dark Woods" clip (featuring the dancer and reader Kimiho Hulbert and directed by Shin Kikuchi), a download coupon including another version of "Spark" as well as a very elegant package.

Žibuoklė Martinaitytė: Horizons

 Posted by Stuart Bruce (@)   New Music / Downtown / Avantgarde Jazz / New Classical / World
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Jan 26 2018
Artist: Žibuoklė Martinaitytė
Title: Horizons
Format: CD + Download
Label: Music Information Centre Lithuania
The prosaically named Music Information Centre Lithunia offer up another collection of surprising experimental twists on the classical music form, with five live pieces from ibuokl Martinaityt played by a variety of mostly large ensembles and orchestras, and recorded between 2006 and 2015.

The title track is an epic self-contained suite full of tension and drama with a decidedly cinematic bent. Suspense and horror in parts, action and chase adventure at times, hints of romance at the edges, it’s a remarkably well-rounded score with a bit of everything- discordant enough at times to feel provocative but still very accessible.

Second piece “The Blue Of Distance” is a much more sombre affair, driven by a vocal ensemble sustaining long tones reminiscent of Lygeti, with lovely use of rise and fall, before “Completely Embraced” shifted gears yet again into a world of tense piano hammering, militaristic drumming and tense brass and strings that gradually eases and unfurls into a more pastoral and relaxed environment.

“Thousand Doors” is another broad suite with multiple sections, again suggesting a filmic collection of tensions and dramas, this time with a more sparse general landscape, before we finish with violin near-solo “Serenity Diptychs” in which a violin traces sometimes Glass-like arpeggios interspersed with some more proactive pace changes, underpinned by an stunningly neat and refined use of drone atmosphere.

These are beautiful, accomplished and dynamic modern classic works and they collate well into a 68-minute listening experience that should appeal to both people approaching it from both a traditional orchestral mindset and people looking for something with a true edge.

Mock Grandeur: s/t

 Posted by Vito Camarretta (@)   New Music / Downtown / Avantgarde Jazz / New Classical / World
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Jan 21 2018
Artist: Mock Grandeur
Title: s/t
Format: CD
Label: Wide Ear (@)
Rated: *****
A green square on a brown cardboard without any ornament and titles which doesn't really describe anything (except of the ones with the initial letter of the names of the playing members of this fourtet) could let you think to a devotionally minimal project, but the 25 (it's not a typo, they really packed 25 tracks in this release) mockeries can be rarely matched to minimal jazz. They asymptotically tend to saturation in many of their debunking recordings, indeed. What they primarily seem to desecrate are the stylistic fences that often delimit the fields of many musicians and this is clear since the opening "TS" (involving T - Tobias Backhaus - on drums and S - Sascha Henkel - on guitar), an almost cacophonous loogie between noise and punk-jazz. The second mockery (titled "#4") desecrates the role of some instruments in typical jazz line-up: the absence of a bass gets partially replaced by the repetition of two tones on guitar, that doesn't really lead the melodic patterns, which lacks in the raging parade by the two alto saxophonists of the line-up (Benjamin Weidekamp and Christian Weidner). These are just two samples, but any of the other mockeries are somehow adventurous, unpredictable, intentionally flippant and often clumsy. Do not expect something soothing or banal music for likewise banal backgrounds, but an alternation of massive zits and small pimples, whose popping could eject quite odd combinations of tonal and instrumental outputs.

Aidan Baker & Gareth Davis: Invisible Cities

 Posted by Stuart Bruce (@)   New Music / Downtown / Avantgarde Jazz / New Classical / World
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Jan 20 2018
Artist: Aidan Baker & Gareth Davis
Title: Invisible Cities
Format: 12" vinyl + Download
Label: Karl
The four tracks on “Invisible Cities” mark the first collaboration between Baker and Davis, a hybrid of ambient soundscaping and very sparse jazz that’s constructed from ingredients that could be described as cliché- Davis’ sombre, super-slow bass clarinet work mixed with found sound exterior ambiences such as train rolling stock, rain, and city street sounds.

In relative terms there’s not a lot of variation in sonic identity between the four tracks. After the relatively straightforward “Memory”, things get a little more bass-heavy and the clarinet work adopts just a hint of extra pain and strain in “Sky”. “Signs” somehow how seems messier, while longest and strongest track “Desire” lets a long bit of solo clarinet begin a slow devolution into discord and soft distortion.

But, despite having just said there are some cliché sounds and a lack of sonic variation, nevertheless it all actually works. The pure bass clarinet tones are really quite captivating, and the mood, despite some harsh edges, is a definite relaxant. The simplicity at times is a definite virtue and it’s certainly an enjoyable listen, if not a wholly original one.
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