Music Reviews

Felix Kubin: Takt Der Arbeit

 Posted by Stuart Bruce (@)   New Music / Downtown / Avantgarde Jazz / New Classical / World
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Nov 17 2017
Artist: Felix Kubin
Title: Takt Der Arbeit
Format: 12" vinyl + Download
Label: Editions Mego
Starting life as a soundtrack to a series of 16mm films on the theme of ‘work’, “Takt Der Arbeit” has expanded into a 4-track, 32-minute series of steady, light-industrial percussive environments with a slightly playful air.

“Musik für neue Büromaschinen” is an office soundtrack with steady organic percussion playing against a range of telephone and modem noises, with the odd Apple start-up sound and possibly a dot matrix printer in there for good measure. Principally it’s a novelty setting for some nicely virtuoso tuned and untuned percussion work.

“Geburt eines Schiffes” is a more sombre affair, slower plainer drumming underpinning gradually building sustained notes of tension, before an unexpected shift halfway through to an odd music concrete of old newsreel dialogue, sampled fanfares and a form of big reveal which gradually winds its way back to a new steady rhythm- perhaps the titular ship’s unveiling and first launch. In which case the final few minutes of sombre xylophone mood are harder to explain without the pictures.

“Martial Arts” is, as the title may suggest, a sharper affair, repeating xylophone(-ish) patterns with a faintly ethnic flavour over a more urgent-sounding rhythm that is interrupted somewhat less. On top of this are some old-fashioned electronic bleeps and wobbles to add just a smattering of electronica. Things get progressively weirder with shades of avantgarde jazz towards the end.

Final track “Uhren”, again as the title suggests, brings a sense of clockwork regularity and the reassuring effect of steady mechanics, with a glockenspiel or similar meandering some kind of musical code over the top consisting of distinct short note patterns which repeat and then disappear.

It’s a warm and very accessible collection of soundtrack pieces which would be very interesting to see with picture accompaniment, not dissimilar to the Cinematic Orchestra’s “Man With A Movie Camera” in parts but with less conventional melody and more rhythmic surprises. Top notch stuff and certainly worth a listen.

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.
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