Music Reviews

Dusty Tears: Internet Hits

 Posted by Stuart Bruce (@)   New Music / Downtown / Avantgarde Jazz / New Classical / World
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Jul 19 2017
Artist: Dusty Tears
Title: Internet Hits
Format: Download Only (MP3 + Lossless)
Label: Silber Media
The overdue return of Silber Media’s 5-in-5 series, where a band cram 5 pieces into a total running time of 5 minutes or less, is a strong bit of post-rock-n-roll from Shane De Leon and Jamie Smith, experimenting with some succinct little ideas that, rather than being half-baked demos, are well-rounded self-contained pieces with hints of Henry Rollins or surf-rock blended with some electronic elements and an energetic sense of experimentation.

The two biggest pieces are “The Cobra Den” and “Gold Chains And Acne” that are expert demonstrations of how a pop song can be fully rounded without needing to hit the obligatory three minute mark. “Cockblocked By Spotify” is a fun little trip-hop ditty. Opener “Turning Seventeen” is an odd juxtaposition of guitar solo and languid, strangely They Might Be Giants-like vocal. “Gluten Free” is nothing more than a groove loop.

By the account of the press release this was quickly chopped together in some tourbus downtime, but you can’t tell. It’s one of the strongest 5-in-5s so far, and a great advert for both the band and the series.

Annette Vande Gorne (Werner Lambersy): Yawar Fiesta

 Posted by Stuart Bruce (@)   New Music / Downtown / Avantgarde Jazz / New Classical / World
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Jul 12 2017
Artist: Annette Vande Gorne (Werner Lambersy)
Title: Yawar Fiesta
Format: Blu Ray disc (BD)
Label: empreintes DIGITALes
Though I’m reviewing it in old-fashioned stereo, “Yawar Fiesta” is a 7.1 surround sound extravaganza. ChainDLK doesn’t currently have an entry for “Blu-ray Audio” as a known format, so I’ve had to pick “Laser Disc” as a cludge, but please be assured this is Blu-ray.

Unconfined by the duration limitations of vinyl or CD, this is a work just shy of 90 minutes dominated by operatic vocal snippets, long drones and hums, and waves of both distant and close percussive vocal noises that attack and decay in a way that’s leisurely at times, but never comfortable. Sourcing the majority of the sonic ingredients from the voice- with a particular favouring of masculine bass operatic tones and throat singing, but not without feminine and spoken word moments too- but without actually using a singer, brings us frequently into bizarre arrangements akin to choral arrangements gone wrong- at times quite Lygeti-like. Much of the time the elements are multi-layered, keeping everything hectic and relentless throughout. Electronic glitches, tape-style effects, pitch shifts and flangey panning (isn’t that a type of cake?) are thoroughly modern and digital and give the work an extra twist.

The work is ostensibly an opera- the press release describes a piece in multiple acts that’s a hybrid of actual storytelling and the name-dropping of broad themes into something that’s frankly very difficult to follow. But the result definitely has distinct scenes, and when holding your attention, is like listening to the most off-the-wall opera re-work you’ve ever heard.

After the bewildering 44-minute journey of “Condor (Le Veillee)”, second track “Taureau (Le Defi)” doesn’t perhaps represent enough of a shift. The addition of traffic noises and horns gives the sonics a different hint, as does the heavier use of discernible French language sources, but the core arrangement is essentially half an hour more of the same experimental opera.

“Monologue final” is also consistent rather than contrasting, but with fewer operatic elements and more emphasis on digital processing such as layering offset copies of the same sample at different speeds, and with sound effects akin to alien rocket launches and monstrous whispers tilting it more in the direction of sci-fi. The sound of rolling stock evokes the spirit of the KLF towards the very end.

It’s an unusual buffet, sometimes reminiscent of 60’s avantgarde choral works, sometimes the spacier sound of 90’s ambient house, sometimes very contemporary and sharp-sounding digital electronic frippery. It’s got a unique quality to it that demands attention, even though at 87 minutes long it perhaps can’t hold that attention throughout.

Lingua Ignota: All Bitches Die

 Posted by Emanuele Ratti (@)   New Music / Downtown / Avantgarde Jazz / New Classical / World
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Jul 10 2017
Artist: Lingua Ignota
Title: All Bitches Die
Format: Download Only (MP3 only)
Label: self-released
Rated: *****
Lingua Ignota (“Unknown language” in Latin) is a project from Rhode Island by Kristin Hayter. As her website says, Kristin is an interdisciplinary artist. In other words, we should expect her music to be inextricably connected with her (visual) arts. I’m no expert of visual arts, so I’ll only judge her music.
“All Bitches Die” is a very ambitious album combining neoclassical music, power electronics and death industrial. To give you an idea of how ambitious this is, I think that the project may be conceived as Roger Karmanik that meets Diamond Galas. And yes, it is amazing as it sounds. However, there are few things that can be improved. Let me explain a little bit.
The four songs included in this album try to merge noise walls and disturbing creaking with elegant neoclassical melodies performed with piano and organ. Kristin’s vocals shift from sacred and liturgical melodies to furious and desperate screams. I hasten to add that Kristin is a classically trained performer, so when I say that there are neoclassical melodies I mean that there is professionalism here, and not just the use of vocal samples or very basic melodies. The result is impressive. Especially “Woe to all” and “All bitches die” are desperately passionate, Kristin’s voice drags the listener into an ocean of despair, but at the same time the neoclassical background makes such desperation something magnificent. Her music is literally apocalyptic, because when I listen to her music I can only think about apocalypse. In other words, the neoclassical part of this album is absolutely amazing, and just for this, one should buy the album via bandcamp.
If the album is so amazing, why only 4 stars rather than 5? Because there are things that can be improved. It’s no big deal at this early stage of Lingua Ignota’s career, but still I should mention some things that other reviews tend to ignore. Something more should be done when it comes to the power electronics part. One may think that power electronics or (since I mentioned Brighter Death Now) death industrial is something easy to do: you just need to make as much noise as you can. This is clearly false. Kristin creates very basic noise walls sometimes enriched with creaks of different sort. However, there is no control ("For I am the light" is a example). Transitions (with the exception of the ones in the song “All bitches die”) may be improved. Creaks seem to be very basic samples (but I might be wrong) and my impression is that they are not processed in the way a noise artist would do. Processing, connecting, uniting and other dozens of things that you can do with samples are, in my opinion, essential in extreme industrial music. Lingua Ignota makes use of power electronics and death industrial resources, but without developing them in a personal way. I notice this especially because in these very days I’m listening to a recent album of a very famous power electronics act (Institution D.O.L.), which is very sophisticated from this point of view. I want to stress that THIS IS NOT a rejection, but a plea for working more on the integration of the two styles, because Lingua Ignota is a project that can become potentially one of the most important act of the scene (whatever the ‘scene’ is).

Mike Cooper: Raft

 Posted by Stuart Bruce (@)   New Music / Downtown / Avantgarde Jazz / New Classical / World
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Jul 10 2017
Artist: Mike Cooper
Title: Raft
Format: 12" vinyl + Download
Label: Room40
The press release and artwork for “Raft” imply a folk and blues tradition, an acoustic instrument-driven meandering along the theme of vessels and journeys, and this is part of what it contains- but with added sporadic layers of modern, high-intensity glitching and digital production that veers things off in a very different direction.

The twangy guitar introduced in “Guayaquil To Tully” is the prominent common element, and sounds almost Acker Bilk-like at points, and it’s not until the second and longest track “Las Balsas” that more exotic gentle Hawaiian-sounding percussive patterns begin to emerge- with the exotic theme exposed less subtly on “Malama Honua”. “Vital Alsar” is a rather quirky number smothered in flange effects and with a drunken drum & bass tempo.

The album is dedicated to an old friend and ‘life mentor’ of Cooper’s, with an accompanying story that’s initially warm but has a tragic end. This is respectfully reflected in the tinge of melancholy that is sewn into the playing- this is not simply musical relaxation, there’s an unquestionable sadness there.

It’s an unorthodox melding of Hawaiian-style beach lethargy and indulgent improvised blues guitar noodling, with just a smattering of modern electronic framework, which definitely works, and which stands out as having a very unusual and strangely sweet character.

Kraft: Harvest Of Despair

 Posted by Stuart Bruce (@)   New Music / Downtown / Avantgarde Jazz / New Classical / World
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Jun 29 2017
Artist: Kraft
Title: Harvest Of Despair
Format: CD + Download
Label: Opa Loka Records
As Kraft, Robert Hofman offers up ten slices of dark and ominous shoegazey neofolk that makes prominent use of electronic post-production as well as some unusual vocal and found sound choices to give it a distinctive character.

Opening track “The Dreadful Hours” was the project’s starting point, a heavily cut-up jazz demo reworked into a long evolving distortion. The poem at the end of the piece sits slightly uncomfortably and doesn’t really add anything- final track “Zapovit” has the same problem, leaving you in the odd situation where the album’s opener and closer end up being the least successful tracks.

Other tracks such as “Gauze & Effect” have more energy, adding to the steady hums some backwards mechanical rhythms and played-around-with vocal sounds. “Lights Out” mixes human panting, horse noises, DIY sounds and synthetic choral noises in a blend that ought not to work, but really does in a slightly Tangerine Dream-esque manner. The brief, buzzing bee-laden awkwardness of “Black September”, with a sound which seems like an attempt to deliberately imitate the skipping of a scratched CD, is particularly uncomfortable.

Others such as “Gold Into Lead” are more akin to weird ballads, with plaintive melody lines wandering seemingly aimlessly above the bizarre bank of percussion, with “In Tongues” taking a solo acoustic guitar strum and twisting it through delays and effects into something imitating minimal techno. “The Wake” has a particularly strong melodic core, while other pieces feel looser and more improvised.

A standout track is “Ember”, a slightly dub-flavoured track which takes violin and folk acapella sounds treated to sound like old gramophone recordings and marinades them in an echo chamber until they become something much more sinister than they already were.

Messing around on the borders between jazz, drone and neofolk gives “Harvest Of Despair” an unusual and distinctive palette that really catches your attention.
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