Music Reviews

Assemblage 23: Endure

 Posted by Vito Camarretta (@)   Electronics / EBM / Electronica
Synth Pop / Electro Pop / Synth-Electronica
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Mar 25 2017
Artist: Assemblage 23
Title: Endure
Format: 2 x CD (double CD)
Label: Metropolis (@)
Rated: *****
The guessed cover artwork for the return (more than four years after the previous album "Bruise") could bee matched to one of those surprising discoveries of frozen ancestors of homo sapiens in the cave of some forgotten mountain. Well, imagine this situation projected in the future: maybe some snooty anthropologist could find the well-preserved corpse of Thom Shear, the lad behind Assemblage 23, together with mysterious objects like a floppy disk, a Korg MS-20 or a Roland SH-101 in the coffin, to classify it in some undefined area of the evolutionary ladder. I wonder how they would label it... maybe futurepopithecus? Most of the ten tracks orbit around that amalgamation of EBM-synth lines, a dense wave imprint and that touch of Balearic house, a somehow baffling mixture of recipes that it's a little bit like an imaginary meal (I would never be so brave) where you eat the raw ovary of a female peacock to show some disputable gastronomical courage and find a strawberry-flavoured chewing gum inside. All kidding aside, despite the retrofuturistic aftertaste and the above-mentioned baffling stylistic choices, there are many easy "danceable" and enjoyable tracks if you miss that kind of EBM, wisely deranged to future-pop sonorities: thumbs up - particularly for the editing - for tracks like "Barren", "Call The Dawn", "Bravery" and "Salt The Earth" as well as for some remixes included on the bonus CD, if you opt for the deluxe edition (particularly the one of "Bravery" by Solitary Experiments and the one of "Salt The Earth" by Angeltheory. Besides any distinctions and stylistic consideration, I think that the way your ear got trained in the 90ies or just your likings will let you think A23's enduring sonorities deserve to get thawed at room temperature or put it back in a place for protective hibernation.

Cybereign: Dangerous Mind

 Posted by Stuart Bruce (@)   Synth Pop / Electro Pop / Synth-Electronica
Techno / Trance / Goa / Drum'n'Bass / Jungle / Tribal / Trip-Hop
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Mar 21 2017
Artist: Cybereign
Title: Dangerous Mind
Format: Download Only (MP3 + Lossless)
Label: Battery Park Studio (@)
From the sound to the name to the artwork, Cybereign’s “Dangerous Mind” is old-school electro through-and-through- a clipped programmed breakbeat, catchy stabbed bassline, thoroughly digital synthwave pads and a deep spoken word faintly Bambaataa-ish slow and sinister vocal. All the ingredients are present and correct in such a way that it’s practically a walking cliché, but at the same time it’s got a confident sense of minimalism and space about it that means it still works. It’s lacking a major hook or unique selling point to really get your attention, but retro electro fans won’t skip this one.

All five of the remixes are stylistically pretty close to the original, so much so that as a listening EP, you do wish there had been a remixer or two willing to spread their wings a little further. The Nessbeth mix pares things down, with a fun rubbery bassline and liberal use of delay.

The Dez Williams remix uses many of the stems practically unchanged, with only a more abrupt and staccato bassline and rhythm to distinguish itself, while the Coherer remix pulls in the other direction and makes things a bit brighter, heading (slightly) in a more funky, party-electro direction.

TechControl steps up the Kraftwerk-y groove. N-Ter’s version- probably the best of the mixes- is still pretty faithful, with a bit more urgency, more gating and more acid squelch, and is most notable for the reprocessed (possibly even re-recorded) vocal.

A fun bit of old school electro, but a broader and more ambitious remix package would have helped.

Lee Simeone: Best Seat in the Dream

 Posted by Steve Mecca   Synth Pop / Electro Pop / Synth-Electronica
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Mar 19 2017
Artist: Lee Simeone (@)
Title: Best Seat in the Dream
Format: CD EP
Label: self-released
Rated: *****
One thing I can count on as a reviewer here is always getting interesting and unusual releases, often by artists I've never heard of with associations with other musicians, bands and projects that I have heard of. Such is the case with London's Lee Simeone. Lee released his first album, 'The Dream Weaver' in 2009 on the indie Le Coq Musique label. (Ex-Adam and the Ants bass player Kevin Mooney played on one of the tracks.) Haven't heard it but it was said to get pretty good reviews. Simeone also worked with a number of other artists including Karel Fialka, Paul Reynolds (ex-Flock Of Seagulls), Gary Asquith (Renegade Soundwave), Alan Rear (Tony Mansfield, Miguel Bosé), and Ex- original Cockney Rebel bandmate Milton-Reame James. He also did production/remastering work on Men At Work's 2014 'Still Life,' vinyl reissue, and co-produced a documentary film on the band titled "You Better Taske Cover". Okay, so Lee has a lot of cred, and a wealth of studio experience. So why then does 'Best Seat in the Dream' sound like an amateur recording at best? A somewhat interesting amateur recording, but one that doesn't quite sound ready for prime-time.

Although Simeone puts forth a big sound, there is a lack of clarity in the mix, and direction in the song structure. It all begins with the swell of synths in "Sky Blue Tattoo," the instrumental opener that starts a nice theme that somehow gets lost in the sauce the longer it progresses. The soaring guitar that should have been riding over the top just isn't, and the latter part of the track with just (heavily strummed) guitar chords and an innocuous lead line goes nowhere. "Channeling Affection" sounds like My Bloody Valentine rehearsing with a drum machine back in 1983. Vocals are buried and the song seems aimless giving it little characteristic other than a shoegazey feel. "Dromsally Rise" has more pop song character, and Simeone's voice is a bit Lennonesque. Yet it still veers into odd, atmospheric places abandoning its pop beginning after a verse and chorus, and wanders into ambient space. The swathed in reverb ballad "Yours Nocturnally" sounds nice but suffers from vocals mostly buried in the mix. "Vertigo Romeo" has cool rhythm and flow but its semi-psych vocal and instrumental parts seem to meander too much to allow for anything to latch onto. "Star Lane" has a Legendary Pink Dots quality about it but once again, the vocals are too far back to make an impact. There are some really good ideas on 'Best Seat in the Dream' but none of them reach their potential and sound more like rough demos than anything else. If this is really the best seat in the dream, maybe it's time to wake up and smell the coffee.
Artist: Harold Nono (@)
Title: Ideeit
Format: CD
Label: Bearsuit (@)
Rated: *****
Following a plenty of amazing collaborations - I warmly recommend to check the ones with Berlin-based elegant producer Me Raabenstein as Taub and the one with Japanese duo N-quia for the collaborative project Haq -, Edinburgh-based producer Harold Nono (real name David Hillary) comes back by a solo release on his own imprint, the excellent Bearsuit Records. If you've never heard something by this subliminal kid (a quotation), you should say sorry to your brain, as Harold Nono's style manages to combine samples, cinematic suggestions, witty references, neo-classical music, ambient and electronica in a very psychedelic way. The opening "Tahiik" immediately takes listening by a magnetizing carousel where a chattering by an adult and a kid got poured into a sweeping cinematic orchestration (close to the likes of the previously mentioned Me Raabenstein, but they could also surmise something by Murcof, Jan Jelinek or Venetian Snares). Such a perfect attacco prepares the ground for a swirling set of aural pearls, oscillating between the frenzy sentimentalism or the vague nostalgic nuances of tracks like "Dedy", "The King Tree" or "Running Down A Pipe", the lopsided surrealism of tunes like "Otosan" or "Dead Man's Fall", the hinky day-dreaming evoked by pieces like "I'm Disguised As An idiot" or the deeply emotional "Life Under The Lafayette", a track where Harold Nono seems to bare and give voice to the contrast between a majestic and naive elegance and some poisoning feeling of decadence. The final track "Watashi Wa Ie Ni Kaeritai" (Japanese for "I want to go home"!) is just seemingly sad: be patient, and after some minutes of silence, the ghost track will blossom and is going to uplift your soul by a delicate piano melody! Not to be left unlistened!

Beta Evers: Delusion

 Posted by Maurizio Pustianaz (@)   Synth Pop / Electro Pop / Synth-Electronica
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Mar 07 2017
Artist: Beta Evers
Title: Delusion
Format: LP
Label: Bodyvolt
Rated: *****
Personally I knew Beta Evers, a.k.a. Brigitte Enzler, because of some tracks I listened on compilations or for her collaboration with Gerald Donald on the projects Gedankenexperiment and Zwischenwelt, basically because I own and like those one. He material wasn't really easy to get for me, so when Fulvio Guidarelli (a.k.a. Lisfrank) told me that she did her first album, I was quite curious. Even if this is her first album under the Beta Evers moniker, Brigitte since 90s has been active, first with a band (i didn't find its name) and with a small label, then after a hiatus, on the late 90s she started to organise parties and then in the early 00's she founded the Kommando 6 collective. After a while and until 2006, Kommando 6 became a label devoted to electro music. The following years see Brigitte busy with collaborations and Beta Evers 12"s releases. On late 00's she founded the label Bodyvolt and its sub-label Venus Noir (which is focused on producing electronic music female vocalists). Briefly this is her past and now I can talk about "Delusion". It has been released on vinyl by Bodyvolt and on CD by Daft Records (in this edition, as well as on the digital download, you can find two bonus trakcs: "Hit Me" and "Kalt"). Listening to the tracks of the album, the first thing that pops out to my attention is the detached style of Brigitte's vocals. Since we have titles like "Frozen Breath", "Sore Suspense", "Nothing But Art And Pain", "Torrid Illusions" or "Kalt", the impression I had is that she wanted to use the tracks like a personal journal where you find her emotions there, naked. For that reason they didn't have the need to be overexposed using vocal melodies or pathos. "On a day without light, you touched me...", she's saying opening the album and the cold atmosphere starting with "Velvet Leaves", will carry you through all the record length. Musically we pass from upbeat tempos like "Frozen Breath", "Stirring Dreams", "Torrid Illusion" and "Hit Me" to mid tempos like most of the remaining tracks, where electro wave and minimal synth are the main influences. For the synths timbre, analog is the way to go: you can hear the sawtooth and the square waves making their ways, like claws tearing a curtain, through the dry beats of the drum machine. "Delusion"'s even if it's containing songs it's not an easy listening album and it grows every time you listen to it. She will play live in Germany in 2017, keep an eye on the live events list!

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