Music Reviews

Miracle: Mercury

 Posted by Vito Camarretta (@)   Synth Pop / Electro Pop / Synth-Electronica
Ambient / Electronica / Ethereal / Dub / Soundscapes / Abstract
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Dec 29 2013
Artist: Miracle (@)
Title: Mercury
Format: CD
Label: Planet Mu (@)
Rated: *****
It's not the first time I diagnose that there's love-in-the-air syndrome within esteemed Paradinas' label as Miracle could be considered the outcome of an artistic and musical love by American electronic composer Steve Moore and British multi-instumentalist Daniel O'Sullivan, which blossomed during a tour of respective bands: O'Sullivan used to be the leading voice and the "electronic" recipe of Guapo, whose excellent recent release "History Of The Visitation" on Cuneiform, the first which followed the departure of Daniel, has some trace of his visitation yet, while the skittish Steve Moore was touring with Anthony "Majeure" Paterra as a leg of Zombi. After their meeting, they kept on flirting on Internet by which they exchanged ideas and files and forged the tracks of this good album by adding arrangments and enhancements, which preceded the definitive studio recording, which can be reasonably considered a proper upgrade of 80ies synth-pop rather than a calque in spite of the more or less recognizable similarities and influences. A sort of exegesis of the title "Mercury" could be the pretext to show some features of Miracle's debut album: "Mercury" could be a reference to the smallest planet of Solar System as well as the closest to our star, whose proximity eminently conditions its magnetic shield and its visibility from our planet or to the notoriously Greek messenger of Gods due to his winged footwear and helmet. Both interpretations could be related to some features of their synth-driven sound, whose divine halo is unavoidably magnetic and seems to be derived by a lofty perception and a certain detahcment from human recurring dynamics, but I can guess the above-mentioned possible interpretations could refer to the audio equipment, or at least to a part of it, which paved they way for the lovely cosmic route they offer to the listeners, as I'm pretty sure Steve Moore could have used a Prophet 5 or maybe a Prophet 600 to notch the long sonic chains of each song - and phophets are commonly considered a messenger of gods just like Mercury... - and the lyrics of the title-track seem to run on such an ambivalence. Many reviewers insisted on the similarities between the sound of Miracle and the one by Depeche Mode, which can maybe be reminded by some tracks of the first part of the album - the initial "Good Love", "Neverending Arc 1" or "Falling Into The Night"- even if they could be remind more stuff by former Depeche Mode-collaborator Bomb Da Bass at most, but the strongest influences I can perceive are the ones by some cosmic knights of late 70ies and 80ies, italo-house or some scorer of horror and sci-fi movies such as Claudio Simonetti due to some resemblances on the synth-organ attacks, but I can ultimately say that the sterling and upright way Miracle pop astronauts up is somehow original and so intriguing that many listeners will wish for a follow-up of "Mercury".
Artist: Annie Hall (@)
Title: Random Paraphilia
Format: 12"
Label: Detroit Underground
Distributor: Complete
Rated: *****
Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders-IV, the notorious classification of mental disorder by the American Psychiatric Association, which can be considered the sacred book of psychology, psychopatology and psychiatry, described paraphilia as the experience of intense sexual arousal to atypical objects. You can expect somewhat manic or morbid sonorities from an album which quotes paraphilias in the title as well as related matters to name its tracks, but Madrid-born, but Detroit-based, dj and producer Annie Hall, partner of Detroit Undergroud multidisciplinary arts collective boss Kero, manages to evoke a sort of poetic abstract related to this supposedly mental disorder by means of mellow edulcorations of electronic-hop lumps of fractured rhythmical patterns and compressed percussions, which could resemble some stuff by Funkstorung on the initial "DSM-5" or "Bandit 28930", a track which features Shadow Huntaz on mic - Annie's style is somehow analogous to Shadow Huntaz's excellent output "Dark Matter" -, some lovey-dovery sprains of abstract and glitch-IDM sonorities by producers like Metamatics or Solvent on the planed excrescences of "Foihtreiu", the delicious contrasts of "Symphora", where electromechanical evulliences reaches their pinnacle and got smoothed by liquid synth pokes and entranced vocals by Annie herself, and the sweet strictures of "Sada Abe", which sounds like the romantic sonic portrait of the notorious Japanese assassin, who strangled his lover Kichizo Ishida before cutting off his privates, which she held inside her handbag. Annie's sonorities cannot but stimulate Richard Devine's flair, who put before high-compression treatment "Bandit 28930", the most cacophonous episode of the release, as well as the panache for acidulous processing by Valence "MusSck" Drakes, who gripped and unraveled "DSM-5", while Gerard E.R.P. Hanson marvelously highlights the elegiacally melodic segments of "Sada Abe" on his surprising remix.
Artist: Movement Ten (@)
Title: Build Them And They Will Come
Format: CD
Label: self-released
Distributor: Bandcamp
Rated: *****
Second full-length album for this British Alternative/Electronica-duo released only 10 months after their promising self-titled debut. Movement Ten surely like to keep alive in the eyes and ears of their fans instead to restart from scratch again. But although both of these releases have been out in between a short time period, there are significant differences between them. This new album starts with an energizing track entitled 'Get Down' in which the minimal arranged bass-line and rhythm section receives some Brit-Pop-like support through some roaring guitar riffs. A good kick-off. 'Black And White Living' then switches to a complete Electronica-based sound-design. It could be a well-done Synthpop tune, but somehow it misses musically a bit the target. Mostly because the synth-arrangements are too minimal produced and could need a bit more inspiration. Next is 'Halo' and the band has already announced this one to be a possible candidate for a single release. 'Halo' has a straight and danceable structure and reminds with its strong early 80ies affiliation on some British Post-Punk and New Wave-pioneers like Joy Division or Wire. But asides of this I tend to say, that 'Ghost Road' could be a better alternative, since it turns out to be the softer, but easier recognizable tune. If the monotonous drum-patterns could bring in a bit more brilliance, this track would be ideally working for airplay. Another favorite is 'Behind Me' with its hypnotic synthesizer-play and some oriental-sounding insertions - maybe one of the tracks which offers the most maturity of this productive duo. 'Never' then returns to the straighter side of this duo and adds quality guitar riffs to the monotonous bass-lines. It has some similarities on the starter 'Get Down', although the starter sounds more refreshing. With a try to test some Techno/Trance playgrounds through some 303-like bass-line sequences and typical TR808/909 rhythm patterns Movement Ten return on the all-Electronica sound-outfit - sorry, but this one sounds helpless and a bit too much off-topic for them. Since the last two tracks do not add any more valuable content to report of, this album leaves me a bit unsatisfied. 'Build Them And They Will Come' sounds surely darker oriented than expected, but it actually misses a bit of the pioneering impact of the debut. The vocals are still sounding well in the mix and deliver all needed emotion, but musically the tracks of this new album are too one-dimensional and leave too seldom already discovered paths. It even strengthens this globally unpleasant impression thanks to the fact that the ultimate 'smash hit', which could have been easily discovered on the debut ('Gravity' / 'FTBIA') is a miss here. Where has their ease and cheerfulness gone? Movement Ten can deliver better.

Noir: Darkly Near

 Posted by Marc Tater (@)   Synth Pop / Electro Pop / Synth-Electronica
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Dec 23 2013
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Artist: Noir
Title: Darkly Near
Format: CD
Label: Metropolis Records (@)
Distributor: Metropolis Mail-order
Rated: *****
Athan Maroulis as being vocalist of Spahn Ranch ' well, that has been a big and prominent name of the late 90ies. Who can not remember those classic tunes like 'Locusts' or 'Heretic's Fork', which have made their way into the history books of dancefloor classics? Spahn Ranch albums like 'The Coiled One' and mostly 'Architecture Beta' have been genre-bending and Athan and his colleagues may have been a bit ahead of their times. While things have slowed down around him and Spahn Ranch after 2001, he now returns into the Electronica music genre with his new established project Noir. A first debut single out this all new album has been already released with 'My Dear' ' I must admit, that this one hasn't impressed me that much. It was a relative unspectacular produced Synth-/Electropop tune which missed catchiness to keep in the ears of the audience, although prominent remix contributors like Tom Shear's Assemblage 23 and/or Ego Likeness did a good job to hi-jack this tune a bit.
The same feelings I had after consuming the first 4 tracks of this new album. 'My Dear' starts this album and I still think that this track is one of Athan's weakest so far. Also his cover of The Cure's classic 'A Forrest', also available on the teaser single release, has already been covered with much more devotion before ' just remember K-Bereit's version on Machinery for instance. I was about to rate this album as a simple, mediocre Electropop-album, which only stands the contest because of Athan still awesome sounding vocals. Then comes track 5, 'The Voyeurs', and moreover track 6, 'The Tragics', which made me to correct this rating. Maybe it is because Athan's voice has its best moments with slow, ballad-like tunes, which offer tendencies to explore Ambient-like soundscapes. Maybe these both ones represent the best Athan's Dark Goth-side of his Black Tape For A Blue Girl membership? Back on the straighter, more Electropop-compatible side of the mirror, also 'Timephase' is well-balanced and features some nice EBM-related percussion sets and some interesting effects on Athan's voice. With a strange and bizarre sounding Downtempo-track entitled 'In Every Dream Home A Heartache' this album ends all in all satisfying after 10 tracks. As for a final result, it needs to be said, that these aren't the days for innovation. Spahn Ranch is a part of the history and remains alive and kicking in our minds ' here you'll get the voice on returning and it offers some beautiful moments.

Jacket Weather: When Shadow Move

 Posted by Maurizio Pustianaz (@)   Synth Pop / Electro Pop / Synth-Electronica
Dark / Gothic / Wave / New Wave / Dark Wave / Industrial Gothic
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Dec 20 2013
Artist: Jacket Weather
Title: When Shadow Move
Format: 12"
Label: Synthetic Shadows
Rated: *****
Timothy Gassen has always been an eclectic kind of guy. After playing with Jacket Weather he changed musical style and formed Reptile House and then Marshmallow Overcoat (a psych garage punk band active since mid '80s). He's also the responsible for the garage punk bible "The knights of fuzz", a book that put under the magnifying lens the movement of the second garage punk wave (after the fist garage band movement of the '60s in the '80s all around the world a lot of new bands started to play again the raw music of bands like Chocolate Watchband, Electric Prunes, The Seeds, Blues Magoos, etc, starting a scene, that since then, never faded out). Anyway, Jacket Weather where the first band where a young Tim moved his first steps into the musical world along with Lee Joseph who later formed Yard Trauma and Dionysus Records. The band in 1982 and 1983 released only a tape titled "It's A Wonderful War" and a six tracks E.P. On this LP Tim collected the six tracks of their 7" "When Shadows Move" plus all the remaining tracks coming from the same recording session on late 1982/early 1983 at the Cerius Studios in Phoenix. The band had a particular style because of their use of two Casiotone keyboards played by Tim and Debra Dickey, drums (Howe Salmon) and a bass guitar (the aforementioned Lee Joseph). They had no electric guitars at all and thank to this particular blend their sound, which could be described like a minimal wave influenced by English post punk (see Joy Division) and Devo, where the detached vocals and raw synth lines contrast with pounding real drums sound. If you think about the Arizona desert and listen to this music, you'll picture immediately the contrast. You can check the whole release at the label's bandcamp page

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