Music Reviews



VV.AA.: The (Almost) Insanely Happy EP

 Posted by Maurizio Pustianaz (@)   Synth Pop / Electro Pop / Synth-Electronica
Dark / Gothic / Wave / New Wave / Dark Wave / Industrial Gothic
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Oct 03 2011
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Artist: VV.AA.
Title: The (Almost) Insanely Happy EP
Format: 7"
Label: EE Tapes (@)
Rated: *****
Boss of the Insane Music label, member of many bands such as Cortex, Human Dance, Human Flesh, I Scream, Japanese Genius, Ornament & Crime Arkhestra, Pseudo Code, Sic, Subject, etc, Alain Neffe during all the 80s has been damn busy and EE Tapes is keeping on reissuing his music digging into the archives to bring us classic and unreleased tracks. THE ( ALMOST) INSANELY HAPPY EP is the second 7" EP compilation dedicated to Insane Music and it contains three tracks by Subject and three by Human Dance of which three are unreleased. Subject were in balance from pop intuitions, wave atmospheres and minimal approaches to sound where bass guitar, guitar and a rhythm box were the core of the sound which on the dreamy dramatic "L'ultima storia" sees Mirella Brunello joining Alain Neffe and Daniel Malempre to sing in Italian a lyric about a lost love. Human Dance were less wave and a bit more ironic. Their "Jethro, C'Est Trop !!" has a flute part recalling the Jethro Tull and "Magikal Hystery Sour (The Beatles Were Not So Bad, After All !!)" sounds like a minimal pop soundtrack with clean guitars, organ and drum machine in evidence. "The Desert Call" experiment a little with middle eastern atmospheres and reverbs. This is a nice EP available in 250 copies of which the first 85 are hand-numbered and have two extra photographs, from a series of nine.

Versailles: Sacrifice

 Posted by Steve Mecca   Synth Pop / Electro Pop / Synth-Electronica
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Oct 03 2011
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Artist: Versailles (@)
Title: Sacrifice
Format: CD EP
Label: self-released
Rated: *****
Nearly all-girl band Versailles (not to be confused with other bands named Versailles, of which there are a few) from Los Angeles consists of Dianna St. Hilaire- Vocals, Keytar, Programming; Stephanie Rose- Bass; Marie Ilene- Drums, with Shaun Richards on Guitar. From the nice color photo they sent with the one-sheet, these gals look like your typical goth-clubbers and the music on 'Sacrifice' doesn't deny that. It wasn't always that way for Versailles; from the sound of their previous albums, singer Dianna was labeled a "Gothic Tori Amos" and that's not far off the mark, as both 'Believe' and 'Broken Dolls' sound much more commercial and somewhat more polished than 'Sacrifice'. (There is good deal more piano on those albums too.) They've toured the U.S. with Ego Likeness, Voltaire, New Model Army, Bella Morte, etc., and maybe they'll be coming to a goth club near you someday soon.

What Versailles have done on their 4-track EP 'Sacrifice' is step back in time to the 90's (maybe even the 80's) with a more retro gothy synthpop sound. Gee'¦this sounds familiar'¦maybe a bit too familiar'¦in fact, this sounds a lot like'¦THE BIRTHDAY MASSACRE, a female-fronted retro synth-poppy band from Toronto. But it's Birthday Massacre light. (Those folks can get loud and heavy more often than not.) While Dianna is no Chibi she still has a very pleasing melodic voice. The synth and bass are pretty minimal, and the drums, well, that sounds like a drum machine to me, and that's pretty minimal too. Guitar is consistent with early 90's goth.

While the songs are convincing on 'Sacrifice' I don't really hear any big hits. 'Take My Life' is probably the closest to what the Birthday Massacre have done (in concept if not execution), but my favorite off the EP was 'Game'. The song seemed to epitomize the sound of an era to me in its disaffected way. I could even imagine it on some indie film soundtrack. I'm a bit ambivalent about the production on 'Sacrifice'; on one hand it is very retro-sounding, but on the other, quite bass-heavy and seems to be lacking in power and dynamics. Still, at 6 bucks, if you're a sucker for gothy (mostly) female synthpop bands as I am, it's not a bad purchase. On future endeavors, I'd like to hear Versailles put a little more oomph and drama into their sound and write a hit song or two. (They're undoubtedly capable of it.) It's worth a trip to their website just to check out their photos (corset, ripped stockings, buckled platform boots, OH MY!). I think it's harder for bands from L.A. to make it than anywhere else as there is just so much competition there. Persevere, ladies, persevere!

THOMAS BARRANDON: Escape From Earth

 Posted by Maurizio Pustianaz (@)   Electronics / EBM / Electronica
Synth Pop / Electro Pop / Synth-Electronica
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Oct 02 2011
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Artist: THOMAS BARRANDON
Title: Escape From Earth
Format: CD
Label: Sauroid (@)
Rated: *****
True to the new French electro sound that has into its basket names like College (and generally all the Valerie Collective bands), Kavinsky and many more and that mixes the 70s electronic sound with 80s electro, Thomas Barrandon is a newcomer proudly presented to audience by Sauroid. Influenced by John Carpenter, Angelo Badalamenti, Goblin, Fabio Frizzi, Klaus Doldinger, Giorgio Moroder, Wendy Carlos, Justice and Daft Punk, Thomas wrote thirteen instrumental tracks that Sauroid is making available on digital download and on limited CD-r. ESCAPE FROM EARTH sounds like a sort of soundtrack to an imaginary sci-fi 80s movie: stop and go, warm pads, arpeggios, catchy melodies and hard drum beats are Thomas' weapons and he uses them to seduce the audience. Atmospheric mid tempos are alternated to fast electro rides with that distinctive synth distorted sound (check "The Last Race Between You And Me") and lead you through a breathtaking run to ESCAPE FROM EARTH...

LOU TETI: Love It

 Posted by Maurizio Pustianaz (@)   Synth Pop / Electro Pop / Synth-Electronica
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Sep 28 2011
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Artist: LOU TETI
Title: Love It
Format: Download Only (MP3 + Lossless)
Label: Mullet Records (@)
Distributor: Juno Download
Rated: *****
With different releases on the Tigers On A Leash label, Lou Teti is on Mullet Records for the first time and he picked up LOVE IT to surprise Mullet's fans. LOVE IT is a great lush and sensual song with a good beat. The original version is here in three versions: "Radio Edit", "Original Maxi Length Version" and "Original Maxi Instrumental Version". On these versions you'll be able to appreciate the funky rhythm, the bouncy bass, the cool melodies and that synth that sounds like a spacey rhodes which is spreading all its catchy vibes out there. Also the warm vocals are working damn good and the whole result is a killer track. Dublin Aunts have been called to remix the tune and they made of it a dancey song with 4/4 hard beats, funky bass line and choruses. Tad Wily remix is closing the release with another dance remix based on a rich rhythmic section plus vocoder filtered vocals. Nice single!

Tobia Lilja: Delirium Portraits

 Posted by Steve Mecca   Synth Pop / Electro Pop / Synth-Electronica
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Sep 27 2011
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Artist: Tobia Lilja (@)
Title: Delirium Portraits
Format: CD
Label: n5MD (@)
Distributor: n5MD
Rated: *****
Don't be put off by the slightly creepy portrait of Tobias Lilja on the cover by Anna Moberg (of the band Fredrik, I presume); actually I think it's kinda cool. Be assured that Lilja doesn't quite resemble the undead in real life photos I've seen of him. Actually Swedish electronica composer/audio engineer Tobias Lilja might be a name some Chain D. L. K. readers are already familiar with. If you recall his 2007 'Time Is On My Side' album (no, not a Rolling Stones tribute) it was a somnambulistic ambient-like foray into the dreamy subconscious ala David Sylvian or Mick Harris & Martyn Bates Murder Ballads collaboration. Tobias is vocally less emotive than the former and musically less minimal than the latter, but you get the idea. What percussive elements there were on 'Time Is On My Side' were sparse, sludgy and lumbering.

'Delirium Portraits' is a quite different affair; wide-awake and very lucid with percolating beats and grooves. Although Lilja's vocals are still plaintive here, they are not nearly as drawn out and forlorn. The music, while entirely electronic, is so well integrated that it has an organic feel to it. In a way the mood is similar to The Blue Nile (circa their 'Hats' album) with at times a dash of laid-back Yello. 'Delirium Portraits' seems to be Tobias's bridge to synthpop, although I really wouldn't call in synthpop any more than I'd Pink Floyd hard rock. Perhaps progressive electronica would be a better suited term. Quite upbeat in comparison to 'Time Is On My Side' yet dreamy. Tobias is more vocally adventurous here as well warbling multitracked vocals with harmonies. The songs are story-oriented and though the vocals are melodic, the melodies are far afield from any conventional pop music, synth or otherwise. There is a meandering quality in that respect in comparison to the actual song structure which stays true to form for the most part. It takes a special knack to carry off this kind of pop-experimentalism (Laurie Anderson come to mind) without seeming pretentious or precious and Tobias Lilja makes it work on 'Delirium Portraits'. Undoubtedly his background in audio engineering has paid off immensely as well with all the nice little incidental sonic touches that permeate the album.

While a good number of the tracks are beat-propelled, they aren't really dancefloor material. Still, it makes for engaging, moody listening. The only track I didn't care for was the last ' 'Morocco,' which is somewhat of an ode to a dear departed friend of Tobias. I'm sure it was a personal thing he felt compelled to do, and ended 'Delirium Portraits' on a melancholy note, but as a whole this is still a wonderful album.



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