Music Reviews

Ex_Tension: Desert

 Posted by Steve Mecca   Techno / Trance / Goa / Drum'n'Bass / Jungle / Tribal / Trip-Hop
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Oct 10 2011
Artist: Ex_Tension (@)
Title: Desert
Format: CD
Label: Tympanik Audio (@)
Distributor: Tympanik Audio
Rated: *****
Leave it to Tympanik to host interesting talent and bring forth new concepts in the industrial/ambient/cinematic music vein. Ex_Tension is the French electronic music duo composed of Vincent Gendrot alias Vxt (composition, programming) and Pierre-Yves Hohmann alias PY (Composition, samples, noises). Although the project was created in 1997 with releases going back to 2005, this is my first experience with them. Much of this release is a reworking of their (first) EP in 2005, which contains two tracks on this album, the epic 31:53 piece title track ('Desert') and the following track, 'Journey'. As that EP was self-released, it probably didn't get the exposure it deserved. Except for the remastering, I presume those two track are largely as they were on the 2005 EP. Two additional previously unreleased tracks, 'Aura' and 'Tension 6' are also included. On top of that, there is also a remix of 'Desert' by Tympanik artists Access To Arasaka, Totakeke, Zentriert ins Antlitz, Geomatic, and Sonic Area who all take a turn at a different section of the piece.

The original 'Desert' is a space/ambient/trancey (but not exactly trance) piece with a good amount of industrialized drums and percussion. It begins with pulsing bass and atmos with layered electronics that build and expand as time goes on. The beat starts as a bit sporadic and chaotic until eventually a groove takes form with sequencers accompanying, but that doesn't happen until past the 10 minute mark. One it gets into the groove though, it become very cool, like Tangerine Dream at their zenith, but an updated version. It's difficult to sustain this kind of trip over such a lengthy period of time without becoming boring over repetition or diverging too much from the theme, but Ex_Tension manage to stay on target for the most part, and the pulsing monotone bass is the impetus that drives the track. Everything bounces along nicely until about the 18-19 minute mark when the vibe becomes marked tribal-Middle Eastern. It is not so much the rhythm as the pedestrian noodling melody line played with a sitar-ish sound that follows. It doesn't last long, but it sounds as if Ex_Tension just threw it in there because they couldn't come up with anything better. Those radio voice samples didn't add anything either. Still, they manage to extricate themselves from this and continue on their merry way to an elongated fade conclusion.

'Journey' would have been an okay piece of spacey rhythmically sequenced ambience if not for the processed claps (or is it bad gated noise snare) that sounds like beating on a heavy tinfoil pan. It is so much better when it leaves, but unfortunately, it returns, and that's just too bad. 'Aura' has a very spacey vibe punctuated by industrialized and other percussive elements, once again with the accent on beat and monotone sequenced synth, harkening back to old school trance. 'Tension' is another spacey piece injected with layered filter sweeps, punctuated with heavy industrialized beats. The rhythm never really comes together though in my estimation. The remix of 'Desert' though redeems the CD admirably. In the capable hands of five Tympanik artists, the piece is elevated to something truly cosmic. Access To Arasaka begins the process by putting his signature mark on the first 5+ minutes using elements of the original but adding his own special touches with a bellish melody and much better percussion, very spacey and atmospheric. Totakeke takes over for about 3 minutes with spooky sounds and gradually builds a steady rhythm, solid and cohesive with excellent ensemble synthwork. Zentriert ins Antlitz takes over at 8:27 for about six minutes with a very good sequenced synth basis and a simple but effective melodic stretched out synth line. The beat, with percussive embellishments, is commanding the layered sequencing is very good. Other industrialized percussive treatments are introduced with a cosmic voice-like pad in the background as this baby builds into some awesome. What drama! I am almost holding my breath in anticipation of Geomatic's participation at the 14:22 mark, and I am not disappointed. Geomatic cranks it up a notch with heavier percussion and a twisted synthetic intensity that so far has been unrivalled. It is almost impossible to explain what is going in; in a word 'EVERYTHING. Sonic Area takes 'Desert' out from the 18:54 mark and has a little over four minutes to play with. The chief contribution by SA is the heavy industrial drumming, and also the processing of some of the original elements. It's kind of an odd ending with what sounds like rain splattering on a tin roof, but what the hey. All-in-all, the remix is much better than the original.

If you're looking for some spacey electronic music with lengthy tracks, updated old-school sequencing and industrialized percussion, I'd recommend this.

Bryan Black presents Black Asteroid: The Engine EP

 Posted by Vito Camarretta (@)   Industrial Music / Industrial Metal / Aggro Industrial / Electro Metal
Techno / Trance / Goa / Drum'n'Bass / Jungle / Tribal / Trip-Hop
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Sep 30 2011
Artist: Bryan Black presents Black Asteroid (@)
Title: The Engine EP
Format: 12"
Label: CLR (@)
Distributor: wordandsound
Rated: *****
The driver putting the key in ignition could boast about a rich CV: Mr Bryan Black is the man behind the curtain of Motor, a name which some Depeche Mode fans noticed on some tickets during their World tour in 2009 or arguably on the line-up of some festival as after just 2 singles, he shared the stages with legendary names of the jest-set such as Kraftwerk and Daft Punk; he's also famous as he worked as sound engineer of that genial dwarf from Minneapolis, named Prince, when working in the acclaimed Paisley Park Studios. He introduces his project Black Asteroid through the valuable imprint of CLT (acronym for Create, Learn, Realize) by Chris Liebing and his way of treating beat sounds like fitting tightly to the kind of techno, proposed by such a label. The first track, Engine 1, begins with a sort of fill of obsessive bass pulses and razor-shaped hats, before the rhythmical pattern featuring a "muffled" cadence on the 13th step and flam on higher tones is close to that kind of hard techno and ebm-electro which has been loved by many followers of djs such as Dj Hell. For the second and the third tracks - Engine 1.1 and Engine 2 -, Brian just shuffles elements of the previous song with some little variations: Engine 1.1 looks less obsessive than the 1.0 version, as it seems that Bryan's game on the knob regulating time intervals between hats and volume pitch as well made it more "elegant", whereas he muted some rhythmical elements such as claps, hats and bass pulses themselves to give more voice to snare drums and those crazy distorted chirps which give that nervy and sinewy touch to the track in Engine 2.0. The priority given to synth forging on Prism brings the listener into more "relaxed" atmosphere. Really interesting technoid release!

NOTIC NASTIC: Fullscreen

 Posted by Maurizio Pustianaz (@)   Synth Pop / Electro Pop / Synth-Electronica
Techno / Trance / Goa / Drum'n'Bass / Jungle / Tribal / Trip-Hop
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Sep 16 2011
image not
Title: Fullscreen
Format: CD
Label: Notic Nastic
Distributor: Shitkatapult
Rated: *****
After one year from their debut album "It's Dark But It's Ok", Notic Nastic are back with a new album titled FULLSCREEN. Released on their personal label and distributed by Shitkatapult (the label that released their previous one), FULLSCREEN will catch your attention starting from its mesmerizing cover where their female singer has an arrow painted starting from her mouth, pointing to the ground. On all their visual representation she proved herself to be a real performer and also on this album she will convince people both for her visual and vocal performances. Anyway... The album opens with four hits in a row "Cyanide", "Illuminati Bitch", "I Don't Wanna Do It Right" and "Both Eyes Open" and all of them shout out loud the theme/message that the Berlin/N.Y. duo wanted to deal with for this album: FULLSCREEN is a symbol of the frustration that arises because of the sleepy minds of the masses. With their lyrics Notic Nastic shout WAKE UP! Open your eyes wide and see the truth behind the smokescreen. It's a particular thing that into a record which could be considered dancey you can find lyrics like "I was entrapped by lies, in fear that the truth was danger, are you free, if you always have to hide" ("Cyanide"), or "Though I was fucking around and I had to ditch, cause I'm not gonna be some illuminati bitch" ("Illuminati Bitch"). Musically, as for the first album, the duo deliver twelve new tracks which mix analog/digital distorted synth sounds, hard beats and cool melodies. Alternating upbeat tempo tracks (mostly the first half of the tracks) and mid tempo tunes, Notic Nastic produced themselves the album helped by Philip Hansmann on mixing and Stefan Betke on mastering and succeeded into creating a mixture of dark pulsating danceable songs which work so well. Thanks to the vocal performances of the unnamed singer and to their ability to tweak vocals (which are now slowed then pitched and sampled, creating sometimes an effect you can also find on Crystal Castles albums) FULLSCREEN will convince you as much as "It's Dark But It's Ok" did. It will be out on October 21st.

ZZT: Vulkan Alarm!

 Posted by Vito Camarretta (@)   Techno / Trance / Goa / Drum'n'Bass / Jungle / Tribal / Trip-Hop
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Sep 14 2011
Artist: ZZT (@)
Title: Vulkan Alarm!
Format: 12"
Label: Turbo Recordings (@)
Distributor: N.E.W.S.
Rated: *****
A taste which is going to whet listener's appetite and arguably arouse curiosity in volcanologists and some fuzzy prophets of doom and gloom - I refer to those ones who have decided to wait if some prophecies about 2012 are true by taking a break from work and study in order to have fun till the Judgement's day! - has been issued by Tiga's Turbo Recordings as Vulkan Alarm! is just an appetizer where the main course is going to be the forthcoming album Partys Over Earth, served hot by Tiga himself and Florian Senfter widely known as Zombie Nation. Two sorceres of electrified house as well as experienced pyromaniacs with references (in particular Tiga's releases had already many references to unextinguashable fires!) who have matched their skills on a project they called ZZT, whereas their mutual fingerprints are quite easy to recognize. In Vulkan Alarm!, they craftly insert rolling sounds, clashed and distorted hats, which could render the illusion of burning metal (!), a sort of effected agonizing miaowing from a cat locked in a sudatorium, a gluey plastic slipping (my favorite sound sample!) on a highly-danceable rhythmical pattern, a pot of acustic stimulations which makes listening even more intriguing than just aimed to let your asses oscillate. Turbo has also included three remixes of the track signed by Proxy, Jan Driver and Perc, which recombine the elements of the original track by emphasizing one or two of them. My favorite one is Perc's one as it starts with "inflamed" metal sound effects since the beginning, but the other ones are quite good as well. Ignition sequence's started!
Sep 12 2011
Artist: Obtane, Giorgio Gigli, Milton Bradley (@)
Title: The Dark Thoughts Of Fate's Manufacturer
Format: 12"
Label: Zooloft (@)
Distributor: Rubadub
Rated: *****
A record entitled The Dark Thoughts of Fate's Manufacturer should necessarily feature a sinister and obscure sound, but this act by Giorgio Gigli and Obtane displays more than just some gloomy sonic shoddy goods. The narrative set evoked by the title could properly stimulate the imagination of some listener who believes in conspirational theories, but manages to sprinkle this release with magic powder, which give the possibility to contextualize it better. The usage of subterranean industrial sounds (giving the illusion of walking inside a thermal nuclear implant) blindstiched to a sort of visceral rumbling by some perfect bass cuts and a propelling step in the initial "You Can't Hide Yourself" and the disquieting ambient Zooloft guys assembled while remixing a track by Milton Bradley (not the famous toy industrialist, but one man behing the small but interesting label Do Not Resist The Beat, together with Dj Zeal, as well as autheor of the project The End Of All Existence), entitled Escaped From The Dark, reminded to me a sort of mixture between the seminal techno-industrial by Riou Tomita, the most experimental side of acid techno and detroit style, with some other casual cross-reference marks, such as that sort of laser beam/siren in the above-mentioned remix, who's quite close to the one Future Sound Of London used in Accelerator. Good musical food for dystopian stomachs and ears.

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