Music Reviews

stringmodulator: stringmodulator [EP]

 Posted by liv3evil   Techno / Trance / Goa / Drum'n'Bass / Jungle / Tribal / Trip-Hop
Ambient / Electronica / Ethereal / Dub / Soundscapes / Abstract
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Jun 28 2016
Artist: stringmodulator (@)
Title: stringmodulator [EP]
Format: CD
Label: self-released
Distributor: Bandcamp
Rated: *****
German musicians Jan Quednau (bass) and Fabian Chmielewski (guitar) compromise stringmodulator, an experimental music duo limited to ten strings. At 41 minutes, their first EP is quite possibly the longest EP I've encountered to-date, though in fairness the time spent listening flew by.

Lengthy initial track 'flow' does just that; at nearly 19 minutes, a number of motifs and patterns are established for a few minutes, never over-staying their welcome, and enveloping an organic continuance that is steady as a river (flows). At numerous times I found myself marrying 'flow' to an imagined crime-thriller film. For example, I could envision it functioning as dramatic underscore to certain scenes in Michael Mann's 1995 film "Heat," especially during the more pulsating/grooving moments.

Second composition 'OZEaN' is more contemplative and solemn. Almost call-and-response in nature, Quednau frequently sets the tonal stage with highly-treated, wandering basslines which Chmielewski answers with various guitar utterances that range from driven harmonics, feedback yelps, and clean, jazz-voiced chords. And then, somehow, we ultimately end up modulating into a miniature funk workout in the final minutes.

The final track is a live version of 'flow' that coalesces the most brash moments of the studio version and pushes them closer to extremes, alluding to an everyday four-on-the-floor pulse. Though purposefully limited by its instrumentation, the debut EP by stringmodlulator takes enough left turns to be enthralling, and overall satisfying.

Monocorpse: Cease To Exist

 Posted by Stuart Bruce (@)   Techno / Trance / Goa / Drum'n'Bass / Jungle / Tribal / Trip-Hop
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Jun 23 2016
Artist: Monocorpse
Title: Cease To Exist
Format: 12"
Label: Enfant Terrible (@)
Though every track on Monocorpse's second EP is dark and twisted in its own way, there's a lot of variation between tracks. Opening track "964 Old Topang" channels genuine anger, second track "10050 Cielo Dr" switches to paranoia, yet "12000 Santa Susana Pass Rd" sounds like what you'd get if AI robots in two millenia's time unearthed a book about how to make glam rock and tried to interpret it in a post-apocalyptic underground music studio. "3301 Waverly Dr" sounds like a corrupt MIDI file rendition of "Vienna" by Ultravox, but in the best possible way.

The track names, in case you're wondering, are all genuine US addresses associated with Charles Manson murders. While there's definitely a deep undercurrent of sinisterness running through the whole thing, there are gaps in the visage. The rubbery basslines and the slightly 8-bit robot synths veer some of the production slightly closer to cheap 1980's B-movies than Monocorpse probably intended. Mr and/or Mrs Monocorpse keep themselves tightly under wraps it seems, with their press info and social media showing only the plain covers of their 12"s without any sense of the artist underneath. There's something just a touch too obvious and middle-class about it all, as though it's music that wants to homage David Lynch rather than music that really wants to scare you.

Musumeci: Foundation EP

 Posted by Stuart Bruce (@)   Techno / Trance / Goa / Drum'n'Bass / Jungle / Tribal / Trip-Hop
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Jun 23 2016
Artist: Musumeci
Title: Foundation EP
Format: Download Only (MP3 + Lossless)
Label: Engrave Ltd (@)
Distributor: Paradise
At 7 tracks and 49 minutes, this release seems to stretch the definition of an EP somewhat.

Every track follows the formula of opening track "Terminus", quickly establishing mesmeric tech grooves over which the arpeggiating synths can meander back and forth. It's beautifully done, with a strong sense of being in the comfort zone- no tricks, no experiments, just the sense of oozing confidence in the power of simple spaced-out grooves.

"Prelude" is a stand-out track, slightly more dynamic and dramatic than the preceding pieces, with the sense of additional influences drifting in from sci-fi soundtracks, yet it still wouldn't sound out of place in a deep house mix. As the EP progresses, the tracks get shorter and more melodic, with "Melpomenia" carrying a tune that feels like it's yearning for a vocal.

Ostensibly themed around Asimov's "Foundation" series, there's certainly a sci-fi feel to some of the reverberant top-end bell and whistles, but otherwise this 'inspiration' really only stretches as far as being a convenient source of great unfamiliar track names like "Melpomenia" and "Trantor". Sci-fi fans hoping for a narrative journey through Asimov's Galactic Empire might be left a little underwhelmed, but fans of deep tech should lap this up.

Plaster: Mainframe

 Posted by Vito Camarretta (@)   Electronics / EBM / Electronica
Techno / Trance / Goa / Drum'n'Bass / Jungle / Tribal / Trip-Hop
Dark / Gothic / Wave / New Wave / Dark Wave / Industrial Gothic
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Jun 19 2016
Artist: Plaster (@)
Title: Mainframe
Format: CD
Label: Kvitnu (@)
Rated: *****
It's quite strange that this astonishing release by Plaster (dating back last November, but release dates sometimes don't really matter), the Rome-based project by Gianclaudio Hashem Moniri, has not received many feedbacks on well-known zines, even if I think it's one of the best acts from the liminal stylistic territory between power electronics, dark-ambient and IDM. The masterfully forged sounds and the grand strategies by which Plaster intersects superbly shaped noises, rhythmical engines, and abstract minimal flow place this output (the third album signed by Plaster) at the highest levels of electronic compositions reached by better-known names like Mika Vainio or Senking. The evocative banshee-like murmuring/moaning vocals by Valeria Svizzeri, the dark synth-driven flints and the rising harsh sonic talons by which Plaster grabs the attention of listener on the opening melted two parts of "Unicore" perfectly sets the mood for the listening of the whole album. I prefer tracks where this way of organizing sounds that subtly move towards overwhelming tidal of sound, such as "Blade", "Terminal" or the hyper-fragmented codified precipitation tests of "Cluster System" by far, but other configurations are likewise entrancing: the sinister crossbreed of suffocating tribal-industrial and technoid cog wheels of "Lucubra" and "Primal" or the unusual concatenation between "Redshift" and the third part of "Unicore" - a duet which could sound like an abrasive declension of dystopian cyber-industrial stuff, Bladerunner OST and psychotropic stuff by Ron Rothfield's The Infinity Project, Juno Reactor and even Banco De Gaia (the opening sequence of "Red Shift" reminded some things - I don't exactly remember which track - I heard in Toby Marks' masterpiece "Maya") and the unpredictable dark-enlighted sublime epic final "Coiled Heart" are other highlights of this excellent release., whose artwork (cut cardboard sleeve printed with pure silver paint and black abrasive inner insert) says something of the features of its sound!

Servitor: The Forest Crept Back Into The City...

 Posted by Steve Mecca   Techno / Trance / Goa / Drum'n'Bass / Jungle / Tribal / Trip-Hop
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Jun 15 2016
Artist: Servitor (@)
Title: The Forest Crept Back Into The City...
Format: CD
Label: self-released
Rated: *****
Servitor is Sean Malley, formerly of Detroit, now located in Richmond, VA, and Servitor is his tribal/industrial project. I think 'The Forest Crept Back Into The City...' is Servitor's third or fourth album but I haven't heard anything previous from this artist. One thing is certain though, after 'TFCBITC' it is unlikely that any further releases by Servitor will ever be overlooked. Obviously when you think of "tribal" there have to be drums, lots of drums, and there are drums a plenty on this album, but so much more. In fact, you won't believe that this was made by one person, as it sounds like an entire tribe, and then some. Besides a wide variety of drums and other percussion intruments/elements (djembes, dunus, ashiko, riqs, dumbeks, frame drums, surdos, tambors, snares, pow wow drum, davuls, shekere, zils, cowbells, monkey drum, toms, pandeiro, tambourines, qraqebs, baritone ukulele, and zhong ruan) there is also sampling and synth programming. Don't expect this to sound like other so called "tribal-industrial" acts that bring an ersatz measure of tribal to the table at best, flavoring their industrial sound with some tribal condiments. This is the real deal. Malley's commitment to this also takes form in his physial appearance - a combination of Native American and rivethead, but what else might you expect?

Opening track, "Bruigh An Cnaipe" begins incongruously with heavenly choir and electronic buzzing before it takes off into the primitive. A salvo of hand drum, a war whoop and then the onslaught. Ferocious and exhuberent drumming (and other percussion) punctuated by whoops, cries and yelps indicate that the natives are indeed restless, and seem to be having a damn good time too. With the cathedral choir in the background you almost get the impression of some Catholic missionaries stumbling on a wild Indian party in progress. Great intro! Things get even more intense on "Branchbaila" as the drumming gets into this manic groove, subtle industrial elements emerge, and there is a growled vocal chant that only becomes clear during the break - "Underneath the concrete rising up from the earth cracks, sewing the runes with earth seed, mother come take the town back." Followed by a roar, the manic dance returns to full frenzy. All the while that heavenly choir floats in the background. "Root room DOOm BOOm" changes gear into a happy crowd stomping groove with deeper drums, negro spiritual samples, and a vocal "Rawr rawr RO RAWR!" with some musical sample repeatedly accenting the measures. There are also vocals with lyrics but I can't make them out. More happy vocal samples (pygmies chanting ?) and the beat goes on. This track would be perfect for dancing around a bonfire with painted face and not much else. "Donusturmek" is very Middle Eastern; perhaps Turkish or Afghani, but the chanting comes from elsewhere. There are exotic double-reed woodinds and a clatter of metallic percussion, as well as some monstrous industrial synths and samples. This is like nothing you've ever heard before, I'm sure.

"Kanda Ruskar" was my first disappointment on the album. Servitor moves from hand drums to snares and the result is like high school marching band frenzy, no matter how many industrial elements get thrown into the mix. There's a lingering liturgical choir in the background which seems totally out of place here. It's different; I'll give you that much. Speaking of different, the next track, "Haz Rumpus" opens with a repeated walking blues acoustic guitar riff sample, then the much heavier drum rhythm follows along with growled speak-singing vocals of which the chorus ("Walk as we WALK!") are the clearest. It's the closest thing I've ever heard to an industrial shuffle. Pretty neat once you get used to it. Over the next few tracks ("BOOm Ra Tek," "Kuzama," "Bassor Foomp") Servitor takes us deeper into the industrial aspects of tribal with more synths, sampling and a wide variety of drums and percussion. "Bli Mig Lite" slows it down a bit with an atmospheric percussive passage that could serve as an intro on a Front Line Assembly or Synesthesia album, then changes completely with an excerpt from the Swedish traditional "Grone Lunden" song where harp and violin are employed. This happens a couple of times on the track, giving it a very eerie feeling. "Sindle Spindle Six" juxtaposes intense tribal drumming and percussion with glitched-out choir samples. The junglesque "Sinte Sangaia" employs a variety of industrial sampling woven within the drumming and there's a fragmented lyric line in there somewhere too. Malley's back to the snares on "Jaeghora" and it comes across like a whacked-out funky drumline. "Kuku Cantorum" might just be the most intense track on the album with frenzied drumming, choir samples and tribasl vocal samples other (synthetic) industrial elements amidst the renegade yips and yelps. You will be exhausted after this one. "En Arca" seems to be the most industrial track on the album but still manages to maintain its tribal feel. Finally, Servitor wraps it up with "Turtle Island," a simple Native American tune with male and female vocals and a single drum.

You're going to need a lot of stamina to get through 'The Forest Crept Back Into The City...' but it will be rewarding. It would be cool if a dance club dj managed to sneak a track from this album into a set; I'd love to be present to experience the reaction. Considering that all the drums and percussion were physically played and not merely programmed, this is quite a feat. It's a potpourri of controlled rhythmic rambunctiousness, the dichotomy of tribal and industrial, forged in the furnace of the now to draw upon the power of the roots of the primal. Potent stuff, to be sure.

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