Music Reviews

Monty Adkins: Empire

 Posted by Stuart Bruce (@)   Ambient / Electronica / Ethereal / Dub / Soundscapes / Abstract
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Nov 16 2018
Artist: Monty Adkins
Title: Empire
Format: Download Only (MP3 + Lossless)
Label: Line
Andy Warhol’s 1985 “Empire” is an eight hour forerunner of slow TV, filming the Empire State Building from dusk to the following dawn, and any attempt to create a new soundtrack to the film must also enter that slow mindspace and wallow in it. And that’s what Adkins does here- though the recorded product available to buy is only 50 minutes long, so we get selected highlights (if ‘highlights’ is an appropriate word) from across the reels, rather than the full-length experience.

Taking the idea of the building as a bell tower, and leading that into the idea of a nine-bell ringing sequence in which the pattern constantly changes and never repeats, has led Adkins into creating a nine-chord harmonic sequence built from piano- and Rhodes-style melodic notes and pads blended with ambient sounds recorded in other large spaces, with the latter elements fading away as it progresses as though to reflect the stillness descending (theoretically) on the city.

The result is beautifully mellow, calm and soporific and has gone straight onto my sleep playlist. It’s relaxing, and wallpaper-like if you want it to be, but with just enough detail and variation to keep it interesting. There’s a lush warm quality to it that can only be liked as an experience, far more perhaps than New York City itself.

kj: ex

 Posted by Andrea Piran (@)   Ambient / Electronica / Ethereal / Dub / Soundscapes / Abstract
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Nov 11 2018
Artist: kj (@)
Title: ex
Format: CD
Label: Dronarivm (@)
Rated: *****
This album by kj, known also a KJ Rothweiler, a writer and direction, is presented as a journey through the dark side of nostalgia. This musically means that it's along the path of certain minimalism formally based on tape loops or lingering synth lines which can be mesmerizing or boring due to the writing ability of the composer.
This release is opened by "maze", a small introduction based on the repetition and variation of a simple melodic cell, while "caro" exposes the framework of this release which is based in melodic figures which seems to be repeated in loop but are varied when the listener is too cradled. "Ex" juxtaposes a drone which slowly evolves in the background and a melody which is concealed in the sound creases. "Sile" is a drone mainly evolving in dynamics and "thursday" is a slow melody exposed with evocative thick sound masses while "room" uses the same procedure with a more rarefied sound. A sound watercolor for guitar, "you", is obtained by the careful use of delay and "foxes" closes this release with a gentle soundscape brightened by the cello of Aaron Martin which gives an element of metallic angst.
Perhaps it could be seen as nothing more than a derivative release based on known form of minimalism but actually it's a release which plays with what it seems. It's apparently repetitive, apparently static but it's moving as it asks a quite attentive listener to catch the small variation of the music. Recommended for fans of the genre.

Adam Basanta: Intricate Connections Formed Without Touch

 Posted by Stuart Bruce (@)   Ambient / Electronica / Ethereal / Dub / Soundscapes / Abstract
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Nov 07 2018
Artist: Adam Basanta
Title: Intricate Connections Formed Without Touch
Format: Download Only (MP3 + Lossless)
Label: Kasuga Records
“Intricate Connections Formed Without Touch” is a six-track work supposedly built entirely from a single acoustic guitar improvisation, but which has been “cut, sliced, re-arranged and folded-over” with a diverse range of digital processing to bend it firmly into the territory of digital electronica. Where some of the audible reportage-like spoken-word elements, other more vocal noises and some rich pad-like atmospherics come from isn’t disclosed, so people appreciating the purity of the concept may feel a little cheated.

There’s a bit of everything in the processing- reverb, reverse, glitch, bend, stretch, the works, and at times it feels more like a playful experiment with digital audio tools than something with compositional intent. However there are other points where it’s a clear success- “Flora & Fauna” being an example, its gentle icy plucked tones seeding an encapsulating and rather sci-fi environment, and the more frantic stuttering “Joy”, which initially has echoes of BT’s granular synthesis work but ripped out of its EDM context before unfolding into something rather cinematic, is quite compelling as well. Final ‘proper’ track “Extension Out” turns simplicity into a virtue by centring around an intriguing deep pulse and drone that you could happily get lost in.

It’s rounded off (or filled out, perhaps) by a remix of “Flora & Fauna” by Kai Basanta- presumably a relation of Adam’s, though this is also undisclosed. It’s a straightforward ten-minute bit of downtempo thoughtful electronica with some soft organic padded rhythms. It compliments the original track but which doesn’t necessarily meld as a coherent piece of the main album.

It’s a smooth listen, pleasant and full of interesting details but not particularly ground-breaking.

It’s available as an SD card or as a download, but at the time of writing ChainDLK’s format options don’t include SD card as something I can select, hence it being displayed as download-only.

Streifenjunko: Like Driving

 Posted by Stuart Bruce (@)   Ambient / Electronica / Ethereal / Dub / Soundscapes / Abstract
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Nov 02 2018
Artist: Streifenjunko
Title: Like Driving
Format: CD & Vinyl
Label: Sofa
After two previous works which derived their entire sound solely from saxophone and trumpet, Espen Reinertsen and Eivind Lønning as Streifenjunko have added electronic elements to the mix here, blending the three elements to create long, warm melodic drone soundscapes with a leisurely and hybrid-organic-electronic tone.

First piece “Everything We Touch Is Electric” brings to mind musical visualisations as solid horizontal bars, with individual notes and elements that each have a distinct beginning and end and where the compositional heart is in the ebb and overlap, while second piece “Astronaut Peace” is a more continuous and evolving combination of tones with a slightly harsher, toothier sound. The title track behaves somewhere between the two, painting with both soft envelopes and abrupt changes, and returning to the gentle electronic rain effects that added extra detail earlier. As it progresses the changes get more frequent and more abrupt, at times almost cheeky before working into the album’s closest encounter with tension and stress, two-note slightly Glass-like arpeggios adding a note of urgency. The last three or four minutes comes as something of a surprise, shifting away from the recognisable instrumentation into a variety of electric clicks and percussive pops that feels as though the journey is over and we’ve arrived at somewhere totally unrecognisable.

Deriving its title and its motivation from the experience of driving- sometimes stoccato and signal-driven, sometimes long, regular and peaceful- this is an extremely likeable experimental work with a generally soft and calm tone, but a few surprises.

Aquavoice: Silence

 Posted by Andrea Piran (@)   Ambient / Electronica / Ethereal / Dub / Soundscapes / Abstract
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Nov 01 2018
Artist: Aquavoice (@)
Title: Silence
Format: CD
Label: Zoharum (@)
Distributor: Alchembria
Rated: *****
It's not a trivial claim by the label that this release is "ambient in its purest form" as "Silence" sounds developed upon the canonical form of the genre with no modification at all. The result is that any sound experiment is balanced by a writing that catch the listener by showing a known and familiar path.
While the main synth theme is minimal, "Minor" feature noise, or, more properly, extraneous, elements which creates a contrast. "Rainman" continues in this framework with a more defined dialectic between the minimal background and the foreground with field recordings of rain and samples which ebb and flow. "Coldland" has the synth in a melodic position with the glitches in the background. "Last Cruise" blends effectively the field recordings and the synth layers. "Chronos II" borders danceable territories with a rhythmic cage and ambient tape manipulation. "Evening Bells" has a more reduced palette with his oscillator-based sounds. "A Lonely Cello" starts as a continuation of the previous track but evolves in a cello lines upon an IDM beat. The italian voices of "Information" are blurred by the synth and "Largo" juxtaposes layers of synth revealing a careful melodic vision. "Sound Hunter" continues on this path with a more fragmented grammar and "Voices" blends voices and reversed lines of synth. "Zen Park" is practically a synth pop song with glitch influences and "I'm Leaving I'm Gone" closes this release with a sort of loop of synth and robotic voices and closes as a machine stops.
The fact that there isn't any ground breaking idea is the key to an enjoyable release that has even catchy moments and could not be listed in any end of the year playlist but will last in the stereo to more time than most of them. It's really worth a listen.

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