Music Reviews

Marja Ahti: Vegetal Negatives

 Posted by Stuart Bruce (@)   Ambient / Electronica / Ethereal / Dub / Soundscapes / Abstract
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Mar 25 2019
Artist: Marja Ahti
Title: Vegetal Negatives
Format: 12" vinyl + Download
Label: Hallow Ground
“Vegetal Negatives” is inspired by a text from René Daumal called “On pataphotograms”, which is described as ‘quasi-metaphysical essay that toys with breaking the conceived separateness of natural forms through poetic imagination’. And this 36-minute collection of processed environmental found sounds, resonant individual percussive noises and more abstract analogue synthesizer sounds, exemplifies the principle of breaking conceived barriers, to put it all into a melting pot and come out the other side with something that sounds pastoral, organic, yet also unfamiliar.

Warm hums dominate at times, with “Coastal Inversion” imbued with an inexplicable feel-good factor that its more spikey tones can’t break. “Rooftop Gardens” feels more ‘ordinary’, portraying elements of a city-scape- public transport noises and general hubbub- and capitalising on our ability to identify music in the sounds of everyday life. “Symbiogensis” shifts gear, bringing more interior and internal sounds that elicit the most sci-fi moments, blended with muddy rustling sounds that invoke thoughts of scientific gardening. Final piece “Chora” continues into further introspection, providing smaller, more plaintive noises.

It’s a rich and compact bit of sonic experimentation that’s imbued with character. It reminded me, positively, of John J Campbell works, particularly “40:00”, but with a somewhat more open stew recipe. A strangely feel-good and well-textured bit of sonic art.

Hvmble: Textures 2/4

 Posted by Stuart Bruce (@)   Techno / Trance / Goa / Drum'n'Bass / Jungle / Tribal / Trip-Hop
Ambient / Electronica / Ethereal / Dub / Soundscapes / Abstract
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Mar 21 2019
Artist: Hvmble
Title: Textures 2/4
Format: Download Only (MP3 + Lossless)
Label: self-released
The second part of Hvmble’s “Textures” series evolves slightly from the first pack, with two six-minute-ish instrumental synth-house grooves that are just a little bit harder and more resolute than on the first, but it’s not a major shift.

“Deadvlei” starts off with an intent-laden kick over which slightly teethy synth patterns gradually fade in then wander about, curving around fairly undramatically, while “Danxia” is a mellower affair with a hint of the Balearic about it, watery sound effects and silky synths tapping away over a light clapping groove, following a very similar pattern to its predecessor.

Gentle walking-and-working music or afternoon mid-set fodder, it’s a simple pairing that’s endearing and relatively simple and honest.

Li Yilei: 0:00

 Posted by Stuart Bruce (@)   Ambient / Electronica / Ethereal / Dub / Soundscapes / Abstract
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Mar 20 2019
Artist: Li Yilei
Title: 0:00
Format: Tape
Label: Ferric:Flux
“0:00” is a hybrid of analogue and digital, highlighted in the fact it’s a cassette EP release on the Ferric:Flux label (also available as a download) yet it consists of tracks labelled by timecode. Planetary radio signals are the atmospheric bed of textures over which has been set a variety of freeform synthesizer and guitar noodling that builds up a sci-fi-ish sense of emptiness and space which isn’t wholly cold.

The title track (or at least, the track that starts at zero) builds nicely, setting a stall out as though it’s going to delve into a long post-rock electronica epic with its guitar elements, then stops rather abruptly. Similarly the second track “5.28” pulls the same trick with a synthetic bell sound which gradually gets louder as though something big is approaching, yet it then fades far quicker than it appears and tails off, like an unfinished idea.

“13.31” broods, like a suspense underscore in a sci-fi game, themes which segue into more paired-back final piece “23:16” which is perhaps the only piece that doesn’t tease by building towards something that doesn’t appear.

For me, the format here is the problem. A fifteen minute EP on cassette is a restrictive space for ideas that feel like they needed more time to bake and then breathe. It’s more of a promise of things to come- which could potentially be very good- than a satisfying work in its own right.

William Basinski: On Time Out of Time

 Posted by Andrea Piran (@)   Ambient / Electronica / Ethereal / Dub / Soundscapes / Abstract
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Mar 17 2019
Artist: William Basinski (@)
Title: On Time Out of Time
Format: CD
Label: Temporary Residence (@)
Rated: *****
This new release from William Basinski is based upon the recordings from the interferometers of LIGO (Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory) which captured the merging of two black holes. The two tracks were commissioned for two installations and stands among the less known part of this composer which is not based on loops but on abstract and almost liquid, in Baumanian sense, sounds.
“On Time Out of Time" is a long exploration of long tones which starts with an section based on a mid frequency drone a low frequency beat introducing the main section of the track where high frequency drones are sequenced and juxtaposed to create a quiet and moving atmosphere; it's almost evident how the main concern of this opus is the construction of a sonic synthesis as the black holes merging is seen as a metaphor for a relationship. The final section of the track is a shift from this peaceful atmosphere and is a melody for synth ending with rhythmical noises as a vinyl ending in a closed loop.
"4(E+D)4(ER+EPR)" which uses fragments from the previous track is instead based on a long loop and has a number of other elements in the background creating a multifaceted sound environment which requires a certain attention from the listener beyond a certain attitude towards contemplation.
Based, as usual from this artist, on his peculiar idea of time, as the source material is from 1.3 billion years ago, he's able to use the source material in a remarkable blend with his other canonical musical elements and writes another work of charming beauty. Among the albums of the year.

Suplington: After Life

 Posted by Stuart Bruce (@)   Ambient / Electronica / Ethereal / Dub / Soundscapes / Abstract
New Music / Downtown / Avantgarde Jazz / New Classical / World
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Mar 15 2019
Artist: Suplington
Title: After Life
Format: 12" vinyl + Download
Label: Youngbloods
Forming part of Youngbloods’ Spring Programme for 2019, Nakula Fogg as Suplington has offered up a fairly safe-sounding blend of ambient and avant-garde classical built from freeform elements, mostly plaintive violin and gentle percussion, generally served up on a bed of warm synthetic hum to create a sonic salad that’s mostly quite familiar-sounding and unchallenging, organic and fairly tasty.

“Limbo State” is a highlight, a very measured and balanced offering that explores empty space to strong effect and where the richness of the orchestral or pseudo-orchestral sounds can really breathe. This contrasts well with the glooper, more underwater textures in following track “Sore Eyes”.

At times though it does slip into cliché, with the wind chimes and seagull sounds of “Seagulls In Your Mind” drifting, particularly at first, perhaps too close to New Age meditation CD’s you might find in the kind of shops in Whitby that burn incense throughout the day.

It’s a calming, thoughtful and introspective work, but somehow it seems to stick on a single emotional note for too long, leaving me feel a little disengaged and cold about it.

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