Music Reviews

Arovane + Porya Hatami: C.H.R.O.N.O.S.

 Posted by Stuart Bruce (@)   Ambient / Electronica / Ethereal / Dub / Soundscapes / Abstract
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Apr 24 2019
Artist: Arovane + Porya Hatami
Title: C.H.R.O.N.O.S.
Format: 12" vinyl + Download
Label: Karlrecords
Arovane and Porya Hatami’s third collaborative album is another rich ambient affair that blends together a selection of luxury ingredients- soft pads, electronic textures and granular noises, and processed found sounds. The recipe’s not surprising but it’s handled with thoughtfulness and care, spreading just the right level of detail and mystery into the mix to keep the listener immersed and just on the edge of engaged.

The staccato piano sounds in opener “Ellipsoid” are a distinctive melodic element that gives proceedings a more classical feel, but this isn’t really sustained, and as it progresses things become generally a little less note-driven and more washy. The long synth-string pads of “Cycloid” are enchanting, if a little bit ‘new age-y’. “Helicoid” brings in bell tones but instead of a new age tone, there’s just a shade of discordance and suspense that takes things in the right direction- though careful falling asleep with its dripping water sounds playing, as such noises can have adverse effects on some sleepers...

As the rainfall-ish sounds fade away at the close of final track “Cissoid” you’d have to be really quite hard-hearted not to feel relaxed and completive about the whole affair. Rich, luxuriant late-night ambience.

Rune Clausen: Tones jul

 Posted by Andrea Piran (@)   Ambient / Electronica / Ethereal / Dub / Soundscapes / Abstract
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Apr 22 2019
Artist: Rune Clausen
Title: Tones jul
Format: CD
Label: Forwind Press (@)
Rated: *****
“Tones jul” is presented in the liner notes as a work by Rune Clausen that is a musical trip to the Norwegian forests. In the author's view, this release should sound 'dirty and primitive like early 90s black metal’ which is an hint that the forest, a central topic of the genre, is a place which is as beautiful as menacing. Moreover, it's the place that reminds of a past, more or less idealized, where human lived with the nature not using it.
While "Kronisk ferie" is a quiet opener with a simple melody after a field recordings of a park, "Tones drøm" introduces the listener towards the framework of this release: a fusion of synth based ambient and field recordings which has a certain evocative character. "Sølje" evolves with a sequence of drones with careful timbres while "Myrgvarv" maintains a remarkable tension. "Det sorte sovekammer" uses a female voice which narrates perhaps a story about the forest and "Tones mor" has a spectrum which reminds of old '30s records. "Barnsnød" is a long and highly structured track which uses samples to create a menacing atmosphere underlined by the grave notes of the synth. "Hræzla" is a quiet and almost melancholic track and "500 år senere" closes this release with the return to field recordings of the first track.
The musical development reveals the clear plan behind the plot which is exposed to the listener and the use of field recordings is not a mere expedient of mise-en-scène, but an element of the discourse. It's really worth a listen.

Felix Blume: Fog Horns

 Posted by Stuart Bruce (@)   Ambient / Electronica / Ethereal / Dub / Soundscapes / Abstract
Experimental / Avantgarde / Weird & Wired / Glitch / Noise / Field Recording
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Apr 18 2019
Artist: Felix Blume
Title: Fog Horns
Format: 12" vinyl + Download
Label: Discrepant
In the spectrum of ‘art music’- experimental, avantgarde, postmodern, whatever other labels will loosely fit- aspirational and high faluting language is the norm, with listeners encouraged to recognise the deeper meanings and connections drawn out through the sounds and their either connection or disconnection with their source and their production process. So it comes as a breath of fresh air to discover that Felix Blume’s “Fog Horns” is precisely that- it’s the sound of some fog horns, for 33 minutes. And it’s excellent.

Side A of the LP is an 18-minute track recorded during a ‘fog horn concert’ in Piraeus port area Athens, a seemingly live recording in which various large ships blow their single note horns in normally long blasts. Out of the layering and call-and-response of simple tuned warning systems appears a form of drone symphony, the horns become bassoons and tubas performing a slow and accidentally complex improvised musical pattern. The tuning is largely complementary, but intriguing in its contrast. You quickly forget you’re listening to prosaic industrial sound and interpret it as an immersive piece of neo-classical.

Side B ‘remixes’ this material, and is where Blume’s work really starts. The tones recorded in the first piece are stretched, echoed and effected into much darker territory. The naturalism is ripped away and the drones suddenly becoming more sinister, the environment much more alien and intimidating. It’s in three five-minute parts but essentially works as a fifteen-minute drone piece with a strong organic component, building to the final part where tones are bent into string section style arrangements worthy of, and strangely reminiscent of, 2001 A Space Odyssey’s journey beyond the infinite. Although it’s from the same source material as side A, it’s an entirely different work deserving a different arbitrary genre label.

Having first heard Blume’s work on his powerful “Death In Haiti” release a couple of years ago, this “Fog Horns” release is less emotive, and arguably less imaginative; however it’s still a captivating listen.
Artist: Angelina Yershova
Title: CosmoTengri
Format: CD + Download
Label: Twin Paradox Records
Established Kazakh composer Yershova has a strong list of collaborations under belt and has worked with symphony orchestras, However this release is entirely her own work, with Yershova credited as writer, recording artist, producer, mixer and masterer of her own destiny here, in an album that sounds close and introspective, but which avoids sounding small. The result is an incredibly versatile showcase for a multi-talented artist, with a lot of breadth of moods and styles.

Opener “Korgau” (for which there is a YouTube video) is an expansive work of scratchy and discordant string with an old-school experimental feel, supplemented by thick damp-sounding atmospherics and very sparse use of vocal chords, and it truly shines and is understandably the album’s lead.

It’s not averse to a bit of rhythm either. “Tumbleweed” introduces a lovely sparsely-laid rubbery bass note, and some familiar-sounding curt electronic glitch-click rhythms that don’t feel particularly original but which integrate well. The heartbeat and whispered vocalisations of “Kamlanie” that unfold into more urgent-sounding electronic rhythms definitely feel ‘done before’ but are nevertheless well handled. After that, “Jelsiz Jel” takes a decidedly modern trip-hop twist, before the title track hybridises organic instrumentation that teeters onto ‘world music’ with mellow drone atmospherics. This mood flows smoothly into “Khan Tengri” which brings shades of dark electronica and just a shade of what is possibly throat-singing into the mix for something darker and more suspenseful, before final track “Ecstatic Dance” channels quite a strong gaming-style sense of underscored drama.

As a curriculum vitae for film score, compositional or production work it is exemplary. And almost as a bonus, it works pretty well as a listening album too, bringing forth thoughts of soundtracks to picture and long-form story-telling. An album with real character.

Massergy: Fire Opal

 Posted by Steve Mecca   Ambient / Electronica / Ethereal / Dub / Soundscapes / Abstract
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Apr 14 2019
Artist: Massergy (@)
Title: Fire Opal
Format: CD + Download
Label: Spotted Peccary Music (@)
Rated: *****
Massergy is the project name of Eric Jensen, based in Austin Texas, and 'Fire Opal' is his debut album on Spotted Peccary. This may be a case of the recording process being as interesting as the music, for Massergy produced this album entirely without the use of computers, sequencers or plug-ins, using hardware synths only and acoustic guitar (and maybe some electric as well), and not only that- recorded and mixed the entire album outdoors- at night no less! (Hmmm...floodlights or tiki torches I wonder...) How's that for melding electronic-ambient with nature! Jensen says he shares his recording environment with coyotes, owls, deer, and other creatures (of the night I guess), and not only that, it was recorded under whatever weather conditions prevailed. (I'm guessing downpours and Texas twisters were out for practical reasons.) The music over the 7 tracks totaling 70 minutes is predominantly new age ambient, but that's not a bad thing as Jensen manages to avoid the clichés the genre is often subject too. In spite of the flashiness of the title, the majority of the music on the album is placid and low key. It's languid, lazy and contemplative, and despite being played/recorded at night, it doesn't conjure strictly nocturnal images. It could well be a sunny or rainy afternoon, a cloudy dawn, or a majestic sunset. The opening piece "Vinesong" is the closest thing resembling a song with some structure by the acoustic guitar. "The Shepherdess' has seemingly sequenced/arpeggiated notes that you're going to have a hard time believing weren't programmed into a sequencer, but there is a more natural feel to them than if they were. That takes a good amount of skill and discipline. There is an improvisational feel, yet purposeful drive to Massergy's compositions and a light touch prevails throughout. Without straying too far afield Massergy provides just enough sonic diversity to keep your attention but not overwhelm you. The 17:17 title track is a bit darker and denser than the others and weaves an aura of mystery. The one thing most listeners should agree on though is that 'Fire Opal' is a very relaxing, tranquil and meditative album, perhaps just the thing needed after a stressful day in the real world. For a debut album, it's a wonder.

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