Music Reviews

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.

Murcof: Lost in Time

 Posted by Andrea Piran (@)   Ambient / Electronica / Ethereal / Dub / Soundscapes / Abstract
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Oct 28 2018
Artist: Murcof
Title: Lost in Time
Format: CD
Label: Glacial Movements (@)
Rated: *****
One of the most known names in electronic music, at list from his "Remembranza" release, returns with the soundtrack of the movie by Patrick Bernatchez of the same name (properly this is the CD edition of the vinyl release in 2014 by Casino Luxembourg). The movie is described in the liner notes as based on two parallel narratives intertwine and, so, the Murcof's music revolves around two distinct elements: traditional, and quiet, instruments and electronic, and loud, ones.
The first track, "Intro", shows an idea of ambient music far more complex than many of his colleagues: while it starts as a canonical ambient track based on a drone, it evolves by accumulation until even a melodic line could be heard in the development of the sound layers. When it seems that the release could continue along this framework, "Chapitre I" is based on church's chant (it's the Goldberg Variations sung by Les Petits Chanteurs du Mont-Royal, but Bach music is religious) which continues in "Chapitre II" until the reverb applied to this chant announces the the return of a drone introducing the return of masses of drone, some of which are even noisy. Then, "Chapitre III" begins a series of tracks, based on dynamics, which are at the threshold of audibility and "Chapitre IV" is constructed as a series of sonic events isolated by seconds of silence. Underlining the narrative framework of this release, "Chapitre V" and "Chapitre VI" feature a short return of the chant of "Chapitre I" as one of the layers emerging from the resulting drone. "Chapitre VII" is a really quiet, and barely audible, drone acting as an interlude to the second part of the release. "Chapitre VIII" starts as a loud track based on sharp tones and ends with a quiet track. "Chapitre IX" is characterized by a melancholic line of piano. "Chapitre X" is a droning crescendo which continues in "Chapitre XI". "Epilogue" closes this release with an apparently static drone decorated with the slight return of the piano of "Chapitre IX". A track not included in the original soundtrack, "Chapitre N", closes this release with an evolving synth drone.
Impressively multifaceted, it's a release which confirms the status of its author as one most interesting ambient composer around. Chapeau! Highly recommended.

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