Music Reviews

Sofus Forsberg: FM Volta

 Posted by Steve Mecca   Ambient / Electronica / Ethereal / Dub / Soundscapes / Abstract
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Apr 20 2015
Artist: Sofus Forsberg (@)
Title: FM Volta
Format: 12"
Label: Mindwaves-Music (@)
Rated: *****
Berlin-based Danish electronica artist Sofus Forsberg has been kicking around since 1998, and 'FM Volta' is his third album, the previous work, 'Udefra' being released in 2005. 'FM Volta' is the first one I've heard though, so I have to base my review solely on it. 'FM Volta' opens up with a barrage of rhythmic plinks and plunks on "Take Fibrillo" that almost seem random until you discern the pattern, and I get the impression that it's all about patterns in Forsberg's musical world, or at least here on 'FM Volta'. It's almost like hyper-speed early Kraftwerk. This is the lengthiest piece on the EP at 7:07, and as it morphs over time more elements are introduced, such as a scraping noise loop, a more defined programmed drum component and bass activity, as well as other ambient synth sonics. "Dear Noft" is still quite active in the rhythm department, but with an overlay of lighter, dream-like synths. "one More Time" employs a hollowish metallic rhythm (undoubtedly ring-modulated) contrasted by ping-pong percussion and other glitchy elements. Moving on to the B-side, "Chineese Swamp" seems steeped in random sample & hold at first until you realize it's not so random. There is definitely a method to Forsberg's madness and after a few listenings, this track seems downright funky! I like the subtle elements employed here although I wouldn't necessarily describe the track as subtle. Very busy in a sort of crazy but productive way. "WMC" dispenses with anything conventionally melodic to begin with using a variety of synth-based loops that are more noise-based than harmonic. The harmonics do come in about halfway through if the form of ghostly chords, and the rhythmic component is more evident, although still somewhat abstract. Final and title track, "FM Volta" is the most accessible and melodic piece on the album. Intriguing shimmery chords are at the core of it, rhythmically backed by hats, and later, some processed drum sounds. Woven in-between are various electronics.

I have to say that Forsberg's 'FM Volta' is as good as anything I've heard by Autechre, being in the same vein, but different somehow. There is less of a tendency to take his compositions far afield, but the experimental vibe is there all the same. I appreciate the artist's focus in the cohesiveness of the tracks presented on 'FM Volta', and this is surely "thinking man's music", although it is not so sterile that it abnegates the human component and feel. It's possible that after repeated listenings you will get to the heart of what Forsberg is trying to convey on 'FM Volta', which is not just simply an exercise of what can be done with modular synthesis. That's kind of a good thing because it keeps you coming back for more. While the album is available in digital download, I'd recommend the 180 gram 12" record, which is limited to 300 copies available from Mindwaves.

Susanna Gartmayer: AOUIE - Solos for Bass Clarinet

 Posted by Vito Camarretta (@)   Ambient / Electronica / Ethereal / Dub / Soundscapes / Abstract
Experimental / Avantgarde / Weird & Wired / Glitch / Noise / Field Recording
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Apr 19 2015
Artist: Susanna Gartmayer (@)
Title: AOUIE - Solos for Bass Clarinet
Format: 10"
Label: God Records/Chmafu Nocords (@)
Rated: *****
The very first seconds of this release by bass clarinet player Susanna Gartmayer could surmise the incendiary tonal whirls by Colin Stetson and seem to follow that compositional path, but the astonishingly adventurous route that the brilliant Austrian musician explore pushes his instrument beyond the above-mentioned matching. The remarkable variagated range of transitions results from different places where it was performed and recorded (a museum, a theatre bar, a church, an electronic music club, a shop and so on), different playing positions of the performer, different playing direction, different audiences as well as different formations of mouth cavity - each track has been titled by corresponding vowels -, so that rooms together with bass clarinet and every side noise such as the breath, the tapping of the keys and the clanging of the instrument can be considered as reagents of the composition. The opening swirling of "AE" sounds like withdrawing into itself before the final eruption, the faint tonal filaments of "U" and "UE" move towards unforeseen directions, the buzz which opens the final "A" gets more and more incandescent, the austerely solemn mumble of bass clarinet of the central "E" (recorded in St.Ruprechts Church, Vienna) occasionally as well as the sly sneaking of "I" show tonal abrasions before their final dissipation, while the more vibrant movements of "O" is the icing on the cake of this multidimensional journey into bass clarinet sound.

Fabio Battistetti: Into the Wood

 Posted by Vito Camarretta (@)   Ambient / Electronica / Ethereal / Dub / Soundscapes / Abstract
Experimental / Avantgarde / Weird & Wired / Glitch / Noise / Field Recording
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Apr 18 2015
Artist: Fabio Battistetti (@)
Title: Into the Wood
Format: CD
Label: Creative Sources (@)
Rated: *****
A wood-driven record is maybe something that could bring an echologist or an enthusiastic fan of Thoreau's "Walden" to secrete resin for pleasure, but this environ/mentalist output by Italian sound artist Fabio Battistetti aka Eniac, coming out from a series of live performances (Lugano, Mondovi', Turin, Embrun and Chamois) that he made together with Andrea "ics" Ferraris and Andrea "Lotzio" Carlotto inside a wooden cube designed by Catherine Chanoux, which got amplified by microphones and then digitally adapted, is primarily an amazing listening experience. The above-described cube is the framework where Battistetti manipulates a series of plywood boards, branches and tree bark after fixing them to the wall of his wooden nest by means of elastics and shelves. The electric strands of "Buttonwood", the opening track, sounds like a tuning stage as if the artist is transplanting a device in the eardrums of the listener to grab sounds from his wooden objects, while the first tree that borrows sounds to Battistetti is "Castanea Sativa" (scientific denomination of the sweet chestnut). After the popping "Duramen", which sounds like the rendering of the intense activity of a squadron of anry woodboring beetles, the author sounds like extracting the most "spiritual" side of his sonic outputs on the following tracks: "Larix Decidua" sounds like an ode to European larch and its notorious resistence to very low temperatures due to the the falling of all leaves, a process which seems to have been rendered by the sounds of the following "Leaves Fall", a kind of slo-mo dub, that perfectly bonds with the hollow logs that could come to listener's mind while listening the spacey "On a Branch". The chippings and the echoed chimes of "Taxodloceae" and "Waldeinsamkeit" (a German word which can be translated as the feeling of being alone in the woods!) leaves listened on a high note.

Sigtryggur Berg Sigmarsson: So Long

 Posted by Vito Camarretta (@)   Ambient / Electronica / Ethereal / Dub / Soundscapes / Abstract
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Apr 15 2015
Artist: Sigtryggur Berg Sigmarsson
Title: So Long
Format: CD
Label: Helen Scarsdale Agency (@)
Rated: *****
Even if this release required many years to see its birth (it was recorded and mixed between 2008 and 2013 according to the somehow cryptic linear notes), I could surmise that its author could have been inspired by an unexpected delay of a journey, as I could infer from the titles ("Eight Hour Delay", "The Trip" and "Late Night Arrival") of the very long-lasting droning suites of "So Long". I can testify that many marriages, divorces, mental diseases, redundancies and more or less favourable things behind schedule have been caused by that Icelandic volcano which blocked air traffic in 2010, so that I wouldn't be too surprised if a sound artist like the brilliant Icelandic producer Sigtryggur Berg Sigmarsson - former member of the experimental band Stilluppsteypa - conceived an album after such an experience. I might get surprised, at most, by the final result as well as by the fact that these impressive dronescapes saw the light so late as it seems that the initial release on Intransitive Recordings got cancelled after the label checked out. Fortunately, The Helen Scarsdale Agency promptly dredged it up after Sigmarsson released a scaled-down version on the artwork/cassette "If You Have Any Questions, Let Me Ask". In spite of the pile of different emotional sonic purges and sudden spurious emissions, the moments of the opening "Eight Hour Delay" got perfectly bound together in a way that turned the final amalgam into a really hallucinatory syrup, while the central suite "The Trip", which features processed guitars by Argentinian experimental musician Anla Courtis and organs by Sigmarsson's partner-in-art Helgi Thorsson and BJ Nilsen, goes significantly less smoothly before the fourteen nocturnal minutes of the final "Late Night Arrival". Everything sounds like filtered by temporary numbness, dizziness and migraines and my description could be much more long-winded in order to pay tribute to its length, but I can assure that lovers of crypto-minimalist aesthetics are going to appreciate it.

Build Buildings: A Generation of Books

 Posted by Andrea Piran (@)   Ambient / Electronica / Ethereal / Dub / Soundscapes / Abstract
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Apr 12 2015
Artist: Build Buildings (@)
Title: A Generation of Books
Format: CD
Label: Audiobulb (@)
Rated: *****
Presented as an artist that "has been featured on radio, television and motion picture soundtracks" with a release inspired by "the clicks and clacks of pencils, chopsticks, scotch tape dispensers and candy wrappers" turned "into crisp, compelling beats", I was used to the idea of concept driven album closer to sound art. Instead it's a from of "glitch pop" trying to stay in equilibrium between experimental and pop music.
The "compelling beats" of "May You Fall on Soft Ground" are balanced by a quiet melodic line. "Earth of the Fish" is a quiet ambient track while "Demba" is rekindled by the glitches. "Tea Tree" is based on catchy loops. "Constructed Light" features juxtaposed filtered guitar riffs while "Filament" is hypnotic with his use of reverberated samples. "Heavy Water" is a gentle tune based on resonances while "Artic Open" is the most complex track with the unstable beat in a dialogic plan in opposition to the quiet development of the melodic line. "Bookless" is based on a quiet loop with the juxtaposition of sparse sample while "Argosy" starts to develop an almost complex rhythmic pattern upon the soundscape and "Healthy Bones" applies this procedure to the samples. "Pasteboard" closes this release with the synthesis of the characteristic of the previous track.
This album is so well constructed as it's void of any personal musical trait so it sounds as a sort of dj set of the genre. Fans of this label will love this release but it could be disappointing for the others.

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