Music Reviews

Chronotope Project: Ovum

 Posted by Steve Mecca   Ambient / Electronica / Ethereal / Dub / Soundscapes / Abstract
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Sep 10 2017
Artist: Chronotope Project
Title: Ovum
Format: CD
Label: Spotted Peccary Music (@)
Rated: *****
Chronotope Project is the music of Oregonian composer, cellist and electronic music producer Jeffrey Ericson Allen, and 'Ovum' is his seventh album under this name, and third on the Spotted Peccary label. And of course, the first time I'm hearing anything by Chronotope Project. "Chronotope" refers to the essential unity of time and space, a concept with numerous expressions in literature, physics and the arts. According to the artist, "Ovum is a concept album that poetically reflects on the nature of beginnings, seeds, and primordial states of being. As an archetypal symbol in art, literature and mythology, the Ovum represents pure potentiality and possibility, the indwelling and self-organizing élan vital that gives rise to life in its manifold forms." Yes, yes, all well and good you say, but how does it actually sound?

'Ovum' has the ambience of a lazy Sunday afternoon occasionally infused with mild percussion. There is a fair amount of flute in some of these gentle synthetic atmospheres giving it a more natural sound. Sequencing, when utilized, is subtle, and enhances rather than dominates. Over the seven tracks on this serene album the music is delicate without falling into stereotypical "New Age". I understand that Jeffrey employs the Haken Continuum Fingerboard which can effect a smooth glissando technique you just can't get from ordinary keyboard synthesizers, so elongated sustained guitar/pedal steel sounds are easy to emulate, as well as other instruments requiring lengthy sustain and slidey notes. He also incorporates subtle Javanese (gamelan) elements giving the music a placid world music flavor at times.

'Ovum' is an album I've played many times in my book & record store, usually in the morning when I'm in the mood for a laid back and peaceful atmosphere. 'Ovum' can be perfect for contemplation, doing yoga or tai chi, reading, or just chilling. Melodic without putting melodies in your head you'd rather not have stick around, Chronotope Project has come up with the antidote to over-stimulation in a world that is just full of it. Relaxing, enjoyable and a wonderful addition to the mellower side of ambient in your collection.

Ager Sonus: Book of the Black Earth

 Posted by Andrea Piran (@)   Ambient / Electronica / Ethereal / Dub / Soundscapes / Abstract
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Sep 10 2017
Artist: Ager Sonus
Title: Book of the Black Earth
Format: CD
Label: Cryo Chamber (@)
Rated: *****
Ager Sonus is a German project which is moving his first steps and now has his first album on Cryo Chamber, openly inspired by the imaginary of ancient Egypt. From a musical perspective his music is something at the crossroad between the canonical form of dark ambient which is the unifying feature of all label releases and a more personal form based on small melodies which appear in particular moments of this release.
Above the usual long tones typical of the genre, "Through the Desert" is full of various small detail which drawn the sounds into a concrète environment instead of a void without background noises. The construction of an atmosphere in "The Dead City" is achieved by the small duration of the drones so there's a sequence of them instead of a work on nuances as if there's a narrative behind the work. The use of voices in "Discoveries" is a functional element to the description of am Egyptian place. "Inner Sanctum" is a canonical piece and "Osiris's Courtroom" continues in this path until the final piano melody in the last seconds of the track. "Apophis" shows some good sound effects and "Awakening" closes this release with a remarkable work of writing as the track starts as an atmospheric ambient track, develops with a proper melody for a guitar synth that is reprised, after an ambient break, by the piano to end this release.
Alternating canonical pieces with more courageous ones, even if this could be considered as an average release, Ager Sonus develops a release which could be well received by fans of the genre and has some cue that something interesting could come with next releases. Only for fans of the genre.

Kassel Jaeger: Aster

 Posted by Stuart Bruce (@)   Ambient / Electronica / Ethereal / Dub / Soundscapes / Abstract
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Sep 05 2017
Artist: Kassel Jaeger
Title: Aster
Format: 2 x 12" vinyl
Label: Editions Mego
“Aster” is an hour-long collection of dark, sonorous ambient alien soundscapes replete with flitting electronic waspy noises, strangely warm and glacially symphonic bass tones, throbs and washes.

While some tracks such as the title track are rich with noisy layers, much of the time, such as on second track “Tenebrae” or “Ner”, the drones and more frantic elements fade away for sustained periods, leaving just odd-sounding ambiences with a liquidy, organic feeling. Pieces like “Rose Poussière” and closer “L'étoile du matin” are mellower, more chilled-out affairs, with faintly glitched sine wave hums that morph into something akin to church organs. The scientifically inaccurately-named “Set the planet on fire, you'll get a star” is reminiscent of some of the musical settings that have been built around sonic interpretations of NASA’s deep space telescope data, to personify the emptiness of space. “Uminari”, by contrast, has a harsher, sawtooth-waved tone to its lead tones that’s positively uncomfortable.

It’s a diverse journey of an album with an above-average level of dynamics and twists, yet a firm rooting in texture rather than rhythm. With a slightly soporific aspect, this is mostly spaced-out chill-out with a lot of depth and just a dash of razor’s edge.

Martin Küchen: Lieber Heiland, laß uns sterben

 Posted by Stuart Bruce (@)   Ambient / Electronica / Ethereal / Dub / Soundscapes / Abstract
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Sep 04 2017
Artist: Martin Küchen
Title: Lieber Heiland, laß uns sterben
Format: CD & Vinyl
Label: Sofamusic
The fact this album is inspired by a visit to a cathedral crypt, in which distant orchestral rehearsals and cityscape sounds could be heard, might lead you to expect a hollow, ethereal, reverberant soundscape- but what it offers up is closer and more challenging than that. It certainly has a degree of that, but mixed in with some more artificially layered drones and some elements that have been seconded from the most experimental edges of jazz.

After the relatively run-of-the-mill drones and crisp rustling noises of the title track, second track “Music To Silence Music” is a piece of extremely out-there jazz, with flutes, plucked bass and varied percussion all fed through a variety of crunchy lo-fi processes into something vaguely evocative of a jungle. This set-up is continued somewhat into the eleven-minute “Purcell in the Eternal Deir Yassin” which puts a saxophone at the forefront, practically solo save for a wavy and unnerving bed of bottle-like drones and whispers and what sounds like the sound of a distant operatic rehearsal.

“Ruf zu mir, Bezprizorni…” combines a relatively innocuous bit of piano playing with some very intimately recorded sounds of breathing and (I think) blowing up balloons, and/or deliberately blowing through pipes. Again the lo-fi edges are a touch unpleasant and are seemingly there to deliberately counterpoint the purity of the grand piano in a way that borders on sarcastic.

The final and longest track, with the longest name (in full: “Atmen Choir (I det stora nedrivna rummet med bortvaênda kvinnoansikten, skylda av veck; bortsparkat, ihopfoêst segel, krossat roêtt tyg stelnar i vinterkylan”) is a more staccato affair, with a relatively barren and silent bed on which is placed rhythmic and gradually shifting spontaneous blowing noises, like an ensemble of musicians playing leftover large plastic plumbing tubes in an echo chamber.

At 35 minutes this is a relatively brief collection of sonic experiments that manage to be both fractious and silly in almost equal measure. It has grandiose aspirations and while it perhaps lacks the power to back them up, it’s imbued with a strong character that’s worthy of attention.

Phase Conductor: Mostly Crew

 Posted by Ibrahim Khider (@)   Ambient / Electronica / Ethereal / Dub / Soundscapes / Abstract
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Sep 02 2017
Artist: Phase Conductor (@)
Title: Mostly Crew
Format: Download Only (MP3 + Lossless)
Label: self-released
The illbient genre was described as where ambient goes to school and gets shot, whereas Phase Conductor’s Mostly Crew is hip hop riddled with bullet holes, laying in the gutter while experiencing flashbacks of beats and rhymes before curtains. Maybe hip hop smoked too many dutches before getting rained on because a lot of these tracks are pitch shifted like listening to vocalists through a haze of Tylenol four’s. Mostly Crew is a mish mash of hip hop instrumentals and vocal fragments that are less about blending than veering into one another with the abruptness of a radio tuner changing stations. Think Madlib and J-Dilla, but rather than sourcing funk and soul, Phase Conductor sources the hip hop. Story goes that Phase Conductor producer Mike “Beef Terminal” Matheson bought a second-hand four track cassette recorder and found a Motley Crue tape still inside. Somewhat serendipitously, Matheson decided to record over it and some of those abrupt flashes of glam rock styles are actually sounds of the Crue. All these elements in tandem seem like this must be a train wreck of an album, but somehow, it works. This is because Matheson is a decades practicing beatsman who cultivated a casual mastery where imperfections and accidents are deftly integrated with the planned moments and both equally welcome. The emotions here shift from introspective instrumental hip hop that recalls DJ Cam to more kinetic old-school rhymers spittin’ serious flow. At 23 minutes, Mostly Crue is woefully short, but has all the surprising charm of digging out a sun-faded cassette tape lodged in a car dashboard window from ‘before-when’, then popped in the player for some warbly beat-junkie Zen.

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