Music Reviews



Carlo Domenico Valyum: Cronovisione Italiana

 Posted by Stuart Bruce (@)   Ambient / Electronica / Ethereal / Dub / Soundscapes / Abstract
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Feb 26 2018
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Artist: Carlo Domenico Valyum
Title: Cronovisione Italiana
Format: CD
For “Cronovisione Italiana”, Mirco Magnani and Valentina Bardazzi take old radio recordings- recorded by Carlo Domenico Valyum and surrounded, according to the press release, with a particular mystique as to their real age and origin, even to the point where time-travelling radio waves and a conspiracy theory are suggested. They lay them quite sparingly onto slow, moody arrangements of synthetic pads, soft micro-electronic rhythms, noise washes and waves.

Don’t let the title of opening track “Eurovision” mislead you, this could hardly be further away from the Song Contest most people will associate with that word. Conceptually it’s got more than a little in common with works like “IBM 1401, A User's Manual” by the recently and tragically lost Jóhann Jóhannsson, but the electronica tones are a little colder and a little darker here, and the orchestral element subtler and more synthetic. Alternating electronic bleeps and pitch-wandering arpeggios are the busy layer that provide a sense of rhythm in otherwise ambient sonic layouts.

Pieces like “Oretredici” are excellent examples of well-moderated and modest layering of the electronic noises into something melodic and beautiful, yet slow and sinister. Towards the end, “Oggi Al Parlamento” and “Bumper 77” are generally plainer, slow ambient wash material with the archive samples pushed into distant memory.

Every piece bar one is between four and five minutes long, showing a good amount of restraint and also a good understanding of what attention level these arrangements are likely to sustain- but even so, it would have been nice to hear one or two of the tracks allowed more time to evolve and rework- “Estrazioni Del Lotto” being a prime example.

Regardless of whether you buy into the more far-fetched claims about the album’s sonic origins, this is a very well-realised bit of spacious electronic composition with a definite accessibility. If you fancy a thoughtful chill-out, this is a soundtrack worth trying.

Numina: The Chroma Plateau

 Posted by Steve Mecca   Ambient / Electronica / Ethereal / Dub / Soundscapes / Abstract
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Feb 25 2018
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Artist: Numina (@)
Title: The Chroma Plateau
Format: CD
Label: Spotted Peccary Music (@)
Rated: *****
According to the Spotted Peccary one-sheet accompanying this release, Denver, Colorado based musician Jesse Sola, the creative force behind Numina, has twenty releases to his credit (and that's since 2000), and 'The Chroma Plateau' is his first on the Spotted Peccary label. I haven't heard any of them, but that's fairly typical for me. The music of Numina is what you'd call "space ambient," being rich with atmosphere and thin on melodic content which is fine by me. In fact, I'd rather not have my space ambient sullied with any melodic content, but it's hard not to have some filter through on many artists' releases in this genre, and there is a smattering of it here on 'The Chroma Plateau,' but it's abstract and sparse enough not to be much of a bother. Too much melodic content and things get "New Agey," in my opinion. (It's what I call the Hearts of Space Syndrome.) A really good thing about Numina's sonic loops and drones is that they're treated to sound huge and vast, a hallmark of most good space music. One track that does use melodic sequencing, "Intergalactic Traveller," is at least hypnotic, minimal and brief enough to keep the starship on course. There are plenty of mysterious ambiences on this album to make you feel like you may be exploring some uncharted territory, although the sounds may be fairly familiar to the well-traveled space-ambient cosmonaut. Numina employs a varied and well-integrated sound palette and even occasionally skirts dark ambient territory, as on "Living in the Clouds" with an ominous undercurrent of foreboding. Perhaps the most curious track though is the title track which reminds me a bit of Pauline Anna Strom's Trans Millenia Consort. It may lack the wild oscillations Strom is known for, but has certain other fine elements I recall on a couple of her albums. If you're an aficionado of space ambient music, you'd do well to check out this release. It's one I will surely keep on my playlist.

Sonologyst: Apocalypse

 Posted by Andrea Piran (@)   Ambient / Electronica / Ethereal / Dub / Soundscapes / Abstract
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Feb 25 2018
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Artist: Sonologyst
Title: Apocalypse
Format: Download Only (MP3 + Lossless)
Label: Eighth Tower Records (@)
Rated: *****
The follow up of last year "Beyond The Logic Of Science" is a completely different album as, instead of working with the language of historic electronic avant-garde, it's roughly rooted in the language of dark ambient. However it's rather more complex than the average release of the genre as Raffaele Pezzella tries to use different structures to the tracks instead of varying the sound upon the same framework.
This release starts with a track like "Abandoned city" that introduces the listener into an environment created with a static drone and some foley. "Sulphurous rain" seems instead developed from tone generators vaguely reminiscent of radio noises. The loop at the core of "Hypnosis" ties voice samples and noise. The evocativeness of "Stay in your homes!" is assured by the used of voices taken perhaps from a movie while "Global threat" and "System collapse" sustain his musical tension with the use of sharp tones and drones. The distortion applied to "Dying oceans" creates something between a dream and a nightmare. "Towers of sand" and "Prayers from nowhere" are long and static track mainly working on positioning the audio and the first deals with bass frequencies while the latter with higher ones.
Inspired by the theme of Apocalypse, rendered with reasonable adherence to expectation, it's not a release that could entertain the casual listener but it could be well received by fans of genre searching for something different from the canon. Nice but not for everyone.
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Artist: Samuel Rohrer (@)
Title: Range of Regularity
Format: CD
Label: arjunamusic (@)
Rated: *****
The open-minded attitude by Swiss-born (but Berlin-based) producer and improviser Samuel Rohrer can be easily guessed by the impressive diversity of festivals and their audience, where he performed (CTM Berlin, MoldeJazz in Norway, Nuits Sonores Lyon, Huddersfield Contemporary Music Festival, Vancouver International Festival, Sunwaves Festival in Romania and many more), as well as the variegated bunch of stylistic differences of the artists he works or worked with (Ricardo Villalobos, Nils Petter Molvaer, laurie Anderson, Eivind Aarset, Mark Feldman, Sidsel Endresen, just to name a few of them) and the collaborative projects (the one with Claudio Puntin and Max Loderbauer, AMBIQ, is maybe the most known). Such a grandiloquent CV could let you think that his solo work could be something snooty for an elitarian niche of listeners, but I don't think Samuel turned his nose up by this debut album, even it's something really classy. He forged six amazing movements, whose "regularity" made them easy to chew to listeners who prefer a certain immediacy in music, but this apparent simplicity got refined by intricate webs of overlaps and an impressive diversification of timbres through a wide kit of acoustic and electronic tools (including prepared drums, detuned ziter, found objects, mini synths, Moog-driven bass, cymbals and many percussions). Such a sophistication, that together with a clear stylistic refinement and a sort of functional slit by the author (looking like something in between a sound sculpturist and a live performer) in every single track, is going to delight more demanding listeners as well. The opening "Microcosmism" is a good starter, while the following "Lenina" (the first of the three longest - lasting more than ten minutes - suites) is a first assay of the skills of mirroring the apparent contrast between tradition and modernity of tools (electronic and acoustic) by the style (a sort of accelerated adaptation of traditional afrobeat!), but the first real evidence of Rohrer's rhythmical dexterity is clearer on the third track "Nimbus" (in spite of some rough presets). Samuel turns his sonic textures into a light-tight item on the contemplative 4-minutes lasting parenthesis of "Sunclue" (something good for meditation), before the aural pleasures he forged by the other two long-lasting suites (the obscure dub dim light of "War On Consciousness" - close to some stuff by Jah Wobble - and the awesome interplay between kraut and electronic dub of the final "Uncertain grace"). Check it out together with the outputs of his personal imprint arjunamusic.

Fossil Aerosol Mining Project: August 53rd

 Posted by Stuart Bruce (@)   Ambient / Electronica / Ethereal / Dub / Soundscapes / Abstract
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Feb 20 2018
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Artist: Fossil Aerosol Mining Project
Title: August 53rd
Format: LP
Label: The Helen Scarsdale Agency
Building sonic collages from sampling old cassettes and film stock and sprinkling them over arhythmic synthetic and processed atmospheres, Fossil Aerosol Mining Project have managed to put together a 7-track collection that has elements of modern digital soundscaping, elements from the halcyon 90’s era of downtempo a la The Irresistible Force, and more spoken-word-led works that bring Negativland to mind.

“The Failed Resurrection Of Easy Listening” takes queasy samples of light guitar musak and bends them into something bordering on parody, with a faint but steady rhythm that somehow manages to cause toe-tapping under the craziness. After its jingle intro, “V Broadcast” is an example of a deeper track, in which the soft reverb-washed pads are allowed to wallow more; “Retail Retrospect” explores that mood further, reversing the arrangement is it ends with snippets of lift music. “Monroeville Detritus”, with its echoing short snippets, has a slightly more horror-film twist to it, despite the sample eventually being revealed to say “attention all shoppers” which is perhaps not the scariest dialogue you’ve heard today…

The last and longest track “1991 from 2015” is a slight anomaly, with a sparser and more overtly digital environment in which the tape recordings are more heavily stretched, layered and retoned into a more accomplished, almost quasi-symphonic arrangement that wraps things up in an impressive fashion.

As experimental sound collaging goes, it’s actually quite accessible, practically pop music in relative terms. Quite mellow at times and borrowing rather cheekily from radio broadcasts, it seems to revive the spirit of works like The KLF’s “Chill Out” but with a new recipe. It’s a properly interesting bit of work that is worth detailed exploration.


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