Music Reviews

Madhavi Devi: The Truth of Being

 Posted by Steve Mecca   Ambient / Electronica / Ethereal / Dub / Soundscapes / Abstract
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Sep 24 2018
Artist: Madhavi Devi (@)
Title: The Truth of Being
Format: CD + Download
Label: Spotted Peccary Music (@)
Rated: *****
Madhavi Devi is electronic musician, harpist, and meditative sound painter Cheryl Gallagher from the Austin, Texas area. Madhavi Devi has had a few collaborative releases prior to this first solo outing on the Spotted Peccary label, but I haven't heard them. On 'The Truth of Being' Madhavi Devi employs a blend of digital, analog, modular and software synthesizers, concert grand and electric harps, viola, ambient guitar, Tibetan bowls. Howard Givens (ambient electric guitar, modular synthesizers, effects) and Stephanie Britten Phillips (viola) are special guests on this album but they never overshadow Gallagher's work. On 'The Truth of Being' Madhavi Devi's ambient is of a soothing melodic sort without ever getting too caught up in the melody. It is richly textured and world music influenced without leaning too much in one ethnic direction or another. Over the six tracks on the album that's just a few minutes under an hour (a couple of the lengthier tracks are well over 10 minutes each), Madhavi Devi takes the listener on an exotic, yet familiar journey that can also serve as tranquil meditation. Rhythm is sparse and somewhat downplayed yet still present on a few tracks. Most of the melodic input is abstract which is fine by me. (Too often good ambient can be ruined by melodic themes that come across as too romantic or cloying.) The one thing I really like about this album is its varying shades; different tones of light and dark that always seem to be resolved perfectly. While sometimes I was reminded of Constance Demby and Michael Stearns, Madhavi Devi's music has a vibe of its own not owing to any other particular sonic artist or work. Gallagher also designed and painted the artwork for the tri-fold CD slipcase, impressing that she's the total package. While 'The Truth of Being' isn't a revolutionary work in the ambient genre, it is a very solid one with a high degree of replayability.

Giulio Aldinucci: Disappearing In A Mirror

 Posted by Stuart Bruce (@)   Ambient / Electronica / Ethereal / Dub / Soundscapes / Abstract
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Sep 19 2018
Artist: Giulio Aldinucci
Title: Disappearing In A Mirror
Format: CD & Vinyl
Label: Karlrecords
Established Italian sound artist Aldinucci here offers up a seven-pack of fluid ambient landscapes with a grandiose scale, built from choral sounds, reverberant cavernous rumbles, alienated washes and textures.

“Notturno Toscano” brings with it hints of rhythm, a soft and semi-regular click and some more compact electronic noises that take a step in the direction of electronica, while “Aphasic Semiotics” toys with the edges of crisp distortion as a conventional but still effective rough-edged counterpoint to its choir noises. The slightly more staccato elements of “Mute Serenade” end the album with a bold and confident finale to the album.

The muffled sidechain-ish effect on “The Burning Alphabet” is a curiosity at first but begins to grate after a while, sounding more like a poorly dubbed bathroom recording than a deliberate sonic effect, making it the album’s only weak point.

Generally, it’s a grand if somewhat familiar immersive chill-out work, with a classical and conventional beauty, ideal for late night horizontal listening.

Cut The Light: Aphotic

 Posted by Andrea Piran (@)   Ambient / Electronica / Ethereal / Dub / Soundscapes / Abstract
Experimental / Avantgarde / Weird & Wired / Glitch / Noise / Field Recording
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Sep 16 2018
Artist: Cut The Light
Title: Aphotic
Format: CD
Label: Black Mara (@)
Rated: *****
"Aphotic" is the debut album of Cut The Light, a project from Crimea whose dark ambient is mostly based on processed field recording aiming to create a somehow uncomfortable environment. Some tracks are very long and use this element to enhance the attention on sound details as the musical framework is based on stillness.
The first track, "I", starts as a noisy drone which is the background that ties together the other samples until the second part of the track based on samples of orchestral music, or so they sounds, reveals a sort of narrative behind a overall meditative structure. The field recordings of "II" are the base from the crescendo of a sharp drone which ends when it's time to focus the attention to the evocative noises of the final part of the track. After two long track, "III" is the first example of the second side of this release: short tracks divided in two or more sections where the focus is on the evocativeness of the samples. "IV" is a short interlude and introduction to "V" where a sort of slow melody slowly emerges from the static background. "VI" is the most static and canonic track of the album. "VII" reveals how can be reversed the canonical form: a static background based on drone and a moving foreground based on samples, exploiting the field recordings to create a repetitive pattern and focusing the movement on the underlying soundscape. "VIII" starts with a quiet and almost static background and ends with a sharp crescendo. "IX" closes this release with a short crescendo of a drone.
It's unusual that a debut album reveals a rather formed personality untied to his influences, so this is one of finest release of the genre that could be heard this year. Not for everyone but it's worth a listen.

Miman: Ulme

 Posted by Vito Camarretta (@)   Ambient / Electronica / Ethereal / Dub / Soundscapes / Abstract
New Music / Downtown / Avantgarde Jazz / New Classical / World
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Sep 15 2018
Artist: Miman (@)
Title: Ulme
Format: CD
Label: Motvind
Rated: *****
The talented Norwegian musician Hans Kjorstad (starting his musical path when he played the violin at the age of 7 in Fron in Gudbrandsdalen, a small Norwegian village, that has a lively folk music scene) recently established his personal imprint Motvind - as a sister company to the Motvind Festival - by releasing the debut album by Miman, a trio he founded together with Egil Kalman (playing double bass and synthesizer) and Andreas Røysum (playing guitar and a clarinet). According to the notes (...and we have no reason to not trust them!), these three folks recorded "Ulme" with the support of Magnus Nergaard over three days in March 2017 during which they improvised in front of a fireplace (as you can guess by the title of the first song "Omkring Ilden", meaning "around the fire") in a cabin in the woods north of Oslo. Wood and fire are important elements of the set, as it seems the musicians constantly gave voice to them by means of scratches, hits, creaking noises, which don't disturb the delicate melodies on which they pop out like fairy entities or maybe like those mushrooms in the sylvan undergrowth of the nice cover artwork. Such an aural organization, combining flakes of electronics and acoustics leaning on a ground of references to Norwegian, British and Indian traditional sonorities, is particularly clear on "De Vises Club", the more extended track of the album, but it's clear on the other tracks - where they often change the way by which they assemble sounds - as well, covering a wide range going from quite abstract and almost not-musical improvisations ("Torre", "Skarvor") and bluesy moments ("VÄgen Ut") to the pastoral delicate transcendence of "Walden" - a reference to the masterpiece by Thoreau? I recommend to enjoy it while driving over lovely natural sets, as I did while driving around the pre-Apennine areas close to Bologna if you like driving without fearing twists and turns! - and the lovely reverie of the closing "Plaums Draum".
Artist: Sigillum S
Title: The Irresistible Art Of Space Colonization And Its Mutation Implications
Format: CD
Label: Transmutation LTD
Rated: *****
Sigillum S two years ago celebrated their 30th anniversary (one year later, because they started in 1985) by releasing three albums printed on CD, LP and tape. That moment was important for them not only because they raised the glasses to salute three decades of sonic terrorism and sound research, they also celebrated a new band member: Bruno Dorella. Bruno, owner of the label Bar La Muerte, is also member of the following bands: Bachi Da Pietra, Lava, OVO, Ronin and Wolfango. He started to play live with them but with the new album "The Irresistible Art Of Space Colonization and Its Mutation Implications", it's the first time that we have the chance to check how he helped Eraldo Bernocchi and Paolo Bandera to redefine their sound. As usual, the titles of the new album are recalling to me the works of people who had an impact on visual arts or culture in general: I mean people like Ballard, Burroughs, Cronenberg, etc. We have titles like "Occult Storage For Pan-Dronic Glossolalia", "Wrong Proto - Matter Gravitation", "Genetically-Engineered Insects", "When Comets Become Organic Households", "Through The Endless Streams Of Satellite Euphoria", etc. Musically Sigillum S always evolved and if on their beginning their music could have been defined as ritualistic and industrial, since early 00's they started to include into their music also elements of the sound that they had on their side projects. Eraldo played and collaborated with many people such as Mick Harris, Bill Laswell, Tony Wakeford, to name few and explored different genres from dub to guitar drone (as on his album under the Blackwood moniker). Paolo with Sshe Retina Stimulants, NG5361, Komplet his other projects and collaborations always explored the folders of noise electronic sounds. In my opinion, the album where they started to redefine their sound has been "23/20". It was featuring sound contributions from long time Sigillum S collaborators as well from artists they estimate. People like: Bill Laswell, Toshinori Kondo, Professor Shebab, SH Fernando and WordSound, Martino Nicoletti, Lorenzo Esposito Fornasari, ZU, Xabier Iriondo, Ephel Duath, various members of Crisis , Mark Solotroff, Thomas Fehlmann, Gudrun Gut, Andrea Marutti, Claudio Agostoni and many others. Anyway, let's start to talk about the new album. On this one, we have a sort of orchestral sound effect as we have several kind of sound layers, as well as several influences and I hazard to say that we have also a sort of melodic structure that wasn't really used before. All these layers are dosed in the mix, creating the effect of a whole orchestra using unconventional sounds. The kind of rhythms, ambient sounds, noises, vocals may sound familiar, but they have been used in a different way. Take "Through The Endless Streams Of Satellite Euphoria", for example: we have a dub bass, synth treated bleeps, a semi dub drum (I might be wrong but this is one of the few times that Sigillum S are using a real drum) and then a trumpet like sound. The first time I listened to this track I immediately thought about 23 Skidoo and I don't remember I ever thought about them while listening to Sigillum S. Sigillum S have been ritualistic but they never been "funk" and this has been a great surprise. We have the tracks mostly based on drones and noise and we have the ones where rhythm has an important part and it could be a normal drum, a treated one mixed with synthetic beats, it doesn't matter, because the tracks evolve and change one from the other. This is another thing that I liked a lot: the variety of atmospheres and sounds. A perfect example of what I mean could be the closing track "Celestial Heliocentric Cultures", which is the one that I felt connected to the cover made by Petulia Mattioli, because it gives me the impression of being influenced by Tibetan music but played by a mutant which filtered it with industrial soundscapes. It's like the cover: a Tibetan monk walking on a metallic landscapes made by an unknown species. The album will be out on the 14th of September on CD, LP and tape.

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