Music Reviews

aMute: Some Rest

 Posted by Stuart Bruce (@)   Ambient / Electronica / Ethereal / Dub / Soundscapes / Abstract
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May 12 2018
Artist: aMute
Title: Some Rest
Format: 12" vinyl + Download
Label: Humpty Dumpty Records
Jérôme Deuson’s seventh album as “Amute” or “aMute” is an organic collection of indulgent, seemingly high-budget post-rock, mostly sombre but infused with a slight sense of optimism in parts.

The title track is the opener, and at 17 minutes, almost half the whole album. Beginning with rumbling piano, strained guitar and sombre, abrasive cello work to generate long post-rock drones, which after four minutes turns into a rather flatter and more predictable bit of post-rock when the drums are introduced, before expanding out into broader atmospherics as vocal noises and spoken word loops arrive after the drums have gone.

The remaining 5 tracks are shorter pieces (comprising 23 minutes between them) but no less expansive, sometimes reminding me of M83 or Ulrich Schnauss works but rendered in a post-rock style. “Dead Cold”, despite its title, ends up being one of the more optimistic-sounding pieces, with its softer acoustic guitar patterns and an end section with the brief cameo of an actual song-like male vocal. “The Obsidian” is a highlight, with its powerful opening and cinematic flavour, while with final track “Maria” we go out with a song, sort of, with the return of a (very low in the mix) and a folksy acoustic guitar that by the end borders on busking music- but not in a particularly strong way.

It’s a tightly-produced and self-contained exercise in thick moody low frequency atmospherics rendered with a broad variety of instrumentation, but ultimately it’s in a crowded market and there’s a danger this release will just wash over you rather than snagging at your heartstrings.

Heidseck: Margins

 Posted by Vito Camarretta (@)   Ambient / Electronica / Ethereal / Dub / Soundscapes / Abstract
Experimental / Avantgarde / Weird & Wired / Glitch / Noise / Field Recording
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May 12 2018
Artist: Heidseck (@)
Title: Margins
Format: CD
Label: manyfeetunder (@)
Rated: *****
Huge sediments of vinyl, CDs and paper buried this release for many months, so that some words about that are maybe too late, even if it should be available yet as a digital on the label/artist's Bandcamp... and if you missed like I did, I recommend to grab a copy. The use of the word 'sediments' and its connection to geology is not casual of course. I heard the sound by Fabrizio Matrone in the guise of Matter on the occasion of the release of "Biorhexistasy" on Kvitnu, whose title was a reference to the theory by Henri Erhart, a pedologist who proposed a general theory about the relation between climate changes and soil transformation on the basis of the alternation of biostasy and rhexistasy, a set of climatic conditions causing soil formation and soil erosion. The coexistence of the tangibility of stones, rocks, mud and weather events as well as their seemingly chaotic interaction in the seemingly ordered box of an abstract theory mirrors the feature of the sounds explored by Fabrizio on "Margins" as Heidseck, as well. The seven tracks are mainly based on glacial drones, that could vaguely resemble those field recordings that some adventurous forgers of the genre grabbed in extremely cold regions, whose gradual but continuous progressions over a gravel bed of muffled thundering of very low frequencies and white noise. These streams of abstract sounds sometimes extinguish like a candle in a room without oxygen (on tracks like "Medial" or "Blockfield"), sometimes evolve into something else like dim brighter whispers ("Lateral") or crumbling implosions ("End"), but any transformation keeps on rendering an idea of a subtly deceptive impermanence under an obscure mantle which doesn't succeed in covering the jagged edges of Heidseck's sound.

Basic Biology: Twilight / Sensational

 Posted by Vito Camarretta (@)   Techno / Trance / Goa / Drum'n'Bass / Jungle / Tribal / Trip-Hop
Ambient / Electronica / Ethereal / Dub / Soundscapes / Abstract
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May 10 2018
Artist: Basic Biology
Title: Twilight / Sensational
Format: Download Only (MP3 + Lossless)
Label: Free Love Digi (@)
Rated: *****
Artists orbiting around the digital label Free Love Digi by the wit and inventive producer Quentin Hiatus keep on pushing interesting outputs by shuffling the cards of its deck of styles. Basic Biology is one of the outputs of this musical/genetic melange, coming out by the crossbreed of two different drum'n'bass producers, who met through their common friend Ghast. On one side, we find Thomas Brinson aka Thomas B, whose atmospheric style, driven by masterfully-built pattern, often goes darker, even if the sonorities that he explores on Basic Biology are closer to the more placid ones he exposed on Sugar and Spice EP (maybe the first or one of the first release on FLD), while on the mother side there's the brilliant multi-instrumentalist Matthew Cassidy, whose sonorities are generally brighter than the one of his counterpart. Just two halftime-dnb tracks on this output: "Twilight" (featuring the sweetly sour voice by Megan McKey) could perfectly fit a pensive chilling or romance in the eventide on the beach, while "Sensational" (vocalised by Matthew Cassidy itself...even if some younger lads could think Alvin or some other chipmunk is on the mic!) is a nice see-saw between chilling Balearic downtempo and sudden acidulous stings.

Lucrecia Dalt: Anticlines

 Posted by Stuart Bruce (@)   Ambient / Electronica / Ethereal / Dub / Soundscapes / Abstract
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May 03 2018
Artist: Lucrecia Dalt
Title: Anticlines
Format: CD & Vinyl
Label: RVNG Intl.
Berlin-based Lucrecia Dalt is a former geotechnical engineer, using two modular synths and her own spoken words to create a decidedly offbeat collection of short beat poetry pieces set over rhythmic experimental synth and electronic soft-industrial soundscapes.

Lyrically it’s a distinctive hybrid of nihilism and science, talking about consciousness, fossils, indifference and meteorites in equal measure. I’m all for more science in music but there are a couple of points where the “alienated lecture” approach seems a little over-smart and inaccessible. Thanks to the mixing and some heavy, energetic cut-up and filter application it’s not always easy to catch.

Musically, at its best it sounds like good Radiophonic Workshop experimental workouts- bleeps and analogue bloops rolling around to form unique and mesmering patterns- “Glass Brain” and the rubber-based “Liminalidad” are strong examples. At other points it is a little more ploddy and muddy-sounding. “Indifferent Universe” is an example of the latter.

“Analogue Mountains” is a highlight, pulsing like a sort of retro-proto-techno with the lyric “we might as well me living in mountains transferred from Mars” one of the nearest points this album gets to a memorable hook.

Mostly there’s consistency across the 14 short poetic pieces that result in a short self-contained album with a focussed attitude and character that seems a clear expression of a particular state of mind. Very interesting in some parts, but maybe underbaked in others, it’s a release which may divide opinion.

VV.AA.: Pavilion / Paviljonas

 Posted by Stuart Bruce (@)   Ambient / Electronica / Ethereal / Dub / Soundscapes / Abstract
Experimental / Avantgarde / Weird & Wired / Glitch / Noise / Field Recording
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May 02 2018
Artist: VV.AA.
Title: Pavilion / Paviljonas
Format: CD + Download
Label: MIC Lithuania
A compilation of selected excerpts from sound art pieces and field recordings made for audio-visual art installations, “Pavilion / Paviljonas” is a interesting sampler package with a good range of variety across 8 tracks that range in length from 18 seconds to over 10 minutes.

Every track and the release itself has both an English title and a Lithuanian title, I’m using the English titles here solely for brevity and since this is an English review, no disrespect to the Lithuanian titles is intended.

Viktorija Damerell’s opener “I Force Myself” loops some poetic English-language vocal mantras seek your attention and empathy but many of the other pieces are more incidental, more ambient and decidedly more sparse- Ramnas Motiekaitis’s “I Can’t Get Through to You” a lightweight and unpredictable bubbly percussive disorientation, and Kristina Inirait’s “Mother” an exercise in close-set field recording of everyday actions, full of small metal door opening and conversation and reminiscent of some Art Of Noise incidental elements. While described in the press release as ‘an exercise in active listening’, this isn’t necessarily required, and you can, if you prefer, engage with these works purely as background and environmental pieces.

After Emilija Škarnulyt’s “Ablation Zone”, an unsettling cold environment of distant wolf howls, it feels very appropriate to meet the campfire sounds, warm conversation and (again distant) ethnic flutesong of Arturas Bumšteinas’ “Year of the Catdog”. It’s followed by Gail Gricit’s “some of all of that” that seems to hybridise gentle lapping wave noises and breathing into a very soporific and relaxing result.

The inclusion of Julijonas Urbonas’s “Sounding Door”- literally just an 18 second sound effect of a very creaky door- seems somewhat tongue-in-cheek, yet not actually out of context, as it works as a prelude for final piece “numbers” by Darius iuta which, with its short violin notes, wodden percussive noises (rowing boats? More campfires?) and high pitched electric whining, somes as close to conventional music as this compilation dares to wander- which, in truth, is not very close at all.

The Music Information Centre Lithuania (now seemingly just calling themselves MIC Lithuania) have put out some fascinating and exemplary pieces of modern experimental music, and while this collection is a sampler built from extracts and therefore maybe not as coherent as some, this is nevertheless a very strong work in its own right.

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