Music Reviews

Keosz: Be Left to Oneself

 Posted by Andrea Piran (@)   Ambient / Electronica / Ethereal / Dub / Soundscapes / Abstract
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Jun 26 2016
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Artist: Keosz (@)
Title: Be Left to Oneself
Format: CD
Label: Cryo Chamber (@)
Rated: *****
Sometimes a label as Cryo Chamber, whose output is rooted in a strongly codified genre, tries to escape the limits of this approach signing a project with a slightly different approach. Keosz is a project from Slovakia which is not so concerned with darkness and sonic details as other artists of this label and is, instead, closer to the canonical approach of Ambient music so the "analogue touch" of the liner notes sounds like a reference to the roots of this genre.
The soundscape full of details of "Be Left to Oneself" opens this release without the elements shown in "Occurred" which is the core of this release: instead of relying in sonic crafts, Erik Osvald decides to develop a sort of melody so it sound closer to so called Modern Classical than Dark Ambient, as it inserts some violin lines and it doesn't rely too much on drones. "Forfeited" is quiet return to the canonical form while "Forlorn" tries almost a full melody that couldn't be catched as the listener's attention in on the drone rather than in the elements in the background. "Traitor" shows how the violin voice of the synth is treated in an almost orchestral way and "Insecure" is a dreamy ambient track. While "Clearance" is almost an slow orchestral tune, "Low Down" is based on slowly developing melody using tones rather than drones. Above the drone at the base of "Before the End" there's a clear recording of rain giving a vague sense of sadness to the track.
This release is almost a surprise as it marks a sort of crossover of some elements of Dark Ambient and more pop elements so the result is an enjoyable release that tries a melodically approach to the genre which could attract fans of other musical styles. A really nice release.

Pinkcourtesyphone + Gwyneth Wentink: Elision

 Posted by Andrea Piran (@)   Ambient / Electronica / Ethereal / Dub / Soundscapes / Abstract
Experimental / Avantgarde / Weird & Wired / Glitch / Noise / Field Recording
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Jun 20 2016
Artist: Pinkcourtesyphone + Gwyneth Wentink
Title: Elision
Format: CD
Label: Farmacia901 (@)
Rated: *****
Elision is the result of a collaboration between Richard Chartier, in his Pinkcourtesyphone alias, and Gwyneth Wentink, a classically trained harpist. The sound of a triple harp, a 1600's variant of this instrument with three rows of string instead of the usual single row so it has a richer set of timbres and harmonics.
This track sound with a background noise interrupted by the melody of the harp enhanced by the effects applied by Chartier. In the first part of the track, while the sound artist develops his soundscape using drones and tones which are the base of his well known style, the harp prefers to develop arpeggios creating an hypnotic effect mirroring, in part, the resonances of the electronics. In the second part the Chartier's sonic backdrop is the main element which relegates the harp in the background except for a small moment as a solitary reprise of the first part that is an interlude for the final part where the drone accompanies the listener towards the end of the release.
As Pinkcourtesyphone is a project less austere than the releases that built an entire genre, it's a statement on how an artist can evolve without forswear his aesthetics by the dialogue with the characteristics of his collaborators. Another remarkable release.

Sol Mortuus: Extinction

 Posted by Steve Mecca   Ambient / Electronica / Ethereal / Dub / Soundscapes / Abstract
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Jun 19 2016
Artist: Sol Mortuus (@)
Title: Extinction
Format: CD
Label: Evil Dead Productions/Zhelezobeton (@)
Rated: *****
Sol Mortuus is the project of the Yekaterinburg-based musician named Kein, who was in the well-known underground Russian atmospheric black metal band Thy Repentance, and later got carried away by experimental ambient sound. Sol Mortuus' first release was a split with Zinc Room co-titled 'House on the Edge of the Cemetery/The Green Wreath' in 2014. 'Extinction' is his initial solo release. The electro-acoustic music of Sol Mortuus employs cello, mandolin, percussion, block flute, kaluka, rainstick, vargan, voice, synth and samples. About the album, the label says "The album sounds whole, it seems the tracks bleed one from another but at the same time each of them carries its own story built on the interpretations of the ancient Ural legends and tales of the northern peoples." And so there is a good degree of primitive native folk influence here, but I'm getting dark ambient ritual in this electro-acoustic blend. Beginning with "Mother of Windless Land," an atmosphere is set where you can picture yourself on the Eurasian steppes, with ululating flute and the boinging of jaw harp (vargan) over dark ambient background atmospherics. On the next track, "Stars That Have Grown Should Be Covered With Blood," mournful minor mandolin chords are stroked like a zither accompanied by slow hand drum percussion and some abstract flute playing along with deep drone. The impression one gets is a really dark Dead Can Dance instrumental. The title of the next track describes the atmosphere it sets to a tee - "The Great Wasteland Where Drop of Water Is More Longing Than Bear Meat In Famine Days". The thick and heavy drone and deep breathy air is punctuated sporadically by flute, drums and percussion. I'm getting parched just listening to it! Cello leads off on "Three Skies Impossible to See," and with a heavy drone on the bottom, and other sonic elements contributing to this hypnotic, repeating ancient melody, I'm reminded of the Third Ear Band, but this sounds much more primitive. "Arkaim" is a very unsettleing piece, with its steady chopping percussion, and incessant chittering, something akin to Cicadas. The ambiance is broken by such things as the rattling of chains, echoed bowl bells, an instrument that sounds like a wild digeridoo, ulalating flute, and other strange sonic components. Quite unnerving. "The One Who Has Never Seen the Dawn" seems to be the track where all of the previous ritualistic musical incantations have finally produced the manifestation of some demonic presence. There is no doubt of the shamanistic tone of this piece; it penetrates deep into the primordial psyche and brings forth the beast in all its ugly and unholy splendor. Although employing many of the same instrumental elements as the previous tracks, "The Winged Spirit Lifts the Spear" is much more ethereal, far less tethered to the earth and physicality. Perhaps a transcendence beyond the mortal coil is the aim here.

The cinematic quality of the music of Sol Mortuss allows the listener to envision their own story within the paramaters of the electro-acoustic ambiences presented on 'Extinction.' Some may find it disturbing while others will welcome it as an exotic addition to their dark ambient collection. The atmosphere certainly is a unique one, and when the mood is right, and the stars are aligned, a most intoxicating musical brew.

Celer & Machinefabriek: Compendium: Collected Singles and Remixes

 Posted by liv3evil   Ambient / Electronica / Ethereal / Dub / Soundscapes / Abstract
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Jun 14 2016
Artist: Celer & Machinefabriek
Title: Compendium: Collected Singles and Remixes
Format: CD
Label: Irrational Arts (@)
Distributor: Bandcamp
Rated: *****
"Compedium: Collected Singles and Remixes" compiles the six tracks recorded by Celer and Machinefabriek for their trilogy of 7" singles which were self-released throughout 2012. It also includes one new track and a series of remixes by Stephan Mathieu, Sylvain Chauveau, and Nicolas Bernier. This album is almost tailor-made to be experienced upon first rise in the AM, or when a 50 minute reboot beckons.

Celer and Machinefabriek's collaborations are highly ambient; there is barely a pulse anywhere in their collected works. Most of the tracks feature prolonged, alluring swells that seem to prescribe evenness and harmony with just a delicate touch of tension from time-to-time. All of the trilogy tracks blend well together in both sequence and timbre. Some compositions -- notably 'Penarie' with its ominous, sweeping, low-end distortion -- billow within the first 90 seconds, percolate in their discord, and finally arrive at their well-timed beauty.

Conversely, the long additional track 'In/Out' deep-dives into ambient bliss straightaway, then slowly transcends into an alluring, splendidly-phased distortion. It accomplishes a great deal in just under 3 minutes, and sounds complete. As for the remixes, I did not notice significant deviance from the source material, though two of them (Chauveau's remix of 'Sou' and Bernier's remix of 'Mt. Mitake') have an edginess that suggests the separation process has begun.

Though it is a collection of works, "Compendium" is well-integrated, focused, and worthy of front-to-back consideration.

Christian Fennesz & Jim O'Rourke: It's Hard For Me To Say I’m Sorry

 Posted by Vito Camarretta (@)   Ambient / Electronica / Ethereal / Dub / Soundscapes / Abstract
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Jun 12 2016
Artist: Christian Fennesz & Jim O'Rourke
Title: It's Hard For Me To Say I’m Sorry
Format: CD
Label: editions Mego
Rated: *****
Two gentlemen of electronic and experimental music like Christian Fennesz and Jim O'Rourke don't need any introduction. If you never heard about them, you should definitively revise your knowledge of contemporary music. Pairing them in a release is a pure act of devotion to high-quality music, and they fully meet expectations in a record where they interbred their own sonic arts. One of the most interesting aspects of this release is the fact that both cover artwork and the titles unveil some features of their output. Gently pitched guitar glide over great harmonics, electronic droplets sound like watering the mute hisses of the machines, balanced sounds occasionally mirror lukewarm beams of light that got deformed when meeting uneven surfaces, seemingly different intersections seem to find peace into blossoming ethereal cells. They manage to sound experimental without being too intrusive, and their deviations from some standard could look like the action on the artwork, where the tenderness of that lovely pet is so overwhelming that you can stand for its nibbles. The perfect symbiosis by Fennesz and O'Rourke in this release results into an involving emotional listening experience, that is going to talk to listener's soul: the second half "Wouldn't Wanna Be Swept Away" is more "nocturnal" and lulling than the first one "I Just Want You To Stay", but both of them are wonderful alternations of becalmed moments and huge sonic waves that succeed in flooding the whole sonic sphere. This simply beautiful release got already published by Commmons, the imprint founded by Ryuichi Sakamoto and Max Matsuura (the Japanese edition includes the bonus track "Encores" as well), but it should be available on Rehberg's Editions Mego since 24th June!

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