Music Reviews

Lustmord: Dark Matter

 Posted by Stuart Bruce (@)   Ambient / Electronica / Ethereal / Dub / Soundscapes / Abstract
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Sep 09 2016
Artist: Lustmord
Title: Dark Matter
Format: CD + Download
Label: Touch
Distributor: Touch
Drawing patterns and building slow audio loops from a decade's worth of astronomical data gives you ambience that's as cold as deep space. Yet "Dark Matter" is also imbued with a feeling of an organic heartbeat, beating in geological time. If you're paranoid about being watched by aliens, this won't calm you.

Second track "Astronomicon" draws out this rhythm, if you can call something that's around six beats per minute a rhythm, into something akin to waves crashing on a shore. Later on this morphs into alien whalesong. It's fantastically soporific and despite the sinister undertones and the more industrial and mechanical notes in "Black Static", it can still lull you to sleep, and the inevitable sci-fi dreams that would follow.

Lustmord has an impressive CV of Hollywood sound design stretching back over 20 years. From there comes a clear understanding and mastery of the power of perfect sub-bass, which all of this release is steeped in. Only with the volume high do you really appreciate the level of detail and quality that underpins these three twenty-something-minute tracks. A confident and very masterful seventy minute magnificent ambience.

Claire M Singer: Solas

 Posted by Vito Camarretta (@)   Ambient / Electronica / Ethereal / Dub / Soundscapes / Abstract
Experimental / Avantgarde / Weird & Wired / Glitch / Noise / Field Recording
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Sep 07 2016
Artist: Claire M Singer (@)
Title: Solas
Format: 2 x CD (double CD)
Label: Touch (@)
Rated: *****
Two facts - one exquisitely discographic and the other merely curricular - could inspire immediate associations while trying to describe how Scottish composer and audio-visual artist Claire M Singer is going to fill your eardrums. The appearance on the excellent Touch label catalogue could inspire a bridge with Phil Niblock's minimalism and her skills on church organ as well as the fact she works as Music Director of Union Chapel - the organ she played in three of the eight tracks on this release is the recently restored one built by Henry Willis in 1877 for the Chapel, described as a rare instrument "with a fully working original hydraulic blowing system, which can be used as an alternative to the electric blowers" on Union Chapel website - could inspire a likewise immediate matching to ecclesiastical music, which could surely have been a source of inspiration for the general halo of tracks like "Wrangham", one of the most entrancing organ-driven suite of this output, collecting tracks composed in a period of almost 15 years. There's one relevant - this time, directly biographical - fact missing in the list, as most of her minimal, devotional and luminous ('Solas' is a Gaelic word for 'light') tracks evoke the magical landscapes of her land and such a connection will supposedly be clearer soon, as Touch already announced the inclusion of her film A'Fàs Soilleir in the series Touchlight, where many scenes seem to have a strict relation to Scottish landscapes. In the meanwhile, try to fly over it and the soothing sounds by Claire over the slightly trembling choruses and the sumptuously mantling diluted tones of organ of the 25-minutes lasting "The Molendinar" - maybe the highest moment of the whole album, coming as a co-commissioned work by Union Chapel London and Glasgow-based art gallery Civic Room to musicalize the route of the Molendinar, a hidden burn upon which St Mungo founded the city of Glasgow in the sixth century -, the somehow pastoral warmth of the title-track "Solas" and the lovely "Eilean" or the blissfully entrancing electronics (originally recorded over 8 channels) of the bonus track "Aisir".

Serph: Plus Ultra

 Posted by Vito Camarretta (@)   Synth Pop / Electro Pop / Synth-Electronica
Techno / Trance / Goa / Drum'n'Bass / Jungle / Tribal / Trip-Hop
Ambient / Electronica / Ethereal / Dub / Soundscapes / Abstract
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Sep 04 2016
Artist: Serph (@)
Title: Plus Ultra
Format: CD
Label: Noble (@)
Rated: *****
Waiting for the already announced commissioned output for the planetarium program "Planet of Dolphins", Tokyo-based artist Serph sprung out by his first "best of", a collection of more or less modified variations of previously released track and two brand new ones. Some remakes just features a massive addiction of overpitched and frenzy bounced stepping on rhythmical patterns or a reshuffle of mostly rearranged elements belonging to original versions, but the cheerful style, by which Serph got prominently notorious, combining piano phrasing, synth winds, electronic jazz phrasing, a brightly merry dada approach, chiptunes and wisely engineered textures, that reprise the praiseworthy work of many Japanese sound artists, who got acclaimed as music innovators for an almost scientific approach to pattern and sound processing (I could mention amazing people like Cornelius, Nobukazu Takemura, Takagi Masakatsu, Sketch Show - the project by Haruomi Hosono and Yukihiro Takahashi - and so on), keeps on being recognizable and as funny as his previous outputs. If you know previous releases by this inventive composer, you would maybe ask yourself if such a 'best of', whose best moments are Toytronic Version of "Vitt", Pilgrim Version of "Soul For Toys", Cinematic Version of "Pen On Stapler" and the graceful new track "Airplane" - the other new track "Memories" sounds like getting closer to that branch of vocal dnb-oriented UK sonorities, which could be avoided - was really necessary, as you could perceive not so many new ideas, but his music keeps on titillating eardrums by means of easily enjoyable and brilliantly cheeky overlapping of textures and grooves.

Bell Monks + Gregory Taylor: Brocades + Palimpsets

 Posted by Vito Camarretta (@)   Ambient / Electronica / Ethereal / Dub / Soundscapes / Abstract
New Music / Downtown / Avantgarde Jazz / New Classical / World
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Sep 04 2016
Artist: Bell Monks + Gregory Taylor (@)
Title: Brocades + Palimpsets
Format: CD
Label: clang (@)
Rated: *****
Sometimes a few elements are enough to make music that can speak to listener's soul. Bell Monks, the bicephalous project by Jeff Herriott and Eric Sheffield, mostly based on the reprise and the morphing around seemingly useless and unused musical sketches by Jeff, whose music has been aptly described as "colorful....darkly atmospheric" by New York Times, "incredibly softly, beautiful, and delicate" by Computer Music Journal and as a combination of "the minimalism of Brian Eno's ambient work with the gloomy songwriting of Low" by The Onion's AV Club, seems to be a clear evidence about such an assertion. The sonic strategy by which Bell Monks filled many albums and EPs over a decade ranging from ambient, post-rock, and pure computer music and grabbed the attention of many listeners. The description by the media as mentioned earlier voices could be applied to this release, whose primary input was based on 14 short and extremely peaceful tunes for guitar and Rhodes they composed in spring 2012 for an art event in Milwaukee. Some lines of contrabass and saxophone were furtherly added respectively by Ben Willis and Matt Sintchak, but even if this first make-up was good enough for an official release, they decided to forward these tunes to Gregory Taylor, who transformed instrumental parts using a series of computational techniques. This release is the result of the final cut by Lars Graugaard, the man behind clang's curtains, who decided to select the tracks which mostly reflected the original tracks by Bell Monks over more than 100 minutes of sonic material. The quality of selected items is extremely high. Sometimes you could have the impression that melodic lines of different tracks are very similar or almost identical - you could notice some resemblances between the lines of the lovely "Whirling Halves" and "Beacon E23" for instance - and many moments could sound like melancholic lullabies, but listeners will get instantaneously immersed by the slow catchy and wisely processed guitar chords, the sparse melodies whose sonic grasps got mirrored by the eloquent cover artwork that has been chosen for this selection. The compositional process is undoubtedly similar to the way by which Brian Eno and some similar artists in the dawn of ambient music followed, but you could find some similarities to other contemporary stuff (primarily Tor Lundvall - check tracks like "Electric Light" or the entrancing "Ether Limning" - or some artists in the roster of 12k singing interesting crossovers between field recordings and ambient - particularly in the last part of the album -) dealing with isolationist and meditative electronic music. Recommended for swimming in private mental or emotional pool.

Kolhoosi 13: Monuments of Power

 Posted by Andrea Piran (@)   Ambient / Electronica / Ethereal / Dub / Soundscapes / Abstract
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Sep 04 2016
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Artist: Kolhoosi 13
Title: Monuments of Power
Format: CD
Label: Cryo Chamber (@)
Rated: *****
Kolhoosi 13 is a finnish duo whose musical output is a form of dark ambient heavily based on field recording to tie the sound to remnants of everyday life. This new release is presented in the liner notes as inspired by in idea of irresponsible power whose actions, disregarding man and habitat, are without consequences. While undoubtedly catchy, these notes haven't any real relationship with the music which is a solid dark ambient release that could be presented with any of the clichés of the genre receiving anyway the deserved attention.
The subtle sonic details of "From Comradery to Sustenance" introduce the listener into a sort of audio part of a movie; the proper musical part is a deep drone acting as a canvas for the foley sounds which seems to enact a sort military mission. "Uprising of the Spirit" is, instead, a proper dark ambient track based on the juxtaposition to various drones generating a vague sense of solemnity. "A White Sea" alternates ambient moments to field recordings, in a vague sense, so it escape boredom in stillness. "Glow From the Depths" slowly evolves alternating evocative moments and static ones. "Rainout" rework the structure of the first track but above a real musical structure. "The Monument of Power" closes this release in an almost canonical way i.e., with evocative drones slowly fading in silence.
A release whose impressive sense for sonic detail and a reasonable variety hide a somehow derivative writing. Probably when they will focus their musical structure into something really personal it could even been a masterpiece. Recommended for fans of the genre.

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