Music Reviews

Core Shift: Far Beyond The Stars

 Posted by Pierre Parenteau   Ambient / Electronica / Ethereal / Dub / Soundscapes / Abstract
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Jul 23 2015
Artist: Core Shift
Title: Far Beyond The Stars
Format: 3" MiniCD
Rated: *****
Core Shift is a project started by Mike Kramer, based in the Netherlands. He's the initiator of the (h)ear foundation, an organization that support electronic music artists by putting up events such as lectures, workshops and exhibitions. Mike Kramer's founded Core Shift in early 2013 as an output for his electronic and ambient music production. His latest offering under this pseudonym is reminiscent of the ambient techno of the nineties. Think Basic Channel, Aphex Twin (Selected Ambient Works), Fuse, The Orb and B12. There is only one track on this mini album, called 'Far Beyond The Stars'. The track features all the ingredients of ambient techno music: lush pads, pulsating 808 rhythms, flickering synthetic riffs and the occasional sampled dialogues. Mike Kramer describe Core Shift's music as 'Dance for the mind' and rightly so, as his music is both beat based and has enough layers of sound textures to keep your interested all the way through. The track ends with a more twisted, noisier and darker tone. I have the feeling that it could have lasted way longer and it's almost a shame that the track ended so abruptly. It sounded like a live improvisation that had to cut short, which is really sad. However, it's still a good piece and it's well done electronic music. 'Far Beyond The Stars' is certainly not the most original music out there, but it's a real pleasure to listen to. This mini album is limited to 50 copies and is self released.

A Sacred Cloud & Anarchist Mountains: Ep Cosmique

 Posted by Pierre Parenteau   Ambient / Electronica / Ethereal / Dub / Soundscapes / Abstract
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Jul 23 2015
Artist: A Sacred Cloud & Anarchist Mountains
Title: Ep Cosmique
Format: CD
Label: Jeunesse Cosmique (@)
Rated: *****
This great split ep by A Sacred Cloud and Anarchist Mountains has been released by the Jeunesse Cosmique & Howl! Arts Collective labels. Both record labels are based in Montreal, Canada. Apparently, the A Sacred Cloud contribution is a live recording of a concert that took place at the Sala Rossa in January 2014. It was a concert organized to support a Pakistan family who couldn't get the refugee status by the Canadian government. The music is very cosmic and abstract (in a good way) and the variety of sound sources used for this recording makes their part of the album an enjoyable ride. Personally, I preferred their second track called ' Run, Run Shaw' because of the heavy use of analog synthesizers in it (it sounds like the Korg Monotron Delay) and also because of the beautiful synthetic arpeggiator that comes in about half way through the piece. I also have a soft spot for improvised flute playing and the two tracks by A Sacred Cloud feature plenty if it! Not all improvised music is good, but in this case the talent is there and the listening experience is good.

Anarchist Mountains side was recorded in an apartment in Montreal (dubbed L'Apartement Cosmique). Their pieces are much more ethereal and ambient, we're almost in new age territory here, and the production is clearer than A Sacred Cloud. The aptly named piece 'Glacier' is indeed reminiscent of the great North while 'Estuary' noisier take on ambient music is different in tones but similar in vibe. The minimal silk screened artwork is beautiful and it comes with a nice cardboard insert. If you're a fan of experimental ambient music, in the same vein as Celer, you'll be pleased by this ep. Note that the album is available for a pay-what-you-want price on Bandcamp.

Digital: Catch A Fire

 Posted by Vito Camarretta (@)   Techno / Trance / Goa / Drum'n'Bass / Jungle / Tribal / Trip-Hop
Ambient / Electronica / Ethereal / Dub / Soundscapes / Abstract
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Jul 23 2015
Artist: Digital
Title: Catch A Fire
Format: 12"
Label: Function Records (@)
Rated: *****
After a five years lasting period of inactivity, the appreciated producer Digital keeps on feedng his own imprint Function Records by a couple of his release. The first one "Respek Da Foundation", which includes a collaborative track with Macunian dnb producer N Owen aka Response and a remix of Digital's "Deadline" by George Ovens aka Dub Phizix, was a celebrative release for 20 years of activity of Digital. "Catch A Fire" is the second ring of the hopefully long chain of Function and includes many stylistical hooks to older rings by Digital. Such a welcomed connection with the past, which could be considered more as an act of devotion than a fit of nostalgia, is clear since the igniting track of this release, "Rejection", whose alarming sound, the solid clustered bassline and the double gangways where Digital lets amen break spin (a subterranean one, which is clearly audible on the beginnign of the track, before the one on a higher ground begins) are typical hooks of 90ies junglists, and a certain old school nuance seems to float around the more atmospheric sonorities of "Light Years", the new bicephalous tune he co-signed together with the above-mentioned Response. Digital reduces the spped, but not the effectiveness of his music, on the title-track "Catch A Fire", a really astonishing assay of likewise old-fashioned heavyweight dub. Unmissable release for all those listeners who miss those kind of vibes, which used to shake dancehalls in between the second half of 90ies and first part of new millenium.

Erik Friedlander: Illuminations

 Posted by Vito Camarretta (@)   Ambient / Electronica / Ethereal / Dub / Soundscapes / Abstract
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Jul 21 2015
Artist: Erik Friedlander
Title: Illuminations
Format: CD
Label: SkipStone records
Rated: *****
Many works of brilliant cello player and composer Erik Friedlander seems to look for a symbiotic connection or take a linking to the environment where he performs or to specific events that deeply signs a community or a place. This aspect was clear on his soundtrack for Nothing on Earth, that I recently introduced on Chain DLK, and is also particularly relevant on "Illuminations", his latest solo release that combines a double source for inspiration. The first one was the environment where he performed this suite, that was originally commissioned by the Jewish Museum in New York City, which hosted an exhibit of ancient books and manuscripts from Oxford University's Bodleian Collection: "I found myself in this darkened room surrounded by these gorgeous books and manuscripts that seemed to be talking to me. They were telling me a story of patience and craft, ritual and dedication that was inspiring". The second one is merely compositional and is mainly related to Erik's life-long studies on Bach's cello suites, which seem to have been one of the starting point for his scores on "Illuminations": "I was inspired by Bach's Preludes which are technically challenging and musically formidable. Scriptorium is a serious place where work gets done. Scribes sometimes spent their entire lives working in this room". Unlike Bach, who mainly used French dances for his sublime cello suites such as Courante and Bouree, Friedlander preferred to adapt Renaissance vocal forms, ritual dance movements (such as "Cham", named after the trance-inducing mystical Tibetan dance and "Tarantella", the notorious Apulian dance which was supposedly caused by the bite of tarantula), Chants and Madrigals (the tonal counterpoints at the end of each phrases on Erik's amazing "Madrigale - The Virgin and The Unicorn" or the remarkable work on the harmonic textures of "Siddur", the other madrigal which was named after the collection of Jewish daily prayers, are just a couple of tricks to let these definitively old-fashioned styles more contemporary). Wisely opened by an invocation to Seshat, the Egyptian Goddess of writing and science, who got invocated during the ancient religious ceremony of the stretching of the rope (a clear reference to the strings of cello), this release shows the ability of Erik in turning the sound of cello in a way that could cheat listeners by letting them believe he's playing a lute or a gamba as well.

Fallen: Secrets of the Moon

 Posted by Ibrahim Khider (@)   Ambient / Electronica / Ethereal / Dub / Soundscapes / Abstract
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Jul 21 2015
Artist: Fallen (@)
Title: Secrets of the Moon
Format: CDS (CD Single)
Label: Psychonavigation Records
Distributor: Darla Records
Since my childhood, music remains the admission cost to the theater of the mind. My parents, teachers and friends played instrumental music as a way to evoke and inspire imagination and Secrets of the Moon is one of those currencies. Secrets... is minted in musical memory fragments whose oboe conjure The Dream Academy, ethno-percussive bits, the ether of Muslimgauze and synthesizer tones and melodies hint at Dead Can Dance, among other pop retro fragments that are molten in a kind of nostalgic foundry.

It seems Fallen's goal is to channel experience and personal narrative into a kind of soundtrack, and Secrets of the Moon largely succeeds. The album and track titles themselves suggest storybook tales to enthrall young and old alike. The title track opens dramatically enough, with simulated gusts of wind that might pass as moans from a chorus of spirits while resonating drones intone and reverberate as if along massive canyons followed by ethno-percussion fragments and gusts of wheezing wind. A third of the way through the title track, an oboe melody materializes and hovers like a friendly guiding spirit light in these darkened canyons. 'Golden Dust (the Vanishing)' holds more dramatic tension, melodies crafted from santoor and synthesizers, accented with rock guitars that seem to narrate the plot line of the story. 'Ravenhand' moves the narrative along, accompanied by our friendly oboe, again with santoor and percussion'ambushed by drone midway, but melody returns and prevails to the end of this piece. 'Of Dreams (and Wounds)' is the more magical (and dreamlike) piece whose reverberating synthesis evoke 80's Philip Glass pop compositions that has both a brooding and mysterious quality. For this listener, moments of nostalgia are experienced, particularly when the saturated guitar power chords waft from the ether near the end. 'Cosmos' is darker, whose wind instrument melody reminds of Angelo Badalamenti's more dramatic scores. Secrets of the Moon is book-ended with 'At the End of the World', a lovely downtempo synth-pop-esque piece with gusts of ambient drone and restrained hand-percussion and electric guitar accents that concludes our story on a calmer note. Perfect music for closing film credits, actually.

Secrets is of the Moon is what you play to a writing class, in a darkened room to give inspiration before the creative ideas flow. It is both evocative and dramatic in a wistful way that just fits the traditional storybook mood. One gets the feeling that no matter how dark Fallen's narrative gets, all will be well by the end of the album. These are the sounds of enchantment, wonderment and fantasy with enough drama to keep the listener engaged.

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