Music Reviews

Noctilucant: Back to the Mud

 Posted by Steve Mecca   Ambient / Electronica / Ethereal / Dub / Soundscapes / Abstract
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Dec 28 2015
Artist: Noctilucant (@)
Title: Back to the Mud
Format: CD
Label: self-released
Rated: *****
Noctilucant is a cinematic dark ambient project hailing from Wisconsin and 'Back to the Mud' is Noctilucant's debut album. The name is sort of derived from (noctilucent) night clouds with a ragged edge of brighter and pervasive polar cloud layer in the upper atmosphere visible in deep twilight. It appears that the musician behind Noctilucant wishes to remain anonymous, at least for the time being. Adds to the mystery I suppose. Noctilucant is a rather recent arrival on the scene, this album having been created over the summer of 2015 and released in September. I can say without reservation that 'Back to the Mud' is some of the finest, chilling, smooth (as opposed to the noisy, abrasive kind of) dark ambient music I heard of late. The thirteen tracks on this disc explore various aspects of Noctilucant's somber and gloomy world (or the destruction of it), but it flows together as a complete work.

Of course, there are drones galore on 'Back to the Mud' but I wouldn't necessarily call it a "drone album". Right off the bat on "Befalling Silence" there are shades of Raison D'être and Lustmord , with a haunting, mournful, wordless vocal (courtesy of Kara Philips of the
Epic/Majestic/Power/Symphonic Metal band Magma Dragon), underscored with sustained strings and a delicious mix of drones, from deep rumbling to discreet whistling. It ends with what sounds like a train passing by in the distance. Noctilucant introduces a high, delicate
melodic component in the following track, "The End (It's Near)" over the rumbling, with brief spoken words (the title) at the end. "The Upheaval of Society" is a truly chilling piece, apocalyptic, like anguished souls swirling around in a blender. Kara returns in "The
End (It's Near) Part II" with a typewriter as if she's the correspondent in this cataclysmic horror story, of what man, not some unseen god has wrought. The melodic element from the first "The End" reprises as well. "TwoFiftySixAnteMeridiem" is a heavy and oppressive industrial-tinged dark ambient piece with a certain sense of motion. "The Deep Dead Hour" introduces a death knell bell tolling into its doom-laden atmosphere, and then we get a clipped and staticy broken radio transmission by someone on the scene of the disaster, and succumbing to it. A little too Walking Dead/Blair Witch Project for me. Fortunately, it's fairly brief. Things get better on "Dawn / The Feast." the second longest track on the album at 11:35. The light touch used on the sonics of most of this track serve to heighten the creepy factor immensely. It ends with a rainstorm that breaks the tension a little. What you might have thought was rain morphs into vinyl record ambience on "No Light To The Sight That Cannot See" but quickly dissapates. A brief spoken word ("one day we're gonna look back on all this, and we're gonna you remember when the world ended?") with a cloud chorus of mysterious angelic voices as the gates of heaven close. "Signals From The Sky" seems to be a transitional drone piece. "Are We Safe Now?" gives the impression of a campfire out in the woods; some type of brief respite from what may have happened in a world gone to hell. "The Cusp Of Catastrophe" features vocals and electronics by Jeremiah Messner (HollowHecatomb, JM Sundown) with a weird mechanical melodic loop over the dark drones. This is a very disturbing piece that builds in intensity until it sinks back into the miasma. I don't know where Messner's vocals were in that piece, but the credits say they were there so I guess they were. Title track "Back to the Mud" is the longest on the album at 14:01. It begins very, very subtly and low key, and dwells there for a good long time. Kara again provides some wordless vocals briefly, that add an interesting texture to this bleak soundscape. Later in the piece her vocals return singing "New York, New York" (yep, THAT song) in a deeply chambered environment until the needle rips across the record. Perhaps the last remnants of humanity. I'll leave the short spoken vocal that heralds the final track, "Tender Womb|Callous Tomb" a surprise for you, but the way it all ends dissolved in droney ambience and childish hiccups of laughter shouldn't come as much of a surprise.

For a first outing Noctilucant has created a fantastic album that rivals the work of Peter Andersson, Lustmord, Robert Rich, Vidna Obmana, Desiderii Marginis, and other big names in the genre. Malignant ought to sign this project right now! What I didn't like on 'Back to
the Mud' is so minute compared to the whole. I also have the feeling that this can grow on you over time. The album is packaged in a sturdy 6"x6" black envelope and sealed with wax. The CD itself is held within a slimline case with double-sided inserts. Limited to 100 copies, hand-numbered in metallic ink. The cost is a measly 7 bucks, but if you act NOW you can get it for $4.00 until the end of the year (December 31, 2015). WHAT? Is that insane??? It must have cost more than that to make it, and it's worth several times the price. You'd be a fool not to buy this. Highly, highly recommended.
Artist: Aeoga (@)
Title: Triangle Of Nebula-Devourers + Palace For Vultunales
Format: CD
Label: Aural Hypnox (@)
Rated: *****
Another welcomed postcard from Finnish sonic underground recently reached my desk and group together a couple of older outputs by solo-project Aeoga of Aural Hypnox founder Anti Haapapuro, who decided to re-release "Palace For Vultunales" and "Triangle of Nebula-Devourers" ten years after their previously strictly limited edition (the former belonged to the deluxe boxset of "Zenith Beyond The Helix-Locus" - just 40 copies -, while the latter was limited to 100 CD-R copies) for Stellar Mansion series of the label by housing it in an silk-screen printed cardboard artwork that include four double-sided inserts of artwork and somehow explanatory words to describe each stage of these sonic entities in between dark ambient and ritual industrial. Such a stylistic hybridization is particularly clear on "Triangle of Nebula-Devourers", whose three long-lasting tracks could let you imagine it was recorded during a mysterious ritual by likewise mysterious entities in some hidden area of an abandoned factory during which obscure energies managed to shake the surrounding elements. Despite their somehow occult meaning, the descriptions of each stage of this rite are particularly fitted to what you are going to listen and sentences like "Silvery-eyed understand the language of those who are veiled in gold/Follow the ethereal currents to finally bath with the owl-eyed" (the words to describe "Menstrual Skull Consumed" or "Luminous desert of existence/Dual-directional roaming/through five nebulous five" (the description of "Let The Sun Become Your Eye") could stimulate your imagination, but certainly less the listening experiences that Aeoga provided over the thirty minutes of his recording. The sound of the two parts of "Palace For Vultunales" ("Palace For Vultures" and "Palace For Vulcanales") is definitively more ritual-oriented, but it's likewise obscure and powerfully imaginative - its sinister sumptuosity could be matched to a sort of aural training for some larger sweeping event by previously evoked deities-.

Midnight Doctors: Through a Screen and into the Hole

 Posted by Vito Camarretta (@)   Ambient / Electronica / Ethereal / Dub / Soundscapes / Abstract
Experimental / Avantgarde / Weird & Wired / Glitch / Noise / Field Recording
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Dec 26 2015
Artist: Midnight Doctors
Title: Through a Screen and into the Hole
Format: CD
Label: Ouro (@)
Rated: *****
Formerly known for his amazing project Hapsburg Braganza, melting electric guitar modulations, electroacoustic techniques and experimental hooks, Newcastle-Upon-Tyne-based skilled sound designer, producer and composer Phil Begg recently brought his big-band long-term studio project Midnight Doctors that seems to have been evolved by a series of gigs to the attention of my ears and my ears really enjoyed it. The emotional lukewarm wrapping of the preface of this album, the opening track "Life and Light Apart", kicks this borderline sonic experience off by melting faint rattling violins and a somberly hushed melody on guitar, piano and John Pope's double bass, which becomes more and more solemn as violins highlights the mood and drums begin to crawl over sonorities that could resemble some stuff in between Bohren & Der Club Of Gore and Roy Orbison; Joe Posset's nice tape jams and first electroacoustic entities by Begg himself ignite the following "Chump Change", a wisely crooked movement where the occasional absence of drumming seems to upset the weak balance of other instruments, which seem to find a new balance in the almost peaceful ventricular fibrillation of the following "Long Sands Black Labrador", a fragile balance that got dissolved in the obliquely sinister electroacoustic echoes and peremptory glacial percussions of "Death of Similaun Man". The foggy and raggedly seducing jazzadelic atmospheres of "Rust Coloured Smoke" opens the second half of the record, where Midnight Doctors unwind the brooding interferences and tape artifacts of "My Forsyth (Demonic Frequency)", the delicate fragile beauty of "Climatic Loss", where the big band seems to puff emotionally driven sporadic breaths into a crystalline motionless scene, and the final lukewarm intimacy of "The Slow Way Home", where the cinematic tricks that hooked listeners got sharpened by Americana-folk hints.

Kapital: Chaos To Chaos

 Posted by Vito Camarretta (@)   Ambient / Electronica / Ethereal / Dub / Soundscapes / Abstract
Experimental / Avantgarde / Weird & Wired / Glitch / Noise / Field Recording
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Dec 13 2015
Artist: Kapital
Title: Chaos To Chaos
Format: CD
Label: Instant Classic (@)
Rated: *****
Kapital, the bicephalous project by Rafal Iwanski (playing or controlling a tone generator, an analog synthesizer, a rhythm machine, a sampling unit, a sampling pad, congas, metallophones, rattles, found objects, horns as well as his own voice and other special effects!) and Jakub Kuba Ziotek (another great sonic mind under an electric guitar, 6- and 12-stringc acoustic guitars, analog and digital synths, loop station, clarinet, gongs, another sampling unit, a dvojnica double flute - a woodwind instrument from Serbia and Southern Hungary -), forges its second output after the praiseworthy debut release "No New Age" (coming out on Polish experimental label Boclan Records) by referring to the illustrious genius of their fellow countryman Stanislaw Lem as a fitted framework for their impressive stylistic symmetries. The novel they quote Lem's "Memoirs Found in a Bathtub" in the inlay of "Chaos To Chaos" - if you carefully see that diamond on the cover artwork, you can consider it a quotation or a reflection of well-known ocean of memories on planet Solaris, maybe the most known work by Lem -, a little pearl of modern science-fiction where the somehow paranoid dystopian setting intersects that kind of bitter satire that could be injected by means of more or less hidden allusions to social science and political themes, inspired by the finding of some notes (Notes from the Neogene) by a narrator, who was losing his mind when he understood that the only ruler of the days he was living was chaos and that such an awareness fed social life by paranoid thoughts. It is rather odd that the first edition of this novel has a drawn ear on the cover and if you imagine that Kapital's music could have been made for the paranoid pleasure of the protagonist of Lem's novel, who could have some similarities to contemporary human beings, can improve the listening experience they provided. The oblique technoid movement of the opening Kap-Eh-Thaal, where the deceptively abstractions of shining sounds sweeten the tightness of the first part of the track, the scented wool over listener's ears on the lukewarm psychedelia of "Paradis Electronique", the flavoured malaise evoked by "Kolaps", the rising pressurization counterbalanced by the anaesthetic effected guitars on "Trans-Mania", the delusional nuance of the only proper song of the album "The Music Of Goodbye", the estranging hybrid of peaceful ambient and disquieting mechanical roaring of Cyborg Interchaos", the time-delay switch that seems to clock human emotions on "M.I.T." and the otherworldly landing of "Zona Incognita" render that kind of drugged feeling of oppression, where artificial illusions seem to rule human behaviour, where even the awareness of being controlled immunises any attempt of self-releasing.

Pietro Riparbelli: Vacuum

 Posted by Andrea Piran (@)   Ambient / Electronica / Ethereal / Dub / Soundscapes / Abstract
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Dec 08 2015
Artist: Pietro Riparbelli (@)
Title: Vacuum
Format: CD
Label: Dirter Promotions (@)
Rated: *****
After his latest conceptual efforts, most notably the cathedral series of release, Pietro Riparbelli returns to the format of a proper album with a cohesive release planned as a single piece in six parts. The concept of vacuum is a complex one as it's related to the absence of perceptive experiences as gravity or resonances and also to the human condition of solitude.
The quiet noises of "Senza forma" which could be field recordings or object are doubled by a slowly moving synth line vaguely reminiscent of an old OST as it uses sounds which, for historic reason, are related to some old sci-fi movie, a genre based on the concept of void. In the first part of "Primo percorso" the role of the noises and the synth is reversed as the sample is in the foreground and the synth is in the background while the second part of the track features only the synth. "Distacco" is based on the strong reverb of the musical elements and this creates the sense of being immersed in an empty place. "Deserto meraviglioso" juxtaposes lines of synth and "Emanazione" further develops this direction until it border the field of some kosmische musik but with a stronger sense of the psychological element rather than the space one. "Secondo percorso" closes this release with the return of the radio signal that was central in past Riparbelli's releases so it creates a link with them.
This album shows a narrative element that was absent in previous releases by this artist and, with the use of synth, marks the beginning of a new musical phase. In times when music is consumed in small song bits, it's a release that has to be listened in full and this means something really important: it was planned prior to be performed. An impressive release.

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