Music Reviews

Dasha Rush: Sleepstep - Sonar Poems for my Sleepless Friends

 Posted by Vito Camarretta (@)   Ambient / Electronica / Ethereal / Dub / Soundscapes / Abstract
Dark / Gothic / Wave / New Wave / Dark Wave / Industrial Gothic
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Aug 01 2015
Artist: Dasha Rush
Title: Sleepstep - Sonar Poems for my Sleepless Friends
Format: CD
Label: Raster-Noton (@)
Rated: *****
Raster-Noton keeps on pushing its stylistical horizon over explored edges by means of the artistical pulls of the charming sound of Dasha Rush, another fascinating amazon, which follows the landing of another brilliant female sound artist - Kyoka - on the label wisely managed by Carsten Nicolai and Olaf Bender. Mainly known for her praiseworthy sets and release in the field of techno, Dasha shows a darker and mysteriously alienated side on "Sleepstep", whose subtitle "Sonar Poems For My Sleepless Friends" underpins the different perspective behind this nocturnal outputs. Some attentive listeners would find some similaraties to other artists' stuff: for instance the lulling "Sleep Ballade" sounds like Trentemoller's "Miss You", the gothic lyricism of "Sail Away to Her" could remind some stuff by Socialistisches Patienten Kollektiv or Dead Can Dance as well as the ominous breaks of the awesome "Abandoned Beauties and Beasts", the debris on the the digital ether of the opening "Space Privet For Cosmonauts", the amazing alien clocking of "100 Hearts", where irregular plastic heart beats seem to act like gears of a mysterious engine, or the darkwave nuance of "Fog, Dogma and Bread" could lay in between the absorbing frequencies of some ambient outputs of late 90ies (Omicron, Lagowski's SETI) and the likewise absorbing outputs by other brilliant squires of the label such as Frank Bretschneider and Emptyset. Besides any possible analogies, Dasha's debut on Raster-Noton sounds homogeneneous and in line with the nocturnal dream-like atmosphere that she often tries to emphasize by means of subtle electronic airflows and catchy readings from her own poems (included in the 32-pages booklet on the cd version of the release, which includes some snapshots by Dasha as well) such as the one in French language on "Scratching Your Surface", which features a magnetic dark dub sneaking movement, the almost hypnotical one in English language of "Lucy In The Sky, Lost Diamonds" or the daydreaming surrealism of "Life Time Poem" and "Micro Universe", which could fit the palingenesis of an intimate dreamscape. You don't need to suffer from insomnia to appreciate Dasha's enchanting sonic pills, which act like other than downers.

My Home, Sinking: Sleet

 Posted by Vito Camarretta (@)   Ambient / Electronica / Ethereal / Dub / Soundscapes / Abstract
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Jul 30 2015
Artist: My Home, Sinking (@)
Title: Sleet
Format: Tape
Label: self-released
Rated: *****
The thorny stems on a white background of the sleeve artwork is the diaphragm of this lovely sensorial experience by My Home, Sinking, the project by which Venice-based musician Enrico Coniglio build an ideal bridge between his visionary approach to ambient music and acoustic instruments and the theme of the release, which got announced by the title of the first track "Super Sad True Love Story", perfectly matches both the cassette format and the very first sensation that hits listener's sense, which is not aural but olfactory. The scent from two dried brambles in a little sachet surrounds listener just like the melancholic music, finely crafted with the support of Piero Bittolo Bon (flute), Katie English (cello), Giovanni Natoli (drums) and Peter Paul Gallo (vibraphone), emphasizes the heart-rending somber story told by the voice of Natalia Drepina. The guessed balance of enchanted pastoral folk-like detours and electronics over the whole release erupts into a daydreaming drone just in the final part of this storytelling, when "Cold Stars" gives even more impetus to the narration. Just 66 copies have been printed of this graceful sonic trinket. I warmly reccomend to add one to your musical collection.

VV.AA.: RE: Residual

 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 29 2015
Artist: VV.AA.
Title: RE: Residual
Format: Download Only (MP3 + Lossless)
Label: Parenth├Ęses Records (@)
Rated: *****
Five years ago, two members of cross-cultural ensemble Way Out West, the Australian eclectic trumpeter and composer Peter Knight, whose outstanding sonic research is mainly focused on making musical bridges between jazz and world music, and Vietnamese musican and experienced jazz guitarist (as well as performer on many traditional Vietnamese instruments) Dung Nguyen gave birth to Residual, a collaborative project which tried to make a possible connection between Western musical styles and Vietnamese music. Their debut album on Brussels-based label Parentheses Records was enthusiastically acclaimed by many reviewers and listeners. In the beginning of 2014, Peter and Alexis Courtin discussed about the possibility to revamp that great release, so that they decided to ask some musicians from France and Australia to provide their personal perspective on the ideas that got seeded by Residual. The five tracks - I won't refer to them as proper remixes - of this digital remake are simply awesome and features the contributions by Mathias Delplanque aka Lena, whose elegant cosmic-dub explorations on "Autumn Music" could resemble some world/dubby stuff by Harold Budd or Hector Zazou, Tilman Robinson, whose lulling abstract ambient "Phase Pedal" could inspire ecstatic daydreaming, Melbourne-based drummer, percussionist and electro-acoustic performer Joe Talia, who unweaves some micropercussions on the subtle electronics of "Minky Star" where Peter's trumpet could resemble Erik Truffaz's style, Melbourne-based Dan West, whose minimal-techy revamp of "Residual" is the most club-fitted moment, and last but least, the American-Scottish (actually living in Paris) word artist and writer black Sifichi, speaking of astronomical subjects by means of his distinguishable deep voice on "Travelling". Available for free on label's bandcamp.
Jul 28 2015
Artist: Bunny &...
Title: The Invalid Singers
Format: CD
Label: Bearsuit Records (@)
Rated: *****
More volatile than prices of current marketplaces, the unpredictability of this nice project by Glasgow-based musician Bunny -one of the legs of the experimental duo Anata Wa Sukkarai Tsukarete Shimai -, that kind of unpredictability that could put more zealous reviewers in a rage in the vain attempt of striving for a definition, is the hallmark of this release, where the binding elements of the spell is probably the hammy lucid madness of his inventor. The squirrelly edgy nuance that suddenly got inflamed by an amazing explosion of whacky distorted guitars on "One Time For Good Time", the hot needles by which Bunny turns a simple melody into a warm blanket on "Hallucinating Felt Beasts", which could resemble some "easytronica" stuff by French band Air, the energic intro - imagine to listen Kula Shaker or Galaxie 500 in your cozy bathroom while dryng your hair by a very powerful hairdryer - and the following tender decay - imagine you burned your hair for an excess of enthusiasm and diversion! - on the amazing opening track "Ask The Man Inside Your Head", the innocent and almost fairy delicacy of "Gift To Gift", which sounds like the sonic rendering of your very first birthdays, the strange naivety of "The Invalid Singers" as well as references and hooks to listenings such as Robert Wyatt, Piero Umiliani, Ennio Morricone and even The Carpenters or other soft rock bands like David Gates' Bread which pop out of the release like mushrooms are just some of the evidence of his weird approach to composition. Check it out!

Leila Abdul-Rauf: Insomnia

 Posted by Steve Mecca   Ambient / Electronica / Ethereal / Dub / Soundscapes / Abstract
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Jul 28 2015
Artist: Leila Abdul-Rauf
Title: Insomnia
Format: CD
Label: Antibody/Malignant Records (@)
Rated: *****
Leila Abdul-Rauf is a multi-instrumental music artist from San Francisco. If her name seems familiar to you, you might recognize it from such bands and projects as Vastum, Ionophore, Hammers of Misfortune, Amber Asylum, and Bastard Noise. I understand that she's a mean metal guitarist, but you won't hear anything like that here. 'Insomnia', released on Malignant's side-label Antibody is her second foray into ambient, the first being 'Cold and Cloud' on Saadi Saati (2013). I haven't had a chance to hear that one, but after this, I'm definitely going to check it out. The music on 'Insomnia' is dark, but not pitch black, more grey or crepuscular. It is also more melodic than most dark ambient. Unlike other recent releases I've heard from Malignant, there is no "noise" component, somewhat of a relief to me. Leila enlists a few guest musicians on this album - Jan Hendrich (e-bow on "Absences" and "Wane"); Ryan Honiker (violins on "Wane"); Nathan Verrill (guitar and additional synths on "Edges of a Mirror"); and Kat Young (lead vocals on "Pull"). That' right, there are tracks with vocals on this album; three of them to be exact, and lyrics too, not just wordless. Songs with vocals? Doesn't that betray the ambient concept? you might be asking. Well, no, not here. 'Insomnia' is sort of the ambient music of a dream; not a nightmare as dark ambient might imply, but perhaps a waking dream; that time between midnight and dawn when you just can't sleep and everything seems surreal.

Things fittingly begin with "Midnight" where a swell of angelic wordless voices float over a dream-like ambience, quickly moving into "Drift", where deep chambered muted horn sounds provide the hazy top over lower shifting drones. This is territory you might expect inhabited by Vida Obmana, Robert Rich or Jeff Greinke. "The Opening" lets in some light and radiance with lighter drone ambience and Leila's vocals (yes, with lyrics) in a sort of abstract song in heavenly voices mode. Wow! This is really beautiful. It grows in intensity but never oversteps its bounds. "Clock Glows" is one of those enigmatic mystery pieces that makes so much out of so little. A delicate melody supported by minimal synth work, this is cinema worthy. I've been charmed. "Pull" (with Kat on vocals) has simple piano accompaniment and that mournful chambered horn. It's a song but ambient in that Projekt/4AD way. Reminds me a bit of Frolic. Absolutely lovely! "Seconds Tick" give the impression of time passing, but oh so surreally. "Edges of a Mirror" and Absence" are wonderfully sublime dark ambient pieces heavily reliant on drones. "He Sits in His Room", another track with understated vocals by Leila employs a droney atmosphere with a repetitive, low plucked string musical phrase and that mournful chambered horn again. Vaguely psychedelic, moody and highly atmospheric. "Wane" brings together a lot of previous musical elements previously employed by Leila with the addition of violins and e-bow. Perhaps this is the most desolate sounding track on the album. It ends with "Dark Hours of Early Morning", the most intensely dark piece on all of 'Insomnia'. Yet there is concession to light towards the end as daybreak can be sensed on the horizon. The perfect outro.

I can't remember when I so thoroughly enjoyed an album from start to finish with nary a thing to question or grouse about. This is one exceptionally fine album with a high degree of replayability. Leila nails it here in a way few seem to be able to do. I would even recommend this to those who aren't necessarily into dark ambient. Although the neat CD cover painting by Mark Thompson would have you believe the music is bleak, it really isn't. So far, a contender for album of the year. It's just that damn good.

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