Music Reviews

Günter Schickert / Pharoah Chromium: OXTLR

 Posted by Vito Camarretta (@)   Ambient / Electronica / Ethereal / Dub / Soundscapes / Abstract
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Apr 22 2015
Artist: Günter Schickert / Pharoah Chromium (@)
Title: OXTLR
Format: 3 x 12" vinyl
Label: Grautag (@)
Rated: *****
The eighth ring on Nicolas Moulin's label Grautag comes from two brilliant sound artists of German musical scene. Gunter Schickert could be considered one of the men behind the curtains of German krautrock scene since late 60'ies and first 70ies: he was one of the first guitar player which played a style that got widely known as "echo guitar", mainly based on sort of loops of repeated notes and overdubs, which was extensively used by many krautrockers. Even if his technique and his style were not so different from the ones of Achim Reichel and Manuel Gottsching of Ash Ra Tempel, his two best solo recordings, "Samtvogel" and "Uberfallig" (recently re-released by Bureau B label), have been deservedly rediscovered during Internet age. He splits this record with German-Palestinian musician and performer Ghazi Barakat, another brilliant sound artist, whose Pharaoh Chromium project (named after a song of the band Chrome) draws inspiration from free jazz, ancient past and near future rituals, science fiction novels and radical architecture groups like Italian Superstudio and Archizoom as well as by the sonorities of the psychedelic avant-garde of the 70ies, the industrial bands of the early 80ies and middle-far east nuances that got performed by Ghazi, who usually wears a golden mask on live stage, by a wide set of ethnic flutes and electronic devices. They already met in the mid-eighties in West Berlin, but Barakat discovered the similarities of his style to Schickert's approach just after he listened to a re-release of the above-mentioned "Samtvogel" in 2010 so that many discussions about possible collaborative works followed. Then Barakat introduced Schickert to Nicolas Moulin in order to release some of his recent outputs as well as the first fruits of their collaboration an that's how this release was born and what should have been a douple lp became a triple lp featuring two very long bicephalous tracks. Most of the compotional ideas are quite simple, but both the iterations which dig into listener's psyche little by little, and the "ritual" halo of each track, which could infer many reviewers to label it as a dark-ambient release, require immersive listening sessions in order to enjoy them: the slow flutes, the sneaking circles of a synth-brass and the gradual electronic wrapping on the initial "Bamiyan", which last 22 minutes and 22 seconds, evoke the images of the "executed" statue of the Buddhas of Bamiyan that got dynamited by Taliban icnoclasm, while the sinister tolling and the oppressive echoed sonic entites of the following "Campfire" are the elements which get closer to the so-caled dark-ambient. The almost orchestral parade of heavy echoes, ghostly drones and resounding guitars on "A6" reaches the highest hypnotical peaks of the release by means of tonal stonewalls that seem to evaporate whenever they got erected and vaguely resound on the amniotic buoyancy of the entrancing "Katharsis", where some listener could perceive some resemblances with Starts of The Lid. Such a feeling of amniotic floatation keeps on wrap listener on the awesome space-walking of "Galaktik Debris" - the first collaborative track by Barakat and Schickert-, where your eardrums could meet many strange objects in the thich layer of stardust, including guitars which are in between U2-like intro and Eastern chords. Last but not least, the final collaborative track 'Music D'Ascenseur Pour L'Echafaud' where I guess Ghazi and Gunter made a really interesting imaginary score for Louis Malle's noir movie "Ascenseur pour l'echafaud"...not an easy task if you consider that the OST of the movie was an ad hoc jam session by Miles Davis...

Simon Kolle: Drakar och Demoner: Trudvang (OST)

 Posted by Ivan Racheck (@)   Ambient / Electronica / Ethereal / Dub / Soundscapes / Abstract
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Apr 20 2015
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Artist: Simon Kolle (@)
Title: Drakar och Demoner: Trudvang (OST)
Format: CD
Label: Waerloga Records (@)
Distributor: Waerloga Records
Rated: *****
Originally released for the Swedish Roleplay game Drakar och Demoner: Trudvang but also soundtrack to the pilot films inspired by the game.

Simon Kolle is no stranger to us because of his work with Za Frumi and Musterion. Simon has composed a masterful set of cues that effortlessly blends Nordic Folk Music motifs with orchestral trademarks. Even though their blending is seamless, the combination of the two elements creates a very unique sound that is difficult to describe. Some tracks are more traditional, film music like orchestral cues, while others are heavily folk music oriented, using traditional Nordic chord progressions and instruments. The composer focuses on developing Nordic sensibilities within a standard orchestral format. The result is nothing less than breathtaking.

Drakar och Demoner was a smash hit in Sweden in the 80s and 90s and pawed the way for countless of other games and books. Drakar och Demoner is Dungeons and Dragons but with more of a Nordic take on it. The version called Trudvang is released by Riotminds and they seem to be taking their projects online with a unique and cool project called Riot Online. Right now it's only in Swedish but it's said it will be in English too.

The score of Drakar och Demoner: Trudvang is enormously strong, mature music that rivals the best orchestral works for film.

The 26 track CD has a lean running time of more than an hour. I doubt any material is missing. Track title translations exist and it's helpful.

All the lyrics (on a couple of cues) are in Icelandic and are sung by Susanne Cermenius and Lisa Gregorsson.

The main theme is superb, worthy of becoming known mainstream. It would have suited perfect for many films.
The best tracks on the album are the ones that blend powerful orchestral work with Nordic Folk Music. Many are the ethnic instruments heard on the album and sometimes you forget you are actually listening to music as you get so into it all. Many of these tracks could easily constitute the main theme for an entirely different score.

The Bonus Tracks are really good too and ending the album is a cue written for a bowyer (maker of bows) with mysterious Elven whispers.

This is a strong, expertly crafted score that never gets dull. It effortlessly combines Nordic Folk Music and Orchestral musical elements, creating a very unique and enjoyable listening experience.

Limited edition of 500 copies.

Sofus Forsberg: FM Volta

 Posted by Steve Mecca   Ambient / Electronica / Ethereal / Dub / Soundscapes / Abstract
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Apr 20 2015
Artist: Sofus Forsberg (@)
Title: FM Volta
Format: 12"
Label: Mindwaves-Music (@)
Rated: *****
Berlin-based Danish electronica artist Sofus Forsberg has been kicking around since 1998, and 'FM Volta' is his third album, the previous work, 'Udefra' being released in 2005. 'FM Volta' is the first one I've heard though, so I have to base my review solely on it. 'FM Volta' opens up with a barrage of rhythmic plinks and plunks on "Take Fibrillo" that almost seem random until you discern the pattern, and I get the impression that it's all about patterns in Forsberg's musical world, or at least here on 'FM Volta'. It's almost like hyper-speed early Kraftwerk. This is the lengthiest piece on the EP at 7:07, and as it morphs over time more elements are introduced, such as a scraping noise loop, a more defined programmed drum component and bass activity, as well as other ambient synth sonics. "Dear Noft" is still quite active in the rhythm department, but with an overlay of lighter, dream-like synths. "one More Time" employs a hollowish metallic rhythm (undoubtedly ring-modulated) contrasted by ping-pong percussion and other glitchy elements. Moving on to the B-side, "Chineese Swamp" seems steeped in random sample & hold at first until you realize it's not so random. There is definitely a method to Forsberg's madness and after a few listenings, this track seems downright funky! I like the subtle elements employed here although I wouldn't necessarily describe the track as subtle. Very busy in a sort of crazy but productive way. "WMC" dispenses with anything conventionally melodic to begin with using a variety of synth-based loops that are more noise-based than harmonic. The harmonics do come in about halfway through if the form of ghostly chords, and the rhythmic component is more evident, although still somewhat abstract. Final and title track, "FM Volta" is the most accessible and melodic piece on the album. Intriguing shimmery chords are at the core of it, rhythmically backed by hats, and later, some processed drum sounds. Woven in-between are various electronics.

I have to say that Forsberg's 'FM Volta' is as good as anything I've heard by Autechre, being in the same vein, but different somehow. There is less of a tendency to take his compositions far afield, but the experimental vibe is there all the same. I appreciate the artist's focus in the cohesiveness of the tracks presented on 'FM Volta', and this is surely "thinking man's music", although it is not so sterile that it abnegates the human component and feel. It's possible that after repeated listenings you will get to the heart of what Forsberg is trying to convey on 'FM Volta', which is not just simply an exercise of what can be done with modular synthesis. That's kind of a good thing because it keeps you coming back for more. While the album is available in digital download, I'd recommend the 180 gram 12" record, which is limited to 300 copies available from Mindwaves.

Susanna Gartmayer: AOUIE - Solos for Bass Clarinet

 Posted by Vito Camarretta (@)   Ambient / Electronica / Ethereal / Dub / Soundscapes / Abstract
Experimental / Avantgarde / Weird & Wired / Glitch / Noise / Field Recording
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Apr 19 2015
Artist: Susanna Gartmayer (@)
Title: AOUIE - Solos for Bass Clarinet
Format: 10"
Label: God Records/Chmafu Nocords (@)
Rated: *****
The very first seconds of this release by bass clarinet player Susanna Gartmayer could surmise the incendiary tonal whirls by Colin Stetson and seem to follow that compositional path, but the astonishingly adventurous route that the brilliant Austrian musician explore pushes his instrument beyond the above-mentioned matching. The remarkable variagated range of transitions results from different places where it was performed and recorded (a museum, a theatre bar, a church, an electronic music club, a shop and so on), different playing positions of the performer, different playing direction, different audiences as well as different formations of mouth cavity - each track has been titled by corresponding vowels -, so that rooms together with bass clarinet and every side noise such as the breath, the tapping of the keys and the clanging of the instrument can be considered as reagents of the composition. The opening swirling of "AE" sounds like withdrawing into itself before the final eruption, the faint tonal filaments of "U" and "UE" move towards unforeseen directions, the buzz which opens the final "A" gets more and more incandescent, the austerely solemn mumble of bass clarinet of the central "E" (recorded in St.Ruprechts Church, Vienna) occasionally as well as the sly sneaking of "I" show tonal abrasions before their final dissipation, while the more vibrant movements of "O" is the icing on the cake of this multidimensional journey into bass clarinet sound.

Fabio Battistetti: Into the Wood

 Posted by Vito Camarretta (@)   Ambient / Electronica / Ethereal / Dub / Soundscapes / Abstract
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Apr 18 2015
Artist: Fabio Battistetti (@)
Title: Into the Wood
Format: CD
Label: Creative Sources (@)
Rated: *****
A wood-driven record is maybe something that could bring an echologist or an enthusiastic fan of Thoreau's "Walden" to secrete resin for pleasure, but this environ/mentalist output by Italian sound artist Fabio Battistetti aka Eniac, coming out from a series of live performances (Lugano, Mondovi', Turin, Embrun and Chamois) that he made together with Andrea "ics" Ferraris and Andrea "Lotzio" Carlotto inside a wooden cube designed by Catherine Chanoux, which got amplified by microphones and then digitally adapted, is primarily an amazing listening experience. The above-described cube is the framework where Battistetti manipulates a series of plywood boards, branches and tree bark after fixing them to the wall of his wooden nest by means of elastics and shelves. The electric strands of "Buttonwood", the opening track, sounds like a tuning stage as if the artist is transplanting a device in the eardrums of the listener to grab sounds from his wooden objects, while the first tree that borrows sounds to Battistetti is "Castanea Sativa" (scientific denomination of the sweet chestnut). After the popping "Duramen", which sounds like the rendering of the intense activity of a squadron of anry woodboring beetles, the author sounds like extracting the most "spiritual" side of his sonic outputs on the following tracks: "Larix Decidua" sounds like an ode to European larch and its notorious resistence to very low temperatures due to the the falling of all leaves, a process which seems to have been rendered by the sounds of the following "Leaves Fall", a kind of slo-mo dub, that perfectly bonds with the hollow logs that could come to listener's mind while listening the spacey "On a Branch". The chippings and the echoed chimes of "Taxodloceae" and "Waldeinsamkeit" (a German word which can be translated as the feeling of being alone in the woods!) leaves listened on a high note.

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