Music Reviews



Alphaxone: Altered Dimensions

 Posted by Andrea Piran (@)   Ambient / Electronica / Ethereal / Dub / Soundscapes / Abstract
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Feb 07 2015
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Artist: Alphaxone
Title: Altered Dimensions
Format: CD
Label: Cryo Chamber (@)
Rated: *****
This new release from Alphaxone is presented as based on 'smooth frequency manipulation fitting for exploring the concept of altered dimensions'. This statement really means than it's something closer to a single track in eight movement rather than a collection of loosely related tunes. The most evident quality of this release is the constant development of subtle resonances that implies a rigorous listening to fully enjoy the work depicted in his development.
The detailed soundscape of 'Distances' opens this release and develops in an unpredictable manner when an almost dance beat emerges from the background. 'Human Frequencies' is, instead, a track based on the juxtaposition of various drones slowly drowning in the underlying soundscape. 'Passing Through' is based on small noises and a slowly developing drone and 'Midnight Waves' focuses on a drone that slowly develops to resonate with some elements of the previous tracks. 'Aftermath' explores the most subtle and dark aspects of this formula while
'Equilibrium' deals with microscopic, but constant, development of the base drone and so is 'Encounters'. 'From the Passages' closes this release in a bright way as it's founded on an higher frequencies' resonances.
Even if it's not formally ground-breaking, it's an amazing work of audio sculpting enhanced by the usually unexceptionable mastering by Simon Heath. Perhaps one of the best Cryo Chamber's releases.

I.corax: Kuilu

 Posted by Vito Camarretta (@)   Ambient / Electronica / Ethereal / Dub / Soundscapes / Abstract
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Feb 07 2015
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Artist: I.corax
Title: Kuilu
Format: CD
Label: Aural Hypnox (@)
Rated: *****
Aural Hypnox, the Finnish label of Helixes collective, keeps on re-release some past outputs by I.corax, the obscure bicephalous brainchild by Anti Haapapuro and Jaakko Vanhala, that came out during the short life of Blue Sector. Named after the Finnish word for "abyss" or "ravine", "Kuilu" is the recording of the very first live performance that these sonic explorers held at Youth and Cultural Centre (NuKu) nearby Oulu on 2nd of March 2002: the opening circular metallic sound, the resounding of a distant thunderstorm, a sort of rubbing which could resemble the noise of someone who tries to start a fire by friction, a disqueting bleat and a noise which is closer to the one you can hear when locking a dor by means of a bolt before a thrilling sound and some gibberish murmuring heighten the emotional tension immediately catch listener's attention on "The Face Of The Sun", which properly sets the mood for the following nocturnal emulsions of "Menhir", the intriguing hibernated reverie and the controlled explosions of "Tephra" and the melted desolation of the final "Animus Desertis". Te mesmerizing sneaking movements of these four track got assembled by a balanced dosage of un-organic textures, field recordings that got grabbed on tape in the woods under a crescent mood - the genuinely ritual aspect of this kind of outputs from that scene are really important -, human voices, analogue synths and subliminal electronic triggering. Strictly limited edition of 500 copies (440 more than the first edition).
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Artist: Sarah Peebles w/Evan Parker, Nilan Perera, Suba Sankaran (@)
Title: Delicate paths - Music for Shō
Format: CD
Label: Unsounds (@)
Rated: *****
That mysterious item on the cover artwork of this release by Toronto-based American composer and performer Sarah Peebles is the upper section of a sho, the Japanese version of Chinese sheng, a traditional free reed aerophone, whose distinctive features are the 17 bamboo pipes which can supposedly imitate the call of a phoenix according to popular beliefs and the possibility to play it with no interruption as sho can be played by inhaling or exhaling air. This last aspect of this instrument, which was largely used in gagaku, a type of Japanese traditional music that was mainly played in Kyoto's imperial court and got rediscovered by some modern and contemporary composers and musicians like Mayumi Miyata, who played some works that John Cage made for him, Ko Ishikawa, Helmut Lachenmann and even Bjork, is clear in many solo performances like the entrancing opening track "Resinous Fold 7 (for Smoke)", the high-pitched trills of "Resonate Fold 6 (for Trigona)" or the almost hypnotical "Resinous Fold 2 (for Bamboo)", where sho sounds like breathing, while the interesting integration in electroacoustic sessions with guest musicians like Evan Parker, Nilan Perera and Suba Sankaran such as the nervous bleeding of "Delicate Path (Murasaki)", the abstract squeezing of "Delicate Path (Lime)" or the soothing vocal mantra of "Delicate Path (Sandalwood)" as well as the immersive 14 minutes of "In The Canopy (part 1)", which sounds closer to her bizarre "entomological" sonic experiments, show unusual aspects of this fascinating instrument.

Mokhov: Future Hope

 Posted by Steve Mecca   Ambient / Electronica / Ethereal / Dub / Soundscapes / Abstract
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Feb 03 2015
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Artist: Mokhov (@)
Title: Future Hope
Format: CD
Label: Sun Sea Sky Productions (@)
Rated: *****
Mokhov is Russian-born, American-raised, Las Vegas-based electronic musician-composer Oleg Mokhov, and 'Future Hope' is his fourth album, the first on Sun Sea Sky. Mokhov makes music in a similar vein to Bonobo, Röyksopp, Four Tet and Boards of Canada. I have never heard any of his other works before, so 'Future Hope' is my introduction and only frame of reference. In reviewing other Sun Sea Sky artists (Melorman, Northcape) I know them to favor the melodic-ambient, or melambient as I call it, and to that extent Mokhov fits right in, although different to a degree, which is a good thing. For one thing, his rhythms are more trip hopish. There is more of a Nu-jazz vibe here too. On many tracks, a sequenced synth riff is at the heart of it, and everything plays off that, almost improvisationally, except for the rhythm. That's symptomatic of composing from the top (melody) to bottom (bass and rhythm). The jazz element is especially noticeable in Mokhov's bass lines, which are melodic and elaborate. Compared to other arists on the Sun Sea Sky roster, Mokhov is a lot less laid back, although there are plenty of mellow moments. For a laptop composer he has a nice varied sound palette too. Compositions are generally rich and engaging, upbeat and happy too, like Boards of Canada, but without the dialogue samples so often employed by them. Melodically, nothing stands out as ultimately memorable, but the music of Mokhov seems to be more about the groove and the vibe. This is the kind of stuff that would play well at a hipster wine bar; people would really like it, but they wouldn't know why. In the future, I'd hope to hear what Mokhov would come up with if he collaborated with a vocalist (preferably female), but for now I'll take my Mokhov with another glass of Malbec please.

Northcape: Glasshouse

 Posted by Steve Mecca   Ambient / Electronica / Ethereal / Dub / Soundscapes / Abstract
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Feb 03 2015
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Artist: Northcape (@)
Title: Glasshouse
Format: CD
Label: Sun Sea Sky Productions (@)
Rated: *****
'Glasshouse' is Northcape's followup to the previous release 'Exploration and Ascent' that I reviewed back in 2013 here. And of course, Northcape is the project name of Alastair Brown from Warwickshire, England. For the unfamiliar, Northcape works in the melodic ambient-esque with a rhythmic impulse. It's all gentle, relaxing stuff, and I think I'm going to coin a new term here, "melambient", which definitely fits Northcape. While 'Exploration and Ascent' explored the higher regions, 'Glasshouse' takes a more down to earth approach in the environment of a tropical greenhouse. Right from the start on "Capillary Action" there is a deeper, more earthy vibe, but still with the aura of shimmering sunlight from above. Sounds merge together more fully on title track "Glasshouse" as Northcape hits its stride. A very spacey melodic atmosphere punctuated by a confident rhythm, and thematically solid. "Eukaryote" makes me think of gentle rain on a Spring day. "Skyward" has this wonderful understated melody over a muted, sustained chordal progression with a simple rhythm track to carry it along; great music for cloud watching. On "Raytracing" I can feel the gentle breeze as synth sequences weave through the atmosphere and spiral upward. About halfway through a thicker chordal melody is introduced floating right along with the rest of it. "Green Wave" is devoid of percussion, with sustained chordal synth resonance and occasional bell tones, giving an impression of the divine. 'Glasshouse' is a brief album at only 29 minutes but certainly an enjoyable one. While perhaps not as varied as 'Exploration and Ascent', the atmosphere seems to be richer and fuller. Another worthy effort from Northcape.


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