Music Reviews

Opollo: Stone Tapes

 Posted by Andrea Piran (@)   Ambient / Electronica / Ethereal / Dub / Soundscapes / Abstract
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Jun 15 2015
Artist: Opollo
Title: Stone Tapes
Format: CD
Label: New Nihilism Editions (@)
Distributor: alchembria
Rated: *****
This is the first full length release from JarosÅaw LeÅkiewicz under the moniker of Opollo. The assonance with Apollo (the title of an old Brian Eno's release) is an hint of a musical direction focused on the construction of ambient music describing a planet's landscape.
The drone's quietness of "Warning Beacon" opens this release and starts the development of a track based on the juxtaposition of sounds. "Can You Hear Me?" is based on layers of guitars while "A White Oval" is a melancholic intro to
"Eruption" whose crescendo ends with "Rising" creating a sort of track in three movements. "Hour One" is a noisy track featuring even some glitches. "Suspended" returns to a cleaner musical spectrum and "Aelita" returns to the form exposed in "Rising" while "Starburst" uses the inverted form starting loud and ending searching a form of silence. "Stone Tape" closes this release with the most evocative and constructed musical spectrum.
At the crossroad between shoegaze and ambient, it could seems a release mostly for collector but, removed the debt with his influence, reveals a lot of things to develop. A nice release.

[.que]: Brilliant Hopes

 Posted by Vito Camarretta (@)   Ambient / Electronica / Ethereal / Dub / Soundscapes / Abstract
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Jun 15 2015
Artist: [.que] (@)
Title: Brilliant Hopes
Format: CD
Label: Schole (@)
Rated: *****
The young Japanese musician Nao Kakimoto, former upstart and hot rookie of Akira Kosemura's roster, seems to keep his music likewise young since the first official accolades - his successful debut release was awarded at the "Fred Perry/Why?" contest by a commission which included Yukihiro Takahashi (YMO, pupa) as a judge -, so that even if he signed his fifth solo-album, his sound keeps on remaining so fresh that a title like "Brilliant Hopes" could make sense. Sometimes a listener could get the impression that he made songs which could feature a clip of some graduation ceremony or the demo songs for some cheap keyboard, but the remarkable sound editing behind his fragile and crystal-clear textures could let you forgive such a possible matching. Even if it can't be considered an overview of his music, it seems that Nao often retraces some moments of his previous four albums, but he wisely balance those moments by means of slightly new ideas, which get sometimes fostered by collaborative tracks and sonic "legacies" - the delicate voice by unmo on "Himitsu", the one by petitoto, who gives some sounds from toy electronics on "Lullaby", Affable Noise's guitar soun on "Joint" and Akira Kosemura's piano melodies on "Misty Moon" and the uplifting "Springlike" - without spoiling the distinguishing whimsy and childlike wonder and the narrative scheme that exude from his sound. The opening bridge between past and present style that he offers on the first two tracks ("Origin" and "Home") got mirrored by the last two tracks of the album, "Will", which reflects Nao's early works, and "Never End", which sounds like the prologue of an upcoming sonic story.

Sonae: Far away is right around the Corner

 Posted by Vito Camarretta (@)   Ambient / Electronica / Ethereal / Dub / Soundscapes / Abstract
Experimental / Avantgarde / Weird & Wired / Glitch / Noise / Field Recording
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Jun 11 2015
Artist: Sonae (@)
Title: Far away is right around the Corner
Format: 12"
Label: Monika Enterprise (@)
Rated: *****
The first release for 2015 from Gudrun Gut's label Monika Enterprise uncovers the talent of Koln-based sound-artist Sonia Guttler aka Sonae, whose sonic embroidery on his debut album includes many field recordings from that she wisely modified and integrated within nine interesting cameos that she made between 2012 and 2014 in between abstract and glitch isolationist ambient. Nothing was left to chance in her sound, whose strong connection with emotional processing and perception was already clear on "Entmutigt" (German for 'discouraged'), the free release she made for Spanish netlabel Modismo just before "Far away is right around the Corner": the opening track "Gewittspaziergang" (German for "storm-walking") seems to render the electrified air where electronic collisions and distant menacing deafening roar of a thunderstroms finds an echo in the mood of the sentient beings; the following title track sounds to be about the meeting of distance and proximity by means of amazing transformations of micromelodies that she supposedly made from the ring of a telephone from caller's side which got "imitated" by a sort of tinker bell, while "Wandering" sounds like an amalgamation of sonic clues of different kind of whereabouts, where nomadic sensations as well as a certain vague anxiety equalize distance and transporting vectors as if the idea of wandering could be a sort of existential dimension. The biomechanical blips of "Einfach SO" precedes the touching remix of Cio D'Or's "Distanz", the track that Cio Dorbandt made for a piece inspired by the dead victims on their way on overcrowded makeshift boats to Lampedusa, the austere and gradually burning piano chords of "Song of Hate and Anger" and the lovely "Hot Summerday", an interesting crossbreed between French piano impressionist, field recordings and nocturnal trip-hop detours. The aquatic daydreaming of "I Know a Fish" and the crepuscolar corpuscles of "Not The Moon/I Don't See Any Flowers There" and "Uberwindung" conclude this awesome workout. If you enjoyed it, Sonae says on her website you can send flowers to her!

Marsen Jules: The Empire Of Silence

 Posted by Vito Camarretta (@)   Ambient / Electronica / Ethereal / Dub / Soundscapes / Abstract
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Jun 09 2015
Artist: Marsen Jules (@)
Title: The Empire Of Silence
Format: CD
Label: Oktaf (@)
Rated: *****
When I asked to a friend of mine about the most impressive aspect of his adventurous travelling over Greenland for a couple of months, he ecstatically replied by one simple word: silence. He explained that even a monk in his hermitage wouldn't have a real idea about how "silence sounds", but the most interesting aspect of his report is the one where he tried to explain that this aural perception could let perceive the real sound of his own soul. I don't know if Berlin-based composer Marsen Jules fed this release by similar report or experiences, but the listening of "The Empire Of Silence" got me thinking about those fascinating account, which has nothing to share with other notorious "definitions" of silence in modern music history. The name of Marsen Jules has been matched by most reviewers to the label of "modern classics" due to the strong connection of his declension of ambient music to the classical concept of symphony, but this release is the proof he's getting deeper and deeper in the quintessence of his own sound, where the main points in common between "The Empire Of Silence" and some past stuff by this brilliant composer are an overzealous approach to sound forging and a fully immersive ethereal halo. The eight tracks of this album got named after a selection of eight words to say "snow" in Inuit language, whose dictionary has hundreds of different ways to refer to "snow" (definitively more than the 50 words for snow by Kate Bush....): "penstla" (meaning the idea of snow in Inuit language) and "tlaslo" (referring to snow that falls slowly), the first two snowfalls that bank up against listener's eardrum, whiten the sonic space by somehow melancholic tunes, but the mood remarkably changes on the following tunes. The alternance of silence and ethereal strings on "kayi" (drifting snow) and their amalgamation on the following "skriniya" (another Inuit word for snow, which refers to the snow that never reaches the ground) as well as the nine epic minutes of "katiyana" (night snow) gradually turn the initial vague disorientation into a kind of charming spell, that reaches the climax after the slightly clouded "naklin" (forgotten snow) on the ecstatic glisandi of "chatalin" (snow that makes a sizzling sound as it falls on water) and the enchanting last track "ylaipi" (tomorrow's snow), but if your appetite for sonic catharsis needs more, Oktaf recommends the 45-minutes digital bonus track that got bundled with the cd version on bandcamp.

Tobias Lilja: Medicine Sings Triptych

 Posted by Steve Mecca   Ambient / Electronica / Ethereal / Dub / Soundscapes / Abstract
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Jun 08 2015
Artist: Tobias Lilja (@)
Title: Medicine Sings Triptych
Format: Download Only (MP3 + Lossless)
Label: self-released
Rated: *****
A while back I reviewed Swedish electronic experimental artist Tobias Lilja's 'Delirium Portraits' album which was released on the n5MD label. It was a very cool piece of experimental pop electronica, vastly different than most of the material that comes my way in the synthpop vein, so I would hesitate to even call it "synthpop". In the interim between that and his latest release(s), the 'Medicine Sings Triptych', Mr. Lilja moved his studio out of his apartment and into a bigger space allowing him to be louder and more experimental with his voice, and also to incorporate a lot more hardware musical gear and acoustic percussion instruments in the recording process. The first result is the 'Medicine Sings Triptych', a series of three EPs - 'Medicine Sings', 'White Shell', and 'Flaming Mouth', all released on his own Medicine Sings label. The material on these EPs is vastly different than 'Delirium Portraits'; more organic, hypnotic and ritualistic, as well as conceptual, although of an abstract or oblique nature. The EPs are a journey and Lilja is your guide through these uncharted regions. While some places along the way may seem familiar by default, I can guarantee you most of it will be places you've never been.

Opening with the title track from 'Medicine Sings', Lilja sing-chants in a shamanic style over a repetitive electronic beat that melds the ancient with the futuristic. The hypnotic electronics employed seem to be designed to induce a sort of psychedelic trance, setting you up for what's to come. Before you get to where you have to go, you must cross the "Frozen Lake", a surreal impressionistic set piece where suppressed memories can be dimly perceived through the veneer of its icy surface. What began as a languid crawl turns into a jarring effusion of conflicting thoughts, desires and actions. You must hurry in order not to be consumed by it. On "Swarming Suns" Lilja uses his voice as an instrument, chanting wordlessly over a techno-tribal beat with lots of hypnotic repetition delving deep into the primal. Before you know it, you're 'In the Dead Zone', with creaking sounds and a motorish drone (maybe a motorboat?) being ferried to...elsewhere. There a bit of noisy industrial towards the end. Perhaps all is not as it seems? As a bonus you get the Hecq remix of "Frozen Lake". It downplays the brushed percussion of the original leaving a minimal hat as the main rhythmic guide. Tobias's voice seems bolder in this mix. It is a bit less eerie and somewhat more industrial. Strings are pumped up too. I can't pick a favorite; they're both good.

"How to Attract Snowflakes" opens the second EP, 'White Shell'. This one has lyrics by Sam Sohlberg. It's a slow melancholy song that reminds me of Legendary Pink Dots, somewhat due to the melody and lyrics. Musically, it's a doomy sort of electro-industrial. Perhaps one of the more accessible tracks on all of the EPs. Title track "White Shell" has clockwork piano and electronic percussion as its musical base while Tobias croons over the top. It's slow, but you get the feeling of intense motion as it evolves, until it sort of breaks apart. The instrumental mix of "Evelyn" follows with an ambient flavor and here again, Lilja's vocals are used instrumentally. The two tracks that follow are both remixes. First, the Storm Craver remix of "White Shell", which dispenses with the clockwork piano and subs an arpeggio-like sequenced synth. Lilja's vocals are left intact. It has a bit of a different feel, but I like the original better. This is followed by the Pelikanol remix of "Sun Eater" from the next EP. It is substantially different instrumentally from the original, and seems out of place here. Likely it was put here because the songs on 'White Shell' are shorter than those on 'Flaming Mouth'. Around the middle it gets much too old school trancey-techno. To me it was just superfluous.

Final EP in the triptych is 'Flaming Mouth'. It begins with "There is No Other", a wake-up call with a steady beat urging you onward with its proggy electronic noodling and Lilja's hypnotic vocals. It's not Pink Floyd, but if Syd Barrett was still alive and collaborated with Roger Waters on an album today, it might sound a little something like this. "Sun Eater" is next, and begins with harmonium and light electronic percussion. Lilja's languid vocals and synesthetic lyrics convey summer memories of the past. The harmonium fades out being replaced by more orchestral synth work. Somewhat reminiscent to me of Mercury Rev and later day Talk Talk, but still different. In any case, much better than the remix of this track on the former EP. The journey comes to an end with title track "Flaming Mouth", a completely improvised ambient piece with drones, harmonica, and no beat appears until nearly four minutes into it. Towards the end the rhythm really picks up. Lilja states "Those familiar with Sámi music will feel a connection." So not being familiar with it, I sought some out, and after listening I could see what Lilja was striving for in this Scandanavian folk music, although his implementation of it is somewhat more abstract. An interesting ending to this epic journey, but still it's not quite over yet. Final track on this EP is the Rotoskop (Klaus Gratzel) remix of "There is No Other" which substitutes a more active electronic rhythm for the original but strips out and/or downplays some of the atmospherics that made the original so engaging. The added electronics at the end I simply didn't much care for.

In conclusion, the EPs without the remixes are just fine. The epic vision of the artist may be just too much for some, while others may perceive the Medicine Sings Triptych as one of the most fantastic musical creations to come along of late. I enjoyed quite a bit of it, and it never ceases to amaze me of some of the things Tobias Lilja is capable of. There is also a video for "Medicine Sings"made in collaboration with Anna Moberg and directed by Sam Sohlberg that does much to convey visually what Lilja is striving for here. Deep. Very deep.

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