Music Reviews



Tobias Lilja: Medicine Sings Triptych

 Posted by Steve Mecca   Ambient / Electronica / Ethereal / Dub / Soundscapes / Abstract
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Jun 08 2015
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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.

Galati: Mother

 Posted by eskaton   Ambient / Electronica / Ethereal / Dub / Soundscapes / Abstract
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Jun 01 2015
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Artist: Galati (@)
Title: Mother
Format: CD
Label: Psychonavigation Records (@)
Rated: *****
Galati is the work of Italian artist Roberto Galati, who explains that 'I make slow, psychedelic, ambient music' and that 'synthesizers, guitars, basses are my means of expression.' He describes this album in a pretty long discourse that begins, 'Mother is a diary of a long trip, reporting my personal search for answers and for my own self. It's about letting go, leaving behind; it means gaining simplicity and innocence. I've been observing a metamorphosis in myself, it started in Greenland, it continued during the winter months between 2012 and 2013, and went on to far-off lands of Tibet, in the shadow of Mount Everest, the Mother Goddess of the Universe.' OK... let's see how it translates musically. 'Mother I' kicks it off with some nice, spacey synth-based ambient. Imagine a soundtrack to a science fiction space film, and you'd be off to a good start. But this has some good complexity to it; it isn't just heavy drone. For example, there is a nice melody of chimes running through the piece. 'Mother II' is a nice slab of noisy dark ambient, where everything seems about ready to blow away on the force of the wind. 'Mother III' Keeps the same gritty feel going, but adds a marching snare and indecipherable vocals. It is like listening to an army coming toward you in the distance. 'Mother IV' changes it up a bit with some orchestral drone. The overall feel is like hearing a band warm up in slow motion, stretched out over 10 minutes. It is much more pleasant than it sounds, and reminds me of Russian dark ambient artist Kshatry. Finally, 'Mother V' brings it together with drone that blends into marching percussion and crashing cymbals. This is like hearing a parade in your dreams. Overall, this is nicely done soundscape that avoids falling into the trap of becoming uninteresting. Galati mixes it up and brings just the right blend of noisiness and drone to keep everything engaging. This album weighs in at around 75 minutes.

Bionulor: Vexations EP

 Posted by Vito Camarretta (@)   Ambient / Electronica / Ethereal / Dub / Soundscapes / Abstract
Experimental / Avantgarde / Weird & Wired / Glitch / Noise / Field Recording
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May 31 2015
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Artist: Bionulor (@)
Title: Vexations EP
Format: 3" MiniCD
Label: sqrt (@)
Rated: *****
The '100% sound recycling' method, that Polish sound artist Sebastian Banaszczyk a.k.a. Bionulor described last year on the occasion of an interesting chat we had after his album "Erik" on the label Oniron, got applied again on "Vexations", the longest composition by Erik Satie, his favorite source of inspiration and composer. Far from reflecting its notorious length - the disputed composition by Satie is known as the longest composition in music history (according to interpretes, the 152 tones on five staff which should be repetead 840 times should last between 9 and 24 hours....)...a couple of years ago French pianist Nicolas Horvarth performed a non-stop solo version which lasted 35 hours! -, this EP consists of seven short pieces, whose seemingly abstract nature could be inappropriately labelled as ambient, as it has more intersections with acousmatics and electroacoustic experiments: some of the field recordings, which feed the process together with excerpts of Satie's "Vexations", sounds unprocessed so that Sebastian tried to peek into a somehow ordinary side of Satie's universe. Each tone or phrase seems to have been transformed into a set of test tubes, beakers and whatnot, while sonic clues of ordinary world (noises of locking doors, distant cuckoos, metallic pins, aspirations, electric interferences and so on) got wisely embedded in amaneer which sounds really surreal. "Vexations" is the last act of a series of 3" CDs by Warsaw-based label sqrt (mainly focusing on experimental and electroacoustic music) to celebrate its ten years of existence.

Ryuichi Sakamoto / Illuha / Taylor Deupree: Perpetual

 Posted by Vito Camarretta (@)   Ambient / Electronica / Ethereal / Dub / Soundscapes / Abstract
Experimental / Avantgarde / Weird & Wired / Glitch / Noise / Field Recording
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May 31 2015
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Artist: Ryuichi Sakamoto / Illuha / Taylor Deupree
Title: Perpetual
Format: CD
Label: 12k (@)
Rated: *****
The sound artists, who co-signed this release on 12k, shall be sufficient to guarantee the quality of the listening experience that got embedded into this plastic disc, whose only defect is the fact that it could inspire envy in those audiophiles who didn't took part to the event where Ryuichi Sakamoto, Taylor Deupree and Illuha, the duo of Tomoyoshi Date and Corey Fuller, shared food, words, exploration and stage (their first time together) in the wet heat of Japanese summer on the occasion of a series of events for the 10-years anniversary of the Yamaguchi Center for Arts and Media. The specification with regard to moisture level and temperature are not minor details as when these masters begun to shape frequencies, they wisely tuned in to weather conditions s you can immediately catch from the first of the three movements this improvisation got splitted for the release: a sort of wet venner seems to wrap the thin layers and the blurred sonic elements (including some voices) that sounds like lanterns in dense fog and the presence of sonic elements is even rarest on the second and the astonishing third movement, where each isolated tone sounds like thrown into a dark pit. No wonder the lucky audience of this concert, when these masters wisely manipulated field recordings, crackling found objects, guitar tones, lulling piano and silence (!), got ecstatically breathless while listening to this performance that fortunately got recorded (in high quality DSD) for the listening pleasure of all those ones who missed this rare moment of sublime sonic art!

Fabio Orsi: Just For A Thrill

 Posted by Vito Camarretta (@)   Ambient / Electronica / Ethereal / Dub / Soundscapes / Abstract
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May 31 2015
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Artist: Fabio Orsi
Title: Just For A Thrill
Format: CD
Label: Home Normal (@)
Rated: *****
Since the delicate repetition of a piano melody and the "aquatic" whispers that got fluttered into the daydreaming pristine fluffs of the first untitled movement, Italian sound-artist Fabio Orsi dives into out-of-time minimal ambient sonorities that will let listeners slacken onto an entrancing atmosphere, where any small somatic variations of each sonic element that he wisely dissolve manages to render emotional states and changer without any specific purpose, except of pouring thrills into eardrums and souls. His extraordinary ability in communicating through wordless sonic waves, supposedly fostered by his fascination with artistic photography, got revealed by the eight movements of this release, which also includes a booklet of 16 snapshots by the artist: sober electroacoustic explorations, sudden twinkling tones, gently giddy loops, mildly mesmerizing ringing cycles and hovering sets of microtones, that reaches their acme on the 20 minutes of the last movement as well as on the catchy crescendo of the third one and the soothing shadows of the sixth one, are the enzymes of the charming thrills that Fabio wisely instill. The package of the 500 copies of this release comes using locally cultivated materials including handmade 380gsm washi outer wrap, while the 16 pages booklet that collects 16 polaroid shots by Fabio got printed on recycled card.


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