Music Reviews



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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.

P.E.A.R.L.: Four Cardinal

 Posted by Vito Camarretta (@)   Techno / Trance / Goa / Drum'n'Bass / Jungle / Tribal / Trip-Hop
Ambient / Electronica / Ethereal / Dub / Soundscapes / Abstract
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Jan 30 2015
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Artist: P.E.A.R.L.
Title: Four Cardinal
Format: 12"
Label: Falling Ethics (@)
Distributor: Triplevision
Rated: *****
The hinges of the sound by young Berlin-based Spanish dj and producer P.E.A.R.L. and former leg of the techno project Agony Forces together with Marcos "Coushin" Leiras, are not so different from the ones of his two previous releases that he already launched on his own imprint Falling Ethics on an annual basis: the four cardinals of IVC could be approximately a strong influence of British industrial declension of techno, a powerfully mental sound that often borders on hypnosis, precise cuts of raw percussive elements on the contrails of French 90ies techno and strong dynamics. The first of the two tracks is my favorite one as the subtle metallic hum and the rhytmic bleep could surmise some good "atmospheric" stuff that came from the glorious Nova Zembla (Brain Pilot, Paranonia) in the first half of 90ies, while the dark interrupted frequencies and the obsessive clicks of the second part sounds just like a stomping nubbin. As he did on his previous release "The Fall Of Because" when he let remix "All Gods Of Man" to OScar Mulero and The Transhumans, P.E.A.R.L. has been a fine picker-outer on this occasion as well to the point that I'd rather say that the remix by Semantica label owner Enrique Mena aka Svreca is the best moment of this technoid drop.

The Pitch: Xenon & Argon

 Posted by Vito Camarretta (@)   Ambient / Electronica / Ethereal / Dub / Soundscapes / Abstract
Experimental / Avantgarde / Weird & Wired / Glitch / Noise / Field Recording
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Jan 30 2015
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Artist: The Pitch (@)
Title: Xenon & Argon
Format: 12"
Label: Gaffer Records (@)
Rated: *****
The Pitch is the guessed name that the fourtet by Morten Olsen (vibraphone), Koen Nutters (bass), Boris Baltschun (reed organ) and Michael Thielke (clarinet) have chosen for their band, whose sound is free from the rules of composition as well as from a certain promiscuity of improvisations by focusing on abstract tonal twines and the voice of their own instruments over a number of different superimposition and durations sets. The reference to xenon and argon, two chemical elements which belongs to the group of noble gases, is likewise guessed as each instrument sound like volatilizing without establishing any chemical bonding with other ones on the two long-lasting tracks of this release, so that listeners can only but appreciating the intrinsic characteristics of their sound - "the exaltation of a clarinet, the bruteness of a pump organ, the lushness of a vibraphone and the profoundness of a double bass" are considered as proper "navigational tools" in The Pitch's sonic streams in the introduction of the label - as well as their infusions within tonal clouds that sound risingly obsessive and vaguely entrancing on "Xenon" and deeply hypnotical on "Argon" - the tonal atomizer I prefer -, where the above-mentioned features got highlighted by a constant trembling of Baltschun's reed organ which will delight more demanding sonic brains.


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