Music Reviews

Akira Kosemura: Embers OST

 Posted by Vito Camarretta (@)   Ambient / Electronica / Ethereal / Dub / Soundscapes / Abstract
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Feb 08 2015
Artist: Akira Kosemura (@)
Title: Embers OST
Format: CD
Label: Schole (@)
Rated: *****
I honestly didn't see "Saigo no inochi", the movie that young Japanese director Junpei Matsumoto made from the novel by the Akutagawa Prize awarded Fuminori Nakamura. Its plot focuses on Keito (Yuya Yagira) and Yuichi (Masato Yano), two friends who got emotionally traumatised after watching a gang rape by chance and met again when they became adult as well as on the investigation about a dead female acquaintance of Keito, which fosters suspects against Yuichi. When Matsumoto hired Akira Kosemura to care its soundtrack, he hinted to Tokyo-based composer and sound producer "to be affirmative", so that Akira decided to work on one of his spontaneous piano melody, whose simplicity manages to sound likewise beautiful like swarming photons in the obscurity in order to express boith the emotions and the feelings of the main character Keito and the other ones who unroll the plot. Some tracks could sound quite repetitive, due to the fact that the main theme, the one you could hear on the "Opening Title" track, got often reprised, even if attentive ears can perceive some changes and variations of the mood, but the most otuching moments of this soundtrack occurs when Akira got wisely supported by an ensemble of string players - Sakuri Yano (first violin), Tomoko Joho (second violin), Shiori Tanaka (viola) and Masutami Endo (cello) - such as on "Embrace", "Truth" and "Implore" as well as on some specific moments of both the soundtrack and the movie ("Madness", "Chaos", "Root Of Evil"). I don't know if this soundtrack is the first one for Akira, but he glibly adapted the grace of his style to the seventh art.

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
Dark / Gothic / Wave / New Wave / Dark Wave / Industrial Gothic
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Feb 07 2015
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).
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
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.

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