Music Reviews



Chris Campbell and Grant Cutler: Schooldays Over

 Posted by eskaton   Ambient / Electronica / Ethereal / Dub / Soundscapes / Abstract
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Aug 07 2014
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Artist: Chris Campbell and Grant Cutler (@)
Title: Schooldays Over
Format: 12"
Label: Innova (@)
Rated: *****
'School Day's Over' is an Irish folk song about working in the mines, and Chris Campbell and Grant Cutler seem to take this as the jumping off point for this album. On the website for the project, they state that 'As we worked, it became clear that the heart of the tune was more about psychological exploration, almost a diorama or snowglobe to look inside. . . . Ultimately we wanted to craft a landscape that the listener could enter into to. We extended certain parts, elongated certain feelings and then always brought it back to the anchor of the words. Out there in this big landscape are these islands, these places that move the narrative forward, where the verses rise up, what we call 'Song 1' and 'Song 2.'' The label describes the album in one sentence: 'Grant Cutler and Chris take their folksong to outer space.' I suppose that's as good a description as any. If I had to describe this in a few words, I would describe this as melancholy and contemplative. The title, 'Schooldays Over' evokes a kind of uncertain transition where one must move forward, but with no clear vision of where. The music likewise evokes these kinds of feelings, opening with 'Piano, Cellos, Glockenspiel,' a peaceful composition featuring droning strings and sparse piano that almost sounds like a warmup for the next song. 'Song 1' lays down some sparse ambience and reverbed vocals reminiscent of This Mortal Coil before giving way to an interesting duet of piano and marimba that continues into the next track, 'Marimba, Synths, Piano'. As the piano and marimba continue, the synth comes in and gains increasing prominence. Up until now, it the music has been rather sedate and calming, but 'Pump Organ, Gongs, Balloon Bassoons' changes all of that by kicking in with a pipe organ at full force. However, even this becomes more subdued and shifts into 'Song 2,' which has the same formula as 'Song 1,' with its reverbed vocals and mellow ambience that bleeds into 'Cello Bath, Koto,' which keeps the ambience going with just a hint of dissonance. 'Song 3' brings it all together with similar vocals with the refrain 'it's time you were on your way' and fuller instrumentation than the other two 'songs.' Overall this is the kind of music that makes even a sunny day feel like a cold, fall day with the rain drizzling softly outside. Well done dreamlike music. This album weighs in at around 21 minutes.

Stefkovic van Interesse: In the Fields

 Posted by eskaton   Ambient / Electronica / Ethereal / Dub / Soundscapes / Abstract
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Aug 05 2014
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Artist: Stefkovic van Interesse (@)
Title: In the Fields
Format: CD
Label: self-released
Rated: *****
I was unfamiliar with this artist, who draws heavily on field recordings for his work. The website describes his work thus: 'Rich textures are unfolding, stretching beyond their place of origin, thus creating a new space for them to breathe. The journey might start out in the forest, but listening carefully you will end up somewhere else that bears no resemblance to the sound source.' Sounds promising, so let's get to the music. It started off a bit slow, as 'Sclocean' opens with slow pounding percussion and little else, it then kicks into the heavy dark ambient soundscapes that will define the rest of the album with 'Fields of ZP.' Throughout the album, we have the sensation of watching as tectonic plates crunch together over a sea of primordial soup. Waves of drone wash over everything with just the right touches of noise. At times it gets a bit minimal ('Deep Guiana' and the first half of '(Shocked by) Forest') but overall, this is solid dark ambient work. This album weighs in at around 41 minutes.

Cindytalk: TouchedRAWKISSEDsour

 Posted by Vito Camarretta (@)   Ambient / Electronica / Ethereal / Dub / Soundscapes / Abstract
Experimental / Avantgarde / Weird & Wired / Glitch / Noise / Field Recording
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Aug 02 2014
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Artist: Cindytalk (@)
Title: TouchedRAWKISSEDsour
Format: CD
Label: Handmade Birds (@)
Rated: *****
Metallic stridencies that seem to emulate the sharp cry of a sparrowhawk or maybe of a phoenix, echoes of distant thunders, the buzz of rising voltage, magnetic resonances of lacerated guitars and electrified gurgles and cavernous pealing open this new impressive release by Scottish musician and former collaborator of Cocteau Twins and This Mortal Coil Gordon "The Freeze" Sharp aka Cindytalk, whose renaissance seeped through a series of acclaimed reissues and four astonishing albums on Editions Mego. Mr.Sharp bravely decided to change course towards darker non-music sonorities on "touchedRAWKISSEDsour", but Cindytlak's flair in forging entrancing soundscapes turns obscurity into dazzling sheen. The tracks which come after the initial "Dancing On Ledges" seem to get focused on layering of abstract noises, which singularly seem to render hallucinations or nightmares, whose overlapping emanates the psychotropic features of Cindytalk's sonorities: both "Fire Recalling Its Nature", whose abrupt stop occurs when the track seems to rise towards mystical levels, and "Mouth Of My Sky (Open Up And Swallow Me)", where an evanescent melody seems to get blown over a desolate industrial escape, smell like sonic reports from netherworld, while the lysergic wire drawing and scrapes of electronically processed guitars over syncopated noises which sound like the noise of unlocked wooden doors on "Reversing The Panopticon" and the following "E Quindi Uscimmo A Riveder Le Stelle", named after the last line of Dante's first book of the Divine Comedy "Inferno", which manages to render resurfacing from obscure tunnels underworld to nocturnal glimmer, sound like proper sonic rites of liberation. After the cathartic placidity of "Yugao", where Gordon brings to light both that airily anaesthetic piano featuring some of his recent releases and his mania for Japanese music, Gordon seal all the previous leaks with the mesmeric storms of "Mystery Sings Out", where the mysterious Cindy finally talks (and "sings").

Malayeen: s/t

 Posted by Vito Camarretta (@)   Techno / Trance / Goa / Drum'n'Bass / Jungle / Tribal / Trip-Hop
Ambient / Electronica / Ethereal / Dub / Soundscapes / Abstract
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Jul 31 2014
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Artist: Malayeen (@)
Title: s/t
Format: 12"
Label: Discrepant (@)
Rated: *****
One of the most fascinating musical discovery in the big cloud of releases that usually fill my room comes from Malayeen, a Lebanese trio by Raed Yassin (keyboards, electronics, turntables), Charbel Haber (electric guitar, electronics) and Khaled Yassin (darbouka and percussions). Many listeners could be tempted to link their powerfully evoking music to the tragic pieces of news which are coming from Palestine, but even if for instance the introduction of Omar could sound bloody of the opening organ-like sound which precedes the passionate dance of "Najwa", could evoke the blood and money sucker vampires, which are causing that huge catastrophe, this release has nothing to share with that shitty situation (and the shitty impotence of international hypocrite spectators). The main musical input of Malayeen's creative process is the music of the legendary Egyptian guitarist Omar Khorshid that these skilled guys rehashed in order to release this upgrade of Arabic music and belly dancing music, whose genuine originality allured Discrepant, who co-produced this release by collaborating with forward-thinking Lebanese label Annihaya. Named after the names of notorious belly dancers, the seven tracks of this self-titled record re-elaborates Arabic music ina very orignal way. Besides the above-mentioned "Najwa" - definitively my favorite track -, there are many original hybrids such as "Fifi" or "Dina", where folkish elements get closer to the contagiously obsessive hooks of most feverish Western techno, whose mishmash between Eastern and Western music sounds close to perfection.

Slicnation: Autoscopy

 Posted by Edward Trethowan   Ambient / Electronica / Ethereal / Dub / Soundscapes / Abstract
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Jul 31 2014
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Artist: Slicnation (@)
Title: Autoscopy
Format: Download Only (MP3 only)
Label: Silber Records (@)
The term 'autoscopy' refers to what is also known as the out-of-body experience, in which the individual undergoes a conscious sense of disembodiment. In particular, the body can be observed from an external, elevated perspective without loss of any sense of self. It is a mysterious phenomenon, perplexing throughout the ages, spiritually and neurologically important and, of course, ripe for creative interpretation.

In this case, Nic Slaton seems to be imagining a metaphorical soundtrack for certain aspects of this experience. The track titles make clear references to some of the ideas and feelings associated with autoscopy: 'Watcher', 'Doppelganger', 'Astral' (the realm of non-physical, spiritual phenomena), 'Repossession', 'Heautos' (presumably a reference to 'heautoscopy', the hallucination of seeing oneself elsewhere) and 'Maartechen' (a name linked with negative autoscopy, a disorder of which failing to acknowledge one's own reflection in mirrors is diagnostic). Indeed, the mid-heavy, drone-based ambient style of most of these compositions lends itself well to the incorporeal inscrutability attributed to autoscopy. Cavernous and muffled as if distantly heard from The Other Side, the leading drone in 'Watcher', surrounded by wavering loops, makes for an enjoyable introduction. 'Astral' does well with the metaphor, drifting through deeply soothing tones. 'Repossession' upholds the concept most successfully and is the best piece overall, suggesting the conclusion of the autoscopic experience with more subtlety than usual. Elsewhere, when instead negative autoscopy and heautoscopy are referenced, the unnerving potential of these disorders is represented by harsher, treble-rich textures.

Slaton's modus operandi on this album is to make use of a different, single sound source for each track, recorded without overdubs and processed through pedals. Most of his instruments seem to have been acoustic, with their natural tonal ranges strongly modified and blurred into droning fabrics. A novel if unreliable way of reading into this process might be that Slaton is also trying to goad his instruments into having their own autoscopic experiences, inducing the sonic range of each to expand beyond the physical limitations of the instrument body. The metaphorical result: cloudy, formless, disembodied.


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