Music Reviews

Cass.: Loops & Farewell Sketches

 Posted by Steve Mecca   Ambient / Electronica / Ethereal / Dub / Soundscapes / Abstract
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Aug 21 2013
Artist: Cass. (@)
Title: Loops & Farewell Sketches
Format: 12"
Label: Shhhh… (@)
Rated: *****
Cass. (yes, that's right, with a period at the end) is an electronic ambient, dj and sound artist musician from Osnabrück, Germany , and 'Loops and Farewell Sketches' is his first release. This was originally a self-released CD-R limited to 100 copies (one of which apparently I possess) but the demand was so high in the first weeks after its initial release that it was surprisingly sold out. Picked up by the Shhhh'¦ label, it is now available either as a digital download or on white 180g vinyl. The cover artwork was painted by Lea Seppä-Murto in 1979 when she was 18 years old, inspired by the beautiful landscape of her hometown Sammaljoki in Finland. 'Loops and Farewell Sketches was recorded in December 2012 and is comprised of sound sources varying from old, sampled, pitched, modulated and destroyed records, a large field recording directory that has been created over years, multiple effected instrument - and synthloops layered on the top of each other, and different small acoustic instruments.

On my first listen to 'Loops and Farewell Sketches' I found myself trying to analyze the sound sources and construction of the music too much and thinking ':this isn't all that great, just a lot of looping overdubs'. You can't do that with this music; it's not made to be critically studied, but rather lazily enjoyed in an unfocused way. This is very gentle ambient music, made to be consumed in the moment and likely forgotten until the next listening. The first piece, 'Aiiy' has looped flute and other orchestral elements, low drone, some (wordless?) sustained vocal in the background and a lower drone that modulates pitch occasionally. The way this all blends together is quite nice. Makes me think of a hot cup of coffee or cocoa on a cold day. 'Rustling and Pure' brings in some light percussion elements forming a minimal rhythm while a looped electric piano riff rocks gently back and forth. Once again there is slowly moving bass drone, and other aural elements you sense more than pick out as individual instruments or components. It's quite hypnotic if you let yourself go with the flow. 'Sans Peau' is little more than two elongated chords (played on what, I'm not exactly sure) but it drifts like a leaf slowly blowing in the wind. 'Falmer Sea Piano I' seems a little busier than the prior compositions with reverb-drenched soft electric piano and birds in the background but for all the notes being played it has the effect of a babbling brook. 'From Bay to Meadow' begins with windchimes and a steady tapping eventually being overtaken by an orchestral drone loop. Meandering celestial notes glide over the top, and bass and soft guitar emerge providing some structure and sense of rhythm. A lot of subtle changes take place in this piece that once again, you sense more than particularly hear. It ends with the chimes and tapping. At first 'Chatwin Cathedral' sounds like a beginner's group of acoustic guitarists playing the same figure over and over until you realize just how Enoesque this piece is. Wonderful! Speaking of Eno, for some reason 'Moth' reminded me a lot of his 'Another Green World' album. Last track, 'Ethan Veerbek' is another hypnotic looped piano-based piece with other soft electronic elements, some kind of clicking, and sampled dialogue (in German). I could have done without the voices but it was really brief. These pieces seem so simple to listen to yet undoubtedly complex in their construction. It's really amazing. The whole album is only 34 minutes which is even short for an LP, but it's so good, once you hear it you won't want to pass it up. Recommended, another bookstore favorite.

Dr Guilty: Caged Panoramas

 Posted by Maurizio Pustianaz (@)   Ambient / Electronica / Ethereal / Dub / Soundscapes / Abstract
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Aug 19 2013
Artist: Dr Guilty
Title: Caged Panoramas
Format: Tape
Label: Elephant Recordings
Rated: *****
Personal project of Gabriele Quartero, Dr Guilty, deliver their first release "Caged Panoramas" through Paul Mitchell's tape label Elephant Recordings. The label's aim is to alter the listener's emotion thanks to the merging any form of art: photography, film, installation and, of course, music. In Hindu religion, followers pray to the Elephant God at the start of a journey. They pray in order to help remove any obstacles and clear a pathway to enlightenment, prosperity and knowledge. For this reason, the elephant has been chosen as label's icon. Dr Guilty's album is the fourth release of the label and brings to the attention of ambient music lovers four tracks composed by layers of guitar reverb where the sound is a constant wave of pulsing drones. If "Everything's So Quiet" is a quiet fourteen minutes suite where slow guitar arpeggios fluctuate clashing into small melodies and humming sounds, the following "Mesa" and "Live Waves In An Old Movie" are an eight and an eleven minutes dark suites where hypnotic echoes slowly increase and find their zenith into small distortions. The release sounds nice for the lovers of the genre but, at times, slight variations into sound would help defining better the tracks.

Northcape: Exploration and Ascent

 Posted by Steve Mecca   Ambient / Electronica / Ethereal / Dub / Soundscapes / Abstract
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Aug 17 2013
Artist: Northcape (@)
Title: Exploration and Ascent
Format: CD
Label: Sun Sea Sky Productions (@)
Rated: *****
I don't think we've ever reviewed anything by Northcape here at Chain D. L. K. before which is odd because Northcape has three other releases and has gotten a lot of Internet play. So who is this Northcape anyway? Well, Northcape is the project name of Alastair Brown from Warwickshire, England. Been there, nice place for making music like this. This electronic music artist makes easy to digest downtempo electronica ' synths and drum programming. It's quite mellow instrumental stuff, occasionally tinged with a bit of melancholia, but living in Warwickshire might do that to you. 'Exploration and Ascent' is sort of non-melodic melodic, meaning there's no set or memorable melody but still has an overall melodic feel to it. Gentle arpeggios and drifting synth lines, percussion that never becomes obtrusive, but moves the music along as an integral part of the whole is largely what this is made of. Although sometimes it skirts IDM the music never strays too far from its simple form. It's often hypnotic while not even trying to be, and there is just enough variation to keep it from getting boring. With the title, 'Exploration and Ascent' there would seem to be some allusion to mountaineering, but I'm not necessarily getting that out of it, except that some of the compositions on this 11-track album seem rather airy. For me, it was a very pleasant listen, smooth and never jarring, good for contemplation, drinking a cup of coffee (or tea) and reading a good book. Northcape's 'Exploration and Ascent' will likely end up in rotation at my bookstore; it's good ambience for this place. Northcape's not breaking any new ground here, but definitely planted some worthy seeds in the old pasture.

Illuha: Interstices

 Posted by Vito Camarretta (@)   Ambient / Electronica / Ethereal / Dub / Soundscapes / Abstract
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Aug 16 2013
Artist: Illuha (@)
Title: Interstices
Format: CD
Label: 12k (@)
Rated: *****
The first location they met for the recording of their acclaimed debut album "Shizuku" was a century-old Presbiterian church in Belligham (Washington DC), whose objects became part of the process; the final result was so inspirational that Corey Fuller and Tomoyoshi Date aka Illuha decided to make a couple of tours in Japan and one over American West Coast, during which they fed their creativity by collecting sounds and shaping melodies along their journeys. They recombined them at a later stage nearby forest limits in Tokyo on October 14th, 2011 ("Interstices 1 (Seiya)") and at Yougenji, a Zen temple nearby Sendagi Station, in Tokyo on April 20th, 2012 ("Interstices II") and December 15th, 2012 ("Interstices III"). Even if "Interstices" should be a sort of transitional album before their forthcoming one, whose transition mainly concerns their approach to composition and the tonal structure (the distancing of tones seems even longer than the one on "Shizuku"), that mystical halo and the radiant peaceful energy which vibed in their debut release is a permanent feature on this follow-up and I could argue such a deeply immersive aura got influenced by the sacredness of the places where the sonic synthesis happens. The instrumental and electronic-spotted peaceful ambient on "Interstices" where dilutions of piano strokes, guitar melodies and field recordings sound like perpetually dilating are going to daintily adhere to listeners' daydreaming.

Rob Sparx: Babylonian EP

 Posted by Vito Camarretta (@)   Techno / Trance / Goa / Drum'n'Bass / Jungle / Tribal / Trip-Hop
Ambient / Electronica / Ethereal / Dub / Soundscapes / Abstract
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Aug 12 2013
Artist: Rob Sparx (@)
Title: Babylonian EP
Format: Download Only (MP3 + Lossless)
Label: Migration/NexGen (@)
Rated: *****
Another big little treat for your red-hot summertime comes from versatile UK producer Rob Sparx, who made the 8-bit spotted dubstep his Migration imprint (actually absorbed by US-based label NexGen) got famous for lay up for dub and reaggae roots by means of four impressive tracks. The strategies for this coalescence between dubstep and dancehall sonorities have been diversified: the most dub rooted one is the initial remake of a track by Symbiz Sound with Singin Gold on the microphone, which got wicked by bulldog shots and griming basslines, while the above-mentioned 8-bit sizzles spurt from "Look", second track of the EP, whose Rastafarian sparking rolls along a rising dubstep progression. Eastern melodic scents and ethereal female vocals blend in with Jamaican clouds on the following "Prayer For Life", which precedes another awesome lasso tightening around heart ofdub roots, that got pulled by Rob Sparx and MC Task aka Dubstitutes.

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