Music Reviews

Sacra Fern: Bloodstone

 Posted by Andrea Piran (@)   Ambient / Electronica / Ethereal / Dub / Soundscapes / Abstract
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Oct 07 2018
Artist: Sacra Fern
Title: Bloodstone
Format: CD
Label: Black Mara (@)
Rated: *****
Sacra Fern is the project of Dmitry Fedoschenko that is based on a form of dark ambient with extensive use of field recordings. This release is presented as a sort of soundtrack for a video part developed upon shots in the forest tied to the presentation of this release which describes the stone giving the title to this release as a magical artifact which can absorb power.
The singing birds of "I Saw It" opens this release upon a droning crescendo and generate a tension as they seems to escape from somewhere. The long track which is the center of this release, "Transparent", starts in a quiet and meditative mood where all metallic beat are exalted as the drone is not the gravity center of the track but only an element to underline the field recordings and the small sounds which are the main element of the track; so, the result is closer to certain ritual music rather than proper ambient. The framework of "Black Rain" is instead a more canonical dark ambient with a small interlude based on field recording. "Storm Of The Century" is a short drone crescendo which underlines the menacing field recordings in a rather evocative way. The bells of the first part of "Crimson River" are almost enchanting in their resonances and bring the listener toward the final part of this release with the field recording of what is sounds like an extinguishing fire.
With his reasonably personal use of field recordings this release doesn't sound just like another dark ambient release but as a more elaborated release. It could be a little too adventurous for fans used to releases which sound more or less the same but will find something worth a listen. A really nice release.

Mike Cooper: Tropical Gothic

 Posted by Stuart Bruce (@)   Ambient / Electronica / Ethereal / Dub / Soundscapes / Abstract
New Music / Downtown / Avantgarde Jazz / New Classical / World
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Oct 03 2018
Artist: Mike Cooper
Title: Tropical Gothic
Format: LP
Label: Discrepant
Mike Cooper uses his collection of guitars as a primary sound source, but wraps and envelops them in thick processing and ambience to create ‘ambient exotica soundscapes’. This release takes those soundscapes and fuses them back with more conventional instrumental song structures, sometimes bordering on pop, resulting in a rather idiosyncratic whole with a quite distinct flavour. While ‘exotica’ might sometimes bring with it connotations like ‘kitsch’ and ‘cheese’, more often than not this is a brooding collection of sonics from the underbelly of the same soundworld.

The first side of the LP is made up of eight short tracks, some just vignettes, ranging from the quirky Hawaiian-tinged lounge vibe of “Running Naked” to the slightly sinister ambiences of “Shindo’s Blues”.

The second side of the LP is entirely given over to the 18-minute piece “Legong / Gods Of Bali”, a more immersive wallowing in bells and reverb and gentle exotic rhythms that’s quite mesmerising if just sometimes shading a little too close to the ‘Glastonbury wigged-out hippy tent’ vibe.

Distinctive and full of character, it’s an unusual dark twist on tropical tones that tells its own story and tells it well.

Andrea Neumann / Mads Emil Nielsen: Refound

 Posted by Stuart Bruce (@)   Ambient / Electronica / Ethereal / Dub / Soundscapes / Abstract
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Sep 26 2018
Artist: Andrea Neumann / Mads Emil Nielsen
Title: Refound
Format: 10"
Label: Arbitrary
This is a compact 10” collection of ten short numbered ‘correspondence pieces’ between Neumann and Nielsen where they experiment with piano-sourced sounds and process and rework them digitally into unrecognisable electronic shapes and atmospheres with a synthetic and sometimes slightly harsh attitude.

Super-short repeating glitches pan and warp over low grumbling sounds that sometimes make way for more harmonious layouts. Percussive elements drenched in delay are layered spontaneously, never really forming conscious patterns. At times, such as in part 5, there’s a certain sci-fi quality to the heavy use of effects.

It’s a very coherent 22-minute work, divided almost unnecessarily into ten tracks, but it’s very familiar experimental soundscaping territory and it falls a little short of the unique character or challenge that would make it really notable.

Jonas Kasper Jensen: Within The Temporal Experience

 Posted by Stuart Bruce (@)   Ambient / Electronica / Ethereal / Dub / Soundscapes / Abstract
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Sep 25 2018
Artist: Jonas Kasper Jensen
Title: Within The Temporal Experience
Format: Download Only (MP3 + Lossless)
Label: Clang
Jensen’s previous drones and atmospheres work was built from electronic sources, but for this new 6-track collection the key ingredient is processed recordings of string instruments. These long, organic sustained notes and tones are layered up, reworked and effected into otherworldly environments that certainly sound deeply electronic, but the string roots don’t disappear and it never wholly detaches from classical string instrument timbres and the emotional shortcuts that they provide.

As such, what we’ve got here is a decidedly emotive collection of drones. It’s surprisingly warm at times, with glacially slow pitch changes working the tone in and out of pleasantness but never getting truly harsh. There are noise elements, for example in “Eternity In Finitude”, but they are, like everything else here, polished and softened into a broad gentleness.

It often languishes at the edge of your attention- “Silence Within The Sound” and most-melodic final track “The Passing By” both sounding like they could have been written for a tense moment in a video game where the audio was intended to unnerve you without properly being heard. There are occasional shades of rhythm, subtle pulsings within “A Shape Within A Material” that are barely audible yet carefully increase the tension aspect. “From The One To The Other” might be a good gateway track with which to introduce ‘the deeper stuff’ to fans of M83 or Radiohead who might be interested in delving deeper into what electronic music has to offer.

As temporal experiences of albums go it’s rather short, barely scraping over 30 minutes. Seeking “the boundaries between true music and naked sound” has brought Jensen into territory that won’t sound especially new or revolutionary to long-time listeners of ambient, but nevertheless it’s a polished and high-quality-sounding example of its kind and it does have the power to hit a nerve.

Madhavi Devi: The Truth of Being

 Posted by Steve Mecca   Ambient / Electronica / Ethereal / Dub / Soundscapes / Abstract
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Sep 24 2018
Artist: Madhavi Devi (@)
Title: The Truth of Being
Format: CD + Download
Label: Spotted Peccary Music (@)
Rated: *****
Madhavi Devi is electronic musician, harpist, and meditative sound painter Cheryl Gallagher from the Austin, Texas area. Madhavi Devi has had a few collaborative releases prior to this first solo outing on the Spotted Peccary label, but I haven't heard them. On 'The Truth of Being' Madhavi Devi employs a blend of digital, analog, modular and software synthesizers, concert grand and electric harps, viola, ambient guitar, Tibetan bowls. Howard Givens (ambient electric guitar, modular synthesizers, effects) and Stephanie Britten Phillips (viola) are special guests on this album but they never overshadow Gallagher's work. On 'The Truth of Being' Madhavi Devi's ambient is of a soothing melodic sort without ever getting too caught up in the melody. It is richly textured and world music influenced without leaning too much in one ethnic direction or another. Over the six tracks on the album that's just a few minutes under an hour (a couple of the lengthier tracks are well over 10 minutes each), Madhavi Devi takes the listener on an exotic, yet familiar journey that can also serve as tranquil meditation. Rhythm is sparse and somewhat downplayed yet still present on a few tracks. Most of the melodic input is abstract which is fine by me. (Too often good ambient can be ruined by melodic themes that come across as too romantic or cloying.) The one thing I really like about this album is its varying shades; different tones of light and dark that always seem to be resolved perfectly. While sometimes I was reminded of Constance Demby and Michael Stearns, Madhavi Devi's music has a vibe of its own not owing to any other particular sonic artist or work. Gallagher also designed and painted the artwork for the tri-fold CD slipcase, impressing that she's the total package. While 'The Truth of Being' isn't a revolutionary work in the ambient genre, it is a very solid one with a high degree of replayability.

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