Music Reviews

James A.McDermid: Tonal Glints

 Posted by Vito Camarretta (@)   Ambient / Electronica / Ethereal / Dub / Soundscapes / Abstract
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May 13 2018
Artist: James A.McDermid
Title: Tonal Glints
Format: CD
Label: KrysaliSound (@)
Rated: *****
The second heart moving chapter of the trilogy - being the first one "Ghost Folk" released by polar Seas Recordings last year - that Bristol-based sound artist James Alexander McDermid dedicated to her sister Harriet, who died in August 2016 after two years of illness, comes out on KrysaliSound. The emotional framework of the plenty of tracks that this producer poured out during this painful experience before and after Harriett's death was exhaustively explained by the author's own words: "once the original shock dissipated, a wall of grief fell on me and, as a result, I found it an almost impossible task seeing my world in quite the same way as I once had. The wear and tear of life became suffocating, so I continued with the idea of channeling what I was feeling, into music; however, coming to terms with Harriett's death, rather than her illness, started to cloud and confuse what I was doing. In the end, it was Sophie Calle's book Exquisite Pain - a book arguably about grief in its various forms - that provided me with the clarity I needed. Calle's writing - in particular, the people in it trying to come to terms with their own similar tragedies - helped shape and direct my own thoughts; Exquisite Pain acted as a conduit for what I was both feeling and trying to convey. Tonal Glints is the end result". The stream of sound that James forged for this stage of enlightenment is riddled with many pearls. The main resounding element on the opening "The Vagabond", - a sort of squeaking music box - seems to open the gate of the memories, which get unrolled on the almost scenic elements filling the crescendo of the following "All the shutters are closed", whose waves crash against a wall of a distant choir of female voices. The thin overlapping of amplified tones of "I put the letter in my pocket" sound like the ruffled surface of a pond where some sweet images of the past could get vivid and precedes one of the best moment of the whole album "I'll take one who loves me", when James picks his acoustic guitar up to weave a delicately intimate folk. Other fragments of memories (or maybe ghost sighting) could have inspired the weird cameo of "Bunny" and the ambient expansions of the following "Within reach", where a sort of regular breath, that becomes more and more audible, makes me argue that this track is somehow related to some dreams or nightmares (rendered by the dark tones of "Worse than the last look") experienced during the sleep. The whispered litany of "If you concede" (another peak of this album), the tinkling standstill of "Eastern Bloc" and the gloomy minute of "Last Year" prepare the ground for the triggering aphony of "I saw red, and through the red, nothing" and the cathartic release in the incomprehensible murmur, the evanescent sonic cloak and the rift in the darkness opened by a thin piano-driven melody in the tail of the final track "Faraway too close".

aMute: Some Rest

 Posted by Stuart Bruce (@)   Ambient / Electronica / Ethereal / Dub / Soundscapes / Abstract
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May 12 2018
Artist: aMute
Title: Some Rest
Format: 12" vinyl + Download
Label: Humpty Dumpty Records
Jérôme Deuson’s seventh album as “Amute” or “aMute” is an organic collection of indulgent, seemingly high-budget post-rock, mostly sombre but infused with a slight sense of optimism in parts.

The title track is the opener, and at 17 minutes, almost half the whole album. Beginning with rumbling piano, strained guitar and sombre, abrasive cello work to generate long post-rock drones, which after four minutes turns into a rather flatter and more predictable bit of post-rock when the drums are introduced, before expanding out into broader atmospherics as vocal noises and spoken word loops arrive after the drums have gone.

The remaining 5 tracks are shorter pieces (comprising 23 minutes between them) but no less expansive, sometimes reminding me of M83 or Ulrich Schnauss works but rendered in a post-rock style. “Dead Cold”, despite its title, ends up being one of the more optimistic-sounding pieces, with its softer acoustic guitar patterns and an end section with the brief cameo of an actual song-like male vocal. “The Obsidian” is a highlight, with its powerful opening and cinematic flavour, while with final track “Maria” we go out with a song, sort of, with the return of a (very low in the mix) and a folksy acoustic guitar that by the end borders on busking music- but not in a particularly strong way.

It’s a tightly-produced and self-contained exercise in thick moody low frequency atmospherics rendered with a broad variety of instrumentation, but ultimately it’s in a crowded market and there’s a danger this release will just wash over you rather than snagging at your heartstrings.

Heidseck: Margins

 Posted by Vito Camarretta (@)   Ambient / Electronica / Ethereal / Dub / Soundscapes / Abstract
Experimental / Avantgarde / Weird & Wired / Glitch / Noise / Field Recording
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May 12 2018
Artist: Heidseck (@)
Title: Margins
Format: CD
Label: manyfeetunder (@)
Rated: *****
Huge sediments of vinyl, CDs and paper buried this release for many months, so that some words about that are maybe too late, even if it should be available yet as a digital on the label/artist's Bandcamp... and if you missed like I did, I recommend to grab a copy. The use of the word 'sediments' and its connection to geology is not casual of course. I heard the sound by Fabrizio Matrone in the guise of Matter on the occasion of the release of "Biorhexistasy" on Kvitnu, whose title was a reference to the theory by Henri Erhart, a pedologist who proposed a general theory about the relation between climate changes and soil transformation on the basis of the alternation of biostasy and rhexistasy, a set of climatic conditions causing soil formation and soil erosion. The coexistence of the tangibility of stones, rocks, mud and weather events as well as their seemingly chaotic interaction in the seemingly ordered box of an abstract theory mirrors the feature of the sounds explored by Fabrizio on "Margins" as Heidseck, as well. The seven tracks are mainly based on glacial drones, that could vaguely resemble those field recordings that some adventurous forgers of the genre grabbed in extremely cold regions, whose gradual but continuous progressions over a gravel bed of muffled thundering of very low frequencies and white noise. These streams of abstract sounds sometimes extinguish like a candle in a room without oxygen (on tracks like "Medial" or "Blockfield"), sometimes evolve into something else like dim brighter whispers ("Lateral") or crumbling implosions ("End"), but any transformation keeps on rendering an idea of a subtly deceptive impermanence under an obscure mantle which doesn't succeed in covering the jagged edges of Heidseck's sound.

Basic Biology: Twilight / Sensational

 Posted by Vito Camarretta (@)   Techno / Trance / Goa / Drum'n'Bass / Jungle / Tribal / Trip-Hop
Ambient / Electronica / Ethereal / Dub / Soundscapes / Abstract
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May 10 2018
Artist: Basic Biology
Title: Twilight / Sensational
Format: Download Only (MP3 + Lossless)
Label: Free Love Digi (@)
Rated: *****
Artists orbiting around the digital label Free Love Digi by the wit and inventive producer Quentin Hiatus keep on pushing interesting outputs by shuffling the cards of its deck of styles. Basic Biology is one of the outputs of this musical/genetic melange, coming out by the crossbreed of two different drum'n'bass producers, who met through their common friend Ghast. On one side, we find Thomas Brinson aka Thomas B, whose atmospheric style, driven by masterfully-built pattern, often goes darker, even if the sonorities that he explores on Basic Biology are closer to the more placid ones he exposed on Sugar and Spice EP (maybe the first or one of the first release on FLD), while on the mother side there's the brilliant multi-instrumentalist Matthew Cassidy, whose sonorities are generally brighter than the one of his counterpart. Just two halftime-dnb tracks on this output: "Twilight" (featuring the sweetly sour voice by Megan McKey) could perfectly fit a pensive chilling or romance in the eventide on the beach, while "Sensational" (vocalised by Matthew Cassidy itself...even if some younger lads could think Alvin or some other chipmunk is on the mic!) is a nice see-saw between chilling Balearic downtempo and sudden acidulous stings.

Lucrecia Dalt: Anticlines

 Posted by Stuart Bruce (@)   Ambient / Electronica / Ethereal / Dub / Soundscapes / Abstract
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May 03 2018
Artist: Lucrecia Dalt
Title: Anticlines
Format: CD & Vinyl
Label: RVNG Intl.
Berlin-based Lucrecia Dalt is a former geotechnical engineer, using two modular synths and her own spoken words to create a decidedly offbeat collection of short beat poetry pieces set over rhythmic experimental synth and electronic soft-industrial soundscapes.

Lyrically it’s a distinctive hybrid of nihilism and science, talking about consciousness, fossils, indifference and meteorites in equal measure. I’m all for more science in music but there are a couple of points where the “alienated lecture” approach seems a little over-smart and inaccessible. Thanks to the mixing and some heavy, energetic cut-up and filter application it’s not always easy to catch.

Musically, at its best it sounds like good Radiophonic Workshop experimental workouts- bleeps and analogue bloops rolling around to form unique and mesmering patterns- “Glass Brain” and the rubber-based “Liminalidad” are strong examples. At other points it is a little more ploddy and muddy-sounding. “Indifferent Universe” is an example of the latter.

“Analogue Mountains” is a highlight, pulsing like a sort of retro-proto-techno with the lyric “we might as well me living in mountains transferred from Mars” one of the nearest points this album gets to a memorable hook.

Mostly there’s consistency across the 14 short poetic pieces that result in a short self-contained album with a focussed attitude and character that seems a clear expression of a particular state of mind. Very interesting in some parts, but maybe underbaked in others, it’s a release which may divide opinion.

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