Music Reviews

Li Yilei: 0:00

 Posted by Stuart Bruce (@)   Ambient / Electronica / Ethereal / Dub / Soundscapes / Abstract
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Mar 20 2019
Artist: Li Yilei
Title: 0:00
Format: Tape
Label: Ferric:Flux
“0:00” is a hybrid of analogue and digital, highlighted in the fact it’s a cassette EP release on the Ferric:Flux label (also available as a download) yet it consists of tracks labelled by timecode. Planetary radio signals are the atmospheric bed of textures over which has been set a variety of freeform synthesizer and guitar noodling that builds up a sci-fi-ish sense of emptiness and space which isn’t wholly cold.

The title track (or at least, the track that starts at zero) builds nicely, setting a stall out as though it’s going to delve into a long post-rock electronica epic with its guitar elements, then stops rather abruptly. Similarly the second track “5.28” pulls the same trick with a synthetic bell sound which gradually gets louder as though something big is approaching, yet it then fades far quicker than it appears and tails off, like an unfinished idea.

“13.31” broods, like a suspense underscore in a sci-fi game, themes which segue into more paired-back final piece “23:16” which is perhaps the only piece that doesn’t tease by building towards something that doesn’t appear.

For me, the format here is the problem. A fifteen minute EP on cassette is a restrictive space for ideas that feel like they needed more time to bake and then breathe. It’s more of a promise of things to come- which could potentially be very good- than a satisfying work in its own right.

William Basinski: On Time Out of Time

 Posted by Andrea Piran (@)   Ambient / Electronica / Ethereal / Dub / Soundscapes / Abstract
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Mar 17 2019
Artist: William Basinski (@)
Title: On Time Out of Time
Format: CD
Label: Temporary Residence (@)
Rated: *****
This new release from William Basinski is based upon the recordings from the interferometers of LIGO (Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory) which captured the merging of two black holes. The two tracks were commissioned for two installations and stands among the less known part of this composer which is not based on loops but on abstract and almost liquid, in Baumanian sense, sounds.
“On Time Out of Time" is a long exploration of long tones which starts with an section based on a mid frequency drone a low frequency beat introducing the main section of the track where high frequency drones are sequenced and juxtaposed to create a quiet and moving atmosphere; it's almost evident how the main concern of this opus is the construction of a sonic synthesis as the black holes merging is seen as a metaphor for a relationship. The final section of the track is a shift from this peaceful atmosphere and is a melody for synth ending with rhythmical noises as a vinyl ending in a closed loop.
"4(E+D)4(ER+EPR)" which uses fragments from the previous track is instead based on a long loop and has a number of other elements in the background creating a multifaceted sound environment which requires a certain attention from the listener beyond a certain attitude towards contemplation.
Based, as usual from this artist, on his peculiar idea of time, as the source material is from 1.3 billion years ago, he's able to use the source material in a remarkable blend with his other canonical musical elements and writes another work of charming beauty. Among the albums of the year.

Suplington: After Life

 Posted by Stuart Bruce (@)   Ambient / Electronica / Ethereal / Dub / Soundscapes / Abstract
New Music / Downtown / Avantgarde Jazz / New Classical / World
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Mar 15 2019
Artist: Suplington
Title: After Life
Format: 12" vinyl + Download
Label: Youngbloods
Forming part of Youngbloods’ Spring Programme for 2019, Nakula Fogg as Suplington has offered up a fairly safe-sounding blend of ambient and avant-garde classical built from freeform elements, mostly plaintive violin and gentle percussion, generally served up on a bed of warm synthetic hum to create a sonic salad that’s mostly quite familiar-sounding and unchallenging, organic and fairly tasty.

“Limbo State” is a highlight, a very measured and balanced offering that explores empty space to strong effect and where the richness of the orchestral or pseudo-orchestral sounds can really breathe. This contrasts well with the glooper, more underwater textures in following track “Sore Eyes”.

At times though it does slip into cliché, with the wind chimes and seagull sounds of “Seagulls In Your Mind” drifting, particularly at first, perhaps too close to New Age meditation CD’s you might find in the kind of shops in Whitby that burn incense throughout the day.

It’s a calming, thoughtful and introspective work, but somehow it seems to stick on a single emotional note for too long, leaving me feel a little disengaged and cold about it.

The Star Pillow: Music For Sad Headbangers

 Posted by Stuart Bruce (@)   Ambient / Electronica / Ethereal / Dub / Soundscapes / Abstract
Dark / Gothic / Wave / New Wave / Dark Wave / Industrial Gothic
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Mar 13 2019
Artist: The Star Pillow
Title: Music For Sad Headbangers
Format: CD + Download
Label: Midira Records
Although the tongue-in-cheek title might lead you to expect distorted slow guitar drone and electric noise, and the opening chord of the Slayer-referencing first track “Bruno Martino is my Tom Araya” seems at first to confirm the presumption, over the course of 37 minutes this relatively short album does prove to be broader and more detailed than that. Admittedly the opener does escalate into slow, heavily processed thrash guitar hammering, but inbetween the grunge, such as the climax of “Moving Grey” and the inevitable finale in final track “Sad Headbanger”, in many parts this has a more thoughtful level of detail and introspection that tempers it very well.

Longest track “Departures” is a soft, appropriately pillow-like sonic wash of gentle pads and warm hums, with small guitar-sonic details that give it a live, leisurely improvised feel.

“Circle Of Events” stands out as slightly odder, with a more overt guitar melody line that sounds quite twangy, almost corny pseudo-Americana that doesn’t quite work, but “Quiet Cooper, we’ll not die today” pulls off a slightly similar arrangement more successfully.

It’s a result that builds a well-measured touch of class and introspective thoughtfulness around its gritty core, to mostly strong effect.

Labreque / Barakat: Terminal Desert

 Posted by Stuart Bruce (@)   Ambient / Electronica / Ethereal / Dub / Soundscapes / Abstract
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Mar 12 2019
Artist: Labreque / Barakat
Title: Terminal Desert
Format: 12" vinyl + Download
Label: Karlrecords
Paul LaBrecque, of Sunburned Hand Of The Man, and Ghazi Barakat, of Pharoah Chromium, have collaborated here to offer up two seventeen-minute pieces of nicely tripped-out post rock atmospheres that successfully sit somewhere between ambient and prog.

First piece “Jajouka Pipe Dream” has, as the title may suggest, a slightly more Moroccan flavour, with ambling flutes and organic percussion. Everything ebbs and floats like a chaotic dream over a near-permanent grumbling percussive base.

Second piece “Planet R-101”, again aptly titled, mostly foregoes these elements in favour of much more sci-fi waves of pulses and noises, over which there’s a gentle layer of occasional guitar plucking that’s just about the right amount of indulgence. Twelve minutes in there’s the return of a Moroccan-sounding melodic instrument which feels like a nice throwback to the first piece and ties it together well.

It’s a deftly handled and nicely immersive short album that is marvellous to relax to.

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