Music Reviews



Luca Forcucci: Fog Horns

 Posted by Vito Camarretta (@)   Ambient / Electronica / Ethereal / Dub / Soundscapes / Abstract
Experimental / Avantgarde / Weird & Wired / Glitch / Noise / Field Recording
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Jul 28 2013
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Artist: Luca Forcucci (@)
Title: Fog Horns
Format: CD
Label: Sub Rosa (@)
Rated: *****
The premise that half Italian half Swiss young sound artist Luca Forcucci made about this surreal release, the 14th chapter the prestigious Belgian label Sub Rosa added to his limited-edition Framework series, could let you surmise the initial title-track and the following two long lasting suites could belong to a sort of sonic document about sensorial hallucinations that tiredness could cause; he spoke about "twelve hours of flight and some sleep deprivation" before his landing in San Francisco. So Luca explained, "Because of or thanks to my state of consciousness, I heard a distinct and beautiful sound. It took me a while to understand if I was really hearing it or dreaming it: the sound of the fog horns". The field recordings of conversations by anonymous pedestrians, chirping birds, delayed noises of a train trip and other sonic clues intertwines with the sound of distant fog horns he listened after he landed in San Francisco in Spring 2011 and those fog horns have been turned into the cement of endoplasmic reticulum of sounds, including some hip-hop scratches by Le Gooster on "Fog Horns", which sound like unexpected reminiscences resurfacing from inner depths or frenzied parties, the occasional metallic hits of crockery, other hip-hop morsels and the mesmeric over-stretched cello by Michael Kott on the somehow disquieting and hallucinatory atmospheres of the final track "Winds". On the central track "L'Ecume des Jours", fog horns became the imaginary vertex of a mysterious building who got erected both in the spacial and the sonic dimension, whose architectural principles lay on the sound of crashing waves, puffed electric distortions and scorched reedy samples which chorally becames headier and headier by emphasizing the artistic metamorphosis of this device that warned vehicles of navigational hazards or boats of the presence of other vessels or other obstacles in foggy condition into a presence, which is both reassuring and unsettling as it succeeds in evoking an impending danger by means of his orotund heavy "voice" and his effect on sonic sphere which seems to be covered by a sort of camouflage mantle.

Kamil Kowalczyk: Nova

 Posted by Steve Mecca   Ambient / Electronica / Ethereal / Dub / Soundscapes / Abstract
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Jul 26 2013
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Artist: Kamil Kowalczyk (@)
Title: Nova
Format: CD
Label: self-released
Rated: *****
Kamil Kowalczyk, originally from Poland, now based in Edinburgh, Scotland is a minimalist electronic musician who has released six albums in mp3 format on the U.S. net label 'Zenapolae' and another in CD format ('Aurora', 2011) plus this one available in CDr and digital download. If 'Nova' is any indication of what he's been up to, I'd say Kamil is certainly someone you might want to check the back catalogue of. 'Nova' consists of nine sort mostly lengthy pieces, with one short one at 4:33. From the album and track names, you can tell these pieces are "space-oriented" (as in outer space), but don't expect anything akin to classic 'space music'. This is actually much closer to the coldness and sterility of space, or as it might be imagined. The soundscapes are primarily composed of drones of various colors, tonalities, and densities, using different LFO and filtering techniques to blend and contrast them. Voices, sometimes echoed, sometimes not occasionally appear, some seeming like astronaut/mission transmissions, and others, eerie disembodied voices...in space. (I won't spoil your experience by telling you what they say.) As minimal as the soundscapes are though, there is still an amount of aural variety in sonic events and incidentals. Throughout the course of the nine pieces you will likely feel you are traversing the void, and experiencing light cast from the stars, shimmering and shifting in your perspective. At a point in the recording there almost seems to be a dimensional bending, as if space was being folded. This is a very heady album and I'd encourage listening in both headphone and open speaker environment to experience it fully. 'Nova' is certainly one for more contemplative, relaxed moods when you can take the time to fully absorb it. If you haven't listened to this kind of music since Tangerine Dream's 'Zeit,' and loved it, I'd say this is a 'Must Buy'. (Album is limited to 250 CDr copies.) It is very deep. You could easily get 'Lost in Space'.

Ensemble Skalectrik: Trainwrekz

 Posted by Vito Camarretta (@)   Industrial Noise / Power Noise / Harsh Noise
Ambient / Electronica / Ethereal / Dub / Soundscapes / Abstract
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Jul 26 2013
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Artist: Ensemble Skalectrik
Title: Trainwrekz
Format: 12"
Label: Editions Mego (@)
Rated: *****
A plentiful nourishment for lucid visual mental imagery comes from Ensemble Skalectrik, the most radical performance-based side-project of Nick Edwards aka Ekoplekz, which got assembled on the basis of one-take improvisational sessions and a heap of sounds he pulled out of old vinyl (mainly collections of sound effects and easy listening records), turntables and other devices before moulding them by means of a wide set of filters, loop-pedals and equalizers. Even if this project dangles on sonic experiments, there's a strong connection with other offsprings from this talented Bristolian sound-artist, as its distinctive declension of turntablism which often sneaks up on the pulpy sonorities of Dub, Industrial, Musique Concrete, random electronics and electroacoustics as well as a certain concatenation of the sonic insertions are features which recur in many Ekoplekz tracks. You can savour this record track by track as the way Mr.Edwards messes with sounds is really amazing or as if it were a continuum. You can easily imagine a surreal journey on a train before, during and after the "happy" ending the title of the album quotes, so that the initial track "Wreckwahn" could let you think about the beginning of the ride: looping chugs, the unstoppable rhythmical march on the rail, the red-hot iron which begins to condition the temperature inside the compartments seems to pressurise the listener. On "Wrecktoo", Nick seems to translate the financial term "liquid assets" into sounds by inbreeding the typical chiming of old cash register and other concrete sounds with gurgling waters and bubbling sounds, a crossbreed which sound like an abstract psychedelic and somehow nightmarish carousel. You could imagine that the running train became covered by a thick fog where lights could look like laser beams and its clattering got muffled as if it crossed the gate of fourth dimension while listening to the last track of the first side, "Wrekfree". On the flipside, Nich seems to emphasize the hypnotical progression of the journey by means of the disquieting other-wordly progression of "Wrekfore" and the sinister sequences of "Wreksank" which could let you think about the wreck as a spite by wicked goblins, who dwells in the tunnel your unlucky train must pass through. And what about the lovely twitters of the final "Wreksikz (for Louis Johnstone)" the label describes as a "serene ornithological drift"? Is it possible you are experiencing the heaven some believers fantasize about? The noises of the wreck, which gradually resurfaces and disturb those heavenly transmission, could be the clue that those lovely chirping birds just belonged to the reverie caused by a pharmalogical coma...

Springintgut: Where We Need No Map - Remixes

 Posted by Vito Camarretta (@)   Ambient / Electronica / Ethereal / Dub / Soundscapes / Abstract
Experimental / Avantgarde / Weird & Wired / Glitch / Noise / Field Recording
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Jul 25 2013
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Artist: Springintgut (@)
Title: Where We Need No Map - Remixes
Format: 12"
Label: Pingipung (@)
Distributor: Kompakt Distribution
Rated: *****
Even if the return of the inventive cellist and composer Andi Otto in the guise of Springintgut is still fresh, Pingipung decided to release a collection of remixes of some tracks from "Where We Need No Map" by whom he successfully tested and implemented his new invention, a cello which got enhanced by movement and accelerometer sensors he called "fello". I could surmise such an operation could be related to the intent of make the above-mentioned release more accessible to dancefloors and more recreational contexts as well, even if Andi's tracks could sound ductile enough to whet remixer's attitude. "Dizzy Heights", the collaborative track Springintgut built on the voice of Sasha Perera from Jahcoozi got filtered by warping knobs and acidulous pitches of London-based rising star of the upcoming Skweee scene Luke Sanger aka Luke's Anger, who signs his dental impression of chopped beats, clappy stepping and tailspins by the alias Duke Slammer, and precedes a couple of lovely dub rehashes of "Ode To Yakushima": the first remix - the one I like more - comes from the Alpine Dub pushers Hey-O-Hansen, who extracts a skinny and attractively sketchy dub song, while the second one got reshaped by Nils Dittbrenner aka Peter Presto and could let you imagine a session of oral hygiene by a forgotten gringo, who emulates his sixshooter by a swig of mouthwash, but the less distinguashable light-bending camouflage of "ode To Yakushima" comes from Hamburg-based dj and producer Tilman Tausendfreund, who turned it into a daydreaming dancefloor lullaby by expanding cello pads , cutting Japanese vocals and adding crunchy claps and gleaming sounds. The tribal and somehow tropical flavour that Hamburg-based dj trio RSS Disco adds to "Bangalore Kids" is really nice as well as the drum and pizzicato whirlpool that Icarus (Leaf Records) adds to "Incentive Pizzicato", which comes as a bonus track for all those who will purchase the digital version.

Bvdub: All Is Forgiven

 Posted by Steve Mecca   Ambient / Electronica / Ethereal / Dub / Soundscapes / Abstract
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Jul 23 2013
cover
Artist: Bvdub (@)
Title: All Is Forgiven
Format: CD
Label: n5MD (@)
Rated: *****
Bvdub, the project moniker of San Francisco ambient artist Brock Van Wey, has had so many releases on so many labels since 2007, I won't even attempt counting them. I suppose prolific doesn't even begin to describe Bvdub's output. (He's put out at least a couple more since this album.) Why haven't I run into this before? Frankly, I have no answer for that. 'All Is Forgiven' consists of three lengthy tracks ' 'All Is Forgiven' (19:04); 'Today He Felt Life' (31:32); and 'Peonies Fall For Kings (26:50). My first listen to the album was not a positive one; a cacophony of voices and orchestration on the title track just rubbed me the wrong way and I just couldn't get into the rest at the time. It was obvious I wasn't in the mood, wasn't getting it. I put the disc away for later consumption.

Returning to the disc in a completely different mood I found myself more in tune with the vibe. The title track begins with a little ambient synth (tones) to set the tone, slow percussion, meandering piano, and then the voices and orchestration. The latter are looped ad infintum, but not in any conventional way, sort of a swirling echoey stew that has no defined point in repeating. Voices are melodic with a world flavor and indecipherable lyrics. It's all very impressionistic and the only constant is the percussion, sort of a minimal drum machine track to keep things from getting too far afield, but even that falls away prior to the six minute mark. The voices temporarily recede and piano synth pads and some strings take over until the vocals return. Although there is some motion in the music, you almost have the feeling of being suspended in time for a while. Eventually a more electronic type of percussion makes its entrance in a stylized repetitive pattern. There seems to be the sound of a thousand voices all engaged in some strange dance. Voices recede and the orchestration (other ambient synth elements) takes over. Then it merges and blends, shifting, morphing, changing but remaining basically the same. This is a remarkable piece, nearly hallucination-inducing. The percussion ends before the track does while everything else keeps going and getting more intense until near the end we are only left with piano and synth pad, then a hugely echoed voice, then some stray strings, as if to say ' 'we are one, we are all, we are all part of this'¦together'

'Today He Felt Life' begins with some sleepy piano and descending melodic ethereal synth pad loops, then adds more synth loops, world voices, and a beat'¦just a kick at first, then hand-drum percussion while some bellish tone marks time every measure. So far, so good. I could listen to 30 minutes of this; hypnotic and trancey. But we're not even halfway through yet. Before the halfway point, the percussion exits but the loops remain. The percussion replaced by steady quarter-note bass thumps a little bit down the line. Nearly subliminal high-hat sneaks in on the upbeat and then eventually snare, and just about the time you notice it through the gauzy haze, it stops. There is some amazing stuff going on in these loops as they play off each other. In a sense they are contrasting and nearly conflicting, but they still seem to mesh very well together. The voices add an incredible dimension too, making the ambience sound alive, but from another, more ethereal plane of existence. Conventional percussion returns for a bit, then as soon as its noticed, flees like a firefly. I wasn't wild about was the extended piano ending. Although the melody goes nicely with what transpired previously, the progression struck me as rather new-agey.

'Peonies Fall For Kings' starts out almost like a song, with a distant echoey female vocal where you think you can almost make out the vocal, piano and drone synth pad. Then some type of funky but robotic percussion kicks in and betrays the laconic ambience and almost seeming to clash. Then the percussion stops and we're left with female voices, piano and synth pad. The female voices seem nearly angelic. The music and scene fade, replace by heavenly strings. Then a deep chambered soul singer emerges getting more increasingly more emotive, and that kind of turned me off, especially since I could make out the words. Sorry, this passage is not my cup of tea. When he finishes, a different kind of percussion holds sway and the ambience becomes soothing with 'oohs' from the subdued female chorus while other voices ghostly swirl in the background, but that guy is back again and he sticks around a long while'¦too long for me.

There is no doubt Van Wey is a master at what he does, and quite innovative in the way he does it. He's evoking feelings here and that's likely why I couldn't get into it the first time. It all depends on the feelings you have an affinity with that he evokes. For me, the first track really did it. The second, okay until the end, and last, not so much. Bvdub's music can't be all things to all people. I wouldn't doubt that I could listen to one of his other albums and love it all the way through, or maybe not at all. You may feel differently. No technical analysis is going to nail the feeling. It's something you just have to experience for yourself.


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