Music Reviews

Jason Kahn: Open Space

 Posted by Vito Camarretta (@)   Ambient / Electronica / Ethereal / Dub / Soundscapes / Abstract
Experimental / Avantgarde / Weird & Wired / Glitch / Noise / Field Recording
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Aug 12 2013
Artist: Jason Kahn (@)
Title: Open Space
Format: 2 x 12" vinyl
Label: Editions
Rated: *****
I already spoke about the distinctive concept of composition by American Zurich-based musician Jason Kahn on the occasion of his release "Sin Asunto" for the appreciated Portuguese label Creative Sources, which involved four musicians in the musical translation of Kahn's graphical scores that "hover in the gray region between composition and improvisation" in Kahn's words. Some aspects could draw a possible analogy with Cage's aleatory music principles, but Kahn prefers to move on the threshold between free improvisation - as players can decide the way of translating graphic forms - and a set of rules for choral dynamics: his graphical scores are based on two parameters, time and intensity, which have been drwn on horizontal and vertical axes respectively. This sort of scaly time-line is the only permanent feature, whereas the composer put the interpretation of hyphens, clouds, swirls, crosses, circles, triangles, vectors and other symbols in the hands of each performers, who just know when to play and the intensity level on respective task time without knowing anything about the juxtaposition by other performers. Compared to the above-mentioned "Sin Asunto", Kahn conducts more elements (nine players including himself, the appreciated Australian pianist Chris Abrahams, Laura Altman's clarinet, Monika Brooks' accordion, Aemon Webb's guitar, Rishin Singh's trombone, John Wilton's percussions and electronics by Adam Sussmann and Matt Earle) on "Open Space", which got commissioned and performed on January 19th, 2012 at the now NOW festival in Sidney, so that the way the score inclunces dynamics is even more engaging, even if a large number of players came under request of Jason himself due to the fact he had to perform in a larger place. The final result and its charming dynamics will keep listeners stuck on headphones for more than an hour.

Earth Leakage Trip: Authorised Leakage

 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 10 2013
Artist: Earth Leakage Trip (@)
Title: Authorised Leakage
Format: Download Only (MP3 + Lossless)
Label: NexGen
Rated: *****
I could introduce "Time For Disclosure", the introductive track of this new release by EDM pioneers and Downbeat surfers Earth Leakage Trip by means of the words of a notorious vocal sample they grabbed from "Happy Monsters - An Adventure in the Land of Ooog" childplay and inserted in their famous track "No Idea", released by legendary Moving Shadow in 1991: the doors are where the windows should be. You can believe what the supposed revelations about extra-terrestrial beings and related matters Dreddmarc toasts about or you can ignore them so that you can quietly enjoy your refreshing toothpaste or bottled water without caring about fluorides and their effect on neural system or follow your favorite newscast and believe that smiling news anchor is telling you the truth, but the conceptual framework ELT which embraces the omnium-gatherum many followers of conspiracy theories and some possible variations of the theme daily chews feeds an interesting stylistical upgrade, which sounds quite far from some chilling and somewhat easylistening downbeat Tony Lobue and Neil Sanford made. On this EP, they melt what "humans called Dubstep" and sci-fi accurate sonorities, which cannot but sound somehow disquieting, dusky and intriguing due to the above-mentioned premises: they combined unearthly exhalations with skyrocketing dubstep devices on "Space People", gargles and dim adumbrations on "Reptile" - evoking old and new hearsay about reptialians or maybe their supposed noisy digestion -, overstretched sinister frequencies, heavy clunks and other sonic gashes on "Hyperdimension", which got inspired by the reports of strange loud eerie siren-like noises being heard all over the world (alien invasion or just tinnitus?). This bunch of amazing stylistical variations could let you surmise the most persuading secret file ELT disclosed lies in the "augmented dubstep" they roll on this good release. If they managed to awake or soothe your consciousness in the bargain, that's a far cry from a listening experience, but...beware of my presumed skepticism! I could be a reptilian!

Homogenized Terrestrials: The Contaminist

 Posted by Steve Mecca   Ambient / Electronica / Ethereal / Dub / Soundscapes / Abstract
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Aug 08 2013
with image
Artist: Homogenized Terrestrials (@)
Title: The Contaminist
Format: CD
Label: Intangible Cat (@)
Rated: *****
Homogenized Terrestrials is the name under which Phil Klampe creates his aural magic and from what I understand he has a sizable catalog of recordings since the early/mid-eighties. This is the first I'd ever heard of him but the one thing I love about reviewing for Chain D. L. K. is that I get to discover a great amount of interesting music and bring it to your attention. I don't believe Homogenized Terrestrials has ever been reviewed here before. Klampe (as Homogenized Terrestrials) has been involved with Hal McGee, Brian Noring (FDR tapes), Charles Rice Goff III, Headless Ballerinas Underwater, Rebekah's Tape, Dog Hallucination, and others. 'The Contaminist' release being my first exposure to H.T., I had no idea what to expect, except for a cryptic comparison to Robin Storey, Mark Spybey (D.V.O.A.), Coil, Brian Eno and Christian Fennesz on the one-sheet. Actually, from what I'm hearing it seems closer to Spybey's Dead Voice on Air than the others. I notice some similarity to the Russian Vetvie label artists ' Vresnit, Lunar Abyss Deus Organum, Hladna, etc.), although their works usually consist of longer pieces. If 'The Contaminist' could be construed as ambient, then this is full-on, not so minimal ambient. The sonic palette is chock-full of events ' loops, patterns, drones, atmospheres, percussion, samples, etc. Even when a piece may seem to be minimal, it really isn't. The 13 pieces vary widely in tone and temperament, sometimes even within the pieces themselves. An unfocused ear might construe them as semi-random sound collages, but I do believe there is a method to the madness of Homogenized Terrestrials. Speaking of that name, there isn't much that sounds homogenized or terrestrial on 'The Contamanist'; in fact the name may be the very antithesis of the music.

One of the most unsettling yet cohesive pieces is 'Two Ay Emm' with its robotic alarm chime loop, stringed instrument scraping, and ebb 'n' flow phased strings. Imagine waking up out of a sound sleep at 2am and hearing this! Whoa! Very surreal. And that's only a portion of what's going on. Some of the sounds created by Klampe are truly enigmatic. There is one in 'Spurk' that might be something backwards and is used only intermittently but it's quite intriguing. I have no idea how he came up with it. Klampe is also fond of voices, chorus or choir voices, both synthetic and sample-based. They crop up in a number of compositions. Although much of this is arrhythmic and non-melodic, there are spots where rhythm and melody do show up, not necessarily together, and sometimes disguised as something else. 'Shinth' is a good example where there's a kind of a bellish gamelan thing going on also with bowed strings; rhythmic and melodic, but not like you'd think. 'The Contaminist' is really a cornucopia of different soundscapes, and very likely there is much you'll enjoy to be found here. It's also beguiling enough to warrant repeated plays. Neat photo artwork by Phil Klampe on the CD wallet too.

Moderat: II

 Posted by Alissa Hooper (@)   Electronics / EBM / Electronica
Techno / Trance / Goa / Drum'n'Bass / Jungle / Tribal / Trip-Hop
Ambient / Electronica / Ethereal / Dub / Soundscapes / Abstract
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Aug 07 2013
Artist: Moderat
Title: II
Format: CDS (CD Single)
Label: Mute Records (@)
Rated: *****
Moderat, the brilliant combination of Berlin electronic artists Apparat (aka Sascha Ring) and Modeselektor (aka Gernot Bronsert and Sebastian Szary), have teamed up for an incredibly atmospheric, well-polished, and aptly-titled second album, II.

Any stand-alone Apparat or Modeselektor release is a treat. As forerunners in the contemporary and eclectic electronic music scene in Berlin, as well as former mainstays signed to the influential label BPitch Control, the acts have run the gamut of genres from IDM, glitch, hip-hop, electro house, minimal techno, to everything in between.

Apparat's solo releases and approach to songwriting, most noteably 2011's stunning The Devil's Walk, have tended to fall into moody terrain, particularly with longing vocals and lyrics, minimalist off-beats, and atmospheric vibes, all of which are cleverly and clearly demonstrated throughout II. Modeselektor have tended to focus their experimental techno more in mirth and fun, particular on the early (and very exclamatory) releases Hello Mom! and Happy Birthday! The combination of the two creates a nearly inexplicable, complex, and headphones-recommended experience.

While vocals on Apparat releases have typically only been those of Sascha Ring's and vocals on Modeselektor's tunes, when present, are largely attributed to a slew of special guests including Otto von Schirach, TTC, Puppetmastaz, and even Radiohead's Thom York, II contains several tracks that are either instrumental or contain chopped up, sampled vocals, yet never lacking in melody and addictive hooks. The tracks in which Ring soulfully sings are just as appealing ('Bad Kingdom' and 'Gita'). 'Let In The Light' reminds us that dubstep, despite numerous criticisms and stigma in recent times, can still be done while sounding new and refreshing.

A hybrid of a large number of experimental techno subgenres, II is the newest wave of Berlin's ' and beyond ' electronic music scene.

John Puchiele Ensemble: Life Cycle

 Posted by Steve Mecca   Ambient / Electronica / Ethereal / Dub / Soundscapes / Abstract
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Aug 07 2013
Artist: John Puchiele Ensemble (@)
Title: Life Cycle
Format: CD
Label: self-released
Rated: *****
Composer John Puchiele has been active for several decades doing live synthesizer-based performance scores for theatrical productions, film scores, recordings and ensemble performances. He was also a composer and performer with the Glass Orchestra. 'Life Cycle' seems to be the first recording by the John Puchiele Ensemble, an ambient orchestral sound allegory of the life cycle. Funny, I can't find the names of any other members of this ensemble nor can I find a website for the group's label ' Antediluvian Records, so I assume this CD is self-released and other member of the ensemble (if any) are anonymous. Over thirteen tracks the music is somewhat varied with ambient being a common thread but not the sole form of expression in 'Life Cycle'. 'from there to here' is reminiscent of an Eno-Harold Budd collaboration with smooth sustained drone strings and a lightly played minimal piano theme. 'first step' is all spacey strings in the sky which seems transitional. 'foundations' is a heavily chambered piano piece that conjures a certain emotional wistfulness. 'the big sky' is more elongated sky strings, like watching clouds drift by. 'thinking' employs multilayered sustained voices in chordal patterns, soothing, contemplative. 'second step' is another brief string-based piece with chord clusters billowing and colliding with some dissonance like a storm brewing. 'life gets busy I' starts out placidly enough with light string chords, then the strings spring to life with marcato technique in two-note base that is elaborated on and accented by the other string instruments. As more sections join in this becomes complex, with more parts being added. It's minimal/maximal ala the Philip Glass/Steve Reich school of classical composition. Taken by itself, the piece is really wonderful and spellbinding the way it grows and swells, but ambient purists may balk at being woken from their reverie. 'life gets busy II' has a similar take with lively piano(s) playing simple repeated phrases that grow more complex as parts are added. Another nice composition but hardly ambient, just very frenetic until it comes to a dead stop. 'third step' has lofty, airy sounds with a lot of harmonic resonance. 'climbing.' features sustained bowed strings that seem to drift but have a certain heaviness to them. 'N.D.E.' begins with low, sustained string chords joined in time by (wordless) heavenly choir that sneaks into the background, then a single bowed string saws through the clouds accompanied by the timbre of a higher instrument, and more and more lower and mid bowed strings, until only the higher registers remain ushered out on a cosmic wind. Muted, heavily reverbed smooth drones of different frequencies comprise 'the edge of infinity,' the most spaced-out section of 'Life Cycle'. 'from there to here' seems filled with both sadness and hope with a slow three-chord theme played on strings and a synth voice until it fades away.

I realize all I have done is describe the mechanics of 'Life Cycle' and ultimately how it resonates with the listener is its true test of merit. Some may find it achingly beautiful, others uneven and often melancholy. To me, it conveyed a variety of moods and emotions, some of which I couldn't help but be affected by. The 'New Classical' repetitive structures of the middle pieces are bound to raise some hackles on those who like their ambient music smooth and drifty, but such is life. Everyone needs a break from placidity. Sometimes you just have to mix things up a bit.

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