Music Reviews

Mammoth Ulthana: s/t

 Posted by Andrea Piran (@)   Ambient / Electronica / Ethereal / Dub / Soundscapes / Abstract
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Sep 18 2013
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Artist: Mammoth Ulthana (@)
Title: s/t
Format: CD
Label: Zoharum (@)
Rated: *****
This project from Jacek Doroszenko and Rafal Kolacki is based on a combination of traditional acoustic instruments and sounds generated by computer software. This way the overall result is a blend of world music and ambient with interesting moments continuing in the tradition of projects that looks to oriental ethnic instruments, known in theatre for the construction of sound effects, often used in ambient projects by various artists.
The rattles of "Prelude" open this release and suddenly the electronics tries to dialogue rather than simply juxtapose. "Ballade" starts focusing on beats and then it begin to create a quiet soundscape as a bridge for the return of the drums. "Impromptu" deals with dark ambient territories while "Mine" depicts a quiet musical picture of a peaceful moment. "Interludium" is a long track that starts with a drone until in the second part the animal horns are used to reconstruct almost a field recordings of a forest. "Hybrid" is a real interlude to the last two tracks: "Path", a track that juxtapose a development focused on ritualistic mood and a more cinematic one, and "Nocturne" a quiet and dreamy soundscape with a noisier central section.
This is not a ground breaking album but is really well written and is full of subtle details that are revealed by repeated and curious listenings. Recommended.

Chris Gavin: Nice View

 Posted by Vito Camarretta (@)   Techno / Trance / Goa / Drum'n'Bass / Jungle / Tribal / Trip-Hop
Ambient / Electronica / Ethereal / Dub / Soundscapes / Abstract
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Sep 16 2013
Artist: Chris Gavin (@)
Title: Nice View
Format: Download Only (MP3 only)
Label: L-System (@)
Rated: *****
The third delivery from L-System records got the signature of French dj and producer Chris Gavin, whose "Nice View" overlooks on techno scene by a possible attempt of sonic translation of the inner vascular motion of a metropolis: a sort of electronic marimba, which gradually becomes more and more audible, reversed woodblocks, an unceasing percussive pump, a subtle metallic whistle, harmonic chips, sudden catalytic ripples sound like everchanging tiles of a gigantic urban organism and the following track "The Present M" sounds likewise ripped from dynamic urbanscapes so that that M of the title could mean both "Music" and "Metro" due to the interconnection between garnered urban audible inputs like the noise from an underground rail, which got swallowed by rhythmic pattern, or the indistinct clamor by passengers, which sounds like a grave collective chorale, entwines with the glimmering concatenations which sonically mirrors the coloured reticulum of a subway map and overfill the sonic sphere by a sort of growing clew. The release include a couple of remixes by German producer Martin Roth, who pan-fried many percussive elements by adding monotonic chords and a mellow teeter-totter-like movement which gradually turns into a catchy deep-techno progression, and Anglo-Persian dj Omid Nourizadeh aka Omid 16b, who sublimates the urban particles of the original track into a lukewarm pad-synth cloud in the two awesome parts of the remix he signed.

Melorman: Waves

 Posted by Steve Mecca   Ambient / Electronica / Ethereal / Dub / Soundscapes / Abstract
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Sep 15 2013
Artist: Melorman
Title: Waves
Format: CD
Label: Sun Sea Sky Productions (@)
Distributor: n5md
Rated: *****
Melorman is Antonis Haniotakis originally from Athens, Greece, but now based in London, UK I think. He's been making music since 2001 and 'Waves' is his fourth album, not counting singles or EPs, and the second one released on Sun Sea Sky Productions. This is the first I've heard from him though. As you might surmise from his project moniker, the music is mellow with a capital M. Melorman's brand of electronica is fairly simple in form, yet not minimal ambient, more like melodic ambient often employing some kind of bass and percussion. 'Waves' begins with a some floaty chords on the brief 'The Sky Out of Your Window' and gently layered and sweeping textures. The 'Glow' that follows introduces somewhat simple percussion propelling this musical skyship at cruising altitude yet anchoring it not too far from earth so it won't drift away, and this sets the stage for the rest of 'Waves'.

All of the synth tones Melorman employs seem to have been chosen purposefully to keep things low-key, and combined with semi-hypnotic simple melodies, arpeggios and chord figures it makes for a very placid listening experience. Of course, with that combination there is a tendency to move into New Age territory, but sometimes it can't be helped with this kind of music. I think that's what put me off the first time around listening to 'Waves' but the music is so subliminally emotionally evocative that I can somewhat overlook that. Melorman also keeps his percussion light and interesting without being too busy which is a very good thing; percussion overdose can absolutely kill a nice ambient-oriented work. (I've heard it done before.) There is also enough variety between the tracks to keep it engaging. The most upbeat track, 'Girls in the 70's' employs pulsing synth bass and a little bolder percussion but still doesn't spoil the mood. Made me wonder what kind of girls Antonis hung out with in the 70's. The only track with vocals on it is the last, 'Numbers' with spoken samples of numbers recited. Mathematician's ambient electronica? Maybe. A little out of place from the rest, but still not too obtrusive.

I've tried to think of a season 'Waves' is best suited for and at first I thought of Autumn because of the wistful character of the music, but actually there is something in every season that could be relevant. Perhaps 'Waves' is best suited for those contemplative times with a nice cup of tea and a reflective mood. The album sounds equally good under headphones or through speakers. This is another one of those albums that when I play in my bookstore, people ask about, and it certainly is nice that I have another album I can add to my ambient roster there. Also a nice break from all the noise/harsh electronic albums I've had been reviewing of late. If you really like mellow electronica you should give 'Waves' a try.

Ikonika: Aerotropolis

 Posted by Vito Camarretta (@)   Synth Pop / Electro Pop / Synth-Electronica
Techno / Trance / Goa / Drum'n'Bass / Jungle / Tribal / Trip-Hop
Ambient / Electronica / Ethereal / Dub / Soundscapes / Abstract
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Sep 14 2013
Artist: Ikonika (@)
Title: Aerotropolis
Format: CD
Label: Hyperdub (@)
Rated: *****
Another sublime and sublimating sonic specimen which ideally knots past, present and future, comes from the heightened musical sensibility of Sara Abdel-Hamid aka Ikonika, one of the best female dj at present, whose somehow visionary talents was clear since her first single on Hyperdub "Please" and the following full-lenght "Contact, Want, Love, Have" by which she moved dubstep up towards steampunk and 8-bit ground-breaking forms. This junction could mirror "the not-too-distant future" when the plot of Gattaca (an explicit source of inspiration of this record) and its protagonist Vincent Anton Freeman/Jerome Eugene Morrow occurred or possibly a proper assay of sonic genetic engineering or the validation of a stylistical freak between italo-house, 80ies breaks and many other amazing clasps with that "not-too-distant past" from not too old-fashioned glorious equipment (such as a Roland 707 or a Juno-106) in order to be in line with the plot of that movie. Named after the phenomenon described on "Aerotropolis: The Way We'll Live Next", an interesting essay by John D. Kasdara and Greg Lindsay, who envisaged a sort of perpetual global connectivity by means of cities, where the typical urban pattern according to which airports should be built in peripheral areas will be replaced by airport-centric giant cities, many listeners will not believe their own ears to know Ikonika partially got inspired by her fear of flights beside the fact her recording studio is close to Heathrow Airport for "Aerotropolis" due to the recurring synth rockets and the feeling of air spring that her classy patchwork of claps, agogo, fingersnaps and other percussive elements could inspire when got shaked inside melodic ginger pompoms and enmeshing arpeggios since the ignition sequence starts by means of the delicate drone of "Mise en Place" and the following aerostatic sensuality of "Beach Mode (Keep It Simple)", which features enchanting vocals of Jessy Lanza, who gets off the ground and begins an gorgeous musical journey with many emotional legs between reminiscences and augmented stylistical developments. Stop'n'go barrel rolls of "Manchego", the gliding of gleaming percussive elements on a surface of polished chords on "Let A Smile Be (Y)our Umbrella", the uplifting jigging junction with italo-house of "Eternal Mode", the crunchy bleeping housey breaks of "Lights are forever", the blissful estrangement of the crossbreed between church organ and reverberated claps on "Mega Church" are just some of the moments of this evocation which manages to flash listeners up till the final bare solemnity of "Zen Sizzle".

Cerebro: Secrets

 Posted by Vito Camarretta (@)   Techno / Trance / Goa / Drum'n'Bass / Jungle / Tribal / Trip-Hop
Ambient / Electronica / Ethereal / Dub / Soundscapes / Abstract
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Sep 09 2013
Artist: Cerebro (@)
Title: Secrets
Format: Download Only (MP3 only)
Label: L-System (@)
Rated: *****
I sometimes sneer at the solemn proclamation of some brand new techno label on an overcrowded scene, where everyone could potentially found a mass of them, as I often notice too many similarities and a certain monotony after a couple of releases, and such a gridlock could be a problem for all those producers who want to leave some mark on the scene by means of somehow original releases. Nevertheless there are many newcomers, who manage to grab my attention and L-System is one of them. Named after the parallel writing system developed by Aristid Lindenmayer, the first input on the catalogue comes from blogger and music lover Tray Smith, one of its co-founder, who coined a new moniker, Cerebro, to lay L-System's foundations. Both "Secrets" and "Factory" could resemble that branch of techno which begins to develop when some trance sonorities were merging into ambient in the second half of the 90ies, so that some stuff by renowned acts like Paranonia, The Sabres Of Paradise, Kenny Larkin or Brain Pilot could come to mind to the ones who still remember them, but Tray implemented some sonorities from contemporary tech-house and suceeds in evoking what title seems to refer. A couple of guest of honor greeted the birth of L-System by remixing Cerebro's tracks: whereas Marco Bailey speeds "Secrets" up by a devastating and hyperventilated rampage of strangled snares, mesmerizing woodblocks, chasing beats and drilling electronic sounds, Karim Sahraoui aka Djinxx paves the way for a mental ride by adding croaking robot frogs, tubular electronic arpeggios and a certain aftertaste of cosmic disco on his relaxing remix of "Factory". This preamble sounds more than just good.

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