Music Reviews



Parallel Worlds & Dave Bessell: Morphogenic

 Posted by Steve Mecca   Ambient / Electronica / Ethereal / Dub / Soundscapes / Abstract
 Edit (7715)
Aug 04 2013
cover
Artist: Parallel Worlds & Dave Bessell (@)
Title: Morphogenic
Format: CD
Label: DiN (@)
Rated: *****
This is my second review of a Parallel Worlds collaboration, the first being a while back with their 'Exit Strategy' collaboration with Ian Boddy. You probably already know of Parallel Worlds, the project name of Bakis Sirros from Greece. Dave Bessell has been active in the field of popular music for many years, he also studied classical composition and orchestration at the Royal College of Music, jazz guitar with John Etheridge, holds a Doctorate in Music and currently teaches Music and Music Technology at Plymouth University. He may be best known as a member of the electronic group, Node, along with Flood, Gary Stout and Ed Buller. In a sense, 'Morphogenic' could be considered a 'dream team' for this type of electronic music. Just a quick look at the equipment used on the album ' Bakis Sirros: Euro/Doepfer, Serge, Buchla 200e modulars, MS20, Odyssey, Xpander, 4Voice, string machines and software. Dave Bessell: Macbeth M5n, Gibson Les Paul & custom software. (Ed Buller plays Moog Modular on one track- 'Heterodyne'.) You just know there are going to be some interesting sounds here.

'Morphogenic' is not just interesting sounds, but elaborate compositions that although varied, have a similar vein running throughout. While a good part of it seems to be amorphous and abstract, there are plenty of defined moments ' massive, weighty and grand themes; inventive and propulsive rhythms; wonderful sequencer work; dramatic orchestration, and more. The overly-used term 'cinematic' comes to mind but 'Morphogenic' is far more space music than soundtrack, although some themes employed on it could be considered motion-picturesque. Bessell's guitar work on the album is a perfect blending in the context of this kind of electronic music (something Edgar Froese never could get quite right with Tangerine Dream) adding power, depth and dimension, not just soloing over the top. Overall, 'Morphogenic' is a dense and heavy listen; a multilayered journey into the unknown that may have you exploring the outermost regions of your consciousness. Majestic, spiritual, sublime ' Parallel Worlds and Dave Bessell seem to have created the perfect environment for analogue space synth freaks to explore on visits that are bound to be return trips. The album was mastered by Ian Boddy and copies are limited to only 500 so get it while you can.

Jean-Luc Fafchamps: Back To...

 Posted by Vito Camarretta (@)   Ambient / Electronica / Ethereal / Dub / Soundscapes / Abstract
Experimental / Avantgarde / Weird & Wired / Glitch / Noise / Field Recording
 Edit (7713)
Aug 04 2013
cover
Artist: Jean-Luc Fafchamps (@)
Title: Back To...
Format: CD
Label: Sub Rosa (@)
Rated: *****
This "back to" what he fondly defines "an old buddy of mine" by Belgian pianist and composer Jean-Luc Fafchamps smells like a liturgical anamnesis: "back to my first musical feelings, but also my first writing techniques, which werequite remote from my current aesthetical concerns; back to the music pieces engrained in my fingers through practice; finally, back to the numerous hours of free improvisation of my lazy youth...[...] those back to...are works about memory" and such a mnemonic elegy and idyll got crystallized in three touching pieces performed by Stephane Ginsburgh. Fafchamps' return to piano could be thought as the comeback to workout of a sportsman after a crippling injury while listening to the first suite "Back To The Pulse", where you can imagine a session of emotional high hurdles: the engaging rolling of legatoes and staccatoes manages to put a further strain on the insistent and somewhat feverish harmonic progression which could render an idea of motion with awesome and sudden ligatures, interruption, tumbles and variation like the amazing one after 4-5 minutes when the imaginary hurdler looks like running in the dark and the seriousness of the situation got emphasized by the insistent stroke on the lower and higher tones, before the last ones begin to get closer to the central octaves, keep on running and diving into a sort of ragtime till the end. Those breaks, those tonal dull thuds and frenzied slurs sound like expedients to highlight the evocative power of piano on the following "Back To The Sound", as if each element means to say "listen to the range of emotions I can inspire and fan into you...", while more emotional outgrowth intertwines with soulful quotations of Fafchamps's mentors and peers in the final brilliant "Back To The Voice".

Daniel Menche: Marriage Of Metals

 Posted by Vito Camarretta (@)   Ambient / Electronica / Ethereal / Dub / Soundscapes / Abstract
Experimental / Avantgarde / Weird & Wired / Glitch / Noise / Field Recording
 Edit (7712)
Aug 04 2013
cover
Artist: Daniel Menche (@)
Title: Marriage Of Metals
Format: 12"
Label: Editions Mego (@)
Rated: *****
Almost simultaneously with the release of his album Vilke', Portland-based prolific (nearly fifty releases on his bandcamp and an almost uncontrolled growth of his discography are good evidences) sound artist Daniel Menche diluted his abrasive style with a deluge of sounds he grabbed from the studio of the Venerable Showers of Beauty, a Gamelan ensemble hosted at Lewis and Clark College in his hometown that fosters artistic and musical exchanges between Javanese and Balinese culture and Portland artistic community. The compatibility or I'd better call it the marriage between Gamelan sonorities and electronics that Menche succeeds in tempering and shaping is so full-blooded that you could think such an association cannot be but elective. The wide palette of gongs, including the gigantic 'Gong Ageng" with his remarkably deep sound, and metallophones, got processed and immersed into scorching and somehow restless sonic Styx over a couple of almost 20-minutes lasting tracks. The first act of this sonci concubinage started off with a padded peal and an abrasive sneaking flux, which gradually shroud the sonic space. Its mesmerizing charge got amplified by the supplement of slenthem which soon reaches the saturation level. On the second part of "Marriage of Metals", the order of appearance of sonic inputs has been inverted and the sound of slenthem is more recognisable, but the mesmerizing effect on listeners, which are going to lapse into the slightly corrosive and somehow lulling float, is likewise absorbing and cataleptically purging.

Stefan Gubatz: Distanz

 Posted by Steve Mecca   Ambient / Electronica / Ethereal / Dub / Soundscapes / Abstract
 Edit (7711)
Aug 02 2013
cover
Artist: Stefan Gubatz (@)
Title: Distanz
Format: CD
Label: Telrae (@)
Distributor: Beatport
Rated: *****
A self-described 'lazy producer' from Cologne, Germany, Stefan Gubatz has done a few other things (a couple 10's, remixes, etc.) in the dub techno genre, but 'Distanz' is really his first album. The one-sheet (actually a three-sheet) that accompanied this CD was almost like a review in itself, describing each piece with commentary, but I'm not regurgitating that. I will mention that the album was the result of 'waiting room situations' (time spent stuck in airports and the like) but in spite of some ambient qualities has absolutely nothing to do with Eno's 'Music For Airports'. For one thing, there is a very active rhythmic component in the pieces of 'Distanz'. The first, 'Byte And Scratch' is mostly electronic, non-drumkit sounds, or at least electronically processed. You get hollowish flanged sounds in an engaging pattern with muffled bass pulse underneath. Rather minimal but also rather cool! The rhythm fades but the track blends right into the next, 'Cologne,' that does offer conventional drumkit sounds with a completely different rhythm. There is a dubby trip hop feel to this track (especially in the bass department), and although the basic idea remains constant, supporting elements add depth and space giving the illusion of motion and travel. Lots of use of echo too. If the last track seemed kind of dubby, 'Villa Nicht' is dub-central with a repetitive bass pattern playing the key element and other rhythmic elements and atmosphere added later. It sort of pulses like a funky heartbeat in the middle of a howling snowstorm. 'Vitamin' has a more active, snappier, upbeat rhythm, primarily electronic, or electronically processed percussion. 'Metal Worms' is on the dark, subdued, low-end side, except for the metal worms which snake in and out of the aural field. 'Offshore' is moody trip hopish nocturnal dub accented with noise pops. 'Slow On Ice' is a piece that resonated least of all the tracks on the album with me. It wasn't that slow, and I didn't get any impression of cracking ice. Maybe it's just the beat I didn't care for. 'Nord' begins with a thrumming rhythmic loop that sounds like alien machinery. Other percolating percussive elements are introduced seeming random at first but becoming more cohesive and eventually becoming the main rhythm. Synth string chords float in and out becoming all that's left by the end.

'Distanz' is a pleasant enough album. Though not exceedingly adventurous it does cover some interesting territory, and its charm might be more in not paying attention to it (absorbing it as ambient atmosphere) than intentional listening. Those who like minimal ambient dub with a smattering of techno inclinations are the most likely audience for Gubatz's excursions. Available primarily as a digital download with a limited (initially 100) amount of CD digipaks.

Barry Schrader: The Barnum Museum

 Posted by Steve Mecca   Ambient / Electronica / Ethereal / Dub / Soundscapes / Abstract
 Edit (7709)
Aug 02 2013
cover
Artist: Barry Schrader (@)
Title: The Barnum Museum
Format: CD
Label: Innova (@)
Rated: *****
Although I've never heard of American electro-acoustic composer Barry Schrader before, he's been around for quite some time (since the 1970's) garnering much critical acclaim for his work. Schrader began composing electronic music in 1969 while a graduate student at the University of Pittsburgh, where he was also organist for Sunday high mass at Heinz Chapel, thereafter going on to California Institute of the Arts in Valencia, California, where he received an MFA in composition in 1971. He was appointed to the School of Music faculty of CalArts in 1971, and has been on the composition faculty ever since. Schrader is the founder and the first president of SEAMUS (Society for Electro-Acoustic Music in the United States) and has been involved with the inauguration and operation of several performance series such as SCREAM (Southern California Resource for Electro-Acoustic Music), among other things.

Obviously since I haven't heard of Barry Schrader before, I haven't heard any of his previous work either, but I was certainly intrigued by the title of the album. 'The Barnum Museum' to me conjures the world of the showman, huckster, and all manner of oddities. Barnum's American Museum was quite a place in its time (1841 ' 1865) where for a quarter you could experience a wide variety of strange and unusual people, things, and events, but this work by Schrader is not about the actual museum but rather the short story titled 'The Barnum Museum' by Steven Millhauser taken from his book by the same title. The short story 'Eisenheim the Illusionist' on which the movie 'The Illusionist' was based appears in the same book, for some frame of reference if like me, you haven't read Millhauser. From what I understand about Millhauser's Barnum Museum story is rather an extended fantasy, described as 'a fantasia of a vast and magical institution that adapts to the desires of its visitors.' In that description Schrader seems to be on target with his tone poems that delve into Millhauser's ideas.

Nine pieces comprise Schrader's 'Barnum Museum,' ranging from Grand Guignol to the sublime. The beginning, 'The Romanesque and Gothic Entranceways' features demonic then placid pipe organ, a medieval march, and culminates in a reprisal of the demonic pipe organ theme in a tumultuous ending. 'The Hall of Mermaids' is liquidy mystery, sometimes light and celestial, sometimes dense and heavy. 'The Caged Griffin' radiates a strong and regal presence, then shifts into rhythmic tension causing trepidation, finally calming at the end. 'The Subterranean Levels' begins with descending arpeggios followed by a steadily persistent muted clacking or chaking, possibly the sound of machinery in the chambered depths. Of course, the subterranean levels sound very'¦subterranean! Not that there is necessarily anything very evil down there, but all manner of oddities and unusual things seem to lurk within, including some absolutely haywire machinery. 'The Flying Carpet' certainly gives a sense of airy motion without the use of any percussive rhythm, simply by swirling oblique arpeggios mixed with drones. It's a rather interesting form that the composer employs here, using slight underlying minor themes to add an air of mystery. There is much more depths to these layers than you are likely to catch on the first listening. Where 'The Flying Carpet' had no definitive rhythmic element, 'The Homunculus in a Jar' begins with a rhythmic wooden xylophone-like synth sequence, but is quickly abandoned for a swirling, dense atmosphere that morphs into a machine-like drone, then back to a different, more intense wooden xylophone-like synth sequence. I'm reminded somewhat of Harry Partch here. 'Chinese Kaleidoscopes' has a clattering of glass-like sounds and similar sequenced synth timbres utilizing pentatonic scale which increases in swirling intensity, and eventually density until it is absorbed by pipe organ grandeur. A metamorphosis occurs and the spinning kaleidoscopes reflect a thousand butterflies, or, so I envisioned.

Schrader's piece de résistance in this strange menagerie is the phantasmagorical 16+ minute piece de résistance 'Chamber of False Things,' which is comprised of 'Porphyry Figurines from Atlantis,' 'Golden Cups from El Dorado,' and 'Water from the Fountain of Youth.' Whatever there was previously, there is even more of it in here. The minor three chord theme from the beginning is reprised; there is more descent and opening into vast space; toots of a calliope; dark and ominous drones; a march-like percussive section on hollow wood; glittering fairy dust falling from above; more swirling arpeggios, culminating in a crescendo of the great pipe organ again. Awesome!

Words fail in these descriptions as this is something that you just have to hear. I don't know whether Schrader succeeded in capturing the flavor of Millhauser's short story, but he did succeed in making a most enigmatic and intriguing soundscape. 'The Barnum Museum' should appeal to steampunk aficionados too. I'm giving this album five stars not only because I because I think that it's an amazing work, but also because it's intriguing to enough to warrant multiple plays, and I don't see how it could be any better.


Search All Reviews:
[ Advanced Search ]

Chain D.L.K. design by Marc Urselli
Suffusion WordPress theme by Sayontan Sinha