Music Reviews



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
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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.

Bitcrush: Collapse

 Posted by Steve Mecca   Ambient / Electronica / Ethereal / Dub / Soundscapes / Abstract
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Jul 18 2013
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Artist: Bitcrush (@)
Title: Collapse
Format: CD
Label: n5MD (@)
Rated: *****
Anybody remember Gridlock? I do ( or did) ' from their first couple of releases back into the mid-to-late 90's. As I recall they were a competent electro-industrial band at the time, and very much 'of the time'. Mike Cadoo was ½ the band along with founder Mike Wells. I didn't follow Gridlock in the 21st century so I don't know the direction their music took prior to their dissolution in 2005. I imagine it wasn't much like Cadoo's Bitcrush though. The best way to describe Bitcrush is shoegazer-ambient with a metal edge. Of course, shoegaze implies slow, shimmery guitar, which of course Bitcrush has, but also an underpinning of sludgy MBV style distoro-guitar. Vocals (where they occur) are minimal and somewhat submerged. There are only 5 tracks on the 49 minutes of 'Collapse' and 3 are over 10 minutes long with others clocking in at nearly six minutes and about 9 ½ minutes. 'The Weight (Of a Future Mutation)' which begins the album has a somewhat conventionally song-like in structure after the extended intro. It's an achingly beautiful as well as melancholy piece. And yes, it sounds like a full band complete with keys, bass and drums. Following track 'To Collapse Into' (the longest on the album) has a kind of a doom metal sound in its sludgy density , but that's only the first half. The second half sounds a lot prettier. The sister track to 'To Collapse Into' is 'To Collapse Out Of' and is the shortest one. Even though it maintains the rhythm section it is mostly melodically ambient. With a title like 'All At Once It Was Erased' you might expect silence for the duration of the track but no, not here. After the extended intro (the tracks are full of extended intros and outros) this sounds like the closest thing to a pop song (the vocals are back), depending on what your definition of 'pop' is. Still, it is highly unlikey you'll ever hear this on conventional radio, unless you run across an adventurous college radio program. Pity, but who listens to conventional radio anymore? ''¦For A Void' begins placidly enough in an easygoing shoegaze rock band mode but keeps building and building with layers and layers of sound and intensity while the progression becomes more defined and heavier, but before it's over the track mellows out into shimmering effervesence. Powerful stuff. For me, I would have preferred more tracks, and more track with vocals. No doubt Cadoo can deliver, it's just a question of what he feels like delivering. Still, it's a pretty cool disc, and worth getting. Cadoo also happens to run the n5MD label. I just wonder, where does he find the time?

Sonic Area: Music for Ghosts

 Posted by Steve Mecca   Ambient / Electronica / Ethereal / Dub / Soundscapes / Abstract
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Jul 18 2013
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Artist: Sonic Area (@)
Title: Music for Ghosts
Format: CD
Label: Ant-Zen (@)
Rated: *****
Sonic Area is the project name of electronic-industrial music artist Arnaud Coëffic (aka Arco trauma) from France. Sonic Area has been active since 1997-98 with a number of previous releases I haven't been exposed to, mostly on the Audiotrauma label. (This one is a joint Ant-Zen and Audiotrauma release.) 'Music for Ghosts' isn't just music for any old ghosts, it is music for certain types of ghosts, those that seem to have some style and creativity, if the music (or the cover) is any indication. Beginning with a brief series of sound effects, the album moves quickly into a slow, unworldly theme, light and mysterious at first, then heavy and ominous as it moves along. The listener is then presented with some dialogue about spirit manifestation taken from the final Houdini séance.

'The Living Carousel' is demented calliope music dredged up from some long decayed and abandoned amusement park with touches of Danny Elfman fairy dust. 'The Infernal Clockwork' screams STEAMPUNK, but yet something more. 'The Endless Staircase' has a stuttering beat and melody and no matter how high you climb, you never reach the top, always back where you began. Real or illusion? Who can say? 'Eureka' has maniacal cartoony orchestration and we're back in Elfman territory again, maybe scoring for some Tim Burton animation. That's 5:37 of crazy intensity! After a brief interlude ('Dead Muse') that sounds like an old phonograph recording, the listener is thrust into the thick of the spirit world with 'Inframonde' ' lots of wordless voice choir, sequenced electronics and orchestral backing. Very dramatic. If you thought that was fun, just wait until 'The Haunted Hall Motel Ballade' which follows ' a stately, ghostly march, Ennio Morricone style!

More heavenly (or ghostly) choir with grand orchestration follows on the brief 'Those Eternal Seconds,' leading into 'The Magic Storyteller,' a pastiche of card-shuffling, disembodies strange voices, snake-charmer music, orchestral stabs and accents, broken themes, percussion and more over relentless sequencer loop. The basis for 'Once More into the Breach Dear Friends' is an unconventional concertina sequence built upon by strong percussion, bass and orchestration, and eventually, those ghostly voices. It sounds a lot heavier and more industrial than you'd imagine, yet there is a melodic theme woven throughout. 'Middle Night Ballet' could be some ghost plunking out some lost tune on the old piano in a cobweb filled room ending with (wood) creaking and echoes of a long gone vocalist and orchestra down the hall. Leading into final track 'Funeral March for an Empire' are vocoder vocal, a transmission from the spirit world. The 'Funeral March' itself although nicely done with harpsichord, strings, bass, percussion, and more elaborate orchestration and voices toward the end, was not as compelling as I'd hoped. It ends with a dialogue sample from 'The Twilight Zone' ('Walking Distance,' 1959).

There are parts of 'Music For Ghosts' that are absolutely stellar, and parts that are just okay, but taken as a whole (as it should be), this is one very engaging work. Not just for Halloween, but it wouldn't be out of place on October 31st.

Rob Mazurek Octet: Skull Sessions

 Posted by Vito Camarretta (@)   Ambient / Electronica / Ethereal / Dub / Soundscapes / Abstract
Experimental / Avantgarde / Weird & Wired / Glitch / Noise / Field Recording
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Jul 16 2013
cover
Artist: Rob Mazurek Octet (@)
Title: Skull Sessions
Format: CD
Label: Cuneiform Records (@)
Rated: *****
The strong assonances between this impressive release by Rob Mazurek, who shuffled his cards of talented collaborators to give birth to a majestic octet, and monumental sessions like "the notorious "Bitches Brew" by Miles Davis are fortuitous as the sparkle for "Skull Sessions" came when the We Want Miles exhibition at SESC Sao Paulo asked Mazurek to highlight the propinquity of his musical research with the one by the legendary Miles Davis. Instead of recreating themes of that great jazz innovator, Rob revamped some compositions by himself by rearrangement which could fit the peculiar features of each musicians and the whole sound of the octet. The final result goes beyond any better expectetions and the different stylistical drives he managed to aggregate in this octet sound so perfectly balanced that you could have the impression to listen a proper crossbreed between Sao Paulo Underground's rhythmical tropicalism, Exploding Star Orchestra's sonic orbits and Starlicker's mesmerizing energy. Such a motley metabolic variegation derives both from the "syncretic" attitude of Mazurek's compositional approach and from the different "alma mater" of each musician of the octet, who already belong to the above-mentioned ensemble and come from North and South America, including drummer John Herndon, vibraphonist Jason Adasiewicz, whose finespun hits play a key-role to bridle listeners in the charming weaves of these sessions, Guilherme Granado on electronics and keyboards, skilled flutist Nicole Mitchell, guitarist Carlo Issa, Sao paulo Underground's Mauricio Takara on percussion and cavaquinho (Brazilian ukulele) and Thomas Rohrer on C melody saxophone and rabeca (a rustic viola from North-eastern Brazil). The role of Mazurek's cornet is somehow close to Davis' trumpet in the above-mentioned "Bitches Brew" as it often seems to tune other instruments on a melodic sketched line before giving emphasis to the sonic spirals they generate by means of a ring modulator, which seems to function as a catalyzing agent together with the fleet of drums and percussions. This coagulant effect is quite clear in the opener "Galactic Ice Skeleton", a wonderful piece Mazurek composed for Exploding Star Orchestra where cornet seems to direct the ebullient molecular soup of the other voices, which sound shaking within a plasmatic cloud, and the following "Voodoo and The Petrified Forest", an elemental dancing whirlwind whose main theme seems to resurface from rough water, even if it often runs into the highly energetic whirling impetus the octet succeeds in bursting forth as it happens in the amazing crescendo of "The Skull Caves of Alderon", which follows a pacific entrancing introduction on a disabled vibraphone which sounds like a Balinese gamelan, or unleashes other elements like in the lopsided ballad "Passing Light Scream", a composition Rob tributed to the legandary French/Chilean filmmaker Alejandro Jodorowsky, whose initial folk theme and elaxing chimes turn into a mindblowing twist. Some surreal setting of Jodorowsky's movies could be resembled by the final gossamer improvisation for flute, rabeca and electronics of "Keeping The Light Up" as well. Strongly recommended listening.


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