Music Reviews

Glitterbug: Egress EP

 Posted by J Simpson (@)   Ambient / Electronica / Ethereal / Dub / Soundscapes / Abstract
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Feb 29 2012
Artist: Glitterbug (@)
Title: Egress EP
Format: CD
Label: False (@)
Rated: *****
An egress is the act of coming or going out of a place. On Glitterbug's Egress EP, the seventh release from German producer/sound artist Till Rohmann, the four original tracks evoke images of departure, of emptiness, venturing out into the unknown.

Egress is a work for string ensemble and electronics; it is at times soothing, at times foreboding. The strings give a sense of tension, like an old Orson Welles shadow noir. Many comparisons have been made to film music to describe Egress. If this were to score a movie, it would be by Ridley Scott or maybe Tarkovsky; it implies the void, the cold emptiness of outer space.

Egress starts out minimally on 'Vacuity': the sound of wind, flittering dusty percussion dancing around yr head, before bell tones emerge from the depths, with a tintinnabulum dream logic of their own that sounds like being underwater. The strings kick in about 3/4 of the way through 'Vacuity' and linger for the rest of the album; there is a sense that SOMETHING'S GOING ON, but its not clear what. Its like the haunted visitors in Solaris, hidden behind closed doors, leaving you guessing. 'Span' sounds like a mid '70s Klaus Schulze outtak, with its rich colorful amniotic synth pads, a moment of optimist, the euphoria of leaving, before settling into the paranoid dripping dread of 'Appraise', all sustained string dissonance and insectile flourishes bouncing willy-nilly around the stereo field. 'Stagger', the last of the album's four originals, sounds like finding a pulsating brain at the center of a meteor belt, or perhaps stepping into the rusting carcass of a mechanical beast, before discovering that it still lives.

The remixes of 'Span' and 'Vacuity' by Tilman Ehrhorn and The Sight Below are less cold and introspective than the original source material, and will probably get more mileage on the dancefloors. The Sight Below's 11-minute re-imagining of Vacuity's windy desolation into a club friendly mnml tech-house voyage is a real treat and an album high-light, bearing Rafael Anton Irisarri's usual hallmark of excellence and the smoothest, roundest bass tones conceivable.

Egress gives us something to dream about while we wait for Glitterbug's newest full-length, Cancerboy, is due in May, and its a pleasant lull for the late winter months. Fans of out of body experiences and Lustmord will dig this, and anybody with ears can hear the stunning production quality. The strings add a nice human, emotional touch, and give it a real sense of class, of sophistication. Till Rohmann recommends giving this a spin on a decent hi-fi or a good pair of headphones, and i would have to agree. Go big or go home, this music works best when it is appreciated. I look forward to hearing more from this talented artist.

Lydia Lunch and Philippe Petit: Twist of Fate

 Posted by Barton Graham   Ambient / Electronica / Ethereal / Dub / Soundscapes / Abstract
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Feb 29 2012
Artist: Lydia Lunch and Philippe Petit (@)
Title: Twist of Fate
Format: CD + DVD
Label: Monotype Records (@)
Rated: *****
The lights are out, tensions run high, you break a cold sweat... That is the image I get as 'Twist of Fate,' the collaborative effort of Lydia Lunch and Philippe Petit, begins to trickle down my ear canals. It is instantly eerie, with Petit providing dense textures and thick layers, creating an unsettlingly perfect bed for Lydia's occasionally melodic, always intense 'storytelling.' She does go back and forth every now and again, between spoken word and haunting singing, which surprisingly at times seems vaguely reminiscent of Ogre from Skinny Puppy's side project Ritalin. The layers and digital manipulations come and go, slowly fading in and out like some ocean of sonic fury whose waves relentlessly beat against a shore of bone dust and ash. At times Petit's soundscapes are so sparse, and light that they'll actually relax you just enough so that when the disembodied drones and reverb washed samples quickly creep back in, you feel that much more uneasy. This collection of just 8 songs is both dreamlike and haunting, with swirling evil, enveloping the senses. It'd be the perfect soundtrack for a psychological mindfuck. Not only that, but it comes with a 45 minute companion DVD of a live set performed by the pair, which features versions of many of the songs on the cd. The DVD is definitely more tense, jarring, dramatic. Petit's layers, textures and manipulations are even thicker still, with more of a harsh edge and noisy feel. Lydia's vocals are also noticeably darker and more frenetic; at points nearly reaching a banshee-like screech. She takes the original lyrics and brings them to new places, shifting tempos, ad-libbing, and just overall increasing the intensity tenfold. It's also quite interesting to watch Philippe working his craft, using Theremin like devices, laptops and even using such mundane items as a blown up balloon to build up the audio walls around him. The entire video portion is superimposed with a plethora of mood setting images such as visual textures, and even a wide variety of stills of Lunch, seemingly spanning her entire career. The music is definitely edgier and tenser on the DVD, and while the vocals have a certain magical sense of urgency to them, they are a bit more smooth, refined and evilly seductive on the CD. Together the DVD and CD make a great set; both a great listen and a great watch.

Monty Adkins: Fragile.Flicker.Fragment

 Posted by Barton Graham   Ambient / Electronica / Ethereal / Dub / Soundscapes / Abstract
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Feb 28 2012
Artist: Monty Adkins (@)
Title: Fragile.Flicker.Fragment
Format: CD
Label: AudioBulb Records (@)
Rated: *****
Fragile. Flicker. Fragment. So fitting a title for this, Monty Adkins' latest offering. A seasoned veteran of electroacoustics, has found a new direction of growth with not only this, but his previos release '5 Panels' as well. While his earlier work was more glitchy, erratic (not in a negative way) and densely populated, his newer work shows a different side of his psyche. Fragile. Flicker. Fragment is a very airy, sparsely populated, calm, meticulously crafted world. Here he has come up with an amalgam of field recordings, layers of textures both light and rich, digital manipulations and glitches with a small dose of traditional instrumentation embedded beneath. Pieces like 'Memory Box' truly evoke a feeling of browsing and accessing old memories of everyday life, while a just a few songs such as 'Remnant' build tension with a touch more noise, and deeper bass notes and tones. While this is definitely not an edge-of-your-seat ride, it's not meant to be. It's a single carefully constructed piece broken down into 9 songs, which flow seamlessly together. It's a thought provoking, intelligent listen. There may be a few moments where you find yourself distracted by the goings-on around you throughout the piece but you'll come right back when those textures begin layering back in or pings of music boxes draw a lonely melody or when the native jinglings change things up a bit. Overall it's a very calming yet evolving and transcending release that may be a little slower than planned at points, but remains interesting enough that you'll want to listen the whole way through without missing anything.

Hoarfrost: Puppets Of The Divine Coroner

 Posted by Andrea Piran (@)   Ambient / Electronica / Ethereal / Dub / Soundscapes / Abstract
Experimental / Avantgarde / Weird & Wired / Glitch / Noise / Field Recording
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Feb 26 2012
Artist: Hoarfrost
Title: Puppets Of The Divine Coroner
Format: CD
Label: Zoharum (@)
Rated: *****
Almost oddly enough the linear notes, readable at the artist's website, instead of the usual words about how the record is made is a long reflection on human condition in modern times. These words sounds as the offscreen voice in some films, a way to further explain the message underneath the development of the work.
An old woman chant introduce the listener to "Homo Sacer" when suddenly the ritual beats and the soundscape set the overall mood of the track. "Prisoner Of The Present Time", the chosen track for the video included in this cd, is constricted as a recording from some strange movie using some found vocal in a meaningful way. "In An Endless Progress" is made out of strange noises that evolve in search of some kind of rest while "Neurotic Necropolises", the longest track of this release, relies in more descriptive territories with spoken words sounding as a confession. "Swoosh Of An Epithelium" is evocative in his search of an oppressive mood above some kind of mechanical samples. "Dies Irae" seems reprising the introducing chant of the first track as to close a circle in this desolate view of modern society.
Even if there's nothing really new in this musical output, the coherence of the construction of this record gives the impression of a really conceived work and this is not an usual thing those day. It worths a listen for all dark ambient fans.

Pinch: Fabriclive 61

 Posted by J Simpson (@)   Ambient / Electronica / Ethereal / Dub / Soundscapes / Abstract
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Feb 25 2012
Artist: Pinch (@)
Title: Fabriclive 61
Format: CDS (CD Single)
Label: Fabric
Rated: *****
Writing a record review is sort of like trying to stop time, or at least slowing it down enough to watch it pass. There's the first time you hear a record: the thrill of discovery, delving, succumbing to its frequencies. Letting yrself be lost in thought and feeling. Then there's the next time, thinking, 'what is this thing? what am i going to write?' on and on, multiple evaluations and repeat listening, as the point becomes clear, and the review is written.

DJ mixes are like little slivers of time, like a radio program, as yr favorite selector build a soundtrack for you for an hour or six. Generally tossed up quickly on websites and pirate radio stations, there's something ephemeral to them, like listening to a bootleg, a recording of a moment.

Bristol Producer/Dj Pinch gives us a snapshot of the current scene of bass music. He's been exploring the bass frequency spectrum since 2003, when he started one of the first dubstep nights outside of London, Subloaded. Between running the Tectonic label, which has put out records by Skream, 2562, dub maverick Scientist, and his collaborations with Shackleton, Peverlist as well as his own productions under a slew of pseudonums, Pinch has been slinging dubstep since it was a new, exhilirating, bone-crushing comer on the scene. Since then, Dubstep has become watered down, cliche and forumalaic, with the bass junkies forced to go underground and reconsider.

On the 61st installment of the popular Fabriclive mix series, always a good place to turn to find the temperature of the musical waters, Pinch is not trying to make a definitive statement, a grand shaking opus defining all the various mutations of bass music, formerly known as dubstep. Instead, he's living in the hear and now, doing what DJ's know best, how to string songs together. How to make the pieces fit. Ranging from a whole slew of his own music, with tracks from his Deleted Scenes project, and collaborations with Quest, Loefah, Photek, he also begins and ends with the same track from Distal, venom part 2, on his Tectonic label. It has the raw, immediate quality of an old dancehall sound-system, quickly dashing off a dubplate to be spun that night, playing yr own music, yr friend's music. Rather than being restrained by restrictive genre or bpm barriers, instead Pinch looks at the breadth of Electronic music, and his own tastes, and makes it work. You get quiksilver slivers of d 'n b, and locked-groove romance, rave sirens 303s gothic strings. Its all mixed on vinyl, and you really get a sense of Rob Ellis' feather touch on the wheels, faders, and knobs. There's no substitue for experience.

This sort of impartial, unrestrained listening is essential to the forward motion of dubstep. Around the time Pinch was getting started, it was some of the most exciting music around, heavy body beats with a strong philosophy and refined aesthetics, those of us that always relished the dark side rejoiced. This music was mighty, and nocturnal. I was mildly disgusted, mildly amused, mostly confused, when it got taken over by bros, the world over, who responded only to its amphetamine sugar rush bass drops, pleasure button repeat, ad nauseam. The way Pinch moves in and out of different styles and moods is inspiring, and encouraging.

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