Music Reviews



Shrine: Somnia

 Posted by Andrea Piran (@)   Ambient / Electronica / Ethereal / Dub / Soundscapes / Abstract
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Jul 24 2012
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Artist: Shrine (@)
Title: Somnia
Format: CD
Label: Cyclic Law (@)
Rated: *****
Shrine is the new album from Hristo Gospodinov and, according to the press notes is intended as "a complex audio metaphor that can be interpreted as an aural equivalent of a "low level" lucid dreamstate". This means an almost complex dark ambient based on soundscape chosen mostly for their evocative quality.
"The Grand Design" opens this release with some field recordings juxtaposed to a quiet soundscape floating between the two audio channel cradling the listener. "Immersion" relies in a darker and menacing drone while "Lost Beauty" is a soundscape based upon relatively high frequency noises coloring an, almost apparently, quiet field recording. "Somnia", the longest track of this release, is reminiscent of the audio spectrum and noises heard on a boat or on a beach. "The Iron Water" is a quiet soundscape while "Dream Captured In Stone", the shortest track of the album, seems a glitch experiment based on the samples collected for the other tracks. "Ruins" set a noisy environment until "On The Edge Of The Void" close the album returning to the atmospheres already seen in other tracks.
As the cover suggests (oddly enough is a truly visual expression of the musical content) this album relies on almost oceanic field recordings that set the mood for an OST of some movie based of aquatic fauna or a documentary. For fans of evocative sound this release is a recommended one.

Fennesz: AUN - The Beginning and the End of all Things

 Posted by Vito Camarretta (@)   Ambient / Electronica / Ethereal / Dub / Soundscapes / Abstract
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Jul 24 2012
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Artist: Fennesz (@)
Title: AUN - The Beginning and the End of all Things
Format: CD
Label: Ash International
Rated: *****
It frequently happens that composers of soundtracks or any other cultural product whose format they have to adapt to have to acquiesce in some "limitations" or bearings of their creative skills. This is not the case of talented Austrian musician Christian Fennesz as it seems that his aesthetics manages to receive "anointment" by a prolific artistic fellowship with Austrian director Edgar Honetschaeger for his movie "AUN - the beginning and the end of all things", whose meaningful plot based on a symbolic story where reflections on mankind's quest for the future and desire to forge it, focusing on the dichotomy between man and nature while offering a less sensual vision of mankind's future whose challenges cannot be faced just with economic or scientific tools by walking on philosophical paths of Japanese Shintoism and anthropological essays by Claude Levi-Strauss, looks complementary to the cues offered and the breeze of thoughts inspired by the listening of Fennesz's music. Listeners who already know Fennesz's past releases willeasily notice the ontogenetic transformation of his style as AUN sounds almost totally free from glitch constituent, in spite of the fact he's considered one of the most important pioneer of that branch; he minimizes that constituent with traces of electronic buzzes and discharges, sweetened pebbles or bubbles within bubbles which are wisely thrown or injected through pinpricks of needles threaded in his amniotic fluids (a process which is quite clear in tracks like "Mori" or "Shinu") whereas his reasearch reaches the highest peaks when it sounds focused on the balance and amalgamation between acoustic inserts and placid melodies, resulting in genuine sonic pearls such as the two main themes - "Aun40", whose dilutions look like gradually staining, and "Aun80" with hooking guitar splashes -, the delicate guitar-tinged melody of "Nympha", the softened ascension of "Sasazuka" as well as the three (already issued on the collaborative release "Cendre" in 2007) tracks - the obscure cogitation of "Aware", the daydreaming "Haru" and the pensive catharsis of "Trace" - where Ryuichi Sakamoto drips his piano. I can say Aun is another masterstroke by a musician which got accustomed to nimble brilliant musical motions.

Sleep Research Facility: Stealth

 Posted by Vito Camarretta (@)   Ambient / Electronica / Ethereal / Dub / Soundscapes / Abstract
Experimental / Avantgarde / Weird & Wired / Glitch / Noise / Field Recording
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Jul 22 2012
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Artist: Sleep Research Facility (@)
Title: Stealth
Format: 2 x CD (double CD)
Label: Cold Spring (@)
Rated: *****
Most of Cold Spring releases stands out not only for the remarkable sound quality but also for the mysterious allure of concept and this record signed under commission of Cold Spring itself by Scottish sonic craftsman Kevin Doherty, who named his dark ambient project "Sleep Research Facility" to underline his personal research about sleep-conductive beatless music, is no less fascinating both for the concept, based on one of the most mysterious military secret, the so-called Stealth (the development of its technology, which makes it invisible to radars and other detection devices, is so mysterious that someone argues its invention could be related to the finding of some alien starship), and for the sonic result, whose source (available for free on a bonus cd for people who will manage to buy one of 1000 copies of its first edition) comes from intercepted field recordings inside the hangar environs of a US Air Force base in Cambridgeshire (England) during the maintenance of a Northrop-Grumman B-2 Stealth Bomber provided by Si_COMM. Kevin emphasizes the mysterious aura of such a place all over the long-lasting five untitled tracks with a bunch of ultra-low frequencies (the ones in the first track are so low that they could shake windows and objects of your room), clouds of spooky drones (the ones in the third and fourth track sound particularly magnetic), electronic chirps, disquieting echoes, muffled roars, sonic sediments, radio signals and distant hisses, which sometimes are close to the threshold of perception. The nebulous and somehow uncanny atmosphere Kevin creates could be associated by some listeners to sonic repertory by Andrew Lagowski or Robin Rimbaud (Scanner). In order to appreciate even the most imperceptible variations and details of this record, the artist itself recommends the usage of good headphones.

Konx-Om-Pax: Regional Surrealism

 Posted by Vito Camarretta (@)   Ambient / Electronica / Ethereal / Dub / Soundscapes / Abstract
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Jul 18 2012
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Artist: Konx-Om-Pax (@)
Title: Regional Surrealism
Format: CD
Label: Planet Mu (@)
Rated: *****
Scottish graphic artist and 3D film director Tom Scholefield, who could justifiably be considered a sort of man-behind-the-curtain due to his prolific videomaking for some famous fellow citizens such as Ross Birchard aka Hudson Mohawke and post-rock band Mogwai - he also toured as a dj with them - as well as Jamie Lidell, Martyn, Kuedo and Lone and his graphical tribute for sleeve artwork of many releases. His closeness to talented musicians as well as his passion for music he usually composes for personal pleasure and for scoring have been poured in this debut album, where many similarities with his own personal listenings (particularly some tracks follow traces left by cosmic fugues and lullabies by Ash Ra Tempel, alien technoid ambient or liquefied electronic ambient stuff by Arpanet, Sprawl or Drexciya or sound like Aphex Twin's primigenial ambient works or sonically neutralized versions of Richard James' acid soups) he didn't hide when speaking about "Regional Surrealism" as well as a certain stylistical homogeneity - that kind of homogeneity which make glimpse a sort of surrounding narrative polt-line within a record - as well as with notorious countrymen such as Boards Of Canada, whose dark melancholic sketches often come to mind during the listening of this intriguing recording, or some nice crossbreeds between techno and ill ambient from Scottish labels such as Soma (such a stylistical national - or I'd better define it as "regional" - imprint cannot but please!) are quite easy to recognize, but its saccharine cogency makes so many quatations acceptable. Its hook to scoring (or rescoring) appears confirmed by the inclusion of "Glacier Mountain Descent", a track intended as a sort of OST remake of the opening scene of "Aguirre - Wrath of God", a movie by Werner Herzog, whose notorious multiphonic OST was composed by Popul Vuh, but a "cinematic" feeling rises all over the album: the every-day life mentalism evoked by "At Home With Mum And Dad" (the stylistically closest track to Aphex Twin's ambient weaponry), the disquieting atmospheres of "Sura-Tura-Gnosi-Cosi", where the dim vocal distortion by Steven Retchard in the middle of a religious rave ("I am Jesus, I am the lord, I am everything") combined to a surface noise or a tape-hiss looks like the tape recording of some inmate during a religious brainwave taken from the archives of a lunatic asylum, or "Chambers", whose supple sine-wave on metallic light hits make me think about a mystical and pensive moment of a frustrated housewife while brushing a dirty frying pan, the stateliness of the crystalline humming of a celesta in "Pillars Of Creation", the enchanting solipsism of "Silent Reading", the sweet swin in an ocean of nostalgic memories of "Let's Go Swimming" and even the childish electricity of "Zang-Tumb" (the guitar in the funny web of toytronics has been played by Mogwai's Stuart Braithwaite). Even if sometimes you could feel the impression it's based on vintage electronics, washed with bleach, "Regional Surrealism" could offer some pleaseful meditative moments. Konx-Om-Pax sounds like pure (led) light in extension!

DVA: Botanicula Soundtrack

 Posted by Vito Camarretta (@)   Ambient / Electronica / Ethereal / Dub / Soundscapes / Abstract
Experimental / Avantgarde / Weird & Wired / Glitch / Noise / Field Recording
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Jul 15 2012
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Artist: DVA (@)
Title: Botanicula Soundtrack
Format: 12"
Label: Minority Records (@)
Rated: *****
If I didn't know this funny release by Czech duo DVA from Trebechovice pod Orebem made up of Jan Kratochvil and Bara Kratochvilova (it cannot be but a duo, as DVA should mean "two" in most Slavic languages) had been composed for a videogame, I'd have thought they managed to observe vicissitudes of a community of leprechauns, pixies or other fairy inhabitants of some enchanted underwood and translate it into music. The idea of this collaboration came from the mind behind the curtains of Botanicula, Jaromir Plachy, who had already made a nice animation clip for DVA's "Nunovo Tango" with a style not so dissimilar from Burton's one, and even if these kinds of release are influenced by what they're bundled into, the plot of Botanicula, based on the adventures of five plant freaks (Mrs.Mushroom, Mr.Lantern, Mr.Feather, Mr.Twig and Mr.Poppy Head!) fighting against evil parasites which contaminated their treehouse (!) to save its last seed, makes DVA's more dadaist attitude come out, so that together with patent similarities - DVA never disguised them- with notorious Icelandic bands such Sigur Ros (atmospheres of tracks like "Gobbledigook" could come to mind since you listen the initial track "Juchu") or Mum (musical memories from their "Finally We Are No One" could eemerge when listening Botanicula's "Finale"), it seems DVA merge together elements from Saami, Baltic, Slavic, Finnish and even Breton folk music, chamber music, electronic glitch-pop, toytronic marches and motifs (I particularly enjoyed "Letejono", "Zatoichy" and the funny "A Major For 12 Frogs") and even some quotes from pop culture (the nicest is maybe the one in "Mrs.Mushroom Likes Lcd Soundsystem"!) with the amused creative approach of a lively baby! It's no coincidence that Botanicula won the "Excellence in Audio" award at Indipendent Games Festival.


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