Music Reviews

Listening Mirror: Resting In Aspic

 Posted by Vito Camarretta (@)   Ambient / Electronica / Ethereal / Dub / Soundscapes / Abstract
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Apr 10 2012
Artist: Listening Mirror (@)
Title: Resting In Aspic
Format: CD
Label: Hibernate (@)
Rated: *****
It's quite rare to find releases whose concept cannot be thought totally new, but sounding so carefully assembled that are still appreciable in the field of organic and aural ambient. This collaborative project named Listening Mirror, founded by Jeff Stonehouse and Kate Tustain, manages to reach that goal by a selection, wisely titled "Resting In Aspic", from some of their most intriguing recordings, mainly issued on out of sale EP, digital postcards or samplers of DIY labels such as Audio Gourmet, Rural Colours, Heat Death and Hibernate, by a thorough operation of extraction and filtration of what could be considered objectively beautiful from daily din which normally drills our ears. The listener could reckon a certain unutterable cathartic property while listening Listening Mirror's calliphonies, either when they insert simple piano melodies and other unobtrusive instrumental spell (like in "Falling Under" or "Outside Heaven"), field recordings grabbed from natural settings (it's really absorbing the swarming pond life portrayed in "The Leechpool" or the astonishingly moody lagoon scape of "Venice Boxhead") and social life of playing children (such as in "The Organist" or "Wet Roads", whose ethereal combination with searphical choirs and samples which visually recall a sort of liquefaction process of the air could remind some works by Robert Rich) or when they offer pure drones (like in the entrancing "Without Saying Goodbye", one of the highlight of this selection). This aspic sounds apt for intimate catharsis or sonic prophylaxis.

kutin: ivory

 Posted by Steve Mecca   Ambient / Electronica / Ethereal / Dub / Soundscapes / Abstract
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Apr 10 2012
Artist: kutin (@)
Title: ivory
Format: CD
Label: Valeot Records (@)
Distributor: DARLA
Rated: *****
According to the one-sheet accompanying this CD, 'Ivory' is the third solo record from Vienna-based 'soundworker' Peter Kutin. This is an ambient album, and Mr. Kutin derives his sounds primarily from guitar-triggered electronics real-time through a laptop. On a few tracks other instruments were used such as viola, Korg synth, and double-bass, the latter played by Mattija Shellander. Apparently 'Ivory' came about while Kutin was writing music for old silent movies for the Austrian film archive, though the music on 'Ivory' bears little resemblance to preconceived notions about silent film music, or at least none that I've heard.

There is a delicacy and quietude on 'Ivory' that is a result of very subtle sound manipulation on Kutin's part. Much of the music is comprised of multi-textured long dronish ambiences that morph and swirl but guitar (processed in various ways) also plays a major role in the soundscapes. You can recognize it ¾ of the way though the opening track 'Elsewhere' in a melodic riff using tremolo and other processing. Or, on second track 'White Desert' with a base of sustained very low tones swathed in reverb and bits of echoed picking.

'World Without End' employs is sizzling yet subtle melodic short loop as a basis for much of the piece while other electronic elements such as bass rumblings and airy and angelic electronics play off of it. Fragile ringing guitar strings are a major component of 'After the Plague' along with the sound of water rushing, lazy sustained tones, bass drone, and other incidentals. 'Storb' features gauzy guitar harmonics over a bass drone background. At about the 2:15 mark in 'Sombre' a loop sample of some classical sounding strings emerges from the bassy ambient gloom like the ghost of an old victrola. You can also hear field recording of a barking dog, children's voices, chirping birds, etc. Later in the piece this is replaced by water sounds, then some subtle fragments of piano-like melodies, undoubtedly guitar-based as it morphs into processed guitar sounds.

I can't emphasize enough how subtle the sound of 'Ivory' is; you may not notice anything at all until past the 2 minute mark on the final track, 'Lonesome Monster'. The muted taps, filmy drones, wispy tones and sparkling electronics may seem like they're hardly even there, but that's the point. Kutin's world of 'Ivory' is an elegant exercise in the sublime, and even the thunderstorm that breaks the tranquility at the end of the recording is but a gentle rain washing the slate clean.
Artist: VV.AA.
Title: Robot Elephant vs Tundra Dubs
Format: CD
Label: Robot Elephant Records (@)
Rated: *****
This bridge built between two labels on the opposite sides of Atlantic ocean (Sebastian's London-based Robot Elephant and Ben's Oakland-based Tundra Dubs), which shares similar policies and do-it-yourself ethics, seems to rest on that phenomenon known as "witch house" or "drag", a bizarre name coined by Pictureplane referred to a sort of homemade music with references to occultism, whose main influences are a number of industrial and goth bands, but which is normally intertwined with a plenty of styles. This compilation has been splitted in two and includes many interesting declensions of "witch house": the most interesting stuff of the first half, the one which has been filled with Robot Elephant's trumpets, are related to forthcoming releases of the label, in particular Romanian HipDieBattery's "Bones", which sounds recorded during a Sabbath whose partakers put good dub and techno recipes together with dragon's claws and dwarf's guts in the cauldron, and Ourobonic Plague's "The Outer Alphabet", whose obscure nuances and ill-hop phat bumping could let imagine some devilish creature's foghorn possessed a mic to climb hip-hop charts, but also The Church of Synth's "Geh Ins Licht" dubstep imbued with Eurotrance typical trumpets is quite nice, while the most remarkable episodes on the second half are the ones by Funerals, a husband/wife duo from Columbus (Ohio), whose gloomy atmospheres could recall some shadowy trip-hop songs and the anxiety of musical acts such as Tricky's "Pre-Millenium Tension", Mascara's assemblage on "Sonnambula", which looks like a melting pot of elements taken from Sabres Of Paradise, Militia and G.O.L. and sticky minimal dubtech in "Korby Bryers" by Grimm Soundsystem, a freak by Tundra Dubs' owner itself.

NHK'KoyxeN: Dance Classics Vol.I

 Posted by Vito Camarretta (@)   Techno / Trance / Goa / Drum'n'Bass / Jungle / Tribal / Trip-Hop
Ambient / Electronica / Ethereal / Dub / Soundscapes / Abstract
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Apr 06 2012
Artist: NHK'KoyxeN (@)
Title: Dance Classics Vol.I
Format: 12"
Label: PAN (@)
Distributor: Boomkat
Rated: *****
Many slices of the best IDM and techno, spread since the second half of 90ies and its intimate connection with those magical boxes full of coloured wires, leds and knobs, known as modular synthesizers (those machines which keep on inducing that kind of astounded wonder which let some musicians exclaim "what the f**k! How's possible these machines made this?!?!?!) are going to resurface from dusty mnemonical hold by means of this release by this fuzzy and very prolific Japanese musician (NHK'KoyxeN is just a rewrite of the name of Kouhei Matsunaga, half of Japanese minimal techno duo NHK and collaborator of renowned musicians such as Autechre's Sean Booth, Asmus Tietchens, Merzbow, Rudolf, Jungle Brothers's Sensational, Conrad Schnitzler, Anti Pop Consortium's High Priest and many others, with Cyrillic alphabet script), who enslaves his sound machines to the noble undertaking of dance without any other hidden purpose and a special care for "vintage" analog electronic sounds. There're not only chopped bass, pulsations of polyphonic rhythms or diamond drills over the record, but also many interesting diversions such as entrancing lullabies, bare ill-hop masterpieces, crispy claps, viscous bubbling and many other sonic gem, which properly fit to dancefloors as well as solipsistic reflection under altered states, which could activate mnemonic cells where most trained listener store emulsions by AFX, Model 500, Joey Beltram, Solvent and many other legendary knights of that scene. Have a taste of this sonic gourmet meal!

Anenome Tube: Death Over China

 Posted by J Simpson (@)   Ambient / Electronica / Ethereal / Dub / Soundscapes / Abstract
Experimental / Avantgarde / Weird & Wired / Glitch / Noise / Field Recording
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Apr 06 2012
Artist: Anenome Tube (@)
Title: Death Over China
Format: CD
Label: Topeth Prophet/Silken Tofu (@)
Rated: *****
Death Over China is the second part of "The Suicide Series by German noise artist Anemone Tube, where he is contemplating humanity's headlong rush into extinction. As he puts it in the press release, 'Death over China' is a retaliation of nature against humankind. In the same moment it is a dedication to our untamed curiosity for the essence of death and our (inherent in our collective action) secret death wish."

Death Over China is made up of primarily untreated field recordings made during a trip to Nanjing and Shanghai in 2007, with occasional bursts of fluorescent white noise and screeching feedback. Album opener "Black Death Rise" is the most raw and unedited sounding, painting a mental scenario of a street scene in Shangai: the lull of traffic, the play of children, a police whistle. The reedy whine of small engines. The sounds are expertly manipulated in space and time, panning from left to right and back again.

The stage is set, and Anemone Tube lures you into the psychogeography of these places, getting progressively more abstract as the album goes along. There seems to be a story unfolding, a point being made, and the ghostly atmosphere is constantly evolving, textures appearing out of nowhere, new sounds emerging, then disappearing into thin air, like the tiny bit of synth on "I Shall Ever Invoke." Keeps things moving along, keeps things interesting. With a good pair of headphones and some attention, Death Over China is as engrossing as a good movie or book, creating eccentric imagery between yr ears, layers of levels of meaning, that can be re-visited again and again.

With "The Announcement (Death Over China)," the moral of the story is revealed, where an older woman's voice proclaims, "I just want to kiss life. Where there's life there's hope," over and over, with a banshee wailing in the background, before being swallowed by the crushing miasma of "The Desecration From Within," the album's apex and crowning achievement. Rusted behemonth machinery, a warning siren, transgressive poetry from a tin can, it has a basement industrial feel to it, like it was summoned to be broadcast through beefy distorted PAs. Heavy as lead, and satisfyingly gritty. Anenome Tube is clearly not foreseeing an optimistic outcome to the Industrial Revolution in China, bleak and existential and doom laden. The overall effect is more hypnotic and ghost-like than violent, however, even the power electronics have a soothing quality to them; its like walking by the waterfront in the mist.

Death Over China is Anemone Tube's first solo release since 2001, and when you look at the classy smooth paper packaging, you really get the sense that this album is something special, that a great deal of time and care has been placed in putting this album together, it is clearly a labor of passion. As a piece de resistance, Death Over China was mastered by James Plotkin, so everything is in its right place, placed just so, and sounds totally great. In about 2 years time, this will be considered a rare and precious sound-art object, so get one while you can.

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