Music Reviews



Maculatum: The Nameless City

 Posted by Steve Mecca   Ambient / Electronica / Ethereal / Dub / Soundscapes / Abstract
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Nov 11 2012
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Artist: Maculatum
Title: The Nameless City
Format: CD
Label: Malignant Records (@)
Rated: *****
Are you ready for some Dark Ambient? I mean some real, heavy dark ambient, the kind that nightmares are born of. Well, here it is! Maculatum is the collaboration of Malignant Records artists Collapsar and Rasalhague (Thibaud Thaunay and Kerry Braud) and 'The Nameless City' is their first outing together, and hopefully not their last. The title of the album, 'The Nameless City' is taken from H. P. Lovecraft's 1921 short story by the same name, considered the first Cthulhu Mythos story. Being that Lovecraft and Dark Ambient go together like coffee and donuts, it's no wonder that Maculatum pay tribute to the master of cosmic horror with this ode to the abyss.

You begin by sliding slowly into the void, as uneasy sounds and presences drift by. Then, an expanse of vast proportions opens up, like some dreadful subterranean cavern. There are remnants of an ancient reptilian civilization in glowing hieroglyphs on the walls, and hints of its ineffable demonic glory as ritual percussion plays in your mind. (Plays with your mind is more like it.) Exploring further, a strange (slowed down and backwards) voice from an unseen presence introduces you to a world hitherto unknown, as the primal percussion lays down its totemic groove. And just when you thought you were beginning to sus this bizarre world within a world, the floor drops out and you find yourself floating in the birthing chamber of all that is abominable and contradictory to life as you know it.

Maculatum make use of huge chambered ambiences, and the chittering, slithering sounds that invade this sanctum are beyond creepy. When rhythms do emerge they are either tribally ritualistic or alien machine-like, with an inclination toward the horrific. Yet, it is all dream-like and surreal, as if the experience comes from hallucinating the collective subconscious of worshipers of some terrible elder gods. (Even the sampled movie dialogue towards the end of 'Part IV' didn't detract from this preternatural ambience.) The ritual percussion in 'Part V' is rather strange, having almost a Native American beat, but also other ethnic touches. The final track on 'The Nameless City,' 'Part VI' is pure dark ambient delight, and winds things down with delicious drones, huge reverberation, and doomful tones and the last gasps of an unfathomable ancient civilization scattered in the sand of the desert winds. It couldn't be more appropriate.

This release is limited to 500 copies so don't put off acquiring it figuring it will be around forever. It won't.

Crisopa: Biodance

 Posted by Steve Mecca   Ambient / Electronica / Ethereal / Dub / Soundscapes / Abstract
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Nov 11 2012
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Artist: Crisopa (@)
Title: Biodance
Format: CD
Label: n5MD (@)
Rated: *****
Here is another n5MD release, this one by Crisopa, a Madrid-based electronic composer, and 'Biodance' is my first exposure to his music. The album has a messy intro (obviously titled 'Intro') with an effluvia of all sorts of elements that didn't endear me to it at first, but the structure fell into place with the second track, 'Cosmos Wallclock,' with some nicely sustained belltones and measured percussion. Crisopa uses shoegazer elements but it never sounds quite like a shoegazer band. There is often a spacey fluidity to the music, and elements Crisopa incorporates, such as the angelic choir samples on 'Es Todo Mental' are a very nice touch. What really knocked me out was the uber-memorable, simple but engaging, repeated echoed electric piano figure that begins 'Que Nos Ataquen' in contrast to the hazy distorted guitar and ramshackle percussion that joins it. Could have used a bit more bass though; it was there but a little buried.

Crisopa's judicious use of percussion is inventive and enhances the music the music in often unexpected ways, and likewise with the voices he uses. Sometimes the percussion is controlled chaos, something you wouldn't think would work with such spacey atmospheres, ambiences and melodies, but somehow, it works just fine. There is a lot of repetition within tracks but there is a constant building as well, and often a break from the conventional. 'Ruled By Strange New Laws' is absolutely mind-blowing the way it swirls in your head under phones. In fact, there isn't much that isn't mind-expanding on 'Biodance' in some way or another.

Crisopa's 'Biodance' seems to be a whole new take on cinematic ambient soundscape; one that challenges the listener at nearly every turn, while providing a sufficient amount of blissed-out cosmicness. Even the glitchy vocals of 'Last Membrane' [Adapt Remix] couldn't sink this Titanic, but the [Kit De Crein Remix] of 'North Left' that ends the album had me wondering what the original might have sounded like as the rhythm got into this off-kilter groove that left me feeling a bit uneasy as it was the final track. It did find its footing though, so all's well that ends well. 'Biodance' is Crisopa's debut, and while a very worthy start, I'm looking forward to hearing what he'll come up with next.

Lights Out Asia: Hy-Brasil

 Posted by Steve Mecca   Ambient / Electronica / Ethereal / Dub / Soundscapes / Abstract
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Nov 11 2012
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Artist: Lights Out Asia (@)
Title: Hy-Brasil
Format: CD
Label: n5MD (@)
Rated: *****
Lights Out Asia is the duo (formerly trio) of Mike Ystad (electronics) and Chris Schafer (guitar, vox) from Milwaukee. 'Hy-Brasil' is their 5th, release and latest on the n5MD label, and they've also appeared on several compilations. This album is my first exposure to Lights Out Asia. 'Hy-Brasil' takes its name from a mythical phantom island off the west coast of Ireland, appearing in Brigadoonish fashion only once every seven years. (Well, Brigadoon was once every hundred years, but who's counting.) There's a bit more to the mythology than that (comparisons to Atlantis), so it could be viewed as a concept album, but you'd have to be pretty deep into it to get the concept.

I spent a long time listening to the album prior to the review just to make sure it was digested properly, and I keep coming up with the same conclusions. There is some achingly beautiful blissed-out material on 'Hy-Brasil', like a mix of Tangerine Dream and Vangelis with your favorite gauzy shoegazer (take your pick; Robin Guthrie comes to mind). Multilayered, cinematic and ethereal; dreamy, languorous melodies, and the occasional wall of guitar distortion that keeps things from getting too new-agey. From the opening track, 'The Eye of All Storms' I have to admit I was impressed...almost. Schafer's voice (on the tracks with vocals) is often a soprano that floats over the music like a gossamer canopy, or an angel in passing. Not up-front, but mixed in with the music like another instrument. His vocals are full of passion and emotion, giving an impetus to the music that blends well with the huge sound created by this duo here.

There are plenty of ambient elements too, from birds, to background voices, to little electronic touches that sound nearly organic. The music ebbs and flows, and sometimes roils like the sea, tranquil to stormy, sometimes lonesome and melancholy, sometime gloriously powerful, and often within the same track. It is this dichotomy of shadow and light that gives LOA its unique sound. There are plenty of passages that are percussionless, but sooner or later a rhythm track emerges (but not always), and here is where there sometimes is a problem. It is most evident on 'Ghost Identifer' where the main rhythm programming sounds like an old 80's drum machine for a good portion of the track. Granted, that wasn't enough to sour me on such a magnificent work as this, but it did detract a bit.

All-in-all though, 'Hy-Brasil' is a gorgeously melodic excursion into the stratosphere that will keep your head in the clouds throughout the album's 1:11:05 time through 12 tracks, and thankfully, there are no remixes. I find myself wondering if Lights Out Asia perform live. If they do, I think they'd need a huge concert hall, arena or stadium to put across the expansiveness of their sound.

Ital Tek: Nebula Dance

 Posted by Vito Camarretta (@)   Techno / Trance / Goa / Drum'n'Bass / Jungle / Tribal / Trip-Hop
Ambient / Electronica / Ethereal / Dub / Soundscapes / Abstract
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Nov 09 2012
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Artist: Ital Tek (@)
Title: Nebula Dance
Format: CD
Label: Planet Mu (@)
Rated: *****
"Nebula Dance" could be considered the best way for the new course dubstep should follow, according to Planet Mu's label manager Mike Paradinas and Brighton talented beat juggler Alan Myson, known as Ital Tek, one of the jewel in the crown of this appreciated imprint at least. To be honest, all those musicians, who dealt with dubstep, a style which was gradually depleting its possible combinations by getting a little bit too schematic, are mainly following two paths: the first one crosses the overcrowded realm of techno-trance, IDM and minimal, while the second exodus moves towards that Chicago-born style, known as footwork and closely related to juke or ghetto house, which normally accompanies on a style of street dance, based on fast movements of feet as well as a number of twists and turns, who startyed to be popular thanks to producer and djs such as Kavain Space aka R.P.Boo or Dude N Nem (their notorious clip "Watch My Feet" includes some figure at your fingertips!). I could almost say that Ital Tek is trying to go beyond this fork by paving the first junctions through tracks like the amazing 8-bit driven "Pixel Haze", the glimmering synth-oriented tracks "Dusk Beat" - including the typical soft toms which normally embellishes footwork stuff in order to make their voodoo-like sound even more swinging for feet -, "Steel Sky", "Solar Sail" or "Human Version" by adding drops of atmospheric synths and technoid mutations of bass tones to his frenzy rhythmical pattern and to his percussive freaks (I particularly enjoyed the glockenspiel-driven track "Glokk", the crossbreed between a sort of gong with conga on "Gonga" and the amazing alternation of accellerations and decelerations on the initial "Nebula Dance") or by accentuating the contrast between weightless sounds and weighty ground layers of sizzling basses ("In Motion", "Yesterday Tomorrow Today"), which got blended within the notorious fizzy sound by Ital Tek, who seems to trap both percussive elements and sounds within a pinball machine. I cannot imagine how many traffic jams are going to come when all roundabouts (and no through roads...) on the above-mentioned stylistical fork will be ready.

F.ormal L.ogic D.ecay: CelebrAction

 Posted by Andrea Piran (@)   Ambient / Electronica / Ethereal / Dub / Soundscapes / Abstract
Experimental / Avantgarde / Weird & Wired / Glitch / Noise / Field Recording
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Nov 07 2012
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Artist: F.ormal L.ogic D.ecay (@)
Title: CelebrAction
Format: 3 x CD (triple CD)
Label: Selenophonia (@)
Rated: *****
This box is an anthology of the first twenty years of this musical project. Apart for his collectable value, is a 2cd pack plus 1 mini cd and other gadget as poster, the track are divided with a clear criterion. The first cd is for the first experiment and the more accessible track, the second is for the more musically structured track and the third is a noise experiment. So it's not a classic best of anthology but it should be regarded as a collection of unedited tracks and weird experiments of the early period of this artist.
The first cd starts with a bunch of track based upon recognizable records cited with humor and/or honor, "Gilda" with his beats marks the passage from the first almost easy listening tracks to the experimental part of this box set. "Koji Tano Tribute" is noise experiment with the first idea that will properly be developed in the mini-cd. "Woodworms" deals with layered sound of insects.
The second cd is of a completely different construction as is based around the long tracks: "Fragment from a recycled Empternity" is 7 part reconstruction of "Emptermity" release and is an always searching for a balance experiment around dark ambient ("part 1", "part 4", "part 6") and noise ("part 2", "part 3", "part 7"). "Devocalizzi" is instead the personal visions of sound poetry of the author and is, as these are tracks for the first experimente, not completely focused in his direction but quite enjoyable. "inFORMAL" is a series of J. Cage inspired experiment around everyday sounds (220V AC, Telephone ring etc) treated with the sense of play of the most eccentrics page of the american composer.
The mini-cd is greatly noise-oriented and different from the previous cd, unfortunately these are the only survived track of a much longer track as, even if this is truly heavy music, probably also the best constructed of this release.
This release is impressive in the variety of the experimental languages explored even if there's not a true part of this release that someone could speak about a masterpiece. However, for all fans of experimental sounds, this a good introduction for the work of this artist.


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