Music Reviews

Hit By A Rock: Wounded

 Posted by Steve Mecca   Ambient / Electronica / Ethereal / Dub / Soundscapes / Abstract
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Oct 15 2012
Artist: Hit By A Rock (@)
Title: Wounded
Format: CDS (CD Single)
Label: Cherry Red Records (@)
Distributor: Cherry Red Records
Rated: *****
I didn't think I'd be starting off this batch of (late arriving) CDs with this particular title, but the blatancy of the project name and album title compelled me to. Frankly, I was expecting something completely different- harsh, blasting, or totally obnoxious. This is anything but that. Hit By A Rock is the project of London U.K. producer, remixer and soundtrack composer Jim Whelan. Not being familiar with Whelan's other work, I can't comment on it, but even though this is the first release under the HBAR moniker, you can tell he's no rank amatuer. Far from it.

To put it in a nutshell, 'Wounded' is atmospheric dub-dubby dubstep, and often dark at that. Cool, well...mostly. In a way, I am reminded of some of the best work of Massive Attack, although this album doesn't quite have the substance of 'Mezzanine'. It does have a fair portion of the atmospherics though. The album opens with 'Black Lily White Lotus' and is aided by the vocal talents of acclaimed British Tamil singer Susheela Raman, who has about five albums of her own. Raman's voice lends an exotic, Indian flavor to the track pulling you in. It's a great way to start this outing; brooding, mysterious, yet seductive. 'Seven Stones' features (manipulated) vocals by Zayna Daze (another Londoner), and while not as compelling as the opener, still adds a bit of depth.

Title track 'Wounded' is another matter though. The mood breaks, out comes a piano and vocoder with autotune that makes the vocal track sound like Donald, or maybe Daisy Duck. The sappy commercial melody is a real buzz-kill. I could just imagine the Disney's sailor-suited fowl warbling 'I've been hurt before...and now I'm wounded, wounded...' Okay so this didn't work, press the skip button.

'Silkworm' gets back in the groove again with Susheela on vocals, singing in English this time. Sort of reminiscent of Delerim melodically. Nice! Another highlight is 'Surgery,' featuring poet/spoken word artist Raymond Antrobus. He's a bit loony but it works well withing the context of the music; urban yet somewhat urbane.

I have to hand it to Whelan, he knows his way around sounds. It's a rich pastiche he presents here; nothing you haven't heard before, just maybe not in this way. Hope your sound system is up to the task though as the low end is really going to give that subwoofer a workout. 'East of the River' features the voice of Zewditu Johannes woven into its fabric adding more exotica. 'Closing' is a vocoded exercise in hypnosis, and perhaps an effective one under the right circumstances. The rest of the album is pretty decent but nothing that knocked my socks off.

In total, 'Wounded' is a good debut, and with only one real misstep, worthy of adding to your collection. I'm curious to see where Whelan will take HBAR from here. I'd like to hear something with more song-substance (I'm sure he's capable of it) that still retains the dark and delicious flavor he's presented throughout most of this album.

Atrium Carceri: Void

 Posted by Andrea Piran (@)   Ambient / Electronica / Ethereal / Dub / Soundscapes / Abstract
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Oct 11 2012
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Artist: Atrium Carceri
Title: Void
Format: Download Only (MP3 + Lossless)
Label: Cryo Chamber (@)
Rated: *****
The new album from this swedish outfit has been constructed, for author's choice, exclusively for digital release so the purity of sonic experience is supposed to be above all consideration. Apart for the usual track-by-track commentary and overall judgement it's necessary to state the impressive sonic experience of this release: it's one of the best well-sounding release I've heard this year. In this position category as novelty or experimentation has any citizenship as all the aesthetical work is done on the formal side of the musical output.
"Dear Diary" is the intro of the release made out of filtered spoken word and a soundscape. "Humanity's Cradle" is based upon small and continuously moving small noises creating an evocative mood that continues with the next track: "A Curved Blade". "Reselected" starts with cinematic noises that are colored with a slowly developing line of piano and synth as "Victorian Meltdown" that, instead, ends with a quiet line of piano and some small sinusoidal noises. "Passage" and "Endless Deep" are classic track of the dark ambient genre typical of the author while "Debt", the longest track of this release, is a constant changing stating from the first cinematic part to the ethereal of the second and the last noisier part. "Trembling" starts quietly and ends in darker territories while "Slower" is a drone intro to a dreamy line of synth. "Ancient Past" is a dark ambient soundscape whose final line of piano serves as an introduction to the last track of this album: "Reap" a short and quiet track giving a sort of rest to this musical journey.
Honestly this is not a release that will be considered as a milestone in the history of dark ambient, however, in times where release are done with some superficiality in the technical output, this will be considered as one of the best release of the year. A must for all fans of the genre.

Wil Bolton: Amber Studies

 Posted by Vito Camarretta (@)   Ambient / Electronica / Ethereal / Dub / Soundscapes / Abstract
Experimental / Avantgarde / Weird & Wired / Glitch / Noise / Field Recording
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Oct 09 2012
Artist: Wil Bolton
Title: Amber Studies
Format: CD
Label: Rural Colours (@)
Rated: *****
The appreciated sound-artist Wil Bolton, who used to sign his previous releases (mainly on the appreciated Boltfish) with his moniker CHEjU, should have been enraptured by amber jewelleries and peaceable temperament of Krakow citizens I could also witness about people living nearby Baltic Sea when I explored those countries over the so-called route of amber. I'm pretty sure that Wil read many documents about the beliefs concerning the supposed powers of this "stone" - the ones in Baltic jewellery, also known as succinite, is particularly beautiful for their colour gradations -, which is nothing but fossilized tree resin (sometimes containing accidentally "drowned" insects or plant material), but was believed to chase nightmares and headache and bear wisdom and altruism. On the four tracks of "Amber Studies", he seems to excrete sonic amber by means of effected guitars and thin ambient tones in order to absorbe surrounding reality and ordinary life (people talking, noises of carriages on the pavement or grabbed nearby restaurants or bars on the street and so on), supposedly recorded in the streets and places of Krakow Old City Center he mentions to name his tracks - "Rynek Glowny", "Ulica Kanonicza", "Ulica Grodzka" and "Plac Szczepanski" -. An entrancing way for frozening reality whose final result is prominently atmospheric and healing for your head ache. Just like amber supposedly does!

Praezisa Rapid 3000: 314159265

 Posted by Vito Camarretta (@)   Synth Pop / Electro Pop / Synth-Electronica
Ambient / Electronica / Ethereal / Dub / Soundscapes / Abstract
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Oct 08 2012
Artist: Praezisa Rapid 3000 (@)
Title: 314159265
Format: CD
Label: Noble (@)
Rated: *****
The new regency of cut-up electronica, a scene which bred many successful artists and musicians who almost permanently conquered the hearts of so many listeners that they sometimes buy their pigs in a poke, could be based on a triumvirate in the forthcoming future. After a couple of EPs printed by their label Doumen Records, this Leipzig-based trio made up of experienced musicians Devaaya Sharkattack, Guschling and Simon 12345 received the unofficial imprimatur by notorious magazines (Vice, Groove) without the accomodating intercession of any promotional agency and first acclamations by underground audience on the occasion of their live appearances on stages shared with Mount Kimbie, Cloud Boat, Eskmo or Untold and at FUSION, the largest outdoor festival in Germany. Their crossbreed of traditional acoustic instruments - piano, guitar, drum, trumpet, clarinet - on the one hand and synthesizer, modern editing techniques and sampling on the other hand, which stylistically bears a likeness to Prefuse 73, Gold Panda or similar attempts of blending together a syncretic style with no defined boundaries within the same track and a contemporary sound such as those ones by German (maybe forgotten) bands like Netzer or many Japanese contemporary musicians (it's not so casual Praezisa Rapid 3000 managed to mouthwater Noble, a stylish and remarkable J-pop label), coalesces with a pronounced passion for exotic collagism of samples and genres (they wisely manages to dose and whisk hip hop, ambient, jazz, post rock, IDM, film music, disco, post dubstep), which rather reminds Felix Laband and similar weird musicians. Even if they're undoubtedly humorous, I'm not sure many listeners could understand it: for instance the humour of the track "Thom Liwa" could not be easily understood by those ones who never listened the "spiritual" songwriter and singer Tom Liwa as well as the typical mispelling of notorious names by some electronic musicians (Com Truise, Duran Duran Duran, Donna Summer and so on) as well as the supposed references to an imaginary freak between Geoff Farina's Karate sound and J-pop in the track "Dojo Days" and other funny quotations. But this is just a little flaw, that is not going to impede the possibility to be recognized by broader audience.

Elizabeth Hoffman: Interieurs harmoniques

 Posted by Vito Camarretta (@)   Ambient / Electronica / Ethereal / Dub / Soundscapes / Abstract
Experimental / Avantgarde / Weird & Wired / Glitch / Noise / Field Recording
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Oct 07 2012
Artist: Elizabeth Hoffman (@)
Title: Interieurs harmoniques
Format: CD
Label: empreintes DIGITALes (@)
Rated: *****
Even if "Interieurs harmoniques" is officially her debut album, it's quite clear since the first seconds of listening that NYC-based composer Elizabeth Hoffman is not a callow improviser and the fact her solo-release comes out on Canadian label empreintes DIGITALes, one of the most appreciated in the field of electroacoustics and acousmatics by many demanding followers of the genre, is fairly meaningful. Once the listener can easily ascertain her skillfulness in modelling mainly percussive sounds, related to her passion for electroacoustics, which has been accrued over many years of academic background, the most remarkable aspect of Elizabeth's sound maybe lies in the fey facets of her visionary (lasting about ten minutes each) sound collages. Listener's imagination immediately meets its match in the intial (and most recently recorded) track "Resonants", where the seducing texture of bells, glockenspiel and cymbals seems to echo back listener's phosphenes after closing eyes and the following movement could be associated to a fictitious pebble nearby the rail in the act of listening the coming, the arrival and the departure of a train in the subway. This imaginary ear-transplant or cochlear implant into a molecular entity could be imagined while listening to "Water Spirits" - listeners could easily think about the vicissitudes of a water particle since the moment it arrives on earth from a storm cloud, which travels across conduits, sewer pipes, sinks, entrails and viscera afterwards - and "Songstressed" - its listening could let you think about microphones on a particle of dust which during its mishaps falls into a bird's syrinx! -. Similarly fictional microscopic journey could be inspired by remaining tracks: "Allamuchy" reminded the initial track of Autistici's "Beneath Peaks" I recently reviewed due to the recordings of different moments (including a nap), which have supposedly been recorded in the natural set of Allamuchy wood in New Jersey, while "D-ness" sounds like the sonic translation of some emotional set which could'nt be explained but through sounds. The effected squeaks and every tessereas of the sonic mosaic of the final "Soundendipities", which costantly sounds on the edge of a cliff, closes this interesting listening experience with a sinister note of acousmatic self-irony indeed!

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