Music Reviews

Fear Falls Burning: Disorder Of Roots

 Posted by Vito Camarretta (@)   Ambient / Electronica / Ethereal / Dub / Soundscapes / Abstract
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Apr 19 2012
Artist: Fear Falls Burning (@)
Title: Disorder Of Roots
Format: CD
Label: Tonefloat (@)
Rated: *****
Dirk Serries, better known with his moniker Vidna Obmana, started Fear Falls Burning project more as a sort of minimalistic diversion, but in spite of its interesting evolution towards a somewhat original concoction of experimental noise-rock and shamanic music elements, he announced that project came to a close. Thankfully he changed his mind, even if it seems this album wisely named "Disorder Of Roots" should be its very final act, but while we look forward to a not so desirable confirmation, we can appreciate this new issue. Four long-lasting tracks where Dirk's mastery in molding entrancing drones through microscopic variations embosses guitar tones which sound twirling with heady fumes since the initial track "The Roots Rebellion", where it seems the author lets the listener inhale till the moment when, after some hiccups of guitar slides, Phil Petrocelli's drums begin to pop with regular cues while over-stretched tunes gradually overtops in the sonic space. The following track "Virtue Of the Vicious" follows an analogous movement but drumming cues come at the outset of the anthem: in spite of droning rarefaction, there are more points of tangency with progressive-rock and so-called post-rock, but I can't rule out some old crossover stuff like Starfish Enterprises or Drift Pioneer could come to mind, which normally lingers on the same chord or echo for the whole playing length. On "Chorus of Dissolution" Dirk's accomplices, bass-player Frank Kimenai and Cult Of Luna's member Magnus Lindberg on drums, manage to sustain the hypnotical and gently abrasive drone which sounds like a filling of a mesmeric pool. On the occasion of Fear Falls Burning's last bequest before its supposed death, the track "I Provoke Disorder", a voice strikingly breaks in, the one by Michiel Eikenaar, who disguises it in the semblance of some distraught agonizing fiendish creature which manages to peek in heaven after a long paralysis for having been put on chains by kind permission of its torturer, while drone get more and more corrosive and drums beating time gets heavier and heavier.

Harley Gaber: In Memoriam 2010

 Posted by Steve Mecca   Ambient / Electronica / Ethereal / Dub / Soundscapes / Abstract
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Apr 16 2012
Artist: Harley Gaber
Title: In Memoriam 2010
Format: CD
Label: innova Recordings (@)
Distributor: Naxos of America, Inc
Rated: *****
Many of you may not be familiar with American minimalist composer, visual artist, photographer and film maker Harley Gaber (1943-2011), and until receiving this, his final release (as far as I know), neither was I, although his name has surfaced here and there on the Chain D.L.K. website from time to time. Gaber studied music with Horace Reisberg, Darius Milhaud, Lejaren Hiller, Aldo Clementi, Franco Evangelisti, Giacinto Scelsi, Giulio Rotoli, William Sydeman, and Kenneth Gaburo. Gaber's handful of releases goes back as far as 1972, but his body of work seems to be larger than that. He quit composing in 1978 to devote himself to tennis, but did manage to return to music for 3 final albums beginning in 2009. Harley Gaber committed suicide on June 16, 2011 in Gallup, New Mexico after putting his affairs in order and paying for his website domain name 10 years into the future. (Odd, in my opinion, for someone not planning to be around very long.) The reasons for his suicide are complicated, but could be attributed to a deteriorating physical and mental condition. This work, 'In Memoriam 2010' was commissioned by Dan J. Epstein of for his mother Nancy Epstein (1920-2010), the widow of Chicago real estate financier Julius Epstein who passed away in 1968. Nancy and Julius started the Stephen David Epstein Foundation, which provided financing to hundreds of underprivileged children in the fine arts, hence the connection with music and this commissioned work.

The raison d'etre for this work is not as important though as the work itself, or as Gaber's swan song to the world. The track titles of this nearly 64 minute piece in six parts have an apocalyptic overtone, while the sound of the album is rather a dichotomy; a blend of the tranquil yet distressing, perhaps a metaphoric death, and surrender to the void. Not having any basis of comparison to Gaber's other works, I can only evaluate 'In Memoriam 2010' on its own. Frankly, when I first listened to the CD (with no knowledge whatsoever of its background or intent) I found it'¦difficult, and somewhat distressing, especially in the beginning. The track that opens the work- 'cataclysm and threnody' is akin to being jettisoned into space via Star Trek transporter, destination unknown. Actually, it's more like being stuck in the transporter with no hope of ever rematerializing. The sustained higher frequency ringing tones make for uneasy listing to say the least, and that this track goes on for 16 minutes is indeed and exercise in fortitude. There is a mix of other modulated noise, cosmic winds perhaps, giving the impression of motion through some kind of tunnel or wormhole. Imagine an interstellar subway, the express train. It's a rough ride on a smooth vehicle, an unlike anything I've ever heard before. The piece glides into 'threnody and prayer' with only subtle variations and a lessening of the peripheral noise elements. Fortunately, the piece turns down the dynamics but the high frequency drone is still the major element.

The tone and timber shifts dramatically in 'ground of the great sympathy:aftermath' with low frequency drone and the higher whistling drones set in the background. There is eeriness to this track as other subtle sonic elements come into play that are very dark ambient-ish- alien angelic voices, echoed noise, etc. For me, there is where things started getting really interesting. Categorizing it as 'cosmic dark ambient' would not be off the mark. The piece transits seamlessly into 'in-formation,' where there seems to be an uneasy yet peaceful atmosphere. The tonalities Gaber employs here are tenuous and ethereal, and you'd barely know they're there without turning up the volume, but I wouldn't recommend it. While 'coalescing' may seem like a hardly noticeable transition again, there are sonic differences in this section that could be indicative of discovering life'¦out there'¦just not the kind of life you're familiar with. There is this sound I can only describe as 'cosmic crickets' that accompanies much of the track which feels like space travel. Perhaps it's inner space though; it's all a matter of perspective. Finally 'with completion' seems to give birth to new lifeforms taking shape and swirling in the void, growing and expanding.

I suppose the album could be considered a metaphor for death transiting into new life, and in that regard it succeeds. Yet, as with concepts of life and death it is oblique and unfathomable, at least on this mortal coil. There is a chance that Harley Garber may have been unknowingly channeling the God-force in this work, and perhaps an equal chance that the artist knew exactly what he was doing, opting out after finishing this because in this space and time and life, there was nothing more that could be said or done that could have gone beyond what he envisioned. In any case, this is a deep and profound listening experience that may be best digested in time after multiple listenings.

VV.AA./Athana: Athana Remixed 2012 NO:US

 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 14 2012
Artist: VV.AA./Athana (@)
Title: Athana Remixed 2012 NO:US
Format: CD
Label: West Audio Productions (@)
Rated: *****
Although I didn't it, this Norwegian project, named after initials of its main mind Alf Terje Hana, has already been introduced on these pages and looks like based on the extravasation of guitars in a sonic blender whose blades have been turned rust-proof by the involving dynamics of drum'n'bass and its possible crossbreeds, so that by Athana's admission the concrete turning point as well as a source of inspiration (or even enlightenment) for his approach to composition came after seeing a TV broadcast by Roni Size in the golden era of drum'n'bass. Such an interest for new musical language pays off and after four years from its last appreciated collection of remixes - Athana Remixed 05-08 -, Alf decided to build a bridge between his home country, Norway, and USA taking the wraps off two of his songs ("Picazzo" from "Corridor" album and "I.O. Roni" taken from "Beats & Pieces", the one inspired by that inspiring perfomance on BBC's Jools Holland show) to a couple of Norwegian remixers and a couple of American ones. Those ones who remixed "I.O. Roni" are almost unknown to me, but they exhibit an interesting sonic weaponry. I've heard just a couple of releases (with Dialect Recordings and Crosstown Rebel imprints) by Ost & Kjex, but it seems they are so notorious in their country that they gained a nomination in the Norwegian Grammy 2010 and on this occasion they assemble a nice electronic/house movement, whose main elements (reverberations on claps, diluted synth bells, a certain funky gear combined with relaxed mood and a sound close to a mobile's dial tone acting as a metronome) recalls that style which radiated from some Scandinavian clubs (think about Plej, Hird or Ben Horn to name a few). In spite of his remarkable number releases, the name of California-based project Uberzone aka Timothy Wiles is totally new to me: his treatment of "I.O. Roni" blends together electro and breakbeat sensations, nice tablas, bleeping sizzles (turning into an 8-bit melody in the end of the track) and those centrifugated swirls which are normally used during dnb dj sets, which are going to delight ears of breakbeat and dubstep addicts as well. I'm more familiar with name and sounds by NY-based producer Dennis De Santis (his name gained some visibility for being involved in the astonishing Aphex Twin acoustic project "Alarm Will Sound"), who proposes a very catchy set of breaks & brakes flavored with sonic recipes such as guitar chords, synth brass gabbles, treated vocal slices, and by Mungolian Jetset, a nice Norwegian duo, which often build moody and daydreaming grooves with a sort of prog-rock approach, which seems to have been preferred on this occasion with the precious support by Emil Nikolaisen, whose additional guitar acts as an enzyme for dream processing.

Annie Barker: …for a better place.

 Posted by eskaton   Ambient / Electronica / Ethereal / Dub / Soundscapes / Abstract
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Apr 10 2012
Artist: Annie Barker (@)
Title: …for a better place.
Format: CD EP
Label: Beautiful Revolution
Rated: *****
I had not heard of Annie Barker, but this EP is her second release. The press release says to file under 'dream pop, ethereal, electronic, dakwave.' On reading further, we find that this was produced by Robin Guthrie of Cocteau Twins, so that should give you a pretty good idea of what you're in for. In fact, the main issue I have with this release is that it is a little too much like Cocteau Twins (except that you can actually understand what Barker is singing!). As someone with several of their albums this may not be a bad thing, but it's sometimes hard to tell where Barker ends and Guthrie begins. The music is ethereal and Barker has a nice voice that meshes well with the music. Overall, this is reminiscent of what Projekt was releasing in the mid-1990s. If I had to make a comparison, I would say Love Spirals Downward's album 'Ardor.' If this all sounds good, you can check out her website and actually listen to the album and see what you think. This album weighs in at around 21 minutes.

Necrophorus: Underneath the Spirit of Tranquility - Redux

 Posted by eskaton   Ambient / Electronica / Ethereal / Dub / Soundscapes / Abstract
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Apr 10 2012
Artist: Necrophorus (@)
Title: Underneath the Spirit of Tranquility - Redux
Format: CD
Label: Wrotycz (@)
Rated: *****
I have several of Peter Andersson's albums as raison d'être and Stratvm Terror, but this is my first exposure to Necrophorus. The label describes the album as 'a painted story canvas for the otherwise unreachable astral world. Adorned with esoteric ambiences, one feels as though embarking on a path of inner ascension while breathing the immaterial tranquilities.' Evidently this is a remix of an album originally released in 1996 with two additional tracks. I think of this album as two separate sections, and although neither of them is raison d'être, they each share elements of that project. The first half of the album is ambience bordering on new age music. It's not quite to the point of being on a Narada sampler, but it seems to lack the dark and ethereal feel of raison d'être. The second half gets a bit noisier and more experimental, although nowhere near the noise of Stratvm Terror. Throughout there are the characteristic chants and distorted voices that mark Andersson's work. Maybe it's a matter of taste, but I prefer his work as raison d'être partly because it seems so otherworldly. However, this was a pleasant listen and would definitely be one to give someone who was just starting to check out dark ambient stuff.
It is also beautifully packaged, reminiscent of the old Amplexus releases. The artwork is quite nice, consisting of a folding cover with postcards of drawings by Elinros Henriksdotter that are connected to the tracks. This album weighs in at 74.59.

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