Music Reviews



Brasil & the Gallowbrothers Band: In the Rain, In the Noise

 Posted by Steve Mecca   Ambient / Electronica / Ethereal / Dub / Soundscapes / Abstract
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Jan 24 2011
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Artist: Brasil & the Gallowbrothers Band (@)
Title: In the Rain, In the Noise
Format: CD
Label: Cat Sun (@)
Rated: *****
Now this is one strange and enigmatic CD. My first listening experience with it was late at night while I was working with attention not really focused on the music, which might be the best way to experience it. Brasil & the Gallowbrothers Band seems an unlikely name for this collective of improvisational experimental musicians; more like a samba or bossa nova outfit, and there is no Brasil, and no Gallow Brothers in the group! There music seems to be the furthest thing from that moniker. The group consists of Tomek Mirt ' Guitar, Mbira & Samplers; Rafael Michalowski ' Voice, Duduk, Flute, Wavedrum, Harmonica; and T.E.R. - Yahama CS5 and Kaossilator. They're from Poland and have about four other releases under this name, some of which I checked out, but none of which I cared much for. But this- 'In the Rain, In the Noise,' is different; an absolutely astonishing CD of electro-acoustic ambient music that is sublime alchemical magic akin to In Gowan Ring's earlier, more out-there stuff.

I don't know what the group mindset was for this performance (and it was recorded live April and May 2010 at Antonin and Poznan) but it turned out to be pure genius! First track 'Do You Remember Our Holiday Camp,' is a 20 minute trip into the psychedelic woods of your mind. The gentle sounds of nature, low duduk and/or flute, mellow synth drone and mysterious melody, occasional echoed plucking of a stringed instrument; a sporadic hand drum rhythm; a barely discernable vocal all combine to form an incredibly mystical sylvan experience. It is as loose as you could possibly get but works incredibly well together.

'Voice of the City and the Rhythm of the Dunes' has a repetitive but hypnotic rhythm and melody with a spoke-sung vocal that is absolutely haunting. Exotic sitar-sounding improvisation, a ghostly synth background and other noises fill out the rest. Wow! This is really unusual and marvelous stuff! 'Another Night in Cottage 21' is just too difficult to describe; drone ambience with the plinks of echoed mbira, but that hardly does it justice. In fact, trying to describe any of the rest of it is becoming a futile task. Words are inadequate for music that is more about mood and feeling than any structural analysis or description. Let's just say that there is something about 'In the Rain, In the Noise' that is transcendental, enthralling, even mesmerizing, and I'd strongly recommend that if you're into psychedelic ambient, you get yourself a copy before it disappears. (I also quite like Tomek's cover art for the CD.)

This is a limited release of 350 (plus 30 of the 'Special Version,' whatever that is) and it might be a difficult acquisition for those in the U.S. The only place I can find it is directly from Cat Sun (Poland). There may be other sources, but I can't account for their reliability. In any case, it would be a worth quest, as I've never heard anything quite like this.

Dirk Geiger: Autumn Fields

 Posted by Steve Mecca   Ambient / Electronica / Ethereal / Dub / Soundscapes / Abstract
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Jan 23 2011
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Artist: Dirk Geiger (@)
Title: Autumn Fields
Format: CD
Label: Tympanik Audio (@)
Distributor: Tympanik Audio
Rated: *****
Dirk Geiger, from Rottenburg Germany may not be a familiar name to those in the U.S. interested in IDM glitch ambient electronica, but in Europe I'm sure he is as he is the head of German label Raumklang Music, and also a member of the experimental electronic industrial band Kraftmaschine, among other things. Obviously Geiger is no newcomer, although I get the impression 'Autumn Fields' might be his first solo outing.

There are some very nice things, and also some unsettling things on 'Autumn Fields,' an album of ambient glitchy IDM electronica, a style that I seem to be running into more and more of at late with new releases, especially from Tympanik. The album opens up well enough with 'Gewitterregen,' with a thunderstorm and moody piano to set the tone. 'Autumn Life' brings in the ambience of automobiles on wet pavement, some placid Boards of Canada style synth-work, ambient voices of children (playground?), something that sounds like a repeating dopplerized horn in the distance, and this annoying glitch repeating sound of a stylus on record on a turntable that has reached the end but continues to skip. If it wasn't for that one sonic element, this would have been a pretty enjoyable piece. That's what I mean by 'unsettling'. That glitchy turntable effect comes and goes, and versus the music, it is arrhythmic, which makes it all the more annoying. I suppose the artist something in mind when he used it, but for me it seemed out of place.

'Noise Format' is good descriptive title for the next track as little buzzes, whirrs, bursts of white noise, cut up voices and radio samples, and other sonic effluvia combine for what sounds like alien shortwave radio tuning. Eventually an off-kilter percussion track emerges intermittently with other glitch elements and a hollow bellish drone playing against it. Interesting in an experimental way, but I thought it went on a bit too long. 'Night in Haskovo' begins with some deep, somnambulistic ambience with indistinct voices steeped in underground reverb before a percussion track is established. Geiger's rhythms aren't your typical fare; they're a bit askew, and that's one of the things that make this artist's music different. He's willing to take risks.

'Botanic Garden' juxtaposes low rumbling with ambient sounds of birds, footsteps, and glitchy noises, before a junglesque talking drum rhythm emerges. Minimal but effective synth carries the melodic element. It is interesting the way it morphs over time in the piece. 'Minus 10' uses echoed snippets of voices, high ringing tones and low percussion rhythm with a repeating hollowish bass pattern to propel it. The rhythm is steady while other incidental elements drift in and out, until the rhythm disappears towards the end. 'Winter Senses' is comprised of ambient roadway, gentle sequenced synth, string pads, low drone tones, high bellish tones, and other sonic elements from which a semi-glitch rhythm emerges. Ah, I'm beginning to sense a pattern here. There are parts of this I really like a lot. There is a part where the bellish sound plays against the low bassy part which is really cool. Nothing quite stays the same in the piece though as there is constant change. Still, it has a good flow.

'Overhead Projection' brings in the beat a bit more quickly than some of the other pieces on 'Autumn Fields,' still employing outdoor ambiences along with some brooding synths. The beat work on this one is the closest to drum kit percussion yet, but nothing you'd be inclined to dance too. Nice track. 'Itch Glitch' begins with ambient voices and atmosphere followed quickly by a glitch rhythm, which goes on a while, then stops and changes for a more tribal pattern. One thing I've noticed about Geiger's music is how he likes to play certain elements off each other that you wouldn't ordinarily find combined. A heavy truck passing by; heavenly sounding synths; glitchy rhythm patterns; tribal drums; it makes you change your musical perceptions. Not everyone is going to like this, but real IDM/ambient freaks are going to find it stimulating and challenging.

The last two tracks are remixes of previous tracks on the album; Svart1's 'Night in Haskovo,' and Access to Arasaka's 'Overhead Projection.' (I'll be getting to a review for Access to Arasaka's CD soon.) 'Night in Haskovo' sounds even darker, stranger and more unworldly in this mix. I'm really liking it a lot. The percussion is very different, a low lower and somewhat smoother, less glitchy and disjunct. 'Overhead Projection' bears little resemblance to the original, although it uses some of the elements, it is even darker still. The work on this track is sort of a foreshadowing of just how potent Access to Arasaka is in the genre. My only complaint is that it was too brief!

Although I wasn't wild about everything on the album, Geiger's 'Autumn Fields' is still an interesting excursion in ambient glitch electronica, and there is enough that is provocative about it that will stand up to repeated listenings, and challenge you a bit in the process.

Geomatic: 64 Light Years Away

 Posted by Marc Tater   Electronics / EBM / Electronica
Ambient / Electronica / Ethereal / Dub / Soundscapes / Abstract
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Jan 22 2011
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Artist: Geomatic
Title: 64 Light Years Away
Format: CD
Label: Tympanik Audio (@)
Distributor: Ant-Zen
Rated: *****
Another new signing for the still refreshing Tympanik Audio label is the Dutch project GEOMATIC, which could earn a lot of good reactions by both, press and audience, with the release of the debut 'Blue Beam' on the French IDM/Electronica label M-Tronic. And already with the dramatic and bombastic arranged opening track 'Nanu Ano', this project celebrates an impressive piece of work, which is able to set standards. Just imagine the most complex Dark Electronica music normally provided by bands like ZENTRIERT INS ANTLITZ, REMAIN SILENT or MC1R, and you'll should able to know about this fantastic track. Fair comparisons to this bombastic tune can be also drawn on 'Shesqi', 'Drifting Away' and 'Above Horizon'. This rather Blade-Runner-like Electro-stuff gets a bit more calm, lesser raging and pacing, while it still impresses with its dark mood and the bizarre, at times 'oriental'-like, voice samples and synth drops thrown in ('White Hole, Dark Soul'). GEOMATIC somehow reanimate the ideal, that to listen to their music always means to consume something unheard and unexpected. Let the too early gone GRIDLOCK or ACCESS TO ARASAKA being godfathers for one or another arrangement or sound design, in addition to the above mentioned artists - but who cares? The title '64 Light Years Away' can be taken seriously, as GEOMATIC offers a fantastic sounding trip influenced by an undiscovered outer-space-like environment. The programming skills of this mysterious project are top-notch and are kicking a lot of those so-called 'high complex' productions out of the field. GEOMATIC aren't unrivalled in the stable of Tympanik Audio, but already with this debut for this IL-based label, they cementing a kind of exceptional state in this highly recognized label roster. Fucking awesome, keep it on!

Edward Artemiev: Mood Pictures

 Posted by Steve Mecca   Ambient / Electronica / Ethereal / Dub / Soundscapes / Abstract
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Jan 17 2011
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Artist: Edward Artemiev
Title: Mood Pictures
Format: CD
Label: Electroshock Records (@)
Distributor: DWM Music Company
Rated: *****
Well this came as a surprise! Have you ever seen the Tarkovsy films ' 'Solaris,' 'The Mirror, 'Stalker'? Well if you have, then you've heard some of the music of Edward Artemiev. But Artemiev is not just a soundtrack composer; he is an acknowledged leader of Russian electronic music. His credentials in synthesized music go way back to meeting with engineer Eugene Murzin - one of the first in the world to invent a synthesizer around 1960. Artemiev's compositions written in the 60s-the early 70s belong to the aesthetics of avant-garde, and since then he has many releases to his credit, both symphonic and electronic. (Hard to find in the U.S. but many available through Electroshock.) 'Mood-Pictures' contains mostly pieces from a number of his film scores, some utilizing the State Orchestra of Cinematography, and others just by Artemiev and an occasional guitarist or vocalist.

This CD is an incredible introduction to Artemiev's work, so rich and varied in themes, and magnificent in its execution. The first track 'Siberiada' (title track from the 4 part epic motion picture of the same name directed by Andrei Konchalovsky) sounds archetypically Russian as the theme builds with low strings and woodwinds and a martial cadence. I found it Morriconesque, especially the voices, and when the horns came in. It has a definite 70s sound as it is from 1979. The next two tracks are also from the film, but showcasing Artemiev's synth work. 'Swing' is a bit of very nice ethereal synth ambience, while 'Fire' is sequencer-heavy chaos with a stinging guitar overlay. This was my least favorite track on the album, but the pyrotechnics are impressive.

'Looking After the Victim' comes from a movie titled 'A Butcher' and it is a mysterious mood piece that begins with a Twilight Zone-like atmosphere that morphs into a medium tempo low synth sequence with the eerie strains of high strings. On 'Kamchatka ' Grand Voyage' (from the movie 'Mammon') Artemiev's synths play off the orchestral background developing a beautiful and memorable theme with flute and guitar string sounds as well as other sonics including unearthly voices. 'Fox Hunting' (from the movie of the same name) has Artemiev treading into Tangerine Dream territory, but with a sequencer-driven intensity and verve I've never heard from those guys. 'Premonition' comes from the film 'A Driver for Vera,' a romantic Cold War psychological drama, and the music here fits the description perfectly. 'Polygon' (from 'Rainbow Moon') sounds very prog-rocky at first with drums and elaborate synth work that eventually builds into a moody interlude before meandering off into other tangential expressions. A film called 'Requiem' is the source of 'Credo,' a heavy, Phantom of the Opera-like piece with uber-dramatic and spooky synths. The next three tracks are from the motion picture 'The End of Eternity'. 'Aria' features haunting voices that are sure to send shivers down your spine. One of my favorites on the CD, and a composition of pure genius! 'A Road to Nowhere' is an electronic extravaganza with plenty of tension and so much going on it's hard to describe. 'The Well of Eternity' reminds me of 'Mars' from 'The Planets' by Holst, yet is more modern and spacey, but no less ominous. 'Lullaby' is from the film 'Night of a Birth' and features 'Hearts of Space' style synths with some beautiful orchestral backing. Almost Tomita-ish. 'Serenade' is from the movie 'Facet,' and it is a lush track with synth-sax doing the melody with orchestral synths, electric bass and drums. I don't know why, but I was reminded of the Vangelis 'Blade Runner' soundtrack on this one. Romantic, yet dramatic; very 80s. The next two tracks, 'Dialogue with a Computer,' and 'Vocalize' come from a movie called 'By the Eyes of the Wolf'. The former is kinetic and sequencer-driven, while the latter sounds classically inspired and romantic with a wonderful wordless solo vocal by Tatiana Kuindji. 'Top of the World' is from the animated film 'Legends of Peruvian Indians' with thick pipe organ and heavenly synth voices and other synthesizer embellishments. Awesome. Final track 'Peregrini' is an excerpt from Artemiev's 'Symphony,' again with vocal by Tatiana Kuindji. It is a somewhat understated piece with Kuindji's soprano voice playing hauntingly off synthetic voices over a muted low tone sequenced background. Atmospheric incidentals such as chimes strings, pads, and other synthesizer tones and washes fill in the gaps and heighten the drama. Amazing stuff.

As good as all this is, and believe me, it is really, really good; as a complete album it lacks unity. Then again, it was only intended as a diverse compilation of the artist's film work, and on that level, it succeeds. I highly recommend this CD although you may have to go out of your way to obtain it if you're from the U.S. (U. S. distributor source noted) but it is well worth it. It also wasn't easy finding his MySpace site (the only thing close to the artist's website outside of Electroshock Records, and not updated since 2006) as the spelling of his name there was different, but there is so much about Artemiev on the net that you shouldn't have a difficult time finding plenty on him elsewhere.

Meienberg: Rapid Cycling

 Posted by eskaton   Ambient / Electronica / Ethereal / Dub / Soundscapes / Abstract
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Jan 14 2011
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Artist: Meienberg
Title: Rapid Cycling
Format: 12"
Label: Everest Records (@)
Rated: *****
I had not heard of Meienberg, but evidently he is one of the heads of Everestrecords. I had also never seen a seedcard, which is a business card embedded with wildflower seeds that you bury and grow flowers with. The card has a link to download a digital version of the album, which is nice for those of us who would rather sit at a computer and write than go to the turntable and put the record on. The first thing you notice is the colorful album cover with an image of a large building on it. Only by looking at it from a distance do you notice that the lit up windows spell out 'Rapid Cycling.' Nice touch. On to the music. The label describes the album as 'a colourful kaleidoscope; the songs root mainly in electronic music but within that range they escape most of the possible labels.' Fair enough. This is pretty bliptastic. The songs pretty much blend into each other so nothing really stood out, but it is an enjoyable ride with a whimsical quality. The closest comparison I can come up with is Rothkamm. If you like your electronica a bit disjointed ' shaken, not stirred ' with plenty of bleeps and bloops, this might be up your alley. The sample track on the label website gives you a pretty good indicator of what you're in for. The album weighs in at around 28 minutes.


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