Music Reviews



Erode: Horizon

 Posted by Steve Mecca   Ambient / Electronica / Ethereal / Dub / Soundscapes / Abstract
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Oct 31 2011
cover
Artist: Erode (@)
Title: Horizon
Format: CD
Label: Tympanik Audio (@)
Distributor: Tympanik Audio
Rated: *****
Erode is the solo project of Alexander Dietz, guitarist from German metal band Heaven Shall Burn. Erode's 'Horizon' isn't anything like that, being more typical of music to be found on the Tympanik label- instrumental ambiences and industrialized rhythms. First track '10950' sounds like cinematic stately paced progressive rock due to the synths, soaring guitar and ambitious percussion. 'Detect' has this very cool, memorable noise percussion sequence, a strong bass line and layers upon layers of instrumental ambience and noise. Problem is, nothing stands out particularly except the bass and noise percussion. Whatever guitar or instrumental countermelody that's going on is buried in the mix. Almost as a remedy to that, Erode takes a different tack on 'Approach,' with brighter more defined percussion and instrumentation. It's very IDM, and the simple melody is clear and well-defined. 'Horizon' begins with the sound of lapping water and a filtered pad as the background for some environmental spoken word piece that sounds like it was lifted from a documentary film. A playful sequenced synth line joins the heavenly music for a while and then it fades on the chordal pad and a bit more of the spoken word. Eh. It does transition nicely into 'Overcome' though, a slow moody piece with droney bass, scratchy percussion and a bright, higher timbral synth background. About halfway through the 8+ minutes, there is a brief break before a transition into a full drum track and multilayered orchestration. Another break and we are taken back to the original minimal scratchy percussion and droney bass until the outro. 'Wither' is another track that makes use of an IDM beat and celestial synth orchestration. Nice work here. '-' is a little over a minute transitional mood piece into 'Annoy,' which begins with a thrumming bass, a steady buzzing drone and cosmic voices. A rhythm track emerges amidst warped, backwards-sounding strings, and after a millisecond break, the full-blown rhythm comes to fore with pulsing bass and phased strings. More synth string pads are layered on top briefly until the track comes to a close. Perhaps my favorite track is the next, 'Disengage,' with shifting moody ambient synth pads. About halfway through a rhythm track emerges bringing along industrial elements that sounded like a sequenced processed voice. Towards the end the orchestration builds majestically, then just stops. What the..??? The last two tracks are remixes, one of 'Horizon' (Kadrage Remix), the other called 'Brutal Romance' (Erode Remix), a track originally done by Deadlock. I wasn't much enamored of the 'Horizon' remix incorporating a rattling sound reminiscent of the 'Lost' smoke monster. It's much more electronic, retaining only shades of the original. As for the 'Brutal Romance' remix, I can't say I much care for Deadlock, but Erode does manage to turn the song into a club-worthy dance track. I know these guys are friends but the track seemed totally out of place on this album.

Still, 'Horizon' is a pretty good debut, and although flawed, manages to conjure some beautiful soundscapes and interesting rhythms. I'd be curious to hear Alexander Dietz's next effort with his Erode project. This one hints at possibilities that are likely to be more fully realized in the future, and when that time comes, it's likely to blow you away.

Rasalhague: Rage Inside the Window

 Posted by Steve Mecca   Ambient / Electronica / Ethereal / Dub / Soundscapes / Abstract
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Oct 31 2011
cover
Artist: Rasalhague
Title: Rage Inside the Window
Format: CD
Label: Malignant Records (@)
Distributor: Malignant Records
Rated: *****
Rasalhague is the Dark Ambient/Industrial project by Kerry Braud of Indiana, and 'Rage Inside the Window' is Rasalhague's first full-length release, on Malignant Records no less. For the curious, the name Rasalhague comes from the name of the brightest (yet dying) star in the constellation of Ophiuchus (47 light years from earth), and originally comes from the Arabic phrase meaning "the Head of the Serpent Collector." It's been awhile since I've heard anything new from the Malignant label (not that they haven't been putting stuff out) but Malignant has always been known for quality Dark Ambient music in my book. What put me off from listening to this disc sooner is what it is thematically based on- the true story of little Danielle Crockett (aka, 'The Girl in the Window') from Plant City, Florida, who was kept isolated in squalor in a closet-sized room of a filthy house for years by her mother, Michelle. The details of the case are truly too disgustingly wretched to go into in any detail; you can look it up on web if you're curious. My preconceived notion of what might transpire on this CD envisioned screams, cries, weeping and all sorts of horrific exclamations and outbursts woven into the fabric of the music. Fortunately (and to my great relief), such was not the case for the most part.

On 'Rage Inside the Window' Rasalhague cooks up some of the best creepy Dark Ambient music I have heard in a long while. It really sounds like music of the abyss, perhaps the abyss of the mind. The atmosphere is low, slow and sludgy with occasional higher timbre drones and sounds slicing through the thick, oppressive murk. Rasalhague has obviously been well-schooled in the genre's predecessors, and know what works in this kind of atmosphere and what doesn't. Comparisons to projects such as Raison d'être, Lustmord, Desiderii Marginis and a host of Cold Meat Industry bands are inevitable, although there is some amount of difference in Rasalhague's execution. The sound is large, often huge and full without being cluttered, yet subdued in a sense, even when great slabs of muffled noise crash like waves of lava on the shore of Hades. The atmosphere Rasalhague creates on and 'Rage Inside the Window' is oppressive without being overbearing, a feat in itself. While no track in particular stands out on its own, the work stands out as solid, classic Dark Ambient, a tenebrious delight from start to finish.

Last Halloween I went to Universal Orlando's Halloween Horror Nights, an event where they set up a number haunted/spook/horror houses at Universal Studios. This CD would be perfect as background music for one of their horror attractions. It would even be great to play in the background while handing out candy to costumed trick-or-treaters on Halloween. (The little urchins might think twice about gaming the system and returning for a second handout in the same night.) If you're a Dark Ambient fan, this CD is a MUST HAVE. The CD comes in a very cool oversize six-panel digipak too, with suitably macabre artwork too. Well done!

JeFF: Torment

 Posted by Steve Mecca   Ambient / Electronica / Ethereal / Dub / Soundscapes / Abstract
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Oct 31 2011
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Artist: JeFF (@)
Title: Torment
Format: CD
Label: Altsphere Production (@)
Distributor: Altsphere Production
Rated: *****
Maybe I've mentioned this before, but one of the most annoying tasks about doing reviews for Chain D. L. K. is gathering the essential info on the artist and label of the work I have to review. Some are very good about this, and others'¦pffft. It's usually the artists' email address that's a problem. They often leave it off the one-sheet, and sites like MySpace, Reverb Nation and Facebook are tricky about contact; you have to jump through membership hoops. Labels aren't any help either. Are artists so reclusive they don't want any contact with fans or the press? I didn't think so. Just put your damn email address on the CD or one-sheet. 'Nuff said on that.

According to the one-sheet, JeFF (from France) has more than 50 demos, remixes and collaborations since 2003. 'Torment' is JeFF's first full album release. On my first listen to this disc, it seemed plagued by a propensity for too much repetition on the main theme of each composition. The repetition comes in the form a bass line and synth counter melodies (Candlemass,' 'Funeral Day,); and chordal piano progression with some countermelody ('An Insect in the Head,' 'Psychocircle'). Over the course of time on these extended tracks ranging from over six to over 10 minutes, the CD lives up to its title- 'Torment''¦for the listener that is.

To be fair though, there are some positive aspects. 'Candlemass' has a dubby bassline with crunchy percussion with oddly intriguing synth counter-melody sounds over manipulated chanting monks and noise background. 'An Insect in the Head,' uses cymbal-heavy percussion and a cricket-synth counter melody and other more intricate synth lines as well as sax-like sounds, and moaning strings. There are breaks, but that repeated and unchanging piano note-chord progression just goes on, and on and on. 'Funeral Day' begins with some cool psych-ambience before the dubby bass appears. For those who like dub, you'll probably love this track. For me, it was kind of like later period Scorn with a more playful attitude. 'Psycedestreet' has a march cadence with a simple couple repeated notes of piano and an upward scale string progression. Even though there is plenty of repetition here, the arrangement and building is good and give a nice dramatic flair to the piece, and another string-synth counter-melody enriches it further. There is even a break with a reedy synth melody and demented piano-like countermelody where the beat changes into something I could hear Van Der Graaf Generator doing. There's more to it than that, but it seemed the most ambitious track thus far.

'Psychocircle' uses a minimal piano progression (repeated of course) and sing-song counter-melody and an adventurous drum track with some guy speaking in French intermittently. (All I could make out was when he mentioned the name John Wayne Gacy, so I guess you get the drift.) This struck me as a rather insanity-inducing piece. Last track, 'Housefly' offers a lot of heavy distortion punctuated by clashing cymbals and continues on that way for the first six minutes until a minimal mellotron string melody and minimal drums takes over for awhile. Then it's back to the distortion with some ring-mod synth and organ with drums. Eventually the distortion fades away leaving the rest with some electronic sonic effluvia. The second half of the piece wasn't bad, but the first half was a bit much to wade through.

I should mention that all tracks are rather slow-paced, giving them a labored feel. I should also mention that these pieces are SUPPOSED TO BE psychotic psychedelic instrumentals, and to that end JeFF succeeds in his intentions. However, the atmosphere JeFF is attempting to create is at the expense of the buyer/listener, and few may have the patience, fortitude and frame of mind to wade through these murky waters more than once.

Vresnit : Seed Solar

 Posted by Steve Mecca   Ambient / Electronica / Ethereal / Dub / Soundscapes / Abstract
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Oct 24 2011
cover
Artist: Vresnit (@)
Title: Seed Solar
Format: CD
Label: Vetvei (@)
Distributor: Vetvei
Rated: *****
'Seed Solar' is Vresnit's 6th album on the Vetvie label and he gets a little help from Kshatriy, Hladna and Neznamo on this one. If you're familiar at all with Vresnit, you sort of know what to expect, but every Vetvie release I've come across has been a little different in subtle and sometimes not so subtle ways. 'Seed Solar' is four tracks ranging from a little over 8 minutes to a little over 24 minutes in length. "Preobrazhenie" begins with chirping birds and ominous drones in the background. A ways into the piece things evolve when a very basic tapping rhythm emerges along with bursts of white noise and other sonic elements that include some brief spoken word (Russian) and electronic squiggles. That's pretty much the piece.

"Zerno Sfera," the aforementioned 24 minute track, begins with a repeated (radio?) sample of some innocuous Russian music accompanied by a spoken phrase repeated in Russian. Tinkling windchimes (singing bowls really), drones and hallucinatory echoed electronic elements emerge growing in intensity and take over the piece fairly forcefully. Then out of nowhere there is a female voice singing some traditional Russian folk melody, an odd soothing contrast to the psychical storm of the swelling, ringing drones. This too morphs into something huge and unworldly and gradually subsides into an atmosphere cosmic and primeval, unfathomable in its evolution. It is as if you were witnessing the genesis of a newly formed planet sped up. Great and terrifying things happen within this opus and it is only limited by your imagination. There is an elongated 'come down' to the end somewhat mirroring the psychedelic experience too.

"Veda-Tanec" employs a simple looped rhythm that sounds a bit industrial, like an alien assembly line. More drones of both higher and lower frequencies are added and the higher timbres become flutey along with windchime like tinkling. After a long while the rhythmic loop fades, then the drones, leaving the tinkling sounds and flutes. The tinkling remains to the end after the flutes depart. That's it for this one.

Closing the album is "Zashitnyj Svet", a collaboration with Kshatriy that takes ambient noise to a new level. There is an ineffable vastness here that defies description, and yet there are slow moving modulated tones in the background that resemble some kind interstellar music. All too quickly it ends, at 8:10, the shortest piece on the album.
This kind of soundscape is assuredly not for everyone, but for those who can't get enough deep space in their ambient music, 'Seed Solar' is definitely for you. As usual, the disc comes in a provocative six-panel cover designed by Vresnit (Ilchuk Sergey) the guy responsible for making this all happen.

Dreissk: The Finding

 Posted by Steve Mecca   Ambient / Electronica / Ethereal / Dub / Soundscapes / Abstract
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Oct 24 2011
cover
Artist: Dreissk (@)
Title: The Finding
Format: CD
Label: n5MD (@)
Distributor: n5MD
Rated: *****
Dreissk is the project of gaming audio director and sound designer Kevin Patzelt who began experimenting with electronic music back in 1997 but put his own music on the shelf in favor of a more lucrative career as a sound designer in the computer gaming industry. So now Patzelt has decided to flex his creative muscles and Dreissk's 'The Finding' is the result. The music is part ambient, part shoegaze, part IDM and part industrial noise. It's the latter of these stylistic forms merged with the whole that keeps Dreissk out of Robin Guthrie territory and into something completely new and different. (Yes, there is a good amount of sub-aquatic guitar swathed in reverb.) I had to admit it was a bit unsettling at first reconciling the gorgeous shoegazey ambience with the turgid din of the (often distorted) industrial elements when they occurred, but you get used to it. If this is shoegaze at all, it is potent in a way My Bloody Valentine never managed to achieve, and more ethereal in a cosmic way than the Cocteau Twins ever envisioned. (To be fair to the Cocteaus though, this album is completely instrumental; nobody can out-ethereal Liz Fraser.) 'The Finding' is a moody, hazy ride from start to finish, although not a languorous one in spite of its calmer passages. Some tracks utilize drums but the pacing is measured, never frantic or rushed but still has the power of motion. I tended to like the dreamy sections better, but overall I found the combination quite intriguing. Repeated listening will prove there is much more going on than you may have thought at first as you catch sonic elements interwoven in the dense fabric of the music. Obviously Kevin Patzelt knows sound, and he knows how to sculpt it into a most engaging music form. And while there is a lack of melodic definition, I'm sure that's the intention here as there is enough melodic substance to evoke a feeling in its impressionistic fashion. If you can set preconceived notions aside about genre boundaries, you should find 'The Finding' very rewarding.


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