Music Reviews

Monolake: Ghosts

 Posted by J Simpson (@)   Ambient / Electronica / Ethereal / Dub / Soundscapes / Abstract
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May 06 2012
Artist: Monolake (@)
Title: Ghosts
Format: CD
Label: Imbalance Computer Music (@)
Rated: *****
A new album from Robert Henke's Monolake project is always a cause for celebration. "Ghosts" is the second installment of an intended trilogy, the first being 2009's "Silence". There is a sense that events are unfolding, there is a story unfolding, but its hard to say what exactly it is. "Ghosts" creates a strange and compelling sonic journey, that gets deeper and vaster, the more often you delve into its depths.

This is some of Monolake's most rhythmic work in a hot minute, primed for adventurous dance floors everywhere. Almost every track is rooted down with a smooth, low bottom end, that lays most of the monsterstep hacks to waste. Henke's produtions are always clear, tight, and crisp. Flickering around the margins, clattering steel and tinkling glass flutter like half-remembered dreams, in classic 90s Rephlex fashion. Intricate as a swiss watch, but funky as a Prince concert. "Ghosts" sounds equally good on a robust club sound-system as in yr living room, on a good pair of headphones, where countless thousands of microscopic details emerge and reveal themselves.

It is this care and attention to detail that makes Robert Henke's work stand head and shoulders above the competition. As one of the inaugural inventors of the notorious Ableton Live software, he understands sound on a molecular level. The amount of stretching, fading, warping, panning, down-sampling, up-sampling, and spatial reconstruction is breathtaking. While he has an engineer's mind, he said in an interview with Self-Titled Magazine, "If I had to choose between the perfect concept and the perfect emotion, I'd choose the perfect emotion." Monolake creates music for cyborgs. He makes the machines summon his dreams.

"Ghosts" is mostly ominous and dystopian, somber and reflective. It will never be mainstream club fodder. It is intended for deep listeners and thinkers. Those that take the time to investigate "Ghosts" abandoned space station, the rewards are many and vast. Robert Henke has raised the bar for fellow electronic music producers almost impossibly high.


Shrubbn!!: Echos

 Posted by Maurizio Pustianaz (@)   Industrial Music / Industrial Metal / Aggro Industrial / Electro Metal
Ambient / Electronica / Ethereal / Dub / Soundscapes / Abstract
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May 05 2012
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Artist: Shrubbn!!
Title: Echos
Format: 2 x 12" vinyl
Label: Shitkatapult
Rated: *****
Formed by Marco Haas (most famous under the T.Raumschmiere moniker) and Ulli Bomans (also active with Schieres), Shrubbn!! are active since fall 90s but they didn't issue much during this time span. 2012, with all the disgraceful meanings you want to give to this year, seemed the right time to issue their first album "Echos". Available on double vinyl and digital download, "Echos", contains fourteen disturbing and fascinating tracks. Forget the dance rock assault of the latest T.Raumschmiere and try to think about how you could make sound catchy bass frequencies, clanging noises and subtle melodies. Marco and Ulli succeeded to give life to what to me sounded like a recording of a submarine sailing the nordic seas. In balance from ambient, industrial and dub, "Echos" is an instrumental trip made of loops, rhythm glimpses, bass sub-frequencies and, as I already said, tiny melodies which surface here and there. Nice one...

Matteo Uggeri | Luca Mauri | Francesco Giannico: Pagetos

 Posted by Vito Camarretta (@)   Ambient / Electronica / Ethereal / Dub / Soundscapes / Abstract
Experimental / Avantgarde / Weird & Wired / Glitch / Noise / Field Recording
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May 04 2012
Artist: Matteo Uggeri | Luca Mauri | Francesco Giannico (@)
Title: Pagetos
Format: CD
Label: Boring Machines (@)
Rated: *****
It's 4.56 AM, the trampling onto an icy ground under the heavystep of boot-covered feet breaks the silence and in the meanwhile the observer pushes off the slush and the smashed ice, he goes a few paces before stopping and staring at the enchanting fixity of a snow-white homogenous scenery in the middle of boundless steep slopes and the almost surreal nocturnal glow of the omnivorous whiteness, emphasized by gentle piano strokes, crystalline guitar plucks and soft plonks. So it begins the fourth and supposedly final act of the tetralogy "Between The Elements", based on an interesting concept, a variation on the typicial and almost cliched seasonal theme, based on tangencies and intersections between natural elements (Pagetos is the Greek word for hoarfrost, the meeting point between earth and water), developed by MB (Maurizio Bianchi), Hue aka Matteo Uggeri and Spyros Abatelios and musically dramatized by talented pianist Francesco Giannico aka Mark Hamn, guitar player Luca Mauri and cello samples by Andrea Serrapiglio this time. It's just gone half an hour, it's 5.34 AM, the temperature is falling and while the rime looks like covering everything, cold gets bitter and bitter so that it pierces the body without any wound by making it blue from cold, teeth are chattering (as suggested by field recordings), the mute melodies of "Calaverna" flows into the solitary contemplation of "Icy Leaves", whereas even the trumpet solo by Uggeri crystallizes while blowing on piano's wavering. It's 7.27 AM and the cold has become so severe than the silent hero of this winter tale takes refuge in a mountain shelter (you could hear noises which look like coming from inside of it), but just after one hour he cannot resist to the inviting symbiosis offered by the natural show surrounding him, so that the track "Cold Air" sounds like the highest peak of such an idyll, but after the entrancing lights of aurora, the light warmth of the morning begins the frost and puts an end to the temporary stand-by of frozen passions and compulsions, which dramatically resurfaces with their burden of frustration and suffering in the final track. I didn't devised a nice way to review this record by an imaginary timeline, but tracklist (and its imaginary plot) evolves on a time span between late night and first hours of morning, emphasizing the synaesthetic appeal of the listening experience. ...At the End of it All

 Posted by Barton Graham   Ambient / Electronica / Ethereal / Dub / Soundscapes / Abstract
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May 03 2012
Title: ...At the End of it All
Format: CDS (CD Single)
Label: Tympanik Audio (@)
Rated: *****, also known as Chase Dobson is an American Producer. His second solo effort ''¦At the End of it All' is now available on Tympanik Audio. It's quite an interesting record, that weaves its way through lush textures, soft pads, soundscapes, electronic beats and full on glitch. His work has grown considerably since his debut 'Into the Deep' was released in 2008. The disc opens with a rich textural base, which sets the stage for the dubstep 'like beats and wobbly basses that populate the piece which is entitled 'The Stillness of Hours.' It then progresses to the title track, which I can only describe as tender hip hop; a very simple tune, maybe even too simple. We evolve through a variety of different fields of electronic, ambient, glitch, and IDM on this release, but it doesn't get REALLY great until track 5, 'A Silent Sea' with a good bit of diversity and very nice soundscapes that slowly lead into a solid glitch groove and back again. This is par for the course for most of the songs herein; those most worthy of note: 'Airport [Never_Land],' 'Data Transmit' and 'As if December Never Happened.' The only real downfall of this album, is that most of the beats and/or glitches, tend to be set on repeat, with little variation. I mean, there are really just that, LITTLE variations, which can cause several songs to begin to feel monotonous. The only other complaint I have, is the INCREDIBLE 'The Stars Falling Cold' is FAR too short, and doesn't get justice, but I think that's more of a positive than a negative really. All in all, a good record certainly worth a listen, maybe even a second listen, which is when this one really began to grow on me.

Nurse With Wound: Creakiness and Other Misdemeanors

 Posted by J Simpson (@)   Ambient / Electronica / Ethereal / Dub / Soundscapes / Abstract
Experimental / Avantgarde / Weird & Wired / Glitch / Noise / Field Recording
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May 02 2012
Artist: Nurse With Wound
Title: Creakiness and Other Misdemeanors
Format: CD
Label: United Jnana (@)
Distributor: Midheaven
Rated: *****
The five tracks that make up Creakiness And Other Misdemeanours will take you on a bizarre voyage, journeying through vintage arcades, through forests and across dark rivers, where jeweled crocodiles and pagan priestesses cavort along the banks, performing obscure rituals for unnamed purposes.

Creakiness... is comprised of rare recordings that span 14 years. "Creakiness" was originally released in 1991, as a split 12" with the group Spasm. For this outing, Nurse with Wound were Stephen Stapleton, Joolie Wood, James Mannox, and Tony Wakeford, and it is a five part sound poem of car horns and Warner Brothers cartoons, Bugs Bunny and Daffy Duck cavorting around the stereo field in a dizzying array, smoothly segueing into a haunted house atmosphere of creaking doors and pagan mantras, and the unearthly beauty of heartfelt mysticism is doubly effective, arising from the goofiness.

"Twisted Mona" and "Mona Twisted" are actually two halves to the same coin, originally released as Salt Women Tragedy, the third installment in the Echo Poeme Sequence series, as a 7" for Klanggalerie in 2005. The original was notoriously plagued by pressing issues, so a proper re-issue makes sense. The two Monas are a meditation on the human voice, a subdued woman's voice incanting in German, slowly panning from left to right, while temple bells that sound like clanking boats give a ghost ship ambiance. It sounds like another world, an alternate reality full of magick and romance, the slow repetitions hypnotic and soothing, pleasant on the ears. It'll have you swaying.

"Little Dipper Minus Two (echo poeme sequence 1) has more siren's song, alluring and seductive, with swelling electronic feedback punctuated by quicksilver stabs of synthesizer, little puffs of steam, and the occasional barking dog. It seems like something is happening, there is some narrative work at here, but it is murky, undefined, mysterious. The ambiance seems to rise and fall in a random fashion, there is a sense of an inner logic, but the structure seems organic, frayed and trailing, yet hanging together, like an auditory ecosystem.

"A Perfectly Natural Explanation" finishes things off; a woman's voice simply repeating the song title, while broken radio static fills the left side of the headphones, and a submerged string quartet takes the right.

Considering the disparate sources of the various tracks, it makes sense that Creakiness would come across as a somewhat disjointed affair but it makes sense, after a fashion. Since the beginning, Stephen Stapleton has described NWW as "surrealist music," citing the likes of Dali and the Comte de Leautremont as influences, right along with fellow wreckers of civilization like Throbbing Gristle and Z' ev. NWW's music has always been expansive and unpredictable, and it has always had more of a sense of humor than the bleak misanthropy of his industrial contemporaries, which just makes the uneasy listening more unsettling. The secret sauce that makes Nurse With Wound's music work, is a familiarity with the roots of electronic music, musique concrete and early synth experiments, and the way that sounds are tuned and placed in the stereo field reveal a master's touch. Nurse With Wound are simultaneously high- and low- brow, goofy and mystical. Complex.

Stapleton's music is most definitely not for everyone, and i don't believe i've ever encountered an artist that has such a polarizing effect on crowds. Chance Meeting On A Dissecting Table..., their infamous first record, will clear out a party faster than a dog fart, possibly annulling marriages in the process. The songs are long and avoid succumbing to the strictures of pop music, like harmony, melody, rhythm. They are works of abstract sound-art. For those disposed towards letting music infect their inner worlds, blossoming like phosphorescent fungal blooms behind closed eyelids, Nurse With Wound is essential listening.

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