Music Reviews

VV.AA.: Pop Ambient 2012

 Posted by J Simpson (@)   Ambient / Electronica / Ethereal / Dub / Soundscapes / Abstract
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Feb 14 2012
Artist: VV.AA.
Title: Pop Ambient 2012
Format: CD
Label: Kompakt (@)
Distributor: Southern record distributors
Rated: *****
Wolfgang Voigt's Pop Ambient series is a musical barometer; it tells which way the wind is blowing, how fast and how far. In its twelfth incarnation, you will not find earth-shattering epiphanies. You will not discover lost continents. You will, however, be treated to an hour plus of pleasant sounds and stirring inner voyages, glowingly recorded and produced by some of the most adept sonic alchemists in the field.

The ten tracks of PA2012 offers hints at which way the coming year will unfold, on dance-floors and headphones everywhere. Such a wide array of styles and composers makes for an interesting cross-section of styles; from the live-looping guitar of 'Riding the Bikes' from Loops of Your Heart, a new project from Axel Willner of The Field, to the haunting neo-classical drone of Bvdub's 'Your Loyalty Lies Long Forgotten'. There does seem to be a running tendency towards 80s plastic synth, Vangelis re-imagining, and live sampling and processing, the human blending with the machine.

There's not a mis-step on this record, although other reviewers would disagree with me. Many of us skip around from free-jazz to mnml techno to noise, it just makes for a more interesting inner journey. Most of the tracks function as furniture music, but there are a few stand-outs: Superpitcher's 'Jackson' sounds like Philip Glass in a dancehall, 70s minimalism given a digital shimmer, with a fountain of cascading piano and vocals. A rainbow plumed bird; 'Manifesto' by Mohn, the album opener, is probably my favorite track, with its sequenced pillowy fuzz pummel, sounding like some mid00s Merzbow record, and has been hated on, unnecessarily. Mohn, i like yr track! Who cares what those other reviewers say!

'Richmodis' by Triola has also been pretty much universally panned, and again, i just don't get it. Its a little weird in the playlist, granted, with its re-imagining of 70s sci-fi into a polychromatic mist, but how often do you hear a musical saw in a techno track? It sounds like the X Files, after contact has been established and pondered over for 6 and a half years, and excursions are about to commence. Music for the Wormhole.

You don't go to a series like Pop Ambient to find the most extreme, adventurous cutting edge sounds. The vanguard are always three leaps ahead, and are usually disseminating their art in the form of small-run, white label, homemade radio label cassette disseminations, ie. yr not gonna get it all neatly packaged in one place, and also the idea of a cohesive state of the ambient union is laughable. What Pop Ambient is good for, is to find a smattering of previously unheard artists, and take an audible adventure for an hour. They remind me of the old Fax compilations, or even homemade mix tapes. For those that like to listen to Ambient music, this will not disappoint, and the fact that it comes from Kompakt means that the sounds you will hear will not disappoint. I can say, after living with this record for a little while, that it makes an interesting and colorful mood, it will pervade yr life with some audible shimmer. It will flicker behind yr eyelids. It will make yr dish washing more like ballet. And there are some real stand-out tracks, here, that threaten to lead even further down the wormhole.

Good Weather For An Airstrike: Underneath The Stars

 Posted by Vito Camarretta (@)   Ambient / Electronica / Ethereal / Dub / Soundscapes / Abstract
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Feb 13 2012
Artist: Good Weather For An Airstrike (@)
Title: Underneath The Stars
Format: CD
Label: Hibernate (@)
Rated: *****
Another lucky ice carrot extraction from the most glacial musical fields by Hibernate has been dropped into my overused headphones. Named after the translated title of a notorious Sigur Ros'song (that "Viorar vel til loftarasa", coming from an ironic comment a weatherman made during a bradcast on Icelandic tv while OTAN airstrike were raging against Kosovo), Hampshire-based musician Tom Honey's Good Weather For An Airstrike (for easy to guess reasons, the first image resurfacing from the abyss of my memory was Godspeed You! Black Emperor's cover image for Yanqui U.X.O. when I read the name of this project!) makes mention of notorious names such as Eluvium, Stars of the Lid, Hammock and, as if on purpose, Sigur Ros in order to help in finding a stylistical arrangement of his sound, even if other known and unknown sources could be added (for instance, the howling and suspensive dissonance in "Frozen In Thought" recalled to my memory some musical emotions triggered off by an almost unknown remix of Mum's "Smell Memory" by Traktor as well as tracks such as "Cast Aside (The Briefest Of Pauses)" could remind some slow versions of Boards Of Canada's stuff). Both that kind of sonic diluitions (where Mr Honey sometimes let dissolve sporadic field recordings related to meteorological disturbances, piano tones and electric buzzes) close to the so-called therapy music and references of frequencies associated to brain activity in titles ("Undernath The Stars" starts with "Theta Waves" and ends with "Delta Waves" before the long lasting closure of "Theroux") are not casual at all, as Tom composed most of the tracks as a soothing remedy for the tinnitus and sleep deprivation problems he suffers from, but this luminous intertwining of ambient and post-rock weaponry is going to delight many listeners by making their minds wandering in a deeply relaxing amniotic fluid filled pool.

Kamil Kowalczyk : Aurora

 Posted by eskaton   Ambient / Electronica / Ethereal / Dub / Soundscapes / Abstract
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Feb 11 2012
Artist: Kamil Kowalczyk
Title: Aurora
Format: CD
Label: Prototyp Produktions (@)
I had not heard of this composer, but this is understandable as this is his CD debut. Here's what we get from the website: Aurora 'contains two long tracks, 'model II' and 'plasma.' The main concept for album was conspiracy theory about Aurora ' a top secret, ultra fast US Military aircraft, also called TR-3B, which has very advanced technology, and special engine driving by plasma.' I have to admit that 'model II,' was far too minimal for my tastes. There were some clicks and crackles, along with some arpeggiated tones that work their way through the piece, but for the most part, we have a few pulsating tone that dominates the track. At about 11 minutes in we shift from a higher tone to a lower tone. This gives you a sense of the glacial shifts in the track. At 32 minutes it didn't really seem to go anywhere. 'Plasma' is much better in my opinion. It is pretty good soothing bass drone that is actually kind of peaceful and hypnotic. It seems to move a bit more fluidly as well, but perhaps this is just in contrast to the previous track. This album weighs in at around 57 minutes.

Francisco Lopez: Untitled (2009)

 Posted by Vito Camarretta (@)   Ambient / Electronica / Ethereal / Dub / Soundscapes / Abstract
Experimental / Avantgarde / Weird & Wired / Glitch / Noise / Field Recording
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Feb 10 2012
Artist: Francisco Lopez (@)
Title: Untitled (2009)
Format: 2 x CD (double CD)
Label: Baskaru (@)
Rated: *****
Most known for his sound and silence sculptures and for his appreciable minimal electroacoustic escapes, where he often manages to play with the sense of time perception of the listener, the fecund sound forger Francisco Lopez, one of those mad scientists of the sound my ears like to approach with, often scatters sonic seeds in different catalogues. This collection of untitled stuff featuring 14 compositions coated on two cds is his second signature for the little but industrious French label Baskaru, having been the first one an eccentric collaboration with Lawrence English titled HB. Untitled (2009) mainly deals with psychoacoustics and field recordings, but can be thought as a set of sound spells, so that the listener's ear can be easily cheated as Lopez skills in manipulating sounds can achieve the goal of a perfect devilish maquillage of some frequencies in a way they could acquire a semblace of something concrete or different. Massmediologists and semioticians can experience multiple extatic raptures in front of releases like this one, where the liminal point between artificial and real looks like blurred by the possibilities of realistic reproducibility given by musical technology, but I don't suggest such an intellectual and snobbish way of approaching to this kind of works, even if there are many appetizers for speculative minds. You could ask yourself if there's some hidden message or just an echological way for freezing some personal experiences of the author behind some tracks since the very first seconds of the listening, as the biographical note related to Francisco describing him as a genuine globetrotter could persuade some listener to argue that the orchestral and somewhat disquieting snoring you could hear in the first part of "Untitled #220" - including sonic sketches grabbed between 1996 and 2009 in eight different places of the world (San Josè, Koln, Montreal, Riga, Brazilian Amazon, Calakmul in Yucatan, Namtib and Cape Cross in Namibia) and reprised for the first track of the second part, "Untitled #239" (whose sinister pulsations could evoke some scary digital beasts by Scanner or David Toop), are reports of sleepless nights in the noisy dormitory of some hostel where Lopez casually rested located in some remote part of the planet.The above-mentioned blurring effect between what is real, seemingly real and totally artificial is going to be the leitmotiv (or even the pangs) of the whole state of possession the listener is going to experience even when the sonic enviroment sounds more "natural" such as during the listening of "untitled #233" or "untitled #232", whose sonic material has been grabbed at Mamori Lake in the Brazilian Amazon. I personally enjoyed those moments out of a specific context or a geographic localization, when sonic treatments are combined with seemingly static dynamics, attack and decay games, subtonal low frequencies mumbling and compressed overtone effects, where seraphic choirs could sound frightening ("Untitled #221") or short-circuited buzzes or industrial mumbling could sound crystalline or even relaxing (such as in "Untitled #234" or "untitled #222") as well as the relevant 20-minutes lasting track ("Untitled @231") derived from raw material by Phill Niblock, forerunner of psychoacoustics and arguable a miliar stone for Lopez's aural aesthetics. Categories of true, false and verisimilar get mixed up with the controversial effects on listener's senses in a whirling dance where ambiguity turns into something seducing.

Vresnit & Kshatriy: TaeT

 Posted by eskaton   Ambient / Electronica / Ethereal / Dub / Soundscapes / Abstract
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Feb 09 2012
Artist: Vresnit & Kshatriy
Title: TaeT
Format: CD
Label: Vetvei (@)
Rated: *****
I went to the website and couldn't find anything on this release, so I'm only going with the album itself. The first thing to mention is that my disc was damaged in the shipping. That probably has more to do with the machinery of the mail system between here and Russia. Say what you will about jewel cases, but they do offer some protection in the mail. This disc is also nicely packaged in an oversize foldout that makes it look more like a 7' record. I am reminded of the old Amplexus releases that were also beautifully packaged. I will have to assume that some of the glitches in the music are a result of the damage to the disc, but I can't be sure. The music itself is one long track of deep bass drone and heavy noisy reverb that gives you the feeling of listening to the din of a factory while underwater. It's pleasant and interesting stuff with a good variety in the mix that keeps it from getting too repetitive. This would be right at home on the Cyclic Law roster, so make your decision accordingly. Nicely done. This album weighs in at 48.40.

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