Music Reviews



VANESSA VAN BASTEN : Closer To The Small / Dark / Door

 Posted by Andrea Ferraris (@)   Ambient / Electronica / Ethereal / Dub / Soundscapes / Abstract
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Feb 19 2011
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Artist: VANESSA VAN BASTEN
Title: Closer To The Small / Dark / Door
Format: CD
Label: Robotic Empire (@)
Rated: *****
It's been a long wait until this new Vanessa Van Basten release and here it is on Robotic Empire, that means it's out for good!. For those who have never heard the band I can just say they play a blend of power shoegaze a la Jesu mixed with some dream-pop, post-rock influences. Like their previous materials also this cd is deeply influenced by the style of Justin Broadrick but the result is brilliant and more than once I've caught myself thinking their writing skill has become even better than that of dear ol' Justin. Said that there're a couple of elements the brought Bellini and friends one step ahead from the past, they've added a real drummer to their original line up and the song structure did benefit from this solid power trio formula. The other interesting element is the fact the combo has put more and more emphasis on what some music expert would label as "dream pop", that means sometimes they barely resemble bands like Cocteau Twins, materials from 4AD records or some of the production signed by Robin Guthrie. Don't worry you little hardcore kid / post metalhead, this' no "fruity" version of avant metal trying to make it in the heart of indie fans, they still have heavy parts, colossal riffs and loud explosions, they just pass from those that kind of sound to quasi acoustic guitars with keyboards and a those soft long delays or reverbs that give a lot of deepness to the ambience. This' exactly one of those rare records that can put together many different listeners into melancholic music of different kinds but at the same time it hasn't lost an ounce of credibility. Thumbs up for me.

THOLEN: Neuropol

 Posted by Andrea Piran (@)   Ambient / Electronica / Ethereal / Dub / Soundscapes / Abstract
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Feb 16 2011
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Artist: THOLEN (@)
Title: Neuropol
Format: CD
Label: Cyclic Law
Rated: *****
This album is a dark ambient album with strong soundtrack influence, it just evoke scene of an horror movie. in fact, the title of the album, Neuropol, is the name of a fictional city whose society is divided in two distinct classes: a lethargic mass of working slaves on the surface trapped in the industrial landscapes and the elite who lives underground.
"They are watching through my eyes" opens this release with a mesmerizing drone below evocative soundscapes. "Neuropol Underground Infrastructure" uses high volume low frequencies to evoke a (perhaps) moral darkness above higher frequencies effects while "Cryogenic Ceremonies" is an highly evocative track ending with a sad line of piano. "Among The Tormented" is constructed with lines of filtered synth above a dark drone. "Tiefe - Floating Corpses Odor" opens with filtered voices walking around all the track. "Becomming (Segmented Minds)" starts with a dialog of a man and a, presumely, young women and develops with layers of low frequencies drones. "When all hope was dying" ends this records with layers of melancholy lines.
At the end of the listening, it's difficult to express the images evoked in this musical journey; this is an album really well mastered, not a so common feature these days, that requires good subwoofer to really appreciate the depth of the careful elaborated layers constituting the track. An album to be played loud.

Leykam | Mark: Live Extracts 96-98

 Posted by Vito Camarretta (@)   Ambient / Electronica / Ethereal / Dub / Soundscapes / Abstract
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Feb 16 2011
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Artist: Leykam | Mark
Title: Live Extracts 96-98
Format: CD
Label: Frank Mark Arts (@)
Distributor: CD Baby
Rated: *****
1996-1998...for some mysterious reasons I still have vivid memories around the music circulating in those years. For instance I remember in some elitarian sets it wasn't so difficult to listen performances of Buddhist monks while emitting trance-inducing vocals together with eccentric keyboardists and sound crafters dealing with ethnic instruments whereas people sitting in the stalls included someone winking at this musical explorations with libels of some more or less improvised guru in the pocket or on the bedside table nearby a finely chiselled censer and sweet-smelling stick of incense and day-dreaming about any bizarre intersection point between technological progress and spirituality and other groups of radical-chic people feeling a certain nostalgia for their roaring twenties in the 60s/70s and taking a liking to those teenagers spreading rumors about a possible alien conspiracy for anaesthetizing human race througout ambient and trance music and some exotic food in order to conquer and arguably destroy the Planet Earth! I vividly remember a live exhibition of the Buddhist Buthanese monk Lama Gyourme and J.P. Rykiel whereas there was a background sound on the amplified one of snoring dispirited people and pensive aum(or ohm)-like hypnotized ones filling the sound space amidst the audience. These live extracts by the respected cosmic ambient knights Frank Mark and Roman Leykam, issued by the renowned Frank Mark's imprint and recorded in different live-sessions in Germany during those years, partially enucleates that cultural tumor without renouncing to an appreciable sound research as well as to its stage set so that the themes are more or less the same, which even if nowadays could be considered quite old-fashioned used to be the knaves in social scene. There are many nice episodes along this collection , especially those ones where the cosmic and progressive rock vein by Roman Leykam pulsates more intensely by highlithing the mystical pressure of the polished and clean sandpapering on frequencies and the thinning of sounds coming from samples and tapes by Frank Mark, but their style sounds ineluctably influenced by those cultural memes as well as by famous ambient archives of labels emitting in that period (FAX, Silent and even the plenty of selections filled with some classics by composers such as Brian Eno, Hector Zazou, Robert Rich, Steve Roach, Edgar Froese dealing with that unconventional way of treating standards, especially for the substantial lack of melody, supposedly inducing the illusion of floating or cruising or helping introspection...). By the way, some listener

Wolfskin / Last Industrial Estate: Stonegates of Silence

 Posted by eskaton   Ambient / Electronica / Ethereal / Dub / Soundscapes / Abstract
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Feb 15 2011
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Artist: Wolfskin / Last Industrial Estate
Title: Stonegates of Silence
Format: CD
Label: Malignant Records (@)
Rated: *****
According to the label, this is Wolfskin's last album. I had not heard of Last Industrial Estate, which is the work of Anders Peterson of Objekt 4, which I had also not heard of. Here's how Malignant describes the disc: 'This is Wolfskin at its bleakest and most restrained, offering 5 tracks of enveloping ambience built around foggy, ambiguous textures and an endless flow of drifting isolationism, shapeless horrors, and oppressive subterranean heaviness. In the case of Stonegates, Wolfskin goes out not with a bang, but with a slow, evolutionary creep into the shadows, forever etched in the lexicon of dark ambient music.' The best way I can describe this album is that these artists understand the power of negative space. Unlike some who feel a need to have every second filled with sound, they leave breathing room for the atmospheres that they have created. The sounds are fairly minimal at times leaving one with the feeling of being deep underground with only hints and whispers from above. 'Amidst the Infinite Skies,' did get a bit repetitive at times, but for the most part this was quite pleasant dark ambient. One interesting element here is that I did not really find the overall feeling to be ominous, so I have to disagree with the label's description of 'shapeless horrors, and oppressive subterranean heaviness,' but this is by no means a weakness. In fact, if I wanted to introduce someone to dark ambient music without having them cringe over bad horror movie samples (Ixaxaar, anyone?), this would be a good start. This disc weighs in at around 51 minutes.

False Mirror: Derelict World

 Posted by eskaton   Ambient / Electronica / Ethereal / Dub / Soundscapes / Abstract
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Feb 15 2011
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Artist: False Mirror (@)
Title: Derelict World
Format: CD
Label: Malignant Records (@)
Rated: *****
This was my introduction to False Mirror, the work of German artist Tobias Hornberger. The first thing that you are confronted with is a substantial booklet with the disc, containing a short story by Bjørn Springorum. The last time I saw a CD with a story attached was Current 93's 'In a Foreign Town in a Foreign Land,' with the accompanying tale by none other than Thomas Ligotti. I don't know if I would put Springorum's story quite on par with Ligotti's work, but it is clear that they are working in the same vein and the story is enjoyable. The story tells the tale of a cataclysmic storm that essentially kills all humanity. I will spare you the details because I do not think that this is yet a spoiler, but reading this while listening to the disc certainly colors the music. This seems to be by design. According to the label, Derelict World 'offers a truly apocalyptic concept that blends perfectly with the dense wall of sound on this mysterious ambient challenge: Nothing less than the end of humanity, brought upon this world by the relentless forces of nature forms the basis on which the resonating and thundering tracks develop into chimaeras of terrible momentum, ever-changing and ever-increasing their dramatic potential.' As for the music, this is superb. Hornberger provides extensive commentary on the production of his tracks in the booklet, so we get a sense of what he is working with. However, like any musical magician, he can tell us where he got the sounds and even how he manipulated them without giving us the ability to recognize them in the final product. Source recordings weave together with synth drones and disembodied voices that hide beneath the soundscapes. Some of his source material includes various flutes, rubbing fabric, a creaking wooden floor, an old ironing board, and Dr. Oetker gelatin dessert (woodruff taste, whatever that is!). According to his website, he even programmed some of the software used to create the music. But all throughout, you still get the feel of an empty earth and water, water everywhere, largely as a result of reading the accompanying story. If this all wasn't enough, there is also an accompanying quest online with clues embedded in the booklet and CD. This leads to a 'bonus world' site with additional material. I must admit that I haven't taken the time to try to solve the puzzle yet, so I can give no info on that, but this is an interesting angle to take. In short, this is one of the best dark ambient releases I have heard for quite some time. Highly recommended. This disc weighs in at around 73 minutes.


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