Music Reviews

Amp: Entangled Time

 Posted by Stuart Bruce (@)   Techno / Trance / Goa / Drum'n'Bass / Jungle / Tribal / Trip-Hop
Ambient / Electronica / Ethereal / Dub / Soundscapes / Abstract
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Jan 23 2019
Artist: Amp
Title: Entangled Time
Format: 10"
Label: Ampbase
This release has been available since November for download, but it’s now available as a 10” from January 19th.

Described as a ‘concise album’, “Entangled Time” is apparently as a by-product of work on a ‘proper’ new album, though the distinction feels somewhat arbitrary and many artists would happily call this an album in its own right. Amp’s first new material since “Outposts” is a familiar set-up of long sustained string and synth melodies, calm vocal pads and (sometimes) deep melodic techno kick patterns.

“Drifting” is an apt name for the leisurely opener, which washes over you like waves- literal waves by the end, as beach sound effects appear. “Will-Oh Dreams” adopts a similar set-up melodically, minus the waves and bringing the feminine vocal sounds to the fore, but introducing a moderately tough drum pattern into the mix to framework everything. A brief interlude “Playing Time” which has a soft, under-nourished pulse to it. The final original piece “Opal Tears” takes a small step towards a more traditional song form, making the vocal sounds intermittent and layering up harp-like glissandoes washed in heavy dominating reverb.

The extended 16-minute version of “Will-Oh Dreams” is the most captivating self-contained piece, allowing a steady super-soft techno rhythm to interplay with the long sustained notes in a manner that will have a broad appeal that should span fans of slightly more mainstream equivalents such as M83.

It’s a richly textured bit of semi-ambient techno with some extremely lush and velvety sounds in it, and a certain elegance to boot.

BedouinDrone: The Border

 Posted by Ibrahim Khider (@)   Ambient / Electronica / Ethereal / Dub / Soundscapes / Abstract
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Jan 19 2019
Artist: BedouinDrone (@)
Title: The Border
Format: Download Only (MP3 only)
Label: Mahorka (@)
Opening with an ominous, low-end rumble that builds with subtle overtones that suggest impending doom, we have BedouinDrone’s title track, “The Border” that sets both the mood and theme for this mostly ambient-drone release. The Border is also comprised of field recordings of traditional hand percussion and wind instruments while shouts of Allah-hu-Akbar (God is great, in Arabic) are discerned through the atmospheres. While nowhere explicitly listed, the ghost of the late Bryn Jones aka Muslimgauze haunts The Border and perhaps this could be a tribute to the late great artist. Those familiar with Muslimgauze music can discern similarities such as the use of field recordings of Muslim cultural practices or Islamic worship like Arabic recitations of the Quran or the Islamic call to prayer, which are distinct from one another yet both are in “Adhan” (which ‘means call to prayer’). Tracks like the powerful “Mishmishan” suggest The Blue Mosque album for its industrial grade, mechanical yet rhythmic loops and the psychedelic “Tulk Arm” recalls segments of the Sandtrafikar while “Susah” feels like a blend of Sandtrafikar and Re-Mixs 1 & 2, all albums by Muslimgauze. One also notes other similarities like the dedication (almost all Muslimgauze albums have a dedication) which in this case is “Dedicated to all refugees in this world”. The album and track titles further reference the Muslim world and attendant political conflicts. Even the artist identity is kept a mystery, with no photos, not even a real name, which at least Muslimgauze releases had. But to interpret these tracks as mere Muslimgauze knock-offs misses the point because they are thoughtful, well-done, and on the balance of the release, BedouinDrone stands out on his own. “Marawi” opens with a kind of Steely Dan style intro, then goes into what could be a field recording of an arcade as a disquieting drone build up a la Twin Peaks’ sound designer, Dean Hurley, broods over the piece like a dark cloud. “Birak” too has that Hurley feel to it, but “Raysayil” is its own kind of gem, a dark beloved cloud with Arabic phrasings. There are also remixes of “Faqat” and “Birak”, which are bit on the experimental drone side, but sound excellent, dark and moody. BeduinDrones might be mixing Islam with Muslim cultures, such as calls to prayer with musical instruments, or Islamic elements like calls to prayer and Quran recitations, which are also separate things. The Border is a pleasant nod to Muslimgauze, but also a proclamation of a distinct talent willing to acknowledge an influence but not be overwhelmed by it and most importantly, willing and able to forge out into his (or her own) distinct sound.

Benjamin Finger / James Plotkin / Mia Zabelka: Pleasure-Voltage

 Posted by Stuart Bruce (@)   Ambient / Electronica / Ethereal / Dub / Soundscapes / Abstract
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Jan 17 2019
Artist: Benjamin Finger / James Plotkin / Mia Zabelka
Title: Pleasure-Voltage
Format: 12" vinyl + Download
Label: Karlrecords
Driven by Oslo-based Benjamin Finger, this is a new outing for a trilogy of performers with a strong pedigree in dark ambient and electronic soundscaping. Across two twenty-minute pieces, it’s brimming with ideas, as different environmental layering and structures work their way into audibility and then drift away to be replaced by other sections and ideas that feel like they don’t so much evolve as just flow sequentially.

At times this is exceptionally abstract stuff, long drones and atmospheres washing free across the sonic plain, but at other points it veers slightly closer to a coherent sonic structure, particularly when the icy piano or noisy guitar elements involve themselves in a more traditional fashion. The distant rock beat and more overt electric guitar 17 minutes into “Hostile Structures” may prove problematic for soundscaping purists, wandering quite close to M83 territory.

Rich and familiar soundscaping with a shade of emo, it’s an immersive and high-quality release for sure, but across forty minutes it somehow fails to grab me or convince me that it’s got a unique selling point.

Dahlia's Tear: Through the Nightfall Grandeur

 Posted by Andrea Piran (@)   Ambient / Electronica / Ethereal / Dub / Soundscapes / Abstract
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Jan 13 2019
Artist: Dahlia's Tear (@)
Title: Through the Nightfall Grandeur
Format: CD
Label: Cryo Chamber (@)
Rated: *****
After a long silence, Dahlia's Tear returns with a new release presented as a concept album based around a spiritual awakening during a search for meaning. As usual, his music uses elements from religious music, mostly voices and cymbals, as a counterweight to the sometimes abstract musical nature of drone and this creates a sort of emotive link with the listener.
The first track, "Encroaching Shadows Beckon to Chase the Fleeing Light", introduces the listener into a dark ambient form based on a long loop, rather than on a drone, with the addition of other sound elements like samples and voices creating something which is simple and complex at the same time. "The Keeper of Broken Dreams and Tattered Spirits" uses instead a drone crescendo as a backbone of the track while using voices to create a meditative atmosphere. "Forlorn Whispers on a Moonlit Path" uses a piano loop and an impressive barrage of samples and effects. After a quiet first part, "The Frozen Echoes of the Endless Moor" uses the samples to create a rhythmic structure for the samples. "Bitter Silence of Desolate Steps" is developed upon a drone and a variation of the piano of the third track giving the impression of an overall design behind the whole release. The stacking of sound masses of "Drowning in Delusions of Grandeur" is overwhelming and "Lamenting Memories Long Past in the Remnants of Darkness" continues instead with a crescendo which has the same means. "Drifting into the Void Grasping at Fading Starlight" is a suspended track with long tones and short loops. "Lost in the Crystalline Enigma" closes this release with wide spectrum drones which underlines the sparse cymbals.
This is one of the few release in this genre which shows a musical personality which uses a particular musical framework instead of repeating the canonical formula working only in the sound effects. Highly recommended.

Daimon: Dust

 Posted by eskaton   Ambient / Electronica / Ethereal / Dub / Soundscapes / Abstract
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Jan 12 2019
Artist: Daimon (@)
Title: Dust
Format: CD
Label: Silentes Minimal Editions (@)
Rated: *****
I was unfamiliar with this band, but their Facebook page describes Daimon as “Obscure deep drone audio-visual project run by Paolo Monti (The Star Pillow), Nicola Quiriconi (Vipcancro, Lisca Records), Simon Balestrazzi (T.A.C., Dream Weapon Ritual, Candor Chasma, AZOTH, etc)." As an aside, I was interested to see that this label came out of the ashes of Amplexus, which used to put out gorgeous releases back in the day. Now on to the music itself. The band In The Nursery had a series called “Optical Music.” I always liked what that term evokes – what Aristotle would call “bringing before the eyes.” It is this sense of bringing an image to mind that Daimon excels at. The music is cinematic, evoking different emotions as it evolves and shifts over time. The album opens with “All the Dead Dreamers” (a nod to H.P. Lovecraft, perhaps), which begins as a quiet droning number, but slowly shifts over time, increasing in dissonance and overall noisiness. If this were a movie scene, this would the point where the protagonists realized that the water on the lake had become far too still and the birds have vanished, just before a creature broke the surface of the water and bit someone in half. “So High So Close” dials it back a bit, with vibraphone breaking through the drone. The overall feeling here is a long journey, leaving home for an uncertain destination. The piece builds on itself, over and over, as time and the miles stretch out before you. “Leonard” brings the dissonance to front stage, opening with bits of metallic tapping and percussion, but getting more and more harsh. It never becomes harsh noise, but the overall feel is that of pressure, grinding away at you. If there is a story to tell, it is that not all battles are outside of one’s mind. Finally, “Awash” closes the album with dissonance in full effect in their droning wall of sound. Bits of clanking metal and horn squawks peek through, broken up by a brief spoken word passage before ending with what sounds like overdriven woodwinds. Overall, this is nicely done and does an excellent job of evoking a sense of imagery to go along with the sound. Well worth checking out for fans of noisy dronescapes. This album weighs in at around 44 minutes.

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