Music Reviews

Vresnit, Kskatriy, Neznamo, Hattifnatter, Lunar Abyss Deus Organum: Sonastroika

 Posted by Steve Mecca   Ambient / Electronica / Ethereal / Dub / Soundscapes / Abstract
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Nov 15 2011
Artist: Vresnit, Kskatriy, Neznamo, Hattifnatter, Lunar Abyss Deus Organum (@)
Title: Sonastroika
Format: CD
Label: Vetvei (@)
Distributor: Vetvei
Rated: *****
A collective performance recording with Vresnit, Kskatriy, Neznamo, Hattifnatter, Lunar Abyss Deus Organum, with the assistance of VJ Yury Elika from November, 4th, 2010 at the ESG-21 club, St.-Petersburg. There were no separate performances of projects that evening, the participants were entirely collaborative. Field recordings, voices, guitars, synthesizers, wind instruments and extensive electronic devices were used to create this awesome ambient soundscape. This work is nearly impossible to describe. I believe I have reviewed about four other Vetvei releases, and so far, this one has been the most daunting. On this recording over half of the Vetvei roster of artists are acting together to bring to fruition something more or less spontaneously improvised and the results are mind-blowing.

The CD consists of six tracks ranging from a little over 4 minutes to a little over 16 minutes for a total of nearly 49 ½ minutes but the music tends to flow seamlessly, so you may not notice a whole lot of difference from track to track. This is a more 'active' kind of ambient than passive, where things and events happen, and believe me, there is a whole lot happening. Considering that there are least 5 (or possibly six or more) people involved, it is amazing that they didn't step all over each other. It certainly doesn't sound like they did. There is a high psychedelic factor to this performance, much of it dense and intense, although it is episodic in a certain sense too, as it ebbs and flows. In general, 'Sonastroika' has a dark feel to it; ominous, foreboding, sometimes cosmic, sometimes jarring, even terrifying. I suppose it depends on your mood. It is not what I would call meditative, although there are some relatively calm passages. These could be construed as alien landscapes from some distant galaxy; sonic constructs that go way beyond the pale of human experience. Yet, some familiarity creeps in, a barking dog and whispered voices beneath the moaning of unearthly voices..the distant strains of some classical music'¦but these are atypical elements. Drones are omnipresent, and washes of noise ranging from small waves to huge slabs make their appearance. Lots of echo, echo, echo, echo'¦the occasional repeated whistling sample, bass rumblings and bell tones'¦combined ity all sounds so'¦vast. If anything, you will get more than you bargained for with 'Sonastroika'. As per usual, the CD comes in a colorful 6-panel folder by Vresnit.

A Guide For Reason: I-VI & VII - VIII

 Posted by Steve Mecca   Ambient / Electronica / Ethereal / Dub / Soundscapes / Abstract
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Nov 15 2011
Artist: A Guide For Reason (@)
Title: I-VI & VII - VIII
Format: CD
Label: Faith Strange Recordings (@)
Rated: *****
You might be familiar with Mike Fazio under his orchestramaxfieldparrish nom de plume, an arty ambient electronic soundscape project I reviewed a while back. As I recalled with OMP, my impressions were mixed on that double-CD ('To The Last Man / Index Of Dreaming'), liking some of it a whole lot, and the rest of it very much. Fazio's A Guide For Reason project may be similar in overall concept but quite different in execution. The majority of it is extremely subtle; so subtle at time that unless you have the volume up you may not realize (at times) that you are listening to anything. That's not to say that there isn't anything there (there most certainly is) but 'A Guide For Reason' has a propensity to often be so under the radar that when more prominent incidents such as a repeated scratching sound, or a chordal swell, or wispy electronics make there way into the ambience, it's nearly surprising.

One could approach 'A Guide For Reason' in two ways; one is the analytical approach- to listen to it looking for things that gel and enhance the ambiance all the while trying to discern why the artist used this sound or that, and how these sounds were achieved, OR, the intuitive approach- simply feeling what is conveyed sonically in each piece and how it affects you. I favor the latter here as describing the components of the compositions does not really do them justice.

This work is two discs (or actually a disc-and-a-half, the second being a 3" mini disc (or Parts VII and VIII) and is only a little over what a single CD is terms of time, I'm sure the artist had his reasons for doing it this way. The environments on the first disc take you to some unusual places'¦hallucinatory terrains where space and time have been altered, perhaps distorted into other dimensions. The last track on the first disc, #6 ' 'Out From Which Comes The Beginning,' is the anomaly. It is as if the film is rewinding and you get a peek at the inner-workings of the cosmic device. A gentle rhythm emerges like some type of electro-mechanical dance of creation and carries you across the border'¦to the other side.

Disc 2(the 3 inch) ' 'The Indirect Communication' ' here is where the other-worldly entities dwell. You watch in fascination as they interact in their natural habitat. 17 minutes goes by but all concept of time is lost here. 'One of These Is True. This Is True' is a bit more difficult to fathom. In fact, I can't, even after listing to it three times.

The main CD comes in a limited numbered edition of 100 professionally pressed silk-screened discs in a 4 panel digipak. The 3" is a limited numbered hand made micro edition of 50 copies presented within a handmade vellum folio of 4 prints with the disc mounted on artist's black archival board. Sure to become a collector's item.

Scanner + David Rothenberg : You Can't Get There From Here

 Posted by Andrea Ferraris (@)   Ambient / Electronica / Ethereal / Dub / Soundscapes / Abstract
Experimental / Avantgarde / Weird & Wired / Glitch / Noise / Field Recording
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Nov 09 2011
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Artist: Scanner + David Rothenberg
Title: You Can't Get There From Here
Format: CD
Label: Monotype (@)
Rated: *****
Scanner, I think if you haven't spent the last decade or more on Mars, I'm sure you know his career as an electronic musician, David Rothemberg plays clarinet (here he pays duty also with a computer), he's a jazzist with a plethora of releases out on label like Terranova and ECM that itself says a lot. The result is 'delicious' and is equal to the sum of its parts, infact it's a jazzy-electronic release with a nightly atmosphere and a strong phatos. Robin Rimbaud's touch is quite recognizable and at the same time he's worked in a really quiet way, at the same time an inspired Rothemberg warms the tracks up with a soft and elegant velvet mood for his solos. Since I've mentioned ECM I'd better say this work sounds a lot like some electronic oriented releases by Jan Garbarek or Nil Peter Molver or other jazz musician on the same label, but this collaboration sound much better, both in terms of inspiration and for the soft ambiance it recreates. Its not exactly an experimental cd, or at least is not something barely comparable to Wolf Eyes plus Braxton or John Wiese plus Evan Parker, it exactly sounds like some similar works of the genre you probably have heard before, but as I've said the songs they've put together on this slab of plastic are quite excellent and the melodies are really intense. If you're looking for elegant, relaxing music for a night flight over the city, well you'll probably love this one.

Francisco Lopez + Novi_sad: Titans

 Posted by Vito Camarretta (@)   Ambient / Electronica / Ethereal / Dub / Soundscapes / Abstract
Experimental / Avantgarde / Weird & Wired / Glitch / Noise / Field Recording
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Nov 08 2011
Artist: Francisco Lopez + Novi_sad (@)
Title: Titans
Format: CD
Label: GH Records (@)
Rated: *****
Such a title, Titans, for this listening pearl signed by the renowned sound artists Francisco Lopez and Thanasis Kaproulias aka Novi_sad, is not an act of haughty self-referentiality, even if I could say it could fit to their skills, but it's strictly connected to the inspirational place where they moulded the sonic material they consolidated in different way: the legendary Ancient Olympia region! In particular Titans (also known as white clay man as according to some studies their name derived from a Greek word meaning "white earth") are those gigantic deities who ruled the world during the so-called Golden Age, an era which was ended by Prometheus, a Titan himself, when he gave to the mankind the gift of fire and other arts and crafts. By the way, according to some essayists Titans had a central role in the primordial stages of Ancient Greek shamanism: they were normally represented by men covered by white clay, who evoked the strongest cosmic and natural forces, able to destroy other ones such as the pleasure. Such an attribute was called back in the ritual based on the episode of Dyonisus' cannibalism by Titans themselvels for instance.

Some listeners with a lively imagination could hear a sort of translitteration of Titanic powers in this split cd: Francisco Lopez's 30minutes lasting track starts with thundering ultra-low frequencies nearby the threshold of hearing, which seem to rise from the bowels of the earth, before the sound gets crammed with abrasively sinister metallic scratches, whose friction with eardrums gets gradually silenced till the moment when the Spanish sound artist plays with imperceptible hums, babbles and chirps so that it seems the titanic force of its sound has shaked the whole audible range till when the listener has been traumatically taken back to nature. Novi_sad's "Ellipsis" is really impressive as well: Novi_sad uses the same source materials, but melts them in a completely different way. The thundering low frequencies by Senor Lopez have been replaced by the recording of a real storm and when he overloads the sound space with proper thunders, you'll almost feel the electric atmospheric activity related to such a weather condition, while the hypnotical sonic sculpture based on an intense teeming of metallic ground noises sounds to be swept by a persistent corrosive wind. Analogies and bizarre similarities with nowadays Greek financial crisis, which is hypnotizing many people injecting rich doses of paranoia, come almost instinctively as well; I'd go so far as to say that the cover itself with those repeated and close green and black stripes could be considered a reference on it as well as the general atmosphere of this record, filled with a sense of deep-toned oppressive neurosis whose terminal stage cannot be but nature.

Normotone: Inward Structures

 Posted by Steve Mecca   Ambient / Electronica / Ethereal / Dub / Soundscapes / Abstract
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Nov 07 2011
Artist: Normotone
Title: Inward Structures
Format: CD
Label: Tympanik Audio (@)
Distributor: Tympanik Audio
Rated: *****
Normotone (or Normotone et alii) is the solo project of Bruno Laborde who has been working in electronic music since 1994. Former projects include Axonal Warfare (1994-1997) and Neon Cage Experiment (2003-2006), as well as producing remixes for such artists as HIV+, Ex_Tension, Necrotek, Babylone Chaos, and most recently Architect. This is his first release under the Normotone moniker. Other contributors to 'Inward Structures' include Laurent Kistler (Neon Cage Experiment), TAT, Serge Usson (Neon Rain), Angelika, Charlotte, and VX (Vincent Villalon) in the vocal and lyric department on several tracks, and Polygon and One Droid And Its Man for the two remixes at the end of the album.

'Inward Structures' is really difficult to pin down. On one hand, it is rather experimental (even for Tympanik) in places, and I had a very difficult time getting into it. On the other, some of the tracks are quite provocative and well-structured compositions. The first couple of tracks passed without leaving much of an impression at all, even after hearing them several times. There are still tracks that don't sit well with me, such as 'Confessions Of A Daydreamer" with its abrasive rhythmic component and deadpan recitation by Laurent K. With "Isolation Is My Achievement" however, business began to pick up. It's a slow, dirty track with delightfully doleful vocals by TAT. "The Unutterable Beauty" is a deliciously weird cinematic dark ambient piece with industrialized rhythm. It has this bass that sounds like a fog horn in the distance. Really kind of scary the way it all comes off sounding. Serge waxes nihilistically poetic on "These Hearts" with the music sounding little more than an industrial landscape for his recitation until more than halfway through the piece when it really began to come alive and build instrumentally. Probably not what you would expect with guitar entering into the fray, but I kind of liked it. 'Primer' was just too fragmented and fractured for me to get into; episodic bits of rhythm and electronics that lacked cohesiveness. "Milky Skin In A Yellow Fuzzy Light" features vocals by Angelika and is a cross between ethereal pop shoegaze and dubby downtempo industrial. One of the best tracks on the album so far. (Eh, I'm a sucker for shoegaze with female vocals.) "Frozen Leaves" is another nice track with female vocals, this time by Charlotte although they're more along the lines of Beth Gibbons, Allison Shaw or Kirsty Thirk; very moody and well executed.

'Black Horses of Destruction' is a messy piece of Industrial business and although the first part contains a rather interesting controlled industrialized martial rhythm with spoken (female) samples and tense strings way in the background, after a brief piano interlude, the rest of the piece becomes utter chaos with vocals from VX to match. I couldn't wrap my head around this one. Polygon's remix of 'Milky Skin In A Yellow Fuzzy Light" takes out the shoegaze element and substitutes a more subdued electro-industrial rhythm. Polygon also puts electronic processing on the vocals, and to tell the truth, I didn't much care for that. The rhythm and accompanying synth bass was good though, but I preferred the original. As far as what One Droid And Its Man did for the remix of "The Unutterable Beauty" I couldn't really tell. My copy of the CD skipped through much of it rendering it unlistenable for all practical purposes. At first I thought it was the remix, but apparently not. Nobody could make something that unlistenable. No matter how I tried to clean the CD, nothing worked. Chalk it up to a flawed pressing.

So here I am, ambivalent again, liking about half the album and not caring much about the rest of it. I think Bruno tends to be best working with other people and when he has a clear direction to shoot for. Perhaps I was missing the point, but on a number of tracks solely done by Bruno, the ideas, although composed of interesting sounds and rhythms sounded vague to me and lacked form and style; too scattered to be really engaging. If you're considering a purchase, I'd advise trying to find streaming tracks to preview in their entirety from this album first rather than clips, because in this case, clips just won't paint an accurate picture.

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