Music Reviews

Dreissk: The Finding

 Posted by Steve Mecca   Ambient / Electronica / Ethereal / Dub / Soundscapes / Abstract
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Oct 24 2011
Artist: Dreissk (@)
Title: The Finding
Format: CD
Label: n5MD (@)
Distributor: n5MD
Rated: *****
Dreissk is the project of gaming audio director and sound designer Kevin Patzelt who began experimenting with electronic music back in 1997 but put his own music on the shelf in favor of a more lucrative career as a sound designer in the computer gaming industry. So now Patzelt has decided to flex his creative muscles and Dreissk's 'The Finding' is the result. The music is part ambient, part shoegaze, part IDM and part industrial noise. It's the latter of these stylistic forms merged with the whole that keeps Dreissk out of Robin Guthrie territory and into something completely new and different. (Yes, there is a good amount of sub-aquatic guitar swathed in reverb.) I had to admit it was a bit unsettling at first reconciling the gorgeous shoegazey ambience with the turgid din of the (often distorted) industrial elements when they occurred, but you get used to it. If this is shoegaze at all, it is potent in a way My Bloody Valentine never managed to achieve, and more ethereal in a cosmic way than the Cocteau Twins ever envisioned. (To be fair to the Cocteaus though, this album is completely instrumental; nobody can out-ethereal Liz Fraser.) 'The Finding' is a moody, hazy ride from start to finish, although not a languorous one in spite of its calmer passages. Some tracks utilize drums but the pacing is measured, never frantic or rushed but still has the power of motion. I tended to like the dreamy sections better, but overall I found the combination quite intriguing. Repeated listening will prove there is much more going on than you may have thought at first as you catch sonic elements interwoven in the dense fabric of the music. Obviously Kevin Patzelt knows sound, and he knows how to sculpt it into a most engaging music form. And while there is a lack of melodic definition, I'm sure that's the intention here as there is enough melodic substance to evoke a feeling in its impressionistic fashion. If you can set preconceived notions aside about genre boundaries, you should find 'The Finding' very rewarding.

Six Dead Bulgarians & Ogni Videniy: 2137

 Posted by Steve Mecca   Ambient / Electronica / Ethereal / Dub / Soundscapes / Abstract
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Oct 24 2011
Artist: Six Dead Bulgarians & Ogni Videniy (@)
Title: 2137
Format: CD
Label: Vetvei (@)
Distributor: Vetvei
Rated: *****
More interesting stuff from the Russian Vetvei label, '2137' is a collaborative project by Six Dead Bulgarians & Ogni Videniy (Fires of Images), both of the Northern Russian city of Arkhangelsk. The eleven tracks on this CD were recorded February 13-14 2010 when the moon year 2137 began, hence the numeric title. The work is supposed to be a symbol of deliverance of all negative, collected in the leaving year, and development of positive qualities in a new year. It goes back to an ancient Bon tradition with a Buddhist influence. For the record are used singing bowls, metal, wooden percussion and electronic devices, a jew's-harp, sand and voice. I am not previously acquainted with either of these projects, although I have of (but not heard) Six Dead Bulgarians vs. Moon So Far Away, another Arkhangelsk band that I am a bit familiar with. But this collaboration is quite different than Moon So Far Away's Gothic Neo-Folk.

In checking out both project's couple of tracks on their respective MySpace sites that were not on this CD, there is a little similarity in the elements used is this work but perhaps with more intensity here. Pretty much from the start my feeling about '2137' was one of ambivalence- on the one hand, the sounds are mostly intriguing, on the other, the combinations of them and the structure (if you could call it structure) of the tracks are perplexing. The basics involve chimey (think wind chimes) and klangy sounds with moaning, sweeping electronic oscillators and drone tones. Other elements are employed such as wooden percussion like claves and hand drums, but more as arrhythmic effect than anything rhythmic. A tone akin to a telephone dial tone might emerge'¦then other stray percussive elements. The percussion, chimes, singing bowls, etc., are often echoed off in slow delay. Also you almost get a feeling (no necessarily due to the echo effect) that this could have been recorded in a cave rather than a studio due to the reverberant (wet) space the recording seems to have in general. The music tends to be largely improvisational with a generally light touch and minimal, where elements don't seem to clash much with each other.

The vocals which first emerge in 'Got stuck in Sansara' are manipulated spoken word that are as intelligible as Ron Geesin's on Pink Floyd's 'Several Species Of Small Furry Animals Gathered Together In A Cave And Grooving With A Pict' from the 'Ummagumma' album. Yet where Geesin plays the mad Scotsman, these vocals sound more like a confused Euro tourist. They must have been employed to conjure a feeling more than say anything but the only feeling I got was befuddlement.

I have heard this project has been categorized as 'ritualistic ambient' but from what I've know of ritual ambient music, there tends to be some type of impetus or driving force behind it, at least in the rhythmic or vocal aspects. Here there is nothing you can really pin down as a rhythm, there is no chanting or intoning incantations, and the form seems to be amorphous. Perhaps the tracks 'Sacrifice' and 'Space Valley' are about the closest thing to the previously ascribed 'Buddhist influence' with their sonority of low Tibetan horns and a seemingly more serious approach. This actually seems to be when Six Dead Bulgarians & Ogni Videniy are at the top of their game. Unfortunately that moods ends all too soon and is replaced by the voice of the befuddled Euro tourist backed by jew's harp on the next track. He sounds like he's having a hard time of it too. Finally though on the last track, 'The Golden Age' we get something that really alludes to ritualistic ambient with low vocal intonation that could be construed as chanting, but is more like 'voweling'. It is brief though and minor as compared with the album as a whole.

For those that enjoy enigmatic soundscapes though, '2137' has a lot to offer, especially if you enjoy really out-there psychedelia. Expect a lot of ringing, clangorous tones on this one. '2137' is rather unclassifiable; not upsetting, just perplexing. As with most all Vetvei releases, the album comes in a six-panel jacket with intriguing colorful artwork by Vresnit.

Yann Novak: Presence

 Posted by Vito Camarretta (@)   Ambient / Electronica / Ethereal / Dub / Soundscapes / Abstract
Experimental / Avantgarde / Weird & Wired / Glitch / Noise / Field Recording
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Oct 21 2011
Artist: Yann Novak (@)
Title: Presence
Format: CD
Label: Hibernate (@)
Rated: *****
If you consider the approach this sound and video performer from Los Angeles (where he also manages his own imprint, Dragon's Eye Recordings, whose issues show an unconventional perspective on minimal and abstract composition) chose in order to build this 48-minutes lasting sonic sculpture, as the main source of original recordings has been grabbed through a mobile phone, you could get astonished by the miracle Yann Novak made on digital processors. Originally performed at the Torrance Art Musem in June 2010, whereas other artists interacted within the sonic nebula by which the performer filled the listening space, Presence could be considered a sort of transitional drone, as the three sonic elements circling around listener's head (a sort of electric noisy murmur, similar to the sound you hear when you place ear-drops to fight some acute form of catarrhal otitis, the nocturnal chattering from a field crowded with cicadas and crickets and a spectral breathe...all them giving the illusion of a sort of invisible presence hiding from your view) appear and disappear in different ways after bumping into filter and mixer's channel so that you can experience a wide range of different moods, all of them being equally dramatic. The preface of this emotional journey could sound quite gloomy, but you will notice a gradual crouched approaching to more auroral and luminous sonorities till the final amniotic floating after slow changes in the states of "matter".

Judith: The Path

 Posted by S.A. Sebastian (@)   Ambient / Electronica / Ethereal / Dub / Soundscapes / Abstract
Dark / Gothic / Wave / New Wave / Dark Wave / Industrial Gothic
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Oct 18 2011
Artist: Judith (@)
Title: The Path
Format: CD
Label: self-released
Rated: *****
The Path is a dark and dreamy-sounding album which mixes piano, lush orchestral synths and vocals all performed by Judith. Judith's bio says that she loves classical music, studied opera, and has written music for film. All of that is evidenced here on the Path. You can easily hear the classical influences in the string orchestrations and arrangements. On many albums like this, artists and composers often copy & paste layer upon layer of the same part performed by various instruments, making everything move in a monotonous parallel motion. But Judith, and her arranger Roberto Romano, have avoided that cliché and have written some very nice, distinct parts that have an interesting counterpoint. On top of this foundation Judith shows off her operatic stylings. Her voice is very pretty, mostly very airy and ethereal, but you can definitely hear the operatic training.

The music presents itself as very cinematic and is evocative of winter and sadness. You could easily set any song to a scene in a movie. To me many of the songs play out in slow motion, and are set in a dark and snowy forest. The Path is a very interesting album which I think is best enjoyed with the lights turned low and while drinking a glass of red wine.

Paul H. Muller: Dark Sunset

 Posted by Steve Mecca   Ambient / Electronica / Ethereal / Dub / Soundscapes / Abstract
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Oct 17 2011
Artist: Paul H. Muller (@)
Title: Dark Sunset
Format: CDS (CD Single)
Label: Ventura Contemporary Music (@)
Distributor: Ventura Contemporary Music
Rated: *****
No, this is not the same Paul H. Müller who synthesized dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane (DDT), although it would have been interesting if it was, since that Paul H. Müller as the first person to win a Nobel Prize for Medicine or Physiology who was not a medical doctor. This Paul H. Muller however writes contemporary music for church services and also instrumental and ambient electronic works. His main influences have been JS Bach, Steve Reich, Richard Lainhart and James Ross. There is nothing 'churchy' on 'Dark Sunset' though, unless you consider ambient drone good music for spiritual reflection, which I suppose it can be. This is what I would call 'Light Ambient' (as opposed to 'Dark Ambient') the kind of stuff pioneered by Brian Eno and Vidna Obmana.

The textures here are smooth in Muller's music; you won't find any sonic disruptions, just shifting minimalist soundscapes. It works wonderfully well as background music for contemplation and perhaps even concentration. I played it at my bookstore (and continue to do so) and get inquisitive compliments every time from customers. There is tone and timbral variety from track to track, as well as intensity, but the music tends to remain consistent during the course of each track. While some might consider Muller's uplifting ambient style New Agey, I would say that it transcends that in that it bows to no 'New Age' conventions. For some reason, my favorite track was 'Ambient Study #2,' perhaps because there was a touch of melancholy in it. All of the tracks however are texturally rich, and best played at a low volume. If you're looking for some meditative music without disparate elements that might also be inspiring, 'Dark Sunset is as good choice.

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