Music Reviews

Delicate Noise: Filmezza Remixes

 Posted by Steve Mecca   Ambient / Electronica / Ethereal / Dub / Soundscapes / Abstract
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Aug 16 2010
Artist: Delicate Noise (@)
Title: Filmezza Remixes
Format: CD EP
Label: LENS Records (@)
Distributor: LENS Records
Rated: *****
A while back I did a review of Delicate Noise's 2009 'Filmezza' album. At the time, I seemed to like the packaging better than the musical content. For me, it was a mixed bag; it took a very Boards of Canada approach without adding anything new. Also, there were just too many children's' voice in the mix for me. I like good ambient music (even the beat-propelled kind, which this often is, when it has something different to offer, but I didn't get that from the first 'Filmezza' album. The 'Filmezza Remixes' sounds like a whole different animal. First, it takes only six tracks from the seventeen track 'Filmezza' album - 'Butterfly Envy,' 'Pheromone,' 'Pheromones' (2 versions), 'Lush and Coated with Words and Birds,' 'Beware of Digital Children,' and 'Astronaut in Training," and they all sound considerably different. This seems to have been a smart move. At 38 ½ minutes, it's a somewhere between an EP and full album, maybe a Maxi-EP would be the best way of describing it.

The 'Butterfly Envy' remix is done by France's Jauzas the Shining. He adds some welcome bass and better synth sounds than the original, processes the children's voices so they don't sound like kids, replaces the original percussion with something far better (no hokey handclaps), darkens it up a bit and gives it a Kraftwerkian feel. Way cool! It sounds so much better this way. The first 'Pheromones' remix is done by Knowing Looks from Canada. The original is a bit of a diverse mess with sampled voices (yes, including those obnoxious children) that's pretty light until the heavy synth bass comes in. In the remix, the percussion is a bit more steady, and the synths minimal, mostly atmos with accents. It's sparse with a slightly dark tone throughout. Sounds nothing like the original, which is a good thing. 'Pheromone' which follows is remixed by Sunao Inami (Japan, where else would you expect?). He fixes up the percussion so it sounds less pattern-oriented, removes the sampled voices, adds some low ambient undercurrent and makes it sound more dreamlike.

The second 'Pheromones' remix is done by Document One of Iceland. Vocal samples are still there but pushed in the background with reverb. He only brings in percussion midway though the track, and then it's a crunchy trip hop beat. The remix is clean where the original was a mess with that synth-bass overriding a cacophony of sounds. In this remix the bass is subdued and enhances the ambience rather than competes with it. Its more minimal, but it works just fine. Heinrich Dressel (Italy) takes 'Lush and Coated with Words' and adds a pulsing synth bass (in place of the percussion) to the repetitive five-chord progression of the original, while embellishing somewhat on the synth melody and adding another synth sequence to go along with the bass. He also eliminates the vocals. Maybe this song wasn't the best choice for a remix; there is only so much you can do with those five repetitive chords.

10-20 (UK) tackles the remix for 'Beware of Digital Children,' the track I liked least on the original Filmezza album due to sampled children's voices. If it wasn't for them, the track would have been pretty good, but it ruined it for me. 10-20 replaces the draggy percussion of the original with something far more interesting. The kids voices are pushed so far back in the mix, you'd swear they were blocks away. I can handle that. Other than that, it's fairly minimal. On the original album, 'Astronaut in Training' is only a minute and a half of ambience with sampled NASA-type scratchy communication dialogue over it. Tension Co.'s (Spain) remix manages to stretch it to an incredible 7:38, the longest track on the CD. It's now a very cool piece of beatless spacey ambience and no 'ground control to Major Tom' samples.

Overall, I found the 'Filmezza Remixes' to be a much more enjoyable and listenable experience than the 'Filmezza' album. Sometimes, less is more, in both time and treatment. This is the way I like my ambient music. Kudos to the remixers!

Aidan Baker: Songs of Flowers & Skin

 Posted by eskaton   Ambient / Electronica / Ethereal / Dub / Soundscapes / Abstract
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Aug 10 2010
Artist: Aidan Baker (@)
Title: Songs of Flowers & Skin
Format: CD
Label: Beta-lactam Ring Records (@)
Rated: *****
Wow. I'm not really sure how to describe this well, but I'll give it a shot. Some comparisons that come to mind are Godspeed You Black Emperor, old Cure, and 80s shoegazer pop like Slowdive. The promo sheet observes that this 'in ancient times 'Songs of Flowers & Skin' might have done time on 4AD, Creation, or even Sarah.' I agree that this would have been right at home alongside This Mortal Coil and Cocteau Twins. I expected similar work from what I've heard previously from Baker, but this was much more ' for lack of a better word ' traditional pop music. Of course this is not to say that it will be played on any top-40 station in the near future, and it is far more enticing, but still ' the structure is there. The shimmering guitars are still there, as well as the wall of drone that I expected. However, there is even a lyric sheet, which is useful as the vocals are buried in the mix to great effect. These are songs of becoming one, of love that is complicated, of getting into and under someone's skin (and having someone else do the same to you). Everything is put together beautifully. The best descriptor I can come up with to describe this album is 'languid.' It swirls around slowly but maintains a sense of order as leaves swirling around a whirlpool begin to form a kaleidoscopic image. There is a hidden track on the album; the last track, 'Flowerskin,' ends at about 14.30 but then starts up again at about 24 minutes in. As such, the disc weighs in at around 60 minutes, but is actually around 50. As with all Beta-lactam Ring Records releases, this comes beautifully packaged in a cardboard gatefold sleeve. Highly recommended.

Alarmen: Next

 Posted by eskaton   Ambient / Electronica / Ethereal / Dub / Soundscapes / Abstract
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Aug 10 2010
Artist: Alarmen (@)
Title: Next
Format: CD
Label: Audiophob (@)
Rated: *****
I first heard Alarmen on the Audiophob compilation 'Hyperakusis' and found them pleasant. This disc offers up seven tracks simply titles 'Next 1' through 'Next 7.' The promo sheet that came with the disc describes it as 'either claustrophobic scraping dark ambient or . . . quite catchy electronica melodies.' Sounds about right. This disc wanders all over the place, but at least the journey is scenic. For example, 'Next 5' is a short track that sounds like toyboxes and lurching melodies. It's odd, but fun. However, 'Next 1' is a sparse ambient piece with subdued beats and a nice heavy atmosphere. You can sense that something is about to happen and it isn't going to be good. 'Next 3' sounds like it could have easily been done by the Orb. 'Next 7' is a beat driven composition of chirps, bleeps, and bloops that becomes increasingly sparse as the track progresses. Overall, this is one of those discs that is difficult to nail down. That is perhaps the greatest weakness of this disc ' it refuses to stick to any style in particular. I must admit that I was a bit disappointed when the rest of the disc seemed little like the opening track. There is something to be said for artists that refuse easy categorization, but sometimes a sense of coherence can be useful. This disc weighs in at 49.38.

Ahnst Anders: Many Ways

 Posted by Marc Tater (@)   Ambient / Electronica / Ethereal / Dub / Soundscapes / Abstract
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Aug 04 2010
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Artist: Ahnst Anders (@)
Title: Many Ways
Format: CD
Label: Ant-Zen (@)
Distributor: DSBP
Rated: *****
Maybe again a review far away from a near-to-the-release-date destination, but again a goody, which deserves some recognition. AHNST ANDERS is a German Ambient-/Electronica musician, who provides with 'Many Ways' his fourth release after two albums released by Pflichtkauf in 2007 and 2008, and an EP under the Play33-Records label. A release now signed to Ant-Zen may suggest a harsh and rhythmically disturbing outfit, but the crafty sound-environment of AHNST is differently formulated. By focusing to combine natural field recordings like rain, wind, and water, found metallic objects and environmental noises (street sounds, trains) with a dark and creepy Electronica sound outfit, he's able to create his very own world of true Dark Ambient music, which quite seldom turns out that rhythmically supported like under the track 'Phonique' ' which is nevertheless my favorite tune on here. Mostly the tracks offer the expected form of Downtempo and true ambience caused through monotonous phrases ('Something There', 'Hybrid'). 'Many Ways' offers many ways to express his musically vision, and the often quoted difference between natural field recordings to a cold, synthetic sound outfit isn't seemingly that different ' on 'Many Ways' you'll find several examples to unite these contrary elements.

Talbot & Deru: Genus

 Posted by Vito Camarretta (@)   Ambient / Electronica / Ethereal / Dub / Soundscapes / Abstract
Experimental / Avantgarde / Weird & Wired / Glitch / Noise / Field Recording
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Jul 12 2010
Artist: Talbot & Deru (@)
Title: Genus
Format: CD
Label: Dear Oh Dear Records/Ant-Zen (@)
Distributor: Ant-Zen
Rated: *****
This breathtaking electro-acoustic record, coming from a prolific collaboration between the talented British composer Joby Talbot ' member of the creative team that produced the ballet 'Chroma' for the Royal Ballet, whose curriculum twinkles for a plenty of awarded works, such as his first major orchestral opera 'Luminescence', premiered by the BBC Philarmonic, boasting an enviable profile as a film and Tv composer as well ' and the quick wit by Benjamin Wynn aka Deru - an electronic musician and sound designer from Los Angeles, counting many releases labeled by Delikatessen Records, Neo Ouija, Ghostly International, Mush, Merck, whose passion for art and architecture seems to live in concord with his high interest in music technology innovations and his talent in carving marvelous synthetic symphonies -, was intended to act as the score for Wayne McGregor's ballet Genus, based on Charles Darwin's theories and discoveries of evolution, being a really topical matter aroused by media due to the increasing interest in genetic research. I'll skip the subject of Darwinism ' you'll find a huge amount of stuff about this matter -, but it's impossible to pass over the impressive charm of the evoked atmosphere in this release as well as its narrative homogeneity, doing its part side by side the documentary inflection of this opus (there are some excerpts taken from Darwin's notes, among which the scientist's ones describing the exact moment of the discovery of evolution, hieratically beginning with the words 'I think..' forestalling his famous diagram as well as many other quotations), so as the whole atmosphere of Genus seems a musical adaptation of the evolutionary graph, translated into a fable-like musical language.

The first four tracks, grouped into just one title, Transmutation, sound more austere and tenser: the initial crackling fading into slightly delayed modulated voices which seem coming from distant places, before they begin flowing around the sound sphere and finally amalgamating into undulating choirs, is going to carry your imagination to the very first evolutionary phases and smelling the scent of that primordial soup Darwin speaks about. The somewhat-liturgical atmosphere, maybe influenced by the location where it was recorded I the end of July 2007 ' St-Michael's Church at Highgate in London - is partially broken by the mechanical sound-clicks by Deru dropped into the gloomy smoky soup in the second track, partially reminding to my mind that kind of sound sculptures Ryuichi Sakamoto and Alva Noto usually mould together. The Transmutations follow an ascending whirl-like movement with many dramatic and sometimes obscure moments (that's maybe cause their project has sometimes been compared to the one by the esteemed Mexican composer Murcof'¦ even if Talbot & Deru's sound is not so dim) till the erupting togetherness of all sounding elements reach a critical point. After that moment, according to the words by Joby Talbot, the music 'fractures and collapses into the ambient sounds of the storm that raged outside the church where we recording', a magical moment you could breathe in the second (and more idylliac) part of Genus, featuring a touching performance as solo violinist by Louisa Fuller and the choral one by The Duke Quartet ' it seems that at the end of the recording of the suite Genus, flood waters begun cascading through the building's interiors! -.

The final movement, The Great Tree of Life, shows the perfect amalgamation between classical music elements and the buzz of minimal electronics and it definitively depicts in a lovingly magnificent way the final revelation of the English naturalist, i.e. the discovery of the mechanism by which life has covered the surface of the earth 'with its ever-branching and beautiful ramifications'. Available in a deluxe edition (strictly limited to 100 copies) with hardcover sleeve and a 20-page booklet, Genus contains also two intriguing video-clips and a sort of documentary on the matter. Hauntingly sublime workout!

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