Music Reviews

Tapage and Meander: Etched In Salt

 Posted by Steve Mecca   Ambient / Electronica / Ethereal / Dub / Soundscapes / Abstract
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Feb 14 2011
Artist: Tapage and Meander (@)
Title: Etched In Salt
Format: CD
Label: Tympanik Audio (@)
Distributor: Tympanik Audio
Rated: *****
Tapage and Meander is Tijs Ham and Conrad Hoyer (Ophidian) from the Netherlands. They released a couple of EPs previously but this Tympanik release is their first full album together. 'Etched in Salt' is a combination of IDM and soft ambient with glitch and industrial elements. The music ranges from being lightly ethereal to heavily hardcore electronic, often in the same piece! The juxtaposition of the light and heavy elements is perhaps the key to this collaborative effort which sometimes swells with brilliance and at other times falls resoundingly flat. One good example of when things work well together is 'Tolopea,' where cloudy ambient pads float atop a hard techo-ish rhythm. Aphex Twin style synth sequences propel the piece into the stratosphere and back again with palpable intensity. One example of where it doesn't work at all is on 'The Tide' ' where a beautifully angelic synth melody is sabotaged by a heavy snare-accented percussion pattern. The joyous waltzing melody in 6/8 sounds like a carousel band gone awry; as incongruous as setting Satie or Debussy to a marching band. The percussion completely overtakes everything here when present. When it's not, it's a relief.

Things work much better on the less defined 'Hydrostatic Skeleton' where much of the synthwork is more atmospheric and plays well off the percussion. Throughout most of the tracks the synthwork is light and airy while the rhythms are heavier. Another technique that works well is when the rhythm track ceases, to give the synth ambiences some breathing room, and visa versa. There are times when I wish the synths would get heavier to match the percussion, or the percussion would lighten up to be more compatible with the synths. I also think the rhythmic elements could take more time in the build-up, rather than just charging full speed ahead. The breaks are nice but they often seem like a respite from the barrage to take refuge in. One exception from this light/dark dichotomy is 'Oceanographic' where a bold and bassy sequence begins the track and the synthwork takes a more proactive role against the percussion. It is full of twisty, distorted sounds interspersed in the breaks with celestial ambient pads. It's a sophisticated melody that weaves through this complex sonic entanglement too, giving the track a lot more depth than you might realize on an initial listening.

'Osedax' is the closest thing to dark ambient, although not really dark, just a bit mysterious with underlying sustained bass lines, muted cosmic synth pads, and sparser percussion than any other track, and lightly haunting voices that come in towards the end. The transition into 'Abyssal Pain' is so seamless you won't even notice it. The percussion takes a little more active role, but still everything is downplayed. For me, this was one of the better segments on the album.

I liked a lot of elements on 'Etched in Salt' but overall I found it to be an uneven album. It shows the potential Ham and Hoyer have to fuse ambient, IDM and glitch-laced industrial together into a compatible entity, but that's not always such an easy trick.

Concise: Ingénue

 Posted by Vito Camarretta (@)   Synth Pop / Electro Pop / Synth-Electronica
Techno / Trance / Goa / Drum'n'Bass / Jungle / Tribal / Trip-Hop
Ambient / Electronica / Ethereal / Dub / Soundscapes / Abstract
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Feb 10 2011
Artist: Concise
Title: Ingénue
Format: CD
Label: Wycombe Music (@)
Distributor: NovaMedia
Rated: *****
I'll try to be concise:

1) Concise is the musical project born from the concomitant lambing of an out-of-time musical style standing on the borders between crispy techno-ambient, idm and electro-pop from Christian Grass' uterine creativity and the knitting of tidy vocalization and meaningful lyrics of the singer Katrin Segert aka Yrea, both of them assisted by the obstetrical talented drumming of Sebastain Bode (12systems) and incubated as well as lovely nursed by warm electronic patterns by Robert Helms (eqt, umami) and genetically empowered by the precious contribution of Florian Ziller aka Flaque, propelling with his gloomy dilutions the last six tracks of this issue in order to initiate and guide this brand newborn freaky creature during its first steps (...we're not sure about its sex...arguably it's androgynous !) amidt the intricate webs of sensorial and intellective envinronment and embossing the auroral insight of this's really moving the "logical" and musical progression ending with the track "sentience [suffering]", presumably marking the end of naïvety of the creature I imagined, but not the delicate candour of Concise's music.

2) Their music looks like a grandiloquent narration of the creative process, far from being a boring or pretentious makeshift of some wisdom writings, whose airy harmonics, hypnotic movements, soft melodies of the first part, nicely highlighted by crispy beats and dry sound whose cleaving result and rhythmical crackings, more heightned in the second part of the record whereas Flaque reaches steps close drum'n'bass and broken beats, which could evoke the breaking of the pod or better the gradual cleft of the egg-shell while colliding against the smoothed frequencies. In between, Yrea's voice flows and levitate reaching tones which could stand as some convolutions by a sort of new Miss Kittin, an association maybe justified by the fact Concise grew in the brilliant Berlin hatchery...

3) I warmly reccomend to listen it!

BRASIL & THE GALLOWBROTHERS BAND : in the rain, in the noise

 Posted by Andrea Ferraris (@)   Ambient / Electronica / Ethereal / Dub / Soundscapes / Abstract
Experimental / Avantgarde / Weird & Wired / Glitch / Noise / Field Recording
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Feb 03 2011
Title: in the rain, in the noise
Format: CD
Label: Catsun/Monotype
Rated: *****
I'm sorry it took me a while to write this review, but sure in the meanwhile I've had the time to dedicate many listenings to this weird band coming from Poland. Brasil & the Gallowbrothers Band reminded me of some open musicians' collective operating here and there and with their roots stably planted in the seventies. We're not talking about freak-rock or anything close, this music is much closer to ambient/new age music or to movie soundtracks and i dare you to deny it's not easy to imagine a movie during fifty minutes length of this work. This band consists of four multi-instrumentists playing harmonica, flute, voice, guitar, marimba, synth, samples and several other things. The cd is a really freaky experience, the instrumental interventions come in and go out really gently and are well melted with the field recording, despite their psychedelic nature they never become too old-fashioned. After a twenty minutes opening track that grows like an acid trip, the surprise comes from a pop-psychedelic folk tune with vocals and a quite simple melody. The third song brings back to a quasi kraut atmosphere while the fourth episode has a particular song structure and brings the band into a diluted atmosphere. The closing episode reminded me a lot of Faust and by some means I'm tented to say these musicians have a lot in common with them and Can above all for what concern the musical approach to a "whatever feels good" idea. A soft and old-fashioned trip, nice.

Koji Asano: Galaxies

 Posted by Andrea Piran (@)   Ambient / Electronica / Ethereal / Dub / Soundscapes / Abstract
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Feb 01 2011
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Artist: Koji Asano (@)
Title: Galaxies
Format: CD
Label: Solstice
Rated: *****
Despite the fact that this is an artist often taken as an example of an hypertrophic production, it tooks him four years for completing this new release.
The impact for this long, 60 minutes, track is demanding because this track reveals a complex structure with layers of field recordings including: insects, cars, various nature sounds that develops from a quiet soundscapes into almost noise territories and ending with a quiet summer soundscapes shored up with the sound of cars passing by. This work is constructed as a work of musique concrete: birds sings used as loops, small noises used to enhance the sound palette and the soundscape evolving slowly as in a process. It sounds like a meditation on what we could listen if not submerged by all the noise of civilization, the recordings of the cars seems frightening and a prelude to something.
This work develops slowly, demanding an immersive and careful listening. Apart from any zen silence, or any bucholic contemplation on wildlife, this is a composition using field recording that is a journey into how noisy nature can be.
A music landscape for adventurous listeners.

p.s.: this album is available also as free download @

Access to Arasaka: void()

 Posted by Steve Mecca   Ambient / Electronica / Ethereal / Dub / Soundscapes / Abstract
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Jan 31 2011
Artist: Access to Arasaka (@)
Title: void()
Format: CD
Label: Tympanik Audio (@)
Distributor: Tympanik Audio
Rated: *****
Access to Arasaka is the project name of Rob Lioy, based in Rochester, New York. This is Access to Arasaka's second full release on Tympanik after 'Oppidan' in 2009. Taking his name from the 'Cyberpunk 2020'³ off-shoot card game 'Netrunner,' it's no surprise that ATA's William Gibson/'The Matrix' fueled 'void()' album is as cybercore as you can get, and more deserving of that genre label than most it has been ascribed too. What I initially imagined to be another awkward melding of glitch an ambient before I heard the CD has turned out to be something else indeed.

In listening to 'void()' one is struck with just how well everything is done. There is perfect integration and meshing of the rhythmic glitch elements with the synth-sonics. Much of it is very spacious too, and endlessly intriguing. In lot music along these lines that I've been exposed to, especially of late, there is a tendency toward repetition in one form or another leads to ennui. Not so here. Things are constantly morphing, shifting, changing. There is no bombast or pretentious electronic pyrotechnics. Subtle is the encrypted code of this milieu. Over the sixteen tracks on this album there is a rich variety of mood and flavor while remaining faithful to its theme. 'void()' is the dark, cold ambience of cyberspace pierced by the semi-random intrusions of thousands of hackers. To a great degree cinematic, this could easily be the soundtrack of a rather advanced, cerebral computer game. The only human element in the music is the brief vocal sample which surfaces occasionally as a transmission from afar.

I am amazed at how quickly this album passed in time too; a little under an hour in length, it seemed like less than half that. Then again, maybe time is altered in cyberspace. This is one helluva great disc, with a high replay factor, and for those who prefer headphone or earbuds, it will surely blow your mind in a most sublime way. If you're looking for something beyond 'Blade Runner,' beyond 'Akira,' beyond 'The Matrix,' then thrust yourself into (the) 'void()'. It will surely swallow you up. Highly recommended.

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