Music Reviews

Stephen Haunts: After Light

 Posted by eskaton   Ambient / Electronica / Ethereal / Dub / Soundscapes / Abstract
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Jan 14 2011
Artist: Stephen Haunts (@)
Title: After Light
Format: CD
Label: Haunted House Records (@)
Rated: *****
I had not heard of this project, so let's see how the label describes it: 'This project centres on dark ambient soundscapes and noise to create ambient music that is felt as well as heard through the use of noise and sub bass drones.' This label seems mostly as a vehicle for releasing Haunts' work, so I assume they know what they are talking about. Influences cited include horror film sound tracks, Lustmord, Steve Roach, Robert Rich, and Andrew Liles. Now let's see if this disc lives up to the description. After a few listens, I can say that it does live up to its influence pedigree. The best description I can give would be 'noisy dark ambient.' It does seem to have that horror movie vibe to it, but not in the lame 'I'm going to sample screaming and other crap from my favorite movies' sort of way. Rather, this unfolds like a good Lovecraft story, leaving the ominous undercurrents largely to your imagination. Heavy bass drones mix with broken machinery and grinding noises to create a nice soundscape. The only down point is that it becomes, at times, a bit repetitive, as in the final track. That said, this is more ambience than noise, but a good combination of the two. If you like the kind of stuff that Cyclic Law and Malignant have been putting out, this would be up your alley.

DAVID FIRST : Privacy Issue (Droneworks 1996 - 2009)

 Posted by Andrea Ferraris (@)   Ambient / Electronica / Ethereal / Dub / Soundscapes / Abstract
Experimental / Avantgarde / Weird & Wired / Glitch / Noise / Field Recording
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Jan 10 2011
Title: Privacy Issue (Droneworks 1996 - 2009)
Format: CD
Label: XI records (@)
Rated: *****
Another release it took me a while to describe but it's Experimental Media and if you're confidential with the label you know it's heavy experimental music composed and recorded with a deep and hyper intellectual edge. This is the turn of a collection giving exposure to the drone materials of unconventional music composer/guitarist David First. If the cd opens with this monolitic, quasi organ-sounding track based on a theremin sound that last for almost thirsty six minutes, the second episode quietly re-proposes the same narcoleptic idea of the first one, a slowly growing drone takes the scene it's even difficult to believe the sound has been made with an e-bowed guitar. The first cd consistent of small sound variations from the drone-theme even if the third track introduces some more instruments like a dissonant piano kept sound mixed in the magma a violin and a clarinet, the mixing has been made in order to obtain some similar effects. During the listening of the second cd you can't but notice sonic structures are changing it's also true this series of compositions has been made after YTK, for what concerns the audio pro-profile, let's say the five compositions contained in this second cd by some means are a bit more "electronic" but the basic style remains the same. What really surprises me is how this composer has probably intentionally maintained the same magmatic sound throughout the years and that's also testified by the last cd containing the long piece titled "Pipeline Witnedss Apologies to Dennis" where beside David himself with laptop and his many midi and electronic devices are featured several trombones and a keyboard. This track in someway is the real summa of more then ten years of compositions and studies by this unordinary guitar player with a contemporary classic training and a deep interest in electronic music. Given the fact this last track is dedicated to Dennis Sandole, First's guitar/composition teacher I think you can understand why here the musicians probably reaches the his compositional climax and goes deep in his musical research. David First speaks about some references that range from Philip Glass to Alvin Lucier but it also reminded the suggestions created by Giacinto Scelsi. As Nicolas Collins writes in the line notes First's "textures have grown denser and lusher over the years".

KINETIX : final archives

 Posted by Andrea Ferraris (@)   Electronics / EBM / Electronica
Ambient / Electronica / Ethereal / Dub / Soundscapes / Abstract
Experimental / Avantgarde / Weird & Wired / Glitch / Noise / Field Recording
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Jan 10 2011
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Title: final archives
Format: CD
Label: Silentes
Rated: *****
This release has come out almost simultaneously with the split release with Pylone we've reviewed a couple of weeks ago. Differently from the split cd, this work is a collection of old materials came out on cdr and an old net releases and despite the fact not all of the tracks have been composed during the same period of time this slab of plastic offers a homogeneous listening. If you ever had the chance to taste Beccuzzi' solo releases you know we mostly deal with cold electronic post-industrial avant-garde music..are in you in need of some references to file the music here contained? Let's say it's mostly post-cotemporary classic music with references to Thomas Koner, Richard Cartier, Pan Sonic and their related projects in general, Zoviet France, and anything following this route. Final archives offers a full range of high and low frequencies, sharp sounds, raw materials, squared low beats, concrete sounds, electronic versus music concrete, soft-crescendos and sudden peaks of noise and silence, just to show Becuzzi knowledge of electronic/installation music has matured along the way. I can grant you both the minimal compositions and the sound installation materials have that common heavy, post-industrial feel that characterizes the majority of Kinetix solo works but overall this cd is on Silentes and obviously if you know the label I doubt you won't like its sound. To emphasize this last conclusion I should add beside minimalism sometimes Becuzzi has this quasi-isolationist post-ambient feel that many fans of the genre will surely appreciate. Honestly it took me more than one listening to get how much I was into the work, but after several listening I'm convinced this collection of recordings puts together some interesting compositions, maybe one of the best work of Kinetix so far.

Winter North Atlantic: A Memento for Dr. Mori Remixes

 Posted by Steve Mecca   Ambient / Electronica / Ethereal / Dub / Soundscapes / Abstract
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Jan 03 2011
Artist: Winter North Atlantic (@)
Title: A Memento for Dr. Mori Remixes
Format: CD
Label: Boltfish Recordings (@)
Distributor: Boltfish Recordings
Rated: *****
Winter North Atlantic is the music of Ed Carter (of Newcastle, U.K.), self-described as the utilization of live acoustic instruments, analogue synths, stumbling rhythms and dissonant melodies. This is the 4th release from WNA; lots more if you count collaborations and compilations. I am at somewhat of a disadvantage having never heard WNA before, and more importantly, not the original 'A Memento for Dr. Mori' album, so a full comparison with the source from which this remix album was taken is virtually impossible. The best I could come up with is listening to the few tracks form the artist's (original) album on his MySpace site and those pitifully short song samples in iTunes. Still, I got a pretty good (if not complete) perspective of what is going on here.

From what I've heard, the original tracks are more fully realized and solidly structured musical compositions; quite eclectic and hard to pin down genre-wise, but not necessarily ambient. What this remix CD does is bring them into the realm of ambient. There is a somewhat downtempo jazz feel to the original tracks, as far as I can tell, with a bit of folktronica flavoring the mood. The treatment given the tracks here is as if a bunch of hotshot IDM and Gitch Electronica producers had been given full reign to slice and dice as they wished in order to reformat the music to electro-acoustic ambient. First track, 'The Maid," remixed by Fieldhead (Home Assembly, Static Caravan) is virtually unrecognizable from the solidity of the original. All the acoustic guitar-work of the original (which reminds me of Bert Jansch) has been removed, but the little bell tones remain and are amplified in the remix as they play lightly against glitchy string scrapes.

'Cuts and Tears' (Dextro Remix) is a busy little piece with a lot of musical elements sounding as if Brian Eno, Laraaji, Dan Lanois and Michael Brook got together to record 'Music For Films IV'. 'Occam's Razor' is given a very subtle ambient remix treatment by The Gentleman Losers. I especially like the tremolous electric guitar chords that give this piece a lot of atmosphere. Although there is rhythm, it is downplayed giving the piece a free-flowing, laconic mood. 'Fallen Fruit' is only a scant 43 seconds of female vocal and electronic atmospherics on the original, and here it is expanded to 3:36 by the remixing of Paul Sleaze. 'He gets a lot of mileage out of the phrase, 'The apple tree'¦it fell from your window'¦' twisting around the words over a glitchy beat, interspersed with organ bits and other electronics. It's a tasty stew of mildly funky electronica and stands quite nicely on its own.

'Bokor,' remixed by Damien Shingleton sounded like Middle Eastern flavored nu-jazz in the original, and Shingleton retains a bit of the flavor but glitches up the beat and adds a wobbly heavy sub-bass. This was one of my least favorite tracks on the album. From what I can tell, 'The Flute Player' seemed to have a lot of acoustic guitar in the original, but it is not present on Mint's Loner Remix. It does have a very mysterious meditative Eastern sound, enhanced with effective background strings and crisp, simple beat work. The original 'Fall of Stone' (one other full track I was able to hear of the original on the artist's MySpace site) sounded like a quirky New Age Jazz guitar piece for the most part. Cheju's Remix of it removes the guitar and the drums and replaces the melody with xylo-glock-vibe synth and more muted percussion. The overall effect is somewhere between Pentangle (sans vocals) and something delicately Japanese. Bracken's Remix of 'Kinay 816' may just be the most interesting thing on the entire album. Spacey voices replace the fuzzy electric piano of the original, and the well-placed bass, brushed drums and ambient aural vibe makes this a pleasurable trip that could have gone on a lot longer.

The brief clip of the original of 'Guidonian Hand,' although predominantly acoustic guitar, seemed a bit heavy-handed to me. Animat's Can of Worms Remix eliminates any sign of heavy-handedness and turns the piece into a gorgeous ambient chill journey, doubling its length. Good music for the hookah bar. John Ashton's Remix of 'Opportunity Mist' may just be the strangest thing on the album. It is odd ambience to be sure. If John Cale were to do an ambient album, it might sound something like this track. The slow, repetitive harmonium riff with the drum machine that comes towards the end is something else. Makes me think of a march of dead pirates. The little clip I heard of the original of 'Barrel Organ' had a lively Circus-like flavor. The Declining Winter Remix gives it a bit more of a demented carnival atmosphere removing the vocal entirely. Perfect.

You can appreciate 'A Memento for Dr. Mori Remixes' all on its own without having the slightest idea of what the original sounds like. In fact, the Remixes are more like what a good segment of Chain D.L.K. listeners enjoy; ambience music with eclectic elements. A surprisingly good album, and recommended.

Undermathic: 10:10PM

 Posted by Steve Mecca   Ambient / Electronica / Ethereal / Dub / Soundscapes / Abstract
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Jan 01 2011
Artist: Undermathic (@)
Title: 10:10PM
Format: CD
Label: Tympanik Audio (@)
Distributor: Tympanik Audio
Rated: *****
It seems like the Tympanik label has gone on a releasing spree, as I have many more CDs from to review this time around than any other label. One thing you can be sure of, whatever they release is going to be interesting in some way or another, and such is the case with Polish composer Maciej Paszkiewicz's Undermathic project. This is expansive cinematic ambient electronic/orchestral music with dense rhythms and a broad sound palette. Right from the opening track, 'Big City Nights,' you know you're in for a treat. There is quite a bit going on in its dense layering, that it make take a few listenings to fully grasp the subtleties. It is dark, modern noirish and delicious, foreshadowing what's to come.

There is a futuristic Blade Runner-esque ambience running through some of the tracks'¦an urban Sci-Fi environment without many of the clichés you might expect. As Vangelis realized with his Blade Runner score, the sound is huge and sprawling, yet intimate. There is so much attention to detail that one can't but help marvel at the composer's compositional and studio skills. The rhythms are inventive, compelling and well-used; the melodic content intricate and never overly repetitive; the instrumentation elaborate but never cluttered. It is dramatic to the max, and captivates your attention even when it seems as though there is little going on.

The sequencing, where used, is marvelous. You barely even notice that parts are sequenced, they so natural and blended within the structure of the tracks. The sonic palette of Undermathic is unbelievable too. Obviously a lot of money was invested in sound software, and it shows. This is beyond orchestral; this is something else! Composers like Steve Roach, Jean-Michel Jarre, and Hans Zimmer could learn a thing or two from Undermathic. No theme is beaten to death or wears out its welcome on '10:10PM' Everything is continually evolving and transforming. The integration and the flow from one piece to the next is virtually seamless. It's dramatic and emotionally stirring, and even romantic in places. Game designers and film producers would do well to seek out Undermathic as the music so conducive to visual enhancement and story.

I am in awe of this album, impressed all over again with every listening. I hear no flaws, and there is not one iota I would change or do differently. This is THE album of 2010. You would really be doing yourself a disservice not to own it.

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