Music Reviews



FRACTIONAL : Still Life

 Posted by Maurizio Pustianaz (@)   Techno / Trance / Goa / Drum'n'Bass / Jungle / Tribal / Trip-Hop
Ambient / Electronica / Ethereal / Dub / Soundscapes / Abstract
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Jun 14 2009
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Artist: FRACTIONAL (@)
Title: Still Life
Format: 10"
Label: The Centrifuge (@)
Rated: *****
Released one year after their latest album titled "Come mierda", Fractional are back with a new 10" E.P. (which is also downloadable as free mp3s from the label's website) titled STILL LIFE? The release contains four new tracks titled "Acomba", "Tasw", "Lula" and "Aeu". These tracks present a slight different side of Fractional sound as they are less industrial and "neurotic" compared to the album ones but nonetheless dub and breakbeat are always two important influences (only "Aeu" is the one that remember the album's tracks because of the fast breakbeat rhythms). On the new tracks it's like if Pierre Remy succeeded into balancing the different elements without being too aggressive and the result is a great blend of cinematic sounds/atmospheres with more melodies (see the opening "Acomba" where vocal samples duet with keyboards while bouncing rhythms create a multi layered web) and ideas. Sounding also more tribal than before Fractional new tunes will convince you immediately at the first listening!

VIOLET: Violet Ray Gas and the Playback Singers

 Posted by Eugenio Maggi (@)   Ambient / Electronica / Ethereal / Dub / Soundscapes / Abstract
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Jun 08 2009
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Artist: VIOLET
Title: Violet Ray Gas and the Playback Singers
Format: CD
Label: Sentient Recognition Archive/Zeromoon
Rated: *****
If you're remotely familiar with the US post-industrial underground spawning from cassette culture and later cdr labels, the name of Jeff Surak (Watergate Tapes, New Carrollton, V., Zeromoon label) will certainly not sound new. After years of low-run editions, this looks like a major release for his solo project Violet, and comes in a nice 6-panel digipack, with a layout that incidentally reminded me of Pere Ubu, or some obscure tape release. B/w pictures, stark xerox contrast, a depressing urban landscape, get it? The deep underwater drones of "Marionetki", swept away in the very last minutes by roaring distorted tones, surely bear traces of Surak's background, the seminal - if not always acknowledged - (non-)style of US post-industrial (Illusion of Safety, early O'Rourke, the Sound of Pig imprint etc.). But "Violet Ray Gas..." is generally a brighter, if moody and thoughtful, experience, where the dusty loops of old vinyls half-bury distant melodies ("Plague Numbers", "Snakehead Lapping"). Not far from Stars of the Lid, the last - and stronger - tracks are variations on string-based slit wrist melancholia: the bowing in "Violet Ray Gas", still recognizable and just streaked with electronic treatments, is transfigured in a lush droning mass in "Interior Ghosts".

GENERIC: Torture

 Posted by Eugenio Maggi (@)   Ambient / Electronica / Ethereal / Dub / Soundscapes / Abstract
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Jun 08 2009
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Artist: GENERIC
Title: Torture
Format: CD
Label: Fractured Spaces Records
Rated: *****
You must admit that choosing "Generic" as a monicker and titling your debut cd "Torture" is a bit risky, but UK artist Adam Sykes is no absolute beginner either, given he ran the Iris Light label from 19967 to 2007. The six untiled parts forming the album are a sort of time warp to '90's Cold Meat-influenced industrial ambient. "Torture" is entirely loop-based, generally mixing some repeated metal clanking or scraping with a bass-end drone, and not much else (some Gregorian chant here and there, yep). It's like Aube at its most minimal jamming with the aesthetics of, say, Archon Satani or Stratvm Terror. The sound quality is quite muddy and lo-fi, as if this was recorded in some dank cell, and considering the cd was mastered by Osman Arabi I assume it is a deliberate choice. While surely being no masterpiece, "Torture" has a droning quality I like and shows a faithful devotion to a totally untrendy style (unlike much revamped "old school industrial") which oddly makes this sound like a relic.

THE HUMAN VOICE: Exit Lines

 Posted by Eugenio Maggi (@)   Ambient / Electronica / Ethereal / Dub / Soundscapes / Abstract
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Jun 08 2009
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Artist: THE HUMAN VOICE
Title: Exit Lines
Format: CD
Label: Eibon
Rated: *****
The Human Voice is Haerleif Langas from Norway, best known for his activity as Northaunt. The laconic liner notes state that this is "a document of days and nights of inner turmoil". If you manage to ignore the jarring filtered vocals that are used on a number of tracks, "Exit Lines" is a solid album of sober piano/keyboards-driven ambient music in the vein of Yellow6, late Pan American or good old Eno ("Mausoleum", "The Ghost of Our Love"). Melancholy is the key word - a quietly blue feel which only occasionally becomes despondent ("Det Skjer, Ditt Ansikt Vendes Mot Morket").

MCKMN: Orphan Ristophe

 Posted by Steve Mecca   Ambient / Electronica / Ethereal / Dub / Soundscapes / Abstract
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May 29 2009
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Artist: MCKMN (@)
Title: Orphan Ristophe
Format: CD
Label: Mockmoon Records (@)
Distributor: CD Baby
Rated: *****
Right off the bat, I found this project intriguing. In fact, it was the first CD I opened and played when I received the latest batch to review. My first impressions were mostly positive, but I decided not to rush into anything and give it some time, so I put it on the back burner for a bit. Whether the project is called MCKMN, or Mockmoon I guess doesn’t make too much of a difference. It’s the music of Dutch artist Terence Koot and I think it’s his first effort. For some reason stuff I’ve heard coming out of the Netherlands lately has been pretty interesting, and maybe there is a musical renaissance brewing in the land of tulips, van Gogh and good weed.

My initial impression of MCKMN’s "Orphan Ritophe" was that it has a progressive bent, and my impression didn’t change after a few listenings. It is an instrumental album with a cinematic flavor. Koot constructs tracks that could easily be used in movie scores or computer games. I was most impressed with the flow of the pieces, the way they moved naturally with a certain continuity. The layering is full and rich without being cluttered, engaging without being overwhelming, dramatic where it needs to be, and laid back when appropriate. These are all the marks of a talented composer who has a good handle on his craft. While many who attempt this style of music often draw too much from the Delerium school of composition, MCKMN’s influences seem to be more drawn from film composers like Hans Zimmer, Graeme Revell, Howard Shore, Paul Haslinger, Marco Beltrami, etc. I’m not say he’s in a league with those guys yet, but it seems to be where MCKMN is heading.

I like the moods displayed on "Orphan Ritophe". They’re a bit on the dark side without coming across as morbid, dreary, depressing or apocalyptic. The percussion programming is great, even if the mix hasn’t been perfected yet. The track "Ganymede" conveys a lot of motion; perhaps a hunt, or flying over some exotic terrain in a helicopter while riders on horseback below chase their quarry. The title track which follows utilizes electric guitar to build atmosphere, and morphs into almost a koto-like sound to give an oriental flavor. When the soaring lead kicks in, you just get goosebumps. Koot’s tempered use of strings also seems to be an indication that he has a movie in his mind when he composed these tracks. "The Great White Open" uses a haunting vocal loop to set its mood then morphs into a jazzy horn thing followed by a sparse guitar melody, all underscored by driving percussion. For the most part, the tracks are episodic; something you will find in most film scores, but there is also a cohesivness and consistency on this album that you won’t find in a lot of film scores owing to the nature of the variety of scenes that must be composed for.

Without a doubt, this is one of the most impressive new releases I have heard in a long time. I’m an electronic musician, but I doubt I could come up with anything this good even of I threw another 10k into studio gear and devoted 90% of my time to making music. "Orphan Ritophe" is really "The Bomb" and the only improvement that might be able to be made on it is in the production department. Some elements didn’t sound as bright or defined as I would have liked. But hey, this guy is only 26 years old, and this effort is head and shoulders above most of the stuff I get to review. There is a depth and maturity here that takes many musician/composers a decade or more to reach. Mark my words, if Mr. Koot gets the right breaks, you’re going to hear his music on some game, or as the soundtrack to some movie in the not too distant future. In the meantime, I’d recommend this album as a STRONG BUY, because it’s that damn good.


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