Music Reviews

Ezekiel Honig: Object Music EP

 Posted by Stuart Bruce (@)   Techno / Trance / Goa / Drum'n'Bass / Jungle / Tribal / Trip-Hop
Ambient / Electronica / Ethereal / Dub / Soundscapes / Abstract
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Nov 27 2019
Artist: Ezekiel Honig
Title: Object Music EP
Format: Download Only (MP3 + Lossless)
Label: Anticipate Recordings
“Object Music” is a collection of four short numbered pieces where field recordings and found sounds, mostly small and homely and everyday-sounding, have been laid up and looped to form organic breakbeat rhythms and groove patterns that feel introspective and trip-hoppy in nature.

Parts 1 and 2 are the most upbeat and brightest, and they knit together. Part 1 particularly feels like the dancing of a beached wooden rowing boat, while Part 2 is more workmanlike, feeling like a hybrid of light craft industry and playful fun.

In part 3, a simple on-the-beat chord sequence adds a straightforward expression of melancholy that brings a certain sadness to the nostalgia. Part 4 feels muffled and womb-like, the rhythm becoming distant, the closer bubbling and wooden squeaking sounds feeling confusing yet warm.

At only fourteen minutes long it’s a nicely understated little EP which keeps its ambition simple but packs in quite a lot of charm. It’s a solid release from an established electro-acoustic composer. Apparently it also forms the sonic part of an audiovisual presentation as well, but I’m commenting only on the audio here.

Oto Hiax: Two

 Posted by Stuart Bruce (@)   Ambient / Electronica / Ethereal / Dub / Soundscapes / Abstract
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Nov 25 2019
Artist: Oto Hiax
Title: Two
Format: 12" vinyl + Download
Label: Editions Mego
Mark Clifford and Scott Gordon’s latest offering introduces itself as audio design. It’s a fascinating collection of experiments in layering up acoustic and found sound sources and post-producing and twisting them in a variety of fashions to generate a diverse pack of six compact soundscapes that are mostly attention-grabbing rather than ambient.

Oddly didgeridoo-like noises in opener “Silt” initially suggest a sound that will be more organic and ethnic than what follows, before “Dapple” cuts through with an almost post-dubstep mid-frequency buzzsaw sound that drills into your head, but carefully. “Overcurve” also transplants rave-like noises into bizarre new settings, this time fuelled by relentless loops and a sense of urgency.

The second half settles somewhat. Skittish glitchy sounds play against abruptly stop-starting calm melodic pads in “Scutter”, a meaty ten-minute work that works its way towards the brighter sunrise of “Strain”.

At times this work feels more like a showreel from a duo offering their services for game or soundtrack work, rather than a fully fledged and coherent collection- but that’s my only criticism of what is otherwise an exemplary pack of cutting-edge audio design work. If I were making a dark, sinister and unpredictable horror film, I’d certainly be calling them up.

Okada: Life Is But An Empty Dream

 Posted by Ibrahim Khider (@)   Ambient / Electronica / Ethereal / Dub / Soundscapes / Abstract
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Nov 21 2019
Artist: Okada
Title: Life Is But An Empty Dream
Format: CD + Download
Label: n5MD (@)
Life Is But An Empty Dream here and not in the Zen sense either, Okada aka Greg Pappas’, EP/album exudes ambient atmosphere on some parts and downtempo on others. A cheerfully titled four track EP, or album, as the tracks are pretty long, up to twenty minutes each, with equally sunny track titles aimed to brighten your overcast days. Opening with “Fucked Up Inside” coupled with the album cover photo, both belong on a motivational poster. The song itself is comprised of a dirge like piano with slabs of distant distortion, cymbals shimmer into thunderclaps and sparse drums punctuate while a chorus of desolate vocals hover like ghosts of children over a genocide site – all culminate towards crescendo, then dissolve into a sparse piano and string arrangements. Though somewhat discordant, there is a slight emotional uplift towards the end that suggests release from Earthly despair. Next track, “The Right To Destroy Myself” returns with ambient atmospheric chorus and more sparse piano and slowed- down processed crying. Midway, the melody picks up to beats and rhythmically panned synth tones that accompany the atmospheric crying that reminds of the stylings of BVDUB, but in the first quarter, dissipates into sparse piano, ghostly atmospherics. The productively titled, “Killing Myself For Your Love” brings back the mournful chorus, this time accentuated with well-crafted beat programming that too dissolves two thirds of the way through and makes a nice cinematic ambient bit—reaffirming the pain and ‘ultimate release’ motif. Final track, “I Still Wake Up...” is actually beautiful and probably the more optimistic one-- slightly washed out like a faded photograph exposed to much sunlight, comprised of layers set to downtempo beats and gentle guitar. For all the bleak titles, the final track feels somehow sunnier, Okada affirms that every silver lining has a dark beloved cloud. Dramatic, angsty, deeply sad ambient with very brief sunny breaks with occasional demonstrations of crafty beat science. Listen, listen, listen to Okada’s album hardcopy or digital stream, merrily, merrily, merrily, merrily, life is but an empty dream...

Still Und Dunkel: Abandoned

 Posted by Stuart Bruce (@)   Techno / Trance / Goa / Drum'n'Bass / Jungle / Tribal / Trip-Hop
Ambient / Electronica / Ethereal / Dub / Soundscapes / Abstract
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Nov 21 2019
Artist: Still Und Dunkel
Title: Abandoned
Format: 2 x 12" vinyl
Label: Hallow Ground
There’s a persistent and broad human fascination with abandoned human-made spaces, presumably tying in psychologically with the appeal of post-apocalyptic stories. I don’t understand why it’s appealing but I’m certainly one of many who are drawn to and fascinated by these images and ideas of failure and decay. Unsurprisingly then it’s a concept that I’ve heard expressed in experimental music several times now. Most typically it’s ripe conceptual material for pure ambient work, or for drone soundscaping.

This Still Und Dunkel release takes an approach that’s slightly different, but not excessively so. Certainly it’s long dark and atmospheric, but there’s a strong cinematic tension and electronic pulsing that crosses drone with the darkest aspects of techno. There’s found sound from abandoned places included in the recipe, but never really foregrounded. It’s slow and deeply moody, but there’s a latent sense of energy underneath it that’s somewhat at odds with the ambient emptiness normally used to portray abandonment in sound.

Opening piece “Lure” is an epic 18 minute work that initially brings bass rumbling and extra tense sounds before gradually settling, of sorts, into a slower-breathing series of dark washes. This sets a tone which is generally maintained throughout the rest of the lengthy work. “Seagull Night” takes the waves idea and brings a crisp, non-abrasive, lo-fi distortion aspect to it, that gradually gets drawn out, time-stretched and stuttered into woodpecker-like rhythms that transform somehow into gunfire- a fascinating experimental success, and a highlight. For pure atmospherics, other notable tracks include “Colossus”, and the strange sense of journeying, possibly commuting, that fills final track “Transient”.

“Hallway”, with its steady ticking, relentless two-note bass pattern and impenetrable spoken-word noise wall is one of the most industrial moments, a near-gothic ear-scrub that’s refreshing and immersive- really strong work, albeit not in any sense evocative of abandonment at all in my opinion. It plays nicely against tracks like “Flicker” which take a similar sonic palette in a more abstract direction.

It might not be as barren or empty as the concept may suggest, but if dark electronic atmospherics are welcome, then take a deep dive into this- it’s certainly worth it. Not every track is a winner- for example “Rise” feels a bit over-familiar, and 78 minutes makes this a release that perhaps overstays its welcome just a little, but there’s plenty to enjoy here, especially with your eyes closed and your ears open.

Seamus Cater & Kai Fagaschinski: Secrets

 Posted by Stuart Bruce (@)   Ambient / Electronica / Ethereal / Dub / Soundscapes / Abstract
Experimental / Avantgarde / Weird & Wired / Glitch / Noise / Field Recording
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Nov 18 2019
Artist: Seamus Cater & Kai Fagaschinski
Title: Secrets
Format: 12" vinyl + Download
Label: self-released
This combination of Seamus Cater’s voice, concertina, Rhodes and harmonica with Kai Fagaschinski’s clarinet was composed over several years, and took over a year to record. Yet it’s got such a consistency of musical purpose that it knits together beautifully as a single, near-contiguous work- 36 minutes of extremely long, solitary, drawn-out instrumental notes, commonly only one or two at a time, exploring the purity and tone of each in thoughtful detail.

It’s sombre and sorrowful, with the supreme expressive capabilities of the clarinet really brought to the fore, and with Cater’s gently husky voice quite masterfully understated. For the most part it’s supremely slow- one of those releases where you might count the beats not by the minute but by the hour.

It’s so loose and open that when a three-note bass pattern appears towards the end of “Blackout” it feels almost chaotic compared to what preceded it. “The Philosopher” almost approaches song-like territory, complete with melodic pattern and chord change, but then throws an abrasive spanner in the works around the 4:30 mark with a frankly bizarre discordant squealing that is the album’s closest flirtation with high drama.

“The Dot Before The I” is notable is something of an accessible interlude piece, with gentle Rhodes tapping and spoken word instructions that give a much lighter tone than the surrounding tracks, resulting in something that sounds almost like a parody of old children’s TV art programmes.

It feels quite theatrical at times, but as though intended to soundtrack a Beckett-like stageplay or arthouse film. As such you have to be suitably mentally positioned to listen to it, otherwise it is likely to hit you at the wrong angle. But if you’re already calm, introspective, and if your heart rate is low, try bathing yourself in this emotive and sonically luxuriant work.

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