Music Reviews



NIMH: The Missing Tapes

 Posted by Eugenio Maggi (@)   Ambient / Electronica / Ethereal / Dub / Soundscapes / Abstract
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Oct 21 2007
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Artist: NIMH
Title: The Missing Tapes
Format: CD
Label: Silentes
Rated: *****
When Giuseppe Verticchio/Nimh sent me this new cd along with Hall of Mirrors' debut, warning me that it was something completely different, I thought it would be in the wake of previous recordings of his using ethnic (mainly Thai) instruments and field recordings from his several trips to the Thailandese area. My mind went to the sadly never repressed "Distant Skylines", or to "Entities", with Amir Baghiri (now available on Silentes); but I was only partly right. "The Missing Tapes" is an altogether more conflictual work, more about layering and juxtaposing than merging; which doesn't mean that it is a lazy cut&paste of traditional instruments and electronics (quite the opposite, actually). I just think that this time Giuseppe was interested in creating some discordant, more physical soundscapes, with a few more rough edges than in the past. "Tape 1" begins with a whirlwind of minimal Jackee (a 3-string instrument) plucking, soon devastated by a layer of distortion and fragmented voices. "Tape 2" has more monochrome string picking (this time it's a Tzeebu, a Thai banjo), but the ebbing underlying ambience is given by menacing low-end sinewaves, as if a helicopter was flying low over your head. The electronics take over in "Tape 3", with percussive synth sweeps merging with a filtered mouth-organ drone and acoustic Thon Chatri drumming. Finally, "Track 4" is pure phonography, as explained by the laconic liner notes ("boat, market, temple, village, beach"). As a whole, "The Missing Tapes" was quite a surprise, and a positively jarring album. It has a wild, almost psychedelic ethnic feel which could potentially appeal to anybody going crazy for trendy, and often inferior, neo-kraut/weird folk/psych projects (which obviously doesn't mean that Verticchio intended to create a niche-friendly work), rather than traditional ethno-ambient listeners.

AURAL HOLOGRAMS: Vol. 1

 Posted by Eugenio Maggi (@)   Ambient / Electronica / Ethereal / Dub / Soundscapes / Abstract
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Oct 19 2007
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Artist: AURAL HOLOGRAMS
Title: Vol. 1
Format: CD
Label: Aural Hypnox
Rated: *****
Aural Holograms is the name of a series of works that, at least in this first chapter, are due to Aural Hypnox/Aeoga/Halo Manash/Dolorian mastermind Antti Haapapuro, joined by J. Saivo, J. Hietaniemi and J. Tuomi. As with all AH releases, there seems to be a heavy ritualistic/exoteric background which the liner notes, however detailed, can only hint at. The album features three lengthy (and I mean it - almost 74 minutes in total) tracks of drones created, from what I can guess, with Tibetan bowls and other resonating metal instruments, a reed organ, possibly voices/breath and unidentified sound effects. It is surely the most stripped-down and minimal work in the AH catalogue, without any standard "dark ambient" element, and its legitimate place would be somewhere between Harry Bertoia, Phil Corner's "Metal Meditations" and buddhist ritual music. "Before the Great Stone" still bears some resemblance of recognizable notes, dissolving in a liquid ambience, which leads to the deeper drones of "The Day of Opening the Tomb", where the metallic vibrations reach the organic feel of a gigantic breathing creature. The third and final track, "Beyond the Black Deep", is a huge, slowly uncoiling piece of more than 30 minutes, where the Aural Holograms drones reach their full resonating power - listen to it at medium to high volume and you'll find yourself bathed in a thick, vibrating amniotic well. As usual, words don't do justice to the overall experience - this is a massive album that not everybody will be willing to experience, but that ranks among the most impressive minimal recordings that I've listened to. I am still convinced that the whole Aural Hypnox milieu is not getting the attention and exposure it deserves, but they probably don't care, and they'd be right. As long as they continue releasing these amazing works, it is not that important.

VV.AA.: Idioscapes

 Posted by Eugenio Maggi (@)   Ambient / Electronica / Ethereal / Dub / Soundscapes / Abstract
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Oct 19 2007
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Artist: VV.AA.
Title: Idioscapes
Format: CD
Label: Idiosyncratics
Rated: *****
The Idiosyncratics project was founded in 2003 by Belgian soundmakers Yannick Franck and Phil Maggi, recently joined by Maxime Lê-Hûng, and so far has booked concerts and launched a few quality net-releases (be sure to check out the one by Tomas Korber and Adam Sonderberg). The label debut on cd is this tasty sampler gathering some of the most interesting artists in the vast minimalist/drone field. Let's say that styles vary from noisy layering (KK Null) to crystaline Fahey-esque fingerpicking (Steffen Basho-Junghans), but most of the rest is in between, i.e. droning, and all tracks are nice pieces (no leftover rush here). My personal picks would be Janek Schaefer's drones+turntables mix, Sébastien Roux's glitchy guitarscapes, and Daniel Menche's surprisingly mild percussion-based "Cadence". Charlemagne Palestine surely wins the "weirdest of the lot" prize with "La beauté et la bête", mixing ethereal organ tones with orgasmic female moans and sheep field recordings - as bizarre and upsetting as some of Walter Marchetti's pieces. Worth mentioning are also the owners' projects, Eve and the Sickness (Maggi with Gabriel Marguerie) and Idiosyncrasia (Maggi and Franck themselves), both offering two excellent pieces of dark electroacoustics. Other names involved were Keith Fullerton Whitman, Critikal, Rapoon, Troum and Jazkamer, all up to their standards though offering no real surprises. An excellent compilation, assembled with taste and care - may it be the first release of a long series.

Beequeen: Seltenturn Beesides - 1989-2000

 Posted by Andrea Vercesi (@)   Ambient / Electronica / Ethereal / Dub / Soundscapes / Abstract
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Oct 17 2007
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Artist: Beequeen (@)
Title: Seltenturn Beesides - 1989-2000
Format: 2 x CD (double CD)
Label: plinkity plonk (@)
Rated: *****
Trip peacefully along with this 130-minute collection from the cult duo Beequeen - Freek Kinkelaar (also playing solo under the name Brunnen) and Frans DeWaard (Goem, Kapotte Muziek, Shifts, Quest, Freiband ...). Seltenturn is a double cd collection of remastered oldies unavailable for a long a time : 'Mappa Mundi' (cassette, with bonus tracks), 'Fond' (one sided LP), 'Split' (split LP), 'The Surrough Gate' (10"), 'Vault' (7"), 'White Tusk' (7") and 'Dovidzdane Vanja' (7"). "The Surrough Gate" was released on Ant-Zen (!!!) in 1997 and shows them dealing both with concrete sounds and then in a terrific ambient tracks with conversation pieces on the background. The Mappa Mundi cassette was recorded on 1989 and has the lovely psychotic calmness of Cranioclast's first works, alternating typical droney compositions to more abstract ones - "Land above us" is possibily the best track here, slowly exposing the core of the drone with throbbing
analogue bubbles. "Dovidzdane Vanja", which means "The Death Of Beequeen", was a 7" out in 2000 that is the farewell to their melanchonic soundscapes. (The duo recorded many other dronework s under the name Wander - http://www.beequeen.nl/wander.htm ). This awesome collection is both the best starting point for the new listeners that want to know about the more experimental side of Beequeen and absolutely necessary for completists. Ltd Edition of 300.

HALL OF MIRRORS: Reflections on Black

 Posted by Eugenio Maggi (@)   Ambient / Electronica / Ethereal / Dub / Soundscapes / Abstract
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Oct 13 2007
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Artist: HALL OF MIRRORS
Title: Reflections on Black
Format: CD
Label: Silentes
Rated: *****
After the mammoth Amon/Nimh cd on Eibon, Andrea Marutti and Giuseppe Verticchio are back with a collaborative project, which will feature different guests with every release (this time, they are Giulio Baggi/Nefelheim at synths and guitar and Daniela Gherardi at synth and voice). Since it's impossible not to use "Sator" as a reference, I'll start by saying that "Reflections on Black" obviously shares most of its characteristics, but is also looser, more varied and at times unpredictable. There's a feel of jamming that in the above mentioned work was hidden by the monolithic construction of the pieces. In "Entrance", the deep cavernous drones, dotted by electric bursts, give way to a half-buried string plucking, introducing a more melancholic passage, eventually overshadowed by a brooding distorted wall. "Descent" begins with suffocating wind gusts, but a layering of frequencies, upbeat rhythms and higher tones slowly changes the atmosphere from oppressive to cosmic, leading to a second part occupied by a liquid drone. "Transmutation" and "Recovery" stray even further from plain dark ambient territories, the former featuring warm waves of synths and guitar feedback, the latter with Verticchio lingering on depressive guitar picking, accompanied by some weird crackling noises (treated vocals, maybe?).


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