Music Reviews

Jess Rowland: The Shape of Poison

 Posted by eskaton   Ambient / Electronica / Ethereal / Dub / Soundscapes / Abstract
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Mar 17 2008
Artist: Jess Rowland (@)
Title: The Shape of Poison
Format: CD
Label: Edgetone Records (@)
Rated: *****
Here’s how the press release describes the disc: "Shape of Poison, for solo piano performance and electronics, mixes unique live electro-acoustic experimentation with cut-up gamelan, crunched-out Casio tones, and other uncharted sonic landscapes." OK - sounds promising. Unfortunately this disc is pretty heavy on the piano and very light on the experimentation. It’s not bad, but it’s not what I was expecting. If I had to compare it to anything, I would say it’s sort of like Nature and Organisation’s "Death in a Snow Leopard Winter" or perhaps Feu Follet & Miina Virtanen’s "The Icicle Lectures Vol. 1" without the drones. Let’s look at the individual tracks. "The Waves Sound Sometimes Close and Sometimes Far Away": This is pretty much straight piano improvisation. It’s nice, but it doesn’t really seem to go anywhere. "A Dragonfly Vainly Tries to Settle onto a Leaf": Piano with some noisy elements, but not terribly chaotic. "Kotekan Seniman Alam/Waves Fade into the Distance": This twenty minute track is by far the standout on this disc. It’s a lot more engaging, mixing slow but heavy piano with fast paced gamelan. It almost sounds like two separate tracks, with a long pause about six minutes in. The track later goes back to straight piano for the most part, but I really wish that the rest of the disc was more like this track. Overall, the disc is a pleasant listen, but not terribly demanding. This seems to just flirt with the idea of experimental music. This disc weighs in at 44 minutes.

Accomplice Affair: Jezioro wspomnień

 Posted by eskaton   Ambient / Electronica / Ethereal / Dub / Soundscapes / Abstract
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Mar 17 2008
Artist: Accomplice Affair (@)
Title: Jezioro wspomnień
Format: CD
Label: My Hands Music
Rated: *****
I had not previously heard of this Polish act. This is generally decent synth based ambient music with a bit of guitar thrown in for good measure. The music is soothing and peaceful. It doesn’t really have any of the noisy or dissonant elements that one would expect from dark ambient. Maybe it’s a stretch, but the only comparison that I could come up with is Orb. There are some exceptions to the formula though. For example, "Na szczycie olbrzymiej góry" (try saying that 5 times quickly) brings in some processed voices and some lightly distorted guitar. Even so, it doesn’t really seem to go anywhere. Overall, it’s a pleasant listen but doesn’t really break any new ground. This disc weighs in at 44 minutes.
Artist: VV.AA. (@)
Title: Cyclic defrost
Format: CD
Label: Extreme (@)
Rated: *****
Extreme records gives a morsel for every artist of its present roster in this free sampler you can download here: (, it's a great idea since you can taste the heterogeneity of their catalogue that goes from electronic music to free jazz, from power-noise to quasi ambient music. As you can guess by reading the interview featured on this site a label sampler in the case of Extreme, Tzadik or Ipecac is really useful for the simple fact while having their own identity they follow blindly the idea of open-mindedness regardless of genre compartimentation. You think I'm exaggerating? The sampler opens with a boombastic masterpiece of Terminal Sound System (who's last cd was probably one of the best electronic release I've heard the last year), and remains electronic-music oriented with Mr Geoffrey and JD Franzke then you have this sort of post "Elliott Sharp-Carbon Orchestra" meets David Shea in gangster salsa of Ether that's been a real surprise. You have a bunch of avant-jazzists that go from my personal favorite Robert Vincs to uncompromissory "soloist" Scott Tinkler, from jazz/contemporary/avant pianist Mark Hannaford to the Antripoden Collective who's free jazz essence is more than explicit. You have this bunch of new artists that recently joined the label like visionary Claudio Parodi that this time, beside using electronics plays his own turkish-clarinet, post-ambiental, post-Eno elegant Luca Formentini and Dario Buccino here frozen with a weird harsh-noise vs ambient track (my expectations for the forthcoming dvd of this guy are really high since from what I've read his work should be really unconventional). In this free sampler I've found a couple of great surprises since it's the first time I happen to hear their music: Maju coming from Japan plays a top notch and classy japenese-ambient-electronics you can expect to be realized on labels like Spekk or Flop so if you're into Yoshihiro Hanno, Minamo, Fourcolors or in the likes put their name in your agendas. The other surprise arrives from the collaboration between John Rodgers and Ken Edie that I could describe as a contemporary cocktail of unordinary classic violin vs a concrete performing the reminded me of mighty Michel Chion.

M. B. + E. D. A.: Regolelettroniche

 Posted by Eugenio Maggi (@)   Ambient / Electronica / Ethereal / Dub / Soundscapes / Abstract
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Mar 15 2008
Artist: M. B. + E. D. A.
Title: Regolelettroniche
Format: CD
Label: Baskaru
Rated: *****
I found it surprising, at first, to see a record by Maurizio Bianchi on a label like Baskaru, usually hosting softer sounds, but after listening this five-track collaboration (recorded over 2004-2006) with Emanuela De Angelis (Mou, Lips!, guest for Tu M' etc.) the choice definitely makes sense. "Regolelettroniche" is a quiet, melancholic work which is entirely loops based, be it with Bianchi's grating tape action, be it with cleaner, more ethereal digital treatments (which I presume are due to De Angelis). While this time it's hard to tell where the loops come from (some treated strings or guitars may be there), the experiment is quite close, as an approach to cyclic repetition, to Bianchi's "Cycles" or some atmospheres of "a M. B. Ienh Tale". It is very static music, which could even get on your nerves, but this can be said of any loop-based composition, including Basinski's acclaimed "Disintegration Loops", which I've found not that far from these pieces. Unsurprisingly for my personal tastes, I think that the massive, 20+ minute second track, "Cosmic Norms", is also the most successful one: its length guarantees that you wrap yourself in its sounds as in a warm blanket. A perfect disc to lull you in lonely afternoons.
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Artist: VV.AA.
Title: ...Where Tattered Clouds Are Stranding
Format: 2 x CD (double CD)
Label: The Eastern Front (@)
Rated: *****
WHERE TATTERED CLOUDS ARE STRANDING is a compilation dedicated to the art of Icelandic sculptor and painter Einar Jonsson (1874-1954). Most of the tracks of the two CDs are exclusive to this release and have been composed taking inspiration from the work of Einar Jonsson. The compilation is divided into two sections/CDs titled respectively "Grief" and "Birth of psyche". The first one see the participation of fourteen projects of the neo-folk/martial international scene: Belborn, Storm Of Capricorn, Westwind, Rukkanor, H.E.R.R./Von Thronsthl, Horologium, Weihan, Cold Fusion, Larrnakh, Zebaoth, Agnivolok, Kammer Sieben, Aeldaborn and Cawatana. I listened to this CD a couple of times and I can assure you that this is a really good album and I'm sure that you'll find a lot of tracks you'll love (like Rukkanor's "Epitaph". On this on Robert is going on with the re-definition of the project's sound after detaching from the martial genre, to find its own "world" made of poetic intuitions and diversification of sounds). The second CD is dedicated to the dark ambient/psych industrial oriented bands with the participation of Rose Rovine E Amanti, Wach, Objekt4, Hoarfrost, Gandolfs Gedanken, Shining Vril, Echo West, Gregorio Bardini, Artefactum, Kadaver, Bisclaveret, Sitra Ahra and Simulacra. On this CD I found really good tracks and to tell the truth also some others which sounded a little like fillers to me but probably I've been influenced by the quality of the first one. Anyway, the overall judgment is very good. Here's the complete track-list:
1-01 Belborn "Der Morgen" (4:45)
1-02 Cold Fusion "May Be Another Way" (3:28)
1-03 Storm Of Capricorn "Come From Far And Wide" (7:08)
1-04 Larrnakh "Island On Island" (2:35)
1-05 Westwind "Grief" (5:00)
1-06 Weihan "Utlagar" (3:29)
1-07 Zebaoth"Drought Now" (4:54)
1-08 Cawatana "Have No Option (This Is A Dream)" (4:32)
1-09 H.E.R.R./Von Thronstahl"Liberating Spirit" (4:52)
1-10 Aeldaborn "Morning" (7:08)
1-11 Kammer Sieben "Ihr" (5:03)
1-12 Horologium "Fate" (5:13)
1-13 Agnivolok "Sculptor" (7:48)
1-14 Rukkanor "Epitaph" (3:38)
2-01 Artefactum "Symbolism" (6:23)
2-02 Hoarfrost "Insanus" (5:34)
2-03 Kadaver/Refuse To Die "Funerals Of Tomorrow" (4:08)
2-04 Rose Rovine E Amanti "Violini E Rose" (4:22)
2-05 Wach "March Of The Sleepless" (5:30)
2-06 Simulacra "The Wave Of The Ages" (6:09)
2-07 Gandolfs Gedanken "Gewissensbisse" (2:47)
2-08 Shining Vril "Figure I" (3:46)
2-09 Gregorio Bardini "Cobra" (4:30)
2-10 Gandolfs Gedanken "Funkenflug" (5:16)
2-11 Sitra Ahra "The Scorching Breath" (5:51)
2-12 Echo West "Bregräbnis/Sunrising Afterwards" (3:11)
2-13 Bisclaveret "Engill Ljssins" (5:37)
2-14 Objekt4 "Alda Aldanna" (12:00)

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