Music Reviews



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Artist: TONIKOM (@)
Title: Epoch
Format: CD
Label: Hymen Records (@)
Distributor: ant-zen
Rated: *****
First off, the extravagant cover art design by SALT of some icy landscapes impresses extremely and can’t be once again praised enough – that’s maybe another secret behind the success story of ant-zen and/or Hymen Records: the art mostly fits with the musically content and quality of the releases. The mysterious female-leaded project TONIKOM isn’t an exception. Once started under the moniker TONIK the change of the band name into TONIKOM happened in 2K6. After the 2 self-released CDR’s " Tonikom Killed Tonik" and "Ocular Pitch", this "Epoch" marks the first release of this act on Hymen Records. And I must admit that I’ve seldom heard a release with such a huge amount of diversity, which grips in several genres to offer the elements out of several worlds. TONIKOM can be generally sorted in into the styles of IDM and Electronica, while the beats and rhythm patterns take mostly influences out of styles like D’n’B and Breakbeat ("Salvo Infinitum" or "Dark River" work well as references). But that wasn’t it at all. Furthermore styles with Ambient, Trance, Techno or Industrial get touched and extracted to built a very own and unforeseeable sound design (excellent: "Swollen" and "Nightwalk") which sounds new, innovative and intelligent. This music isn’t designed to get consumed as a "Wal-Mart-background-sound", it needs fully attention, the best under a good pair of headphones. If this will be the "truly epoch-making release", which the info sheet likes to suggest, well, that depends on you. TONIKOM has done the best and improved on all thinkable terms of production, so the quality of this release is unquestionable.
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Artist: TENHORNEDBEAST
Title: The Sacred Truth
Format: CD
Label: Cold Spring (@)
Distributor: Audioglobe
Rated: *****
From the depth of the most nightmarish Old and New Testament vision (the Ten Horned Beast is named before "Revelation"17:3/13:1 and "Daniel" 7:7) comes the inspiration for the TenHornedBeast, project of Christopher Walton of Endura fame. THE SACRED TRUTH is the first proper CD album of the project (Christopher released previously a couple of CDr privately and through NOTHingness REcords) and contains five magmatic drones suites. If you were used to the electronic/ambient/experimental sound of the Endura, try to put it aside as TenHornedBeast is based on a different sound/approach. At first I was surprised to read a review of this CD by Julian Cope where he compared this album to the kraut rock sound he loves so much but if you think about records like Amon Duul II's "Yeti" and to its long improvisations (the last three tracks of the CD reissued recently) TenHornedBeast sounds like a dark version of it, where classic rock instruments are treated and sound like reaped cellos or like reverbs on death corridors. Christopher on the second panel of the cover talked about a process of destruction of the standards imposed to men by modern age and his great truth is witnessing this process (I hope we'll be able to get more in depth on the forthcoming interview) and tracks like "Our lady of the lightning bolt" and "In the teeth of the woolf" seem to be its soundtrack.

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.


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