Music Reviews



PENITENT: A Shapeless Beauty

 Posted by Eugenio Maggi (@)   Ambient / Electronica / Ethereal / Dub / Soundscapes / Abstract
Dark / Gothic / Wave / New Wave / Dark Wave / Industrial Gothic
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Apr 03 2006
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Artist: PENITENT
Title: A Shapeless Beauty
Format: CD
Label: Trinity Records
Rated: *****
I'm not familiar at all with Penitent's discography, which I believe is now quite extensive (including a cd on Cold Meat Industry), so I'm afraid I can't make any comparison with their previous works. Recorded in 2004 and released by Hong Kong's Trinity Records, "A Shapeless Beauty", composed by Lucian Olteanu and Karsten Hamre (also responsible for Dense Vision Shrine, Arcane Art and a theory of other projects), features seven tracks of gloomy and occasionally pompous atmospheric music. I would call it "dark ambient", but bear in mind this is less drone-oriented and more "symphonical" in a keyboard/synth-driven way, actually reminding of many soundtracks for low-budget horror movies from the 80's... the kind of movies you don't necessarily recognize as masterpieces, but that you always watch with a sort of twisted pleasure. For me, Penitent's music works more or less in the same way: while it's not scary or moving at all, and has many artistic flaws (a muffled sound, some predictable and redundant compositions, monotonous drum machine patterns etc.), it is a decent job, with a few standout tracks like "Born Bound", "Regret" or "The Longing".

BORIS HAUF: Clark

 Posted by Andrea Ferraris (@)   Electronics / EBM / Electronica
Techno / Trance / Goa / Drum'n'Bass / Jungle / Tribal / Trip-Hop
Ambient / Electronica / Ethereal / Dub / Soundscapes / Abstract
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Mar 30 2006
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Artist: BORIS HAUF (@)
Title: Clark
Format: CD
Label: Sijis (@)
Rated: *****
Minimal and elegant electronic music for Boris Hauf, nothing more that that, everything is quasi essential during the listening. The sound choice is accurate and the mastering done by Todd Carter in Chicago pushes everything at the right place. I think if poor Satie is still wandering up there teaching somebody the discipline of "un-expressivity": down here Boris Hauf shows the lesson has been learnt by heart. This music is a skinny blend between danceable beats and "wide-range" electronics, I think if I'll say idm the most of you may visualize something melodically oriented but that's not the case. As I was saying "clark" is not melodic at all and sails much more in a pool where soft noises, bleeps and beats are the water. If you give a check to Hauf's discography you'll discover he's a "restless child" but if sound quality and song assembling in electronic music does still make sense...all of this hyperactivity brought "ability". "Le chien" is probably the only pure fragment of minimal techno kicking inside this record but somehow the whole "portrait is evolved around this same figurative thought", you will have an hard time finding dance clubs where you can move your feet to songs like "ken doll in the wind" or "she was a state trooper". Lately I got the idea many electronic musician are fusing more and more that genre with post-industrial moods (c’mon, the succes of Pan Sonic disclosed a whole world of possibilities), maybe that's the wrong impression but with weird "objects" like Hauf it’s hard to believe that’s the wrong one.

MAN: Helping Hand

 Posted by Eugenio Maggi (@)   Ambient / Electronica / Ethereal / Dub / Soundscapes / Abstract
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Mar 23 2006
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Artist: MAN
Title: Helping Hand
Format: CD
Label: Sub Rosa
Rated: *****
French duo Man, formed by François Rasim Biyikli (piano, Rhodes, guitars, melodica, noises) and Charles-Eric Charrier (acoustic bass, guitar, toys), are surely not afraid to experiment with different genres and inputs, naming influences as diverse as Satie and Labradford, Morricone and Arto Lindsay... Their third full-length release opens with a bizarre (and not entirely successful) rhythmic, and sung, track, but don't be deceived: most of "Helping Hand" is slow, delicate and painfully melancholic. The slo-mo heartbreak of "Drifting" merges the delicate atmospheres of Chaveau, Tiersen or Comelade with the vigorous post-fusion instrumentals of "TNT"-era Tortoise. Hectic euphoria sparkles here and here, but Man surely work best with autumnal soundscapes like "Separation" or "8mm", which closes the disc with a powerful crescendo. Their pieces are often daring, and not always balanced - sometimes the different elements just don't match that well, and end up being more distracting than fascinating - but "Helping Hand" is surely worth repeated spins to catch its different nuances.

DANIEL LENTZ: on the leopard altar

 Posted by Andrea Ferraris (@)   Ambient / Electronica / Ethereal / Dub / Soundscapes / Abstract
Experimental / Avantgarde / Weird & Wired / Glitch / Noise / Field Recording
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Mar 23 2006
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Artist: DANIEL LENTZ (@)
Title: on the leopard altar
Format: CD
Label: Cold Blue Music (@)
Rated: *****
Who's Daniel Lentz? judging "the book by the cover", ergo, by the high standard of the cd (plus a visit on his personal website), I guess this composer is in the midst of his composing-maturity. "On the leopard altar" begins with a contemporary composition that probably pays tribute to the minimalism-serialism of Steve Reich and Philip Glass, above all that's the impression given by the "loop effect" of the keyboards and vocals connection. If that association is for real when analyzing the first and the fourth track, the mood brings close to Glass' Koyaanisqatsi. "Lascaux" maintains an enchanted tone but the astonished listener is immediately forced into a minimal-ambient-"new age alike" (!?) environment...and don't worry, here "new age" doesn't stand for "relaxing and boring". Indeed the music is quiet but I'd say it goes much deeper sounding: "karma-relaxing" and therefore not just your average "after-work-music-to-calm-the-nerves-of -poor-white-upper-class-big-town-citizens". The title track has the shape of a real song, at last isn't it true that many minimalist composers speak about a common pop/folk root?. The requiem is really inspired, but it happens quite often when classic musicians deal with the "final departure" I don't know Debussy enough to say if it's true this music is so influenced by his works as they write, the only thing I know for sure is that the sound is contemporary for real. Giving a look at his personal website I've noticed Lentz's canvases paint rightly his music: warm, simple and relaxing.

Gods of Electricity: Sundiving

 Posted by Marc Urselli   Ambient / Electronica / Ethereal / Dub / Soundscapes / Abstract
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Mar 16 2006
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Artist: Gods of Electricity
Title: Sundiving
Format: CD
Label: Faith Strange (@)
Rated: *****

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Gods of Electricity is one of those projects I would love seeing coming through my studio, but in a big city like NY for some reason I end up working with completely different type of artists most of the time. Think about the electrified air and the mellow moods of endless hours of sound manipulation and knob tweaking mania in the comfort of a dimmed light recording studio with two creative talents such as Mike Fazio and Thomas Hamlin. Think about the moods that can be created in the making of a record like "Sundiving", with ambiances spanning for anywhere between 2 and 38 minutes: stretching, modulating, oscilating, vibrating, morphing from sound into sound, from light into dark, from silence into noise, from rhythm into layers, from sounds into rawness. Engineer, guitar player, sound designer, producer and composer Mike Fazio (also creator of the orchestramaxfieldparrish processed guitar project) has put the greatest attention in the smallest of the details of this recording, attempting to recreate his own vision of electro-acoustic ambient-electronica, aided by drummer Thomas Hamlin (previously with World One and still with Black47), who adds his swing and his delicate touch to these compositions in a way that only few percussionists can. Eerie low deep drones, layers of ecstatic pads, a wide sonic palette borrowing from everything from traditional to modern... rhythmical elements that transcend beat to turn into an expression of the piece itself, migrating from a enhancment of an even otherwise tribal atmosphere to the mere juxtaposition of percussive ear candies in symphonies of mystic and aural states of mind... all of that and more comes into play in this beautiful CD, which is so multifaceted and gorgeous that you can hardly even reference back to other artists without having to mention a bunch of them, who don't even necessarily have all that in common with Gods of Electricity, when considered as a stand-alone reference... Try to think of a blend of Clock DVA, Synaesthesia, Manuel Goettsching, Ryuichi Sakamoto, Young Gods, Vision of Excess, Artemy Artemiev, Mana Erg, Richard Bone, Victor Cerullo, Gabor Csupo and so many other excellent artists who have given so much to the art of making good and heartfelt soundscapes. You'll get a vague idea, but you'll still need to give this hi-definition audio masterpiece a try and see/hear for yourself... Highly recommended.


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