Music Reviews

Bernie Worrell: Black Space Invocation

 Posted by Tyran Grillo (@)   Ambient / Electronica / Ethereal / Dub / Soundscapes / Abstract
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Feb 18 2018
Artist: Bernie Worrell
Title: Black Space Invocation
Format: Download Only (MP3 + Lossless)
Label: self-released
Distributor: Bill Laswell
Rated: *****
We all come from darkness, and in being born awaken from it into light. Light gives us power not only to see, but also to listen, and to understand the infinity of its absence. In the warm embrace of the single track that is “Black Space Invocation,” it’s obvious keyboardist Bernie Worrell knew this truth in a way few other musicians could. What we have here is a life compressed into 13 minutes of inhalation and exhalation. Indeed, Worrell’s notecraft is pulmonary, absorbing the invisible and turning it into nourishment for the soul. It’s no coincidence, then, that his instrument should be called an “organ,” for it functions like an essential body part. Sustained chords fit into one another like veins and arteries, contracting and expanding with changes in melodic temperature. At the same time, however, the listener is taken out of body. Like the skeleton floating eclipse-ward in the music video for David Bowie’s “Blackstar,” it sheds the flesh in favor of awe, and gives itself to the ethereal rim between blindness and omniscience. It’s intimate process has been captured here, speaking only to those who would listen without judgment. Although no longer standing, Worrell continues to tread along the innermost pathways of our appreciation. His capacity for summoning makes us feel right at home, and with unforced resolution whispers back to us: “We all come from darkness, and in dying awaken from it into light.”

Material: Seven Souls Remixes

 Posted by Tyran Grillo (@)   Ambient / Electronica / Ethereal / Dub / Soundscapes / Abstract
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Feb 17 2018
Artist: Material
Title: Seven Souls Remixes
Format: Download Only (MP3 + Lossless)
Label: M.O.D. Technologies
Rated: *****
This single consists of three bonus remixes originally included with the 1997 reissue of Material’s 1989 classic SEVEN SOULS. Featuring William S. Burroughs reading from his 1987 novel THE WESTERN LANDS amid a congregation of electronics and amplified instruments, it concentrates the author’s ruminations of mortality in primordial soundscapes. Bill Laswell’s “The Western Lands (A Dangerous Road Mix)” opens a third eye in the text and treads a fragile line between being and nonbeing. Contributions by Jah Wobble, DJ Spooky, and Tetsu Inoue uncover hidden layers of interpretation between Burroughs’s striped exposition, even as dangers imbue the breath of promise with decay. An overwhelming sense of aridness pervades, the kiss of sun on soil. Through this initiation, fear is no longer a variable of the reality equation, knowable only through the aerial perspective compelled by these terrestrial impulses.

The overall effect is such that when we get to the remix of “Seven Souls” by Tim Simenon (a.k.a. Bomb the Bass), words that were once internal now feel external, beats once external now internal. Changes of alignment are born through the sacred names spun from Burroughs’s verbal threads, and by which Simenon casts nets of water across untrodden dunes. Thus, he brings an appropriate distance to these utterances, as if dancing in a comfort zone of abreaction. Every beat resounds as the footstep of one who seeks the spoken word: a prophet with half a body, at once within and without the drums.

All that’s left to engrave our ears is “Soul Killer (Remote Control Mix),” a remix by Terre Thaemlitz. This relatively ambient outing finds Burroughs flitting in and out of perception. Hints of melody and subliminal hums gradually coalesce into a pixelated frond of awareness through which the nocturnal desert folds in on itself until the sky becomes the road beneath our feet. And the more we walk, the farther we get from a destination that has been inside us all along.

Andy Backhouse: A Sonic Map Of Dornoch

 Posted by Stuart Bruce (@)   Ambient / Electronica / Ethereal / Dub / Soundscapes / Abstract
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Feb 09 2018
Artist: Andy Backhouse
Title: A Sonic Map Of Dornoch
Format: CD + Download
Label: Focused Silence
Andy Backhouse offers up a very personal half-hour soundscape sampling natural sounds from the Scottish seaside town of Dornoch, where his grandmother lives. Indeed, you can hear his granny and a variety of other passing conversations alongside the crashing waves, the birdsong, car sounds, and other slightly less obvious sounds seemingly of cafés or very light industry.

The result is essentially a sonic seaside postcard, and to be honest a rather prosaic one, not really imbued with a distinctive character that would allow the listener to place Dornoch in particular unless you’re an absolute master at recognising accents. Only the anachronistic and thankfully short-lived sampled bagpipe sound that appears out of nowhere 15 minutes in (a recording of some piece of tourist tat, maybe?) places this even in Scotland.

But, thanks to the inclusion of calm lapping waves that come and go, it is very naturally a relaxing and calming thing to listen to- a fleeting bit of audio tourism that allows you to imagine that you are meandering carefree along the beachside, without having to worry about the bitter cold you might really get in the Northerly Scottish town.

Andy Backhouse has generated this work as a cathartic experience, which he describes as being related to his perception disorder, which I’m sure is true although the end result could simply be seen as indulgent nostalgia. That being said, as a sound postcard it is picturesque and endearing.

Ripperton: Sight Seeing

 Posted by Stuart Bruce (@)   Ambient / Electronica / Ethereal / Dub / Soundscapes / Abstract
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Feb 08 2018
Artist: Ripperton
Title: Sight Seeing
Format: LP
Label: ESP Institute
Swiss Raphaël Ripperton, known for his deep house and techno work (producing DJ’ing and mixing), has switched to the ESP Institute for this much more ambient and introvert double LP.

Cold atmospheres, sparse melodic tones and slow wafting hollow or bell-like synth patterns are the order of the day here. Some tracks, like “Eloigné”, add more textured soundscaping, sometimes reminiscent of distant iceberg cracks or heavily processed industrial noise, but always with a soft edge.

It’s firmly not for the dancefloor, but some tracks have distant echoes of an IDM production aesthetic. “Puente De Los Enamorados” has a pulsing yet calm low bass that feels like a natural product of what might happen if you took deep house to its logical conclusion, then stripped any remaining percussion out, whereas track C1 (named after a Chinese symbol I can’t reproduce here) has a steady clap rhythm that’s been smuggled in from clubbier genres. “Atomatic” is reminiscent of some of Sasha’s recent scene pieces.

Other tracks, like the sparse synth-string melancholy of “Uroboros” and the spaced-out “Miroir d’eau”, are much further detached from what appreciators of Ripperton’s previous work will have been used to. “Hlios” is an oddity, blending the cold atmospheres with a sort of off-step glitchy trip-hop guitar in a way that’s more intriguing than it is successful, though it redeems itself in the way it devolves at the end.

There’s a slight sense that this isn’t a particularly curated collection. Tracks like “Ignition” feel like unfinished or experimental ideas, and several tracks have curt beginnings and endings that seem unnecessarily abrupt for the genre. While it would be slightly too much of a stretch to say that a bit of a judicious attitude might have brought this down to one CD’s-worth of material, it is perhaps just a little bit flabby and lacking in the variety that really ought to be present to warrant the 107 minutes that this release runs for.

Nevertheless despite a couple of arguable imperfections it still makes an excellent post-club chill out album, if you’ve taken so many stimulants that you’re going to be awake for another two hours once you get home...

Aaron Martin & Machinefabriek: Seeker

 Posted by Andrea Piran (@)   Ambient / Electronica / Ethereal / Dub / Soundscapes / Abstract
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Feb 04 2018
Artist: Aaron Martin & Machinefabriek (@)
Title: Seeker
Format: CD
Label: Dronarivm (@)
Rated: *****
To celebrate his fiftieth release, Dronarivm releases a work conceived in 2013 for a dance piece by Iván Pérez called "Hide And Seek". As I believe that there's no need to introduce neither Aaron Martin nor Machinefabriek, I will go straight to the musical point: the interaction between the instruments, mostly cello, played by Martin and the electronics played by Zuydervelt. The music could be roughly classified as glitch or modern classical in respect to what is considered to be real center of interest or writing.
The canonical glitchy opening of "Wake" introduces the listener in a framework which is immediately reversed by "Wings in the Grass" rounding around a romantic cello melody. As "Arms Turn Slowly" develops there's a movement from abstraction to the song introducing a quiet piece as "Leaves Are Swimming" reminding the quietest moments of Machinefabriek's discography. "Hidden" is a minimal ambient interlude to the second part of this release. "Seeker" is an hook to the tradition of dance music with his evocative cello melodies while "A Small Crowd Points" and "Close to Dark" evolves around drones, focusing on sound details. The voice of Aaron Martin closes this release in "Buried Cloth" creating something similar to a sense of peace.
While it doesn't sound as a simple accompaniment for a ballet, it has a sense of completeness that doesn't need a visual counterpart. Perhaps this couldn't be exactly a virtue for a music conceived with a precise objective but it's surely best for the listener. Another example of clear talent.

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