Music Reviews

Lucrecia Dalt: Anticlines

 Posted by Stuart Bruce (@)   Ambient / Electronica / Ethereal / Dub / Soundscapes / Abstract
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May 03 2018
Artist: Lucrecia Dalt
Title: Anticlines
Format: CD & Vinyl
Label: RVNG Intl.
Berlin-based Lucrecia Dalt is a former geotechnical engineer, using two modular synths and her own spoken words to create a decidedly offbeat collection of short beat poetry pieces set over rhythmic experimental synth and electronic soft-industrial soundscapes.

Lyrically it’s a distinctive hybrid of nihilism and science, talking about consciousness, fossils, indifference and meteorites in equal measure. I’m all for more science in music but there are a couple of points where the “alienated lecture” approach seems a little over-smart and inaccessible. Thanks to the mixing and some heavy, energetic cut-up and filter application it’s not always easy to catch.

Musically, at its best it sounds like good Radiophonic Workshop experimental workouts- bleeps and analogue bloops rolling around to form unique and mesmering patterns- “Glass Brain” and the rubber-based “Liminalidad” are strong examples. At other points it is a little more ploddy and muddy-sounding. “Indifferent Universe” is an example of the latter.

“Analogue Mountains” is a highlight, pulsing like a sort of retro-proto-techno with the lyric “we might as well me living in mountains transferred from Mars” one of the nearest points this album gets to a memorable hook.

Mostly there’s consistency across the 14 short poetic pieces that result in a short self-contained album with a focussed attitude and character that seems a clear expression of a particular state of mind. Very interesting in some parts, but maybe underbaked in others, it’s a release which may divide opinion.

VV.AA.: Pavilion / Paviljonas

 Posted by Stuart Bruce (@)   Ambient / Electronica / Ethereal / Dub / Soundscapes / Abstract
Experimental / Avantgarde / Weird & Wired / Glitch / Noise / Field Recording
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May 02 2018
Artist: VV.AA.
Title: Pavilion / Paviljonas
Format: CD + Download
Label: MIC Lithuania
A compilation of selected excerpts from sound art pieces and field recordings made for audio-visual art installations, “Pavilion / Paviljonas” is a interesting sampler package with a good range of variety across 8 tracks that range in length from 18 seconds to over 10 minutes.

Every track and the release itself has both an English title and a Lithuanian title, I’m using the English titles here solely for brevity and since this is an English review, no disrespect to the Lithuanian titles is intended.

Viktorija Damerell’s opener “I Force Myself” loops some poetic English-language vocal mantras seek your attention and empathy but many of the other pieces are more incidental, more ambient and decidedly more sparse- Ramnas Motiekaitis’s “I Can’t Get Through to You” a lightweight and unpredictable bubbly percussive disorientation, and Kristina Inirait’s “Mother” an exercise in close-set field recording of everyday actions, full of small metal door opening and conversation and reminiscent of some Art Of Noise incidental elements. While described in the press release as ‘an exercise in active listening’, this isn’t necessarily required, and you can, if you prefer, engage with these works purely as background and environmental pieces.

After Emilija Škarnulyt’s “Ablation Zone”, an unsettling cold environment of distant wolf howls, it feels very appropriate to meet the campfire sounds, warm conversation and (again distant) ethnic flutesong of Arturas Bumšteinas’ “Year of the Catdog”. It’s followed by Gail Gricit’s “some of all of that” that seems to hybridise gentle lapping wave noises and breathing into a very soporific and relaxing result.

The inclusion of Julijonas Urbonas’s “Sounding Door”- literally just an 18 second sound effect of a very creaky door- seems somewhat tongue-in-cheek, yet not actually out of context, as it works as a prelude for final piece “numbers” by Darius iuta which, with its short violin notes, wodden percussive noises (rowing boats? More campfires?) and high pitched electric whining, somes as close to conventional music as this compilation dares to wander- which, in truth, is not very close at all.

The Music Information Centre Lithuania (now seemingly just calling themselves MIC Lithuania) have put out some fascinating and exemplary pieces of modern experimental music, and while this collection is a sampler built from extracts and therefore maybe not as coherent as some, this is nevertheless a very strong work in its own right.

The Pitch & Splitter Orchester: Frozen Orchestra (Splitter)

 Posted by Stuart Bruce (@)   Ambient / Electronica / Ethereal / Dub / Soundscapes / Abstract
New Music / Downtown / Avantgarde Jazz / New Classical / World
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May 01 2018
Artist: The Pitch & Splitter Orchester
Title: Frozen Orchestra (Splitter)
Format: CD + Download
Label: Mikroton
Splitter Orchester’s latest ‘collaboration’ is a slight over-statement since three of the four members of The Pitch are Splitter Orchester members already so it wouldn’t be a stretch to call this a Splitter Orchester release.

And what it is, is an exactly 60-minute single piece of slow arhythmic ambience, tone, drone performed by 23 performers predominantly on traditional instruments (multiple clarinets, cello, tuba, piano, guitar and more) but with the prominent use of oscillators, electronics and live tape-to-tape manipulation that gives us a genuine hybrid of modern experimental orchestral work. Performers play supremely long sustained notes and chords that meander in and out in randomised waves and the evolution is formed from the changes in layer combination.

Around a third of the way through some of the guitar plucking borders on the percussive, as do a handful of piano notes in the final third, but these are subtle exceptions to an otherwise very consistently enveloped and ebbing performance where chance, of which there is plenty, is so gradual and morphic that you aren’t even conscious that it is happening. The planning feels exemplary, from the opening slow builds to the warmer more resolution-laden quiet ending.

It’s bold and striking and I wish I were able to see it performed live, where I’m sure the mesmeric power of it would increase. It’s not in itself afforded of many new ideas, but that’s not a criticism- an object doesn’t have to have originality to be beautiful, and that’s what this piece really is, albeit in that dark and unsettling way that adds the extra layer of intrigue that can sometimes be the icing on the cake.

Hackedapicciotto: Joy

 Posted by Stuart Bruce (@)   Ambient / Electronica / Ethereal / Dub / Soundscapes / Abstract
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May 01 2018
Artist: Hackedapicciotto
Title: Joy
Format: CD + Download
Label: Potomak
For the second time, Hackedepicciotto have taken a break from their edgier dark drone works to (as requested by many fans apparently) produce something much mellower, more meditative and more suited to yoga, something which Alexander Hacke and Danielle de Picciotto now practice regularly. And sure enough, this is truly mellow material.

There’s a diversity in sound in here. After opening “The Beckoning” suggests that it will be an hour of ambient relaxation music cliché- didgeridoo-style noises, metallic chimes and tiny cymbals, throat singing, and birdsong all feature at some point across this release- the more distinctive tones begin with “The Storm”, a picturesque warm ebbing drone which is, to be honest, somewhat spoilt by the corny slow poetric reading above telling us that “kindness is love”, “love will bring wisdom” and so on, before “Let There Be Joy” adopts a more acoustic-ballad approach with breathy vocal melodies. Fourth track “Sisters”, with its gentle orchestral melody running with careful minimalism over sitar-like rumbling notes, is a highlight.

After this point the variation settles down somewhat as we approach a second half built around the same elements as the first and containing fewer surprises.

For my personal tastes, the poem elements talking about harmony and inner strength are a weak point, a cliché that grates against rather than complimenting the gentle musical elements underneath- but it is used sparingly so it’s not as invasive as it might have been. Beyond that, it’s a warm and smooth if unsurprising collection of warm and warm-ish ambiences and drones that certainly seems well-geared towards mesmerism and the pursuit of mellow.

Off Land: On Earth

 Posted by Ibrahim Khider (@)   Ambient / Electronica / Ethereal / Dub / Soundscapes / Abstract
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Apr 26 2018
Artist: Off Land (@)
Title: On Earth
Format: CD
Label: Stasis Recordings (@)
Ambient soundscapist, Tim Dwyer alias Off Land offers another chapter of lush cinematic scores with On Earth where the din of children playing and echoing voices utter indecipherable phrases, fleeting fragments of field recordings are set to marmalade-paced rhythms and dreamy melodies amidst billowing layers of synth notes. One does not listen to an Off Land album so much as immerse, and this release is no different. Opening, “Euclase” washes over with layer cakes of synth lines and vestiges of melody with wistful overtones of longing followed by “Nepheline” which has more assertive rhythms and melodies and moody yet powerful, low-end tones that will tingle your spine. The following, “Amethyst” is more subdued, deep-ambient that does not wash-in so much as floats while, metronome-like rhythms manifest and dissolve in the aether while “Osmium” pulses with the more mechanical rhythms that propel an otherwise lush down-tempo ambient-dream track. “Spinel” resumes field recordings, birds chirp while melodies and counter melodies interplay to evenly paced beats that dissolve to lush ambient. “Aegirine” follows with gentle bass melodies and a kick-drum pulse with whispers and droning melodies and fragments of notes and is among the more upbeat. “Nighter” concludes the chapter on a somewhat tense, brooding note, perhaps setting the listener up for a sequel. Dwyer consistently delivers the goods with ranges of moods from pensive to tense to yearning to sublime; delivered in lush arboretums of cinematic-ambient soundscapes. File under ‘cinema of the mind’.

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