Music Reviews

SODA lite: In Eco

 Posted by Vito Camarretta (@)   Ambient / Electronica / Ethereal / Dub / Soundscapes / Abstract
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Jun 21 2017
Artist: SODA lite
Title: In Eco
Format: Tape
Label: Constellation Tatsu (@)
Rated: *****
The aural journey proposed by Melbourne-based musician and visual artist Alex Last aka Soda Lite is one of the closest to what was known as "new age music" I ever reviewed. To be honest, I've never been a fan of this kind of music as it's too strictly related to a marketing-driven system of belief, but Soda Lite's sound is well recorded and has a remarkable quality in spite of the typical hissing noise of cassettes. I can't say Alex made a sleep-inducing album due to the short length of each track (not enough time to fall into sleep...); any of them seems to be the aural postcard of some luckily uncontaminated place on this planet. As you can easily guess, the constant element of them is the presence of field recordings - chirping more or less exotic birds, croaking frogs, entrancing water streams and maybe some insects supposedly grabbed during his camping trips with friends and his dog Liffey or the contemplative sessions of frogs, lizards and kingfishers, his main hobby according to the attached biography... no ambitions to become a guru, as far as I know - as well as the typical set for this kind of "environmentalist" stuff (relaxing pad synths, Pan flutes, single hits on xylophones, overstretched guitar drones, oceans of reverb and slightly delayed sounds...), but there's a sense of blissful naivety in his aural postcards (as well as some really weel-assembled track like "Aurai" or "Lagoon" - oh, those lukewarm placental tones sounding like a telepathic chat with a dolphin found inside a Mesmer's pool!) that can let you indulge in some excessively predictable sonic amalgamations.

Fovea Hex: The Salt Garden 2

 Posted by Stuart Bruce (@)   Ambient / Electronica / Ethereal / Dub / Soundscapes / Abstract
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Jun 21 2017
Artist: Fovea Hex
Title: The Salt Garden 2
Format: 10"
Label: Janet Records
“The Salt Garden 2” is a 20-minute, 4-track EP from Fovea Hex, the Clodagh Simonds-fronted ensemble that count David Lynch and Brian Eno as part of their fanbase. Indeed there’s an ambiguous implication (or possibly a typo) in the press release that suggests that Brian Eno may have contributed something to this particular EP.

Simonds’ pure, folksy vocal ambles gently and plaintively over arrangements which blend acoustic percussive patterns with a selection of strung-out drones, synthetic chords. The electronics are beautifully understated, often only just present enough to detach the listener from the organic elements of the performance and give the whole affair a sinister touch at times.

The first three tracks are all strong, with a powerful emotional thread. Opener “You Were There” is the highlight, a strong sense of journey and scale being evoked in a manner that feels very cinematic. Final track “Piano Fields” does give a slight sense of being filler, just a meandering gentle piano noodling over soft chords and bordering on cliché.

Ultimately there are part of the EP which can’t escape comparisons to artists like Enya, and I know that that comparison will have people facepalming and complaining that it’s “just because it’s Irish” but it really isn’t just that. Like it or not, the slow, bold yet melancholy singing style over expansive synth washes, particularly on “All Those Signs”, reminds me of the barren Atlantic-swept landscapes west of Galway. It’s a stereotype but honestly there’s something in it.

It’s a strong and emotional EP that is rich in quality, and leaves you wishing it had expanded and evolved into a full-length album.

Mark Templeton: Gentle Heart

 Posted by Stuart Bruce (@)   Ambient / Electronica / Ethereal / Dub / Soundscapes / Abstract
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Jun 20 2017
Artist: Mark Templeton
Title: Gentle Heart
Format: 12" vinyl + Download
Label: Graphical
The final part of electro-acoustic musician Mark Templeton’s ‘Heart trilogy’, arriving four years after the previous installment, “Gentle Heart” is a collection of short, wallowing atmospheres made up of slowly looping found sound patterns, distant indecipherable vocal noises, gentle sustained drone notes, tape effects and brief extracts of melodic elements.

It’s very languid and in parts rather muddy-sounding, as though underwater, giving the whole work a very lazy feel. Pieces like “Range Road” exemplify the lethargy- truly chilled-out, with a barely clockable tempo under 70bpm well in line with a sleeping heart rate. “One Last Encore” has a slightly less passive breathing rhythm, while other pieces like “Pond” are tempo-free ambiences.

“Valley” has a more distinct guitar (or guitar-like) melodic pattern at its core, but retriggered and gently twisted. “Voice” brings ramping digital bleeps and bloops to the fore before getting weirdly squelchy as it ends. Album closer “Gentle Story” has two parts, the first a very smooth and pure ambience with a familiar feeling of closure, the second initially a more blippy and bubbly number with a sliding bass tone that’s a less orthodox, but more fitting, way to wrap up.

At only 34 minutes it’s barely more than a mini-album, with most pieces curtailed at the three-minute mark, left static without the opportunity to evolve, but it’s a nicely immersive, sleep-friendly listen- as perhaps acknowledged in the title “Horiztonal Plane” [sic].

Torn From Beyond: If The View Freezes

 Posted by Steve Mecca   Ambient / Electronica / Ethereal / Dub / Soundscapes / Abstract
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Jun 18 2017
Artist: Torn From Beyond (@)
Title: If The View Freezes
Format: CD
Label: Krater Recordings (@)
Rated: *****
If you've never heard of Torn From Beyond, then maybe you've heard of Bert Lehmann's other project, Mortaja, which has had a couple of releases since 2011 on the Audiophob label. I've never heard of either before but no matter; it's what's now that counts. Like Mortaja, Torn From Beyond is dark ambient, although a little different from Mortaja from what I understand. The music on 'If The View Freezes' sounds simultaneously spacey and deep underground, as in chasms and crypts. Here the dead feed off the living, and visa-versa. Here the Elder Gods rub shoulders (or should I say, tentacles) with Dream Daemons in the nightmares of your deep subconscious. It's not apparent until track 2, the title track, that that's the case. Here it's feeding time for some great abominable beast, something beyond Balrog but not quite Cthulhu. No question that cosmic horror is in play. It's the fourth track, "According to Ancient Custom" where the similarities to Raison D’Être begin to emerge, at first with some repetitious evil worshipers chanting, and later in "The End Begins" with monkish Gregorian chants. In fact, if you heard the latter track by itself, you'd swear it was Raison D’Être. There is quite a variety of ambiences and atmospheres on this album, and it's as dark as dark can get. The only concession to something that isn't totally steeped in ancient evil is the last few minutes of the eighth and final track, "Finis Terrae," with it's classical piano and mild seagull squawking. A highly unusual way to end a dark ambient album of this nature, but quite effective. For a debut album this is absolutely amazing. Highly recommended!

Keosz: AVA

 Posted by Andrea Piran (@)   Ambient / Electronica / Ethereal / Dub / Soundscapes / Abstract
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Jun 18 2017
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Artist: Keosz (@)
Title: AVA
Format: CD
Label: Cryo Chamber (@)
Rated: *****
This new release from Keosz continues along the path of "Be Left to Oneself" with his blend of dark ambient and melodic element. This time the guitar is added so it's now closer to rock than modern classical and it's even more distant from the canonical form of the genre.
There's a layer of noise that takes the first track of this release, "Aquitted from Illness", out of the usual framework of the genre and creates a complex spectrum for the listener to decode while "All I Had To Do" and "AVA" are closer to the canon as they revolve around carefully crafted drones. "Downfall" tries to create musical movement with his succession of quiet moments and thicker ones. The strings of "Nothing Left But Gloom" are evocative and create a sense of narrative as they follow a melody rather than be a layer of the drone and this path is confirmed in "Consigned To Limbo" where the strings are substituted by the guitar. "Behind The Horizon Of Preconceptions" is a reassuring return to form while "Resurrection From The Dust" continues in this research of elements borrowed by rock music as it sound as a sort of shoegaze above a dark ambient landscape that is followed, after "Equanimity Of The Senses", by "They Took All I Had" where the ambient element is even less present. "Farewell To Hollow Space" closes this release with a return to the form of the first track leaving with a sense of completeness.
This a release is a bit uncertain between a rock oriented and a ambient oriented form but this aspect creates a sense of variety that is an antidote to boredom. Recommended.

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