Music Reviews

Marco Marzuoli: Appunti

 Posted by Andrea Piran (@)   Ambient / Electronica / Ethereal / Dub / Soundscapes / Abstract
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Sep 25 2016
Artist: Marco Marzuoli (@)
Title: Appunti
Format: MCD (Mini CD)
Label: éter (@)
Rated: *****
After some really good releases with How To Cure Our Soul, it's time for the first solo release of Marco Marzuoli. "Appunti" is a quiet short sonic watercolor focused on loop rather than drones but the hypnotic effect of his output remains intact.
The track revolves around a melancholic bass guitar loop tying together another bass guitar loop and a fistful of effects which create an aural spectrum similar to the cover image i.e., while everything seem static, something begin to evolve. The structure is able to escape the boredom that could arise in a so minimal framework with a sort of poetical afflatus created by the underlying drone slowly generated by the resonance which is fully audible in the background of the second part of this release.
This is a release whose radical writing could be not so well received by listeners accustomed by entertaining sound that reawakens the attention as soon as possible in a sort of thought's privation. Music for humble meditations.

Daniel K. Böhm: Carrier

 Posted by Vito Camarretta (@)   Ambient / Electronica / Ethereal / Dub / Soundscapes / Abstract
Experimental / Avantgarde / Weird & Wired / Glitch / Noise / Field Recording
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Sep 19 2016
Artist: Daniel K. Böhm
Title: Carrier
Format: CD
Label: Eilean Rec.
Rated: *****
Another very interesting proposal by the excellent French label Eilean is the official debut release by American sound artist Daniel K.Böhm, introducing himself in his Bandcamp as a disgraced physicist whose career was remarkably compromised by the accidental melting of a reactor in Wüttenschlesig, who decided to live in a sort of self-isolated dimension in an abandoned cotton farm nearby Spur in Texas. As there are no official chronicles, documenting such a disaster in Germany, I could guess that Daniel invented this fictional identity just like many supposedly prodigious or particularly inventive teens do. The reason why I made such a comparison to explain such a bizarre mimicry derives from the listening of his album, which almost invariably recalls a childish dimension or I'd rather say a controlled regressive behavior. Besides the nostalgic hook, particularly vivid both when Daniel seems to invite listeners to an enchanted daydreaming over the sound of music boxes and pleasantly hypnotic vibraphones and when he creates trapping guitar-driven miniatures, such a regression got pushed by other interesting stylistic choices: the occasional recurrence of tape manipulation, a format that smells like regression; some melodies that could vaguely evoke similar returns to innocence by first steps by Kieran Hebden (Four Tet) - you could notice some similarities between vibraphone-driven Daniel's "Componium Orbit" and Four Tet's "Hands" -; the iterations of toytronics in tracks like "Mangrove" and "Critter"; the recursive use of injecting somehow old-fashioned synth loops that pushes memory back to German kosmische muzak, as if they were resurfacing memories (particularly in "Under Rhodes"). However Daniel doesn't let his head fall back on the soft and scented pillows of pre-puberty, but he rolls his sound behind with a recognisable sophistication, as you can easily guess by the sketched description of some tracks of this "Carrier" and even though the structure of many tracks is often quite simple, the whole album doesn't sound predictable or banal. It just demands devotional attention and its grace could persuade to make a fuss of his sound. Just like an innocent baby!

Noctilucant: Oblivion to You All

 Posted by Steve Mecca   Ambient / Electronica / Ethereal / Dub / Soundscapes / Abstract
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Sep 18 2016
Artist: Noctilucant (@)
Title: Oblivion to You All
Format: Download Only (MP3 + Lossless)
Label: self-released
Rated: *****
Noctilucant, the dark ambient project of Joseph Mlodik from Wisconsin is back with a new work titled 'Oblivion to You All'. After the excellent debut, 'Back to the Mud' which I reviewed a while ago, Noctilucant will have to raise the bar or lower the water to top that one. 'Oblivion to You All' is a conceptual album of ten tracks set in a
post-apocalyptic world. Beginning with "Introspective Dissolution" Noctilucant sets the stage with deep, rumbling space drones and a recitation by Kara Phillips of the symphonic power metal band Magma Dragon about how the world after its devastation, now without power, and a poisoned water supply has entered an ice age. I'm not big on these narrations (never much cared for any of those Moody Blues spoken word bits) but Kara's voice with what I detect to be an Aussie accent lends a certain sci-fi cred, like a sample lifted out of a movie. This foreboding piece is certainly the harbinger of bad things to come. "This Day Brings Forth Our Destiny" starts with what sounds like a film projector being switched on, then white noise wind in the distance underpinned by a rumbling drone ever drawing closer, then a frozen crystalline ambience that is beautiful in its form, yet terrifying in its isolation. In capturing the audial image of a frozen world, Noctilucant definitely succeeds. "The First Light of Morning" bestows more deep drone rumbling, and gives you the feeling that...something may be out there...but you know not what. "Where Snow Remains and Light Fades" explores the cold isolation a bit more subtly, but is actually far more frightening than the previous track. Here your mind begins to play tricks, and ghostly images of past seem to eerily float around you. There is a sense of activity; possibly some scavenging, foraging. A discovery is made - "The Old Machine Shop" that once produced vital goods now lies dormant as a museum piece, its mechanical song once a paean to an industrious future is now but a rusted relic of the past. "Those Peaceful Days of Our Past?" - where are they now? Do they exist in only fading memory? A vague melody that thrums in the recesses of the brain, a bittersweet reminder of life as it once was, the songs of life that are sung no more. To escape this blighted landscape, I crawl "Back Into the Hole Where I was Born," but there is no comfort there, only pictures of my family that fell victim to this catastrophe. Soon, in despair and death, I too will be gone. It is said, that when you stare into the abyss, the abyss stares back into you. The "Devouring
Night" absorbs all into its blackness. It is all-encompassing. There is no escape, no rescue, no reprieve. And so, this is the fate to which we've been consigned. In the final frozen gasps of life, "Oblivion To You All" are the only words that are uttered. In the aftermath, "And the Far Unlit Unknown," spirits wander the cosmos in search of succor and meaning. Is there any to be found? You will never know until you get there...

Well, that's it, the doomsday scenario is complete...or is it? There's a bonus track- "She Only Comes Out at Night," a rather terrifying little number designed to ensure all your dreams will be nightmares. If this doesn't scare the crap out of you, I don't know what will. Yes, Noctilucant has raised the bar in the dark ambient realm with 'Oblivion to You All'. The only question is, where do we go from here?

Simon Balestrazzi: Ghost Systems (for Earle Browne)

 Posted by Vito Camarretta (@)   Ambient / Electronica / Ethereal / Dub / Soundscapes / Abstract
Experimental / Avantgarde / Weird & Wired / Glitch / Noise / Field Recording
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Sep 18 2016
Artist: Simon Balestrazzi
Title: Ghost Systems (for Earle Browne)
Format: CD
Label: Azoth
Rated: *****
Earle Browne is one of the key historical figure (together with Christian Wolff, Morton Feldman, and John Cage) in the field of aleatoric music and his contribution to music (particularly to New York City downtown scene) has been remarkably relevant. He was not totally against notation, but he rather reinvented it, as you can guess by some of his most famous scores: for instance the notation of "December 1952" was entirely based on a graphical notation of horizontal and vertical bars varying in length and "width" (according to Browne's notes, a bidimensional transcription could be freely interpreted as if it had a third dimension), that should freely interpret by every single performer; the score of his first aleatoric piece, "Twenty-Five Pages", consisted of 25 pages with no particular order and no clefs, so that any performer was completely free to follow its performative rules - any performance resulted in an entirely different composition! - and got inspired, according to Browne's words, by Alexander Calder's kinetic sculptures. Strictly related to the above-mentioned "December 1952", "Four Systems" was one of his latest scores and it (or better, the adaptation for four amplified cymbals by Max Neuhaus on Electronique Et Percussion) was the sparkle for this new output by Simon Balestrazzi. In spite of some resemblances with that rendition (particularly the extreme dilatation of the each single tonal length), it's impossible to refer to this release as a calque due to the aleatoric nature of the composition. The way by which Simon paid homage to Browne's score is strictly connected to his idea of making a release about time and memory. The mnemonic element came from a series of recordings (snippets and deconstructed samples related to the notion of ghosts) to be used as a raw material he held, but the connection with Four Systems score has been explained as follows: "I also used Brown's graphic score in every possible twisted way I could imagine: turned into a sort of stencil, I used it to select the samples, their length and frequencies ranges, to choose and place field recordings from my archives, as a ratio for stretching the samples and as a piano roll score to play them...". Such a combination of Browne's score and aural memories resulted into a collection of seven tracks (each of them lasting between 4 to 21 minutes), whose slow dilutions and expansions sound like a deep sonic pool, where field recordings resurface like forgotten memories and entities before disappearing again. The listening experience he provided is intense and constantly interlacing silence and sound and could plunge the listener into a cryptic journey towards unknown emotional depths.

Ingar Zach: Le Stanze

 Posted by Stuart Bruce (@)   Ambient / Electronica / Ethereal / Dub / Soundscapes / Abstract
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Sep 16 2016
Artist: Ingar Zach
Title: Le Stanze
Format: CD
Label: Sofa Music
“Le Stanze” was recorded across 2014 and 2015 and mixed in 2016.

The spaciousness of opening track “La bugia dello specchio” serves as prelude to “Il battito del vichingo” as the main event, a relentless rhythmic pulsing of metal and chimes. Ten minutes of marching, tribal-ish workout then unfold and give way to spontaneous hits and reverberations that get progressively more sparse and distant.

Despite being comfortably packaged in art house territory, there are points in the first half of “Il battito del vichingo” in particular feels like it’s only a couple of synth sounds away from being an epic club track from Underworld. There’s a techno beat lurking, teasing, but never revealing itself. I struggle to tell with “L'inno dell' oscurita” whether this track is especially steeped in post-production or whether it’s a complex and elaborate arrangement of live feedback and filters creating the deeply alien and unearthly effects. I suspect it’s the latter, but either way, the result is like the waking of an intelligent alien warhorse, sinister and unnerving- and from around the five minute mark, genuinely difficult to listen to.

“È solitudine” begins in the absence of time, and apart from an occasional bang, languishes in feedback and its own evolution- standing out as being much more relaxed and pensive than the previous pieces.

In some parts this is just a single-note-bassline away from being techno, in other parts it’s a challenging discordant cacophony, in other parts a percussive chill-out album. Fascinating stuff, but hard to pin down.

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