Music Reviews

Akasau: s/t

 Posted by Kristofer Upjohn   Ambient / Electronica / Ethereal / Dub / Soundscapes / Abstract
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Aug 05 2004
Artist: Akasau
Title: s/t
Format: CD
Label: Domo
Akasau's music is not vocals accompanied by music. OK, well, it is, but not in the conventional sense. This almost has the feel of a capella music, even though there is minimalist instrumental accompaniment behind the soft, lulling vocals (in what I think is Japanese). The instruments are mere, slight backdrop to the compelling vocalizing of Akasau. The music is minimal, true, but that only adds to its ability to bring you in and take you to a place of peace and relaxation. One can easily imagine himself drawn away to mountains inhabitated only by the most spiritually devout. You will find yourself a witness to sainthood deep in the far reaches of nature when immersed in this music that has as much to do with spiritual chanting, perhaps, as "conventional" songwriting. Intriguing ...

Sean Valant: The Electronic Symphony Project

 Posted by Kristofer Upjohn   Ambient / Electronica / Ethereal / Dub / Soundscapes / Abstract
Experimental / Avantgarde / Weird & Wired / Glitch / Noise / Field Recording
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Aug 05 2004
Artist: Sean Valant (@)
Title: The Electronic Symphony Project
Format: CDS (CD Single)
There's almost a certain playfulness, in a quiet avant-garde way, to this dish of serious electronica. Roughly speaking, you could call this jazz run through experimental Muzak with a dab of mild industrial. Quiet and non-aggressive but strong in personality, this music finds different little elements vying with each other, much like the different instrumental elements in classical music, which this also resembles in its own strange way. Essentially containing the flavor of classic instrumental compositions (with a touch of exotic world, now that I think about it) but spiced and altered by the outside-the-box electronic experimentation of the artist, The Electronic Symphony Project is one man replacing an entire orchestra and doing so in an engaging and understated way.
Artist: Imperfect
Title: A Book of Many Pages Chapter One
Format: CD
Imperfect is definitely industrial but what the term industrial usually conjures is not what this is. Downtempo, very mechanical in personality beats plug forward while subdued bassy melodies lethargically pursue their ends. This is one of those industrial acts that truly touches on the idea of industrial in some primitive way. Machine-y beats chugged through distortion march ahead like a slow, deliberate but determined army. Such slow-groove electronically generated music may not be immediately hooking but once you've sunk into it you will find that it moves along to the beat of its own drummer, so to speak, and that it has all the capability to carry the discerning listener along with it. This is contemplative, if dark, industrial, not aggro-industrial. Open-minded listeners are encouraged to experience this instrumental escapade.

TEN HORNED BEAST: Ten Stars - Ten Horns

 Posted by Eugenio Maggi (@)   Ambient / Electronica / Ethereal / Dub / Soundscapes / Abstract
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Aug 02 2004
Title: Ten Stars - Ten Horns
Format: CD
Label: self-released
Rated: *****
Whoah. This is one of the most diverse and intriguing self-released cdrs that I've come across in a long while. THB is the solo project of Christopher Walton, who used to be part of well-known ambient occultists Endvra (whose "The Watcher", on Old Europa Cafè, is still one of my faves in the dark drones field). Chris also plays dark ambient/neoclassical music as Servants of the Secret Flame, but THB has been his main activity for a while. What can I say? Experience and talent shows. THB is pitch black drone-doom. Everything is black just right from the impressive package: the cover design has been printed on transparent film, so you can barely see it when housed in the DVD case; the cdr is black, as is the cardboard insert with black wax and black lace - talk of indicative packaging. And the music is great, and fairly different from what I thought. I was expecting some doom minimalism à la Earth or Sunn))00, but nope, THB seems to walk his own path. There are little to no '70's influences here, instead I was reminded a lot of great UK post-metal acts like Godflesh and Scorn: though THB's pieces are notably different, some characteristics (heavy drum programming, cold and very dilated guitars, etc.) are definitely there. But again, THB is really quite individual. Imagine a bass line or guitar riff obtusely repeated over and over again; drumming is rare, but provides for an obsessive militaristic feel; and then, the best part, the dark drones spiralling and coiling all over. Actually, I think that the more ambient tracks, like "Ten Stars Ten Horns", are just perfect. Pure solipsistic despair. Instead, the more "doom-oriented" ones, while good, could be bettered - at times, the riffs still sound a bit detached from the whole. But the massive, 20-minute "Shrines I-III" does reach the perfect combination. As Walton is working on a lot of new material (including tracks, allegedly, "up to 50 minutes in length"...), I expect some stellar release from the Beast in the near future.

LEVIATHAN/GRIMBERGEN: ...of revisionism and relinquishment

 Posted by Eugenio Maggi (@)   Ambient / Electronica / Ethereal / Dub / Soundscapes / Abstract
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Aug 02 2004
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Title: ...of revisionism and relinquishment
Format: CD
Label: Monkeyhouse Recordings (@)
Rated: *****
A split effort of these two young UK ambient projects, both swapping/mixing each other's sounds in some compositions as well. Leviathan, who released other 2 cdrs on Monkeyhouse (that have also been recently collected) is definitely interesting, as it's not really typical dark ambient - instead, it is fairly melodic, with a melancholic and elegiac tone. Good point: the melodies are pleasant, and well managed. Bad point: the effects used are quite terrible, basically a simple, fixed distortion which never changes throughout. So it's like having good music filtered through a distortion pedal. "The Unattainable Object", which should be a remix of Grimbergen's material, is much darker and heavier, with slowly crawling bass drones - a successfull track, with both tension and a trance-inducing effect. Grimbergen's sound heavily relies on swirling synth sounds, with some obsessive mechanical percussions ("Entering the Painfields") and a taste for epic melodies. It sounds very... Nordic, so to speak. His mix is clearer than Leviathan's, but I personally don't like synths when they're so recognizable and standard-sounding. But "Is this the place?" has a more subdued minimal throbbing which does build an atmosphere. All in all, my impression is that both project have promising qualities (all tracks are fairly well constructed, and not boring) but still have to work hard for better results, both stylistically and technically.

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