Music Reviews



VV.AA.: Babylon is Ours - the USA in Dub

 Posted by Marc Urselli   Ambient / Electronica / Ethereal / Dub / Soundscapes / Abstract
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Mar 21 2003
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Artist: VV.AA.
Title: Babylon is Ours - the USA in Dub
Format: CD
Label: Select Cuts (division of Echo Beach) (@)
Distributor: Caroline
Get ready for some groovy and chillin' dub action with shades of green, yellow and red, if you know what I mean. This "all-exclusive collection of American dub flavors" bears the colors of a winner and comes to you directly from the streets of the most involved cities of the nation (including New York City, pictured in the cover in a quasi "Independence Day" scenario with a huge speaker hovering over the island and drawing a huge shadow over part of it, as well as in the booklet and in-lay card with Lady Liberty). Released by German Echo Beach's new sub label Select Cuts and compiled by XLR8R magazine journalist Ron Nachmann and by San Francisco's "Dub Mission" club night masterminds Dj Seb and Sep Ghadishah, "Babylon is Ours - the USA in Dub" is available on CD and 12" and collects some of the finest dub music with an American signature.
Organic Grooves founders Dj Sasha Crnobrnja (aka Cosmic Rocker, from Switzerland) and guitarist Zeb (from Italy) open the celebration with heavily electronic-enriched low-sub-bass-driven dub (the kind of dub I like the most!); Phase Selector definitely hoist the Jamy flag; Santa Cruz Dub Congress keep it up there with their spacey roots dancehall; Avatars of Dub initially go for the trumpets but really only get interesting when they later add the drum'n'bass ingredient to their recipe; Cuban turntablist virtuoso Tino (aka Tino Corp, featuring Jack Dangers and Ben Stokes) has a big bass line and adds long delayed samples of every kind; Mark Pistel (also founding member of the great political band Consolidated - definitely check them out! - and Meat Beat Manifesto collaborator) mostly comes from the electronic scene but definitely proves here (if his two records "Electronic Dub Collective" weren't proof enough) that he's got what it takes to be successful with dub too; right from here in NYC comes Zeb (whom I met and worked with in the past...), a great eclectic experimental guitarist like few others in the scene (with backgrounds including the UK Brixton's scene and collaborations with Future Sound of London and The Scientist among others), who samples his own guitar playing to play live on top of it and presents a great track; Eastern Dub Tactik (one of the few good things to come out from curch ;-)) works out a theme reminiscent of an Eurhythmics hit and introduces great Asian tabla playing into his spiritual mix giving it that wider geographical reach (even though you won't hear much of the "world hip-hop" he was envisioning earlier in the days); the Ben Wa Oakland duo go more minimal than the others and add some UK-ish ambient-like textures that our readers will sure appreciate; Sub Oslo (I don't know if they are from Oslo) are a full blown performance group who go even deeper with their sub-bass' frequencies (hence the name I guess) and keep their guitar player busy ad-libing; Otaku (I do know they are not the ones from Italy - but they probably choose the same name for the same political reasons: i.e. Japan's hacker/cultural jammers movement) go for a trip/hip-hop-like beat with very interesting elements usually extraneous to the dub/reggae scene, such as distortion, arpeggiators, very short delays and cut-off frequency sweeping; the other all-live act of this record who also ends the party is Systemwide, who jam with Brooklynite Dr. Israel and Oaklander Dj Collage in what seems to be the only piece with actual vocal parts on this compilation while carrying on their «genre dissolving» modern tradition/traditional modern style. Nice booklet with extensive notes. Great buy for those into the dub scene, but you'll have to wait until the end of April when the album will be in stores!

Sing Sing: Joy Of Sing Sing

 Posted by KlingKlangBedlam   Ambient / Electronica / Ethereal / Dub / Soundscapes / Abstract
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Mar 17 2003
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Artist: Sing Sing
Title: Joy Of Sing Sing
Format: CD
Label: Manifesto Records
Distributor: Manifesto Records
Ok forget about Lush... .ummmmmm ok don’t forget about Lush, as they were the first ethereal band for me, and their music still wraps spells on me. But just keep it out of mind when listening to this. Never mind the ads and big neon signs in the store pointing at the CD "This has Emma Anderson From Lush!!", as this is something a good deal different, carrying Emma’s vision to somewhere completely different and divine. For one, Emma is on the sidelines on this one, orchestrating the music more instead of singing, leaving that to the sweet vocals of Lisa O’Niel, whose vocals remind me a bit of a better produced and versed Cranes or even the long missed and underrated Shallow. Even hardened non-pop fans will find her vocals as guiltily pleasurable as fat free feta cheese! And both work together divinely. Rather than the often driven music of Lush, this one is far more structured, offering Moog lines and even trumpets on the track "Far Away From Love". This CD also dabbles in hip hop beats on "I’ll Be" and back to pure ethereal pop goodness of yore with "Feels Like Summer". The video for it included with the domestic CD is quite nice, showing a myriad of scenes from what would seem like Cadeques, Spain or something like that. Also, on a side note, from the video Emma has gotten both more talented and beautiful with age, showing a torch in the world of often fading ethereal pop artists who come and go. And Lisa is quite beautiful herself, as well as very, very talented at the same time. Definitely recommended for fans of The Cranes, Chandeen and ethereal pop altogether, and for just sheerly gorgeous music in general. If you buy it expecting another Lush, you may just find that you’ve bumped into something different and in ways better. Away from Emma’s more bouncy energy with Lush comes a project that shows the even more mature side from one of music’s finest talents, as well as a welcome newcomer who is sure to grow and glow as time goes on. Rating: 10

Echo: Echo

 Posted by Marc Urselli   Ambient / Electronica / Ethereal / Dub / Soundscapes / Abstract
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Mar 16 2003
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Artist: Echo
Title: Echo
Format: CD
Label: New Line Records (@)
Distributor: Giant Steps


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Echo is a new revelation and one of the most exciting, seductive and high quality jazz-electronic ensembles that I have recently come across, if not ever... A perfectly balanced fusion of lounge electronics, soundscaping origami, jazz progressions, occasional drum'n'bass grooves, pop flavors, Brazilian vibes and experimental sparkles delivered with minimal instrumentation but extremely effective results and loaded with emotional intensity. Opening with a stunning version of the ever green classic "I've got You under my Skin" and sporting highlights such as the relaxing chill-out "Sparks from a Wheel", the cryptic and lullaby-ish "Night and Day", the enchanting Brit-ish "Everytime we say Goodbye" (she sounds just like Annie Lennox), the rupturing and moody live-drum'n'bass "Can't walk Away", the experimental and popping "Secret Life", the deep-bass "Love for Sale", the smoothly jazzy and vaguely latin "The Girl from Ipanema", the easy and latin-groovy "Surrender" and the chill-out joint "In the Wee Small Hours of the Morning"... Originals and standards define the blurry balance between jazz and electronica in a way that only a NYC-based duo (even though Joy is originally from the UK and Takuya is Japanese) can achieve: with a simply magical synergy! And since I practically mentioned every song of the record you should have understood the caliber of "Echo", as one of the best and most promising newcomers out there. Of course the term newcomer does not apply to the individuals themselves involved in the Echo project. Eclectic singer Joy Askew (www.joyaskew.com) and her beautiful and dynamic voice boasts a crowded discography with credits including Peter Gabriel, Laurie Anderson and more; Trumpet/Keyboard player & programmer Takuya Nakamura has a history of collaborations in the electronic scene (Nerve, Organic Grooves) as well as in the jazz scene (Clark Terry, Bob Moses, Ravi Coltrane); Mark Wood softly strums his Brazilian guitar strings in a Romero-ish style without ever getting intrusive on Takuya's downtempo grooves; the amazing Swiss d'n'b drummer Yojo bangs the skins on one of the tracks too; and the mixing is left to the magic hands and ears of Roli Mosimann (whose credits include the Young Gods, Faith No More, Smashin' Pumpkins among others and who mixed Echo at my good friend and partner Fran Cathcart's recording studio Severe Sound).Echo has followed me everywhere, in my car, in planes, on intercontinental trips and home... I can listen to this over and over without ever getting tired of it. I have listened to this record a million times already and love each and every tune... Whether you've been good or bad, you just owe it to yourself to get this record, because I can guarantee you are gonna fall in love with it! Absolutely amazing and wonderful!

PRIMITIVE PAINTER: Armadillo In The Snow

 Posted by Maurizio Pustianaz (@)   Ambient / Electronica / Ethereal / Dub / Soundscapes / Abstract
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Mar 15 2003
Artist: PRIMITIVE PAINTER
Title: Armadillo In The Snow
Format: MCD (Mini CD)
Label: Dead Digital (@)
"Here we are with four new tracks. We are not human. We play with your hearing sense and we like it. We don't care about letting you identify us or letting you listening to our voices. We like samples and electronic music because we are sons of a digital bitch who we never met". This could be a good introduction if I was Primitive Painter and I think it quite describe their sound which has got apparently a casual structure. Also their track's title are disarming. "Armadillo In The Snow", "Mantra", "Peoples Parasite" and "Foetal Attraction" seems to be played by the Residents during an acid house session and this is quite fun. Maybe... or is it just scaring???

RAFFAELE SERRA: Digital Avatar

 Posted by Eugenio Maggi (@)   Ambient / Electronica / Ethereal / Dub / Soundscapes / Abstract
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Mar 09 2003
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Artist: RAFFAELE SERRA
Title: Digital Avatar
Format: CD
Label: AFE (@)
A true veteran of the Italian electronic/ambient scene, with renown works like "Kodak Ghost Poem", "Ritual in transfigured time" and "A tapestry for the sorcerers", Raffaele Serra has been collaborating over the last few years with Andrea Marutti (Amon, Never Known, Lips Vago, Spiral...)'s AFE, now a kind of official label for his releases, like the most recent one, "Europe Endless". This work, released last year with the usual professional care (AFE's cdr's could undoubtly be mistaken for "official" releases), is explicit from its very title and layout: a blend of Oriental spirituality and modern technology, a sort of heartfelt prayer from an Occidental man of today. The opening track, "Morning Glory", and the closing one, "River of No Return", embrace the whole work with a frame of ritual ambient textures reminding of Steve Roach or Vidna Obmana; ethereal drones bearing light and shades. The rest of the work, while sharing a common atmosphere - like a sort of "unquiet trance", if you pass me the oxymoron -, is definitely more rhythmic, with remarkable tracks like "Water-Lily" and "The Glass Key", or the more serene "Wooden"; I can only say they reminded me A LOT of the works of the Portuguese duo Ras.Al.Ghul, possibly for a common "spiritual sense" as well.


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