Music Reviews



AAL: In Luce

 Posted by Eugenio Maggi (@)   Ambient / Electronica / Ethereal / Dub / Soundscapes / Abstract
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Mar 22 2003
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Artist: AAL (@)
Title: In Luce
Format: CD
Label: S'Agita Recordings (@)
This should be Davide Vallecchi's fifth release in a couple of years, and though the time span is short, the improvement in his music is dramatic. In the wake of his self-released cdr's ("Disc 1" and "Inherited and partially transmitted"), this new work seems to also incorporate the organic quality of his electroacoustic/field recordings-based compositions ("13" and "Dear Dead Days" on S'Agita), and this synthesis is a remarkable sign of maturity. "In Luce" is pure cosmic ambient for creatures of earth and breath. Vertigos of light (and Schulze's "Irrlicht" is the closest work I can think of as a paragon) and passages of shadows - never completely detached in the moments of ecstasy, nor desolate in the dark ones. And never static, turbulent in its suspension, in continuous mutation - to describe one single track would be like trying to pin down a cloud. As moving and enchanting as art (/life) should always be.

VV.AA.: New Sound Theory vol. 1

 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: New Sound Theory vol. 1
Format: CD
Label: basicLUX (@)
As soon as I saw this disc in my mail it felt like this was gonna be the next best thing in our reviews section and I was right... This is the kind of record I elected for my next cross-Atlantic trip, along with Echo's and the Saafi Brother's "Liquid Beach". ;-) But enough about me and more about this great new compilation.
Released by husband and wife James and DeAnna Cool's new label basicLUX based in Atlanta, GA, "New Sound Theory"'s first volume is "...a sound for lifestyle"! It brings together fifteen of the best new acts of the smooth chill-out downtempo ambient electronica scene, each adding their own interpretative key to the theory, from nu jazz to neo soul, from deephouse to trip'n'bass. Artists include Chris Brann (of Ananda Project, Wamdue, P'taah), Soulrider, Stormchild, Bleu Screen, Madison Park vs Lenny B, Puzzle, Bryan Ogden, Auricle, JC Scott Project, Salah Ananse, Kaizer, KemeticJust and Abstract Foundation. So much new and affirmed eclectic talent on one record makes for a great buy, I'll tell you, because it's not every day that you find good and groovy lounge music like this. You can dance to it, you can vibe to it, it's great for every mood you are in (almost...) and it's absolutely terrific and cool sounding! I love it.
It's interesting to know that the CD came out with the help of unusual (for the music business that is) sponsoring partners, such as a funky and hip clothing/accessories boutique, a Japanese retreat spa/salon and an body/home accessories store (all in Atlanta) which further proves the kind of lifestyle integration that this project reaches out for.
By the way, if you are in the area, you may also catch some of the action live at the newsoundtheory sundays (log on to their website for full schedule of events)!
Except for just a couple of tracks that perhaps aren't quite up there I think, and except for the fact that such a compilation CD would deserve and has people expect more linear notes about each artist (mini bios, contacts etc), I'd say it's a great little gem of quality new sounds, and not just theoretically speaking... ;-)

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!


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