Music Reviews

Ch District vs Duuster: Chemical Elements 1.0

 Posted by Marc Urselli   Ambient / Electronica / Ethereal / Dub / Soundscapes / Abstract
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Jul 06 2003
Artist: Ch District vs Duuster
Title: Chemical Elements 1.0
Format: CD
Label: M-Tronic (@)
Any time you see an M-Tronic release you can confidently pick it up 'cause you know it's gonna be kick-ass damn good electro-industrial music. "Chemical Elements 1.0" by Polish CH District (aka Miroslaw Matyasik) and Dutch Duuster (aka Ton Driessens, also responsible for the sounds of Element 11) keeps up the tradition and defies gravity and expectations with what is the first in a series of split collaboration CDs. In 1.0 the two artists have 6 tracks each and then share one track to express their chemical visions and their fuming and stirring distilled soundscapes. The reactions produced by Ch District are in the field of hard-hitting saturated-bass drum techno-industrial with calm bell-y sounds and relaxing sequences of sleepy tunes. A thoughtful blend of tranquil, synthetic and harmonious sounds with and modern low-fi, raw and scratchy rhythmical structures. I think you can't help but to talk of Aphex Twin when you write about Ch District, but the point is there's just a great balance between the two opposite factors. Duuster seem to be more into ethereal ambientronics and they rarely really take off on beats the way their CD-mates do. Their obscure and liquid molecular electronica revolves around downtempo and airy ambience but when they get carried away with the beats they know how to keep it clean and exciting. The last song of the CD is the collaborative track and is a good example of how the two above described elements are mixed and blended together to clone the ultimate formula of industrial-ambient. Really great chemistry. The album comes in a nice black-matte cardboard digi-package with silver ink (limited to 500 copies).

Johnny Hollow: s/t

 Posted by Marc Urselli   Ambient / Electronica / Ethereal / Dub / Soundscapes / Abstract
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Jul 01 2003
Artist: Johnny Hollow (@)
Title: s/t
Format: CD
Label: Pop Off
I must admit I am having a rough time reviewing this record because, after listening to it for about the 10th time in a row, I still can't really figure out how to describe it to you accurately (which, let me tell you, is a bitch for me but most definitely a high for the record). Waterloo-based Johnny Hollow have come up with a great record, that's for sure: complex, multi-faceted, loaded with intense feelings and quite imaginative and graphic in its very unique nature. The first band that came to my mind when I heard the opening track with the gracefully feeble and harmoniously fragile female vocals was The Cranes, but then that same singer ventured into totally different territories (think Madonna etc) and is joined by a male voice and plenty of other assorted vocal material as well. Depoche Mode, David Byrne, David Bowie, Dram Into Dust, Butterfly Messiah, Garbage, Black Tape for a Blue Girl, The Soil Bleeds Black and others come to mind here and there. The reference to the typical 4D sound retains its value throughout most of the record and to that label you might wanna add Projekt records (one of the two should really give these guys a deal), even though, like I said earlier, don't expect anything anywhere near a homogeneous album. What seem to sound like Mark Snow-inspired strings and cello arrangements, when used provide for a sophisticated, atmospheric, sad and melancholic background and usually turn the tracks into movie-soundtrack-friendly material (especially, as you might expect, for Chris Carter or David Lynch creations). Their texture-intensive folk-electronica with haunting and compelling beats is soaked in emotions and breaths pop music. You'll be raptured by its gorgeous and intricate ethereal fabric, entwining around the particles of styles and sub-genres that see the light of night and the darkness of day during these exciting 51 minutes. They say it's passion and madness. Absolutely an amazing debut!
Very nicely done art work as well (by extremely talented graphic-designer and founding member of the band Vincent Marcone from

William Basinski: The Disintegration Loops II

 Posted by Julia Soultanova (@)   Ambient / Electronica / Ethereal / Dub / Soundscapes / Abstract
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Jun 26 2003
Artist: William Basinski (@)
Title: The Disintegration Loops II
Format: CD
Label: MMLXII(2062) (@)
One can't do without some historical data on THE DISINTEGRATION LOOPS II. Two acts of destruction are merged in one creative idea. Two "minuses" have turned into "pluses" with mathematical precision: the falling of NY twins and the once and for all flaking magnetic tape that has been storing William's records for ages. There are no transformations in sight within the cyclical movement of loops. No contrasts, just one big, amorphous cloud, kaleidoscopically lighted from without. Its compositions, once smooth and flexible, have not been reborn, but rather taken another stance, thanks to a magnetic tape. The dynamic reincarnation has hidden the past beyond the silent memory, leaving to us only what's on show here. The curious thing in this album's idea is the intersection of attitudes - the parting with the past in order to create in the present and the saving of the present in order not to forget in the future.

The opportunity to see William's video-installation, which emphasizes the roots of this work, will bring immeasurable rewards. Let us just say that the video is nothing else than the fixing of day-long fading of American emblem - the skyscrapers of World Trade Center. Rolling clouds of smoke and dust, sucked in by the clear sky in an attempt to hide its inappropriate smoothness, the shifts of lighting and the dark silhouettes of city domes and roofs, watching the agonized convulsions of their gaudy neighbors from a distance.

A clarinetist with a classical background, expressive jazz saxophonist and stylish composer William Basinski doesn't live any space for boredom and indifference. His trademark technique - mixing and overdubbing several melodic loops - sounds quite simple, but from this simplicity his delicate and abrasive ambient aquarelles are born.

The first of a couple of long compositions is "D|P 2.2". The crunching and whooshing surround snatches of sound that stir the calm smoothness of light and blurry melodic line. The crackling and droning sounds seem like they're trapped in the cabin of a roller coaster. The slow ascending to the next peak and the shivers of impatience are running through the body as the heart ceases to beat and in the middle of a sigh we are thrown down again to the abyss which is instantaneous, strangely attractive and inescapable. The next round, deceptively similar to the previous one, will find us in completely another, excited state. On the next peak the throw down will not be so sharply felt, we will feel the desire to retain the regular breath in order to be able to see everything that's visible from the point of the beginning of falling. The irrepressible oblivion will turn into the heat of a hunter.

The music of William is not a landscape, it's the air filled with ozone, made sparser by the wind and colored by sun blisters. The stamp of beauty is found on every bit of it, the beauty as the only constant force which is visible even during the saddest moments. The gentle melancholy, which is especially felt in the second composition on the disc "D|P 3", does not break the inner harmony. It is changing the balance of moods, but doesn't bring any mess of feelings. The sound flows freely in our veins, it seems, instead of being limited by space enclosed within the walls. The crystal flow of sound penetrates each living cell, enveloping the insides, filling us with unexplainable freshness, relaxing, giving strength, unobtrusively healing and remaining after it's gone. Hypnotized, we leave the headphones lying on the table after completing this journey together with the music, taking this calm, ever-staying beauty with us. The pulsating atmosphere becomes part of us. It's out of reach for unconsciousness because it's not a phenomenon, but a natural, universal rhythm.

REGIVAR: afairytaleelatyriafa

 Posted by Eugenio Maggi (@)   Ambient / Electronica / Ethereal / Dub / Soundscapes / Abstract
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May 31 2003
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Artist: REGIVAR (@)
Title: afairytaleelatyriafa
Format: 2 x CD (double CD)
Label: S'Agita Recordings (@)
A new release by Raffaella Graziosi/Regivar after "Colonna sonora per un film immaginario" (see archive); this time it's a double cd-r, with circa 90 minutes of music. "afairytaleelatyriafa" follows the steps of "Colonna sonora...", with its mix of deep cosmic ambient and eerie concrete material crawling in here and there. But, in a way, I feel this is a much more mature, and more daring, release. Possibly even darker, though it's probably a matter of personal perception. Definitely akin to past greats like Klaus Schulze or Edgar Froese, but still "modern" in its approach, I'd immediately associate this release with label-mate AAL's "In Luce"; they share the same hallucinated, but soothing mix of light and darkness.

NIMH: The impossible days

 Posted by Eugenio Maggi (@)   Ambient / Electronica / Ethereal / Dub / Soundscapes / Abstract
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May 31 2003
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Artist: NIMH (@)
Title: The impossible days
Format: CD
Label: self-released
Giuseppe Verticchio is easily one of the most prolific and interesting names in the Italian ambient-electronic underground, and it's about time he got the attention he deserves from labels and public. "The impossible days" is a mature, inspired cd combining the best characteristics of works like "Line of Fire" and "Frozen" (see archive) but taking them one step ahead. Far from being repetitive, "The impossible days" seems to take the deep synth layers and field recordings from "Line of Fire" to a different plan; I'd say this is more meditative and indirect in its approach, though not less effective. Actually, these compositions gain strength from their rarefaction, like the brilliant incipit "Lost signals", with its minimal, hypnotic pulses, definitely my fave track here. If I had to mention some akin artists, I'd say the ritual ambient of Steve Roach, Vidna Obmana and Robert Rich at their best has left its mark here; but bear in mind Verticchio's sound easily stand on its own. Really worth checking out, like every other releases of Nimh's.

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