Music Reviews

BAD SECTOR: Retrovirus

 Posted by Eugenio Maggi (@)   Ambient / Electronica / Ethereal / Dub / Soundscapes / Abstract
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Aug 05 2002
Artist: BAD SECTOR (@)
Title: Retrovirus
Format: CD
Label: AFE (@)
I don't think I have to introduce Bad Sector, since Massimo Magrini's creature has been a relevant name in experimental ambient for quite some time. This release, on Amon/Never Known/Lips Vago Andrea Marutti's AFE, was issued in 333 copies and is probably sold-out by now, but you can probably find some copies in several mailorders... or maybe ask for a re-press... "Retrovirus" collects a series of tracks from 1987 to 2000, and shows Bad Sector's typical ability to build menacing dark ambient tracks using a variety of different sources (here, for example, a phasing sequencer, a bowed copper wire, vocal samples etc.) with a great sense of structure and composition, but also at the same time a distinct "emotional" and visionary quality which is often missing in realeases of this genre. The atmosphere is almost always gloomy and tense, which fits with the apparent virus theme, a relevant exception being "TCGT [scatter]", a perfect piece of soothing cosmic music. Very well done digipack sleeve in pro-printed cardboard, and adequately abstract-looking scientific graphics.

NIMH: Line of Fire

 Posted by Eugenio Maggi (@)   Ambient / Electronica / Ethereal / Dub / Soundscapes / Abstract
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Jul 30 2002
Artist: NIMH (@)
Title: Line of Fire
Format: CD
Label: Self-released
Nimh is the other solo project of Giuseppe Verticchio, who released the excellent "Distant Skylines" last year. This work has its backbone in synthsizers, mostly digital ones I guess, though the sound is pretty "analogue" in a lot of passages. Two long tracks (27' and 25') with a lot of inner variations and possible sub-divisions. Sometimes there are several layers with aggressive patterns, sometimes they are reduced to a dark rumbling drone - environmental noises and voices (is it Russian?) only help in creating a tense, breath-taking atmosphere of panic and siege. Judging by the cover the work is inspired by war sceneries, effectively evoked by these cold, corrosive sounds.


 Posted by Eugenio Maggi (@)   Ambient / Electronica / Ethereal / Dub / Soundscapes / Abstract
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Jul 23 2002
Title: Distant Skylines
Format: CD
Label: Self-released
Born in 1965, Giuseppe Verticchio began composing ambient music in the first half of the '90's, and over the years has been releasing a remarkable series of cds, both as a solo performer (under his real name or with the monicker Nimh) and as a member of the trio biaSthon, with Adriano Scerna (also known for his project Anofele) and Marco Ramassotto, musicians who also collaborate to the first two tracks of this amazing work. Verticchio's also active with Oltre il Suono, an excellent website for ambient and electronic artists which released an equally good sampler called "Beyond the Sound" this year (see archive).
"Distant Skylines", composed and recorded in 2001, is a superb work. The main sound sources are ethnic instruments (mostly Thai percussions and strings) and voices; both are sometimes digitally processed and transformed into unrecognizable, eerie sounds. "The Market-Place", "Village Feast" and "Children Memories" share this pervading presence of voices, which, mixed with the metallic sounds of the instruments, and a thick subterrean layer of noises (first two tracks), constitute a mind-numbing whirlpool: field recordings of common voices and chants are mixed into layers, looped and processed with an incredible ability and care for detail, and the effect is stunning. "Late Afternoon at Wat Phra Yai" is a beautiful droning piece: xylophones, cymbals, gongs, mantra-like chants... the most ethereal track of the work. "Keota's song" is a short (just a bit more than a minute), sweet track with a baby singing an alphabet song with background windchimes sounds.
Verticchio shows an excellent taste in composition - the cd assembles different materials but never loses its coherence and the long tracks (3 out of 5 are around 13') are never boring. Moreover, sound quality's extremely high, every detail is clearly audible and there are no flares in the mix - absolutely professional also in this aspect. But possibly the main merit of this work is that it starts with ethnic sources and does give the idea of an "outer" dimension without falling into cheap exotism or new age naiveté. This is, for real, a sonic experience of the senses and of the soul...

Lacuna Coil: Unleashed Memories

 Posted by KlingKlangBedlam   Ambient / Electronica / Ethereal / Dub / Soundscapes / Abstract
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Jul 20 2002
Artist: Lacuna Coil
Title: Unleashed Memories
Format: CD
Label: Century Media Records
I know this review may be a bit late,but most people in the ethereal genre may tend to overlook this great band for the reason it's on a label associated more with metal than ethereal, though it gave us great bands like The Gathering. After hearing this band's "To Myself I Turned" on, this Italian band hooked me. Extrememly strong female vocals, at times subtle guitars sometimes louder guitars, and intersesting drumming,make for a very strong formula,especially the vocalist,Christina Scabbia.
The album is strong throughtout,though a bit heavy for most ethereal fans. Think This Ascension with a brighter side and more versatile vocals, or TA crossed with the Gathering.
The strongest points on the CD are "Heir To a Dying Day" and "Senzafine" which is all done in their native Italian.
The band, though they tend to go heavy at times,are best at their most subtle, adding sprinkles of keyboard to add to their uniquely dreamy mood.
Overall, a very strong CD, and to me,a must for fans of both the hard gothic rock and ethereal sides of the spectrum. Rating: 9.

LoveSpirals: WindBlown Kiss

 Posted by KlingKlangBedlam   Ambient / Electronica / Ethereal / Dub / Soundscapes / Abstract
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Jul 17 2002
Artist: LoveSpirals (@)
Title: WindBlown Kiss
Format: CD
Label: Projekt Records
When Love Spirals Downwards left off/disbanded, the last effort, "Flux" a masterpiece by all means,left us with a poppier,more upbeat version of ethereal. And like me, alot of people may have expected those influences to seep through. But with the new group,which appropriates the name change, new influences have come through, with a strong jazz element. To think of it this is like Billy Holiday with better vocals and more of a mood!
The first track, "Oh So Long" starts off with a sensual horn section and Anji Bee's masterful ethereal vocals, which go for mood and emotion,not a high pitch like alot of ethereal vocalists. She reminds me alot of the girl from Portishead a bit,but softer. As good as Suzanne Perry was, Anji Bee has her matched,though I would damn well love to see them do a song together. The rest of the album flows with a very controlled calm,very laid back and sensual.
Overall, I still like "Flux" better mostly because I have great memories with that CD,and soothed me in some bad times. But this is still a welcome shift of direction,and should please fans of both jazz, ethereal, and emotional folk music. And if you're looking for that CD for you and your lover to listen to under some candlelight,this is it!Very recommended. Rating: 9
Look for an interview with the group I'm conducting right now as we speak! And find out the shocking news on what has become of Suzanne Perry of Love Spirals Downward! You will never guess.Thanks to Anji Bee and Ryan for the CD!

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