Music Reviews

John Chantler: Tomorrow Is Too Late

 Posted by Stuart Bruce (@)   Ambient / Electronica / Ethereal / Dub / Soundscapes / Abstract
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Oct 18 2019
Artist: John Chantler
Title: Tomorrow Is Too Late
Format: CD & Vinyl
Label: Room40
John Chantler predominantly works with electronics and synthesizers, building abstract instrumental soundscapes out of tones, harmonics, hums, and a variety of frequency shapes, some more toothy and industrial than others. But while those ingredients often lend themselves to relatively static and ambient works, the two pieces in Chantler’s fifth album “Tomorrow Is Too Late” are imbued with a lot of dynamic change. There’s a constant sense of either current or imminent shift, never allowing itself to properly settle.

The title track sometimes showcases electronic pulses that offer a sense of tempo that’s unpredictable, but never low. Despite being built as two nineteen-minute works, each drops into silence at certain points, returning with different arrangements and giving us distinct unlabelled chapters. The result is akin to scenes in an old sci-fi movie at times.

Second piece “We’re Always At The End” is a shade more glitchy in its impulsiveness, opening with rising and fallng metallic sounds that are abruptly cut in and out in a manner that becomes machine talking. This leads to a bright-sounding mid-point that wallows in the richness of the possible sounds, before dropping into a sparser and more ghostly conclusion.

From relatively simple and familiar sonic building blocks, John Chantler has created a couple of extremely expressive works that really milk a lot of emotion out of the electronics. The result is a surprisingly diverse journey that keeps you on your toes, and it’s certainly worth following.

And at least a passing mention has to be made to the strange sepia artwork of what seems to be a cow’s bottom and some dung- one of the least appropriate or sensible pieces of album art I’ve seen in a long time.

Voin Oruwu: Etudes from a Starship

 Posted by Vito Camarretta (@)   Ambient / Electronica / Ethereal / Dub / Soundscapes / Abstract
Experimental / Avantgarde / Weird & Wired / Glitch / Noise / Field Recording
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Oct 11 2019
Artist: Voin Oruwu (@)
Title: Etudes from a Starship
Format: CD
Label: Kvitnu (@)
Rated: *****
Most followers and fans of the releases by Kvitnu, the label masterfully managed by Dmytro Fedorenko and featuring Zavoloka handling on graphics and mastering, matches them to more techno-driven and electromechanical rhythms and a certain martial attitude, in spite of some of the latest releases moved towards more experimental and ambient stylistic zones, but most of the artists manage to meet the tastes of them by impressive sonic artifacts. Kiev-based producer Dmitry Avksentiev aka Koloah forged the project Voin Oruwu to fly over those same stylistic territories by means of an imaginary starship! The sense of ascension gets immediately evoked by the opening "Titan", where a sort of cosmic synth-generated harpsichord weaves a web of tension and urgency around a whose sound set, which manages to render a feeling of gradual detachment, getting even more vivid on the following "Rising", where traces of known organic life get more and more distant until the final fading out, and "Blur Planet", whose combination of sounds marks the turning point and the somehow foreboding vision or memory of the left planet. The garbled refrains and the unstable melodies of "Source" as well as the corrosive sound manipulations on "Acid Clavi 2010" fully dives into sci-fi sonic environment, and I would say the same process occurs on the following where "Decay Instability" - the first moment where Dmytry gets closer to the typical Rhythmic Noise concept, pushed by many Kvitnu delivieries - could vaguely recall the refrain of the original version of Blade Runner. The feeling of being into a muffled bubble for extra-vehicular activity, that gets impressively rendered by the following "Even Mind", precedes "Limulus" and the moment (in the second half of the track) when the composer explicitly inoculates masterfully organized percussive elements and convulsive rhythmical patterns. The following "Escape Mission" and the catchy final "Ceremony" seem to be necessary stages of these journey, combining interesting sound techniques and a certain cinematic hook, that mirror Dmitry's interest in cinematography as well as mystical atmosphere in a so guessed way that some tracks of "Etudes from Starship" could be fitted for a sci-fi revision of Tarkovsky movies.

Ernest Hood: Neighborhoods

 Posted by Stuart Bruce (@)   Ambient / Electronica / Ethereal / Dub / Soundscapes / Abstract
Experimental / Avantgarde / Weird & Wired / Glitch / Noise / Field Recording
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Oct 10 2019
Artist: Ernest Hood
Title: Neighborhoods
Format: CD & Vinyl
Label: Freedom To Spend
“Neighbourhoods”- sorry, “Neighborhoods”- is a deluxe re-issue of an unusual 1975 album from Ernest Hood, whose early career was as a jazz guitarist before contracting polio pushed him into playing gentler and softer string instruments such as harps.

On this album though, as well as gentle string plucking, there’s a strong emphasis on the experimental- wistful fluke-like high-pitched synthesizer notes borrowed from the sound of prog rock or 70’s era Radiophonic Workshop, and a bold use of ambient field recordings that are mostly familiar-sounding audio postcards that you may find on sound effects LP’s, but which are allowed to run deeper and longer than you may expect and really give you time to soak up the atmosphere. In the original liner notes there are references to “musical cinematography” which for 1975 does seem (marginally) ahead of its time. Knowing fading of musical motifs into gentle birdsong-and-vehicle-laden ambient tone certainly seems to predate and hark forward to work like The KLF’s “Chill Out”.

There’s something quite parochial about a lot of it, musically speaking. “At The Store” sounds at first like the incidental music to a light-hearted documentary about the routine of everyday suburban life, even to the extent that it’s structured in a set of easily-edited movements for easy picture sync. The harp tones of “August Haze” seem to paint an idyllic but somewhat Stepford Wives-esque picture of suburban tranquility, and “From The Bluff” is similar but with evening social hues. There are odder compositions at play as well, with “After School” a curious concoction of fun, energy and innocence blended with playground sounds, but which does seem to carry a gently mocking subtext. “Gloaming” is the track where most spoken word is discernible, with what seems to be a grandfather waxing nostalgic to an attentive child, accompanied by a thoughtful melody seemingly determined to paint a landscape of ‘the good old days’

It’s one of those releases which, on the surface, has dated somewhat- despite exemplary remastering quality, it’s still a release that’s of its own time. But in context it’s a fascinating period piece- not just of sounds of the era (albeit not wholly different from today’s sounds), but of a lesser-known bit of 1970’s experimental music for which a dusting off is very much justified.

Daniele Bogon: 17 Encores

 Posted by Vito Camarretta (@)   Ambient / Electronica / Ethereal / Dub / Soundscapes / Abstract
Experimental / Avantgarde / Weird & Wired / Glitch / Noise / Field Recording
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Oct 10 2019
Artist: Daniele Bogon (@)
Title: 17 Encores
Format: CD
Label: New Model Label (@)
Rated: *****
The perturbed pads and the rising dissonant electrical interference of the opening "Ex Nihilo" are the sparkling aural events of this interesting album by Padua-born sound artist and academically trained musician Daniele Bogon, named after the already published album "17" in the guise of Alley and including the 10 tracks of this first output plus five additional tracks. Some of Bogon's musical background composition is manifested over the whole album, as on the following "Piano Song #177" - aptly intimate piano melody, that sounds perfect to follow the maidenly intro -, the intimately touchingintertwine of an imperfect minimal piano (recorded through close-mic), pads and brass of "The Tide" or on "Opono No Piano", whose piano elongations - recalling a piano refrain on Sebastian Tellier's "Le Ritournelle" or some moments of oldest compositions of other minimalists like Max Richter or Arturo Stalteri - closes the first part of the album, the one that retraces the tracks of the above-mentioned original release. By the way, I'm pretty sure that what is going to hit listener's eardrums more prominently are Bogon's electronic artifacts since the blurred fragments of conversation and the evoked a vague sense of bewilderment of "Airport" (far away from the known Brian Eno's sound in spite of the dry piano melody could sound 'Enoesque') or the harsh electromechanical spasms of "Insectx" - something closest to that branch of techno known as rhythmic noise -. Some tracks in the second part for some mysterious reason are somehow faltering, but what really hits in Bogon's music is the dangerous riding on a wire between anxiety and a sort of artificial calm, that he often translates into a sort of unstable stylistic balance between electronic ambient and typical OST music ("Wolverine", "Batman is Bruce Wayne"), that often embraces unconventional strategies in many moments of the second (previously unreleased) part.

øjeRum: 7 Sjæle

 Posted by Stuart Bruce (@)   Ambient / Electronica / Ethereal / Dub / Soundscapes / Abstract
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Oct 07 2019
Artist: øjeRum
Title: 7 Sjæle
Format: 12" vinyl + Download
Label: Midira Records
øjeRum’s previous release from last year “Selv I Drømme Lyser Den Første Sne” is probably the ChainDLK-related release I’ve revisited more than any other- both as a relaxing headphone listening experience, and also as a soporific highlight of my sleep playlists, perfect for lowering the heart rate and drifting off.

So new release “7 Sjæle” was welcomed with great anticipation. It doesn’t disappoint, and to a large extent, it’s more of the same, for better or worse. With warm melodic ambience, loose and simple themes operating on gentle rotations, and long slow attack envelopes arriving like waves, it seems custom made to slow you down. No mention is made of the instrumentation- it feels synthetic, but there are shades of clarinet-ish woodwind and fragile string sounds that just give shades of the orchestral, without making it any kind of artificial impersonation.

The structure lends itself to sleep too, placing six shorter sonic sketches on the first side before letting the second side delve into a single and gradually more minimal twenty-minute offering “Syvende Sjæl”. As a consequence though, some of the first side feels a little under-realised at times, with pieces like “Tredje Sjæl” fading away at a point that feels further exploration could’ve been justified. “Femte Sjæl” furthers the wave theme by adding an undulating soft white noise, as a form of icing on top of a bass-rich and gooey warm audio cake.

Something about this release fails to shine quite as brightly as last year’s album. The slightly imbalanced seven-track structure, and a kind of frustrated undertow that runs through the sound, make it somehow marginally less loveable- or perhaps it just doesn’t feel as original. Nevertheless it’s still a warm and immersive listen that’s a pleasure to have washing over you.

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