Music Reviews

Mia Zabelka & Asferico: The Broken Glass

 Posted by Stuart Bruce (@)   Ambient / Electronica / Ethereal / Dub / Soundscapes / Abstract
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Jul 07 2017
Artist: Mia Zabelka & Asferico
Title: The Broken Glass
Format: CD & Vinyl
Label: Störung
“The Broken Glass” is a sedate and sparse unorthodox soundscape that combines found sound, synthesizer sounds, and very intermittent violin and vocal elements. It’s one of those sonic creations which is as much about what isn’t there, as what is. It’s pervaded with a sense of profound hollowness.

The title track, in two parts, starts as an extremely sparse bit of music concrete before gradually introducing, with confident patience, synth arpeggio loops that gently repeat with mesmeric steadiness. By the end of the second part, the resemblance to some of Tangerine Dream’s earlier work is very striking- and I mean that as a high compliment.

Second piece “Sonidos del Subconsciente II” is forty minutes long, and while officially not divided into parts, there are a couple of abrupt sonic changes, for example around the 9 minutes mark when it drops for several minutes into a sonic chasm so empty you begin to suspect that playback has stopped. Like the first piece, it begins extremely sparsely, this time drawing upon a found sound rhythm that feels like being in the hold of an huge and ancient wooden rowing boat. However instead of the TD-like arpeggio loops, the synthetic and organic patterns and strings are fewer and further between, single notes of suspense and tension. As it evolves it seems to step forwards in time, with the soundscape becoming more industrial, more metallic, with more of a sense of distant gasworks.

While it’s pitched as contemporary classical music, there’s so much space and ambience in this that it’s more appropriately filed under ‘soundscapes’. It’s a rich and assured work and a very engaging listen.

Ogive: Folds

 Posted by Stuart Bruce (@)   Ambient / Electronica / Ethereal / Dub / Soundscapes / Abstract
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Jul 05 2017
Artist: Ogive
Title: Folds
Format: Download Only (MP3 + Lossless)
Label: Room40
Ogive is the first collaborative output from UK-based Chris Herbert and Spain-based Elias Merino, each of whom have a track record for minimalist electronic soundscaping, so it’s no surprise to find that “Folds” consists of five lengthy environments comprising of found sounds, digital noises and washes and unusual tones. Industrial resonance, devoid of any accompanying pounding, runs alongside computerised imitations of radio crackle and cut-up wind noises. Elements fade in and out at a glacial pace.

Split into five pieces averaging nine minutes each, there’s remarkably little to distinguish between each of the parts. Generally comprised of the same ingredients in the same proportions, they form a deeply consistent and coherent 45-minute ambient listening experience that defies your direct attention and instead wallows in your ears and gradually worms its way into your subconscious where it would clearly rather be. A minor exception is the slightly more organ-sounding finale of “Superhabitat” which serves as a levelling finale.

In a way it’s a notably cliché piece of ambient electronica that lacks anything in the way of truly unique character, but on the other hand, it’s successful in its ability to calm and adjust your mood through sustained listening.

[.que]: Wonderland

 Posted by Stuart Bruce (@)   Ambient / Electronica / Ethereal / Dub / Soundscapes / Abstract
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Jul 05 2017
Artist: [.que]
Title: Wonderland
Format: CD + Download
Label: Sound In Silence
Tokyo-based Nao Kakimoto’s eighth full-length album is ten tracks of ideas spun off from the composing of the soundtrack to the short film Kurokawa Wonderland. While these ideas have evolved and are no longer the soundtrack album to that album, the sense of atmosphere and mood underscore persists throughout the 36 minutes of gentle super-warm-sounding electronica with folky and acoustic elements.

It’s second track “Faraway” that really sets the tone, with its gentle super-soft kick patterns and simple bassline keeping a steady and not too leisurely pace while piano and Rhodes-style keys twinkle casually on top. There’s a strong sense of journeying, which continues through the backwards-guitar-laden “Drip” and the opening-titles-of-road-movie-friendly “Vast”. Heavy use of reverse effects and artificial vinyl noise give “Laputa” a slightly more prog rock feel.

Inbetween these are piano pieces like “Quiet” and “Forest”, which are simple and plaintive unprocessed piano poems supported solely by ambient noises. Among the weaker pieces are “Afterglow” and the title track, both of which sound like production library music by-numbers more suited to corporate video than home listening.

“Wonderland” never really wrestles for your attention, preferring instead to be relaxed and soothing, background wallpaper if necessary. But while it’s a little generic in parts, it has some lovely deft electronica production touches and an undoubtable quality pervading through it that makes it a very enjoyable and mellow listen.

MIR8: Perihelion

 Posted by Stuart Bruce (@)   Ambient / Electronica / Ethereal / Dub / Soundscapes / Abstract
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Jul 04 2017
Artist: MIR8
Title: Perihelion
Format: 12" vinyl + Download
Label: Shhpuma
“Perihilion” may be MIR8’s debut album (or mini-album, at 32 minutes) but the international crew making up the four piece have CV’s stretching many pages. So despite being a debut, this is a confident, accomplished and tightly woven work, combining mellow electronic drones with live, carefully measured drums, bass and trombone.

Across the four pieces there are a variety of shades. Opener “Longharms” is for the most part a relatively open, sparse and freeform soundscape, whereas “De Orbit” is underpinned by a very steady rumbling drum track that keeps everything grounded in dark cinematic tension. Hilary Jeffery’s emotive trombone work takes centre stage on second track “Scabrough Sky” to great melancholic effect, whereas finale “Event Horizon” opens with a driving tempo and an anachronistic sense of urgency which makes the trombone and electronics sound like warning alarms or distant declarations of war, before gradually edging down a few notches into something less frenetic yet still firmly mechanical, followed by one last evolution into a sparse cinematic sense of closure.

Overall the result is arguably lacking a unique MIR8 character, perhaps this will evolve over time, but nevertheless it’s a beautifully smooth listening soundscape with an accomplished breadth.

Ekin Fil: Ghosts Inside

 Posted by Stuart Bruce (@)   Ambient / Electronica / Ethereal / Dub / Soundscapes / Abstract
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Jun 30 2017
Artist: Ekin Fil
Title: Ghosts Inside
Format: 12" vinyl + Download
Label: The Helen Scarsdale Agency
Turkish drone-pop creator Ekin Üzeltüzenci’s latest solo album is a melancholic affair channeling personal anguish into deeply sad arrangements where organic guitar and piano sounds meld with synthetic atmospheres and slow, dream-pop vocal hums. Wind tones frequently wash over the top for added texture. The result is an introspective sonic expression of misery that’s at times quite powerful, at other points bordering slightly on the self-indulgent.

Highlights include the extremely filmic and deceptively simple “Episodes”, with its glass melodic notes and windy atmosphere, and “Final Cut” which has a similar make-up but more piano driven. It’s a strong formula that goes unbroken across the forty-minute release.

Tracks like “Like A Child” and “Before A Full Moon” have a strong ballad heart to them, but it gets washed away by production that sometimes seems wilfully muddy, designed to make the individual stems less distinct as though lacking in confidence somehow.

“Ghosts Inside” sits somewhere between two stools- dark and inaccessible in some ways, yet not allowed to explore its full potential for longer or deeper experimentation. It’s one of those releases that actually feels too consistent. As such it feels almost like a gateway listen for people not yet adjusted to full-on ethereal soundscapes.

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