Music Reviews

Howard Givens & Craig Padilla: Being of Light

 Posted by Steve Mecca   Ambient / Electronica / Ethereal / Dub / Soundscapes / Abstract
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Oct 15 2017
Artist: Howard Givens & Craig Padilla (@)
Title: Being of Light
Format: CD + Download
Label: Spotted Peccary Music (@)
Rated: *****
Here are a couple of names that ought to be instantly recognizable to many familiar with ambient artists - Howard Givens and Craig Padilla. Both long-time veterans as electronic musicians and composers, Givens has more credits as producer, mixer, recording and mastering engineer than as a solo recording artist, while with Craig, the opposite is applicable. Together on 'Being of Light' these two blend their talents in such a way as to complement each others' skill set over four lengthy soundscapes. I don't believe this is their first collaboration as I have seen at least a couple of other releases they did together. What I really like about 'Being of Light' is that there is a musicality to the ambient that is intriguing without being overwhelming. That is to say the melodic content is supportive rather than upfront. There are lengthy, sustained synth pads that carry the ambient textures of these pieces, in which non-obtrusive guitar and grand piano accents occasionally, but effectively emerge. As stated on the label's one-sheet, "Weaving melodic phrases and rich textures through rhythmic structures and sequences, Givens and Padilla create deep interludes and expansive passages that exemplify the inspiration behind the project- to musically express the state of awareness that comes through the discovery of one's 'inner being' and pure essence. With 'Being of Light they emphasize a a visceral and enveloping experience, conceptually envisioning the album as a topology of energy where the individual is a single point of light, solitary and self-aware, yet melded into the sum of all light, complete in the totality of existence."

The opening track, "Clearing the Mind" sets the stage for what is to come with a basically two-chord (there are actually a few more than two chords)piano theme set in a spacey atmosphere. It has dramatic impetus without being inordinant. (On some planet it might even make a good TV show theme.) "Threads of Thought" eases into its groove with lazy guitar, spacey drone and a repetitive bass pattern, followed by light percussion. This piece is a prime example of the trip being more about the journey than the destination. "A Contemplative State" is just that; over 30 minutes of textured drones and harmonics floating in the void. Concepts of time and space disappear here. Like the title of Sartre's most important philosophical work, this piece seems to be about "being and nothingness," where consciousness is left to it's own device to interpret reality, or what passes for it in one's existence. It is deep, intense and subtly changing, yet there is no distraction in its fluid stream. The subtle melodicism at the end of this piece reawakens the "dreamer" from her entranced state of contemplation. Lastly, there is the title track, "Being of Light." Here, one is assumed to have ascended into the realm of pure light. It is an airy and open dronescape twinkling with possibility, free of terrestrial matter, and ever spiraling upward and onward.

What I think Givens and Padilla have created in 'Being of Light' is something unusual and exemplary- a programmed meditative state free of distraction yet not without personality and purpose. It is rare to hear and ambient album that can serve as either musical wallpaper or deep meditation without one taking away from the other.

How To Cure Our Soul: Mare

 Posted by Andrea Piran (@)   Ambient / Electronica / Ethereal / Dub / Soundscapes / Abstract
Experimental / Avantgarde / Weird & Wired / Glitch / Noise / Field Recording
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Oct 15 2017
Artist: How To Cure Our Soul (@)
Title: Mare
Format: CD
Label: Sequel
Rated: *****
This new release form the project of Marco Marzuoli and Alessandro Sergente is a single track release introduced by the Jules Verne's words about the see as "the Living Infinite". As their previous releases, also this one is based upon drones and it's focused on a meditative idea of sound.
After some seconds of silence, instead of the expected drone, the ebb and flow of the sea introduce the listener into a contemplative setting as even some bird could be heard at a distance. Approximately at 5:00 mark, a drone quietly starts an begin to try to blend to the sound of the water and at 10:00 mark a second drone stats and instead of bury the underneath element it seems to underline them until the third one takes the listen towards the full listening experience overwhelming the listener. As the underlining field recording is always audible it sounds as the juxtaposition of a place and the emotions triggered by it as if the drone would act as a voice off. As the track begins his ending the drones quietly stops and the listener is left with the sound of the sea.
If, after reading this release, the reader could think that this release is developed around nothing, he should be aware that sometimes less is more as pure contemplation could only be done while seeing the details and forget the rest. Essential.

Deison & Mingle: Tiliaventum

 Posted by Andrea Piran (@)   Ambient / Electronica / Ethereal / Dub / Soundscapes / Abstract
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Oct 15 2017
Artist: Deison & Mingle (@)
Title: Tiliaventum
Format: CD
Label: Final Muzik (@)
Rated: *****
As the title suggests, this release is an homage to the Tagliamento, one of the few braided river remained and, for his morphology, could be easily seen as a metaphor about life seen as the intersection of personal destinies or about place viewed as the sum of personal contributions. While it's plenty of contributions, every theoretically external input is fully absorbed in a coherent musical field.
The sounds of "Arteria" opens this release with an equilibrium between a sense of movement and a sense of rest where even some field recording seems to emerge. "Tiliment" is a quiet and meditative piece for sustained tones supported by the beats while, even in an abstract way, "Agane" reveals a sense for melody closer than expected to pop. "La Piena", with his heavy beats and square structure, takes this release towards certain industrial territories. The complex soundscape of "Sotterraneo" is an interlude to "Grave" which continues on the path marked by the use of terse beats while "Pietra Viva" reveals in the background the craft in the shaping of sound and the clever use of field recordings. From a certain perspective, "21:00:12" seems the second part of "La Piena" while "Savalon" and "Nel tuo letto" are quiet sonic watercolors and "Ajar e aghe" closes this release with a song for voice and field recordings of the water.
The use of sounds derived from natural elements like stones seems the glue that ties togheter a release swinging from experimental angst to pop attention, so resulting in a release that could find an audience even outside of the genre's circle. Recommended.

drøne: Mappa Mundi

 Posted by Stuart Bruce (@)   Ambient / Electronica / Ethereal / Dub / Soundscapes / Abstract
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Oct 14 2017
Artist: drøne
Title: Mappa Mundi
Format: CD + Download
Label: self-released
The name “Drøne” could hardly be more appropriate, albeit with the added o stroke. This is a thirty-five minute arrangement of mechanical drone noises, electric hums, distant industrial rhythms and work-related electronic found sounds. A mixture of well-used sounds- playgrounds, railways, offices- meshes with less recognisable

Officially the 35 minutes is mapped out into five named sub-sections, but in practice it slowly evolves as different layers arrive, overlap and decay with few sudden shifts, so it’s hard to discuss highlights or weaknesses with any specificity. By halfway through, dark-sounding voices have been added and the mood has shifted a step or two in a sinister direction. A tone like a distant alarm frightened and disorientated my co-worker who didn’t realise it was (technically) music. Shortly afterward this opens up into a slightly brighter section centred around rolling stock and tannoy announcements. This in turn leads to a more discordant arrangement of high-pitched screeches that’s properly uncomfortable. The modem sounds that follow sound almost reassuring by comparison. We wrap nicely with a relatively simple blanket hum.

It’s a slightly muddy production overall, rumbling and bubbling in a way that’s deliberately indistinct and alienating, but the net result is a strangely captivating soundscape that draws you in, willing you to listen more carefully to see if you can hear anything familiar in it. For my personal taste I think it’s just a touch too wilfully hard-edged, with too many tinnitus notes and too much noise, but nevertheless it’s still a strong work.

Atariame: Fear is the World

 Posted by Vito Camarretta (@)   Ambient / Electronica / Ethereal / Dub / Soundscapes / Abstract
Dark / Gothic / Wave / New Wave / Dark Wave / Industrial Gothic
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Oct 14 2017
Artist: Atariame (@)
Title: Fear is the World
Format: Tape
Label: Constellation Tatsu (@)
Rated: *****
The St.Petersbourg-based singer and producer Atariame is one of the "brightest" stars in Constellation Tatsu spring/summer bunch. I decided to use quotation marks as you won't maybe label her as a serene artist, but I won't see is a sort of black hole, as her light is not that dark. If we have to use one of the typical ways to file stars, she could be matched to a white dwarf more as she emits some shining rays of light, but some technical improvements of the music surrounding her crystalline voice could let her shine more. Anyway, the dried elements that orbit around her voice is something that could evoke an almost empty space around both the sound of her voice and the intuitions and the emotional depths she enlightens. Her style could sometimes resemble some known voices floating in the oceans of dream pop, sad core, bedroom music and darkwave such as Chelsea Wolfe or Lotte Kostner (particularly when musical dress is close to folkish sonorities - in songs like "Sweet Taste of Being Accepted" or "Travel Burnout") or some stuff on the notorious label Kranky, but electronics (even if sometimes rough) often set different settings for her vocal emissions/emulsions. I particularly enjoyed the ghosts of 80ies dark wave evoked in "Fluffy Paws", the grey drones of "Always the Youngest" or the intimate magnetism of tracks like "Lying Awake" and "The Pretty Takes It All", but the whole album sounds consistent with the nature of the emotional set that Atariame explores. Once upon a time, Atariame should have been labelled as a 'next big thing'.

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