Music Reviews

Torn From Beyond: If The View Freezes

 Posted by Steve Mecca   Ambient / Electronica / Ethereal / Dub / Soundscapes / Abstract
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Jun 18 2017
Artist: Torn From Beyond (@)
Title: If The View Freezes
Format: CD
Label: Krater Recordings (@)
Rated: *****
If you've never heard of Torn From Beyond, then maybe you've heard of Bert Lehmann's other project, Mortaja, which has had a couple of releases since 2011 on the Audiophob label. I've never heard of either before but no matter; it's what's now that counts. Like Mortaja, Torn From Beyond is dark ambient, although a little different from Mortaja from what I understand. The music on 'If The View Freezes' sounds simultaneously spacey and deep underground, as in chasms and crypts. Here the dead feed off the living, and visa-versa. Here the Elder Gods rub shoulders (or should I say, tentacles) with Dream Daemons in the nightmares of your deep subconscious. It's not apparent until track 2, the title track, that that's the case. Here it's feeding time for some great abominable beast, something beyond Balrog but not quite Cthulhu. No question that cosmic horror is in play. It's the fourth track, "According to Ancient Custom" where the similarities to Raison D’Être begin to emerge, at first with some repetitious evil worshipers chanting, and later in "The End Begins" with monkish Gregorian chants. In fact, if you heard the latter track by itself, you'd swear it was Raison D’Être. There is quite a variety of ambiences and atmospheres on this album, and it's as dark as dark can get. The only concession to something that isn't totally steeped in ancient evil is the last few minutes of the eighth and final track, "Finis Terrae," with it's classical piano and mild seagull squawking. A highly unusual way to end a dark ambient album of this nature, but quite effective. For a debut album this is absolutely amazing. Highly recommended!

Keosz: AVA

 Posted by Andrea Piran (@)   Ambient / Electronica / Ethereal / Dub / Soundscapes / Abstract
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Jun 18 2017
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Artist: Keosz (@)
Title: AVA
Format: CD
Label: Cryo Chamber (@)
Rated: *****
This new release from Keosz continues along the path of "Be Left to Oneself" with his blend of dark ambient and melodic element. This time the guitar is added so it's now closer to rock than modern classical and it's even more distant from the canonical form of the genre.
There's a layer of noise that takes the first track of this release, "Aquitted from Illness", out of the usual framework of the genre and creates a complex spectrum for the listener to decode while "All I Had To Do" and "AVA" are closer to the canon as they revolve around carefully crafted drones. "Downfall" tries to create musical movement with his succession of quiet moments and thicker ones. The strings of "Nothing Left But Gloom" are evocative and create a sense of narrative as they follow a melody rather than be a layer of the drone and this path is confirmed in "Consigned To Limbo" where the strings are substituted by the guitar. "Behind The Horizon Of Preconceptions" is a reassuring return to form while "Resurrection From The Dust" continues in this research of elements borrowed by rock music as it sound as a sort of shoegaze above a dark ambient landscape that is followed, after "Equanimity Of The Senses", by "They Took All I Had" where the ambient element is even less present. "Farewell To Hollow Space" closes this release with a return to the form of the first track leaving with a sense of completeness.
This a release is a bit uncertain between a rock oriented and a ambient oriented form but this aspect creates a sense of variety that is an antidote to boredom. Recommended.

Ian Hawgood: Love Retained

 Posted by Vito Camarretta (@)   Ambient / Electronica / Ethereal / Dub / Soundscapes / Abstract
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Jun 18 2017
Artist: Ian Hawgood
Title: Love Retained
Format: CD
Label: Home Normal (@)
Rated: *****
This lovely output by Ian Hawgood, the man behind the curtains of Home Normal came out on the label's store as a gift for Christmas, but it reached stores after one month. Maybe the way I described Ian in the previous sentence could summarise the floating of his musical soul and his memory by which he watered "Love Retained" - the 100th release of his imprint -, as it's a moving evidence of humanity and got composed during days when Ian was somehow behind the curtains. He masked his depression to the eyes of his friends and family till the moment a particularly stressing moment, related to his decision of leaving Japan together with his wife in early 2015. In his own words: "The intensity of the move and the reasons behind it caused a huge amount of stress for us both and due to our backgrounds we were unable to communicate just how hard this was to any of our friends and family. By early autumn, my mother and sister one day had come over to find me curled up in a ball, unable to speak and in an uncontrollable fit of tears. This was nothing new after a life spent in and out of severe depression but it was the first time family had seen this directly in my adulthood.". Dedicated to the women of his life (mostly his wife and his sister, I guess), Ian initially composed the piano sketches he included in this album for future collaborations, but he finally decided to keep as they were with no editing or mastering. They got recorded on cassette and looped on low levels in the nighttime or when his mind was wondering or wandering, as he told in the introductory words for "Love Retained", and his decision of offering them incomplete is a meaningful gift, as incompletion is "a beautiful and freeing thing" in Ian's viewpoint. Some of the piano loops are really good for nocturnal meditations, other ones sound like sonic heartfelt portraits of people that helped Ian to come out of that state of mind, but the whole release got imbued with an intense and catchy emotionality. In the introduction of "Love Retained", Ian focused on a very important aspect of depression, that got often misunderstood by people who try to support them, but in a wrong way: "Silence is the real killer. It feels embarrassing and shameful to speak of such things as it shows weakness, which leads to awful judgement from most people. This may sound negative, but the simple fact is we all judge others whether we want to or not. And those who suffer from depression have a stigma attached to them. That stigma's name is 'pity' and it isn't very helpful in truth, albeit understandable. People who suffer from depression can feel joy, can laugh, and can connect deeply to others, but they also need friends and family to support them now and then in a world where people are growing increasingly alien to one another.". All the profits from this album have been and will be donated to Mind (check their website here:, a charity organisation helping people suffering from mental diseases.

Tobias Hellqvist: Kaskelot: Reissue + Remixes

 Posted by Vito Camarretta (@)   Ambient / Electronica / Ethereal / Dub / Soundscapes / Abstract
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Jun 13 2017
Artist: Tobias Hellqvist
Title: Kaskelot: Reissue + Remixes
Format: CD
Label: Home Normal (@)
Rated: *****
It's not that difficult to understand why Tobias Hellkvist has been regarded as "one of Sweden’s best-kept secrets" just after the release of his debut album "Evolutions" in 2010, due to the elegant way by which he intertwined heavily processed drones, acoustic instruments and field recordings, but the release I'm going to introduce - reissued in the beginning of the current year by Home Normal - was even less known by European and American listeners than it was his widespread debut: firstly produced by Home Normal sub-label Tokyo Droning in 2011, "Kaskelot" was a four-track EP, that became considerably popular in Japan, due to its daydreaming and gently melodic sound, close to the aesthetics of many skilled producers that blossomed over years in that fascinating country. Years after its release, Tobias and Ian Hawgood talked about it during a discussion they had in London after a gig by Tobias at The Vortex in March 2013 and after a series of emails, Ian decided to reissue an extended version of it by involving a number of remixers to revamp the original tracks, which got also remastered for the occasion. The four lulling and slightly entrancing sonic sweetener that Tobias improvised and recorded in just one night at Sunlaugin in Reykjavik (Iceland) between 24th March and 4th April 2011 by a one-take recording of a piano, a vibraphone, a pump organ, a guitar, a pedal steel, some simple loops and some likewise neat percussions, got squeezed and restyled by a set of well-known artists of the ambient and electronic folk circle, who sometimes enhanced some of its properties: the most elongated dilutions are the one by Steve Pacheco, who extended Kaskelot sounds over a sweet thin melodic softener lasting 12 minutes and 12 seconds where piano reappears as a tide of the stretched melodies, and the remix by Chihei Hatakeyama, who used the piano-driven melody as a sparkle to vaporise the original input before arousing its electricity like the rain-smelling air before a summer thunderstorm. Likewise elongated, the remix by Chris Herbert sounds like the rendering of salutary geyser where you could imagine he dissolved different sets of unknown shining minerals. Hibernate artist Simon Bainton is the one who maybe kept more elements of the original version of 'Kaskelot' in the first part of his short remix before dissolving them into a blessing void, while Iranian sound artist Porya Hatami made a magnificent version by combining a certain "rusticity" of the input and a lukewarm epic wrapping by inserting a nylon-bass sound and a lovely synthetic string. The quirky computational sequence by offthesky and the radiant set by Canadian producer Jordan Sauer aka Segue are the cherries on top of this delightful release.

Chihei Hatakeyama: Mirage

 Posted by Stuart Bruce (@)   Ambient / Electronica / Ethereal / Dub / Soundscapes / Abstract
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Jun 12 2017
Artist: Chihei Hatakeyama
Title: Mirage
Format: 12" vinyl + Download
Label: Room40
Pitched as a non-academic study of how architecture has shaped music and vice versa, “Mirage” is a collection of nine gentle and relaxing ambient textures made up of slowly looping synthetic chords and subtle use of environmental found sound. It’s a very well established sonic style so it would be something of a challenge to bring anything new to the table, and sure enough, “Mirage” doesn’t, really. Being critical, this release severely lacks that distinctive element or polish that will make you remember it above the dozens of similar-sounding releases.

But, despite all that, it has to be said that it still works. As a slow and mellow wash of warm chords, it’s soporific and thoughtful. It’s an ideal background soundtrack to reflection or somnambulance. “Starlight And Black Echo” is the track that most epitomises this, while “Anatolia Mirage” is the track that comes closest to shattering it with a moderately unwelcome distorted glitch towards the end.

The found sound elements feel underplayed. “Bus Terminal In Konya” starts with purely environmental sound and shows more promise, but within a minute this culture and texture has almost entirely ebbed away, and the same gentle chords have meandered back.

The synth sound that forms the whole of “A Silence Of Day” is so reminiscent of the intro to Pet Shop Boys’ “Being Boring” that you keep wondering when the drum machine and wahwah guitar are going to kick in.

Rarely have I heard an ambient release that is so lacking in the singularity that might make you take it off the shelf, yet wanted to recommend it so highly for its relaxing qualities.

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