Music Reviews



Ben Eyes: Fl00d

 Posted by Vito Camarretta (@)   Ambient / Electronica / Ethereal / Dub / Soundscapes / Abstract
Experimental / Avantgarde / Weird & Wired / Glitch / Noise / Field Recording
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Jan 13 2016
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Artist: Ben Eyes
Title: Fl00d
Format: 3" MiniCD
Label: Time Released Sound (@)
Rated: *****
I'm always too late when I try to speak about some of the nicest releases coming from Colin Herrick's imprint Time Released Sound. The strictly limited physical edition (just 50 copies) of this mini-album by Ben Eyes, a sound artist drawing inspiration from the beautiful region of Northumbria in the UK - one of my favorite areas of Great Britain -, sold out in 15 days after it was released, so that you maybe won't find the finely crafted 3" CDr, but music is what really matters. The title of this 20-minutes lasting sonic journey refers to the initial source of inspiration, as the hook in Ben's musical mind was the terrible floods that hit England in winter 2014, but it lately embraced a wider reflection on the moment that mankind is experiencing: in Ben's own words, "The idea that we have permanently changed our weather system through our own doing is incredibly thought provoking and cannot be ignored. The floods and storms were some of the worst on record and seeing places I know and hold dear destroyed by the weather made me feel both extremely upset and helpless. The work of James Lovelock was also a large inspiration behind this piece and his Gaia theory (the idea that the Earth is one whole complex living organism) is unfortunately now being proven correct. Through the pollution of our own delicate eco-system we have caused untold damage for many generations to come, possibly forever.". The journey on "Fl00d" begins on a set of field recording Ben grabbed in the enchanting Holy Island of Lindisfame in Northumbria, but little by little and recording by recording (taken in other locations such as Berwick upon Tweed, Craster and St Marys Bay, Northumberland, Whitby, Staithes and Runswick Bay, North Yorkshire, Barry Island, Vale of Glamorgan, Oxford Circus and Soho in London), the listener got gradually absorbed in an almost mystical reverie smelling like environ/mentalism, where entrancing female vocals emphasizes the ambient-driven spleen, which sound like echoing the cry of nature against human daily mistreatment. A digital version is available on label's Bandcamp.

Quadrant, Iris & Kid Hops: 206

 Posted by Vito Camarretta (@)   Techno / Trance / Goa / Drum'n'Bass / Jungle / Tribal / Trip-Hop
Ambient / Electronica / Ethereal / Dub / Soundscapes / Abstract
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Jan 11 2016
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Artist: Quadrant, Iris & Kid Hops (@)
Title: 206
Format: 2 x 12" vinyl
Label: Commercial Suicide (@)
Rated: *****
There are two versions of this awesome album that managed to link again the creativity of Seattle-based couple (wife and husband) of American d'n'b scene Leigh and Karen Caplan aka Quadrant & Iris and the oestrus of a local hero of the same scene Kyle Hopkins aka Kid Hops, who already co-signed a couple of releases on Dispatch and C.I.A. labels: the double vinyl version includes eight tunes, which branch off in different stylistic directions such as the pulse-pounding accelerations of the title-track "206" (I could guess the title, sensually spelled by a female voice, refers to bmp-measurable speed of this fast and furiously sexy tune) and "Seasick", whose mysterious atmosphere could let you imagine the setting of Coleridge's "The Rime of the Ancient Mariner" if the captain of the ship suddenly understand he could suffer from seasickness, the nervously daydreaming fast-rolling songs "The Only Way Out Is Through", featuring the precious (and identifiable) contribution by Commercial Suicide label-manager Klute (!), and "Black Opal", where the trio got joined by the voice of Canadian singer and songwriter Kayle, the viscously foggy bumpers of "Definition" and "Orca" on C side and the magnetic attractors of "Dark Star", where Quadrant and Iris seem to evoke some sinister divinity, and the lukewarm beating low-frequency of "Pleiades" ft.Reise on mic, whose melodic theme sounds like reprising the one of the beautiful "Eternal September" (the beautiful voice of the track is the one of Collette Warren), one of the many good reasons to recommend the digital version, which also includes the liquid bath "Occidental" - it recalled to my mind "Moonbathing" by Amba and that kind of sonic romances - as well as a couple of more oppressive pressures like the awesome "Wirecutter" (featuring Chris "Cease" Vancourt), the obnubilated atmosphere of "Angular" and the steamroller "Asthma" by Quadrant. Great tunes indeed!

Hans Joachim Roedelius & Leon Muraglia: Ubi Bene

 Posted by Vito Camarretta (@)   Ambient / Electronica / Ethereal / Dub / Soundscapes / Abstract
Experimental / Avantgarde / Weird & Wired / Glitch / Noise / Field Recording
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Jan 10 2016
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Artist: Hans Joachim Roedelius & Leon Muraglia
Title: Ubi Bene
Format: 2 x 12" vinyl
Label: Passus Records
Rated: *****
Electronic music lovers don't really need any introduction of the evergreen maestro Hans-Joachim Roedelius, who in spite of his age - he should be 81 at the moment and I really wish a long life to this living genius of electronic music, whose sometimes troubled history (check his interesting biography) maybe watered his flourishing creativity - keeps on spreading lovely sonic gifts like this lovely "Ubi Bene", where he joined his remarkably creative energy with the ones of DJ, studio musician and guitar player Leon Muraglia. Many moments over the 12 brilliant tracks of this new journey could sound like the revamping of the sound that Roedelius explored together with his historical partner-in-art Dieter Moebius on some of the very first albums by Cluster - particularly the quasi-synthpop output "Zuckerzeit" or the heights of folkish exoticism of album like "Sowiesoso" -. The excellent balance between Muraglia's sound design and the unmistakable forging of electronic pattern and astonishing piano-driven simple melodies by Roedelius is the most relevant aspect of "Ubi Bene", which resurfaces from the nostalgic breeze of the beautiful cameo of "She Had Always Loved Vienna", the lovely dialogue between the resounding nylon of a guitar chord and the shining tone of a synth-celesta on "Gently Falling Snow", the cheerful vivacity of "Red in a Circular Loop", the delicate miniature of "A Nostalgia for Lollipop" or the new age-like movements "A Reflection in Deep Sea" or the ethereal "Summer Breeze Turning", which get closer to the stylistic territories of Boards Of Canada or Ulrich Schnauss or to the moments when Roedelius sonic journey begin to get influenced by Brian Eno's style, as well as on more shadowed or experimental moments such as the 12-minutes lasting thrilling track of "There is a Huge Duck Standing Right Behind You" or the final "Surfaces That Appear To Change". The high level of expertise of its author makes "Ubi Bene" a unique specimen of the most genuinely human side of electronic music.

The Necks: Vertigo

 Posted by Vito Camarretta (@)   Ambient / Electronica / Ethereal / Dub / Soundscapes / Abstract
Experimental / Avantgarde / Weird & Wired / Glitch / Noise / Field Recording
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Jan 05 2016
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Artist: The Necks (@)
Title: Vertigo
Format: CD
Label: ReR Megacorp (@)
Rated: *****
The Australian super-group by Chris Abrahams (piano, keyboards), Lloyd Swanton (bass) and Tony Buck (drums, percussions, guitar) left aside the groove that features some past entries and live performances of The Necks in order to dive into something remarkably different on their elegant declension of "Vertigo", whose main similarity to past workouts is the unpredictability of their sonic journey, where listeners clearly recognizes the starting point but can't really say where they will land. An intentional and extremely lucid process in spite of their seemingly abstract melting of different sonic strategies, as you can guess from Lloyd's words about "Vertigo": "The discussion this time really begun in earnest in the session itself, where we started to pursue the idea of having a drone running from start to finish, off which we could hang ideas...but like all Necks album we ended up in a very different place from whatever our initial notion of it had been". I don't want to spoil it in details in order to ruin the joy of surprise, but that sort of low-key driven drone, around which more or less oblique piano and keyboard sequences by Chris Abrahams that seem to permeate and evoke different emotional states in between confusion, suspension, paralyzing relativism, hesitancy and sudden spurs and unpredictable percussive strokes by Tony Buck, is going to carry listeners over subtle changes of colour, mood swings, air-tight narrow corrider that little by little lead to airy sonic landscapes, where the alternance of dark and light doesn't touch upon the sense of freedom, which got rendered by their surfing over stylistical forms.

[ówt krì]: Pilgrimage

 Posted by Steve Mecca   Ambient / Electronica / Ethereal / Dub / Soundscapes / Abstract
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Jan 02 2016
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Artist: [ówt krì] (@)
Title: Pilgrimage
Format: CD
Label: Erototox Decodings (@)
Rated: *****
[ówt krì] is the project name of Kenneth K. from Helsinki, Finland, and 'Pilgrimage' is the followup release to his 2013 debut, 'The New Seed'. 'Pilgrimage' continues the journey spawned by the prior release, a trip into humanity's inner world [ówt krì], that deep part of the psyche where spirituality dwells in the non-physical darkness. It's almost impossible to separate the esoteric from the mundane in the music of [ówt krì], as it is intertwined by virtue of having to actually "make" music than just imagine it. How well that translates we shall soon see. 'Pilgrimage' is comprised of eight tracks, beginning with "Static Continuum", not only the name of the track, but also a Finnish experimental ambient project that includes [ówt krì] - Keyboards, Synths and various oddities /Sounds From The Marshes - Guitar, Effects / and Quantum Prana - 7 string Guitar. It's the perfect opening to this strange journey, with free form electric guitar riffing over ambient pads and drones. No drums or percussion, just waves of rumbling sonics heralding what's to come; a chaotic (yet controlled in a way) fountain of effervescent sonics billowing forth. "From Shadows" somehow reminded me of the intro to the Stones' "2000 Light Years from Home," yet more abrasive with drone sounds filling in all the gaps. A tolling bell begins "Messe De Requiem", an eerie two-chord organ dirge backed with low orchestral drone and deep bass rumbling. It's vaguely reminiscent of Dead Can Dance, akin to their earlier instrumental works. Mournful, yet majestic. "Pilgramage 1" is the first piece that alludes to some conventional musical structure. When I first heard this, I got the impression of a band jam session in a basement, heavily influenced by krautrock and shoegaze. I'm still not sure about this one- it starts out fine with synth choral voices, but then sludgey bass, gauzy guitar, clattering drums all building on a simple theme never rise above the murk. Perhaps I'm missing something but repeated listenings did nothing to enlighten me further.

"Flight to Kailash" is essentially a drone piece utilizing a variety of instruments and sonics, and the chilling wail in the background adds a sense of anguish to the mix. "Pilgrimage 2" is quite different than "Pilgramage 1" with a lone voice singing over choral synth voices, which turns to drones, then simple chordal structure as the piece moves forward. The vocal (by Pod_9) is done almost murder ballad style, but it's difficult to discern the theme as the words aren't always clear. I'm reminded of Iggy Pop on "We Will Fall", the lengthy atmospheric track on the Stooges' first album. I'm also reminded of something on Tobias Lilja's 'Medicine Sings Triptych'. "Absurd" seems to be the most enigmatic and arcane track on 'Pilgrimage,' a gloomy dark ambient improvisation with a vocal recitation that seemed to recall early Mortiis. Ultimately atmospheric, this is certainly one of the highlights of the album. The finale, "Integrity/I Believe" is based on a slow, stately piano progression backed by drums (again played by MathGen) with a vocal recitation and drones. Although other words are spoken, the ones that will stick with you are "My Lord" echoed over and over again. The pseudo-orchestral ending has shades of King Crimson to it. A strange ending to a very strange album.

Some very interesting terrain explored on 'Pilgrimage', but I was a bit put off by "Pilgramage 1", and I still don't feel that it worked that well within the context of the whole. I might have dumped the drums entirely as I felt they significantly detracted from the piece. Be that as it may, [ówt krì] has produced something quite different in the improvisational dark ambient genre, and it sounds like a leap forward from 'The New Seed'. The label, Erototox Decodings, run by Jason Scott Furr and Chandra Shukla out of Asheville, North Carolina, has released music by a number of ecletic artists including White Stains, Andrew Liles, Steven Severin, and Xambuca, among others. You can check out all tracks on 'Pilgrimage' on the [ówt krì] Bandcamp page, then buy the CD from Erototox Decodings.


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