Music Reviews



Mar 10 2017
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Artist: X-Navi:Et (@)
Title: Technosis
Format: CD
Label: Instant Classic (@)
Rated: *****
Despite the fact the phenomenon is still evolving, the theme of consequences of technology on humanity and the (also biological) mutations related to this unprecedented technological acceleration as well as the development of an addiction to technological devices is not so new as a plenty of sociologists, anthropologists, psychologist and many other expertises in different branches of human knowledge wrote a lot about this subject, but the way by which such a fear got translated into sound in this last output by Polish producer Rafal Iwanski (I already introduced many projects he's taking part of such as HATI, Innercity Ensemble and Alameda 5) is fascinating. The title "Technosis" itself is a quotation of the definition ("civilization disease related to technology"), taken from "Philosophy of Civilization", an essay by Polish philosopher and educator Jozef Marian Banka, who keeps on studying this phenomenon. The opening track "Matnia" (Polish word for the French expression "cul de sac", referring to a path of no return) immediately sets the mood by a well-balanced mix of rising crippling percussions and thrilling sounds (close to the ones you could hear in horror movies when the watcher expect the appearance of a dangerous entity from some dark place of the scene); the breath you'd hear in the following "Ex Homo Sap" seems to render the above mentioned human mutation with the burden of concern that it could imply, while the following "Oto Technosis" sounds like the summoning digitalization of some old African tune. The whispered murmuring of Ewa Binczyk in the sinister mist evoked by the sonorities that Rafal assembled in "Medium" could mirror that diaphragmatic phase when the expected changes are still in progress but could let you guess what the next stages are going to bring about. Rafal wisely absorbs different ethnical influences in this unusual rendering technology-driven civilization disease: besides the previously sketched connection of the described tracks, it becomes clear in the following "In Extremis" as well as in the disquieting chimes of "Orient: Melancholia". All ethnic percussions you could recognize in his melting pot (an Irish bodhran, a South African mbira, a Chinese hulusi, an Egyptian zummara and a Moroccan bendir) are real, but the whole release is made by real entities: a relevant feature of Rafal's sound in "Technosis" is the total lack of field recordings, synths, samples or drum machines (besides the list of ethnic instrument I already mentioned, he just used Shanti chimes, bells, metal objects, contact mics, analog filter machine, a tone generator, a loop system and so on ) and such an aspect can be logically related to the conceptual framework of the album. The natural soundscape in "Pseudo Ambient" could be considered as another claims of forgotten human roots, while the final "Alchemy of Sounds", whose length (23 minutes and 23 seconds seems to be a desired aspect, due to the "esoteric" meaning of number 23), could keep on feeding the in-depth meditation a listener could be absorbed by. Do you remember the "fearful symmetry" of William Blake's tiger? Well, "Technosis" could be the roaring of that tiger in a sense. After its genetical mutation, of course...

Michel Banabila: Sound Years

 Posted by Stuart Bruce (@)   Ambient / Electronica / Ethereal / Dub / Soundscapes / Abstract
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Mar 07 2017
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Artist: Michel Banabila
Title: Sound Years
Format: 12" vinyl + Download
Label: Tapu Records
“Sound Years” is a Michel Banabila sampler, segueing selected tracks from ten previous albums along with one new work into two gentle, chilled-out continuous pieces. This has the diversity and variation of a various artists chillout compilation, but impressively, it’s all the work of one man (and a couple of guest appearances).

Smoothness is the order of the day here. Gentle piano melodies, occasional plaintive guitar strums, and found sounds including the classics such as falling rain ambiences and tropical birds, blend with the mellowest flavours of electronica chill-out such as the deftly twisted and re-pitched vocal samples in “Earth Visitor”. Other sections are more pared-down, simple warm drones, deep vocal sustains and cultured resonance.

The second side opens with a slightly more cinematic bent- a real orchestra warming up alongside a virtual one, broad sci-fi choral pads and robotic noises have us floating outside a spaceship. The ambience gradually gets more down-to-earth, with plaintive violin lines (from guest Oene Van Geel I think) and micro-cut vocal snippets glitching away in “Radio Spelonk”.

While some of the elements are cliché, they are used tastefully in a way that freshens them up. Even the cockerel crowing sound, used to great effect by The Orb, makes an appearance. In fact The Orb is a comparison worth making; if you like either of The Orb’s most recent two albums, then you should absolutely check “Sound Years” out.

To someone unfamiliar with Banabila’s work, this is a seriously impressive and accomplished retrospective. A wide orchestral palette and some absolutely top-notch production, with a beautiful sense of space and an ability to shift subtly between warm and cold atmospheres, makes this an aural joy in its own right. The transitions are seamless and this absolutely stands up as its own work, without any of the unsatisfying incompleteness you sometimes get in compilations.

It’s released on Banabila’s own Tapu Records. Several of the original albums from which these tracks are sourced are legitimately available to download for free online, and this compilation will definitely make you want to peruse things further.

Creation VI & Uhushuhu: ^

 Posted by Steve Mecca   Ambient / Electronica / Ethereal / Dub / Soundscapes / Abstract
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Mar 05 2017
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Artist: Creation VI & Uhushuhu (@)
Title: ^
Format: CD
Label: Muzyka Voln/Zhelezobeton (@)
Rated: *****
This is a collaboration between two Russian ambient entities - Creation VI and Uhushuhu. The title of the album is a triangle, or pyramid, a text symbol which I don't possess, and even if I did, I'm not sure it would translate properly on the Chain D.L.K. site, so whatever this "^" looks like, it will have to do. Creation VI has been around a bit longer than Uhushuhu having started in 2006 and having a slew of albums (often collaborations) to its credit. Uhushuhu was formed in 2013 and they have a few prior releases. The best description of this album comes from the one-sheet - "A narrative stream out of the green thicket of a fictional forest as a cloud of purple fog pierced by flashes of resonating harmonies and ghostly echoes. A dense organic cobweb of field recordings, voices, acoustic instruments and electronic manipulations. A dream filled with bright colours or a psychedelic slumber with a whirling kaleidoscope of asymmetric images and visions. A sonic fantasy so pleasant to dive into together with the musicians and spend some time in the company of your own subconscious mind..."

Well, okay, some of that sounds like hype, but it's really not far from the truth. This is one dense 40 minute drone piece where not much happens, yet a lot happens, and such is the dichotomy of "^". All sonics are woven together like one inextricable braid. Noticing a flute, or tambura, bird sounds, or even what might be used for the various drones seems superfluous. This is the kind of album Ash Ra Temple and early Tangerine Dream aspired to, but never quite achieved. This is submergence of the self and surrender to the cosmic awl. This is intense, not just pleasant hippie drifting. Maybe you need a good hallucinogen to get the most out of it, then again, maybe that might just be too much. It comes on quite strong, but fades away slowly just like the acid trip you barely remember. Recommended for living room cosmonauts, heavy stoners and day trippers alike. It may not change your life, but it may change your perspective.

Anthesteria: Eis

 Posted by Steve Mecca   Ambient / Electronica / Ethereal / Dub / Soundscapes / Abstract
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Mar 05 2017
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Artist: Anthesteria (@)
Title: Eis
Format: CD
Label: kultFRONT/Zhelezobeton (@)
Rated: *****
Another ambient work by a Russian artist, this time, Anthesteria, the main project name of Georgiy Beloglazov, from St. Petersburg. 'Eis' is the third CD in the "Znaki" series tracing the parallel life of Zhelezobeton and kultFRONT label residents. The album is a compilation of Anthesteria compositions created between 2003-2010, some released on various artist compilations, others published by the author in his web diary, and some released for the first time. Technically, no newly composed material has been released by Athesteria since 2010, with the exception of "Alone" for which Sergey Vasilyev (Insane Pierrot Cabaret/Electrocabaret) read the poem by Edgar Allan Poe in 2016. Not surprising that much of 'Eis' is winter-themed, considering that's how it usually is in St. Petersburg. Considering that this is a compilation, the music of 'Eis' is a mixed bag of somewhat bleak ambient, neoclassical and industrial. My first impression was an enigma wrapped in a riddle, one for which I had no answer. Some of 'Eis' is quite engaging, some off-putting, and some just really strange. Over the 13 tracks on the CD, there is quite a variety, and at times you I felt like I was listening to different artists. It is more likely that Anthesteria has changed over time. About the name, Anthesteria - it was one of the four Athenian festivals in honor of Dionysus, occurring around the time of the January or February full moon.

Beginning with "Eidolon II" the listener is introduced to much wind and chimey synth chords with sustained synth following the chords. Behind this is an indistinct voice speaking over a PA system. Hmmm... "Alone" is the aforementioned Edgar Allan Poe recitation (in Russian) with melancholy neoclassical backing and subtle beats. "Peter Krasnov" is bleak ambient and some bellish melody. Didn't care much for "I Killed," a track with string-like synth chords and a simple melody with plucked guitar sound following the chords. Dialogue samples in the background (Russian, of course), sounding like an uninspired Raison d'être. A couple of bland neoclassical track pass, then things perk up with the magical and aptly titled "Snowflakes". In "Everything Will Be As Winter Wishes" there is at first a storm with the spirits of winter whispering in your ear, then something more akin to passing time with family in the warm indoors while the storm rages outside. All of a sudden though, a stark Russian voice heralds what seems like bad news. Odd. "Exodus" is the most industrial piece on this album with plodding, harsh, klanging beats, noise and dark ambience, a distorted woman's voice over a PA system, and a hint of chaos. "In Gedanken An Russisches Drone" is a rather strange drone piece, unusual with kind of amorphous acoustic guitar running through much of it. "Falling Apart" is sort of neoclassical drone with intermittent borrowed Russian recitation. Contrasting this is "First Winter Day," with its light, airy feel. Not sure that the beat/rhythm that was introduced a little less than halfway through was necessarily appropriate; seemed a little to IDM for me. Final track "We Are So Inspired That We Glow" begins with a sing-along Russian folk melody in a public place, but then turns droney as the happy songsters depart. It's not a dark, heavy drone, but a light sunny one. Nice way to end the album, especially considering the laughter near the conclusion.

This is definitely a mood album, or variety of moods album, and maybe a good introduction to Anthesteria. Beloglazov is not only a very talented musician/composer but also quite astute. After reading an interview with him regarding his game soundtracks ('Phobos 1953,' and 'Metro 2033' among them) I got some insight into his compositional skills as well as his intellect. Not sure why he hasn't come up with new Anthesteria material, but when he does, sign me up.

Halo Manash: Elemental Live Forms MMV - Initiation

 Posted by Vito Camarretta (@)   Ambient / Electronica / Ethereal / Dub / Soundscapes / Abstract
Dark / Gothic / Wave / New Wave / Dark Wave / Industrial Gothic
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Mar 04 2017
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Artist: Halo Manash (@)
Title: Elemental Live Forms MMV - Initiation
Format: CD + Book
Label: Aural Hypnox (@)
Rated: *****
This recent output by Finnish experimental ritual-oriented Finnish label, focusing on the releases of the Helixes collective, has a relevant historical significance for the followers of their trail and the more obscure (or I'd rather say, esoteric) dark-ritual sonorities, as it includes nine previously unreleased movements by Halo Manash - one of the most famous name on their roster - that were performed during the very first live ritual at Syntesia on Joly 8th 2005 in Tampere, which could be reasonably considered a proper initiation, as the title says. The release is, as usual, maniacally packaged: the 444 copies of regular CD edition are enclosed in an oversized screen printed cardboard covers including a 4-panel booklet, 4-panel xerox-insert and eight two-sided insert cards within a stamped envelope and a similar format got chosen fot the 70 copies of the tape edition, while the 45 copies of the boxset (including both the CD and the tape) also includes a screen printed 30 x 30 cm canvas and four two-sided inserts from the preparation sessions held in Temple Hwaar. In my hands, I have the regular CD edition, and I have to say that its package perfectly enhances the sensation you're handling something really precious, rare and somehow mysterious. According to the introductory words by the label, that live ritual focused "on the boundless elemental form returning from metaphysical pilgrimage", bridging the "worlds of being and non-being" and the three group of three movements by which they subdivided the nine movements of this recording - in details "The Trail of Bones" (from movement I to III), "The Path of Fire (IV-VI) and "The Ghost Ceremony" (VII-IX) - mirrors the world of "re-birth, initiation and primal thundering" respectively. Some listeners could feel detached by this esoteric and mystic dimension of some aural experimentalists, but the evocative power of Halo Manash's music (even at this early stage of their research) can hardly be denied by this kind of listener, particularly in some moments of this "initiation" such as the third movement of The Trail of Bones, where they intersected the nocturnal whispers of the second one, the sonic "lacerations" of the first one and some entrancing tribal percussive hits, the subtle thunderous roaring of the fifth movement (really entrancing!) and the shamanic halo of the final tripartite set "The Ghost Ceremony".


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