Music Reviews

Celer: Nacreous Clouds

 Posted by Stuart Bruce (@)   Ambient / Electronica / Ethereal / Dub / Soundscapes / Abstract
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Aug 14 2018
Artist: Celer
Title: Nacreous Clouds
Format: CD + Download
Label: Two Acrons
When it was first released in 2008, back when Celer was a duo rather than a solo project, the recommendation that you should listen to this album using the random shuffle function on your CD player would present no problems. With digital downloads now dominant many new listeners to this remastered re-issue may find it easier just to listen sequentially, but the net result is the same.

This is a collection of thirty-seven short related ambiences, super-gentle chord beds and slow melodic drones, ranging in length from under a minute to just over five minutes, resulting in the CD-friendly 79-minute total. The ebb and envelope of each track is such that the silences inbetween tracks feel like part of the whole, and the result, regardless of listening order, sounds like one coherent 79-minute work. Individual track labels mostly feel irrelevant, but there are colder sections like the glassy tones of “Petrified Forest”, distant mechanical-sounding hums in “Hyperopia”, grouped with warmer and somehow friendlier-sounding hums in tracks like “Echelons”. But all the differences are subtle, to put it mildly.

It’s a mesmeric, sleep-playlist-friendly work and while copies of the original 300-strong 2008 edition are not that hard to find, it’s a welcome remastering that should hopefully find a wider audience.

Chris Parmenidis: 8B5C3B++

 Posted by Stuart Bruce (@)   Ambient / Electronica / Ethereal / Dub / Soundscapes / Abstract
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Aug 01 2018
Artist: Chris Parmenidis
Title: 8B5C3B++
Format: CD + Download
Label: Focused Silence
Conceived as “the movement between different entities guided by the construction of continuity conditions”, this single 42-minute work is primarily conceived as an eight-channel installation that will be performed in a London church in October 2018. This is a studio-built stereo re-work, unusually released prior to performance perhaps to act as a ticket sales incentive.

In more practical terms what it is is a series of expansive breathy atmospherics, hums and drone washes over which flit small numbers of mild glitches and bleeps, processed high-pitched sound effects, synthetic bubbles and lazy semi-melodic tones. Occasionally, denser clusters of clicks and glitches conglomerate into harsher packets of noise but these are fairly quickly washed away into the reverb and emptiness, while at other points, glass-like tones give proceedings a more fragile feel. Plaintive radio-like signals in the second half sound like interpretations of interstellar waves transposed into emotive audible pitches, in a manner that scientists might pore over searching for patterns.

Listeners who like their electronic atmospheres to sound sparse, disquieting and sci-fi will enjoy bathing in this, but the bold press-release claims that “there is the whole history of modern digital culture wrapped in this singularity” are heights never properly scaled in a sonic work that’s polished and engagingly broody without really feeling like it’s pushing any boundaries.

M.B. + Barnacles: Sidereal Decomposition Activity

 Posted by Andrea Piran (@)   Ambient / Electronica / Ethereal / Dub / Soundscapes / Abstract
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Jul 22 2018
Artist: M.B. + Barnacles (@)
Title: Sidereal Decomposition Activity
Format: CD
Label: Artoffact (@)
Rated: *****
It's almost a decade that Maurizio Bianchi, which needs no presentation for readers of this zine, and Matteo Uggeri, mostly known as a member of Sparkle in Gray, collaborates in some form. As their previous collaboration this are based on relatively quiet framework where the ambient textures of the late M.B. are introduced in a more constructed sound building.
While many could expect an harsh noise wall, "Infinity Cosmic Eruption" introduces the listener into a release where ambient music is bound in a rhythmic cage that is at the crossroad between hip hop and dub, so it's impressively dilated in time and takes in the background the noisy element which is used to create a subtle sense of movement in an apparently static rhythmic development; its quiet ending introduces "Sidereal Decomposition Activity" whose catchy noisy and almost psychedelic melody is underlined by the rolling beat interrupted when it's time for a break prior to the final dreaming end. The metronomic beat of "Astral Fall Dynamism" is the set for the dialectic between noise and folk guitar melody of the first part of the track while the second one tries to bury the melody with synthetic layer only to close the track with menacing oscillators. The crescendo of "Unearthly Armagheddon Energy" is as linear as it's ended leaving only the element that creates tension without the elements that has rhythm or mass.
Moving towards a more developed music style rather than a impressive mass of sound or quiet ambient, this release shows two artist that are willing to evolve rather than simply publish another record. Recommended.

The OO-Ray: Tiny Fugues

 Posted by Andrea Piran (@)   Ambient / Electronica / Ethereal / Dub / Soundscapes / Abstract
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Jul 22 2018
Artist: The OO-Ray (@)
Title: Tiny Fugues
Format: Download Only (MP3 + Lossless)
Label: Audiobulb (@)
Rated: *****
The OO-Ray is the alias of Ted Laderas, an improvisatory and experimental cellist, whose playing style is self defined as “chamber drone”. This really means that his music is based on the electronic treatment of the instrument so the melody, rooted in a traditional instrument, is transformed in a sort of texture which evolves in a much more clear way than canonical drone. He also use a custom-built software which creates a rhythmic layer vaguely reminiscent of glitch music.
The framework of "Liminal" introduces the listener into a sound field based on dilated tones, or long loops, and ephemeral resonances while "Stuttertest" returns to the destructured lines of glitch and "Fiftytwo" use pseudo romantic notes of piano. An interlude for reverse tape, "Hoh", is followed by "Reveal", a static and ethereal track, and "Semifinal" where a sort of catchy melody emerges and is closed by "Worden" which sounds as the second part of "Hoh". "Largesse" seems to dilate chamber music and "Downwards" folk music. "Circular" with its use of strings borders modern classical territories while "First Frost" returns to more canonical ambient territories and "Adaptation" evolves in a static way. The crystal clear melodies of "The Drowned World" and the resonances of "Afterimage" close this release with a sort of glitch classical.
The lack of a path which ties the track togheter, instead of creating confusion, generates a pleasant sense of variety which escapes boredom. Nothing ground-breaking but a good musique d'ameublement. Recommended for fans of ambient and modern classical.

Jana Irmert: Flood

 Posted by Stuart Bruce (@)   Ambient / Electronica / Ethereal / Dub / Soundscapes / Abstract
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Jul 22 2018
Artist: Jana Irmert
Title: Flood
Format: CD + Download
Label: Fabrique Records
As the artwork and the title associatively suggest, this work evokes thoughts of the build-up of tension in sci-fi clouds before a thunderstorm. There’s windy drones, distant atmospheric hums, and electrical crackling and bubbling interspersed with gentler more melodic pads and beds that arrive with some fanfare to provide lush interludes. On some rare occasions, more pulsing electronics step very modestly towards a sort of incidental techno, but this is always short-lived. Built from synthesis and from abstracted field recordings, it’s a gently unsettling bit of soundscaping that feels calm on the surface, but harbours more chaotic elements for which you have to listen more closely.

The 51-minute work is divided into three parts that are both numbered and named, but the differences between them are subtle and evolutionary rather than distinct. Third part “The Sound Of The Universe Spinning” is perhaps the warmest and most relaxing section, working as a fitting conclusion when listening to this for its soporific superficial level.

It’s a rich and detailed texture of sonic work, handled with a deftness and confidence that makes it certainly worthy of attention.

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