Music Reviews



Streifenjunko: Like Driving

 Posted by Stuart Bruce (@)   Ambient / Electronica / Ethereal / Dub / Soundscapes / Abstract
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Nov 02 2018
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Artist: Streifenjunko
Title: Like Driving
Format: CD & Vinyl
Label: Sofa
After two previous works which derived their entire sound solely from saxophone and trumpet, Espen Reinertsen and Eivind Lønning as Streifenjunko have added electronic elements to the mix here, blending the three elements to create long, warm melodic drone soundscapes with a leisurely and hybrid-organic-electronic tone.

First piece “Everything We Touch Is Electric” brings to mind musical visualisations as solid horizontal bars, with individual notes and elements that each have a distinct beginning and end and where the compositional heart is in the ebb and overlap, while second piece “Astronaut Peace” is a more continuous and evolving combination of tones with a slightly harsher, toothier sound. The title track behaves somewhere between the two, painting with both soft envelopes and abrupt changes, and returning to the gentle electronic rain effects that added extra detail earlier. As it progresses the changes get more frequent and more abrupt, at times almost cheeky before working into the album’s closest encounter with tension and stress, two-note slightly Glass-like arpeggios adding a note of urgency. The last three or four minutes comes as something of a surprise, shifting away from the recognisable instrumentation into a variety of electric clicks and percussive pops that feels as though the journey is over and we’ve arrived at somewhere totally unrecognisable.

Deriving its title and its motivation from the experience of driving- sometimes stoccato and signal-driven, sometimes long, regular and peaceful- this is an extremely likeable experimental work with a generally soft and calm tone, but a few surprises.

Aquavoice: Silence

 Posted by Andrea Piran (@)   Ambient / Electronica / Ethereal / Dub / Soundscapes / Abstract
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Nov 01 2018
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Artist: Aquavoice (@)
Title: Silence
Format: CD
Label: Zoharum (@)
Distributor: Alchembria
Rated: *****
It's not a trivial claim by the label that this release is "ambient in its purest form" as "Silence" sounds developed upon the canonical form of the genre with no modification at all. The result is that any sound experiment is balanced by a writing that catch the listener by showing a known and familiar path.
While the main synth theme is minimal, "Minor" feature noise, or, more properly, extraneous, elements which creates a contrast. "Rainman" continues in this framework with a more defined dialectic between the minimal background and the foreground with field recordings of rain and samples which ebb and flow. "Coldland" has the synth in a melodic position with the glitches in the background. "Last Cruise" blends effectively the field recordings and the synth layers. "Chronos II" borders danceable territories with a rhythmic cage and ambient tape manipulation. "Evening Bells" has a more reduced palette with his oscillator-based sounds. "A Lonely Cello" starts as a continuation of the previous track but evolves in a cello lines upon an IDM beat. The italian voices of "Information" are blurred by the synth and "Largo" juxtaposes layers of synth revealing a careful melodic vision. "Sound Hunter" continues on this path with a more fragmented grammar and "Voices" blends voices and reversed lines of synth. "Zen Park" is practically a synth pop song with glitch influences and "I'm Leaving I'm Gone" closes this release with a sort of loop of synth and robotic voices and closes as a machine stops.
The fact that there isn't any ground breaking idea is the key to an enjoyable release that has even catchy moments and could not be listed in any end of the year playlist but will last in the stereo to more time than most of them. It's really worth a listen.

Murcof: Lost in Time

 Posted by Andrea Piran (@)   Ambient / Electronica / Ethereal / Dub / Soundscapes / Abstract
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Oct 28 2018
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Artist: Murcof
Title: Lost in Time
Format: CD
Label: Glacial Movements (@)
Rated: *****
One of the most known names in electronic music, at list from his "Remembranza" release, returns with the soundtrack of the movie by Patrick Bernatchez of the same name (properly this is the CD edition of the vinyl release in 2014 by Casino Luxembourg). The movie is described in the liner notes as based on two parallel narratives intertwine and, so, the Murcof's music revolves around two distinct elements: traditional, and quiet, instruments and electronic, and loud, ones.
The first track, "Intro", shows an idea of ambient music far more complex than many of his colleagues: while it starts as a canonical ambient track based on a drone, it evolves by accumulation until even a melodic line could be heard in the development of the sound layers. When it seems that the release could continue along this framework, "Chapitre I" is based on church's chant (it's the Goldberg Variations sung by Les Petits Chanteurs du Mont-Royal, but Bach music is religious) which continues in "Chapitre II" until the reverb applied to this chant announces the the return of a drone introducing the return of masses of drone, some of which are even noisy. Then, "Chapitre III" begins a series of tracks, based on dynamics, which are at the threshold of audibility and "Chapitre IV" is constructed as a series of sonic events isolated by seconds of silence. Underlining the narrative framework of this release, "Chapitre V" and "Chapitre VI" feature a short return of the chant of "Chapitre I" as one of the layers emerging from the resulting drone. "Chapitre VII" is a really quiet, and barely audible, drone acting as an interlude to the second part of the release. "Chapitre VIII" starts as a loud track based on sharp tones and ends with a quiet track. "Chapitre IX" is characterized by a melancholic line of piano. "Chapitre X" is a droning crescendo which continues in "Chapitre XI". "Epilogue" closes this release with an apparently static drone decorated with the slight return of the piano of "Chapitre IX". A track not included in the original soundtrack, "Chapitre N", closes this release with an evolving synth drone.
Impressively multifaceted, it's a release which confirms the status of its author as one most interesting ambient composer around. Chapeau! Highly recommended.

Swartz et: A Living Thing

 Posted by Steve Mecca   Ambient / Electronica / Ethereal / Dub / Soundscapes / Abstract
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Oct 24 2018
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Artist: Swartz et (@)
Title: A Living Thing
Format: Download Only (MP3 + Lossless)
Label: Utter East (@)
Rated: *****
Swartz et is Steve Swartz from Detroit, Michigan and this is his ambient solo project, the third released under this name, previous albums being 'Nighttide' and 'Respire'. Can't say I've heard either of those but that's not uncommon. Swartz is also in a couple of bands - Au Revoir Borealis (post-rock, shoegazer) and For Wishes (folkish acoustic). 'A Living Thing' is 8 varied tracks of ambient ranging from hazy drone ("Waken") to gentle New Age electronics ("Daydreams"), to subtle minimal isolationism ("Moons"), to grey ambient ("Winter Years"), to shoegaze ambient ("A Living Thing"), to noise ambient ("Embers"), and more. Some of this is reminiscent of Eno's 'Shutov Assembly' in a purely abstract way. Swartz has a good command of layering and texture so the pieces seem moving rather than static which is essential for good ambient music. While it may not be anything you haven't heard before, it should please ambient enthusiasts of varying stripes. Download only, no physical product.

Atrium Carceri: Codex

 Posted by Andrea Piran (@)   Ambient / Electronica / Ethereal / Dub / Soundscapes / Abstract
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Oct 21 2018
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Artist: Atrium Carceri
Title: Codex
Format: CD
Label: Cryo Chamber (@)
Rated: *****
After three years in the making Simon Heath returns with a new release where he shows his well known vision of dark ambient. This album is present with the usual synopsis, this time about prayer for the Demiurge to return so someone could return to Elysium. This is an hint that the core of this release if far more optimistic, and with a brighter sound, than the average of the genre.
As the first track, "The Void", starts the listener is immersed in a form of dark ambient where the compositional focus is, along with the usual elements of the genre, a fistful of small sounds which create an illusion of a real environment; after the quiet piano chords which close the track, "From Chasms Reborn" reveals how the use of effects gives the sense that the music is recorded in a specific place e.g., the piano chords have a reverb as it was in a distant place. After a static beginning, "The Seer" evolves in a noisy way, "A Memory Lost" is a languid pianistic interlude to "The Empty Chapel" where the detail of the background sounds takes the attention instead of the drone in the foreground. "Path of Fallen Gods" starts quietly with a bass drone which evolves in frequencies with foley adding movement until a final, and sparse, drone closes a really good track. "The Ancient City" continues in this sound path while "Sacrifice to the Machine" features an industrial beat to have a variation. "The Maze" is the most static, but spatial, track of this release while "A Hunger too Deep" is centered upon an almost romantic piano instead of a drone. "The Citadel" closes this release summarizing all the elements of the album.
Technically it's an impressive release from a veteran of the genre which shows its distance from a scene based upon a form replied in an almost dull mode. From a writing perspective, most fans will rate it among the albums of the year. Excellent.


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