Music Reviews

Michel Redolfi: Desert Tracks

 Posted by Stuart Bruce (@)   Ambient / Electronica / Ethereal / Dub / Soundscapes / Abstract
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Feb 15 2017
Artist: Michel Redolfi
Title: Desert Tracks
Format: CD & Vinyl
Label: Sub Rosa
Imagine a desert where the sand is metal dust, the wind is gentle and feels digital, but dangerous monsters sometimes roam, sometimes issuing threats. “Desert Tracks” is the soundtrack to that environment, realised at length. Epitomised by central track “Death Valley”, this is experimental ambience that’s deeply disquieting, but without using all the usual distortion and white noise tricks. Whole seconds go by silently as you wait, almost nervously, to hear what sound approaches next.

It’s not quite all barren empty space. “Mojave Desert” concludes as an inebriated collection of train rolling stock noises, with the metallic scrapes continuing to pitch up and down on top. “Palm Canyon” briefly features a busy mechanical chaos akin to listening to the thought processes of a thousand metal ants, before it disappears abruptly and we return to the desert wash. The same track ends almost ironically with birdsong and a brief cameo of warmer chords. “Too Much Sky” is somehow warmer and more playful, but only relatively so, and ends with two minutes of actual silence (don’t tell John Cage’s lawyers…)

Michel Redolfi is a veteran of French electronic music, having worked with Luc Ferrari, Pierre Henry and more. This is a reissue of a 1988 album based on the sounds of a 1987 California Desert road trip, created with a room full of electrics and electronics, creating something that could now be generated on a laptop. Released as part of Sub Rosa’s “early electronic”, it now sits somewhere between the truly cutting-edge experimental electronics of the 60’s and the bedroom PC experimental boom of the 90’s and beyond. It’s an interesting timepiece but not perhaps a spectacular listening experience in its own right.

Paul Wirkus: Discours Amoureux

 Posted by Vito Camarretta (@)   Ambient / Electronica / Ethereal / Dub / Soundscapes / Abstract
Experimental / Avantgarde / Weird & Wired / Glitch / Noise / Field Recording
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Feb 14 2017
Artist: Paul Wirkus (@)
Title: Discours Amoureux
Format: CD
Label: Edition Beides (@)
Rated: *****
Necessary clarification on the following post: it's not a sort of Valentine's Day, even if we love our followers! This applies a fortiori to a release, whose title seems to quote the likewise notorious title of a book (Roland Barthes' ""A Lover's Discourse: Fragments") that many romantic readers generally buy and read after they get somehow trapped by its title, unveiling a previously unknown universe and all the intrinsic illogicality of what they supposedly said to a partner in life! I'm not sure there's a relation between that essay and Paul Wirkus' output, but its abstract essence and the impressive dynamics you'll find in any of the four long-lasting track of this album could let you imagine a possible connection. If you examine the way the opening track "1982" evolves for instance, you could match the movement from the bowel-like and vaguely percussive aural entities of the first half to the almost ethereal body of slightly ringing sonorities of the second half to the "gradualism" of reciprocal understanding in any process of communication (particularly the one between lovers, one of the more meaningless and easy-to-be-misunderstood human language!). You could imagine the core of an initially misunderstood message wiggling inside the frustrating shell of misunderstanding in the first part before their shaking succeeds in breaking this diaphragm and getting clear! In reality, the information attached to the release refers to other semantic field, as "Discours Amoreux" gets described as "a psycho-acoustic essay, a consciously digital ambient album between laptop electronica and field recordings", where "mental strolls – geographic and historical, musical and philosophical – are combined with the real strolls through the green spheres of the summery, loud city on the search for security, calm, a chance to exhale". What matters is what you are going to listen, and Paul managed to build an enjoyable release, where the sense of the transformation of sonic items underlies the emotional states the music of this Polish musician (you'll easily catch some clues of his involvement in projects like September Collective and Kammerflimmer Kollektief) can inspire. Just keep on listening to fall in love with his sound!

UnicaZürn: Transparondem

 Posted by Stuart Bruce (@)   Ambient / Electronica / Ethereal / Dub / Soundscapes / Abstract
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Feb 13 2017
Artist: UnicaZürn (@)
Title: Transparondem
Format: 12" vinyl + Download
Label: Touch
“Transparondem” is a truly timeless bit of analogue experimental synthesizer music that, while finished in 2016, could be advertised as an “undiscovered synth gem from 1970” without too many people crying foul (the ‘two sides of an LP’ structure adds to this as well). Like Tangerine Dream in one of their less rhythmic moods, or like the Radiophonic Workshop indulging themselves with the opportunity to go freeform, this is music that manages to transcend the technology that’s being used to create it, rather than being defined by the equipment.

In “Breathe The Snake”, the title possibly a reference to the Thames, water and waves are the omnipresent theme; not actually sampled, but recreated by the slow ebb and flow of settings on synths. This is an alien beach, with gloopy tides that are relaxing but also faintly toxic, with dark, slow, square-wave tones. Subtle but distinct stereo separations add a slight uneasiness.

“Pale Salt Seam” is a more complex work- a mellotron, seemingly improvised, sounding like a drunk alien church organ, squeaking and vocalising over warm chords that ebb similarly to the first track, but in a more comforting and structured melodic manner. Arpeggiation increases gradually, as things get busier without really changing tack. Rightly or wrongly it feels to me like an inebriated organ version of Jarre’s “Waiting For Cousteau”; diving across a reef of harmless monsters.

In a way there’s not all that much in “Transparondem” to assess- two soundscapes, both around twenty minutes, both with relatively little in the way of internal progression. They’re smooth, and they adjust and adapt tonally in a way that keeps things interesting enough. Overall it’s a warm if unchallenging synthesized tribute to water.

Enmarta: The Hermit

 Posted by Andrea Piran (@)   Ambient / Electronica / Ethereal / Dub / Soundscapes / Abstract
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Feb 12 2017
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Artist: Enmarta
Title: The Hermit
Format: CD
Label: Cryo Chamber (@)
Rated: *****
This second effort by Enmarta on Cryo Chamber is a complex release that is unified by the water samples (rain or rivers) appearing in more of less all tracks so all sound, being synthetic or not, seem placed in the real world. But the most remarkable aspect of this release is that he tries to develop a musical discourse rather than being a showcase of cinematic sound.
The canonical form exposed in "Apokatástasis I" opens this release creating the impression to hear the next dark ambient release but the complexity of the construction of "March of the Priests" with his use of drone, sample and his development toward an emotional part by the viola which closes the track marks this release as something to hear with close attention. "Journey to the Celestial Rivers" starts as ambient track with quite layers of synth but reveals itself as a sort of modern classical track as the central part is a lied for viola and cello. The martial atmosphere which opens "Apokatástasis II" is a partial change that introduce a solo for viola while "Passing" is the first track of this release where the viola and the ambient elements are fused in a cohesive whole. "The Hermit" is an evocative ambient track based on a drone and a loop of synth. "Temple of Abandon" closes this release starting as a synth track with a use of vibrato which is close to the sound of theremin and evolving in a viola line which is interrupted by the ubiquitous sound of the rain.
An atmospheric release that would be appreciated by fans of dark ambient and modern classical if both parties are willing to accept unorthodox ways to interpret this music. Truly recommended.

PainKiller: Execution Ground

 Posted by Vito Camarretta (@)   Ambient / Electronica / Ethereal / Dub / Soundscapes / Abstract
New Music / Downtown / Avantgarde Jazz / New Classical / World
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Feb 11 2017
Artist: PainKiller
Title: Execution Ground
Format: 2 x 12" vinyl
Label: Karlrecords (@)
Rated: *****
On the occasion of a chat with one of our collaborators six years ago, Thomas Herbst, the man behind the curtains of the great Karlrecords, didn't hide his unconditional love for Bill Laswell and all his amazing projects. During that interview, Thomas told us an anecdote: when he asked Bill after a gig he made at Moers Jazz Festival in 2006 what he was doing, Mister Laswell naively replied “oh, some pop stuff…to generate money for projects like this…”. The gig he was referring to - the one he just performed - was the collaborative project PainKiller, the one Thom is luckily proposing by this fantastic re-release, and if you've never heard about it (shame on you!), the names of Bill's collaborators should be enough to titillate your hungry music mind. PainKiller was the brainchild that Bill Laswell started in 1991, while he was still performing with the incendiary free jazz quartet last Exit (including Peter Brotzmann, Sonny Sharrock and Ronald Shannon Jackson) together with Mick Harris (just after he left Napalm Death) and John Zorn (exploring impressively innovative sonorities in his Naked City project). After a couple of albums - "Buried Secrets" and "Guts of a Virgin" - in between free jazz and grindcore (released by notorious metal label Earache), the real masterpiece was their third album "Execution Ground" (1994, Subharmonic), the one where all the musical souls involved the project and their forerunning raid into unconventional stylistic territories merged into five long and powerfully evocative suites: the way the furious free-jazz of Zorn's shrieking saxophone and Harris' drumming on the first part of "Parish Of Tama" got channeled into an intensely emotional and gradually morbid dub in the second part borders on sublime dimensions; the multiverse colliding styles of the increasingly wildness of "Morning Of Balachaturdasi"; the powerful visions inspired by the ambient versions of "Parish Of Tama" and "Pashupatinath" (the crossover version coming as a digital bonus). Masterfully mastered and cut by Rashad Becker at D&M Berlin. Highly recommended!

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