Music Reviews

Golden Diskó Ship: Imaginary Boys

 Posted by Stuart Bruce (@)   Ambient / Electronica / Ethereal / Dub / Soundscapes / Abstract
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Mar 22 2017
Artist: Golden Diskó Ship
Title: Imaginary Boys
Format: 12" vinyl + Download
Label: Karlrecords (@)
“Imaginary Boys” is the third album from Theresa Stroetges under her Golden Disko Ship alias. The classically trained viola player uses her traditional instruments and voice as just two layers in a complex mash-up of slow instrumental synthpop and electronica with a decidedly quirky and rather playful collection of bleeps, chords and loops, over rolling clean bass tones and with guest appearances from indie guitars.

The whole album is mixed by Schneider TM, and if you squint your ears you could believe the whole thing is a mellow, slightly more ethnic Schneider TM mini-album- some of the steady, faintly chiptune-like rhythm programming and rubbery bass could easily have been Dirk Dresselhaus’, particularly in elements like the shifting rhythm pitches of “Abandoned Chinese Fishing Village”.

There’s a fairly wide range of tempos and moods here- while opener “Flaming Flamingo” is a rather casual hello, it’s followed by the more chase-music groove of “Pacific Trash Vortex” which sounds like a disassembled prototype of a mathematically-generated pop song. The verse-chorus-ish alt-pop of songs like “Wrong Beach” will appeal to fans of The Knife, or Roisin Murphy’s weirder moments, while the closer “Lifelike Showdown” wanders confidently into Tangerine Dream territory and blends in some choral-ish chanting and brass for a powerful and unique finale.

It’s got a lovely warm tone throughout, and while song titles like “Swarm Of Bees” might imply an abrasive and uncomfortable listen, it’s absolutely anything but. There’s a relaxed and casual playfulness and a rich chillout vein to it. A sterling bit of alt-pop with the emphasis on the alt and definitely worth a listen.

Tom Hall: Fervor

 Posted by Stuart Bruce (@)   Ambient / Electronica / Ethereal / Dub / Soundscapes / Abstract
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Mar 21 2017
Artist: Tom Hall
Title: Fervor
Format: Download Only (MP3 + Lossless)
Label: Elli Records
Tom Hall is an AV artist. The 2-track release “Fervor” comes with an accompanying Windows & Mac app to compliment the sound, but I’m reviewing the audio as a standalone work.

This is a set of two gentle and meandering pieces in which ambling synthesizer lines drift over thick, slow and stretched ambiences. In “As We Go To Fight Giants”, the hardware wave synthesis is initially fairly sedate, but with a sawtoothed edge to the tone, and as it progresses it gets a little more harsh and bass-heavy, perhaps as we meet the titular giants.

In “Only The Hunted Know”, there’s a lighter melodic tone with quasi-piano notes like random raindrops over a drone which, again, evolves in harshness and flatulence as it progresses- although this time round there’s a more distinct drop.

Closing The Eternity: Forever And A Day

 Posted by Steve Mecca   Ambient / Electronica / Ethereal / Dub / Soundscapes / Abstract
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Mar 19 2017
Artist: Closing The Eternity
Title: Forever And A Day
Format: CD
Label: Muzyka Voln/Zhelezobeton (@)
Rated: *****
Russian ambient drone project Closing The Eternity has had numerous releases going back to 2001, some of them in collaboration with Ad Lux Tenebrae, Mathias Grassow, and others. 'Forever And A Day' was recorded in 2004, mixed in 2007 and mastered in 2008. Why it hasn't been released until now is a bit of a mystery. The label claims it "has long been waiting the right moment for manifestation" but I'm guessing there were other factors involved. This is the first release on the Muzyka Voln/Zhelezobeton label for Closing The Eternity and that may have also have had something to do with it. CTE has gone through plenty of other labels in their time, so who knows? Anyway, 'Forever And A Day' is here now, and it's actually quite good. This is what I'd call "grey ambient" as opposed to dark or light, where the atmosphere is kind of neutral but still in lonely, isolationist terrain. There are three tracks (two lengthy ones, and a shorter one about 8.5 min.) a little over an hour in length total, but it's all that easy to discern one from the other. In a sense, the music bears a remarkable similarity to the cover photography by Arseniy Vinovarov, who took these pictures literally on the edge of the Earth- at the shore of the Arctic ocean. Surely that is a fairly bleak place (not that there isn't a certain sense of beauty about it) and this work absolutely reflects that. There is an ebb and flow to these drone pieces that could be equated with natural elements in the Earth's environment. It is simultaneously relaxing and disquieting, and maybe only those who have stood at the precipice overlooking some vast terrain or abyss might understand this. Played loudly, 'Forever And A Day' could easily seem oppressive and overwhelming, but at medium to low volume wondrous and transcendental. There are no obtrusive elements or incidents in the recording; it all flows smoothly. And though you might consider this minimal, there is no thinness to the atmosphere for it is as deep and wide as your ears can perceive. Having something as amorphous as this makes it easy to return to when you're in the mood for something that isn't highly defined.

Although Closing The Eternity is sort of shrouded in mystery, it hasn't been too difficult to find that the person behind the project is Anton Shafarostov (aka 121) who also has another (apparently) still active project called Velehentor which seems to be dark ambient and abrasive than Closing The Eternity. This release is strictly limited to 300 CD copies only, no digital download available, so if it sounds interesting to you, order it now because once it's gone, it's gone.

Caught In The Wake Forever: Under Blankets

 Posted by Vito Camarretta (@)   Ambient / Electronica / Ethereal / Dub / Soundscapes / Abstract
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Mar 17 2017
Artist: Caught In The Wake Forever
Title: Under Blankets
Format: CD
Label: Fluid Audio (@)
Rated: *****
Caught In The Wake Forever is the project by Scottish home recording artist and composer Fraser Alexander McGowan. If you have ever listened to some of his outputs, you'll notice this "Under Blankets" (a one-single 40 minutes lasting track) is slightly different from most of his previous releases. As you can easily guess by its length, the typical structure of the song got put aside, as well as guitar-driven harmonies and even any narrative reference, even if there's a story behind it: it seems he made it as an enhancement of the somehow cliched meditative music he had to listen during a therapy against the anxiety he suffered from some years ago, during which he began practising so-called mindfulness meditation, an ancient Buddhist practice focusing on the here and now. The aim of such a practice got explained by its primary teacher Jon Kabat-Zinn as "the art of conscious do with waking up and seeing things as they are...the overall tenor of mindfulness practice is gentle, appreciative, and nurturing" in his essay "Wherever You Go, There You Are". The style of ambient he explores cannot but be close to meditative music and somehow consonant to the aim of Fraser's therapy: slow trembling of remarkably elongated frequencies and slightly hypnotical swirling that become more and more sublimely warm could relief from your personal worries, or they will maybe just bring a sounder sleep! The physical deluxe cd edition, including many extra items related to astrology and meteorology, is strictly limited to 200 copies (just 15 remaining when this review got written), but the release is available in digital format on the artist's Bandcamp.

Moon Gravity: Antarctica

 Posted by Stuart Bruce (@)   Ambient / Electronica / Ethereal / Dub / Soundscapes / Abstract
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Mar 16 2017
Artist: Moon Gravity
Title: Antarctica
Format: Download Only (MP3 + Lossless)
Label: Silber Media (@)
Stas Neilyk from Sweden issues a debut release- either an EP or a mini-mini-album depending on how you look at it- that’s a tribute to the Antarctic polar night. Why somebody from so far up the Northern hemisphere would be more interested in the Southern polar night is not made clear but thankfully it’s not important.

What we have here is three tracks, totalling 23 minutes, of moody, slow post-rock very reminiscent (to me at least) of the Resonance Association et al. Repeated guitar chords with slow filters walk relentlessly over low-end drones with a feel that’s organic, and also surprisingly warm considering the dark and frozen musical concept.

With its plucked guitar lines processed into sounding synthetic, and distant deep vocal chords, opener “Nightfall” starts resembling a moody piece of Vangelis score- including, but not limited to, his 1983 “Antarctica” score. There’s elements of this in final track “Purpling” as well, although in the latter the guitar has shades of Peter Hook. This comparison is more loose than direct, for the legal record!

Longest track “Snowstorm” has a greater emphasis on a more traditional guitar sound, and is firmly placed in shoegaze territory for the most part. Two-thirds through, there’s a surprise, as the present at the end of a crescendo is a slow techno beat that, while the piece stays firmly on its original track, gives it a new lease of life for the remainder of its run.

The finale of “Purpling” is a familiar melodic peaking, a technique often used at the end of atmospheric scores to signal the top of the metaphorical (or literal) mountain, and while there’s a bit of a sense that this kind of work has been done before somewhat, it’s still a well-made and emotive mini-album. It’s more melodic and arguably more MOR than Silber’s typical output, but may prove to be a good way in for newcomers.

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