Music Reviews

Johan Agebjörn and Mikael Ögren: We Never Came To The White Sea

 Posted by Steve Mecca   Ambient / Electronica / Ethereal / Dub / Soundscapes / Abstract
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May 18 2017
Artist: Johan Agebjörn and Mikael Ögren (@)
Title: We Never Came To The White Sea
Format: CD
Label: Spotted Peccary Music (@)
Rated: *****
'We Never Came To The White Sea' is a collaboration between Swedish artists Johan Agebjörn and Mikael Ögren, an original soundtrack to an unreleased road movie of the same name. Agebjörn has worked solo in ambient electro and also disco (neo-italo disco) with singer Sally Shapiro with several albums to his credit as well as remixes for others. As for Ögren, he's a priest by profession but also a synthesist heavily influenced by electronic pioneers Kraftwerk and Jean Michel Jarre, as well as '90s trance innovators. The two, being neighbors by location are often frequent collaborators. Also present on this album is the (wordless, sampled) voice of Sally Shapiro, as well as contributions by Tommy '86, Anneli Andersson (vocals), and Anders Frostin (violas). Obviously the music is cinematic in nature being a soundtrack, and it has a huge lush melambient (my word; melodic ambient = melambient) quality to it. Although the album begins with what one might take to be a New Age melody on "As I Passed The Vyartsilya Border Crossing," (a recurring theme) this is not what I'd call New Age music. There are passages where the rhythm is a little too powerful for that, such as the bold bass on The Lights of Lakhkolampi Pass By," and other sections where the ambience tends to turn dark. This is an album of many moods and influences, and Agebjörn and Ögren have combined their talents to take you on a trip with numerous facets and moods. While the melodic content is heavily indebted to Jean Michel Jarre, the rest recalls such artists as Klaus Schulze, Vangelis, Pete Namlook, Patrick O'Hearn, and the ambient side of Art of Noise. This is really a beautifully composed and produced album full of enchanted mystery and beguiling atmospheres. The voices employed go a long way to enhance this. 'We Never Came To The White Sea' is likely an album to remain on my playlist for some time to come.

Tashaki Miyaki: The Dream

 Posted by Vito Camarretta (@)   Ambient / Electronica / Ethereal / Dub / Soundscapes / Abstract
Dark / Gothic / Wave / New Wave / Dark Wave / Industrial Gothic
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May 16 2017
Artist: Tashaki Miyaki (@)
Title: The Dream
Format: CD
Label: Metropolis (@)
Rated: *****
I'm not a great fan of that mixture of shoegazing and dream pop that someone named dreamgaze, to be honest, but there are some amazing details in the style of Los Angeles-based singer and musician Tashaki Miyaki that manage to boost the canons of the genre. Those canons are still there: the plain popsicle of quickly sliding pop rhythmical patterns, a set of dual guitars, one sustaining the chords of the other, a lollipop of schmaltzy melodies, a lulling pace that sometimes brushes against the backcombed style of 50ies American female singers or 60ies Americana country-folk ones. Some songs are the ones that you could expect coming after giving a kick against an old jukebox, but the way her dream (to reprise the aptly forged title) melts various elements by means of some slight distortion on the guitar, the guessed effects of her candied vocals that adds some shirring on a stream, sounding so fluid that her dream could become yours, some unexpected hiccoughs of the sound (such the distorted lead guitars on songs like "City" or "Get It Right") and the strange beauty of their fusion with the angelic serendipity evoked by Taskaki's voice could let you surmise that that juke-box fallen down the sky after getting kicked by a furious angel. Such a description could have been influenced by the catchy intro and outro of L.A.P.D., where the makers of this selection of Ms Miyaki's more or less recent outputs injected something lysergic that could vaguely resemble the ephedrine atmosphere of Amorphous Androgynous's "Slo-Mo" in a more orchestral sauce.

Jonas Kesper Jensen: Layers Of Bridges

 Posted by Stuart Bruce (@)   Ambient / Electronica / Ethereal / Dub / Soundscapes / Abstract
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May 12 2017
Artist: Jonas Kesper Jensen
Title: Layers Of Bridges
Format: Download Only (MP3 + Lossless)
Label: Clang
“Layers Of Bridges” is a set of barren computer-generated sonic landscapes. It’s a relatively established arrangement of digital hums and unnaturally long reverbs, counter-playing tones and wave synthesis. While the track names have an architectural theme, sonically this is open, near-empty space.

Each of the seven tracks is exactly 5:30, and most fade in and out, as though each environment is infinite but 330 seconds is the permitted visiting time. Each environment is relatively static- there’s a faint degree of evolution within pieces like “Thru Arch” but for the most part it’s eventless.

“Stay Girder” opens with a repeating piano note that suggests the arrival of new structure, but the reverb and layering soon degenerates the note into a sonic bath that fits the rest of the pieces; imagine “I Am Sitting In A Room” based on a single piano note rather than the spoken word.

The exception to this format is the fifth track “Culvert”, which is a discordant and unsettling loop of electronics with a tense throbbing bass tone. Were it not for this track, and perhaps the distant drilling sound of “Channel Beam”, this release would be going on my ‘music to sleep to’ playlists, but this track is an anachronistic wake-up call.

As a complete work it does fall a little short of distinctive flavour or character but as a surprisingly soporific collection of rigidly prescribed hum soundscapes, it mostly works very well.

Philippe Lauzier: A Pond In My Living Room

 Posted by Stuart Bruce (@)   Ambient / Electronica / Ethereal / Dub / Soundscapes / Abstract
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May 07 2017
Artist: Philippe Lauzier
Title: A Pond In My Living Room
Format: CD & Vinyl
Label: Sofa
“A Pond In My Living Room” is constructed predominantly from multitracked bass clarinet recordings, layered and processed into steady beatless hypnotic ambiences. Sparing use of other noises- which may in fact be clarinet-sourced but are so processed it’s hard to tell- add a little sprinkle over what is otherwise a very pure and sincere expression of resonance.

I’m a sucker for a lovely clarinet, and while the sustains and thick reverberations here pull the tones far away from the traditional instrument’s sound, that rich timbre is still present. The hollowness of the production is a little alienating, and the resonant frequency responses are a touch metallic, making the overall feel of the album surprisingly inorganic.

The differences between the tracks are subtle and well segued. The first two track have distinct and different pitches of tone that sound not unlike tubular bells. Third track “On The Window Side” has a higher, more flute-like quality and adds a steady slow plucked light bass note, and occasional sounds like processed and distorted tap noises which increase the sense of homemade domestication compared to the other pieces. The final track has a more ebbing and fragile tone, almost like pitched wineglass playing.

Twisting bass clarinet sounds into melodious drones and super-slow looped chord patterns may not be an innovative concept in itself, but the straightforward approach and pure quality of this release make it a big success.

Miguel Angel Tolosa: Ephimeral

 Posted by Stuart Bruce (@)   Ambient / Electronica / Ethereal / Dub / Soundscapes / Abstract
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May 07 2017
Artist: Miguel Angel Tolosa
Title: Ephimeral
Format: CD + Download
Label: Sofa
Miguel Angel Tolosa has contributed to and mastered several releases on the SOFA label but this is his first solo outing- a tight, moderated collection of drones, washes and passive sound, fusing and filtering electronics with sound sources detached unrecognisably from their origins. It’s mostly windy and hollow, but sometimes sub-bass. Instrumentation and process both become irrelevant.

The result is for the most part rather familiar- the echo chamber effect of distant deep oscillations, the sense of being trapped in a large bleak room with a busy city outside, this is certainly territory that has been audibly walked through before. Everything here is washes and reverb, there’s no percussive element at all- just curves and rumbles with a fairly purist sensibility. Rain and thunder on “Sol de plomo y purpura” and a couple of bell chimes on “De un pais de hierro” are exceptions that don’t jolt you.

Tonally it’s not quite as barren as the artwork may suggest. The purity of some of the metallic tones is borderline optimistic at times.

Many of the pieces are surprisingly short (10 tracks span 41 minutes) which prevents almost any of the tracks from elongating into a mesmeric familiarity; just as you’re beginning to accustom yourself to the atmospheric tone, it stops- sometimes a little abruptly- and a new tone begins to creep in. I do wonder whether some of the pieces should have been segued into one another for a more immersive listening experience, or whether some of the pieces should simply have been longer. When the tracks are allowed to live for longer- on “Sol de plomo y purpura” and “Fragmentos de ti”- it works well.

It’s a bold and rather too brief musical statement as an album, not too steeply infused with any kind of unique sonic identity but certainly both pretty and polished.

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