Music Reviews



Keru Not Ever: Tereza

 Posted by Stuart Bruce (@)   Ambient / Electronica / Ethereal / Dub / Soundscapes / Abstract
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Jan 19 2017
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Artist: Keru Not Ever
Title: Tereza
Format: Download Only (MP3 + Lossless)
Label: Infinite Machine
“Tereza” is a collection of angular, glitchy cold synthesized soundscapes, mostly arhythmic yet still percussive. It’s a January release that conjures images of some of the less mellow aspects of Northern winter weather.

There’s a variety of moods here, ranging from the expansive emptiness of the contrarily-named “Closers” to the threatening claustrophobic spikiness of “Blue Strobe Pastiche”. Each piece tends to around the five minute mark, which is mostly fair as the progressions and evolutions within each are subtle, though not non-existent. In the final minute of “Closers” there’s the distant sound of techno, as though you’re stood at the North Pole surrounded by snow but suddenly you realise there’s a nightclub two miles away.

There are faintly Eastern and ethnic tones in tracks like “Ode to the Past, Present and Future” and “Fusing Zeitgeist” which seem anachronistic in the mostly icy environments, yet they end up fitting rather nicely and giving the album a more distinct identity overall. Meanwhile, more esoterically, “Airflow! Velocity” samples something akin to the sound of trainers (sorry, ‘sneakers’) on a basketball court while a bulldozer approaches to demolish the gym- sonic combinations so random and disassociative that they stop being evocative of anything and become attention-seekingly weird in their own right.

The latter sections of the album settle down somewhat, from “Dogville” to the end, is mellow longer tones prevail, natural piano noises tinkle and the sidechained processing calms.

Overall it’s an unorthodox twist on a fairly well-established cold soundscape style, with an interesting if not constantly welcoming character.

Andrew Pekler: Tristes Tropiques

 Posted by Vito Camarretta (@)   Ambient / Electronica / Ethereal / Dub / Soundscapes / Abstract
Experimental / Avantgarde / Weird & Wired / Glitch / Noise / Field Recording
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Jan 16 2017
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Artist: Andrew Pekler (@)
Title: Tristes Tropiques
Format: LP
Label: Faitiche (@)
Rated: *****
One of those artists I appreciated a lot when they started their discography that I had no news about is Andrew Pekler. I admit I still like listening to its debut "Station To Station" (2002), the debut he signed for ~scape, the label by Stefan Beltke (better known as Pole) through which my ears firstly met Jan Jelinek's sound as well. It's pretty nice to see Andrew's return on Jan's imprint Faitiche many years after I got reached by their sonorities almost at the same time, even if Andrew's signature for Faitiche already appeared as the director of "Sonne = Blackbox", the amazing collection of stuff by Ursula Bogner, an unknown German pharmacist, musician and housewife, whose fantastic music was published posthumously after Jan met his son by chance (don't understate a John Doe delivering your letters or the flyers of some poisoning new BBQ or pizza parlors, as you should expect the unexpected by pretty unknown people...). An explanatory interview to Andrew by Jan got attached to the introduction and within the booklet of this release, whose main interesting aspect is the way by which Andrew declensed the concept of 'exotica' - an 'umbrella' label to define the style that begun spreading in the late 50ies by the integration of exotic elements, which was mostly related to that "ersatz tropicalism" that persuaded many composers to combine lush orchestration and instruments from Far East, Oceania, Polynesia or Hawaii. A quotation by French anthropologist and structuralist philosopher Claude Levi-Strauss's 'Tristes tropiques' - a multidisciplinary essay/memoir, embodying the 'detached vision' of tropical places (mostly Brasil in this travelogue) by an anthropologist searching connection between seemingly distant cultures - is the framework of Andrew's sonic artifact: "For mile after mile the same melodic phrase rose up in my memory. I simply couldn’t get free of it. Each time it had a new fascination for me. Initially imprecise in outline, it seemed to become more and more intricately woven, as if to conceal from the listener how eventually it would end. The weaving and reweaving became so complicated that one wondered how it could be unravelled; and then suddenly one note would resolve the whole problem, and the solution would seem yet more audacious than the procedures which had preceded, called for, and made possible its arrival; when it was heard, all that had gone before took on new meaning, and the quest, which had seemed arbitrary, was seen to have prepared the way for this undreamed-of solution. Was that what travel meant? An exploration of the deserts of memory, rather than those around me?". Andrew seems to push the boundaries of this detachment by a bizarre and very nice choice: besides reviewing the genre by micro-electronic patterns, chirping tunes and sonic hooks that sound tropical, the eight tracks (some of them actually group different tracks together) got often grasped by totally fake field recordings so that it seems to render the funhouse mirror-like artificiality of that exotic distorted vision without substantially altering its inner fascination. In Andrew's words: "As a listener and as a musician, exotica music of the 1950s and 60s has always been a constant reference point and inspiration. And perhaps my listening has been ‘ruined’ by exotica, but as I have dug deeper into ethnographic archives of ‘traditional’ music, I’ve come to the realization that all recordings that evoke, allude to, or ostensibly document other musical forms have a similar effect on my imagination: I am most intrigued when I perceive some coincidentally familiar element within the foreign (a tuned percussion recital from Malawi that immediately brings to mind Steve Reichian minimalism or the Burundian female vocal duet that sounds uncannily like a cut-up tape experiment, etc.). I suppose this album is an attempt to recreate the same kind of listening experience as what I’ve described, just with the electronic means that I have at hand". The "sadness" (if we have to quote album title) of Andrew's tropicalism could be something closer to the awareness of a justifiably depressed clerk after a trip in some 'wild' place after the impact against the common rites of its ordinary "life".

Exit In Grey : Hysterics of the Eternal

 Posted by Steve Mecca   Ambient / Electronica / Ethereal / Dub / Soundscapes / Abstract
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Jan 15 2017
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Artist: Exit In Grey (@)
Title: Hysterics of the Eternal
Format: CD
Label: Frozen Light (@)
Distributor: Zhelezobeton
Rated: *****
Exit In Grey is Russian composer/producer Sergey Suhovik (otherwise simply known as [S] with numerous other projects to his credit such as Black Deal With Snow, Candyman And Evil Flowers, Five Elements Music, Radioson, Redhouse, Sister Loolomie. Exit In Grey's prolific output goes back to 2004, with at least 16 previous albums to the project's credit. Although 'Hysterics of the Eternal' is largely based on sounds of radio noises, other (electronic) elements and electric guitar are also employed. In comparison with Kryptogen Rundfunk's 'Liquid Circuits' that I just reviewed, 'Hysterics of the Eternal' is a much more placid ambient outing. The first time I auditioned this recording consisting of two lengthy tracks, I didn't much care for it. It sounded as interesting as being trapped at a Siberian Numbers Station forced to listen to UVB-76. Subsequently though, my opinion has changed (as it often does), and it seems as though [S] has managed to combine the arcane with the sublime. These are awfully cold and bleak environments. Some humanity bleeds through in the (manipulated) radio transmissions, but by far and large, the sonics give the impression of loneliness and singularity. 'Hysterics of the Eternal' may be one of those albums that grows on you the more you play it, but it might be likely you won't play it often. If desolate, semi-minimal audio works are your thing, you'll be right at home with this album. Recorded in 2011, and mastered in 2016 by Oleg Hurvatov (Interior Disposition), and limited to 300 copies.

Amp Studio: Uncertainty Principles

 Posted by Vito Camarretta (@)   Ambient / Electronica / Ethereal / Dub / Soundscapes / Abstract
Experimental / Avantgarde / Weird & Wired / Glitch / Noise / Field Recording
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Jan 12 2017
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Artist: Amp Studio
Title: Uncertainty Principles
Format: 2 x CD (double CD)
Label: Ampbase (@)
Rated: *****
It seems that the artwork for this new output by Amp Studio, the solo project by Richard 'AMP' Walker, the leading mind behind the space-rock/electronic rock project AMP - I wouldn't believe if someone will profess a devotional fan of contemporary shoegazing/psychedelic rock stuff like that coming out by bands like Spiritualized, Seefeel, Flying Saucer Attack or even Spaceman 3 without knowing AMP's sound -, got created by processes aimed to produce random images. In reality, it vaguely reminded me the cover artwork of 'Astral Moon Beam Projections', AMP's second album (featuring the hypnotical singing by Karine Charff and the drumming by Gareth Mitchell), a fantastic set of sort of space rock ballad, which was heavily influenced by Texan post-ambient, some codeine-like sounding psychedelic rock and some well-known reveries by My Bloody Valentine and Cocteau Twins. I am not so sure if such similarity was intentional or not, but many moments of this output by Richard reminded that feeling of confused bliss, inspired by or inspiring the above-mentioned album. The title 'Uncertainty Principles' is a dedication to that kind of unexpected beauty, coming from casual or complex processes that musicians can find out during long studio sessions - something similar to those scientific or medical breakthrough that happened and keep on happening by accident! -. The idea of assembling this album came after an unexpected request for a copy of "Tiller" - lovely ambient track that sounds one of the best choices to stare at northern lights -, a track included as a tail of the first lp/cd in 'Uncertainty Principles', and the subsequent research of the master where it was stored. Richard himself thought that some of the findings in that archive - including the chillingly borderline ambient of "Slip", the enchanting balance of "Misstype Dolittle" (a track whose sound vaguely reminds some moments of the above-mentioned 'Astral Moon Beam Projections') and the evocative "Sleep City Drone", one of that kind of tune fitting a nocturnal riding over the desert streets of a metropolis in wintertime - deserved a new life. So that he partially reworked and revamped them by adding some interesting new sonic spices, such as the use of an effected typewriter as a percussion in "Misstype Dolittle", the inclusion of noises from urban environments in "Sleep City Drone" or the dilatation of the blissful emotions inspired by "Slip" into different moments ("Sliptwo" and "Photon Sphere"). The randomised sequence of computational bleeps, splashes and electronic gurgling over the nine minutes of "Mort Irritées", an homage to 'musique concrete' and the amazing work by Pierre Henry, who can be considered the firestarter of that branch of electroacoustic music, is considerably different from other tracks of "Uncertainty Principles". "Uncertainly Alive" - the transcript version of a live performance that Richard made in Bethnal Green, East London under invitation -, the track that takes most of the second part of the album (it lasts more than half an hour), is one of the more exciting moments of the whole album: the first part reminds me something in between one of the earlier lucid raving by Edward Ka-Spel, an elemental evocation (as well as some of the highest lyrical peaks) by the well-known stalker (both in Tarkovskij's movie and Strugackij bros' novel) and a whispered prophecy in the middle of more or less ethereal sonic streams and icy blows, before it turns into a sort of self-exorcism or forced catharsis following the transmutation fo this sonic set into something closer to the mechanical cycles of a washing machine. The piano-driven final track "Flashbacks" got matched to a possible landfall following a situationist "derive".

Tom Eaton: Indesterren (Into the Stars)

 Posted by Steve Mecca   Ambient / Electronica / Ethereal / Dub / Soundscapes / Abstract
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Jan 10 2017
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Artist: Tom Eaton (@)
Title: Indesterren (Into the Stars)
Format: CD
Label: Riverwide Records (@)
Rated: *****
The second, and more recent release by Tom Eaton (assuming you've read my previous review on 'Abendromen') is in some ways similar, yet in other ways different than 'Abendromen'. This one, as the subtitle might suggest is more space-oriented. From the opening track, "red blazer" Eaton uses touches of cosmic synth, Jade Warrior style atmospheric guitar and even some sequenced synth toward the end. The melody is bloody simple, but you don't need anything more here. I think on "vervagen" Eaton was striving for the mood he came up with on "tuesday/the compass" from 'Abendromen,' but nice as it is, it doesn't quite have the impact. There's a lot more synthesizer overall on 'Indesterren' and while it's varied in tonality, it still falls into that "Hearts of Space" new-agey sound more often than not. Eaton's guitar playing here is another matter. Think of guitarists along the lines of Michael Brook and Tony Duhig and you will get some idea. On the track "midnight clouds and the great bear" Eaton combines all his elements to form something completely different, that isn't New Age but rather cinematic. It's impressive, and achingly beautiful. Although piano is often the main instrument throughout may of these compositions, it's the backing orchestrations that create the moods and textures that really shine on 'Indesterren'. There is also more percussion used on the album which keeps the album from being all herbal tea and woolly sweaters. The Spanish-flavored "venus' is a particularly nice track, and while I wouldn't call it ambient (too much structure), it has a noirish smooth jazz feel to it. Unfortunately, there are lapses into New Age territory, as on "the raven" where piano and synth get new-agey again. As on 'Abendromen,' Eaton saves the real ambient tracks for last, four this time, and these are wonderful atmospheres. In a couple of places I was reminded of Harold Budd, just a little. Over all, 'Indesterren' is a little better album than 'Abendromen' in my opinion, in that it's spacier and has more variety. I think if Eaton starts leaning more towards real ambient and begins to use his piano more for effect than melody, it will spend more time on my playlist, and perhaps yours too.


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