Music Reviews

Akira Kosemura: One Day

 Posted by Vito Camarretta (@)   Ambient / Electronica / Ethereal / Dub / Soundscapes / Abstract
New Music / Downtown / Avantgarde Jazz / New Classical / World
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Feb 17 2017
Artist: Akira Kosemura (@)
Title: One Day
Format: CD
Label: Schole (@)
Rated: *****
Kosemura's imprint released a lot of lovely stuff in the last year. One of the most recent output is the 7th solo album by his label boss, coming out just three months after "Momentary: Memories of the Beginning," his 6th one after five years of no new items to his discography. Both of this recent releases are superb and remark the recognizable aesthetics I often spoke about when I introduced Akira's music, combining nuances of French impressionism, soundtracks, minimalism, ambient and spots of electronics, but I decided to focus on "One Day" due to some exciting features. First of all, it got entirely composed in one afternoon and such a spontaneous immediacy is evident while listening to the ten lovely improvisations he recorded before the wise mastering at Black Saloon Studios by British sound engineer Mandy Parnell (former collaborator of well known and respected names of contemporary scene such as Bjork, Aphex Twin and Max Richter), who succeeds in emphasizing the vintage beauty of Akira's mono sound recording, where the ambient noises (the crackling of the seat, the sound of the tapping on piano keys and so on) grabbed by one microphone didn't get intentionally removed - a guessed choice, ageing the sound like a picture got aged by a Polaroid -. Such a recording closely relates to the second relevant feature of "One Day": Akira performed and composed it on an old piano he used to play in his family home since he was a child. Such a familiar environment and the genuine immediacy strongly influenced the sound, where tones and melodies seems to speak out and continuously intertwine with the memories that resurfaced out of Akira's thoughts on that beloved instrument...and who knows, maybe some of the tunes he recorded in "One Day" were the ones he used to play many years ago. I'm pretty sure Akira will help you recollecting forgotten and beautiful memories of your tender age... while playing in background, a friend of mine movingly- and without any apparent reason - shared some memories of a peacock he liked to feed when he was a little child, whenever his father brought him to a park in the city centre of his hometown. I recommend testing the effect on your memories of Akira's homemade stuff.

Arovane + Porya Hatami: Organism

 Posted by Stuart Bruce (@)   Ambient / Electronica / Ethereal / Dub / Soundscapes / Abstract
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Feb 17 2017
Artist: Arovane + Porya Hatami
Title: Organism
Format: Download Only (MP3 + Lossless)
Label: Karlrecords (@)
“Organism” is a German-Iranian collaboration. Arovane’s other releases have had IDM beats, but this is essentially rhythm-less soundscaping. It’s predominantly a rich base environment with an analogue and biological feel, very insular and akin to alien womb recordings. Whatever the titular organism is, we’re clearly inside it.

There are sporadic and more digital elements in the upper registers either flitting through the scene or barely audible in the distance. Sometimes they seem like micro-samples, sometimes like arcing electrics. It’s these that make the overall tone so difficult to judge. Are we feeling warm and comforted here, relaxed and safe? Or is there a distant threat and a mysterious unknown outside that might be getting closer? It’s genuinely difficult to tell. This must be what being a nearly-born baby feels like, albeit without the constant heartbeat noise- though heartbeat-like sounds do appear on the fourth “Rhizome”.

Many of the pieces are single-note, single-tone, though in tracks like “Specreature” there’s a more traditional lyrical melody at play, albeit one that’s very very far away, and “Tuber” makes use of that distant echoing bell sound that’s really getting rather common in soundscape pieces. People who are extremely sensitive to nails-down-a-blackboard noises may struggle with “Macro Organism”.

Between most of the tracks there’s a “Rhizome”, a short and slightly glitchier interlude that’s marginally more analogue-synth-knob-twiddly than the longer pieces, with slightly more prominent mechanical and outer-space flavours. Other than those, “Organism” is predominantly very consistent, with no surprises or gear shifts in its hour-long span.

There are a lot of releases which sound like this; perhaps this is a little deeper than average but it’s a very familiar concoction. With a little bit of playlist pruning you can still get an enjoyable soporific night-time album out of it.

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.

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