Music Reviews

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!

Ujjaya: The Landing Zone (Live)

 Posted by Stuart Bruce (@)   Ambient / Electronica / Ethereal / Dub / Soundscapes / Abstract
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Feb 09 2017
Artist: Ujjaya
Title: The Landing Zone (Live)
Format: Download Only (MP3 + Lossless)
Label: Eg0cide
“The Landing Zone” is an extremely mellow mix of super-soft distant drumming, long organic drones, and jungle atmospheres, all layered up with a subtle and sympathetic digital production. Other elements make fleeting cameos, such as noodling guitars on “La Ballade De Taccoli Otenan” or sampled radio reportage on “Jungle Fever”. It’s a very familiar set of ingredients, certainly not breaking new territory, but it’s handled confidently, and the result is mostly warm and sincere.

If the limited PR info is to be believed, and sometimes it isn’t, musician Hery Randraimbololona, the man behind Ujjaya, stayed in seclusion for 15 years until 2011, only coming out of seclusion once a year for a radio show (!). Despite this apparent seclusion Randraimbololona seems to be very in tune with ambient production, and the Westernisation of ethnic tones and instruments into a global soundscape that is at best brilliant multi-culturalism, as worst plagiarism of authenticity. There’s a slight timelessness to this, a sense that this album could’ve been made at any point since the fusion of worldbeat and electronica started getting popular in the early 90’s.

On pieces like “La Ballade De Taccoli Otenan”, there’s an authenticity to the gentle percussion- this is not some Deep Forest-esque sample library cheating- yet despite seemingly not being a sampled loop, there’s a rather stark simplicity to the rhythms being played- no variations, no evolutions, not even any fills, just a determined steadiness. Despite being billed as a “live” album, this gives it more of a studio flavour.

Each track has a distinct-enough lead, I may embarrass myself here but “Tout Est Conscience” employs a more harpsichord-like sound for melodies, while on “Tiruvinamali” it sounds more like a sitar. The track “Eyembilan” is an anomaly, with a thoroughly rock guitar pattern wandering in and threatening to take things into much more prog rock territory; this is the most skippable track.

Final track “Hanuman” is firmly in Future Sound Of London territory.

“The Landing Zone” is, at time of writing, being given away free online, on a site that is seemingly legitimate even though it looks slightly like a dodgy torrent site. So as such there’s no reason not to check out this reasonably familiar-sounding ethno-ambient blend for yourself. I’m perhaps heaping it with too much praise if I describe it as a sort of Asian version of The KLF’s “Chill Out” but in principle that’s not a disservice.

Taylor Deupree: Somi

 Posted by Stuart Bruce (@)   Ambient / Electronica / Ethereal / Dub / Soundscapes / Abstract
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Feb 09 2017
Artist: Taylor Deupree
Title: Somi
Format: CD + Book
Label: 12K
“Somi” is an interesting exercise in the organic and analogue looping of a collection of extremely mellow, clean musical sounds sourced from an electric piano, a glockenspiel, and a Yahama DX7 synth. Using a handheld tape recorder for loops adds an ambience of electroacoustic sub-hiss and the occasional microtonal tape warp that was an unavoidable irritant in the 1980’s, now rebranded as a desirable sonic wash.

Rather than being looped digitally using a DAW, every repetition is played by hand, adding natural inconsistencies. Different instruments loop with different frequencies, subtly offsetting the phase relationships between each layer. The result is a sort of wildly strung-out music box effect, extremely sedentary plucked tones that arrive sharply but fade in a languid fashion.

The track “Evode” adds a smattering of darker undertones that ebb rather than arrive, but it’s a subtle variation that doesn’t really divert from the overall tone.

The complexity of the underlying analogue production are somewhat forgotten, as the end result is deceptively simple- a pure-toned, faintly romantic, sleep-inducing (in a good way) fifty-one minutes of calm.

Simon Fisher Turner: Giraffe

 Posted by Stuart Bruce (@)   Ambient / Electronica / Ethereal / Dub / Soundscapes / Abstract
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Feb 07 2017
Artist: Simon Fisher Turner
Title: Giraffe
Format: 12" vinyl + Download
Label: Editions Mego
“Giraffe” is an brief collection (14 tracks, 42 minutes) but with a very ambitious scope. Combining well-travelled personal field recordings (from the UK, Germany, Japan, Portugal and Spain), both atmospheres and up-close actuality described as “life sounds”, with electronic ambiences and heavy processing, makes every piece distinct and unpredictable.

There’s a willful twistiness to it, never letting the listener be complacent. “Clean Page” sounds like a violently drunk man has wandered into a Georgy Lygeti and taken centre stage. It’s followed by “Hope Swims”, a super-soft arrangement of lullaby-esque pure high synth notes that eventually degrades with a sound akin to somebody throwing a broken electric toothbrush down a well. “Burnt In” ends sounding as though it’s about to break into some epic stadium drum’n’bass, but doesn’t. “Move More” is little more than an unpleasant sci-fi security alarm sound, while “Save As” is a mellow arrangement of piano and ambience.

Unfortunately the results do sometimes feel a little stunted. These are short, sharp works with an experimental angst and nothing is truly allowed to breathe for more than a minute or so. The false starts and abrupt turns are engaging but they prevent “Giraffe” from really gelling together as a coherent listen- deliberately it seems, with every mellow moment followed by a jarring one and vice versa. The discipline of “Slight Smile”, with its cut-up spoken-word poem, has a focus that “Giraffe” might have benefitted from sustaining.

While Simon Fisher Turner has a CV that many sound designers could only dream of (working with names ranging from Derek Jarman to The The to David Lynch to Jonathan King), looking specifically and solely at “Giraffe” what you get is an usual and broad bit of atmospheric experimental sound design, but too unfocused to really shine as a full work.

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