Music Reviews

Jeff Greinke: Before Sunrise

 Posted by Steve Mecca   Ambient / Electronica / Ethereal / Dub / Soundscapes / Abstract
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Jun 02 2018
Artist: Jeff Greinke (@)
Title: Before Sunrise
Format: CD
Label: Spotted Peccary Music (@)
Rated: *****
'Before Sunrise' marks the 20th solo album for ambient artist Jeff Greinke, not counting his collaborations. It's a shame that a number of them are out of print, although there have been some reissues. I first experienced Greinke's work in the late '80s to early '90s and so am familiar with only a handful of his recordings. What I liked about them is that they seemed dark and arcane at the time; not dark in a Robert Rich or Lustmord sort of way, but less conventional ambient than what others in the genre seemed to be doing then. If you've been out of touch with Greinke's music as well, you will find that it has evolved into something quite different, yet not without retaining the flavor and texture Greinke is known for. Greinke's crepuscular vision of 'Before Sunrise' is a rich tapestry of acoustic instruments played by guest players (Greg Campbell- French horn, vibraphone, hand drum; Lesli Dalaba- trumpet; James DeJoie- clarinets, saxophones, flutes; Alex Guy- viola; Paris Hurley- violin; Austin Larkin- viola, violin; Dylan Rieck- cello) combined with Greinke's signature electro-acoustic atmospheres and keyboard improvs. It's an impressionistic kind of ambient, fairly well removed from the New Age melodic ambient you might expect to hear with orchestral instruments combined with synthesizers. This is a pretty deep work with a number of moods and soundscapes explored over the course of 8 tracks in 57 minutes; everything from rumbling darkness to splinters of moonlight piercing through a many-layered forest of sound, to sparkly fairy lights. By its nature, 'Before Sunrise' has an aura of melancholy mystery to it that always seems to be evolving. It is almost hard to believe that the music has been largely improvised as the instrumental coordination is so stellar that it often seems as though there had to have been some rather complex arrangements in places. The layering of atmospheres is extraordinary in its richness, yet nothing is buried. Rather than overtake Greinke's atmospheres, the acoustic instruments enhance it and add their own piquancy to what is already a pretty heady stew. 'Before Sunrise' is a trip well worth taking, and is intriguing enough to warrant multiple replays.

Tantric Doctors: Karesansui

 Posted by Stuart Bruce (@)   Ambient / Electronica / Ethereal / Dub / Soundscapes / Abstract
New Music / Downtown / Avantgarde Jazz / New Classical / World
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May 25 2018
Artist: Tantric Doctors
Title: Karesansui
Format: CD + Download
Label: Focused Silence
“Karesansui” is Sheffield (UK)-based electronic and jazz musician Adam Woolf’s single-track, 45-minute improvised work inspired by Japanese stone gardens. Through a process of overdubbing, he lays up freeform clarinet, alto sax and soprano sax lines over electronic pulses, impromptu and often patternless glitches and lumps of low analogue synth noise.

The jazz elements are cold and largely shapeless, and on their own, might become ingratiating over the course of three quarters of an hour. It’s the electronic underbelly of this release, counterpointing the jazz elements and shifting them into an alienating environment full of unexpected punches and whirrs, that keeps things ticking along and keeps you engaged for the most part. Even so, the seeming lack of progression, form or chapterisation across the work does begin to get tiring towards the end. Like sitting in a relaxing garden for a long time, the environment itself is only half the experience of being there.

It’s intricate in parts but something of a listening commitment- though I don’t mean that as harshly as it might sound. It’s an unabashed bit of experimental avantgarde jazz coupled with strong electronic sounds, unashamed to be solely what it is, or to be targeted at people already predisposed to appreciating it. It’s unlikely to find a broad audience, but hopefully it will reach enough people who will revel in it.

Glyn Bigga Bush: Sunken Foal Stories

 Posted by Stuart Bruce (@)   Ambient / Electronica / Ethereal / Dub / Soundscapes / Abstract
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May 23 2018
Artist: Glyn Bigga Bush
Title: Sunken Foal Stories
Format: LP
Label: Schamoni Musik / Lion Head Rec.
Glyn Bush’s long CV includes Rockers Hi Fi and Original Rockers, but for a release under his own name, he’s gone for something a bit bolder and more introspective, concentrating on a very raw and broad-stroked approach to sampling spoken-word broadcast material and musical snippets and building and layering them into short sonic vignettes and brief jazzy grooves.

In a way it’s like jumping back to the late 80’s or early 90’s when wholesale sampling was still a novelty, recalling Negativland works or the interludes in Art Of Noise albums. This is reinforced by details like the speak-and-spell voice on “Theme from The Tincleton Now” and the analogue tape-like quality of some of the spoken word sources.

The strongest tracks include “Teahead Of Time”, the TV-sync-friendly “Carnaby Street Caper” and the slightly more conventional electronica formed around string samples in “Speltre Flecks”.

The abruptness and edgy construction of these pieces lead to a bit of a patchy experience overall, a release that never really ‘gets going’ as a half-hour listening experience but which has an endearing energy that will be enjoyed by people with fond memories of those simpler sampling times.

Nowa Ziemia / Echoes of Yul: Holter / Fuse

 Posted by Andrea Piran (@)   Ambient / Electronica / Ethereal / Dub / Soundscapes / Abstract
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May 20 2018
Artist: Nowa Ziemia / Echoes of Yul
Title: Holter / Fuse
Format: CD
Label: Zoharum (@)
Distributor: Alchembria
Rated: *****
After a while, Zoharum returns with another chapter of their split cd where they collide compatible musical project and present them with separate cover for both project. This time, rather to present obscure projects, are Nowa Ziemia and Echoes of Yul which were already reviewed and well received. This time both project are focused on drone and guitar and seems likely as both sides of the same project.
The half by Nowa Ziemia start with "MW" which is a field recordings introduction to "agiew" which is a slowly developing drone for guitar colored by a sparse feedback and armonics while "MT" exposes resonance over a rolling beat. "Holter" closes this side with distortions and resonances giving a movement to the drone and echoing some metal influences.
The half by Echoes of Yul is completely filled by "Fuse (Version II)" a long, over 35 minutes, track whose first part proceeds by accumulating drone in a slow crescendo intertwining psychedelic parts with noisier ones until the drums introduces the coda with metal oriented guitar lines.
This is an enjoyable release and a split of two project working in the same fields so it doesn't sound as a split but as a cohesive release that could be well received by fans of minimalism or drone metal. It's really worth a listen.

Sverre Knut Johansen with David Helpling: The Vast Expanse

 Posted by Steve Mecca   Ambient / Electronica / Ethereal / Dub / Soundscapes / Abstract
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May 20 2018
Artist: Sverre Knut Johansen with David Helpling
Title: The Vast Expanse
Format: CD
Label: Spotted Peccary Music (@)
Rated: *****
Sverre Knut Johansen's third release on the Spotted Peccary label lives up to its title, 'The Vast Expanse,' as it is expansive, but then again the composer is known for his spacey compositions. On this outing he has some help from ambient guitarist David Helpling who has been producing his own albums since 1996. 'The Vast Expanse' is a fairly mellow affair with little in the way of cosmic disruptions or stellar explosions. Nearly constantly in motion, there is a sense of purpose without urgency or impulsiveness in the music. It is as if it was a gradual unfolding of the universe in all its glory. While the opening track, aptly titled "Origins of the Universe" seems tentative at first with a plethora of sounds floating in the cosmic void, it eventually coalesces into a more solid formation, underscored with bass-driven rhythm and a distinctive melody. Nearly half way in, it really gets cooking and develops a theme that's going to have you thinking...Vangelis! That's not a bad thing either. Helpling's guitar adds a bit of panache without overtaking the orchestration. So far things are off to a wonderful start. Johansen stretches synth pads for miles, maybe even light years across title track, "The Vast Expanse" with nice melodic content and effective arpeggios. I found the melody on "Emotion Strata" too repetitious and overbearing for my taste, but the arrangement was nice. "Space and Time" is a cool track because the melody is rather abstract and you can blissfully float along without getting wrapped up in something too tuneful. "The Beginning," the longest track on the album at over 11 minutes begins in ambient space (or space ambient) before it develops any motion. When it did get going I was reminded of the early '70s electronic outfit, Tonto's Expanding Head Band. On this piece a simple theme augmented by arpeggios and sequencers is built upon until it becomes something quite fantastic, then dissolves away into hyperspace. Heavy (and I do mean heavy) pizzicato open "DNA" with probably more echo-verb than needed and become a mainstay of the track. A little much in my estimation. The rest of the album is just good space ambient chill, not particularly exciting or innovative, but enjoyable all the same. I liked 'The Vast Expanse' better than 'Secret Space Program' (Johansen's last album), partly because it isn't trying to be anything it's not, and also because of the universality of the music. Space ambient enthusiasts are guaranteed to have a wonderful trip with this one.

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