Music Reviews

Gianluca Livi: Fleeting Steps

 Posted by Andrea Piran (@)   Ambient / Electronica / Ethereal / Dub / Soundscapes / Abstract
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Dec 10 2017
Artist: Gianluca Livi
Title: Fleeting Steps
Format: CD
Label: Eclectic Productions
Rated: *****
Even if this is formally a solo release of Gianluca Livi which takes a step from the from the hard rock of Anno Mundi, for whom he plays drums, to this mostly prog oriented relase, the front cover credits the other musician of this release in clear jazz style: Stefano Pontani, a jazz / fusion guitarist, Domenico Dente, a bassist, and Massimo Sergi, whose piano and synth are a major part in this album. The overall style of this release is a sort of crossover between krautrock, prog and ambient in a crystal clear '70s style so a more modern use of laptop is used with remarkable parsimony.
The album starts with a track in two parts "Birth Of A Flower (In A Post-Atomic Landscape)" which starts with the guitar of Stefano Pontani showing the influence of certain '70s prog rock and creating a dreamy atmosphere with the almost imperceptible, at first sight, aid of his mates which punctuate rather than accompany. The second part is centered instead on the piano of Stefano Sergi that borders jazz territories which could be misinterpreted as modern classical. The first part of "Fujiko Mine" starts to expose the interaction of a real band as the interaction of synth, percussions and percussion revolves around a basic melody for an hypnotic effect while "Irrational Thoughts" revolves around the sustained noted of the guitar and the melodies of the piano. While, until "Zero Gravity In My Lair", the role of Gianluca Livi was more on the background, with this track his laptop begins to take a structural role on the track so the track stays in an unstable equilibrium between rock and experimental. While the first part of "Lost In Space" is suspended the entrance of the drum introduce a twist towards a free form. The longest track of this release, "Talkin’ To An Alien About Eternity", is a sort of pendulum where all instruments has a primary role until it's time to give space to another so it sounds quiet but there's a lot of movement involved and is followed by the shortest track, the second part of "Fujiko Mine", closing this release bordering noisy territories.
It's evident that this is not a release for those who search for the next big thing or the trend, this is music tailored for nostalgic connoisseurs of an age where the first skill of a musician was to be able to play and compose not to be a PR of his art. Like a lost gem from the past.

Sven Laux: Paper Streets

 Posted by Andrea Piran (@)   Ambient / Electronica / Ethereal / Dub / Soundscapes / Abstract
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Dec 10 2017
Artist: Sven Laux (@)
Title: Paper Streets
Format: CD
Label: Dronarivm (@)
Rated: *****
While having a discography starting in 2006, this is the first release of Sven Laux which I've heard of and he describes himself as one of those artist working around "the evolution of micro composition" which means more of less the canonical form of minimalism. This release is based on structures centered around small melodic cells slowly evolving upon a minimalistic soundscape using organic sounds as a squeaky chair, recurring several times, as if it were recorded live.
The first track, "Are You Still With Me?", creates a quite atmosphere using long string loops and takes his charm from being almost unresolved while "A Glimpse Of Memory" is more layered and closer to certain modern classical without be overtly romantic and "Out Of The Blue" sketches an harmonic development and some proper melodies. The title track is a minimalistic tune based on a single melodic cell slightly variated and "From Sadness To You" centered on a piano line introducing a drone and the strings marks a part closed by "There's Still Hope" where there's more a work on writing than on sound so it sound old and new at the same time. "The Lost Violin" returns to a sound framework based on strings and a certain quietness or stasis and introduces "I Wish I Could Sleep" the closing track of this release which uses found sounds as a rhythmic background to the development of the string musical cell.
This album takes his strong point of his position in the evolution of a genre, so it's not that kind of innovative release which displaces the listener but it's something that cradles him into familiar places. Fans of ambient and modern classical will truly enjoy this release.

Panoptique Electrical: Quiet Ecology

 Posted by Stuart Bruce (@)   Ambient / Electronica / Ethereal / Dub / Soundscapes / Abstract
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Dec 09 2017
Artist: Panoptique Electrical
Title: Quiet Ecology
Format: Download Only (MP3 + Lossless)
Label: Sound In Silence
Jason Sweeney’s third album for Sound In Silence is described as a quest for a quiet space, seeking and then embodying calm environments within Australian cities. It centres around gentle piano work, slow and relatively simple chord patterns, set into subtly realised ambient soundscapes.

We mostly alternate between near-solo piano works (“The World Is So Loud”, “Footfalls”) and broader and slightly more cinematic pieces featuring violin and soft drone (“In A Vow Of Silence”, “Upon A Map”) which have a distinctly more melancholic tone compared to the assured calm that comes from the piano. The exception to this is the piano piece “A Place With Trees”, with its more lyrical approach, that certainly has a tinge of sadness.

Albums like these are deceptively simple and you would think easy to create, but getting the right balance of mood and space is a fine art, and Sweeney has done a good job here of imbuing this recording with genuine emotion rather than cliché. Innovative or experimental it certainly isn’t, but sincere and relaxing, it succeeds on both counts.

Oh and as a passing remark, this is the ambient album that Moby wants to write..

Mingle: Ephemeral

 Posted by Vito Camarretta (@)   Ambient / Electronica / Ethereal / Dub / Soundscapes / Abstract
Experimental / Avantgarde / Weird & Wired / Glitch / Noise / Field Recording
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Dec 08 2017
Artist: Mingle (@)
Title: Ephemeral
Format: LP
Label: Kvitnu (@)
Rated: *****
It seems that the inventive Italian sound-maker Andrea Gastaldello, the real name of the man behind the Mingle curtains, picks single adjectives to describe the "property" of the tracks he embeds in his releases. It's just a personal impression and it's valid only for the stuff he dropped on Ukrainian label Kvitnu. The first output, "Static", featured somehow 'static' (or seemingly calm) tracks, and well 'ephemeral' sounds like a suitable tag to describe the features of this new bunch of tracks (again masterfully mastered by Eraldo Bernocchi). Any resounding entity in the eight (plus the ninth one "Vaporized", available as a bonus for the digital format only) tracks of this psychoactive listening experience seems to fade away after their appearance, but this process is rarely abrupt. The only "solid" entities are the digital hits, but the rhythmical pattern act like an anode and a cathode in electrolysis, as they seem to attract the ions he dissolves in his wisely controlled sonic pools. Even in tracks where this process doesn't lie on digital hits or clicks (as on "Lost", where the 'rhythm' gets built on short bursts of an electric current and a bleep that is similar to ones for cardiac monitoring), the other entities get somehow dissolved. The final step of this process, "Ancestral", has something lukewarmly mystical and willingly uncodified, as if Mingle wants to keep secret the result of this full awareness of ephemeral nature of things (maybe the genuine awareness of self?). It seems such an 'ephemeral' nature of Mingle's sonic explorations in this release (the last one of a four-chapter series, including "Movements" and "Masks" on Tannen Records, besides the above-mentioned "Static"), as the attached notes let guess: "The ticking of an old alarm clock, keeping the time, relentless... Certain vanishing moments, they become dreams that you can't seize - dreams pass, weightless. They don't happen. that very instant - it's when you're looking for relief, detached from anguish, far from reality. The daily ephemeral dose speeds up, it becomes frantic and doesn't stop. Desire translates to immediate enjoyment. Everything goes quickly, everything vanishes into some fresh ambition, in the illusion of something new, fast. The true essence of desire lies in absence". Wise description for a listening experience that I recommend in an ephemerally warm (vanishing into a frosting...?) way.

X-Navi:Et: Machina Nova

 Posted by Vito Camarretta (@)   Ambient / Electronica / Ethereal / Dub / Soundscapes / Abstract
Experimental / Avantgarde / Weird & Wired / Glitch / Noise / Field Recording
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Dec 02 2017
Artist: X-Navi:Et (@)
Title: Machina Nova
Format: CD
Label: Beast Of Prey / Eter Records (@)
Rated: *****
Co-produced by Beast Of Prey and Eter, this output by Rafal Iwanski (one of the main voices of HATI collective) side-project X-Navi:Et actually includes a new release ("Machina Nova") and a re-release ("Vox Paradox", previously on tape only). The level of visionary mysticism is higher like Iwanski's previous release, but the sound of X-Navi:Et on Machina Nova gets closer to the one of HATI. The key words to understand both the style, where Rafal wonderfully melts drone-like simple melodies, generated tones that envelop listeners in its pensive halo, ethnic instruments and percussions that constantly evoke something atavistic, as well as its spiritual ciphers can be caught in the title. The 'Machina Nova' (new machine, seemingly mirroring the obscure elegance of the disquieting 'Machina' on the attached album 'Vox Paradox') that Rafal seems to describe by means of sounds an almost mechanical process, where humans are unaware or unsuspecting gears, gradually leading to a regression to forgotten deities and beliefs, a sort of "new primitivism", quoted in the awesome track that follows the opening title-track. The mystical tension and hypnotical hooks of each track are almost palpable: the sneaking violin by Anna Zielinska (resembling Eastern folk music) over a thundering march and the surprising final where the surrounding melody of the first minutes gets played backwards, the chirping Shanti chimes rendering a seducing maze of crystals on "Pseudo", the abrasive sonic flaking around the hypnotical phrasing of the hulusi on "Weltschmerz" are just parts of the process leading to the catharsis of the final "Fiasko". "Vox Paradox" on the second half of the release sounds the specular and more tormented image of "Machina Nova" and each step of the process (every single track) doesn't really bring to a sort of liberation, but to the resolution of a more or less vague anxiety pervading the whole artifact.

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