Music Reviews

Aperus: Lie Symmetry

 Posted by Steve Mecca   Ambient / Electronica / Ethereal / Dub / Soundscapes / Abstract
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Jul 19 2018
Artist: Aperus (@)
Title: Lie Symmetry
Format: CD + Download
Label: Geophonic Records (@)
Rated: *****
Aperus is the ambient project of Brian McWilliams of Santa Fe, New Mexico, and 'Lie Symmetry' is his fourth album under this name. He also works in another ambient project called Remanence with John Phipps. He is a photographer as well, and took the abstract photos used for the cover and inserts of this CD. I'm unfamiliar with any of his previous work so I can't compare this album to anything Aperus has done before. The album's title, 'Lie Symmetry was inspired by a radio interview with physicist Alan Tennant that McWilliams heard where Tennant was explaining his study of transitions in the quantum states of deeply cooled ions, with the exact quantum transitional point being known as lie symmetry. (The math and physics of the equation(s) are beyond me so I can offer no further insight.) Later, McWilliams took some accidental pictures with his phone/camera in his pocket which turned out to be abstract landscapes. This was his own "lie symmetry" which solidified the concept for the album. The music here leans toward dark ambient, but like the photos is not devoid of light. This is an electro-acoustic work employing both electronics and field recordings gathered from different locations in New Mexico, Arizona and Michigan. Those sounds include bells, chimes, telescope, kiln, water, waves, insects, cranes, utility pipes, and spring drum loop. Besides an array of synthesizers, McWilliams also employs shortwave radio, ebow guitar, drum loops, wind chimes, thunder drums, rattles and sample manipulation. The opening track, "VLA 1" consists of an intriguing march-like little rhythm, drones, birds, and shortwave radio, sounding less dark ambient but more mysterious. "Frozen, Broken" is predominantly comprises of bellish tones with an undercurrent of dark ambient drones and some lapping water. Nice but 7+ minutes of that was a bit much and I didn't sense it going anywhere. "When the Mountains Wear Black Hats" sort of sounds like the title of a David Lynch Twin Peaks episode, but the music is much less jarring or malevolent than Lynch's take on dark ambient, and has a near shoegaze quality to it. Really liked that one. "Himalaya" puts some rhythm back into the mix and is gamelanesque. Another rhythm track on "VLA 2," this one slow and caterpillar-like accompanied by a multi-timbral drone, sounding once again processional. I am noticing now how little the pieces evolve over time, staying mostly in a groove through the majority of the composition and changes coming at the beginning or end being usually additive or subtractive. "Marsh Lake, October" can't be characterized by those parameters even though it has a certain aquatic theme, there are many sonic aspects employed in its composition in a number of ways. So far, this is the richest piece on the album. "Ephemeral River" has a gently pulsing sort of looped rhythm that is quite hypnotic. This rhythm continues throughout the track, occasionally accompanied by a sub-rhythm and with other dark ambient elements is quite engaging. Last track, "Unfozen, Unbroken" brings back the bells underpinned with tranquil synth drones. What I like about "Lie Symmetry" is that the tone leans toward the dark side without actually getting heavy or oppressive. One could almost call it Dark Ambient Light, or even Grey Ambient. Some tracks could have evolved more, and perhaps a few less bells, but overall, a nice work.

Sun Through Eyelids: Hyperborea

 Posted by Andrea Piran (@)   Ambient / Electronica / Ethereal / Dub / Soundscapes / Abstract
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Jul 15 2018
Artist: Sun Through Eyelids (@)
Title: Hyperborea
Format: CD
Label: Black Mara (@)
Rated: *****
un Through Eyelids is the duo of Tom Necklen and Meghan Wood which use traditional instruments, e.g., didgeirdoo, clarinet, violin, chimes, in a predominately dark ambient, so electronic, environment. The result is something in between dark ambient and ritual music as they try a sort of musical development rather than a contemplation of sound. The use of traditional instruments is perhaps tied to the link to spiritual themes as the concept of Hyperborea that gives a name to this release.
The framework of "Weightlessness On The Red Tide" is closer to ritual music rather than dark ambient as it revolves around harmonic chant, a clocking beat and sparse bells while "Collapsing Cities" is almost canonical dark ambient based on atmospheric drone and working on the building of an atmosphere. "Fading Valley" is static and focused on small field recordings and a barely audible drone while a quiet line of synth peeks out. "Quiet Canyon" raises the bar of complexity with a layered track where drone, ritual element and atmosphere with ethnic samples are present; while this is a quiet and bright track, "The Riphean Passage" uses the same structure with a darker atmosphere obtained with effective use of bass frequencies. Varying an element in all track the album flows with ease: "The Sigh Of Winter" uses a sort of flute which is enhanced by the static background, "Eternal Course Of The Sun" features field recordings, "The Solipsist" has a sort of synth crescendo in the final part, "Hyperborean's Lineage" uses wind instruments and "Everything Must Have Its End" closes this release with a drone which slowly evolves using a noisy element.
Even in the context of a canonical form, this album shows a project with a reasonable identity which set a difference in a scene where the vast majority of releases sounds the same. It's really worth a listen.

Alberto Nemo: 6x0

 Posted by Vito Camarretta (@)   Ambient / Electronica / Ethereal / Dub / Soundscapes / Abstract
Dark / Gothic / Wave / New Wave / Dark Wave / Industrial Gothic
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Jul 15 2018
Artist: Alberto Nemo (@)
Title: 6x0
Format: CD
Label: Dimora Records (@)
Rated: *****
When you pull the CD out of his case for the minimal limited edition (150 copies only) of "6 x 0", you can read a sentence "etsise non ehc otrebla nu otama oh", the reverse for "ho amato un alberto che non esiste" (Italian for "I loved an Alberto who doesn't exist"). The Alberto, who surely exists, has a distinguishing mark/natural gift, a remarkably piercing voice, whose trembling timber on high tones is not that easy to find between male voices, the Alberto who shouldn't exist or the one existing within an imaginary mirror is the one you can listen on this interesting album, where the Venetian vocalist recorded six track (played on reverse -!-, the style fluctuates between contemporary classical, sacred music, minimal electronica and drone music) before recording their reverse on the studio. A guessed precedent he quoted to render an idea of what you're going to listen is the extraordinary soundtrack of Stanley Kubrick's "Eyes Wide Shut" by British composer Jocelyn Pook as well as some experiments by notorious bands such as Dead Can Dance or Coil (and I'd also add the first outputs by Enigma as well as the ones by many intimistic modern Greek singers). I won't label this output as a merely formal exercise, as I think it's consistent with the intrinsic duality of the sound where his voice, encrusted like a shining diamond reflecting unnatural obscure beams, such as the last track "Emama" (a sort of reversed invitation to love him...), a breaching palindromic counterpoint to the above-mentioned assertion.

Rowland Yeargan: Close Your Eyes

 Posted by Stuart Bruce (@)   Ambient / Electronica / Ethereal / Dub / Soundscapes / Abstract
Experimental / Avantgarde / Weird & Wired / Glitch / Noise / Field Recording
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Jul 14 2018
Artist: Rowland Yeargan
Title: Close Your Eyes
Format: Download Only (MP3 + Lossless)
Label: Silber Media
Silber Media’s ongoing and always intriguing ‘5 in 5’ series- where an artist offers up 5 tracks with a total running time of exactly, and only, 5 minutes- offers up another interesting nugget here. Made up of five diverse sonic ideas, like working prototypes of longer works, “Close Your Eyes” distinctly feels like a sampler, but it’s a sampler leaving you wanting more.

Between the distorted drone noise of “Make Haste”, the optimistic layered-up piano of “Breathing In And Out”, the organ drone and throat singing of “Everlasting Heart”, the avantgarde-jazz-esque cymbal work on “Look Into My Eyes” and the synthetic semi-alien choral tones of final track “One Day Today”, this feels like a showreel for a film soundtrack.

A really intriguing listen, if something of a tease!

Norman Westberg: After Vacation

 Posted by Stuart Bruce (@)   Ambient / Electronica / Ethereal / Dub / Soundscapes / Abstract
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Jul 11 2018
Artist: Norman Westberg
Title: After Vacation
Format: LP
Label: Room40
With “After Vacation”, Swans guitarest Westberg has consciously moved away from performance-sourced composition and pieces with single-take improvised cores, stepping instead towards more overtly planned and mapped non-linear assemblies of sound.

However the sonic ingredients are still broadly the same- long and warm sustained effect-washed drones, plaintive guitar notes with super-long reverb meld together into a womb-like ambient that’s mostly soporific, but with the occasional hint of disquiet and dischord squeezing through on tracks like “Sliding Sledding”. The title track ends up the odd-one-out with its decidedly more conventional guitar solo work that serves as an unexpectedly busy wrap-up.

Though Westberg describes the six tracks as “stand-alone stories, rather than my usual style of bouncing conversation”, nevertheless there’s a consistency throughout that in the case of this particular collection works as a strength. You’d be hard pushed to identify softly pulsing longest track “Levitation” in a crowd, and at times this form of guitar-sourced ambient does feel a little bit ‘done’, but if you’re after something relaxing, textured and from one of the extreme edges of guitar music, this is certainly worth a late-night listen.

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