Music Reviews

Pinkcourtesyphone: taking into account only a portion of your emotions

 Posted by Stuart Bruce (@)   Ambient / Electronica / Ethereal / Dub / Soundscapes / Abstract
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Nov 07 2016
Artist: Pinkcourtesyphone
Title: taking into account only a portion of your emotions
Format: CD + Download
Label: Editions Mego
“Taking Into Account Only A Portion Of Your Emotions”... if I was getting paid by the word, I’d love this album even more than I already do!

It’s a seventy-minute, six-piece collection of soft, soporific, super-gentle drones and ambiences. It’s uneventful, unchallenging, and frankly rather lovely. Some listeners may find it a little chilly, but as long as you’re wrapped up warm, these are very enjoyable environments.

“New Domestic Landscape” has a comforting sound akin to rolling around inside a giant womb, a distant super-slow heartbeat the only constant. “Reference Point Intermission 1” moves us into a brighter, lighter space, as though the tone itself has been inverted without changing the mood. A brief vocal snippet asking “hello, is someone there?”, sparingly used, suggests that extra layers and miscellaneous noises will be arriving, but they don’t; we remain in a sparse sonic space, with just synthetic waves and occasional distant rumbles for company.

The oddly-named “High End Smalls” takes the progression further, into an even airier space with choral-like abstract notes wafting in the distance, and “Reference Point Intermission 2” is something of a reprise of the first part.

“Horizontal Format” is the busiest piece, which isn’t saying much, with warmer chords leading to twinkling electronic sounds like a sort of digital glacial melt. Closing piece “Schlaflied” is the most melodic, which again isn’t saying a lot- a simple pattern of gentle piano-ish notes looping softly in and out of consciousness, like a bedtime lullaby for an iceberg. At almost seventeen minutes long, “Schlaflied” is a notable work in its own right, as well as wrapping things up nicely here.

It may not be innovative or unique, but it’s an accomplished album that’s beautiful in both its delicacy and its simplicity.

Torn Hawk: Union and Return

 Posted by Vito Camarretta (@)   Synth Pop / Electro Pop / Synth-Electronica
Ambient / Electronica / Ethereal / Dub / Soundscapes / Abstract
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Nov 05 2016
Artist: Torn Hawk
Title: Union and Return
Format: LP
Label: Mexican Summer (@)
Rated: *****
"Union and Return" could be considered a personal and somehow joyful way of revamping the Romantic concept of "Sturm und Drang" by Berlin-based audio-visual artist Torn Hawk, if you acknowledge that the primary sources for inspiration for this album were the paintings of two Romantic landscapists like Caspar David Friedrich - I'm pretty sure many people saw his "Wanderer above the Sea of Fog" by leafing through some art history book during school age or as a cover artwork for some reissue of Nietzsche's writing - and Karl Friedrich Schinkel, Prussian city planner, architect and painter who poured his awesome architecture both in likewise remarkable paintings and all over former Prussia. In order to render their aesthetics and above all their poetics, Torn veered towards an impressive interbreeding of simple electronic textures and tidy sounds in between the symphonic majesty of Tangerine Dream and Klaus Schultze, new age-oriented chillwave and frequent raids into sonorities that could remind the dadaism of some child plays, the so-called epic ambient, soundtracks of video games related to the branch of dungeons and dragons and even new wave and synth pop stuff (if you check tracks like "Thornfield", "With My Back to the Tower" or "Our Knives", you will probably notice some echoes of sonorities that got largely used by Depeche Mode, The Chameleons or even The Cure). In the list of possible similarities I'd also include (maybe for some medieval nuances and the use of military snares in some tracks) some stuff by In The Nursery as well. The titles of the eleven tracks on this album are obviously references to Schinkel and Friedrich - for instance, "Feeling is Law" is a reference to a key quotation to understand Friedrich's poetics (he wrote in Thoughts on Art that "the artist’s feeling is his law. Genuine feeling can never be contrary to nature; it is always in harmony with her. But another person’s feelings should never be imposed on us as law. Spiritual affinity leads to similarity in work, but such affinity is something entirely different from mimicry. Whatever people may say of Y’s paintings and how they often resemble Z’s, yet they proceed from Y and are his sole property.") and the whole sonic environment he rendered by means of elegant and sometimes old-fashioned (some sounds seem to be taken from old MIDI presets...) intertwining of electronic patterns, gentle orchestration, smeared pads and layers of electric guitars evoke the vibrant visions of both painters as well as their strong connection with one of the golden age of German culture. If I have to indicate some glitches of Hawk's output, I will point to the limited palette of sounds as well as the already mentioned antique-like nuance, even if some of the most recognizable sonic "antiquities" are ingredients that highlight its charm.

Electric Bird Noise: Nighttime Tides

 Posted by Stuart Bruce (@)   Ambient / Electronica / Ethereal / Dub / Soundscapes / Abstract
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Oct 28 2016
Artist: Electric Bird Noise
Title: Nighttime Tides
Format: Download Only (MP3 + Lossless)
Label: Silber Records (@)
“Nighttime Times” is a smooth and straight-up ambient blend. There are gentle synthetic washes, melodies looping at a beautifully casual pace, distant sonar-esque pings and long mellow guitar-like notes wandering politely across your field of hearing.

Electric Bird Noise has a long CV of post rock and darkwave, and the press release threatens that these nighttime tides carry the threat of an imminent tidal wave of noise, but it never arrives. There are no jolts, no surprises, barely even any progression- just the soothing patterns and patternless elements, ebbing and receding through the night, acknowledging that no man can stop the tides.

It’s almost a stereotypical ambient release, harking back to Brian Eno, or Jean-Michel Jarre’s “Waiting For Cousteau”, and it doesn’t bring anything new to the table; but sometimes innovation isn’t a prerequisite in music, and this is one of those cases. This is an extremely mild, chilled-out, luscious audio environment, far gentler than some of the other material on Silber, and I will be happily falling asleep to it many times in the future.

Flowers for Bodysnatchers: Love Like Blood

 Posted by Andrea Piran (@)   Ambient / Electronica / Ethereal / Dub / Soundscapes / Abstract
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Oct 23 2016
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Artist: Flowers for Bodysnatchers
Title: Love Like Blood
Format: CD
Label: Cryo Chamber (@)
Rated: *****
After their previous well received album, Aokigahara, Flowers for Bodysnatchers returns with a new release that acts a next step towards a personal form of dark ambient where their sort of modern classical influence, marked by the presence of piano movements which are the skeleton of this release, creates something different inside of this genre.
The drone of "The Obscure You Deserve" introduces the listener to the first piano line of this release which covers all the sounds in the background, so it apparently seems an almost classical composition, while "Sorrow (Silhouette To Void)" carefully constructs a soundscape featuring sparse natural samples. The alternation between drones, noises and foley sounds makes "A Disease Called Love" a track of great complexity while the quiet return of the piano in "Hearken Our Storm" has a relation with the underlying samples. While the first of "To The Loveless" is almost noisy, the insertion of strings in the second part creates a romantic effect. The rhythmic structure of "The Life I Ruin" is a drastic departure from the atmosphere created to this point while "Tiny Black Tale" is an incursion into almost industrial territories with his abundant use of noises. The overall quietness of "Memory (Night To Void)" introduces the listener to the finale of "Time Shall Heal No Wounds" where the piano writes the last sad notes of this release under the sound of the rain and the voice of the crows.
A vast improvement in all aspect from their previous release, this album is perhaps one the best release of the year in this genre with his remarkable variety. Truly recommended.

Jana Irmert: End Of Absence

 Posted by Stuart Bruce (@)   Ambient / Electronica / Ethereal / Dub / Soundscapes / Abstract
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Oct 18 2016
Artist: Jana Irmert
Title: End Of Absence
Format: CD + Download
Label: Fabrique Records
This album is a set of half a dozen well-matched sonic soundscapes. While the title is “End Of Absence”, they all have a hollow, melancholic quality that imply a continuation of absence, a maelstrom of distant forces trying to creep into an empty void.

It’s a blend of found sound and field recordings with electronics and very occasional vocal moments. As a recipe it’s nothing new, there’s certainly nothing ground-breaking or genuinely experimental here, but this is a very competent and confident, beautifully balanced and progressive set of pieces that lend themselves very well to a fully immersive, good-headphones-and-darkened-room experience. You know how, when you’re in a noise-proof room in silence, you can begin to hear the sound of your own heartbeat? Well imagine if you were a robot, in a noise-proof room. This might be what you begin to sound like to yourself.

Despite the implication of tension that creeps into pieces like “Untitled (Slow)”, it’s also rather relaxing, in its way. The ebb and flow of it is not wholly dissimilar to waves crashing at an unrealistically slow speed on a rocky beach. It’s rather soporific in parts and you can easily relax or even fall asleep to pieces like “Obstacles”. It may not have the traditional sonic structure of a relaxation disc but the effect is not unrelated. The notable and slightly unwelcome exception to this is the second half of final piece “Altitude Adjustment”, where there is an uncharacteristic, sudden and percussive change that could jolt you out a slumber you’re not deeply enough in.

This is Jana Irmert’s debut album, but what it perhaps lacks in originality, it makes up for with an assured confidence and polish that makes it absolutely worth hearing.

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