Music Reviews

Sol Mortuus: Extinction

 Posted by Steve Mecca   Ambient / Electronica / Ethereal / Dub / Soundscapes / Abstract
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Jun 19 2016
Artist: Sol Mortuus (@)
Title: Extinction
Format: CD
Label: Evil Dead Productions/Zhelezobeton (@)
Rated: *****
Sol Mortuus is the project of the Yekaterinburg-based musician named Kein, who was in the well-known underground Russian atmospheric black metal band Thy Repentance, and later got carried away by experimental ambient sound. Sol Mortuus' first release was a split with Zinc Room co-titled 'House on the Edge of the Cemetery/The Green Wreath' in 2014. 'Extinction' is his initial solo release. The electro-acoustic music of Sol Mortuus employs cello, mandolin, percussion, block flute, kaluka, rainstick, vargan, voice, synth and samples. About the album, the label says "The album sounds whole, it seems the tracks bleed one from another but at the same time each of them carries its own story built on the interpretations of the ancient Ural legends and tales of the northern peoples." And so there is a good degree of primitive native folk influence here, but I'm getting dark ambient ritual in this electro-acoustic blend. Beginning with "Mother of Windless Land," an atmosphere is set where you can picture yourself on the Eurasian steppes, with ululating flute and the boinging of jaw harp (vargan) over dark ambient background atmospherics. On the next track, "Stars That Have Grown Should Be Covered With Blood," mournful minor mandolin chords are stroked like a zither accompanied by slow hand drum percussion and some abstract flute playing along with deep drone. The impression one gets is a really dark Dead Can Dance instrumental. The title of the next track describes the atmosphere it sets to a tee - "The Great Wasteland Where Drop of Water Is More Longing Than Bear Meat In Famine Days". The thick and heavy drone and deep breathy air is punctuated sporadically by flute, drums and percussion. I'm getting parched just listening to it! Cello leads off on "Three Skies Impossible to See," and with a heavy drone on the bottom, and other sonic elements contributing to this hypnotic, repeating ancient melody, I'm reminded of the Third Ear Band, but this sounds much more primitive. "Arkaim" is a very unsettleing piece, with its steady chopping percussion, and incessant chittering, something akin to Cicadas. The ambiance is broken by such things as the rattling of chains, echoed bowl bells, an instrument that sounds like a wild digeridoo, ulalating flute, and other strange sonic components. Quite unnerving. "The One Who Has Never Seen the Dawn" seems to be the track where all of the previous ritualistic musical incantations have finally produced the manifestation of some demonic presence. There is no doubt of the shamanistic tone of this piece; it penetrates deep into the primordial psyche and brings forth the beast in all its ugly and unholy splendor. Although employing many of the same instrumental elements as the previous tracks, "The Winged Spirit Lifts the Spear" is much more ethereal, far less tethered to the earth and physicality. Perhaps a transcendence beyond the mortal coil is the aim here.

The cinematic quality of the music of Sol Mortuss allows the listener to envision their own story within the paramaters of the electro-acoustic ambiences presented on 'Extinction.' Some may find it disturbing while others will welcome it as an exotic addition to their dark ambient collection. The atmosphere certainly is a unique one, and when the mood is right, and the stars are aligned, a most intoxicating musical brew.

Celer & Machinefabriek: Compendium: Collected Singles and Remixes

 Posted by liv3evil   Ambient / Electronica / Ethereal / Dub / Soundscapes / Abstract
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Jun 14 2016
Artist: Celer & Machinefabriek
Title: Compendium: Collected Singles and Remixes
Format: CD
Label: Irrational Arts (@)
Distributor: Bandcamp
Rated: *****
"Compedium: Collected Singles and Remixes" compiles the six tracks recorded by Celer and Machinefabriek for their trilogy of 7" singles which were self-released throughout 2012. It also includes one new track and a series of remixes by Stephan Mathieu, Sylvain Chauveau, and Nicolas Bernier. This album is almost tailor-made to be experienced upon first rise in the AM, or when a 50 minute reboot beckons.

Celer and Machinefabriek's collaborations are highly ambient; there is barely a pulse anywhere in their collected works. Most of the tracks feature prolonged, alluring swells that seem to prescribe evenness and harmony with just a delicate touch of tension from time-to-time. All of the trilogy tracks blend well together in both sequence and timbre. Some compositions -- notably 'Penarie' with its ominous, sweeping, low-end distortion -- billow within the first 90 seconds, percolate in their discord, and finally arrive at their well-timed beauty.

Conversely, the long additional track 'In/Out' deep-dives into ambient bliss straightaway, then slowly transcends into an alluring, splendidly-phased distortion. It accomplishes a great deal in just under 3 minutes, and sounds complete. As for the remixes, I did not notice significant deviance from the source material, though two of them (Chauveau's remix of 'Sou' and Bernier's remix of 'Mt. Mitake') have an edginess that suggests the separation process has begun.

Though it is a collection of works, "Compendium" is well-integrated, focused, and worthy of front-to-back consideration.

Christian Fennesz & Jim O'Rourke: It's Hard For Me To Say I’m Sorry

 Posted by Vito Camarretta (@)   Ambient / Electronica / Ethereal / Dub / Soundscapes / Abstract
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Jun 12 2016
Artist: Christian Fennesz & Jim O'Rourke
Title: It's Hard For Me To Say I’m Sorry
Format: CD
Label: editions Mego
Rated: *****
Two gentlemen of electronic and experimental music like Christian Fennesz and Jim O'Rourke don't need any introduction. If you never heard about them, you should definitively revise your knowledge of contemporary music. Pairing them in a release is a pure act of devotion to high-quality music, and they fully meet expectations in a record where they interbred their own sonic arts. One of the most interesting aspects of this release is the fact that both cover artwork and the titles unveil some features of their output. Gently pitched guitar glide over great harmonics, electronic droplets sound like watering the mute hisses of the machines, balanced sounds occasionally mirror lukewarm beams of light that got deformed when meeting uneven surfaces, seemingly different intersections seem to find peace into blossoming ethereal cells. They manage to sound experimental without being too intrusive, and their deviations from some standard could look like the action on the artwork, where the tenderness of that lovely pet is so overwhelming that you can stand for its nibbles. The perfect symbiosis by Fennesz and O'Rourke in this release results into an involving emotional listening experience, that is going to talk to listener's soul: the second half "Wouldn't Wanna Be Swept Away" is more "nocturnal" and lulling than the first one "I Just Want You To Stay", but both of them are wonderful alternations of becalmed moments and huge sonic waves that succeed in flooding the whole sonic sphere. This simply beautiful release got already published by Commmons, the imprint founded by Ryuichi Sakamoto and Max Matsuura (the Japanese edition includes the bonus track "Encores" as well), but it should be available on Rehberg's Editions Mego since 24th June!

Jacob Kierkegaard: Arc

 Posted by Vito Camarretta (@)   Ambient / Electronica / Ethereal / Dub / Soundscapes / Abstract
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Jun 11 2016
Artist: Jacob Kierkegaard (@)
Title: Arc
Format: 12"
Label: Holotype Editions (@)
Rated: *****
Despite the religious theme, his nationality, and the surname, I don't think Jacob Kierkegaard is descendent of the famous Danish philosopher, but his sound features the same power of a mystical experience as well as a strongly haunting one. Formerly commissioned as a soundtrack to Carl Theodor Dreyer's silent movie "The Passion of Joan of Arc" (dating back 1928... many fans of poet and actor Antonin Artaud maybe knows he played the role of the confessor and drew inspiration by the movie for developing the so-called Theatre of Cruelty), the version coming out of Athens-based label Holotype's catalogue is a 36-minutes lasting LP-sized re-edition of that work and shows the skills as a sonic portrayer of Jacob. He managed to render that sad story where a spiritual light got eclipsed by the darkness of rational thought or maybe by the incommunicability of religious experiences that often transcends the limitations of human language, but above all the way by which Dreyer decided to develop the trial of the French heroin - it's no accident that many reviewers considered it as the real last masterpiece -. What should have initially been a movie in historical suites was turned into a masterpiece of the so-called photogeny as the plot got wonderfully rendered by astonishing close-ups of human faces and thanks also to the talent of Renee Falconetti, the actress cast for Joan of Arc - it seems she came up psychologically exhausted -, Dreyer turned it into a real cinematographical poem, where camera managed to expand the imaginary places where the sense of confusion and pain of the main character got masterfully rendered by amplifying a similar sense of uncertainty in the spectator, as there are no real clues about the places where all the action happened. The most surèprising aspect lies in the fact that Dreyer made a masterpiece by a sort overturning of the typical cinematic rule, aimed to grab and render movements instead of a staticity that contemporary audience could find odd. Jacob's outcome for this commission by INMUTE '14 is an immersive listening experience where the slow evolution of overstretched choral symphonies sound like continuously flowing between darkness and light. Even though it got released at the end of November, I think that some of the 300 copies, masterfully mastered by Nokis Lavdas at Kiwi Studios, could be available yet.

Nobile: Soundwaves for the Masses

 Posted by Vito Camarretta (@)   Ambient / Electronica / Ethereal / Dub / Soundscapes / Abstract
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Jun 11 2016
Artist: Nobile
Title: Soundwaves for the Masses
Format: Download Only (MP3 + Lossless)
Label: Klanggold (@)
Rated: *****
Most of the times, the way by which a language labels reality is profoundly influential on the way speakers could perceive the reality itself. One of the most interesting writing about this matter of fact is "The Bath" by Germany-based Japanese writer Yoko Tawada, where she analysed the words to say 'I' for females and males in Japan and focused on the fact that the nuances of meaning of the female 'I' portray a woman that cannot be other than cute or polite. The reflection about this radical linguistic injustice inspires the author's high claiming of the self-determination and the freedom of every woman to decide their nature without any more or less subliminal conditioning by language. One of the oldest member of Klanggold's family, Nobile - another moniker of label owner Andreas Usenbenz -, had to occasion to turn this mental and spiritual "sanitation" from languages when he had to make some sonic stuff for a dancing performance by the trio liquid_eMotion, inspired by Tawada's "The Bath" and intended to interpret the psychological turmoil and the relationship with the mirror and her beauty of the writer in that entertaining novel. "Soundwave for the masses" includes two 10-minutes lasting ambient tracks - the almost daydreaming flatness of "Little Insults" and the glimmering staticity of "No Room For Imitations", where he seems to have rendered the typical reverberation of a comfortable bathroom...! - centered on sonic hypnotic dilutions and amniotic sonorities. A good sonic soak.

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