Music Reviews

Cloaca: Almsgiver

 Posted by Stuart Bruce (@)   Ambient / Electronica / Ethereal / Dub / Soundscapes / Abstract
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Nov 30 2016
Artist: Cloaca
Title: Almsgiver
Format: Download Only (MP3 + Lossless)
Label: Silber Records (@)
Silber Records’ long-running “5 in 5” series- 5 tracks from an artist, running time only 5 minutes in total- has thrown up some interesting and innovative works that have suited the restrictive format well. Some sounds, however, simply don’t function at their best in such a constricted time, and unfortunately “Almsgiver” is an example of this.

“Almsgiver” is a collection of five unique and distinctive drones, all with an acoustic origin, treated, drowned and super-manipulated by effects and ambience. It’s simple stuff, resonant, raw and powerful, with a pure tone that’s less gritty and lo-fi than the artwork might suggest. But it really needed time to breathe.

When fourth track “Forsworn” segues into “Euthyphro” (the only ‘joined up’ tracks), it’s a hint towards how mesmerising these sounds would be if you could get ten minutes of each one and really start to mentally wallow in it. When “Euthyphro” then abruptly cuts at exactly 1:00, you’re left wanting more, but not necessarily in a good way.

“5 in 5” has had some great moments, but this is one case where they should have foregone the novel 5-minute format in favour of a longer, more immersive release.

Daniel Ruane: Incandescent EP

 Posted by Stuart Bruce (@)   Ambient / Electronica / Ethereal / Dub / Soundscapes / Abstract
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Nov 28 2016
Artist: Daniel Ruane
Title: Incandescent EP
Format: Download Only (MP3 + Lossless)
Label: The Silent Howl
“Incandescent” is a half hour of ambience that blends comforting tones with crisper digital elements in a way that’s like cold water and hot water being poured together and wafting in fluid dynamic patterns around one another until equilibrium is eventually reached.

The title track has a watery ambience that does feel just a touch cliché but which is still nothing short of pretty, and which slightly misrepresents the EP as a whole, as it lacks the sinister edge and extremely minimal techno elements that the other three tracks bring.

Second track “Codon” has more urgency, a relentless repeating synth note underpinning an electronic atmosphere that has very strong elements of Tangerine Dream, and definitely in a good way.

Third track “Amino” plays almost like a hybrid of the first two, with the same drumless analogue synth rhythms but washed with rich found sounds.

Closing track “Exo” has the same ingredients but with an additional tension and lo-fi, square-wave edge that could soundtrack the sinister approach of zombies. There’s a whiff of John Carpenter about it. If the first two tracks have lulled you into sleep, this is the track that will score your anxiety dream.

This is an impressive pack of tracks from Mancunian Daniel Ruane, and on the strength of this EP, it’s definitely keeping an eye out for more of his work.

Weingarten - Charlton: Where There is Light

 Posted by Steve Mecca   Ambient / Electronica / Ethereal / Dub / Soundscapes / Abstract
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Nov 27 2016
Artist: Weingarten - Charlton (@)
Title: Where There is Light
Format: CD
Label: Spotted Peccary Music (@)
Rated: *****
Now this is something- a collaboration between guitarist Carl Weingarten and (Steinway) pianist Catherine Marie Charlton in an ambient excursion titled 'Where There is Light'. Not only a guitarist and a photographer but also the founder of Multiphase Records and the short-lived 80's band Delay Tactics, Weingarten employs acoustic and electric guitars, dobro, loops, delay and effects on this recording. Charlton has released numerous solo piano albums since 2000, some of them award-winning. If you're expecting this to sound like some Harold Budd/Robert Fripp collaboration it isn't exactly that, but in places you might be tempted to think so. For one thing, Weingarten's guitar style is different than Fripp's and more understated here. Charlton's piano is more impactful and not gauzy and submerged like Budd's, yet much attention given to spatiality. There is also the addition of Windham Hill house bassist Michael Manring in places, a seasoned musician quite adept at this kind of collaboration who supports and fortifies the ambiance rather than detracts from it. Throughout the eight tracks on the album there is a pervasive aura of melancholy, but it's a beautiful sort of melancholy that puts one in a reflective mood. These artists seem to mesh perfectly combining their talents in an improvisational tapestry that is simultaneously unobtrusive yet engaging; a real delight to experience. I think this team will find much favor among electro-acoustic ambient enthusiasts and hopefully more will be forthcoming from them.

Matthew Stewart: A World Bathed in Sunlight

 Posted by Steve Mecca   Ambient / Electronica / Ethereal / Dub / Soundscapes / Abstract
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Nov 27 2016
Artist: Matthew Stewart (@)
Title: A World Bathed in Sunlight
Format: CD
Label: Spotted Peccary Music (@)
Rated: *****
It doesn't bode well when I get a "Forbidden: Access Denied" error message when attempting to visit an artist's website to get more information on said artist, especially if that artist has just put out his debut release. Hopefully Mr. Stewart will get that problem resolved soon. So all I really have to go on is Spotted Peccary's one-sheet from which I'll quote a little. "The album is a musical chronicle of a fictional story I've had in my mind," explains Stewart. "The literal story arc follows the destruction of earth, the escape of a few seeds of humanity, and the discovery of a new world." Kind of a generic sci-fi plot I suppose, but it's the music we're really interested in, not the story per-se. Stewart executes this undertaking with guitar, bass, synthesizers, drums and percussion programming, and most prominent- piano, and the only vocal is an atmospheric wordless one by Deborah Martin on one track.

Opening with the title track, a wistful, romantic piano-dominated theme with a nice melody and just the right amount of orchestration from synths and percussion, you should get a pretty good idea of what you're in for. As the journey continues, synth orchestration grows fuller and more lush, and there is an emotive quality that can't be denied. Still, overall I get the general impression of placidity as opposed to adventure, and in that regard it's kind of disappointing. Instead of being super-cinematic, the music on 'A World Bathed in Sunlight' falls more into the grandiose New Age category, and piano passages wouldn't be out of step with Jim Brickman, David Lanz, Michael Nyman and John Tesh. Still, if you like that kind of music, Matthew Stewart's debut might just be your cup of tea. I will probably play this occasionally in my bookstore where it won't ruffle any customer feathers.

Dronny Darko: Spira Igneus

 Posted by Andrea Piran (@)   Ambient / Electronica / Ethereal / Dub / Soundscapes / Abstract
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Nov 27 2016
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Artist: Dronny Darko (@)
Title: Spira Igneus
Format: CD
Label: Cryo Chamber (@)
Rated: *****
This new release by Dronny Darko is another statement of how a label as Cryo Chamber choose their releases with sound quality in mind. When liner notes state that "massive deep drone builds momentum as reality cracks open to reveal the darkness of the void", there's a sense of exaggeration that is suddenly erased as the disc begins and the first seconds of the first track show a real craft.
While the first part of "Scriptures" is made out of thick drone, the second one reveals subtle sounds, perhaps samples or field recordings, hidden in the mix. "Rotten Orchestra" intertwines deep basses with quiet meditative moments while "White Eyes" use even noisy moments, as an SW radio, to create a real dynamics and "Three Rulers" reveals a circular structure as it starts quietly to evolve in a deep mass of sound to return to a quiet environment. "Endless Cave" uses the soundscape to underline the sparse sounds emerging during the development of the track. "Forbidden Wisdom" is apparently static as it unfolds small nuances during his duration. "Grey Echoes" closes this release featuring long notes instead of drones over an evocative soundscape.
This is those kind of release that is completely based on carefully chosen sound manipulations that could be so imperceptible in a noisy environment as charming in proper listening environment. It could be structurally derivative in his musical writing but the sound production is so overwhelming to stand upon the best releases from this label. Recommended if using headphones.

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