Music Reviews

Artist: Oren Ambarchi & Jim O'Rourke with special guest U-Zhaan
Title: Hence
Format: 12" vinyl + Download
Label: Editions Mego
“Both comforting and subtly strange” is a given description of this album and it’s very apt. Across two twenty-minute parts, simply labelled ‘Hence One’ and ‘Hence Two’, we get a concoction which has atmospheric drone at its base, but which is layered with a fairly generous variety of obtuse and self-contained layers, ranging from processed guitar to bleepier analogue electronic noises, laid up into long patterns that slowly undulate, build and fade as though taking keyframe points from topography of a rather gentle hill walk.

The tabla rhythms from special guest U-zhaan are a prominent part of the jigsaw here. Those contributions are less heavily treated and processed than some of the other elements. With a tonality that gives the work a decidedly pan-geographic flavour for which you would be hard pushed to stick a pin on a map- shades of Japan, shades of Africa, shades of more Western sensibilities, it’s a blend that works but is hard to categorise. The second part of the work is a shade lighter and more melodic, with bubbly electronics complimenting the gentle plucking work.

The result is a gentle and mellow, yet complex, ambient and soft electronica arrangement with a distinctive and very approachable flavour.

Shohei Amimori: PataMusic

 Posted by Stuart Bruce (@)   Synth Pop / Electro Pop / Synth-Electronica
Experimental / Avantgarde / Weird & Wired / Glitch / Noise / Field Recording
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Nov 19 2018
Artist: Shohei Amimori
Title: PataMusic
Format: CD + Download
Label: Noble
Tokyo-based Shohei Amimori’s “PataMusic” is a bright and often bonkers hour of twisted, everything-but-the-kitchen-sink weird-pop. It channels all sorts of influences, from the energy of J-pop, the quirky Matthew Herbert or Art Of Noise-esque joys of found sound as instrumentation, and the glitchy and unpredictable experimental edges of- well, it’s hard to say where they’re from.

At times, it feels like we’re enjoying regularly structured synthpop, with the intro to “Now Forever” sounding initially like straight-laced lounge music that gradually gets more manic. “Fence Of Bats” has some English-language lyrics, but I still won’t pretend to have the vaguest clue what it’s about.

It’s not all crazy. Amimori’s academic compositional background is on display in the cultured small string ensemble piece “ReCircle” and the quirky, almost rom-com waltz of “ajabollamente”, which serve as a real palette-shifting mood changer after the album’s initial energetic flurry.

But once you’ve settled into expectations of traditional form and structure, along comes tracks like “Climb Downhill 2”, a weird acid squelch workout and an unfiltered revelry in squeaky sonics to shake everything back up again. “Washer” is also notable for its experimental electronics, the love of gradual pitch change that’s exhibited on several tracks playing out nicely here.

The album proceeds in this manner throughout, always throwing curveballs to keep you on your toes, clearly enjoying the capability of its own breadth and diversity- yet thankfully, as most of the tracks are above five minutes, it’s rather satisfying too, with most of the ideas explored up to the right length for their natural conclusion.

It’s odd, and arguably a little bit like showing off at times, but it’s also rather endearing and works well as an off-kilter and idiosyncratic offering from the very edge of what could be called pop.

Sphyxion: 2

 Posted by Andrea Piran (@)   Experimental / Avantgarde / Weird & Wired / Glitch / Noise / Field Recording
Dark / Gothic / Wave / New Wave / Dark Wave / Industrial Gothic
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Nov 13 2018
Artist: Sphyxion (@)
Title: 2
Format: CD
Label: Zoharum (@)
Distributor: Alchembria
Rated: *****
Apparently it's a new name but Sphyxion is the minimal wave project of Frédéric and Olivier Charlot, better known as Maninkari. While their main project it's at the crossroad between classical and experimental influences, this one is more enjoyable as it makes heavy use of rhythm box while the drones frequently evolves in melodic lines and the use of female voices gives a pop touch to the whole. As the tracks are untitled, they will referenced by their number.
The first track opens this release with a structure centered a rhythmic cage and a buzzing background; as a voice is looping the effect is hypnotic. The melodic apertures of "2" reveals the influence of minimal wave and "3" inverts the canonical form of this genre as the synth is almost metronomic while the rhythm is slightly variated. The vaguely middle eastern pattern of "4" are matched by a rolling beat and "5" borders IDM with its complex but sonically skinny beat. "6" is catchy with its sort of glockenspiel used to expose the main melody. "7" is the first track not using a beat while creating a minimal lied with repetitive, but slowly variating, string melody. "8" use the amplitude enveloper to create a rhythm out of a oscillating melodic cell. The synth melody "9" emerges after misleading the listener with its introduction hinting a static track based on loops. "10" closes the release with a minimal wave track almost canonical but avoiding triviality.
With a more easy listening framework, it will probably attract more listener than the average Maninkari's release but they could be disappointed if they won't be patient enough to capture the subtle nuances in a apparently static form. Listen with care.

Julien Bayle: Violent Grains of Silence

 Posted by Stuart Bruce (@)   Experimental / Avantgarde / Weird & Wired / Glitch / Noise / Field Recording
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Nov 12 2018
Artist: Julien Bayle
Title: Violent Grains of Silence
Format: CD + Download
Label: Elli Records
This short collection of nine sonic vignettes is built from sound recordings made in Mechanical & Acoustic Research Lab LMA-CNRS’ anechoic room. But despite being one of the most soundproofed rooms it’s possible to find, there is still some distant hum and atmosphere, not to mention imperfections in the recording equipment that result in electronic impulses. It’s these imperfections that have been wraught, quite aggressively, extremely amplified, filtered, layered and processed to turn near-silence into a series of nine brief and aggressive electronic soundscapes on the very boundary of found sound.

Apparently coinciding with “deep personal difficult times” on Bayle’s part, this is raw, rough-hewn stuff, with tracks like “cut_” little less (or little more) than a single-tone sonic assault, while pieces like “unpr” are more complex, with curt percussive sounds and a more electronica-esque bubbly glitching. The steady pulsing beat of “post_” is notable as its steadiness turns it into a form of involuntary proto-techno. It’s hard to decide sometimes whether the rage on display is organic or post-produced but the result is a edgy and cathartic 22-minute force, like a primal scream performed by electrics. Unusual and eye-opening.

Jana Winderen: Spring Bloom in the Marginal Ice Zone

 Posted by Stuart Bruce (@)   Experimental / Avantgarde / Weird & Wired / Glitch / Noise / Field Recording
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Nov 05 2018
Artist: Jana Winderen
Title: Spring Bloom in the Marginal Ice Zone
Format: CD + Download
Label: Touch # Tone
Layering high-latitude field recordings of the border between sea ice and the open sea into one found sound composition, this is an elegant work with a lot of fascinating detail. While there’s underwater seal and whale sounds (mostly faint), it’s never in danger of becoming a relaxation cliché, mainly thanks to the crisp and almost electronica-like noises of the ice itself, which are gentle but still slightly alienating, and which ebb alternatively with windier, quite barren sounds.

There’s a 37-minute “headphones mix” and a 35-minute “speakers mix”. I didn’t compare or side-by-side them, instead being perfectly happy with a 72-minute listening experience that didn’t overstay its welcome.

It’s framed in terms of marine science and ecology rather than art, nevertheless it’s a beautiful thing to listen to, toeing an unusual line between emptiness and grandeur that really draws you in.

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