Music Reviews



Ensemble Neon: Niblock/Lamb

 Posted by Stuart Bruce (@)   Experimental / Avantgarde / Weird & Wired / Glitch / Noise / Field Recording
New Music / Downtown / Avantgarde Jazz / New Classical / World
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Aug 09 2019
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Artist: Ensemble Neon
Title: Niblock/Lamb
Format: CD + Download
Label: Hubro
“Niblock/Lamb” is the rather prosaic name for Ensemble Neon’s performance of “To Two Tea Roses” by Phill Niblock and “Parallaxis Forms” by Catherine Lamb. The two twenty-something-ish-minute ensemble drone pieces, both composed within the last decade, make excellent companions, displaying patterns of similarities and contrasts that make it a rewarding two-chapter listening experience.

“To Two Tea Roses” is relentlessly steady, a plateau magically generated from a large number of ebbing and flowing parts that manage to almost cancel one another out indefinitely, with no beginning or end yet somehow the feeling of progression that you can’t put your finger on, a progression that manages to prevent something so flat from being tiring.

“Parallaxis Forms” has the same broad timbre, but is far emptier. Individual drawn-out elements, most strikingly vocal sounds but also strings, suddenly find themselves in solo or very thinly layered environments where their separate textures can be more easily discerned. Melodic change is introduced, deliberate beginnings and ends of pitched notes with such length and sustain that the performance requires both athleticism and finesse, which Ensemble Neon clearly have in abundance. Calming, bordering on romantic, it feels like quite an indulgent experience.

A beautiful and intriguing pair of supremely slow works with a velvet touch.

Foot and Mouth Disease: Forever is Composed of Nows

 Posted by eskaton   Experimental / Avantgarde / Weird & Wired / Glitch / Noise / Field Recording
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Aug 04 2019
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Artist: Foot and Mouth Disease
Title: Forever is Composed of Nows
Format: 3" MiniCD
Label: Inner Demons Records
Rated: *****
Foot and Mouth Disease is the work of Lawrence J. Patti, who hails from Rochester NY and describes his music as “mangled electronic splatter.” Other than that, I couldn’t find a lot on this project, so let’s dive right into this release. First off, this does not seem that mangled, nor does it seem splattered. Disc one is nicely composed electronics, however. Overall, it resists a consistent style, but it lives up to the evocative title, as each track serves as a slice of life. If there is one thing tying disc one together, it is an emphasis on bass. “Nows 2” features heavy bass with warbling synth tones. “Nows 3” is low bass with distorted bass percussion. “Nows 4” is a wonderfully melancholy track that has quiet, plodding drums over a slow synth line. “Nows 7” begins with heavy dark ambient bass along the lines of Lustmord’s “Heresy” before ending abruptly and switching to a short bass-driven composition. “Nows 5” buzzes along with some overlapping drones and percussion that would be quite at home on a soundtrack. Disc 2 switches gears somewhat, as “Grand Jester 10” brings out the whimsical side of life with analog synth lines that fall over themselves like a slinky down a staircase. If “The Smile 9” is meant to evoke a smile, it’s the nervous smile of someone lost in an unfamiliar town long after the streetlights have gone out and most people have gone to bed. There is a sense of dread embedded in the track that works quite well. “The Smile 10” is a spacey analog track that is reminiscent of 1950’s sci-fi sound effects. This is the sound of the mad scientist’s lab. Along the same lines, “Grand Jester 5” is nothing to laugh about. This is well done analog noise that threatens to dissolve into feedback at any moment but just manages to hold it together, albeit with a healthy dose of distortion functioning as the tie that binds. Finally, “Nows 1” takes a sudden shift with calm guitar strumming over synth drone that is almost peaceful after the rest of the disc, but still maintains a sense of unease. Overall, this was a very nice listen if you like your soundscapes with a bit of an edge to them. This is noisy, but not noise, and manages to be a bit foreboding, but not cheesy. It’s nice to find something with a sense of balance between light and dark. This set weighs in at around 40 minutes.

prd: Tines Down

 Posted by eskaton   Experimental / Avantgarde / Weird & Wired / Glitch / Noise / Field Recording
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Aug 04 2019
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Artist: prd (@)
Title: Tines Down
Format: 3" MiniCD
Label: Inner Demons Records
Rated: *****
I had previously reviewed prd’s “LEGO Amy Hair” and loved it, so I was interested to see what this disc would bring. The liner notes say that this was recorded live in the studio with no overdubs, and the raw nature of this composition illustrates the power to be had in this strategy. Tines Down is a 19-minute journey through an analogue landscape. Bubbling synth boils just beneath a sawtooth wave that wavers throughout the track, keeping it all together. Buzzing and crackling sounds break through occasionally and disembodied voices distorted far beyond recognition enter the scene, only to be buried in feedback and static. All of this fades away like a plane flying off into the distance until only silence remains. Well done. This album weighs in at around 19 minutes.

autoclav1.1: Overtime EP

 Posted by eskaton   Experimental / Avantgarde / Weird & Wired / Glitch / Noise / Field Recording
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Aug 04 2019
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Artist: autoclav1.1 (@)
Title: Overtime EP
Format: 3" MiniCD
Label: Inner Demons Records
Rated: *****
I had previously reviewed autoclav1.1’s “Daylight Saving EP” and enjoyed it a lot, so I was interested to see how this would compare. “Daylight Saving” was heavy soundscapes, and “Overtime” keeps this going. “On Call” kicks it off with almost peaceful, slow moving synth drones. This is reminiscent of some of the dark ambient work that Cyclic Law has put out over the years. “Housebound” switches it up, with a more ominous bass drone and metallic chimes in the distance. Bits of scraping noise come in at times to break it up. great composition that keeps things interesting. “Released” takes us further down the rabbit hole with an orchestral track with muffled martial percussion. This is not quite as bombastic as Phragments or In Slaughter Natives, for example, but it is in the same ballpark. Another solid release from this artist. This album weighs in at around 18 minutes.

En Creux: Default 0012

 Posted by Stuart Bruce (@)   Experimental / Avantgarde / Weird & Wired / Glitch / Noise / Field Recording
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Jul 30 2019
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Artist: En Creux
Title: Default 0012
Format: 12" vinyl + Download
Label: SM-LL
On the same day En Creux contributed the tenth in the SM-LL label’s “Batch” series, she has also contributed this, the twelfth release in the “Default” series. It’s unclear whether there’s a technical distinction between the two series, because in essence this release comes from the same sonic universe, though not perhaps from the same planet. An obvious thing both series have in common (with all other SM-LL releases) is the plain black artwork- this is not an error.

This is a half-hour pack made up of four live sonic performances which the accompanying press release at first seems to be excusing and blaming on “last-minute preparations” and “unfamiliar and faulty equipment”, but it quickly becomes clear this is not an apology. Quite the opposite, this is the core purpose of this work. This is equipment-torturing noise work that revels in its own difficulty.

“WhiteNPlugOto17” is a cross-mix of actual white noise that seems to have been sidechained by impulsive, hand-triggered electric bell tone pulses that loop and attack unpredictably, but sometimes rhythmically.

Comparatively, “OscNoisePOto17” is less abrasive- again pulse driven, but this time using bass-rich and toothy oscillators that wouldn’t sound out of place in dark acid techno. Knobs are gradually tweaked for a four minutes that disorients your stereo perception and has your ears forgetting what’s normal.

“FbackRverbFlangIktick18” is similarly pulse-powered but more lightweight, with a slightly more playful tone that feels like it harks back to electronic experiments of decades past. A gradual acceleration in pace takes it through quirky territory before the initial core instrument fades away, subsumed by gated waves of oscillator attack that all sit over a sedate sci-fi drone bed.

Final track “Tai-giVolcaVoiceOto17” is quite a different beast altogether. It’s constructed from spoken word samples that are bounced and retriggered rapidly, sometimes settling into loop patterns which sustain for a while before suddenly loop points shift and the synchronisation shifts, finding new settling ground for a few seconds before shifting again. It’s a fascinating exercise and also a strong success, building rhythm where none exists. Also, for better or worse depending on your point of view, most of the track is only a bassline and a kick drum away from being a Josh-Wink-DJ-set-friendly bit of very deep house. The soft spoken tone throughout, which feels like it could potentially have belonged to a teach-yourself-a-language audio recording session due to how measured it is, also makes it a very accessible and genuinely relaxing way to finish a release which started so aggressively and noisily three tracks earlier.

It’s an unusual set of live tracks where the inconsistency is a merit. Undoubtedly powerful live, in edgy experimental music terms it’s a healthy buffet of ideas.


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