Music Reviews

Crystal Mooncone: Listening Beam Five

 Posted by eskaton   Experimental / Avantgarde / Weird & Wired / Glitch / Noise / Field Recording
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Feb 21 2018
Artist: Crystal Mooncone (@)
Title: Listening Beam Five
Format: CD
Label: Innova (@)
Rated: *****
I was unfamiliar with this trio comprised of Stephen Rush, Chris Peck, and Jon Moniaci. Looking at the liner notes, however, gives some sense of what we are in for, with instruments like Whoopee Whistle, Moan Recorder, Aunt Lucile’s Turkish Bells, and Goose Call to name only a few. Sounds like a good time, so let’s get into the music itself. “Fossil Tears” opens the disc and at first sounds like one of those “pure relaxation” discs that you find at Target. Thankfully, it gets a bit more interesting as we hear grinding buzzing and digital noises emerge from the vibraphone-like drone and a newfound emphasis on bass. This illustrates the general concept of the album, which is bringing together disparate elements. This approach ended up being kind of hit and miss for me. When they are on, they are solid, but some tracks just weren’t that engaging. For example, “Homage” highlights the flute, with occasional Rhodes piano, but this composition felt a bit random (but not in an interesting way). “Leeward Side” likewise brings in high-pitched warbling and droning flute, but doesn’t really seem to go anywhere. A few tracks were not really my thing, but I could appreciate the skill in their creation, as in the case of “Perth Airport,” with its chanting/singing over accordion drone and bits of percussive elements. But most of the tracks were solid and engaging. For example, the percussion, jangling metal and bells, and piano of “Imaginary Azimuths” makes for an interesting composition. “Rocky’s Landscape” begins with dark and foreboding drone, with a simple synth line running through it, eventually bringing in the flute, for a nice exercise in musical tension. The best composition on the disc was the final track, “Light Tunnel.” Cicada-like noise greets the listener, becoming increasingly intense, with rumbling bass and piano peeking through at times. As the noise settles down, we hear singing that sounds like it is taking place in a tunnel, before ending with flute and heavy drone. All of this was recorded live, and I can’t help but think that seeing this live would have been a much more engaging experience, as if something just didn’t translate over into the recordings. Still, this was an interesting disc overall, and quite accessible as far as experimental music goes. This album weighs in at around 54 minutes.

Raskol\'nikov & Hjalmar: Yama

 Posted by Andrea Piran (@)   Experimental / Avantgarde / Weird & Wired / Glitch / Noise / Field Recording
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Feb 18 2018
Artist: Raskol\'nikov & Hjalmar (@)
Title: Yama
Format: CD
Label: Zoharum (@)
Distributor: Alchembria
Rated: *****
While Raskol'nikov is a project active from 2010 and with a reasonable discography, this is the first time I heard about their work. This is a collaboration completed in 2013 waiting evidently from the right occasion to be released. Their music is a sort of low fi experimental where they exploited the evocative properties of sounds tied to '60s and '70s and, instead of being a tortuous tour-de-force, they use reasonably simple structures to their song.
The album starts with "(Blue) Forest" which, after a little noisy introduction, evolves in a strange glitch pop without words as catchy as unconventional. Even in his rather identifiable influences, "(Green) Forest" maintains a framework where the experimental aims are tied to melody. "Master" is perhaps a little bit too long but the use of filtered voices triggers a certain number of cultural references. "(Hidden) Valley" is almost funny with his use of childish sounds while "YAMA" is almost meditative in his crescendo of long and reverberated notes. "(Empty) Sky" closes this release juxtaposing droning sounds.
Neither a masterpiece nor a boring release, this is those kind of weird release that could please fans of unusual and experimental music if they are not so genre oriented to not appreciate a small bit of irony. It's worth a listen.

Joshua Bonnetta: Low Islands

 Posted by Andrea Piran (@)   Experimental / Avantgarde / Weird & Wired / Glitch / Noise / Field Recording
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Feb 18 2018
Artist: Joshua Bonnetta (@)
Title: Low Islands
Format: Tape
Label: Canti Magnetici (@)
Rated: *****
This work by Joshua Bonnetta, an interdisciplinary artist working with video and sound, is based upon field recordings of five different island and is named by a short piece by Loren Eiseley used in the liner notes. The bay of broken things could be seen as a place where, in February nights, it seems that with the sea climbing the cliff, ghosts appears at the window.
The only side of this tape (the other is blank) "The Bay of Broken Things" is opened by field recordings of wind and sea and introduces the listener into a sonic movie based in five parts where, as moving through an island, there's the wild, but quiet, element of nature instead of the chaotic movement of civilization. As the recordings have substantial differences in spectrum, there's always an evidence of the passage from a section to another and this aspect create a sense of editing and movement to the whole track; there's no will to deceive the listener creating a false sense of being in an environment but instead he's guided to a journey into uninhabited places where there's evidence of chaos behind all things. As some point, there's also the sound of the rewind of the tape to show the presence of the apparatus.
Evidently this is not music but properly sound art and so it's not recommended to everyone but only to those willing to hear rather than be entertained. Hear with care.

Bill Laswell/Hideo Yamaki: Live at the Stone: Ankoku Kaiju

 Posted by Tyran Grillo (@)   Experimental / Avantgarde / Weird & Wired / Glitch / Noise / Field Recording
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Feb 16 2018
Artist: Bill Laswell/Hideo Yamaki
Title: Live at the Stone: Ankoku Kaiju
Format: Download Only (MP3 + Lossless)
Rated: *****
To say that bassist Bill Laswell and drummer Hideo Yamaki have combined forces on ANKOKU KAIJU would be a misnomer. Accurately stated, it’s the other way around. In other words: it’s a contingency of universal forces that has combined them. To experience their sublimation, even by proxy of recording, is to understand the chemical nature of their interaction. Yamaki’s approach to the kit is holistic, scaling a wide range of topographies in search of the beacon that Laswell selectively obfuscates and reveals by and through his improvisational haze. Whether riding an ethereal groove or sliding into newly excavated ruins of atmospheric history, this duo proves that going with the flow is more a matter of spirit than of mind or body. Over the course of a single 36-minute track, recorded live at The Stone on April 16, 2016, impulses that originated galaxies away feel as intimate as the beating heart. Achievement of such fine balance between signal and reception is no small task, but in this context emerges as an organic consequence of their sound.

Laswell’s distortions key highlight the physiological underpinnings of this music. Through them is sung the chaotic symphony of neurons and other intangible compulsions that make up any living organism. By tracing fear to its roots in love, he undoes the unnecessity of antagonism that fuels so much of today’s violent reaping. In its place, he and Yamaki tout death as beginning and not end, and express music as the clearest portal from which to draw such knowledge. To hear it, then, is to feel the interconnectedness of self with all creation. Yamaki’s frenetic dances drive home this point repeatedly throughout the set, finding in every thump of his kick drum a mantra’s worth of salutation. He’s not merely taking listeners on a journey, but turning listeners into the journey itself.

At times, the duo moves like two arms sprouting from a single body; at others, a binary star examining its own gravitational field. In either state, their dialogic relationship is a supernova spreading its language across the palimpsest of the universe. The result is a transformation of thought into action, of silence into sound, of contemplation into enlightenment. There’s no middle ground to be trodden; only a harmony of environmental extremes.

Although the album’s title translates from the Japanese as “Creature of Darkness,” there’s nothing sinister going on. If anything, the album is life-affirming and exceptionally rooted in the past. Every given moment is emboldened by the artists’ deference to all that came before, which by their evocations grafts wings of resurrection.

Tiziano Milani: She

 Posted by Andrea Piran (@)   Experimental / Avantgarde / Weird & Wired / Glitch / Noise / Field Recording
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Feb 11 2018
Artist: Tiziano Milani (@)
Title: She
Format: CD
Label: Setola di Maiale (@)
Rated: *****
Almost three year after "Materia", Tiziano Milani returns with a release constructed using field recordings, found objects, tools for working wood and acoustic instruments which were processed using computer. This time, instead of a collection of track, the artist proposes a a track divided in three distinct movement where it's audible the cohesive idea behind it: using a relatively small palette of sound and developing them working on structure and nuance.
"She" is divided in three parts. The first one opens with strings and piano and evolves in a crescendo where, at his peak, there's something almost new for the artist: noise, which creates a tension with the bell in the background so there's a true dialectic between the musical elements. The second part is the center of this release where the drone is used a glue that tie together sparse sound elements as concrète sounds, piano, bells and even a quiet, pulsating noise creating a sense of narrative as demanding as charming. The third one is a quiet crescendo starting with silence, evolving with a drone and closing with small sounds, all searching the listener's attention rather than overwhelming it.
Long, complex and quiet, it's a release that could be arduous in times where there's a trend of user-oriented sound for the infinite amount of like in a social network. This is music that reconciles with the concept of "development in time" not "entertainment". Necessary as air. Chapeau.

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