Music Reviews

Randal Collier-Ford : Remnants

 Posted by Andrea Piran (@)   Experimental / Avantgarde / Weird & Wired / Glitch / Noise / Field Recording
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Nov 09 2015
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Artist: Randal Collier-Ford
Title: Remnants
Format: CD
Label: Cryo Chamber (@)
Rated: *****
This new album from Randal Collier-Ford on Cryo Chamber is presented shortly as an album able to "soothe the listener into a black whirlpool of unexpected evolving sound design", but in fact is a clever reworking of the usual dark ambient format of this label. The form is consistently altered to search an almost new path in soundscape construction.
The stereo field is used as an element of bearing in "Monument", "Horns of Eden" uses small fractions of silence. "Remnants" is focused on rhythms in their relationship with drones. "Dies Illa" is a sort of reworking of martial removing all the rhetoric. "Suspension of Icarus" is based on ebb and flows of the drone pitch. "Eye of the West" uses a drone as a glue for the sample. "Black Garden" lets the samples emerge when the drones ends. "Pale Horse" is the more aggressive track as it uses noisy samples. "Decaying Sun" has a sort of sci-fi influence as it uses sharp samples. "Revelations" closes this release with a sort of dance beat.
The remarkable use of dynamics, the craft in sound construction and the variety of musical path earn this release a spot in the end of the year's list as it's an example on how to renew a genre using influence of other musical paths. The use of headphone is truly recommended to enjoy all the musical subtleties of this release. A must to hear.

Aria Rostami: Sibbe

 Posted by Andrea Piran (@)   Experimental / Avantgarde / Weird & Wired / Glitch / Noise / Field Recording
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Nov 09 2015
Artist: Aria Rostami (@)
Title: Sibbe
Format: Download Only (MP3 + Lossless)
Label: Audiobulb (@)
Rated: *****
As stated in the liner notes, this album is based on the relationship between America and Iran from the viewpoint on the artist's status of being a child of immigrants from Iran. This is related to the concern that his viewpoint is based on how Iran is narrated from other immigrants or media. So, this album is partly based on field recordings sent to Aria Rostami from Tehran or other Iranian cities and it's a demonstration of how technology can connect different cultures.
The gentle texture of "Delta" introduces the listener in a sonic environment centered on little bells suddenly covered by noise samples until their return in the final part of the song. "Sibbe" features recordings of folk iranian music, or so it seems. "Sibbe II" is developed from layers of samples and "Sibbe III" is a static soundscape featuring small distant beats. The sequence of the three part of this track reveals how some sounds are culturally associated to media's vision of middle east. The first part of "Nosferatuva" is based on a sample played as it's a punctuation mark while his second part is a quiet but dark soundscape. "Vietnamoses" is based on field recordings used as an introduction of a sort of oriental beat or the occidental perception of it. "Crwthrúd" closes this release reworking that sound of string instruments mostly known to be present in the OST of some iranian movie.
This is a release which reminds how sound is bound to some cultural codes of habit based on what is absent in another one. So, this is not only an enjoyable release but also an important one. It's really worth a listen.

Guide to Bizarre Behavior: Guide to Bizarre Behavior Voi. 2

 Posted by Steve Mecca   Experimental / Avantgarde / Weird & Wired / Glitch / Noise / Field Recording
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Nov 09 2015
Artist: Guide to Bizarre Behavior (@)
Title: Guide to Bizarre Behavior Voi. 2
Format: Tape
Label: ShanGORIL La Records (@)
Rated: *****
I'm not exactly sure if this project's name is Guide to Bizarre Behavior or if it's just the title of the work, or if it's a collective under the ShanGORIL La Records banner, but anywho, it consists of Brian Bromberg, Ray Bong and Suzy Creamcheeze. (I don't think that's Zappa's Suzy Creamcheese, but likely where the name came from.) These folks have a number of releases also under the names of The Bongoloids and Earl Long (named for the 45th Governor of Louisiana, not some solo artist named Earl Long) so we'll assume ShanGORIL La Records is only the label name. The music here on 'Guide to Bizarre Behavior Voi. 2' (and yes, there was a Vol. 1) was recorded in the desert of Yucca Valley, California and the swamp of New Orleans, Louisiana. Hold on to your hats boys and girls, because we're about to take a bumpy ride into some very strange territory.

Beginning with "Planner Jammer", a slightly out of tune piano plays a repetitive riff backed by a somewhat stilted drum kit and other percussion, interspersed with whistling electronic noodling. It's kind of jammy but strictly basement stuff. Oh my! "Whisper Blizzard" begins with a brief recitation by a woman (Suzy Creamcheeze, I presume) echoing off with a barking dog in the background, then a song begins with guitar and bass. Melodic soft male vocals in a kind of stream of consciousness psychedelic vein, and a few other stray elements, the female voice returns with a word here or there as it meanders, then out. "Rabbit Ear Sketch" has some interesting percussion, vocals over bass guitar chords, electronic bird whistling, and the lyrics are...definitely bizarre - "Mr. Tokyo, Mr. Squirrel, I know you'd like to play with the rabbit..." and might be the most normal of them in this tune. "Gasping For Air" is an abstract bit of acoustic-electronica that would leave the Residents scratching their heads in puzzlement, but surely the fish would get it. "Justin Timberlak" is even a stranger concoction of sounds, vocals, and lyrics loosely woven together into a song that walks that thin line between insanity and genius. In the beginning of "Kashmir Buttercup" there is a low, muffled industrial thrumming before the slurry, drunken chorus of vocals come in. Brief and woozy. "Brian Gumble" takes pop culture and consumerism, social media and the American dream and mixes it in a Daevid Allen-ish psychedelic stew. "Aura of Diamonds" is done up like an old-timey vaudeville number, but with a smattering of electro-acoustic abstractions. "Do your paintings twinkle like Thomas Kinkade's? Farewell Globe readers, we aren't your friends sittin' by the fake fire heater. I subscribe to the trend. Outrageous claims by certified doctors, calculated deals worth millions of dollars..." and on it goes. Not your average old-timey song by a longshot. Finally, we end this brief tour-de-farce with "Itchy Perky Pinkerton," a track with sequenced, echoed staccato plinky melodic percussion with some little reverse attack notes interspersed just for good measure. Hmmm...that was the most "normal' thing on this work, depending on your idea of normal.

Which leads me to the question, what is normal anyway? In music, is it adhering to prescribed conventions of genre? Expecting the familiar? Rejecting the aberrant? In that case, there is nothing normal about 'Guide to Bizarre Behavior Voi. 2', but why should there be? It would be very easy to schluff this off as amateurish avant-garde, the by-product of too many drugs and not enough practice, or a twisted psyche in need of professional help. But I'm not going to do that. This stuff is sui generis, and although influences abound, you'd be hard pressed to pin these folks down. I'm not saying that it's all brilliant. At times I found it a bit too twee, and in places, sloppy, but even that has a certain charm. Art ain't always pretty, and sometimes it can get pretty messy too. And in that respect, these folks excel at that, whether you like it or not. Available in cassette or digital download from the ShanGORIL La Records website.

Lars Graugaard: Venus

 Posted by Vito Camarretta (@)   Ambient / Electronica / Ethereal / Dub / Soundscapes / Abstract
Experimental / Avantgarde / Weird & Wired / Glitch / Noise / Field Recording
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Nov 04 2015
Artist: Lars Graugaard (@)
Title: Venus
Format: CD
Label: Dacapo Records (@)
Rated: *****
The use of computer by Professor Lars Graugaard on this collection of four suites, that he mainly composed for the emsembles of New York University Steinhardt in the (successful) attempt of searching a new way to melt classical composition with the sensorial and emotional spheres, is limited to the role of "connector" between the elements of this huge musical patchwork, whose sometimes puzzling complexity, I like to think, could render the likewise puzzling complexity of human emotions. The four amazing compositions on this CD, which got financially supported by The Danish Arts Foundation, are based on instrumental textures, which often tap and reinvent a series of sonic strategies from movie soundtracks, improvisational and chamber music by recurring changes of sonic density, emotional setting, playing speed, tonal scales and counterpoints, are not just based on conventional compositional techniques as they are mainly based on new findings in IT research, cognitive and ecological musicology that tend to assign a rather important role to space, single performers and audience in the compositional process within the definition of the so-called absolute music, closer to listener's perception and emotions and more distant from commercial or other functional formulas of music itself. Lars Graugaard experimental studies into the correlations between score notation, performance qualities and audio attributes with emotional recognization led him to the design of the software "Score Emotion", which manages to display a particular musical emotion's delimitation in score notation and symbolic performance instructions, which allows the composer to establish sequences of emotional significance and steer the composition on apath of real emotions. According to the brilliant and thourough explanation by Chilean composer Alejandro Guarello, "music is a sonic stimulus that primarily speaks to a listener's emotions, eliciting a response according to expectance and previous experience, in very much the same manner as any experience will move us. [...] What Lars graugaard seeks, and of which the compostions on this CD are examples, is to enhance the composer's options as a sculptor of sound by systematically incorporating empirical information on notational delimitations of emotion responses into his software, so that it in turn will allow him to safeguard the consistency of his compositionalideas and materials on the one hand, while at the other to hold it within the range of the present emotion and its proper transtion, as the musical proceedings unfolds.". The aim of the game could seem quite challenging, but check the result before stating that.

Coil: Backwards

 Posted by Andrea Piran (@)   Ambient / Electronica / Ethereal / Dub / Soundscapes / Abstract
Experimental / Avantgarde / Weird & Wired / Glitch / Noise / Field Recording
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Oct 27 2015
Artist: Coil
Title: Backwards
Format: CD
Label: Cold Spring (@)
Rated: *****
This release seems to be an element of controversy, and apparently a sort of bootleg, as it's an element of one of the most obscure period of Coil's existence. Apparently, from 1993 to 1999, the focus of this project was ELPH. With the issue, in 2007, of "The New Backwards" it emerged how Coil recorded a proper album, called "Backwards" which was unreleased. While the remixed version of this album was dubbed as it wasn't the missing link between the two eras, Danny Hide, who worked with Peter Christopherson on "The New Backwards", has remastered the original version of this release including some tracks, "Amber Rain" and "A Cold Cell", revealing the path that would lead to the concept of "moon music".
This album starts with "Intro" an intricate synth loop. "Backwards" reveals how not only the singing style of Jhonn Balance influenced bands as NIN, whose Nothing should release the album, but also the musical structure based on obsessive beats and noises. "Amber Rain" is instead a precursor of what will be developed as "moon music" as it's based on meditative synth and a lesser aggressive vocal lines. "Fire Of The Green Dragon" and "Be Careful What You Wish For" are almost instrumental tracks focused on rhythmic patterns. "Nature Is A Language" one of the few tracks where Balance's voice is filtered and "Heaven's Blade" is a return into territories explored in "Love's Secret Domain". The synth lines of "CopaCaballa" and "Paint Me As A Dead Soul" are only an accompaniment for the expressiveness of the voice. "AYOR (It's In My Blood)" is a variation of the structure of "Backwards". "A Cold Cell" is the absolute peak of the album based on a simple and atmospheric synth line and the sad and mystical vocal line, a superb introduction to the 'Music To Play In The Dark'. "Fire Of The Mind" closes this release mirroring the voice with the use of the noises.
From a critical perspective, there's only suppositions on the motives behind the decision to not release the original version of this album. However, as the missing link between two separate periods of Coil's artistic life, this release has an historical importance in itself and simply the presence of the presence of this version of "A Cold Cell" make it an essential release. Absolutely recommended.

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