Music Reviews



Steve Reich / Ensemble Avantgarde: Four Organs / Phase Patterns / Pendulum Music

 Posted by Vito Camarretta (@)   Ambient / Electronica / Ethereal / Dub / Soundscapes / Abstract
Experimental / Avantgarde / Weird & Wired / Glitch / Noise / Field Recording
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May 04 2015
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Artist: Steve Reich / Ensemble Avantgarde
Title: Four Organs / Phase Patterns / Pendulum Music
Format: 12"
Label: Karlrecords (@)
Rated: *****
A must-have for all the lovers of Steve Reich and minimalism came from critically acclaimed Ensemble Avantgarde, the Leipzig-based ensemble that got founded by pianist Steffen Schleiermacher in 1989, when it reinterpreted some early compositions by one of the key figures of contemporary music in a stunningly vibrant way. The first recording got released by Mainz-based imprint of Dr.Werner Goldschmidt in 1999, but it's nowhere to be found, so that Karlrecords decided to re-release a version ona smaller scale which doesn't include "Piano Phase" and the third version of "Pendulum Music". The first pressing in late December got soon sold-out, but some copies of the second pressing should be available yet. The first two versions of "Pendulum Music", a process piece whose only set benchmarks were three or more swinging microphones which had to oscillate above a set of speakers in order to generate phasing feedback tones, are maybe affected by the shorter length of playing time (below five minutes), so that their abstract lags could sound a little bit obsessive, but the longest reworks of "Phase Patterns" (a piece for four electric organs that got masterfully interpreted by Josef Christof, Klaus Steffes-Holländer, Michael Obst and Steffen Schleiermacher himself) and "Four Organs", where Stefan Stopora plays the part for maracas (serving as a sort of metronome!), are significantly more hypnotical by means of exciting tonal whorls.

Radian + Howe Gelb: Radian Verses Howe Gelb

 Posted by Vito Camarretta (@)   Ambient / Electronica / Ethereal / Dub / Soundscapes / Abstract
Experimental / Avantgarde / Weird & Wired / Glitch / Noise / Field Recording
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May 04 2015
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Artist: Radian + Howe Gelb (@)
Title: Radian Verses Howe Gelb
Format: CD
Label: Radian Releases (@)
Rated: *****
The nice Texan songwriter and globetrotter Howe Gelb, guest star of this new release by Viennese trio Radian, incontravertibly stated that this collaboration is mainly "a Radian album", where he "is only living on it", according to the words of one of the forerunners of the so-called desert rock - a brilliant fusion between alternative rock and country - within Giant Sand, but the creative soul of the trio that transpires and pulsates more is the one by Martin Brandlmayr, as his knack for the reshaping of typical songwriting is the main aspect of this musical meeting. The compositional process sounds described by the opening "Saturated" and its follow-up/reprise "Saturated Beyond", where it's even clearer the way Radian smear electronic on bass and drums, while the sensation that Howe Gelb acts more like an explorer within Radian sonic freaks becomes vivid on the following "I'm Going In" - the aesthatic acme of this album according to my ear response -, when his voice sounds like coming from an an astronaut before wearing extra vehicular activity spacesuits and waving in the dusty cosmic clouds where he lets some enchanting guitar and lovely piano chords float into the void. The following "From Birth To Mortician" could be re-labelled "how to strangle psych-song and letting it breath by means of noisy interferences", while the crying baby on the dirge-like sad piano theme of the following "...And Back" sounds like the rendering of the mood where the childish creative wit meets crooning, which knows a sort of enlighted reincarnation by Howe Gelb, who can easily indulge such an awesome moulting as well as the reptile-like mutation that follows, on "The Constant Pitch And Sway". The funny reprise of "Piacacho peak", a song by Howe from "The Coincidentalist", and the "McEntire--ian" reprise "Pitch and Sway" precede another beautiful moment of the album, an amazing transfiguration of "Moon River" by Henry Mancini And Johnny Mercer (do you remember Breakfast at Tiffany's?), when Radian finally turned their laptops off.

Emiliano Romanelli: 333 Loops (Volume 1)

 Posted by eskaton   Experimental / Avantgarde / Weird & Wired / Glitch / Noise / Field Recording
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May 02 2015
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Artist: Emiliano Romanelli (@)
Title: 333 Loops (Volume 1)
Format: CD
Label: Terziruolo Editions (@)
'333 Loops' is one of those recordings that sounds interesting in theory. This was recorded live as part of the Within 01 festival in Italy. According to the press sheet, Romanelli created a system 'composed by an archive of 333 pre-recorded sound loops . . . by a sound synthesis software played in different acoustic environments, and documented mainly with internal microphones of several digital and analog portable recorders. Subsequently, by a custom software (2 loop players, 2 EQs, 4 delays, 1 digital room reverb, 4 LFOs), the loops are used as modules in a random process of juxtapositions (A//B) and multiplications (333²), able to generate live 110889 sound events to be diffused in the room via a multichannel sound system.' I can get down with adding some chaos to music (putting the experimental back into experimental music), so I was interested to see how this would play out. However, it sounds about like what you would expect: constant, repetitive loops. It was not difficult listening, but it was incredibly repetitive and the shifts in sound moved at a glacial pace. If you like really heavy drone, this may be up your alley. I'll admit that this was not really my cup of tea. This album weighs in at 35 minutes and is limited to 200 copies.

Selectone: Dead Grooves

 Posted by eskaton   Experimental / Avantgarde / Weird & Wired / Glitch / Noise / Field Recording
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May 02 2015
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Artist: Selectone (@)
Title: Dead Grooves
Format: CD
Label: Ressonus (@)
Rated: *****
Selectone is the work of David Rambousek, who hails from the Czech Republic. I was unfamiliar with his work, but the promo sheet explains that 'the project's distinctively intuitive approach to minimalism gives birth to hypnotic compositions, mostly built from sonic elements gnawed away by the ravages of time. With the clarity of a retired turntable needle riding the grooves clogged with dust, Selectone carries you away as if passing an atmospheric storm in a haze of altered consciousness.' Sounds interesting, so let's get to the music.

'Automaton' kicks it off with a what sounds like a crackling record with a looping, repetitive melody. Only about 4 minutes in does it change slightly, but remains repetitive and simply changes the loop. At this point I was a bit worried that I would be listening to 5 minutes of one bar loops for the entire album, so I was somewhat relieved when 'Solaris' began with a spoken word intro that shifts into a nice grooving rhythm and peaceful, if repetitive melody. As one may expect, there is a lot of repetition here, but it stays engaging - much more interesting than the first track. 'Overture For The Rain' is another repetitive track, but noisier than the first. I enjoyed the jangling sounds, heartbeat-like bass, and segments of down-shifted spoken word that kept it engaging. 'Amor Fati' is probably the standout track for me, with slow drone and ominous atmosphere that slowly begins to sound like you're listening to a distant fireworks display in a moving subway car during gale force winds. Well done. 'Dead Swan' gives us peaceful vocals (in English) courtesy of Miriam Ingram over a repetitive piano loop. Finally, 'Positive Einstellung' gives us pulsing, repetitive looping, stripped down percussion, and female (different from last track) and male spoken word (in what seems to be German) over a soundscape right out of a toy store.

Any time an artist uses loops there is an inherent risk that it will be boring. Thankfully, Selectone mostly avoids this fate. This album weighs in at around 35 minutes and is limited to 50 copies.

Northumbria: Helluland

 Posted by Andrea Piran (@)   Experimental / Avantgarde / Weird & Wired / Glitch / Noise / Field Recording
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Apr 26 2015
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Artist: Northumbria
Title: Helluland
Format: CD
Label: Cryo Chamber (@)
Rated: *****
Northumbria is a Canadian duo offering a musical output based on guitar drones and this album is inspired, according to the linear notes, by 'the Norse discovery of Baffin Island in Canada' that was called Helludand: 'the land of flat stone'. The result is a form of ambient metal of some charm.
'Because I am Flawed I Forgive You' quietly starts this release with gentle resonances of guitar while ending with sharper notes that are developed in 'Still Waters' while 'Sacred Ground' develops the resonance enveloping the listener. 'Maelstrom' further develops this resonance in a proper guitar drone. As it focused on the highest pitch of the guitar, "A Door Made of Light I' sounds as it was created with synth as 'A Door Made of Light II' expands this sound treatment, even when the guitar note are barely audible in the background. 'Song for Freyja' follows this path acting as an introduction to 'Catch a Falling Knife I' where the notes and the resonances are juxtaposed forming an evoking blend. 'Helluland' is a long and meditative track while 'Catch a Falling Knife II' closes this release as a natural prosecution of this track so this last three tracks sound like a single tune in three movements.
Apart for his musical qualities, this release could be enjoyed by a variegated spectrum of listeners and is a project that could release something really remarkable in the near future. Almost amazing.


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