Music Reviews



Kucharczyk: Best Fail Compilation

 Posted by Vito Camarretta (@)   Techno / Trance / Goa / Drum'n'Bass / Jungle / Tribal / Trip-Hop
Experimental / Avantgarde / Weird & Wired / Glitch / Noise / Field Recording
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May 17 2014
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Artist: Kucharczyk (@)
Title: Best Fail Compilation
Format: CD
Label: Monotype (@)
Rated: *****
It's not a contingency that Aleksandra Grunholz's artistic alter-ego We Will Fail is almost concurrent to this new release by whimsical Polish producer Wojtek Kucharczyk, where the word "fail" seems to have become a matter of fashion. In praise of failure, there are not only well-known historical occurances, where promises (or pipe dreams) of continual improvement and progress reveal their intrinsic inconsistency, but what really matters here is the way by which these two sound artists assimilated failure into respective arts. Whereas We Will Fail surgically operates on more mesmeric sonorities, which sounded like implemented into an interesting narrative route, Wojtek seems to disembowel techno code by a dual strategy: there are no more traces of that abstract muscularity that sometimes distinguishes the above-mentioned code, even when he explores more menacing sonorities, but it seems that he tests a different way of organizing sounds with unexpected "weighting" of each resounding elements, which often weaves frayed fabrics with twisted stitches or disharmonious spinning. Lo-fi or 8-bit sounds prevail over frigid smoothness, measured filth adulterates syncopations, which sound already altered, sonic entities, which should have been putted into the foreground, sound like belittled by rougher material and even easy-going whistling nicely mars a plasticized code by acting like a pin point that punches a supposedly inflated bodybuilder. Its stylistical "failure" could be thought as those bitter weeds that should not get uprooted, those moles that should not be removed or those black swans whose beauty lies in his blackness.

John Cage/Langham Research Centre: Early Electronic And Tape Music

 Posted by Vito Camarretta (@)   Experimental / Avantgarde / Weird & Wired / Glitch / Noise / Field Recording
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May 17 2014
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Artist: John Cage/Langham Research Centre (@)
Title: Early Electronic And Tape Music
Format: CD
Label: Sub Rosa (@)
Rated: *****
If some malicious funny chap hided the title of this release or blindfolded me in order to play a sort of guess-who game after listening some splits, I would have bet on the fact I was listening to some pseudy stuff from a Negativland fan. Have a listen to the opening "Fontana Mix (With Aria)", the humorous reconstruction/recombination of the graphic score that John Cage named after Miss Fontana, his Italian landlady when he was recording the tapes with technical assistence from Mario Zucchen at the Studio di Fonologia in Milan in 1959, and "Aria", the piece that Cage dedicated to American soprano Catherine Anahid Berberian, sounds like a random operatic work coming from the problematic tuning of a satellite receiver with clips of Russian and American ads and movies, barking dogs, coughing, sneezes and so on and you'll understand the reason of such a. In spite of the fact they used tracks from Cage's original tapes and befitting recording technology such as open-reel tape machines, Langham Research Centre, the amazing group by radio producers Felix Carey, Iain Chambers and Philip Tagney with composer Robert Warby, which reprises the forgotten traditional codes of classical electronic music by using vintage analogue devices and old-fashioned machinery that BBC dumped away, manages to make it look like something different from a nostalgic workout. A certain sense of subversive humour sounds clear over the following listening experiences: "Imaginary Landscape no.5", a mash-up for tape from fragment of 42 records, whose structures came from the notorious Chinese text and divinatory system I Ching, where there are seemingly no traces of jazz tracks as the notorious version by Ms Eldman by highlighting the meaning of Cage's experiment, i.e. the fact that there's no music and even no sound which could be considered motionally neutral; the original interpretation of the epigrammatic compositional instructions for "4'33'³ No. 2, 0'00", the one sentence score "'In a situation provided with maximum amplification (no feedback), perform a disciplined action'; the interferences and radio disturbances on "WBAI"; the wise choice of the small objects to be amplified, according Cage's instructions, for "Cartridge Music", as well as the almost otherworldly assembly for "Variations I".

We Will Fail: Verstörung

 Posted by Vito Camarretta (@)   Techno / Trance / Goa / Drum'n'Bass / Jungle / Tribal / Trip-Hop
Ambient / Electronica / Ethereal / Dub / Soundscapes / Abstract
Experimental / Avantgarde / Weird & Wired / Glitch / Noise / Field Recording
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May 15 2014
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Artist: We Will Fail (@)
Title: Verstörung
Format: CD
Label: Monotype (@)
Rated: *****
The surprising Polish label Monotype popped another gorgeous bundle of releases out lately. One of the most interesting one comes from graphic designer and audioperformance artists Aleksandra Grunholz, one half of duo Tirips and co-founder of the artistic group OKO, whose intent, according to her own words" was "to create something that doesn't leave the listener indifferent, something that affects him" and she reached her goal by acting almost like a scavenger inside the well-matched sound library that she collected over many years. She organized an impressive number of sonic synthetic material, field recordings and samples from old tapes into fourteen spellbinding tracks, where electromagnetic inductions seems to run parallel to hypnotic suggestion. The 4/4 sprays into a drone-like electric buzz on the opening track sounds let me think about an attempt to erase techno memories by means of those old electric machinery which were tested in some asylum as they were supposed to remove bad memories and trauma disorders, but following tracks are other than just another techno spin-off and sway over unpredictable rhythmical patterns, radio and noise interferences, mellow slow-techno movements, lulling mutant winding, industrial-wave nuances, multi-layered structures as well as a number of both stylistical and sonic clues which cross-refers to post-techno and some acts from grey interzones where electronic mongrels got displayed from pop-song casements. The explorative sonorities where you could have the impression of listening to gene mutation of previous stylistical code on "Verstorung" (German word for "disturbance", even if the English version of the title was "Gargoyles"...) sounds like mirroring the notorious novel by Austrian writer Thomas Bernhard, whose haunting writing styles narrates the dark peregrinations of a doctor and his son over the austere rural Austrian landscapes where they meet many grotesque and disheartening characters, who are almost like landmarks of an unusually cathartic journey.

Janek Schaefer: Lay-by Lullaby

 Posted by Vito Camarretta (@)   Ambient / Electronica / Ethereal / Dub / Soundscapes / Abstract
Experimental / Avantgarde / Weird & Wired / Glitch / Noise / Field Recording
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May 11 2014
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Artist: Janek Schaefer (@)
Title: Lay-by Lullaby
Format: CD
Label: 12k (@)
Rated: *****
J.G.Ballard's bounteous literature and visionary creativity have often been a source of inspiration for UK sound artist Janek Schaefer, who after 20 years of acknowledged activity and an impressive number of releases and sound installations for many labels and institutions signed his first release for Taylor Deupree's label at last. The nocturnal field recordings of "Lay-By Lullaby", which took place above M3 motorway, whose building and proximity to Ballard's house as well as to Schaefer's recording studio heavily influenced proper masterpieces about spiritually noxious effects of so-called progress and technology on human life by this sci-fi novelist. The ready-references of this album are the narrative setting of those novels where car culture and motorways had a meaningful and emblematic role such as "Crash!" and "Concrete Island", where Ballard splendidly shows sensorial and spatial cracks on some of the most typical badges of modernity by bringing characters out of that idea of chimerical order whose structure rests on pervading conceptions of organization, efficiency and urbanization, acting like addicting drugs on minds and souls. You could imagine Janek Schaefer in the guise of Robert Maitland, whose "accident" reactivates memories, feelings, thoughts and reveries that burst into consciousness over the hypnotical streaming aural code of a motorway where gusts of wind and barreling wheeled cells constantly weave a trapping web. The sonic strategy by which Janek renders such an abstract sequence of "enlightenments", which sound like unpredictable radio interferences, is simply stunning and deeply emotional and seems toi come from phantasmagorical entities which invite listeners to take a rest, come out of this suffocating stream and lapse into daydreaming in a whisper. "Lay-by Lullaby" is undoubtedly one of the best "environ/mental" ambient release of the year.

Deadburger Factory: la fisica della nuvole

 Posted by Steve Mecca   Experimental / Avantgarde / Weird & Wired / Glitch / Noise / Field Recording
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May 10 2014
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Artist: Deadburger Factory (@)
Title: la fisica della nuvole
Format: 3 x CD (triple CD)
Label: Snowdonia/Goodfellas (@)
Rated: *****
First I should say that I probably shouldn't have been the one to review this, not because I can't grok the music (most of it anyway) but because Italian is a language I have no proficiency in, and to fully appreciate this, it's likely essential. (I know we have some paisanos here at Chain D.L.K.; Marc, Mario, Vito.) Be that as it may, Deadburger Factory is actually Italian avant-rock band Deadburger, with some help from their friends on this triple-disc deluxe box set, hence the 'factory' added to the name, as a musical experimental laboratory of sorts. When I say deluxe, I definitely mean deluxe- a neat gray-lavender box with artwork by cartoonist Paul Bacilieri (also different works by him on the individual CDs), a 64 page booklet with lyrics (in Italian of course), color photos of the band, more Bacilieri artwork, and other odd and interesting stuff, plus a foldout mini-poster of Bacilieri's cartoon art from the three individual CDs assembled for continuity. This must have cost a fistful of Euros to put together, and having no idea what it retails for, nor how big a following the band has in Italy, I don't know if they'll ever recoup their investment, but for some, it's sure to become one of those 'must haves'. Even the one-sheet accompanying this is in Italian, so I had to go elsewhere (several elsewheres) searching for information to be able to convey to you, the potential listener.

The title ' 'la fisica della nuvole' translated means 'The Physics of Clouds'. Each of the three CDs also has its own title CD1- 'Puro Nylon 100%' (sort of self-explanatory); CD2- 'Microonde/Vibroplettri' (Microwave/Vibrating Plectrums); CD3- 'la fisica della nuvole' (The Phyics of Clouds'), all representing different aspects of this work. CD1 is easily the most diverse of the three. It combines elements of rock, classical, jazz, electronic, spoken word (most in Italian), avant-garde, downtempo trip hop, and probably a few I missed. Not all at the same time mind you, but sometimes. Comprised of 8 tracks composed by Vittorio Nistri, Allessandro Casini and Tony Vivona, there is a wide variety of moods, and sonics explored here, so it almost seems cinematic. One minute you're listening to a nifty distorted guitar riff (joined by violin, ala King Crimson) with heavy acoustic rock drums, the next, some gentle electronics and a string sextet, interrupted by some dissonant processed electronics. Some of the tracks on this CD are their own variations on Erik Satie's 'Socrates'. Although I found it a bit uneven, there were enough highlights to warrant multiple replays.

CD2- 'Microonde/Vibroplettri' is something completely different. The most experimental CD of the three, it is split between Vittorio Nisti's sonic microwave experiments (using a microwave oven as the primary sound source) and Alessandro Casini's vibrating plectrum experiments (using vibrating sex toys to motivate his guitar). Each of them has four tracks on this CD. First track, 'My Life Inside the Microwave' begins with some high frequency drones and not long turns into a squalling assault of noise. 'Strategy of the Rat' is an intriguing rhythmic piece; a bit of hypnotic electronica with a low voiced melody and an arrhythmic scraping sound. Noise surfaces as element as well, along with an occasional dinging bell. This is way cool! How all this was generated from a microwave, is beyond me, but the creativity here is simply astounding. 'Magnetron' is a short electronic piece employing reverse-attack technique (backwards samples) with other rapid little electronic rhythms, seeming transitional. 'Micronauta' is strange psychedelic ambience, just too hard to describe; quite multifaceted and intriguing. It ends with the dinging of a bell, quite possibly signifying the rat it the microwave'¦is done. 'The Dentist of Tangier' is an odd Middle Eastern flavored piece with a quirky rhythm and eccentric guitar. 'Heart of Rana' is a weird noise-rock piece that shows you just how bizarre things can get when sex toys are applied to the guitar. With dildo-neck slide guitar, this style of delta blues would have Elmore James turning over in his grave. Beefheart might dig it though. 'Dr. Quartermass, I Presume' features an undercurrent of quirky electronic rhythm with abstract noisy electric guitar on top. Concluding with 'Plowing the Fields of Glass', a repetitive guitar melody forms the pedal off which other guitar sounds (sustained low notes, tremolo, squealing sustained lead) play. It comes off as the least experimental and least rewarding track on this CD.

CD3- 'The Physics of Clouds' is yet again something completely different. This is where Deadburger comes together as a band, with a more cohesive sound, if such a thing is possible for them. At this time the band lineup should be introduced ' Simone Tilli ' trumpet, lead vocals (Simone is a guy by the way, think of him as Simon); Alessandro Casini ' guitar (acoustic guitar on this disc, although I swear some of it sounds electric); Carlo Sciannameo ' fretless bass; Giula Nuti- viola; Irene Orrigo ' flute, vocals; Pino Gulli ' drums; Massimo Giannini ' percussion, vocals; Vittorio Nistri ' keyboards, loops. There are a couple of other musicians involved, but let's not get carried away in the credits. This is supposed to be the 'organic' CD and for the most part it is, but electronics do creep into the sound processing, and electric bass and keyboards (unless you're strictly playing acoustic piano, which Nistri isn't) are electronic. Be that as it may, this CD has more of a band sound with continuity throughout. The opening track begins with spoken word (in Italian, of course) and melancholy strings with a little flute, clarinet and bass, followed by guitar and viola carrying the melody. It's a bit reminiscent of In The Nursery. A little rattling percussion then the band launches into a semi-psychedelic modal trip that reminds me of Gong, sans Daevid Allen's Flying Teapots and Pothead Pixies, perhaps with a touch of Jade Warrior.
Most all of the lyrics to the songs are actually sung (rather than spoken as on the first CD), once again in Italian, getting a bit closer to mainstream. 'Amber' is an exotic superb piece that could have gone for twice its length and I'd have been very happy. Jazzy, trippy, exotic, a wonderful blending of so many cool elements. The band rocks out on the next number ' 'Bruciando il Piccolo Padre' (By the Burning Little Father ?) with some very frenetic vocals by Tilli, and bodacious drumming by Pino Gulli. 'Cose Che Rompono' is a bouncy number and the closest thing to a traditional song so far. After the mostly placid 'Wormhole', the band heads off into Legendary Pink Dots territory with 'Il Mare E' Scomparso'. The downtempo 'Deposito 423' features some very rich musical interplay between all the musicians, and very memorable vocal line. I don't know exactly why, but this track made me think of Zappa. The finale, 'C'E' Ancora Vita Su Marte' ('There is Still Life on Mars') gives some of the lead vocal over to Giulia Sarno and it's nice to hear an upfront female voice for a change. The final few lines ' 'There is Still Life on Mars' are the only lyrics sung in English. Maybe if there had been more, I would had have liked it better, but overall, this CD was very enjoyable.

In conclusion, this is music for the adventurous, those seeking something beyond the boundaries of the conventional, and genres be damned. This boxed set is a very mixed bag; there were parts I didn't much care for, parts I absolutely loved, and also some that I merely though was okay. Europeans will probably dig this more than Americans in general, partly because of the language thing, and partly because Americans tend to get confused, disoriented, and disaffected when presented with so much diversity. But- if you think you really have eclectic tastes, you should give Deadburger Factory a shot. Your biggest challenge may be actually acquiring it.


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