Music Reviews

Alphaxone: Living in the Grayland

 Posted by Andrea Piran (@)   Ambient / Electronica / Ethereal / Dub / Soundscapes / Abstract
Experimental / Avantgarde / Weird & Wired / Glitch / Noise / Field Recording
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Jun 16 2014
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Artist: Alphaxone
Title: Living in the Grayland
Format: Download Only (MP3 + Lossless)
Label: Cryo Chamber
Rated: *****
This release is presented as a soundscape that flows "between the ancient and the futuristic and inspires for internal stories about the path of mankind". Musically speaking it's an almost classic album but it's constructed with an overall direction, so it's not a void research for an enchanting sound.
"Awakening" opens this release with layers of atmospheric synth depicting a sort of dawn while "Cold Spring" introduces the listener in a darker territory using lower frequencies that, while listening in an open space, allow natural sounds to enter into the music. "El shadows" starts as a continuation of the previous track and ends in the same mood of the opening track. "Darkscore" continues in the use of higher frequency and a broad sound spectrum while "Interface" returns to depict a more menacing sound constructed upon small noises upon a dark soundscape. The quiet drones of "Overwhelm" opens the second part of the album and features more evident field recordings. So "Into the Silence" seems almost constructed upon small field recordings of a cave (or so it sounds). Whit "Foresight" the drones start to enlighten and slowly develop in a canvas for the field recordings. As the title suggest "Melancoly" is a static track that acts as a prelude to the last track "Grayland" almost entirely constructed on a bunch of drones slowly developing as in a spiral that quietly ends.
This album features an unusual quality in this field: the drones, instead of creating a static mass of sound, depict a form of storytelling so it's really enjoyable and engaging. A really nice release.

Arnold Dreyblatt: Choice

 Posted by Vito Camarretta (@)   Experimental / Avantgarde / Weird & Wired / Glitch / Noise / Field Recording
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Jun 16 2014
Artist: Arnold Dreyblatt (@)
Title: Choice
Format: 12"
Label: Choose Records (@)
Rated: *****
Personally selected by Choose label boss Jorg Hiller aka Konrad Sprenger, who is also a mate of its author, and mastered by Rashad Becker, this anthology of ten tracks by Berlin-based composer and media artist Arnold Dreyblatt, one of the most influential musician of the so-called second wave of New York minimalism, whose personal approach to composition - mainly focused on mesmerizing harmonics and tuning of strings by means of unusual bowing techniques - made him distinguish from other notorious (real) classmates such La Monte Young, Alvin Lucier and Pauline Oliveros. The glue highly hypnotical elements of the first four tracks are hurdy gurdy, excited string bass and Peter Phillips' miniature princess piano, while other instruments got emphasized on the other amazing tracks such as the entrancing mellowness of cello, violin and trombone on the excerpt from "Flowchart", the most recent recording of this amazing collection, Jason Kahn's cimbalon and Pierre Berthet's percussions on the lively "Sideband", the frisky mood-enhancing twine of excited string bass, pipes, French horn, trombone and miniature princess piano on "The Odd Fellows", the Tibetan-like hits on Wolfgang Glum's snare-drum of "Surfacetones for solo snare drum", the awesome "organ" octet of "Organmusic for Sixteen Hands" (maybe the track which is closer to the contemporary idea of "experimental music") as well as Arnold's solo playing on excited string bass on the final "Brushtones", the oldest track (it was recorded at Fulton Street Studio, NY, in 1977) of this good "Choice". Most of the tracks feature elements from Dreyblatt's legendary The Orchestra Of Excited Strings, which can reasonably be considered an essential "biographical" element to understand the artistic path of this great composer. If you never heard anything about him before (what a shame!) and you like to understand his influence on contemporary music, I could recommend to have a listen to his masterpieces "Nodal Excitation" and "Animal Magnetism" after this well-done anthology as well.

Laurent Perrier: Plateforme #1

 Posted by Vito Camarretta (@)   Ambient / Electronica / Ethereal / Dub / Soundscapes / Abstract
Experimental / Avantgarde / Weird & Wired / Glitch / Noise / Field Recording
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Jun 15 2014
Artist: Laurent Perrier (@)
Title: Plateforme #1
Format: CD
Label: Baskaru (@)
Rated: *****
The ability of a chef consists in making some palatable course from any kind of available ingredient. You have just to change sensorial channel (auditory nerves and eardrums rather than taste buds) in order to have an idea of what renowned French electronic musician and collagist Laurent Perrier, the man behind one of my favourite French electronic acts Zonk't, made on this release, where the providers of aleatory units of these sonic recipes are the German outlandish electronic composer Felix Kubin, the esteemed Italian sound artist Gianluca "Kinetix" Becuzzi and the Australian media-artist and composer Lawrence English. Even if I can't say this kind of experiment where electronic composition sounds more like an assemblage of tiles of known origin is totally new, Laurent Perrier let leak the source so that I'm pretty sure that all those listeners who know involved seeders would easily match each track to them. The first track got fed by Felix Kubin, whose anarchical "concretist" outspurts are listenable in the sequence of pointy saturations, flickering gurgles and nervous abrasions by Laurent, which could be suitable as a possible soundtrack for a reprise of Lynch's "Inland Empire", while the second track sinks to the bottom of the trench, which got evoked by icy sonic depressurization and minimal opalescence by Gianluca Becuzzi, and the intriguing organic textures by Lawrence English on the third collage sound like getting pulverized and sprinkled over nebulous ellipsis.

Reinhold Friedl/Franck Vigroux : Tobel

 Posted by Vito Camarretta (@)   Industrial Noise / Power Noise / Harsh Noise
Experimental / Avantgarde / Weird & Wired / Glitch / Noise / Field Recording
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Jun 15 2014
Artist: Reinhold Friedl/Franck Vigroux
Title: Tobel
Format: CD
Label: Alamuse (@)
Rated: *****
Premiered at NK Berlin and at Anis Gras le lieu de l'autre and re-recorded in Luc Ferrari's studios La Muse en Circuit, National centre of musical creation, in Paris, "Tobel" is the first collaborative recording by German experimental pianist Reinhold Friedl, also known as Zeitkratzer, whose name appeared on our space on the occasion of another collaborative project, P.O.P, together with Denseland's bassist Hannes Strobl, and French avant-arde electronic musician and guitarist Franck Vigroux. They let meet their different sonic languages - Franck's eectronics and tape recorders and Reinhold's acoustic instrument and prepared piano techniques - in an imaginary ravine ("Tobel" is the French word for this small valleys caused by streamcutting erosion), which got rendered by sudden uproaring crashes, uneven electric gales and claps of thunder on almost thready ultrasonic drones, screaming metals and menacingly rasping undercurrents. Even if such a collision could sometimes five rise to stifling and harsh sonorities, "Tobel" is a really adventurous listening experience.

Anton Maskeliade: Subtract The Silence of Myself

 Posted by Edward Trethowan   Synth Pop / Electro Pop / Synth-Electronica
Experimental / Avantgarde / Weird & Wired / Glitch / Noise / Field Recording
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Jun 12 2014
Artist: Anton Maskeliade (@)
Title: Subtract The Silence of Myself
Format: Download Only (MP3 + Lossless)
Label: self-released
Distributor: Bandcamp
Behind the music of Anton Maskeliade (aka Moscow resident Anton Sergeev) is the technique of gesture control. Using a Leap Motion interface, Sergeev is able to augment the expressive musical possibilities of gesture and the body overall. The musical experience - whether the composer's, performer's, listener's - is an embodied, situated process. It is shaped by the body, its position in a place and time and its interwoven tapestry of senses; certainly not only that of hearing. "[As] if you only hear with the ear," scoffs Michel Chion (The Wire 325, 2011). "You hear with the whole body, after all." Just so do pianists, for instance, play with the whole body and not merely the limbs. Musical experience, like all experience, entails never just one sense but all of the body's senses combined and orientated in highly specific ways. For this reason, embodiment in music has become an increasingly important area of creative as well as academic study.

In this case, Sergeev's way of performing his music probably likens this embodied relationship most of all to that of the thereminist, in which the orientation of the body around particular physical surfaces is more spatially than directly defined, the instrument surface an impalpable three-dimensional magnetic field. However, unlike thereminists Sergeev must control rather more than just tones and volume levels with his arrangements. His music is busy and enlists a great deal of effects and samples. He is an active improvising performer and his live show, which incorporates motion-controlled visuals, is surely where the importance of his particular physical relationship with his music is most evident and appreciable. For in the absence of his present performance, and with only concrete, repeatable audio and the listener's own embodiment available, how well do the principles carry over into this album? Without detailed annotation, the answer is poorly if at all. On acoustic sources such as a singer's voice are tactile properties determined by the physical environment - the grain of information about the size, shape and temperature of the room, the psychological state of the singer and so on. The gesturing-as-control method supposedly central to Sergeev's music is unavailable to the listener from the other side of diverse digital applications - FX, filters etc. Unaided by visual or textual clues, it cannot be grasped in the same way. Because of this, its role in this album's nine songs could have been significant or non-existent; it's impossible to know with any certainty. Consequently, the importance of the technique is all but irrelevant.

With certainty, a listener can at least appraise Subtract The Silence of Myself on its own terms. The album largely takes the form of camp, electronic indie pop/folk. At times over-the-top and relentlessly twee, it seems to revel in tinkering and attention to detail but by and large, the songwriting is pretty insipid. Sergeev continuously tweaks the structures and processes of his tracks, resulting in a restlessness of texture more often encountered in IDM. This constant change gives his songs some added depth and variation and sets them superficially apart from most other music in the genre, which is a good thing. 'Circus', driven by a piano waltz reminiscent of traditional Eastern European folk, is definitely the most successful song. Firstly, it tones down the record's ungainly, harmless indie folk and gets on with a more concise, theatrical exuberance. Myriad sound sources come together satisfyingly and guest vocalists are seamlessly weaved in with Sergeev's own voice. Elsewhere his singing is often distractingly nasal, even flu-like on 'Crowd' and 'Rozhdenia'. Add the sugary delivery and it can all be too much. Throughout 'Circus' he assumes the same showy, overdone manner, but by managing it more carefully it melds with the other components instead of drawing attention away from them. He sounds more relaxed and less self-indulgent - two conditions that would greatly improve his songwriting in the long run.

In the exploration of embodiment and music, the Anton Maskeliade project is a creative use of contemporary technology. Misleadingly, Sergeev claims to be "... one of the first musicians in the world who makes music with gesture controlling" (SoundCloud, Bandcamp etc.); Leap Motion is a recent hardware but of course, plenty of musicians over the years have investigated music production and performance using gesture and spatial movement. Developed nearly a century ago, the theremin itself is an early example of a device designed for exactly this purpose. Nonetheless, Sergeev's contribution to this line of experimentation seems worthwhile; while lost in translation on his recorded output, ostensibly it will take a far more rewarding form in a live setting.

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