Music Reviews

Novi_sad: Neuroplanets

 Posted by Vito Camarretta (@)   Ambient / Electronica / Ethereal / Dub / Soundscapes / Abstract
Experimental / Avantgarde / Weird & Wired / Glitch / Noise / Field Recording
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Oct 23 2013
Artist: Novi_sad (@)
Title: Neuroplanets
Format: CD
Label: Sub Rosa (@)
Rated: *****
The elective correlation between music, science and mathematics has already been widely canonized and this match has been an almost protocol conceptual framework for a plenty of electronic musicians so that many listeners and reviewers could considered it as a sort of cubbyhole; "Neuroplanets", the new project by Thanasis Kaproulias aka Novi_sad released for Sub Rosa's New Series Framework collection, seems to go beyond a merely conceptualen closure by focusing on the modeling of sonic raw material, which got provided by master craftsmen of sound like Bj Nilsen, Daniel Menche, Francisco Lopez and Mika Vainio, on the basis of applied data and numerical analysis of researches in the fascinating fields of neuroscience and astronomy. The unavoidable accentuation of the mysterious charm of the four resulting soundscapes intersects the outer reaches of these fast-forwarding and somehow psychedelic branches of human knowledge: the repeated sounds which have been rendered from audio analysis of strange meteorological phenomena on other planets (wind, dust devils and tornadoes on Mars, ghostly planetary plasma waves from NASA, a whistle of ultra-cold liquid helium-3, changing volume relative to the North Pole and the Earth's rotation and decametric noise and radio storms on Jupiter) could let you imagine that what you're listening by means of your headphones is playing on some very distant places at the same time. The initial project should have "sonically" detected only these strange events, but Thanasis decided to augment his excellent work by implementing data from functional anatomy of schizophrenic patients with auditory hallucinations (!), patterns of music agnosia associated with middle cerebral artery infarcts, rightward and leftward bisection biases in spacial neglect and neuroimaging with bipolar disorder and children with serious emotional disturbances. Both the uncommon references and transposition and the quality of sonic artifacts by Novi_sad, which reaches the noisiest peaks on the entrancing tracks commissioned from Lopez and Vainio, deliver many shocking frissons on listener's imagination.

VV.AA.: Sonopsies

 Posted by Steve Mecca   Experimental / Avantgarde / Weird & Wired / Glitch / Noise / Field Recording
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Oct 22 2013
Artist: VV.AA. (@)
Title: Sonopsies
Format: CD
Label: Cameras Animales (@)
Rated: *****
I've been putting off this review like the last pea on a plate from a dinner that was just too filling. My lack of comprehension of it will become clearer as you read on. 'Sonopsies' is a compilation CD from the French publishing house Caméras Animales, specializing in avant-garde poets, spoken word and multi-media artists, and on this CD, avant garde electronics. The title - Sonopsies = sound autopsies. (A sonopsy is to sounds what an autopsy is to body.) This is a diverse collection of works utterly lacking in any continuity; more like a smorgasbord or tasting party over 16 tracks of unusual, exotic sonic foodstuffs. Unlike food or wine though, where you can appreciate foreign cuisine or beverage without understanding the language, it would be very helpful to have a comprehension of French to get the most out of it. Unfortunately, I don't, which puts me at a disadvantage, and as such, a good portion of my impressions will be cursory and visceral.

SÃomulçi' Gonn'¥c (pseudonym of Jme Gugginø, founder of Awkwardist Productions) opens 'Sonopsies' up with a piece utilizing scattered percussion, some sparse electronics and a computer generated voice reciting a nonsequitious poem in English called 'Cylindricals' but it still comes across as oblique. M. Savant Stifleson (another musical project of Jme Gugginø) offers 'Agglutina,' a chanted phrased in a language I'm unfamiliar with accompanied by trip-hopish percussion and cymbal tones. Kinda neat, more for its tribal sound than any comprehension of it. Méryl Marchetti's 'Impro 1' sounds like a manic story rant in French with chimey things in the background. I'm clueless about this one. R3PLYc4N (Mathias Richard - voice, harmonica, computer) incorporates light repetitive electronic sequenced phrases, breakdrums and other percussion, and barely there vocals to create a surreal dream-like ambience. It totters on the edge of sanity. Flatline Skyline is R. Scott and J. Kemp, and their contribution 'Be Good To Them Always' is trashy 80's, maybe what you'd get if you mixed The Cure and PIL. So far the most comprehensible track on the album, even if the tortured vocal in English is a bit wacked. ElFuego Fatuo is a French-Spanish poetic collective from Barcelona. Their 'Il paraît' incorporates ambient electronics and female spoken word (sometimes electronically processed) in French. I'm lost, for over 9 minutes. M. Savant Stifleson returns with 'epricooprio Prek,' a rhythmically quirky pop tune that sounds pretty cool, often using the title words in the vocal. Mushin offers 'Manifeste Mutantiste' ' female spoken word in French over a varied electro-acoustical soundscape. Would have been meaningful if I knew French, but the soundscape was interesting. Long track at over 10 ½ minutes.

Ichtyor Tides employs dual male/female spoken word (in French, of course) on 'loss/ANGLE\less' with Varèse style electronics and a subtle drone running though it which grows louder towards the end. M. Savant Stifleson returns again with 'bobbledred'd Nature's pre-grim rims, you've prissy inSeenshpí,' another peculiar electronic tune with female vocal that repeats the title over and over. Awkwardist (Jme Gugginø) warps electronics, loops, tapes, and who knows what else in 'jufamil N or N-O'. Forakte begins a western bluesy electric guitar improv intro before launching into an incomprehensible song with vocals somewhere between Beefheart and black metal with some squalling electronics in the background. Just painful. Sun Thief is the ritual drone and atmospheric project of Adam Wetterhan (from Columbus, Ohio) and offers a magnificent track titled 'Saturnalia (Lights Return)'. It begins as a cosmic soundscape and evolves into something more melodically musical with electronic organ leading the way over a percussion track. It's a rich pastiche of black light stoner music. Pass the bong please. Méryl Marchetti reprises with 'Impro 2' which is similar to 'Impro 1' although less manic and just spoken word this time. 'Any Elk' is yet another kooky electronic pop tune by M. Savant Stifleson, and of course, 'Any Elk' appears plenty of times in the lyrics. Last track is by Thierry Théolier who recites his diatribe (yes, of course in French) over a percussion loop laced with staticy and distorted noise elements.

Jme Gugginø seems to dominate the compilation purely on the amount of tracks, which in a way, turns out not to be a bad thing as they are some of the most inventive ones. Still, there is enough interesting material on 'Sonopsies' to make it a worthwhile purchase for those looking for something blatantly off the wall, mais si votre français est vraiment rouillées, you might want to opt for a Rosetta Stone program.

Toshimaru Nakamura + Ken Ikeda + Tomoyoshi Date: Green Heights

 Posted by Vito Camarretta (@)   Ambient / Electronica / Ethereal / Dub / Soundscapes / Abstract
Experimental / Avantgarde / Weird & Wired / Glitch / Noise / Field Recording
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Oct 19 2013
Artist: Toshimaru Nakamura + Ken Ikeda + Tomoyoshi Date
Title: Green Heights
Format: CD
Label: Baskaru (@)
Rated: *****
The title of this collection of five tunes from this trio of Japanese sonic experimenters derives from the location where they recorded them, the balcony on the 6th floor of a Japanese building in Tokyo where Brazilian-born Tomoyoshi Date, an ER doctor with a mania for field recordings and toy piano, which got poured into different interesting collaborative projects - he plays in Illuha with Corey Fuller (we've recently spoken about their amazing last album on Taylor Deupree's 12K), in Opitope with Chihei Hatakeyama and in Melodia with Federico Durand - lives. Date opened the door to a couple of friends - NY-based sound designer hooked on fusty synths and video artist Ken Ikeda, who besides some past releases on Touch and Spekk labels can boast of striking collaborations with David Lynch, Tadanoori Yooo and Mariko Mori, and Toshimaru Nakamura, inventive composer as well as one of the most appreciated improviser of that influential Japanese free-improv scene, known as Onkyokei, who plays a mixing console as if it were a musical instrument by means of a system he named "no-input mixing board" on the occasion -, provided some wine, sake and other social drinks in order to foster talkativeness and flair. The title itself could refer to the features of each track as green color is commonly considered hypnotical whereas the references to various Greek letters in the titles of each track could refer to brainwaves (alpha, theta, beta, gamma), which many lovers of recreational technology knew after the spreading of so-called brain machines. Each track seems to be built on bases of piercing pure tones, which bear and enevelop the textures of gently entancing melodies, the amazing electroacoustic jabs and the electronic novocaine they wisely inject so much as the most cacophonous ingredients of each soup sound somewhat soothing.

Mika Vainio & Joachim Nordwall: Monstrance

 Posted by Vito Camarretta (@)   Industrial Noise / Power Noise / Harsh Noise
Ambient / Electronica / Ethereal / Dub / Soundscapes / Abstract
Experimental / Avantgarde / Weird & Wired / Glitch / Noise / Field Recording
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Oct 16 2013
Artist: Mika Vainio & Joachim Nordwall (@)
Title: Monstrance
Format: CD
Label: Touch (@)
Rated: *****
Some fine-tuned hits on vibraphone and other metallic objects on the initial "Alloy Ceremony" precede the electromechanical heartbeat and the chafing wails on corrosive guitars of this brainchild by a guessed partnership between Finnish industrial prodigy Mika Vainio and Swedish noise artist (as well as iDEAL label owner) Joachim Nordwall, whose artistic partnership could be imagined as a proper alloy due to the theme of the release. The focus on metals from the sonic and compositional viewpoint rises to an epic, or I'd rather say sacred and religious, height as the title together with the general atmosphere of the record seems to suggest: monstrances are those elaborated and finely chiselled vessels that priests use to display relics or for the so-called transubstantiation and this sacramental analogy sounds clear if you carefully listen the detailed sonic sculptures by these Norse blacksmiths. This devotional ascension, which culminates on the final "In The Sheltering Sanctus Of Minerals", where Nordwall's Hammond organ ignites a sort of quasi-melodic catalepsy with no obtrusive noisy interferences or pleatings, unfolds by means of a series of drones, minimal electronic poaching, oxidised guitars, rasping acoustic sounds and metallic percussions, which chorally oscillates between the squeaky cacophonies of "midas In Reverse", the withering hammer blows of "Irkutsk" and the earsplitting magmatic casting of "Live At The Chrome Cathedral", whereas the tracks dedicated to two lanthanoids sounds like the real whimsies: in spite of the appearance of abrasive guitar blowing, the first one, "Praseodymium", could be thought as a sinuous sinter, while the bizarre sequence of plucks and crapes on "Promethium" lends a weird and somewhat theatrical guise to metals.

Erik Friedlander: Claws & Wings

 Posted by Sarah V   Experimental / Avantgarde / Weird & Wired / Glitch / Noise / Field Recording
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Oct 14 2013
Artist: Erik Friedlander
Title: Claws & Wings
Format: CD
Label: Skipstone Records
Rated: *****
It's really rare that I run into an album that has a strong emotional effect on me the first time I hear it - maybe once every couple of years. Often it's a case of hearing the right piece of music at the right time, but sometimes the music just plugs directly into my brain in some intangible way. Erik Friedlander's new release, "Claws & Wings," is one of those. I listened to it for the first time on a five-hour bus journey (surely not the perfect time to hear anything!) and I repeated it three times in a row before I could convince myself to switch to one of the other new albums I'd brought along for the ride.

There are few albums I own that convey the composer's message so precisely and so clearly - with just three instruments and some brief track titles, the listener is guided through forty-five minutes of beauty, loneliness, loss, warmth, worry, dreaminess, hope, and hesitation. The more I listen to it, the more I realize how much care and thought went into the recording. One of the things I love about it is the incredible amount of space - the emptiness between the notes somehow emphasizes the loneliness and loss inherent in the music. There are also a few outright gorgeous passages, rich and full, without that sense of emptiness - like the middle section of "Swim with Me" and "Cheek to Cheek." I also love "Frail as a Breeze," with its simultaneous delicacy and urgency. It's a recording that rewards repeated listens and close attention.

Mr. Friedlander plays his cello as evocatively as ever - alternating between using a bow and pizzicato techniques, sometimes layering both on top of each other. Accompanying him are Sylvie Courvoisier on piano (and occasionally spinet) and Ikue Mori on electronics. The piano and cello take turns providing both melody and atmosphere. The electronics add a dreamy, almost underwater feel at times - but occasionally they contribute a certain amount of noise or an unsettlingly "wrong" feeling when some imbalance or anxiety is needed in the piece. It's a perfect trio to perform this music with the right amount of delicacy and empathy.

Highly recommended listening for an introspective evening.

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