Music Reviews



Simon Balestrazzi: La Montana Sagrada

 Posted by Vito Camarretta (@)   Ambient / Electronica / Ethereal / Dub / Soundscapes / Abstract
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Nov 24 2012
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Artist: Simon Balestrazzi (@)
Title: La Montana Sagrada
Format: CD
Label: SantoS Productions (@)
Rated: *****
The crowning achievement of an astonishingly fertile year for the Italian sound-artist and former member of historical band T.A.C. Simon Balestrazzi comes as a dearly dedication to the most known mind behind Panic Movement, the Chilean-French film-maker, author and spiritual guru Alejandro Jodorowsky and particularly to his masterpiece The Holy Mountain, a surrealist "mystery play" about western esoteric background, which cannot be but perceived as a mystical and religious taunt by cultural guardians of the temples of official religions and ideologies. Without going into detail of "The Holy Mountain", who succeeded in shaking flattest cultural grounds, thanks to its good workmanship, which can be explained by the remarkable financial efforts it attracted (it seems it was financed by John Lennon who provided Jodo with one million dollars, even the final result wasn't widely distributed due to some disagreements with Allen Klein) as well, I think it's relevant the intellectual curiosity about the fact this release was initially close to find favor with Jodorowsky itself. According to Balestrazzi's words, his friend Alex Papa, owner of a small alternative bookshop in Bologna, had the possibility to meet Jodorowski with the purpose of submitting the attempt of rescoring The Holy Mountain by T.A.C. (under his own supervision) to him. Such an arduous collaboration, whose boldness is almost obvious if you consider it should compete with ritual music, composed by Jodorowski himself, and contributuons by Roland Frangipane and Don Cherry, was sinking into oblivion, due to some impediments, when Simon decided to take the project out of his drawer in order to get it into print through the small Italian label SantoS Productions. Thank goodness! Simon manages to evoke and stick to the mind-blowing visionary atmospheres of that movie as well as by some sonic hints to the original OST by an hallucinotary crescendo from the obscure starting track, "Opening Ritual" (you can try listeneing to it while watching that notorious sequence, which features his director playing the character of The Alchemist), to the final punching drones and the disquieting sonic setting of "Leopards Milk" by going through the oppressing sound on "Axon", the foreboding one on "Its Perfume Is My Blood", the occult alchemic soup of "In The Rainbow Room".

John Cage: Song Books

 Posted by Vito Camarretta (@)   Experimental / Avantgarde / Weird & Wired / Glitch / Noise / Field Recording
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Nov 22 2012
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Artist: John Cage
Title: Song Books
Format: 2 x CD (double CD)
Label: Sub Rosa (@)
Rated: *****
"To consider the Song Books as a work of art is nearly impossible. Who would dare? It resembles a brothel, doesn't it?". That was the amazing description John Cage himself made about "Song Books", a huge composition where he applied the principles of aleatory music to human voice. In the jungle of celebratory ventures and memorials related to the first centennial from Cage's birth - nearby my homeplace, there's one of the most interesting "memorial" connected to Time Zones festival just today and tomorrow, held in Bari, but there're a lot of releases, which celebrates this key-figure of music history... we recently introduced a very good one by Australian musician Lawrence English on this space -, this impressive reissue of his gargantuan opus, from SubRosa, which can brag about being the first label to have the merit of having collected and published the entire opus and not just parts of it, focuses on Cage's explorations of human voice is one of the best homage to this seminal American composer. It seems that Cage applied the above-mentioned aleatory principles since the beginning, as after the commission by Cathy Barberian and Simone Rist, he consulted the Chinese oracle book "I ching" to decide about the number of the songs to do before the close deadline (just three months). The divination system gave its responses: 56 and 34. That meant that Cage had to compose one solo a day. The final result was written on a 317-pages manuscript, which mainly included a set of performative instructions and guidelines, including those ones about the bizarre classification he adopted: the starting point was the choice of a theme and it seems that Cage took a casual line from his diaries ("We connect Satie with Thoreau"), so that any song which had references to Satie or Thoreau got labelled as "relevant", the other ones were "irrelevant"; moreover, each solo could be classified in further four categories (song, song using electronics, theatre and theatre using electronics), while the last variable cannot but be related to method (already used one, partial variation on previously used method or new one). Wisely performed by Lore Lixenberg, Gregory Rose and Robert Worby, this release includes 7 amazing mixes (randomly placed in the tracklist...) of shorter soloes. I reccomend to have a read about Cage's guidelines while listening as well as in compliance with his "compositional laws" just listen it...randomly!

Holy Hole: Plan Z

 Posted by Andrea Piran (@)   Ambient / Electronica / Ethereal / Dub / Soundscapes / Abstract
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Nov 21 2012
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Artist: Holy Hole (@)
Title: Plan Z
Format: Download Only (MP3 + Lossless)
Label: self-released
Rated: *****
This release is the debut ep from an italian duo whose music is guitar driven drone music. According to the press notes this is a young project born in Berlin aiming to develop a blend of psychedelic, math rock and drone music but the result is a carefully produced drone music with a meditative mood.
"Excerpt1" opens this release with a heavy guitar drone colored by a quiet tape loop until a voice line emerge from the darkness. "Excerpt2" is an intro to "excerpt3" a long track beginning quietly until a metallic beat and a guitar line begin to appear and slowly return to silence as the guitar take full control of development of the track. "Excerpt4" close this release with a subtle work of resonance.
Even is the result is relatively distant from the aiming of the artists, it's a solid work worthing a listen. Recommended for drone fans.

Harold Rubin & Alexander Frangenheim: Suite

 Posted by Vito Camarretta (@)   Experimental / Avantgarde / Weird & Wired / Glitch / Noise / Field Recording
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Nov 21 2012
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Artist: Harold Rubin & Alexander Frangenheim (@)
Title: Suite
Format: CD
Label: Creative Sources (@)
Rated: *****
This interesting musical encounter by clarinet player Harold Rubin and talented doublebass player Alexander Frangenheim (sometimes joined by Mark Smulian's electric bass), which has been arranged by Helma Schleif, one of the most active figure of Berlin cultural scene, just recently came out on Creative Sources, even if it was recorded at Digihippi Studio, Hod Hasharon (Israel) on June 2010. Besides the unconventional way of performing of both musicians and the audible influences from modal jazz and jewish music, the most amazing aspect of this release lies on dynamics: whenever it seems clarinet and double bass are having a dialogue, they manage to change register so that the first lines turn into controversy, bicker or excited musical storytelling. The bizarre hurly-burly within the specular melodic symmetry on "Twin Leaf", which looks like those sketches where comedians try to bamboozle their reflection on the mirror by sudden motions, the tumultuous pursuit on tonal scales on "Clear Run", the supposed hotchpotch of jingles on "Commercials (& Football Never Freedom)", the stumbling vacillations and the occasional wheezing on "Monkey Jam", the dragged alternation of melodies and countermelodies on the nice "Slow Trio", the crackling instrumental tally-ho on "Wood Knocks First" and all the other moments of this record sound like being a continuous preparation before their converence in the final long "Suite", when any lump in the throat of each instrument sounds like gradually resurface by means of rivulets of fragmented melodies.

Maarten Van Der Vleuten: Are You Worthy?

 Posted by Vito Camarretta (@)   Ambient / Electronica / Ethereal / Dub / Soundscapes / Abstract
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Nov 20 2012
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Artist: Maarten Van Der Vleuten (@)
Title: Are You Worthy?
Format: CD
Label: Tonefloat (@)
Rated: *****
There are three constant factors the industrious Dutch producer Maarten van der Vleuten cannot drop: acid house, a certain bend towards experimentation and (mainly Roland) drum machines. His "masked" superabundant musical production under a number of aliases, releases by glorious techno labels such as Apollo Records, Klang Elektronik, R&S sublabel Test Zone, Outrage Recordings, Djax-Up-Beats, Mighty Robot and ESP and partially reprised on his own imprint Signum Recordings, leant towards Detroit techno and acid house, but included many stylistical tricks and that interbreeding between kicking beats and sandpapered sounds which could be considered one of the possible forerunner of the so-called minimal techno (think about a crossbreed between 808 State and Carl Craig), while when he decided to sign his music by his real name, he moved towards a stronger stress on experimental factor, even though he doesn't abandon his primeval passion for house sounds through-and-through. It's not just a matter of bleaching and dosage, which could be explained by an artistic maturity, as he already signed a remarkable ambient-project called In-Existence in the first 90ies, but the interesting eclectism of "Are You Worthy?" supposedly lies on the intention of keeping on researching new sonic balances within the framework of known stylistical codes (a sort of self-awareness) and the crestfallen awareness that every fashion comes and goes, a kind of awareness which can be frequently experienced by contemporary artist due to the accelerated transience of vogue and the resulting feeling of "obsolescence" of the artist itself, as it seems to resurface from the occasional clues, such as the solipsistic odyssey of the lovely "Note To Self: Aye Aye, Bye Bye" (one of the most touching moment of the entire album) or the hazy post-industrial melancholy of "About Things Left Behind", coming after the initial title-track which sounds like a tuning of that above-mentioned "Self", its reawakening on an intriguing breeze of abstract tribalism for a painstaking examination, and before its temporary eruption on the hypnotic ambient-trance of "Shaped By The Sum Of Habits", which seems to be the peak of a temporary process of rejuvenation. The second part of the release unleashes sonic forces, which confutes and stops that process, but in a very immersive way: the murky speaking spectre (in close relation with the dwarf in a red suit and dress shirt from Twin Peaks?) and its inquiring warning on "Schau Hinein" and the inclement narrative voice of some poisoning super-ego on "Blutige Marie" precede the subtly fiendish drones and the haunting dilutions of "Distorted Soul, Awaken!" and the exhausted lullaby/atonement of 'Hold Me, Comfort Me, Embrace Me', which concludes this catchy inner musical journey.


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