Music Reviews

Matschulat: Cutting The Stone

 Posted by Levi Jacob Bailey (@)   Experimental / Avantgarde / Weird & Wired / Glitch / Noise / Field Recording
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Jun 13 2017
Artist: Matschulat
Title: Cutting The Stone
Format: Tape
Label: Rester Records
The opening piece, "Garden (of earthly delights)", delivers on the Bandcamp description's claim that the sounds are "permeated with anguish". Heavy, laborious pulses made of destroyed audio signals, pitched-down field recordings that amount to groaning sub-bass walls, and rushing bursts that sound like passing cars in an underground tunnel. The entire piece, actually, has a subterranean feel. Very fat, wet sounds, slapping against one another over and over again. Time-stretching samples to get that robotic grinding effect can be tiresome, but he has plenty going on all around it to justify its extended presence. The tape and signal destruction efforts become more pronounced towards the end of the piece, as things collapse into a bubbling, harsh outro.

The delay and pitch experimentation of "Walls" has tasty moments that work well with "Garden...", but the eastern, almost sitar-like effect of these chosen settings always tends to wear on me.

"Benches" opens with a damaged sample of a conversation between a woman and maybe one or more others. Can't make out too many words, but there are ambient traffic sounds, as well. Matschulat pushes and pulls the pitch and filter, mangles the signal, and continues in the album's vein of thick, wet, bass-drenched sounds.

"21" starts the second side of this cassette with dirty, low, clipped tones that sound a bit like cables without a grounded connection, or when they're pulled out and handled. The ghost of a sample in the background that drifts through could be a GPS bot or a woman introducing a museum exhibit. The Bandcamp description claims "piercing", but I'm really just worried about my woofers with this album. Almost everything is in the low end of the spectrum, and the harshest moments are at worst "crunchy". This isn't an insult. Piercing stuff wouldn't be able to hang out this long and still be listenable. This track, in particular, is like an industrial track via early Dilloway.

The title track offers more field recordings, peaking out, flapping in the wind, alternating between rushing-river mids and this album's staple flabby lows. The choppy aspects seem to be a combination of quick edits and signal loss. There's lots of destroyed tape sounds, and a high whining howl that gives way to more mid-rushes. A shout or a curse cuts the rush off abruptly, and again gives a glimpse of the finer editing details that were employed on this recording.

After a second listen, I definitely detect the "anguish" more than I did at first...there's a deliberate plodding to all of this. Very heavy, dragging tones drenched in sonic muck. The closing track "Claim Your Limbs" again tests the limits of my subwoofers, with eerie, layered high tones coloring the suppressed whale songs driving the piece. Closer listening reveals some very busy static-play, but it sort of has a Magic-Eye place in the mix. Squelching, barked tones climb a damaged scale until they are crumpled up into crusty atmosphere. Thumbs are firmly held down on the tape reels for these last minutes...barely escaping chunks of more damaged sounds, finally and suddenly giving up to total silence. As a whole, "Cutting The Stone" is a great example of heavy tape manipulation and signal destruction. Like I said, fans of certain Dilloway would not be disappointed.

Kasper T. Toeplitz & Anna Zaradny: Stacja Nigdy w Życiu

 Posted by Levi Jacob Bailey (@)   Experimental / Avantgarde / Weird & Wired / Glitch / Noise / Field Recording
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Jun 12 2017
Artist: Kasper T. Toeplitz & Anna Zaradny (@)
Title: Stacja Nigdy w Życiu
Format: LP
Label: aussenraum records (@)
Begins with Penderecki-esque hornet swarm cello sounds. Static begins to creep in, square-wave harsh hints that never overwhelm the mix. Maintains a solid, legit sense of dread. Midway through the first side, there are no jump scares, no jarring peaks. This is just a good, unsettling mood piece.

The didgeridoo was unexpected, but didn’t cause me to leave the experience. I respect its presence here as a reference to the darker edges of tribal existence, i.e., heads on sticks in a desert plain.

A choral drone rises behind whiplash, downed power-line freak-outs. This is the harshest the side has been, but, again, nothing that has me racing for the volume knob. It all has its place, it is all expertly mixed. The drone bed holds everything in place. The subtlety of everything is brilliant.

Holy shit, there we go. There is a sudden explosive sound like a piano being dropped on its lower end. Everything fades out. That actually scared me.

I hope I get to say things like this more often, but this is really all I ask for with music of this nature. There probably aren’t any breakthrough concepts here…electronic sound effects over dismal drones, EQ tricks, crossfaded textures…but it’s done absolutely right, and mixed with great care. This is a fine presentation. Without knowing anything about the artists involved, it’s obvious to me that they know what they’re doing.

Helicopter pulses. Densely layered stuff: the bed, noise washes, a sine tone, static prickles, synth droning… I’m looking forward to flipping the record. The first side ends with a sound of a distant storm, not to use a tired cliché for describing elements of noise. This legitimately sounds like a distant storm.

Second side begins with a piercing, high-frequency bed. Organ-like drone pulse. Bubbly, rapid synth LFO ray gun behind a curtain of static. I think I hear a sad sax. Yes, it’s sax. (This was a blind listen, and I later realized sax was indeed involved). Very slow and tasteful, Breathed into carefully. Feedback-like squalls a couple layers underneath. More high-frequency tones, lots of stereo gymnastics… I have to say again, though, everything firmly in place, maintaining tasteful subtlety.

Heavy sub tones approaching. Big bass pulse. Feedback squalls sounding more like guitar. I haven’t noticed the sax again, and I believe it’s just being expertly massaged into a nebulous presence in the mix.

Square, harshly digital synth squalls somehow easily finding their place amongst very warm textures. Some wah-type effect starting. Guitar or bass, and as it leaves the mix, I realize how thick things have become. Not quite a wall, but definitely a thick haze. Buzzing. Now some very harsh, peaking, clipping prickles far up front. Death siren drones right behind, and another sub-rumbling storm rolling in. I’m now comfortable with the idea that much of the background drone presence is sax.

Sub frequencies have gotten intense enough to rattle some things off a nearby shelf, but I’m still not interested in turning this very balanced material down. The possible sax drones morph into watery synth bubbling. Growling lows push signal limits near clipping-point. Once things start to strip down again, there is one low, growling synth pulse met slowly by another high-frequency whine. Glass tones around the edges as the lows leave, and an insect song that recalls the hornet swarm at the beginning accompanies a sustained mid bed, like a guitar left against an amp a few miles away. Fade out.

The credits reveal that this Switzerland duo used bass, saxophone, and computer on this recording, causing me to wonder if the didgeridoo was either the sax or a sample? Anyways, thank you Kasper and Anna for a fantastic listen. The Penderecki reference I made in the beginning of the review is deserved and apt. This is a fine descendant of his brilliance.

Stolen Light: Voices

 Posted by Marc Benner (@)   Industrial Noise / Power Noise / Harsh Noise
Experimental / Avantgarde / Weird & Wired / Glitch / Noise / Field Recording
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Jun 08 2017
Artist: Stolen Light (@)
Title: Voices
Format: MCD (Mini CD)
Label: Inner Demons
Rated: *****
I have been familiar with Brett Lunceford's work as Stolen Light and Goose since the 1990's when I became obsessed with collecting the entire Troniks catalog. I then also began to discover his label Zaftig research which seemed to cease regular activity in about 2003. The label did continue to release its Christmas compilation until 2008, after that the label went quiet as did the projects with the exception of a few releases here and there on labels like Phage Tapes and taalem.

At this point, we come to the year 2017 which seemed fairly hopeless with everything going on in the political landscape. Early in the year though Dan Fox who runs the label Inner Demons announces he will be releasing some new work from some projects who have been dormant for some time. Projects like Fox's own Loss, 15 Degrees Below Zero and Stolen Light were announced in the new release lineup and hope had been restored to the world.

Stolen Light takes advantage of "field" recordings whether it be from television or just being out in an environment where a lot of activity is going on. In previous releases, the sounds surrounding these recordings can either be very noisy or subtle ambiance. With "Voices", Brett has utilized an approach that is somewhere on both spectrums. The first track Paranoia sounds like what a social anxiety attack feels like with the voices being clear in the beginning and the static building as time goes on. The noise at the end does almost fully envelope the voices by but they can still be heard in the background with no clear definition of what is going on.

The second track Communication And Commerce leads in with a much more dense layer of people chattering and talking in a loud restaurant or bar. The added noise on top is much more subtle this time but it works very well with this track. It is difficult to get good recordings in a crowded space with lots of sounds but Brett somehow manages to pull it off and make it interesting to listen to at the same time.

This is a great return of an understated artist in the experimental noise scene. My only complaint is the release is too short but since the label only does releases in the 3" CDr format it makes perfect sense. I hope to see Brett return to more long-form releases and there has been a rumor of resurrecting Zaftig Research, even if only for the Christmas Compilations.

Emerald Suspension: Divination

 Posted by Steve Mecca   Experimental / Avantgarde / Weird & Wired / Glitch / Noise / Field Recording
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Jun 04 2017
Artist: Emerald Suspension (@)
Title: Divination
Format: CD
Label: self-released
Rated: *****
Emerald Suspension is an experimental electronic music project from Minneapolis, Minnesota and 'Divination' is their second release after 'Playing the Market,' an album based on patterns found in the stock market and other economic data. Haven't heard that one. Here though you will find a cornucopia of weird samples juxtaposed and interspersed with a sort of post-industrial musical melange, ala People Like Us (Vicki Bennett), Nurse With Wound, Coil, Einstürzende Neubauten, Jib Kidder, and other similar music artists of thus cut 'n' paste sample style. So touting this as something new and groundbreaking just isn't on the table. If you're comfortable with the adhan (Islamic call to prayer) in combination with struggling metal shopping carts, this could well be for you!

The first red flag though comes on the cover of Sonic Youth's "Mildred Pierce" (here titled "Mildred Pierce/Millard Fillmore") where not much changes from the original except for the "Mildred Pierce" sample (switched from male to female) and the noisy bits towards the end. Strange song to cover for a project like this. Elsewhere you'll find odd dialogue samples over big beat drum & bass loops, squinky electronics, ticking clocks, looped mechanical samples, bicycle bells, a Joplin rag, buzzing sounds, electronically manipulated voices, looped instrumental passages, PSAs and lots of other sonic effluvia.

While some might hail this as audio madness genius and hallucinatory psychedelic splendor, I'm not completely sold on it. There's just too much on 'Divination' that doesn't make any sense. It also makes me wonder just how much of the musicality is Emerald Suspension's and how much was pilfered (sorry, borrowed) from others. Granted, they do occasionally get into some interesting territory, such as the woozy electronic weirdness of "Krofftwerk [H.R. Pufnstuf]," but overall I wasn't duly impressed. For example on "Not Available" various samples of "This content is not available" and a female pop singer singing "I want to feel it," "Sweet sweet love, yeah, yeah yeaaaah" and "Keep on movin'" ride over a bass & drum rhythm section. How mundane. This is exactly the kind of crap that any yahoo with Audacity or similar audio programs can do easily with a bit of time and effort.

The bottom line is, if you like strange sound collages, you might find some interesting material on 'Divination'. Personally, I'd prefer something more substantial. At least they gave credit where credit was due in the liner notes.

Sudaria: The Syncretic Labyrinth

 Posted by Andrea Piran (@)   Experimental / Avantgarde / Weird & Wired / Glitch / Noise / Field Recording
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Jun 04 2017
Artist: Sudaria (@)
Title: The Syncretic Labyrinth
Format: Tape
Label: attenuation circuit (@)
Rated: *****
Sudaria is a Spanish project that could be seen as a crossroad between black metal and experimental music if this two categories weren't now a little too wide to be completely descriptive. The black metal influence is present in certain atmosphere and in the constant escape from the monolithic form with some deviation into meditative territories and in the bare palette of sound. The experimental influence is present in the absence of the song form while all track are almost free form or ambient ones.
The first track of this release, "Veils of the Syncretic Maya", sounds quietly with distant noises until a pulsating noise emerges and drawn distant notes of piano. "Broken Holograms" is a quiet soundscape which serves as an introduction to "Kapala", an almost industrial track based on a metallic rhythm with random insertion of distorted vocals. The guitar of "Malediction" reminds to certain path of metal where the sustained notes of the guitar are used to create a certain king of menacing atmosphere interrupted by "Ecstatic Somnambulism" where the electronic manipulation evolve in an almost complete silence acting as a bridge to "Beyond Fields of Transgenic Wires" based on quiet an almost dreamy drones while "Cremation" is closer to the Dark Ambient form. "The Pulse of Endlessness Sinking inside the Immortal Binary Clock" used the regular rhythm evoked by the title in a noisy form while "Ghastly Eaves" sounds as a rock track distantly recorded so it sounds as an electronic or abstract track.
Using some trick to loosen the thick noisy cage of some track and oscillating between noisy moments and quiet one, this release could be a nice pick for fans of industrial or experimental music. It's worth a listen.

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