Music Reviews



Manuella Blackburn: Formes Audibles

 Posted by Vito Camarretta (@)   Experimental / Avantgarde / Weird & Wired / Glitch / Noise / Field Recording
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Mar 12 2013
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Artist: Manuella Blackburn (@)
Title: Formes Audibles
Format: CD
Label: empreintes DIGITALes (@)
Rated: *****
A breath of fresh air over electroacoustic and acousmatic scene wafts from renowned Canadian label emprintes DIGITALes, which recently released the very first album by young English sound-artist Manuella Blackburn, whose remarkable curriculum isn't frankly the one you could expect from a newcomer: she completed her musical studies at the University of Manchester with a Master's Degree in Electroacoustic Composition with composer and director of Manchester Theatre in Sound (MANTIS) David Berezan and a Philosophiae Doctor with Ricardo Climent, her music has been performed all over the world (Brazil, Canada, Italy, Cuba, France, Germany, USA, Canada, Sweden, Portugal, Costa Rica, Japan, Mexico, Chile, Argentina and so on) at concerts, conferences, gallery exhibitions and festivals and won many international awards and prizes such as Grand Prize in the Digital Art Awards in Fujisawa, Japan, in 2007, two first prizes at Concurso Internacional de Composicao Electroacustica Musica Viva in Lisbon (Portugal) and many more. The feature which makes Manuella's sonic emissions so interesting is the bizarre blitzes of tonal music in the midst of electroacoustic lumps, particularly in the first two tracks of this album, "Vista Points", built on different interactions between electric guitar sounds and processed material, and "Switched On", which sounds focused on chimes, laminar flows, switches and mechanical devices, where bubbles of tonal music seem to emerge from the depths of deep ponds. Another distinguishing feature of her sonic organisational set-up is the alternation of moments of intense activity and breaks or temporary inactivity, so that it seems that dynamics follows an inner respiratory drive as if each sonic entity is somewhat alive. In addition to the above-mentioned recordings, this feature is clear in the following ones: the engaging automaton of "Japanese" sounds in "Karita Oto", the amazing flatware and kitchenware powered "Kitchen Alchemy", the following "Cajon!", which combines the timbre of the Cajon, a Peruvian percussion instrument, "palmas" claps (a clapping technique of flamenco) and other percussive material and the spellbinding gargles of microsounds and onsets of "Spectral Spaces".

Ghost Time: s/t

 Posted by Vito Camarretta (@)   Ambient / Electronica / Ethereal / Dub / Soundscapes / Abstract
Experimental / Avantgarde / Weird & Wired / Glitch / Noise / Field Recording
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Mar 11 2013
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Artist: Ghost Time (@)
Title: s/t
Format: CD
Label: Hinterzimmer Records (@)
Rated: *****
Listeners get immediately absorbed in an other-worldly magnetic field since the very first moments of the initial track "Pastly" by the widely reverberated and somewhat claustrophobic rasps, withering flurries and suffocated shrieks and the phantasmagorical listening experience keeps on draining away without any break over the lond-lasting four tracks as if it's a sort of sonic translation of an attempt to recover after the hallucinogenic fever dream caused by an alkaloid poisoned philter, which culminates in the frightening screams of the ghost of some harridan and the intoxicating fumigations of "Faint" and the oblong and almost unreal pocket trumpet on the final "Glimpse". This haunted declension of avantagarde-jazz and post-industrial research has almost become a cubbyhole, but this uncommon trio, made up of English pocket trumpeter Andy Knight and a couple of outstanding personalisties of the experimental scene, American renowned performative artists and noise percussionist Z'ev and Scottish jazz-fusion drummer and percussionist Ken Hyder, tried to fertilize this stylistical ground by bizarre instrumental parts, performative techniques and references to centuries-old traditions: all bass lines have been taken from the Ceol Mor, the ancient tradition of Scottish Pibroch, the so-called music of laments; Z'ev and Ken generates overtones by using alto, tenor and baritone rolmos, which are Tibetan ritual cymbals; the vocals combine elemnts of Canntaireachd, a vocalisation of bagpipe playing, and Khoomei, a Siberian and Mongolian traditional form of throat singing which Ken learnt when he was in Tuva, a Russian region in Southern Siberia. Beyond this musical "syncretism", another relevant aspect of Ghost Time is the fact it was entirely recorded live in one take, even if someone could think that its overtones could have been electronically modified.

VV.AA.: 2011/2012 Media Sampler

 Posted by eskaton   Experimental / Avantgarde / Weird & Wired / Glitch / Noise / Field Recording
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Mar 10 2013
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Artist: VV.AA.
Title: 2011/2012 Media Sampler
Format: CD
Label: Alrealon (@)
Rated: *****
Compilations can be difficult to review because they are such a mixed bag and a label sampler can be particularly daunting. So let's just walk through the album as it goes, shall we? FluiD kicks us off with some Muslimgauze inspired chanting and electronics. Not bad. PAS keeps the beat moving along with ethereal singing that would be at home on old Projekt records material. Kind of similar thematically to the point where you would not be surprised to find that this is not a compilation. JOHN 3:16 slows our roll a bit with a interesting melodic track with a slow plodding beat that gets more and more aggressive as it proceeds. Interesting stuff ' makes me interested to hear more, which is the whole point of these compilations. Philippe Petit & Friends keeps the dark cinematic feel going but this then shifts into violin with warbling electronics. A bit more complex and challenging than the first three, but not as smooth. Good though. Now we reach the obligatory phase of the compilation where we shift gears without a clutch. Black Saturn throws down a kind of rap with a heavy beat that just doesn't quite work in the context of the compilation. I know some of Black Saturn's other work, so I was kind of surprised at this track although I have to admit that the track kind of grows on you. X:Naviet brings it back to soundscape with some shimmering drone. Glacial shifts and dissonance. FluiD is back and keeping it dark. Once again we have the cinematic vibe. I'd be interested to check out more from this act. Philippe Petit comes in with a bit more noisy work, although still with a heavy bass drone presence. Not noise by any stretch, but compared to the previous tracks a bit more of an edge with a few percussive outbursts. ARU meets FluiD gets some beat and a bass line going, but not in the Middle Eastern sort of way of the first track. It's OK, but not as good as the previous tracks. PAS/HATI gives us an interesting track with a lot of rhythm, but not like a beat. It's like turning loose a bunch of children on a lot of toy percussion instruments in a store. There is a logic to it, but it has a whimsical feel to it. This is pretty cool. ARU meets FluiD is back again with a similar track. I think I like FluiD better on their own. JOHN 3:16 brings us the gospel in the form of a track that keeps building on itself until it seems that it will collapse under its own weight. Think guitar work along the lines of some Fear Falls Burning. Zilmrah brings back the rhythm, but it kind of gets repetitive, even though the underlying improvisation is cool. So who would I want to check out after hearing this compilation? FluiD and JOHN 3:16 would be my picks. This disc weighs in at around 64 minutes.

UN NU: Recoupements

 Posted by eskaton   Experimental / Avantgarde / Weird & Wired / Glitch / Noise / Field Recording
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Mar 10 2013
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Artist: UN NU (@)
Title: Recoupements
Format: CD
Label: Public Eyesore (@)
Rated: *****
I could find almost nothing on this duo other than that it consists of Pascal Battus on Guitar Pickups and Benjamin Duboc on Double Bass. According to his website, Battus co-invented Sound Massage, in which one sits close while he plays a set of objects, creating a mini-concert for the listener. No, it doesn't seem related to the new age practice of putting singing bowls on you at the beach, although I'm sure this may give him some ideas. For Duboc's part, his website states, 'Benjamin has a beautiful and big sound, you really feel the ground while hearing him... it's somethin'!' With this in mind, you may have a sense of what you're in for. This is pretty interesting experimental improvisation. It isn't really noise, but it is certainly noisy. The crackling and feedback work well with the double bass rumbles. At times it is amazing to think that all of this is coming from only two people, but for the most part this is pretty stripped down, making good use of quiet spaces and ambience. Duboc in particular seems skilled in getting the most out of his instrument, using it in seemingly unconventional ways (as if using just the guitar pickups were conventional in itself!). This album weighs in at 52:38.

Six Organs of Admittance / (r): Rowland S. Howard’s “Shivers”

 Posted by eskaton   Experimental / Avantgarde / Weird & Wired / Glitch / Noise / Field Recording
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Mar 10 2013
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Artist: Six Organs of Admittance / (r) (@)
Title: Rowland S. Howard’s “Shivers”
Format: 7"
Label: Tourette Records (@)
I had not heard the song that each of these acts covered, so I had to hit up YouTube for the original. Evidently Howard went on to join The Birthday Party. This was my introduction to Six Organs of Admittance and I'm still not sure what to make of it. It's almost like Laibach's vocals with a flamenco beat danced on a wood floor with some trumpet thrown in for good measure. (r) brings us a peaceful acoustic guitar and a lot of hiss, as if the needle on the turntable is messed up, but on closer examination, it seems that the record was a bit damaged from sticking to the plastic sleeve. I do, however, wonder if the labels on these records were correct, since the vocals for (r) sound a lot like the Little Annie & Fabrizio Modonese Palumbo album I reviewed in the same package and it features the trumpet not mentioned in the liner notes for Six Organs of Admittance. On red vinyl.


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