Music Reviews

Fear Falls Burning: Disorder of Roots

 Posted by eskaton   Experimental / Avantgarde / Weird & Wired / Glitch / Noise / Field Recording
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Apr 10 2012
Artist: Fear Falls Burning (@)
Title: Disorder of Roots
Format: CD
Label: Tonefloat Records (@)
Rated: *****
Fear Falls Burning is the work of Dirk Serries, also known for his ambient project vidnaObmana. According to the label, Serries had decided to end Fear Falls Burning, but 'resurrected [it] for a concluding album statement . . . and a last salute.' I have previously reviewed one of the noisier releases from Fear Falls Burning ('I'm One Of Those Monsters Numb With Grace'), and although I quite enjoy noise, it didn't really work for me. This album, on the other hand, was wonderful. If this is what the future holds for his new Microphonics project, I need to check out where he's heading. In some ways this is a combination of the styles of both vidnaObmana and his other work as Fear Falls Burning. When I put it on, I was surprised at how much like vidnaObmana the opening track was. The guitar drone was present, but it was much more peaceful. The progression moves closer to the Fear Falls Burning end of the spectrum as we move through the album.
The final track, 'I Provoke Disorder,' includes yelled vocals buried in the mix of slowed down, dissonant guitar drone mixed with slow pummeling percussion. What keeps it interesting is the use of dynamics throughout, drawing the listener in through the use of calm, quiet passages. Overall, this is a slab of droning dissonant goodness that is well worth picking up. Evidently this also comes in a limited edition clear vinyl double 10 inch in gatefold sleeve, complete with a CD copy of the album (limited to 200 copies), and a CD in a deluxe mini album gatefold sleeve. I can't really speak much about this, because I just have a regular CD promo copy. This album weighs in at around 52 minutes.

Michael Vlatkovich Ensemblio: An Autobiography of a Pronoun

 Posted by Steve Mecca   Experimental / Avantgarde / Weird & Wired / Glitch / Noise / Field Recording
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Apr 10 2012
Artist: Michael Vlatkovich Ensemblio (@)
Title: An Autobiography of a Pronoun
Format: CD
Label: pfMENTUM (@)
Distributor: pfMENTUM
Rated: *****
The Michael Vlatkovich Ensemblio is an eleven piece orchestra with Vlatkovich at the helm on trombone, and is comprised of noted musicians Harry Scorzo (violin); Jeff Kaiser (trumpet); Brian Walsh (clarinet); Jonathan Golove (cello); William Roper (tuba, euphonium, cimbasso); Wayne Peet (keyboard); Anders Swanson (bass); Tom McNalley (guitar); Mark Burdon (percussion); and Ellington Peet (cymbal).

'An Autobiography of a Pronoun' is a rather peculiar work, but certainly one full of interesting and provocative ideas in the realm of fringe jazz. Opening track 'leg belly kill climb unaware pride' begins with a melancholy string duet by Scorzo and Golove and some incidental bellish percussion but soon morphs an uptempo jazzy Argentinean tango and salsa-mambo mashup. Melodically though it's almost anything but that- much more adventurous like Zappa's experimentation in his exploration of extended themes. Thereafter it's a fantasia of improvisation with Scorzo initially leading the way as other instruments riff off the trails he leaves in their wake. Nearly everyone gets in on the improv act and though it sometimes threatens to go off the edge, somehow it all manages to coalesce, even when it gets so far afield from the original motif. Zappa would mostly likely have written out all parts but the major solos; I doubt these guys had much of a score to work from except for the basic ideas.

Imagine a semi-drunken jazz ensemble from the 20's playing in a Parisian cafe for Dali, Breton, Artaud and Magritte and you may have some idea of what the next track, 'more grey than white, more old than young' sounds like. It's free jazz but out of another age. Swanson's busy bass solo at the end of the track sounds like he's not even of this world. The 'jmz' suite in the middle of the album has distinctly different sections. The first rather slow and somber and string-based. The second uptempo and jazzy led by horn at first with Peet's keyboard taking over for awhile and Burdon dancing all over the drums at first; more constrained as the piece progresses. It's a playful adventure that melts into its inevitable conclusion. The third section is mostly chordal ensemble playing between the horns sans percussion and bass, and I could easily see this piece being used as music for a seriocomic silent movie.

'little rubber arrow and elephant sandwich' may sound like a Captain Beefheat song title (maybe even Zappa) but in actuality it sounds like one of the most adventurous tangos I've ever heard. This is the tightest playing so far. Angular, halting meloies abound. 'explain again why I can't drive faster than the car in front of me' (great title!) begins in sort of a big band swing mode but soon transits into a bopish extravaganza, but never loses its cool. 'queen dynamo' features some incredibly tight playing and instrumental interplay even when it moves into free jazz terrain, yet ultimately never loses sight of its main theme. I love when it switches gears and temporarily moves into low down cool jazz. Sweet! Final piece 'memories hold my hand' with its melodic chordal horn ensemble is the most sentimental track on the album, a fitting downtempo close to this work. 'An Autobiography of a Pronoun' won't tickle everybody's fancy, and if you don't particularly care for jazz this recording is unlikely to sway your conviction. However, as a quirky and skillful merger of traditional jazz with free and avant-garde stylings, the Michael Vlatkovich Ensemblio has recorded a work that is both delightful and thought provoking with top-notch performances all around. You can't ask for much more than that.

ESMA (Eugenio Squarcia): the Lost Atoms

 Posted by Arnaldo Pontis (@)   Electronics / EBM / Electronica
Experimental / Avantgarde / Weird & Wired / Glitch / Noise / Field Recording
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Apr 09 2012
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Artist: ESMA (Eugenio Squarcia) (@)
Title: the Lost Atoms
Format: CDS (CD Single)
Label: La cantina appena sotto la vita (@)
Distributor: BandCamp website
Rated: *****
ESMA is Eugenio Squarcia, a young Italian musician of less than thirty years, who lives and works in the city of Ferrara. Despite his young age he has behind him a vast work of sonic production. More than 20 self-produced disks which many are digitally availables into his bandcamp's website online store.

This last work by ESMA, titled "the Lost Atoms", however is also the first of his records to have a physical form, as it is printed and distributed by a new Italian independent label with a real strange name: "la cantina appena sotto la vita" (in english: "the winery just below the waist"). A new label that looks carefully at various kind of borderline productions. The same label, for example, has produced the debut work of another interesting Italian group, the "Margaret Lee", who despite being far away from the electronic sounds with his record the "Ballad of Beelzebub" is just outside the schematism of many rockbands, not only italians.

This album follows, after only a month, another equally interesting work by ESMA. A mini concept album called "The Archive - Soundscape from the exhibition" that is also the soundtrack composed for an installation whit artworks of the visual artist Marie Josee Cornello. The previous work of ESMA, which I highly recommend, is a good example of best synthetic atmospheres for a dark ambient of minimal electronic, that certainly would not mind at Brian Eno's fans. Among them there is surely also our ESMA because, as he says, Eno is one of its main figures of inspiration and education into the way to a personal search for a new electronic sound.

If the previous album is the dark and concise side of ESMA, this work "the lost atoms" is perhaps its most practical, conceptual and cultured component. 13 tracks with a frequent presence of abstract piano melodies who appears, sometimes, really suffered. That in some places they also underline a poignant and growing to emphasize a crescendo for a construction of an ambient tissue, rhythmic and poetic. Many songs, as we see clearly that the presentation of his work gives us ESMA, which suggest a conceptual influence arising from the literary works of William Butler Yeats. Some tracks like "No place for love and dream at all" or "the Shell" are filled with a rarefied and esoteric mystical influence that becomes the instrument of a simple sound, a sound born dark and deep but able to assume a new form of sonic beauty for his death and rebirth. So you would expect to see sprout the down from behind the "obscured clouds". clouds obscured by the darkness of night, a new dawn full of gold. A Dawn of gold rises, from behind the clouds obscured by the darkness of the night.

Into one of best tracks of this work, the mellow "Xibalba", also the title become a prelude for an explicit reference to the poetic vision of an ajar door on the afterlife underworld. The same vision narrated by the myths of the Popol Vuh. In other passages, such as the beautiful "White Road" or "Approaching the pneumatic void" we find instead musical glitch sounds and new forms of sonic minimalism able to regain possession of the noise and the sound. The young son ESMA, in most passages of his electronic songs like these, we instinctively returns the weight of an idea. Perhaps the same idea that our founding fathers, as John Cage or Steve Reich, had around the breathing sound of music.

The ESMA's music is, for this reason, electronic music for the mind, which borders on research and experimentation that most cultured. But it is also the music of sound more alive within us all, that vibrates to the rhythm of the heart and breathing. A music to listen on headphones, at high volume, while it's raining outside.
A music to let us listen, rapt, the last void spaces of this time in which we live. A time walking, with us and beside us, "obscured by clouds" above a weeping piano

Anenome Tube: Death Over China

 Posted by J Simpson (@)   Ambient / Electronica / Ethereal / Dub / Soundscapes / Abstract
Experimental / Avantgarde / Weird & Wired / Glitch / Noise / Field Recording
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Apr 06 2012
Artist: Anenome Tube (@)
Title: Death Over China
Format: CD
Label: Topeth Prophet/Silken Tofu (@)
Rated: *****
Death Over China is the second part of "The Suicide Series by German noise artist Anemone Tube, where he is contemplating humanity's headlong rush into extinction. As he puts it in the press release, 'Death over China' is a retaliation of nature against humankind. In the same moment it is a dedication to our untamed curiosity for the essence of death and our (inherent in our collective action) secret death wish."

Death Over China is made up of primarily untreated field recordings made during a trip to Nanjing and Shanghai in 2007, with occasional bursts of fluorescent white noise and screeching feedback. Album opener "Black Death Rise" is the most raw and unedited sounding, painting a mental scenario of a street scene in Shangai: the lull of traffic, the play of children, a police whistle. The reedy whine of small engines. The sounds are expertly manipulated in space and time, panning from left to right and back again.

The stage is set, and Anemone Tube lures you into the psychogeography of these places, getting progressively more abstract as the album goes along. There seems to be a story unfolding, a point being made, and the ghostly atmosphere is constantly evolving, textures appearing out of nowhere, new sounds emerging, then disappearing into thin air, like the tiny bit of synth on "I Shall Ever Invoke." Keeps things moving along, keeps things interesting. With a good pair of headphones and some attention, Death Over China is as engrossing as a good movie or book, creating eccentric imagery between yr ears, layers of levels of meaning, that can be re-visited again and again.

With "The Announcement (Death Over China)," the moral of the story is revealed, where an older woman's voice proclaims, "I just want to kiss life. Where there's life there's hope," over and over, with a banshee wailing in the background, before being swallowed by the crushing miasma of "The Desecration From Within," the album's apex and crowning achievement. Rusted behemonth machinery, a warning siren, transgressive poetry from a tin can, it has a basement industrial feel to it, like it was summoned to be broadcast through beefy distorted PAs. Heavy as lead, and satisfyingly gritty. Anenome Tube is clearly not foreseeing an optimistic outcome to the Industrial Revolution in China, bleak and existential and doom laden. The overall effect is more hypnotic and ghost-like than violent, however, even the power electronics have a soothing quality to them; its like walking by the waterfront in the mist.

Death Over China is Anemone Tube's first solo release since 2001, and when you look at the classy smooth paper packaging, you really get the sense that this album is something special, that a great deal of time and care has been placed in putting this album together, it is clearly a labor of passion. As a piece de resistance, Death Over China was mastered by James Plotkin, so everything is in its right place, placed just so, and sounds totally great. In about 2 years time, this will be considered a rare and precious sound-art object, so get one while you can.

Simon Balestrazzi: The Sky Is Full Of Kites

 Posted by Vito Camarretta (@)   Ambient / Electronica / Ethereal / Dub / Soundscapes / Abstract
Experimental / Avantgarde / Weird & Wired / Glitch / Noise / Field Recording
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Apr 05 2012
Artist: Simon Balestrazzi (@)
Title: The Sky Is Full Of Kites
Format: CD
Label: Boring Machines (@)
Rated: *****
After I made the introductions of some of his collaborations and projects (Dream Weapon Ritual, Candor Chasma) on this space, I think you don't need further words about Simon Balestrazzi's eminent resume as well as about his talent in let sounds "speak", but it's the first time I present a record with the real name of this pioneer as signature. His third full length album seems to be focused on time as a subjective dimension and its paroxysms and not only for the mention of "The Persistence Of Memory", the notorious painting by Salvador Dali', whose famous melting pocket watches made it one of the most known emblems of Surrealism as time scansion sounds a leitmotiv during the listening of the three long-lasting tracks of this recording: "Under Pressure", the first one, could be associated to a sort of awakening, where the mechanical ring of a traditional wind-up spring-driven alarm clock rend the sonic space before it turns into a grandfather clock, foreshadowing the following immersion in daily life which drags the perceiver away from the perception of time by distorting it through its intricate web of sources of distraction, carefully portrayed by Simon till the moment when, more or less self-consciously, this sonic ego-narrator becomes itself a spring or a gear train of the gigantic engine of time. The above-mentioned "The Persistence Of Memory" could be considered a sort of hallucinatory journey inside that paint, where listener could even feel dial, spring or hands trickling on its skin while some sonic elements such as the elastic pulsation of burglar alarms, silent tolls, hyberbolic strindencies or the hypnotic noise which looks like grabbed during a nocturnal journey on a stream train amplify the voice of desires, fears or dreams while exploring that surreal landscape, before the immersive title-track where the listener will be surrounded by an entrancing thundering ocean of buzzes and feedback. Although "The Sky Is Full Of Kites" offers a very abstract and cerebral listening experience, the astonishing accuracy Simon used to mould sounds in a captivating way gives a certain concreteness to it. Each track has been associated to some black and grey paints by Daniele Serra, which could be considered as possible hazy interpretations of Rorschach diagrams by a contemporary man. Maybe you?

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