Music Reviews



Christoph Schiller/Lea Danzeisen: 47°13' N 7°E

 Posted by Vito Camarretta (@)   Experimental / Avantgarde / Weird & Wired / Glitch / Noise / Field Recording
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Dec 20 2012
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Artist: Christoph Schiller/Lea Danzeisen (@)
Title: 47°13' N 7°E
Format: CD
Label: Creative Sources (@)
Rated: *****
Another uncommon sonic wringer from Portuguese label Creative Sources has been signed by a couple of Switzerland-based (as you could easily surmise from the geographical coordinate, which point to a place the district of Franches-Montagnes in the canton of Jura in Switzerland, they used to name this release) musicians, Lea Danzeisen and Christoph Schiller, who decided to squeeze the spinet, the little brother of harpsichord and piano, whose sound got totally transfigured by meticulous modifications on strings, jacks, dampers and plectrums. Given that they marked their collaborative work by highlighting the place it was supposedly assembled and recorded, you could imagine them as a couple of clocksmiths while grappling with a ginormous broken clock, whose resounding coil springs, bellows, rollers, wheels and screws become parts of a huge orchestra over the two long-lasting tracks of the album with moments when their seemingly perfect mechanism suddenly busts. It's quite amazing to imagine their sonic reactions after their nerve-racking assemblage got harmstringed by this unexpected crashes as well.

Bleak House: Dark Poetry

 Posted by Vito Camarretta (@)   Experimental / Avantgarde / Weird & Wired / Glitch / Noise / Field Recording
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Dec 20 2012
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Artist: Bleak House (@)
Title: Dark Poetry
Format: CD
Label: Creative Sources (@)
Rated: *****
This is certainly not the first attempt of rendering a narrative or thespian declension of the so-called musical indeterminacy, but the intrinsic heterogeneity, the wise literal references and the bizarre orchestrating techniques, which have been showed on "Dark Poetry" by this trio of Norwegian musicians made up of pianist Dag-Filip Roaldsnes, alto-saxophonist Kim-Erik Pedersen and drummer Tore T.Sandbakken, makes it one of the most interesting attempt, which tries to follow such a direction along with many quotations and references. After the introduction of the three ideal narrating voices on "Entrances", they seems to offer a potential sonci translation of the notorious novel "Bleak house" by Charles Dickens on the homonymous track, whose constant creaks, tottering and groggy sonic structures and wobbly melodies manages to evoke the cutthroat and sadly realistic plot of the novel, which has still been considered one of the best indictment against law, lawyers, red tapes and nitpicking aspects of many civil jurisdictions, a shadow play for the filthiest side of human nature. The intense low-key broken melodies on "Short letter, long farewell" and their tacit sketchiness seem to evoke another moment of that novel. I mentioned Dickes' novel, but their sonic exploration could be perfect to set to music many other bleak houses from other arts: I could remind the house described by Shirley Jackson on "The Haunting of Hill House" or the imagined houses where characters portrayed by Schiele could live into. Their music sometimes sound deliberately a sort of mirroring of impossible geometries, weird-looking corners, crooked rooms, cramped cells, even when they seek for similar structures in the organic world ("Tweak peak", "Jakla"), within sonic ("So low", "Graph", "Etude I", "Etude II") and literary ("For sale: Baby shoes, never worn", quotation of the known flash fiction by Hemingway). The dedication to Morton Feldman's "Trio" on "Trio for Morton Feldman" cannot be but dutiful to one possible source for inspiration of "Dark Poetry", even if an attentive listening could remind techniques and sketches from John Cage, or Henry Cowell.

Synapsis: Officina Ferraria Reworked

 Posted by Andrea Piran (@)   Experimental / Avantgarde / Weird & Wired / Glitch / Noise / Field Recording
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Dec 18 2012
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Artist: Synapsis
Title: Officina Ferraria Reworked
Format: CD
Label: Zoharum (@)
Rated: *****
his release is a compilation of remixes from the first album of this polish band that, according to the linear notes, stand "firmly in the industrial stylistics with hints of dark ambient and noise" but is not the band to be reviewed but his remixers.
Starting with the dark ambient oriented remix made by Wolfram of "Illuminacja W CiÄgarni" and ending with the quiet almost lowercase Tomasz Krakowiak's treatment of "Sill Weave" the card played by this kind of release is variety and, so, there's remixers that emphasize the industrial aspect as GEttNER's remix of "Opór Materii" or the noise one as VilgoÄ's remix of "Pater Noster" or, even, the field recordings aspect as the remix operated by Tyko Ching.
In my opinion this is an enjoyable release but this kind of release are material for djs rather than objects for fans as they suffer the lack of an unifying tract for all the tracks. Nice but, musically speaking, only for collectors.

Sarth: The Book of Sarth

 Posted by Marc Urselli   Electronics / EBM / Electronica
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Dec 18 2012
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Artist: Sarth (@)
Title: The Book of Sarth
Format: Download Only (MP3 only)
Label: The Gralbum Collective
Distributor: Apple iTunes
Rated: *****
Brooklyn-based electronic musician/composer/improviser Sarth Calhoun a.k.a. Sarth has spent the last few months working on what at first sight looks like just any other iPhone/iPad app but actually has a lot more to it than that: it's a book, it's a story, it's an illustration, it's an album, it's a graphical album (hence the name "The Gralbum Collective")... and it might even, potentially, be a new way of distributing music all together!

The book is an easy 10-15 minute read of one-liners distributed across 8 short chaptes. It tells the tale of two children who find a device that generates transmissions which create mass hallucinations that the government wants to suppress. The story flows easily and is well augmented by the visuals. I have to say I am not sure I liked the ending though, which felt a bit inconclusive and open-ended (unless of course Sarth is setting it up for a sequel).

Graphic novels and comics are not my strong suit so I won't be commenting much on the visuals but I can tell you that there are several styles interacting to tell this story, almost as if it they came from different pens. You start with the Pixar-style cartoon type images with soft colors and round edges (think Toy Story) and you get to the more stylized, straight-lined and vectorial asian-inspired comics that in the app get filled with colors in stages and get various other photoshop-filter treatments. Reality then shifts once again and takes the shape of black and white pictures that have been treated to look like drawings. Then the black and white gets slowly colored in and eventually, by the Epilogue, you have pixellated, vectorized and almost art deco new modernist minimalistic paintings. The cool thing about all of this is that you can interact with these images by tapping, zooming, swiping and thus re-ordering the 80+ page animated novel with your touch.

Musically speaking, "The Book of Sarth" is an interesting album of experimental electronic music which draws from a number of inspirations... At times it sounds like Clock DVA, at times like Brian Eno, at times it reminded me of some '80s avantgarde electronica and kraut. The album is instrumental for the most part, but there are several tunes where vocals are pretty front and center... Sarth has a beautiful voice, especially when he does spoken word stuff in the lower register, and my only criticism is that having spoken word parts on top of music that is playing while you are reading a book that is also a graphic novel can be a bit distracting... Inevitably, when the words of the songs came in, my mind started listening to those and forgetting the words my eyes were reading... Unless Sarth is trying to create some kind of state of confusion on purpose, or unless the words in the music are supposed to somehow interact with the words on the screen (which, if they were, wasn't clear to me), I would have opted for some entirely instrumental music to go with this kind of release.

Design wise the app doesn't feel as polished as it could be (at least not when it comes to controls, buttons, scrolling etc)... As much as I am a fan of small text, I have to say I felt the text is a bit hard to read, especially when the unfortunate choice of colors makes it even harder (think light green font on light yellow background... seriously!?!?!). A black Sans-serif font instead of a colored Serif font would have way easier on the eyes, or even increasing the font size a little bit would help on the iPhone version (it almost feels like the app was programmed on/for iPad and then just downsized for the iPhone).
In my opinion, navigating the app is not very intuitive and could be re-designed a bit better, with function in mind. The good thing is that you can navigate the images and the story separately from the music. The bad thing is that if you want to listen to the music again after having read the book (which I found myself wanting to do) there is no way to do that with the app running in the background (if you quit the app or switch to another app, or even if you lock your screen, the music stops). Also the stop/play/skip/rewind button on my headphones (which by the way is highly recommend you wear to enjoy "The Book of Sarth") as well as on the Apple earbuds doesn't work with this app, which is a pity. Allegedly it's possible to download/extract the tracks from the app into iTunes so that you can listen to them while doing something else, however it is not sufficiently clear how that is supposed to be done and that too should be made more obvious/functional. Other than that the app works pretty well and except for one crash while swiping quickly to skip ahead it's been stable for me.

Aside from the fact that the title sounds a bit pompous and pretentious, I think calling it "The Book of Sarth" is almost a bit misleading, since I'd argue that it is more of an album and/or a graphical novel than it is a book. What I think is the most impressive and admirable part of this whole thing is that by delivering his music and his ideas in this way, Sarth has handed us (the general public) and the music industry at large an exciting and potentially lucrative new way of distributing words, music and images. With the music industry in a deep state of crisis, the publishing industry in an even deeper financial black hole and the creative industry always looking for new ways of being creative and deploying and distributing creativity on a large scale, the Gralbum could really be an amazing and entirely new way for artists to make a living. We've seen some isolated instances of artists releasing apps that contain their music or their videos, but the Gralbum, could be a platform for everyone to release albums with liner notes, lyrics, cover art work and so much more!! The Gralbum could be the album of the 22nd century! As a hardcore music fan who is deeply concerned for the future of music and unhappy with the current state of things, that is truly very exciting to me! My hat goes off to Sarth for having come up with this brilliant idea!

At $7.99 it might be seen as expensive when compared to the rest of the apps in the Apple ecosystem, but the price is right when you consider that you spend at least $9.99 for a new album from the iTunes store, which will be just music and no graphic content.

I give it 4 stars because I think the implementation deserves 3 stars, the content deserves 4 stars and the vision behind this entire project deserves 5 stars!

Ubik: Circadian Rhythm, Sleep Disorder

 Posted by Andrea Piran (@)   Experimental / Avantgarde / Weird & Wired / Glitch / Noise / Field Recording
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Dec 11 2012
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Artist: Ubik (@)
Title: Circadian Rhythm, Sleep Disorder
Format: CD
Label: FARMACIA901 (@)
Rated: *****
This new release from Farmacia901 is, according to the press release, dedicated to "sleeping disorders. ['¦] Insomnia is the most common among the most known and clinically studied disorders. ['¦] It consists in awakening only with the mind, while for some time the body remains asleep". Musically speaking this is resolved with heavily processed guitar aiming to reach almost ethereal atmospheres.
The longest track "Irregular Sleep Wake (Tryptophan)" opens this release in a quiet way until the guitar take the scene with his delay above a glitchy beat. "Delayed Sleep Phase (Melatonin)" use sparse notes and carefully chosen effects while "Periodic Limb Movement Disorder (Light Therapy)" uses, instead, reverbs and resonances to depict the dreamy atmosphere of this album. "Hypnic Jerk (Zeitgeber)" is based on almost irregular rhythms while "Suprachiamastic Nucleus (Barbiturates)" is a drone acting as a canvas for the guitar to color. "Sleep Paralysis (Amitriptyline)" feature an hypnotic guitar loop below the small noises and the guitar notes. "Bruxism (Biofeedback) close this release in a fully restructured mode as guitar and effects are in a fully dialectical mode.
Instead of being a mere window dressing, the linear notes are a way to enter into the complex musical offer of this artist. In my opinion, this is one of the albums of the year. Recommanded.

p.s.: all the track are denoted with this scheme: Disorder (name of the therapy)


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