Music Reviews

Hybryds: Soundtrack for the Antwerp Zoo Aquarium

 Posted by Andrea Piran (@)   Ambient / Electronica / Ethereal / Dub / Soundscapes / Abstract
Experimental / Avantgarde / Weird & Wired / Glitch / Noise / Field Recording
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Apr 03 2012
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Artist: Hybryds
Title: Soundtrack for the Antwerp Zoo Aquarium
Format: CD
Label: Zoharum (@)
Rated: *****
This album is the reissue of a obscure classic album from this Belgium outfit, a duo formed by Sandy and Hermann (of Ah-Cama Sotz), constructed upon what is supposed to be field recordings of the underwater world. The project was set specifically for the 150th anniversary of the Antewerp Zoo Aquarium and, so, most of the recordings used sound of this particular place.
"Orca" open this album with an immersive ambient soundscape upon the chant of this fish while "In de koalijne schijndiepten" is filled with subtle sound transformation of a sample and the juxtaposition of various sound samples. "Het enigma der dolfijnen" sounds like a Resident's outtake and, just to be clear, this is a compliment. "In the wake of the great Sea-serpent" is based upon a long drone coloured with samples while "L'ivresse des grandes profondeurs" deals with a more evocative, and cinematic, soundscape. With "Archeozoicum" begins the final part of this release with a more ritualistic mood. "Into the ultrasonic dephts" is a dark, obscure track filled with field recordings and "Wailing for the wales" use even an usual instrument, a saxophone, to extend the musical palette used. "Coda by Ivo and Dolly" is followed by an hidden track, the longest of it all, that close this album with a sparse beat giving unity to a variety of musical setting (from the almost noisy beginning to the cinematic ending.
Instead of using the particular field recordings to develop an almost freak album, this album tries to create a musical discourse out of this sounds reveling a particular depth in the construction of truly evocative soundscape. Recommended to fans of truly experimental music.

Heroin In Tahiti: Death Surf LP

 Posted by Vito Camarretta (@)   Ambient / Electronica / Ethereal / Dub / Soundscapes / Abstract
Experimental / Avantgarde / Weird & Wired / Glitch / Noise / Field Recording
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Apr 02 2012
Artist: Heroin In Tahiti (@)
Title: Death Surf LP
Format: 12"
Label: Boring Machines (@)
Rated: *****
One of the most interesting release from Italian musical undergrowth, wisely gathered by Boring Machines, has been signed by Heroin In Tahiti, a project by Valerio Mattioli (one of the pen of renowned Italian music zine Blow Up as well as pulsing mind between noise band Thetlvmuth and DVD-r and VHS Rome-based label AAVV Videos) and Francesco De Figuereido (one leg together with Valerio Mannucci of Opium Child), sons of the so-called Borgata Boredom scene, an eccentric and very active group of musicians based in East Rome, whose lively cultural atmosphere, which got a certain visibility thanks to some notorious movie makers such as De Sica, Visconti or Pasolini, often related to folk daily life and its situations of social distress or intellectual alienation, facilitated digestion, revision and "italinization" of the most radical wing of American alternative-noise-indie-folk music due to its appropriateness with specific subjects. The uncommon adaptation of the so-called Exotica generation (if you know something about Les Baxter and other parsons of Tiki God, you'll easily understand what I'm speaking about), whose hints are broad in the stylistical references to Piero Umiliani as well as in the name Valerio and Francesco coined for their project, and the eccentric crossbreed between that cliched exoticism (totally stripped of its hedonistic nuances) and the typical "spaghetti western" sound is the main feature of Heroin In Tahiti's sound, so that they offer a synaesthetic listening experience where Mediterranean sultriness blurs with the stereotyped warmth evoked by a picture postcard from Polynesia, where grim cow-boys sip exotic cocktails after duelling amidst huge canyons of toxic waste, rusty car shells and burning tyres. Ho`olohe pono ("Listen carefully" translated from Hawaiaan to English!)!

Ensemble Pamplemousse: Raana Jedaku

 Posted by J Simpson (@)   Experimental / Avantgarde / Weird & Wired / Glitch / Noise / Field Recording
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Mar 28 2012
Artist: Ensemble Pamplemousse (@)
Title: Raana Jedaku
Format: CD
Label: Carrier Records (@)
Rated: *****
Ensemble Pamplemousse, a collective of composers and performers, are exploring the blasted landscape of 21st century landscape, that has been napalmed by the likes of Stockhausen, John Cage, Varese, Luigi Russolo; musical anarchists who introduced the concepts of randomness and improvisation, field recordings and tone generators to the acceptable palette available to the modern composer. On 'Raana Jedaku', EP are looking for new rules, new techniques, investigating unlikely combinations of sounds, instruments, and techniques.

The seven pieces of Raana Jedaku are split between two discs, the first being dedicated to symbiosis, the interplay and exchange between performers, sonics, experimental electronics, and the second disc given over to absurd limitations, but the two halves seem of a whole, not that dissimilar. What you can expect to find is classical instruments stretched and strained into unfamiliar dimensions, slurring gasping flutes, gasps, barbed-wire cello, detached electronic clicks & chirps.

With their intricate, flow-chart like musical scores and conceptually intriguing sound edits, Ensemble Pamplemousse are making some hyper-minimalism; moving parts, interlocking and precise, like some crystalline Swiss watch, they seem to be commenting on the hypertextual reality which surrounds us, becoming machine-like themselves. The problem with emulating machines, is that binary logic is by definition cold and devoid of feeling, it is clinical and analytical. 'Raana Jedaku' seems like a series of interesting algorithms, that has produced some curious sonic anomalies.

'Raana Jedaku' works best when they embrace the electronics and make them more of a part of the whole, like on 'Nest' with its skittering geiger-counter textures, or on 'Symbiosis II' with its insect larvae fluttering. I dig the interplay between the electronics and the classical instruments, and i feel like these tracks will appeal to the more adventurous noise-heads and neo-classical connoisseurs out there. The more straight-ahead classical material, like album opener 'On Structure II' are too cartoon-like and spastic of me, with their slide whistles and clip-clop woodblocks. Seeing as how their press release speaks of, "skitters of hyper action, and masses of absurdity into impeccable structures of unified beauty," it shows me that this is intentional, and i can be a bit serious for my own good.

The liner notes for this record, the way they describe their music and the theories behind it, have lured me in, made me want to pay closer attention, and has rewired my hearing a bit. This is not music to listen to in passing, it requires engagement, repeated investigations. It asks the listener to stop for a moment and consider, to think for yrself and draw yr own conclusions. A lot of the moments on 'Raana Jedaku's seven tracks are supremely interesting, i love to listen to different combinations of instruments and sounds, spread out through-out the stereo field. I would just like to see them reel it in, a bit, refine their approach, and make it more approachable, more heart-felt. Saying something.

The problem with modern classical music, and much of the current experimental avant-garde, is that they have jettisoned the whole of musical history, starting all over from scratch. But our nervous systems are wired to respond to pitch and rhythm and dynamics, and this machine music ends up sounding dead and unemotional. A sonic experiment, that yields some interesting result, like a generative synthesizer, or La Monte Young's Dream House, something that you walked in on, a chance encounter.

Ensemble Pamplemousse are clearly dedicated composers and performers, they've been playing together since 2002, and judging from the elaborate ribbon-tied packaging on 'Raana Jedaku' they clearly care about their craft. On top of this, the performances are dialed in and the recording is crystalline, meaning that if you are a person who attends the New Music series at yr local university or art gallery, than this may yield some auditory treasures, but for those looking for such pop sensibilities as melody, harmony, or rhythm, you won't find them here.

Bill Shute and Anthony Guerra : Subtraction

 Posted by Steve Mecca   Experimental / Avantgarde / Weird & Wired / Glitch / Noise / Field Recording
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Mar 26 2012
Artist: Bill Shute and Anthony Guerra (@)
Title: Subtraction
Format: CD
Label: Volcanic Tongue/Black Petal (@)
Distributor: Volcanic Tongue
Rated: *****
'Subtraction' is a CDr of poet Bill Shute reading some of his poetry accompanied by Anthony Guerra on guitar. Chances are real good you don't know who the heck Bill Shute is. Mr. Shute has been a rock music critic/writer from a good ways back, perhaps beginning with his DIY fanzine, 'Inner Mystque', and also wrote a column for Chris Stigliano's 'Black To Comm' underground punk fanzine, among other things. Shute is a Boston born, Colorado raised and currently Texas dwelling poet/publisher of some repute in the underground poetry scene. He's published numerous chapbooks of his poetry, has a hardcover book titled 'Twelve Gates To The City,' and runs Kendra Steiner Editions, a very small D.I.Y. publisher of contemporary poetry, based in San Antonio, Texas. (They also have a series of CDr releases of experimental music: drone-noise-ambient, electro-acoustic, free-jazz, higher-key psychedelia, etc.) Bill has collaborated with other musicians such as experimental ambient artist Derek Rogers with his poetry readings on CDr releases. Anthony Guerra is an Australian guitarist who has worked with Antipan, Green Blossoms, Vodka Sparrows, and other projects.

'Subtraction' was recorded in 2010 and 2011 and consists of six long poem tracks (well, one is rather brief). There is something intriguing about a poet reading his own poetry, something you can't get from reading the poems; just a sort of feeling. 'Marion, Texas' begins the session, and Shute's opening line imagery of this little Texas hamlet gives a good clue as what's in store ' 'Marion Texas'¦a train whistle'¦deep, textured, prolonged'¦.spreading and melting across the west side of Marion, Texas'¦like a cheap, yellow oleomargarine on burned day-old bread'¦' It only gets better (or worse for Marion) from there. Shute paints a melancholy picture of Texas suburban and rural life- economic destitution, social dissolution, and political disenfranchisement with the oberservational trappings of everyday life throughout these pieces. A surreal quality that can only be gleaned through the examination of the mundane.

For some reason Shute's reading reminds me of a skewed combination of Robert Ashley and Joe Frank. Shute's reading/vocal style is rather laid back and soothing but subtly expressive enough to convey the feeling, and that's what it's all about. Guerra's minimal guitar accompaniment with mostly minor key repetitive chordal phrases supports this throughout, and the only time is becomes a little off-kilter is on 'Kerrville, Texas' but it's not much of a digression.

All in all, I rather enjoyed this CD. I realize this may not be for everyone but we seem to get so few spoken word CDs submitted, and Bill Shute is definitely a modern American poet worthy of attention.

Federico Barabino: Can You Listen To the Silence Between the Notes?

 Posted by Steve Mecca   Experimental / Avantgarde / Weird & Wired / Glitch / Noise / Field Recording
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Mar 25 2012
Artist: Federico Barabino (@)
Title: Can You Listen To the Silence Between the Notes?
Format: CD
Label: Public Eyesore Records (Eh?) (@)
Distributor: Public Eyesore Records
I have never heard of Argentinian electro-acoustic improvisational musician Federico Barabino prior to receiving this CD to review, and he apparently has a slew of releases going back to 2004, obviously none of which I am familiar with. On 'Can You Listen To the Silence Between the Notes?' Barabino utilizes only electric guitar and no input mixer for one 33:49 minute long track. It begins with some sparse electric guitar improvisation ' a few languid jazz guitar chords and riffs, and then'¦silence..for a while. Eventually a sound emerges that had me believing my tinnitus was coming back. It is fairly subtle and sustained without pitch variation. Soft lazy guitar notes and chordal figures are played over this sporadically, but the guitar ceases after a while. The sustained tone intermittently cuts in and out like a broken patch cord. Later it develops into the noisy hum of a really bad connection. It ends with the noise subsiding and more gentle, sparse guitar improvisation.

Okay, I'm not getting this at all. This is either beyond me, or I'm beyond it. It is not something I can even rate. I don't throw in the towel very often, but I cannot see the point of this. This kind of avant-garde music can be intellectualized and analyzed to the nth degree, but I have to ask- Did I enjoy it? Did it make me think or feel something? Did I have any clue as to what the artist was trying to accomplish? The answer to all three questions is a resounding NO, and I'm not ashamed to admit it.

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