Music Reviews



Synoiz: Shock! Horror!

 Posted by Steve Mecca   Experimental / Avantgarde / Weird & Wired / Glitch / Noise / Field Recording
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Jan 17 2011
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Artist: Synoiz (@)
Title: Shock! Horror!
Format: CDS (CD Single)
Label: self-released
Rated: *****
One of the drawbacks as an independent music reviewer for Chain D.L.K. is that new CDs to review usually come in a lump-sum package, mostly when enough have accumulated at the Urselli address to ship, and often some time after their release date. So it is either feast or famine; no new releases to review, or LOTS of new releases to review. Like all Chain D.L.K. reviewers, I do this not for the money (because there isn't any!), but for the love of the music, and the opportunity to expound on it. The free CDs aren't a bad perk either for expanding my music library. As this isn't a J-O-B, my (free) reviewing time is limited to what I can accomplish in spare time when I'm not working making a living, which seems to consume most of my time. Fortunately, I have the ability to listen to new releases while I'm working, so at least there is time for the music to simmer in my psyche before I get down to writing about it. The reason for this little preamble has to do in some way with why this review is so far from the release date of October 25, 2010, interned as a Halloween promotion. Of course, there might be some Chain D.L.K. readers that believe every day is Halloween to some extent, and the timeliness hardly affects them. But this is not a 'Halloween CD' in spite of the October 31st promotion. This is one interesting little excursion in the realm of Dark Ambient.

The artist known as Synoiz is one Graeme Donaldson from Sunderland in the North East of England. Originally setting out to create his own brand of angst-ridden synthpop, Synoiz found himself much more involved in ambient soundtrack work. Synoiz cites game soundtrack composers Matt Uelmen (Diablo, Warcraft, Starcraft), Steve Henifin (Blood Omen: Legacy of Cain, Eternal Darkness: Sanity's Requiem) and Masami Ueda (Resident Evil 2 & 3) as some primary influences on what is done here, but since I don't play computer video games, I have little frame of reference in that regard. However, I DO know quite a bit about Dark Ambient music having an extensive collection of it, numerous reviews of Dark Ambient artists here at Chain D.L.K. to my credit, and have dabbled in the genre as a musician myself.

I'm not sure that 'Shock! Horror!' is an appropriately descriptive title for the music on this maxi-single CD. When I think of shock and horror, I tend to over over-the-top jarring, hair-raising or even gruesome images and possibly painful musical events. (Megaptera come to mind; so does Brighter Death Now, and a host of others.) This stuff is a lot more subtle than that. Macabre, unsettling, eerie, spooky all come to mind when listening to this Synoiz release. Although two of the tracks on this CD are remixes of the ('Shock! Horror') title track, they only bear a passing resemblance to each other with some elements. The title track kicks off the CD with a bit of a low drone tone, an unearthly processed ghostly voice, some extended low, murky piano notes and a repeating pattern of chalky, slightly abrasive pitched synth noise, and other vaguely spirit-like howling, as well as very subtle intermittent percussion that will emerge more prominently in subsequent tracks. Perhaps the most overt of all music on the CD, there is still a creepy subtlety to it that does not overwhelm, but does immediately immerse you in a nightmarish mood. Track 2, 'Indrid Cold' gives the impression of receiving radio transmissions from the dead, as it begins with radio frequency twiddlings giving way to unintelligible (processed) voices and other sonic effluvia. About a minute and a half into it, a pulsing bass is introduced along with minimal metallic tapping percussion. A deep processed string line is the only real melodic content here. Things warp, the metallic percussion turns into light hammering and before you know it, it's over. A curious piece.

Track 3, 'Shock! Horror' (Sinister Mix) begins with the sound of thunder and low moody strings before the ghostly moaning voice and the repeating pattern of chalky, slightly abrasive pitched synth noise are reintroduced. Other voices (a mournful woman crying, an unearthly bird, spirit moanings) appear and subtle percussion gives way to heavier, more defined ritualistic percussion for a while. It could have gone on longer and built up more suspense into some type of climax. Kind of like wine-tasting; when you find one you really like, you want the whole bottle, not just a sip. Last track, 'Shock! Horror' (Acoustic Edit) has a neoclassical aura about it with its string themes, piano rumblings and more spirit voices moaning in anguish. The percussion that was sparse and intermittent on the first track is given a little more play here. The overall effect is incidental soundtrack music for a very bleak film.

I found it interesting that each time I listened to the CD, it sounded a bit different. There are things you will pick up on subsequent listening after the first, and it is brief enough to dive right back in again to see what you missed. To me, this seems more of a sampler of what Synoiz is capable of, and hopefully a new full CD of this type of music might be forthcoming from Synoiz in the near future. If you go to Synoiz's website, you can get a free digital download of this music if you sign up for the newsletter. Synoiz is a project to watch as the music here is indicative of an artist to be reckoned with in the field of Dark Ambient.

PAS (Post Abortion Stress from the Viewpoint of the Fetus): Pure Energy Output Sessions

 Posted by eskaton   Experimental / Avantgarde / Weird & Wired / Glitch / Noise / Field Recording
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Jan 14 2011
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Artist: PAS (Post Abortion Stress from the Viewpoint of the Fetus) (@)
Title: Pure Energy Output Sessions
Format: CD
Label: self-released
Rated: *****
I had also reviewed a DVD that PAS sent along with this disc, but these two were my first exposure to the band. This is a weird mix of woodwinds, synths, treated guitar and other assorted weird sounds. That said, it all hangs together rather well. This is improvisation, not randomness. Several of the tracks are about a minute long with the shortest at 58 seconds and the longest weighing in at 7:05. With 17 tracks, there is a considerable amount of variety here making it hard to sum up in a review. Some of the comparisons I can come up with are Hafler Trio's 'Bang! An Open Letter,' or Zoviet France's 'Loh Land.' It's interesting, but not all of it is as engaging as it could be - I did not find it to have the 'pure energy' the title promised. For me, one of the standout tracks is 'Piano Music for Volcano Eruption,' which incorporates odd electronic sounds into a nice piano melody. Overall, if you are looking for some interesting improvisation that never completely disintegrates into noise, this might be one to check out.

PAS (Post Abortion Stress from the Viewpoint of the Fetus): Experimental Audio/Video Compositions Volume 1

 Posted by eskaton   Experimental / Avantgarde / Weird & Wired / Glitch / Noise / Field Recording
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Jan 14 2011
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Artist: PAS (Post Abortion Stress from the Viewpoint of the Fetus) (@)
Title: Experimental Audio/Video Compositions Volume 1
Format: DVD
Label: self-released
I must admit that this reminded me of my undergraduate days in video production. I videotaped everything and would create random compositions set to my own ambient/field recordings. Sometimes they made sense and sometimes they didn't. In this case, the music is pretty good, although the video itself is not. I watched the whole thing, but I have to admit that I began to lose interest about 10 minutes in. Among musicians there seems to be a deep seated need to create visuals for our music. Yet these videos almost never work out. If you want a particularly good example of this, check out Sam Rosenthal's (Black Tape for a Blue Girl) video compositions. If you want to have something similar in your own collection, go out with a group of your friends and videotape things (walking through a forest, stepping on eggs on a sidewalk, playing a miniature xylophone are some examples from this video) and add some overlays and effects for good measure and make your own video. Chain DLK: We watch it so you don't have to! 'Various Levels of Consciousness' has some good drawing though and it gets a bit better toward the end. On the other hand, the live videos are fine and they seem to put on a decent, if subdued live performance. So this is a mixed bag. It's always nice to see a live performance, but I would still suggest simply getting a copy of their album. However, if the other albums are out of print (it's hard to tell on the myspace page) this may be worth getting for some of the music.

Dead Voices On Air: From Afar All Spark and Glee

 Posted by eskaton   Experimental / Avantgarde / Weird & Wired / Glitch / Noise / Field Recording
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Jan 14 2011
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Artist: Dead Voices On Air (@)
Title: From Afar All Spark and Glee
Format: CD
Label: Lens Records (@)
Rated: *****
I had reviewed some of Mark Spybey's recent output with Beehatch for Chain DLK, but I had not listened to Dead Voices On Air for years now. Like any band, some artists come to the forefront at a given time and others recede. So when I got this disc in the mail, I took the opportunity to go back to some of their older works as a comparison. With that in mind, I like where DVOA is going. Where Hafted Maul is a more raw, experimental disc, this is, in contrast, unbelievably polished. In fact, where the older work was certainly at home on Invisible Records, sharing the space with such acts as Lab Report and Pounder, this album would actually be quite at home on Hypnos. There is a peaceful vibe running throughout with lush synth tracks and beautiful female vocals on the title track. According to the press release, this was complements of 'American-Serbian singer Ivana Salipur on the title track, a homage to the Serbian poet Desanka Maksimovic (1898-1993).' The swirling atmospheres are hypnotic and we still see a bit of the experimental vibe for which we know DVOA. Overall, this is an excellent addition to an already expansive catalogue. This disc weighs in at about 63 minutes.

Organum: Valentin

 Posted by eskaton   Experimental / Avantgarde / Weird & Wired / Glitch / Noise / Field Recording
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Jan 14 2011
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Artist: Organum
Title: Valentin
Format: 7"
Label: Equation Records (@)
Organum is the project of one David Jackman, who, according to his website has been releasing material for over 30 years. The first thing you notice with this album is that the packaging is fairly minimal, although there is a sheet of grey cardstock that has the word UNBEKANNTE emblazoned on it. I don't speak German, but Google tells me that it translates to stranger, unknown, or unknown quantity. Also, the album is HEAVY. You could hit someone with it. But you wouldn't want to because it's limited to 233 copies and you may not get another chance to get it. On to the music. According to the press release that came with the album, 'David Jackman (the force behind the project) wishes the audio to speak for itself so we will not attempt to describe the contents of this release.' Well, I'm a reviewer, and they sent it to me, so I will attempt to do so. Imagine a William Gibson novel in which he tells three stories at once in sequence. You can see them slowly moving toward each other until at the end it all makes sense. This record is kind of like that. Piano chords, crashing noise that sounds like a metal sculpture falling down, and a small chorus singing the same repetitive strain until it comes together with ambient hiss and incidental noises peppered throughout. The main issue I have is that side A and side B sound pretty much the same to me. Maybe the differences are too subtle for me to catch, but I didn't notice much difference. It's nice, but not quite worth the $11 for a few minutes of music.


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