Music Reviews

VV.AA.: XVI reflections on classical music

 Posted by Andrea Ferraris (@)   Experimental / Avantgarde / Weird & Wired / Glitch / Noise / Field Recording
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Sep 17 2009
Artist: VV.AA.
Title: XVI reflections on classical music
Format: CD
Label: Decca / UNiversal
As some of you probably know, usually I’m not the greatest fan of samplers but every once in a while I’ve the indisputable luck to review some collections I couldn’t but describe by using the word "outstanding". Me Raabestein from Nonine has sent us this fresh masterpiece that testifies both the fact Rabenstein (featured here with Slowcream and in the role of compiler of the tracklist) is slowly climbing the ranking of post-contemporary music and at the same time it proofs a cd full of big names doesn’t necessarily mean: "second rate quality songs from A-class composers". Hell knows how listenable and relaxing is this sampler and you have a bunch of really well-known artists like Philip Glass to Gavin Bryars, from Sylvain Chaveau to Akira Rebeldais. I will intentionally avoid to speak about some specific song, what makes this cd incredibly good besides the fact the one hundred percent of the songs are beautiful, is the fact Rabenstein has put together a smart playlist and as you know the tracklist represents the keystone of the vault in a sampler more than in the full length of a single author. The title is quite explicit, this cd brings forth the central reflection on the evidence that "classic music", above all "modern classic music" (whatever it means),is changing, and yes, you can take for granted the presence of compositions with beat plus strings a la Murcof or piano and electronics a la Alva Noto and Sakamoto. What I find really interesting about this brand new collection of "second millennium classic music" is the fact not everything is that predictable, you have many non-electronic compositions, a track with vocals (Slowcream) and the only evident "fil rouge" is neatness. Don’t expect it to be such an experimental compilation, this’ "just" a refined collection of enchanting tracks.

Shadowdream: Part of the Infinity

 Posted by Vito Camarretta (@)   Ambient / Electronica / Ethereal / Dub / Soundscapes / Abstract
Experimental / Avantgarde / Weird & Wired / Glitch / Noise / Field Recording
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Sep 16 2009
Artist: Shadowdream (@)
Title: Part of the Infinity
Format: CD
Label: Nordsturm (@)
Rated: *****
It seems the sixth act of the whimsical ambient project Shadowdream by the eclectic black metal Serbian (from Novi Sad) musician Rastko Peri�ic aka Nocturnal has been composed during restless sessions of astronomical observations even if someone could imagine that it could derives from the musical reports of OOBEs during which Rastko's astral body wandered around the Solar System with a tape recorder to grab frequencies from objects that conventional space observers could just observe from cheap telescopes! I've to admit that when I saw the cover artwork I thought it was another psychedelic/goa/trance project and I also acknowledge my mistake when I listened to the very first seconds of the record which let me think about a contemptible restyling of Origami Galaktica-like diluted stuff... It's better not to be too simpleton as well particularly when you could easily get astonished by the accuracy of Rastko in dissecting microtonal pulses wisely interwoven with sounds (bodily bass hyper-tones, synthetic whiffs, seraphic choruses and hypnotic church organ's tonal webs as well as that mood which seems to be pervaded with deep sorrow and melancholy whirling inside every touchy moment of the record) which seems to be snuffed from necromantic black candles of the darkest side of black metal, a transition which you could imagine if you've already heard something coming from subterranean similar projects such as Vinterriket or Blut Aus Nord, but what makes this album different from the ones signed by the above-mentioned artists stands in some tricky compositional elements getting Part Of The Infinity very close to soundtracks and classical music, a sort of contemporary postlude (or arguably a nocturnal emission... ) you could listen after you watch the cosmic dances of planets and stars embellishing the darkness of a nocturnal sky. Some tracks are so impressive that you could even feel yourself enshrouded by sound; among them I've found really impressive tracks such as Planetary Rings of Saturn, Unknown Cycles of Venus and... well... I think you could agree with me that dark ambient anthems like A Trip Trough The Neptune Clouds could taste like laudanum... How many times in your lifetime could you say you've felt a Part of the Infinity?!?!? From the conceptual viewpoint, Shadowdream's last chapter (whose essence in Rastko's words could be summarized by the following adagio coined by Norman Douglas: "The sublimity of wisdom is to do those things living, which are desired when dying... ") seems to make a tribute not only to one of the most fascinating scientific branch (astronomy) but also to its historical father, the Italian astronomer Galileo Galilei, one of the luminous mind of all times, and this dedication turns Part of the Infinity into the right record at the right time as 2009 - as most of you know '“ is the International Year of Astronomy.

Roberto Rodriguez: The First Basket

 Posted by eskaton   Experimental / Avantgarde / Weird & Wired / Glitch / Noise / Field Recording
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Sep 16 2009
Artist: Roberto Rodriguez (@)
Title: The First Basket
Format: CD
Label: Tzadik (@)
Rated: *****
OK, first off, I was a bit thrown off when I saw the name of the composer and the fact that it was part of the Radical Jewish Culture series. According to the label, this album is "Charming and imaginative music for a controversial film that follows the Jewish basketball experience from ash cans placed on the stoops of brownstones to the bright lights of Madison Square Garden" that "jumps from klezmer to classical, dixieland, pop, rock and back again." This is my introduction to the series (I did not even know that Cuban-Jewish fusion music existed) and I must say that it is a lot of fun. What first caught my eye is that the album crams 30 songs into just under an hour. Although the album is varied, it does not seem at all disjointed, flowing well between styles. After all, where else are you going to find songs like "Catskills Jump," which is a straight up jazz number next to "Kosher Rasta" with a nice slow off beat reggae groove next to "Jewish America Jump" which is just what it sounds like – Oy Vey, Sousa! – next to "Red Auerbach," which is a rocking little track with electric guitar that sounds like it could be played by any bar band followed by "Doina 1," which is a solo clarinet, and "The Jewish Suburbs," which is a kind of cheesy Latin lounge track that would be right at home on Lawrence Welk. And this is just one chunk of the album. The rest of the album follows a similar trajectory, which is to say that it is seemingly random. Is there Klezmer on this disc? Oh yeah – "Philadelphia Spahs" is a great spastic track; you can almost see the people dancing. This disc has everything, but unlike many albums that try to blend a million different styles, this one actually works, partly because some of the same musical themes keep reappearing in different songs, providing a kind of continuity. If you are looking for something different and want to expand your musical horizons a bit, this is worth checking out. This disc weighs in at 59.15.

Ffatso: Mano Nera

 Posted by Vito Camarretta (@)   Experimental / Avantgarde / Weird & Wired / Glitch / Noise / Field Recording
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Sep 09 2009
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Artist: Ffatso (@)
Title: Mano Nera
Format: CD
Label: Setola di Maiale
Rated: *****
Mano Nera (�A Manu Niura in Sicilian idiom) was a particular method of extorsion, exported by some Italian immigrants in the United States in the end of 19th century, generally beginning with a letter addressed to the target threatening kidnapping, murder or harms if the victim didn't decide to satisfy black handers' request (normally consisting of requests of large amounts of money). The name "Mano Nera" (Blach Hand) derived from one of the most common ways of signing this love letters, i.e. an hand imprinted in black ink. We could argue that the Italian free-jazz and improv combo Ffatso has decided to entitle this record not only in order to give an appropriate name to a sort of musical score on Al Capone, the historical character widely considered the symbol of Italian-American gangsterism, but also to refer to their particular style, featuring a lot of references to the swirling tradition of jazz (as it was played and "felt" in the first urban Afro-American communities... have an eyebeam and a reading on the Wu Ming releases to have an idea... ). The three members of the band '“ the saxophonist Stefano Ferrian, the bass player Dominik Gawara and the drummer Stefano Colli '“ demonstrate to be very skilled in weaving slices of improvised jazz wires in order to evoke a gangster's scenario and the madness of Mafia wars for the control of territories which "blood-painted" the streets of the biggest American cities in the first half of the previous century. They offer a somewhat synesthetic music experience as you could easily "see" the smoggy Chicago and New York streets of the Prohibition period, the violent eruption of a merciless massacre '“ it's mentioned one of the most ferocious one in the title of a track 2122 North Clark Street, theatre of the so-called St.Valentine's Day Massacre -, the drumming explosions of gunshots, the suspicious characters in raincoats tilting their hats over their eyes while smoking cigars standing on the rear entrance of a distillery depot, the grime look of Al Capone and the Five Pointers, even their attitude and stereotyped movements as screened in a Godfather's sequence, the flash pasting of Old Cadillacs loaded with killers, the machine gun clattering, the expressional wrinkles of a typical resolute face of a Prohibition Agent (the notorious Eliot Ness is mentioned in one track, the famous leader of The Untouchables and the greatest enemy of Al Capone, which was defeated by the frightening weapon of tax evasion... Mister Ness should be charge by a large amount of work, if still in life today... ) and so on inside the frenzy drum sessions, the infective heavy bass plucking , the rushing fawning and the raving howl of the sax as well as inside the whole choral sound performed by this band and their tone-rolling a go-go which has nothing to share with more "polite" expressions normally associated with music scores for gangster movie on Mafia (you will not hear any remake of Piero Umiliani), but it's supposedly more able to evoke and highlight such a theme in an easily appreciable vivid and emotional way, a plot which has been carefully dissected by Ffatso in its own harsh aspect through a cascade of instrumental improvised pulsations! Tracks such as the cinematic 2122 North Clark Street, the most experimental 1945 Apoplectic and Leaving CDS are surely the highest remarks of this interesting opus!


 Posted by Andrea Ferraris (@)   Experimental / Avantgarde / Weird & Wired / Glitch / Noise / Field Recording
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Sep 03 2009
Title: Without
Format: CD
Label: Eh? (@)
Rated: *****
Interesting duo here, differently from several releases on Eh!?, Bill K and Iason P are not dealing with the electro-acoustic thing, nay everything is more dilated, more ethereal and also much more listenable, also for ears that are not trained to this kind of sound. Sometimes it reminded me a strange kind of mix of Kevin Drum drowning in a Kranky pool. This couple of musicians play strings, laptop, electronics, mics, pedals, synths and another bunch of weird electronic devices, but the global sound is less electronic oriented than you could have guessed by reading this list of instruments. Freaky music for freaky people, but Croatan Ensamble are not just playing something simply psychedelic, the music is overall quite ethereal and has a sort of ascension feel. I could help you by writing this’ one of those bands stretching the songs/sounds as much as they can, it implies they introduce changes of notes/sounds/atmospheres really gradually in order to avoid interrupting the trip. Sometimes I think they still have to add something more to reach an higher compositional level but I can assure you the first time I’ve played this cd it was on Sunday right during a bath and my head started spinning with all of my thoughts.

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