Music Reviews



Ascanio Borga: Xenomorphic

 Posted by eskaton   Experimental / Avantgarde / Weird & Wired / Glitch / Noise / Field Recording
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May 15 2009
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Artist: Ascanio Borga (@)
Title: Xenomorphic
Format: CD
Label: Afe Records (@)
Rated: *****
I had not heard of Ascanio Borga before receiving this disc, but evidently he is one of a sizable group of Italian experimental musicians. According to Afe’s website, "Xenomorphic, Ascanio's latest offering on Afe, literally evokes something with a strange form,’ something unfamiliar that appears alien to us, defying our logic comprehension, and therefore generating tension, disquietude and even anguish in us, but it represents something terribly vital and dynamic at the same time, something whose possibilities are still unknown." The opening track, "Xenomorphic," is almost 18 minutes long and consists of three movements, which are not delineated. The first section is an odd mix of guitar solo, noises, and atmosphere. Imagine if Yngwie Malmsteen (in a toned down way, of course) collaborated with Legion. However, it then starts to get a bit repetitive. Granted, Borga brings in elements here and there to vary the soundscape, but it just isn’t enough. It isn’t until about 15 minutes in that it begins to be interesting again, but by then it had collapsed under its own weight. "Equilibrium" is much more engaging making use of varying dynamics and sparse use of elements such as wind chimes to draw the listener in. This is more atmosphere than anything else, but it works. This then transforms into a bit more involved track, with sawtooth wave synth washes and what sounds like a talking drum that slowly evolves. "Apnea (The Hollow Mind)" is the longest track on the album at 29.48. I have to admit that once the guitar comes in at about 24 minutes, it kind of wrecks the nice hypnotic feel it had going for much of the track. The guitar solo thing just doesn’t work for me. For me, the standout track is "Raw Ground," which is a nice track of noisy drone. Here the guitar works because it is heavily processed and just blends into the mix rather than sticking out. This is synergy. Overall, I have to call this one a mixed bag. When it is good, it’s good, but at other times it just doesn’t work. This disc weighs in at 71.41 and it’s limited to 150 copies in a nice oversize sleeve.

Rapoon: Dark Rivers

 Posted by eskaton   Experimental / Avantgarde / Weird & Wired / Glitch / Noise / Field Recording
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May 15 2009
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Artist: Rapoon (@)
Title: Dark Rivers
Format: CD
Label: Lens Records (@)
Rated: *****
Maybe Lens Records is the new releasing arm for former members of Zoviet France, because the last thing I reviews from them was Beehatch, which features Mark Spybey. If so, this would be a wise move. Few have heldand rightfully sothe kind of mystique that ZF continues to hold in the experimental scene. But Robin Storey is an artist who has held his own. I was quite excited to see this disc in the package of materials for review, having enjoyed Rapoon’s work for the last 10 years. Here is an excerpt from the press material that came with the disc: "The conflict of the ancient superstitions and the cold war paranoia is essentially what this is about. The older superstitions swallowing whole the newer age which came and went on the same dark, brooding hills. I was lucky enough to be born and grow up here and the darkness of the place is embedded deeply inside me." This disc is a departure from some of the tribal rhythms and soothing drones for which Rapoon has become known. In some ways, it is much more experimental than the other works that I have heard, and this is likely a result of the subject matter at hand. For example, "Heavy Water" combines drones and spastic noise and music bursts that gives a sense of foreboding. Yet there are soothing elements on this disc; at 13.20, "This Side of Zero" is the longest track on the album, laying down a pleasant dronefest that seems to function as a kind of intermission. Others, such as "Black Horizon," weave these two elements together, providing a dark soundscape with buzzing, repetitive synth pulses. Yet, what Rapoon album would be complete without rhythm? This is also present and accounted for on tracks such as "Blue Streak Blues" and "The Messiah of Science." If you are looking for calm ethno-ambient music, you may be disappointed. However, if you enjoyed some of Rapoon’s (and Zoviet France’s) more experimental works, this is an excellent addition to an already illustrious catalogue. This disc weighs in at about 67 minutes.

Edward Ka-Spel: Dream Logik X

 Posted by eskaton   Experimental / Avantgarde / Weird & Wired / Glitch / Noise / Field Recording
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May 15 2009
Artist: Edward Ka-Spel (@)
Title: Dream Logik X
Format: CD EP
Label: Beta-lactam Ring Records (@)
This disc comes as a bonus for those who purchase the 4XLP Dream Logik Parts 1-3 from Terminal Kaleidoscope or Beta-lactam Ring Records. I do not have the box set to review, so I have little to say about that. Nor have I heard the other Dream Logik releases. As for this disc, these may very well be the kinds of dreams that we have and wish we did not. The disc consists of three untitled tracks. Track one is the shortest of the three at 2.08 and seems to function mainly as an instrumental introduction to what will follow. Labored breathing, foreboding atmosphere, and distorted symphonic march music give the listener a sense of what will come. This is not easy listening. Track two combines swirling ambience and odd spoken word about licking the floor until his tongue is bleeding that draws the listener in quite effectively. The Prophet Ka-Spel certainly has a gift for weaving interestingif sometimes disturbingstories together. For me, this is the standout track on the disc. Track three is the longest track at 12.18 and sounds like a person running through tall grass, with noises and synth washes that does more to create an atmosphere than to tell a story. For those more familiar with Ka-Spel’s work with Legendary Pink Dots, this is more along the lines of what you would find on one of the Chemical Playschool albums – more experimental and a bit noisier. In short, if this is a taste of what one would find on the 4 LP box set, it would be an excellent acquisition. The disc weighs in at around 22 minutes.

Meerkat: Kapnos

 Posted by eskaton   Experimental / Avantgarde / Weird & Wired / Glitch / Noise / Field Recording
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May 15 2009
cover
Artist: Meerkat (@)
Title: Kapnos
Format: CD
Label: Afe Records (@)
Rated: *****
This is the third installment in a group of concept albums by Matteo Uggeri of Sparkle in Grey (and several other projects) and Maurizio Bianchi. Evidently, the concept (kapnos is the Greek word for "smoke") was formed by these two, but much of the musical heavy lifting was done by a collaboration by the "Meerkat Ensemble." According to the website "the Meerkat ensemble is formed by a group of musicians working in the field of experimental music, drones, microsounds and field recordings: Adriano Zanni / Punck, Matteo Uggeri / Hue, Luca Sigurtà, Luca Bergero / Fhievel, Davide Valecchi / Aal, Andrea Ferraris / Ics, Fabio Selvafiorita, Paolo Ippoliti (Logoplasm), Laura Lovreglio (Logoplasm) and Andrea Marutti / Amon / Never Known." Thus, we have an Italian supergroup of experimental musicians all under one banner. Of the ten, I was only previously familiar with Matteo Uggeri, Andrea Marutti, and Fabio Selvafiorita of Ur. With all of these artists working on the same thing, you would think that the result would be quite disjointed, especially since there are different artists working on each track. However, it is actually surprisingly coherent. Part of this likely comes from the sound of crackling fire that weaves its way through most of the tracks, keeping a sense of continuity. The tracks blend into each other, making it difficult to tell when one ends and the next begins. As for the music itself, it is subdued dark ambient that has just a touch of noisy elements that keep it engaging. Voices fade in and out, while synth drones lull you into a peaceful state. This gives way to a bit of dissonance, yet never really becomes troubling. This is really accessible experimental music – something that just about anyone could enjoy. It doesn’t demand a lot from the listener, but it is a very enjoyable listen. This album weighs in at 40.47.

Ur and Craig Hilton: I Will Be the Light

 Posted by eskaton   Experimental / Avantgarde / Weird & Wired / Glitch / Noise / Field Recording
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May 15 2009
cover
Artist: Ur and Craig Hilton (@)
Title: I Will Be the Light
Format: CD
Label: Afe Records (@)
Rated: *****
I think that Afe Records is becoming the new Amplexus, with the odd size, aesthetically pleasing packaging. I have reviewed two other albums from Ur and they specialize in noisy atmospheres, but I had not heard of Craig Hilton. Evidently, he has collaborated with the likes of Maurizio Bianchi and MSBR, and this shows through from the opening moments of the album. Where Ur is more restrained in their noisiness, "The Path Beneath" unloads from the very beginning, only then dropping the volume to draw the listener in. The music crackles like fire and noise bursts into the quiet, foreboding atmosphere like someone operating a grinding wheel in a cavernous factory building. Eventually, the noise builds to a deafening crescendo, only to end in spastic bursts of noise. The silence after these assaults makes you quite aware of what you have just listened to. "Essential Salt" follows a similar trajectory, with noise that the gives way to atmosphere. This track incorporates long periods of silence, but after the opening track, the listener is waiting to be assaulted by noise. However, we are met with a soothing wash of heavy drones with a bit of noise beneath the surface, rather than a outright blast of noise. Nicely done. The title of "I Will Be the Light" is taken from Timothy Leary’s description of wanting to have his remains shot into space and burn up in the atmosphere in a flash of light. This track slowly transitions from ambient noise to a more consuming wall of noise in such a way that you wonder when you began listening to a noise track and just as gradually transitions back to dark ambient soundscapes. This album uses moments of silence and quiet to draw in the listener and provide a sense of motion in the composition. Despite Ur’s self description that they are all about free improvisation, this album feels like a meticulously crafted composition. This album is limited to 100 copies and weighs in at about 57 minutes.


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