Music Reviews



CJ Boyd Sexxxtet: Fleur du Mal

 Posted by eskaton   Experimental / Avantgarde / Weird & Wired / Glitch / Noise / Field Recording
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May 15 2009
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Artist: CJ Boyd Sexxxtet (@)
Title: Fleur du Mal
Format: CD
Label: Beta-lactam Ring Records (@)
Like many of the discs I review for ChainDLK, I had not heard of the CJ Boyd Sexxxtet. However, with the cover art featuring people holding string instruments and the credits listing people who played not only cello and double bass, but also singing bowls saw, and trumpet, I had an idea of what I was getting in to, expecting something along the lines of Kronos Quartet. The website describes it as "Music for the bacchanal" and an "orgy of sound" that is "at the same time passionate and pensive, sensual and meditative." Here’s how the label describes the disc: "Fleur Du Mal's’ transcendental mixture of high-lonesome and chamber classicism soundtracks a bit like The Assignation of Andrew Poppy by the Minimalist Terry Riley. . . . The compositions chunk along with quiet thunder and building textures; juxtaposing dramatic tension against fluid looseness, not unlike some of Moondog's more formal string works." Neoclassical music is hard to describe. Luckily, there are samples on both the artist’s and the label’s websites. This album consists of three longer tracks, ranging from 15.40 to 19.12. Overall, this is peaceful string chamber music that really doesn’t push the envelope like Kronos Quartet, but it is pleasant listening. Perhaps my favorite part of this album is the sheer lack of violin. I much prefer the lower register and am not a huge fan of violin music, even when done well. This gives the compositions a kind of warmness that I often find lacking in sting ensembles. The first track, "At the End of Breath" combines staccato rhythms with long drones that seem pieced together like a jigsaw puzzle, over which members seem to take turns performing as soloist. "Here’s to Thanatos" has a bit more of a tribal feel compliments of the percussion, which then melts into a legato section with muted trumpet, seeming more like two different tracks. "And Indeed There Will Be Time" begins interesting enough with percussion and strings in a syncopated staccato rhythm and electric guitar and bass. Halfway through the band breaks into chanting in some language that I cannot place while a minimal rhythm is played on one of the instruments. This eventually becomes more involved, but I must admit that the chanting began to get boring after 5 minutes. Overall, this is pleasant stuff, but not really too experimental. I could see this being played at any of the nicer concert halls across the country, but looking at where they have played, this is unfortunately not the case. This is a very skilled ensemble and I’m sure they would be quite a nice experience live. The first edition of 600 copies comes in a custom made full color book bound cd case. The disc weighs in at 53 minutes.

Brunnen: Swoon

 Posted by eskaton   Experimental / Avantgarde / Weird & Wired / Glitch / Noise / Field Recording
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May 15 2009
cover
Artist: Brunnen
Title: Swoon
Format: CD
Label: Beta-lactam Ring Records (@)
Rated: *****
I had not heard of Brunnen, but I had certainly heard of Freek Kinkelaar’s other project, Beequeen. Evidently, this was originally released in 1993 in a vinyl edition of 215 copies. Most of this was recorded between 1991-1993 and some of the tracks were featured elsewhere (According to the website, tracks 13-14 were part of the EP single "The Honey Button," track 12 is a previously unreleased track from the "Swoon" LP sessions, and track 15 was found hiding on top of a shelf and suitably dusted off). The info sheet that came with the disc describes the album thus: "Swoon features a series of hushed songs of love and lust with a twist played on his trusty (and now long retired) Ensonic keyboard." For once, I completely agree with the promo package. This is really soothing music. The singer’s voice sounds like a cross between Tim Freeman of Frazier Chorus and Edward Ka-Spel of the Legendary Pink Dots, which makes it all the more peaceful sounding. Kinkelaar does not so much sing as speak in a sing-song kind of way. As such, the album has the feeling of a long lullaby. There are the occasional noisy elements that get thrown in. For example, "Forever in White" has just a bit of feedback that imposes on the slow moving warm synth washes that play over soft singing and "Hattrick" incorporates bird song into the music. "The Wolf Hour" sounds like the voice was done with appletalk, but it doesn’t really seem out of place. These are the sounds of a dreamlike carnival, and you can check out samples at the label’s website. Some reissues are not really welcome, but Beta-lactam Ring Records picked a gem to bring out of obscurity. This is limited to 300 numbered copies, so if you want it, you’ll want to act fast. The album weighs in at about 44 minutes.

LSD March: Uretakumo Nakunarutorika

 Posted by eskaton   Experimental / Avantgarde / Weird & Wired / Glitch / Noise / Field Recording
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May 15 2009
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Artist: LSD March (@)
Title: Uretakumo Nakunarutorika
Format: CD
Label: Beta-lactam Ring Records (@)
Rated: *****
LSD March is one of those bands that are difficult to describe. Here’s how the press sheet that came with the disc describes them: "These ever indefinable Japanese psych monsters have coughed up a syrup-soaked album of broken tribal psychedelia. Their distended view of plunderphonic percussion gurgles like a drum n’ base-jump into a vat of psilocybin wine. And then things get weird." I can go with this, but an easier way to describe it is that this is essentially an experimental jam session. The first track, "Kumoitachikumo" starts to grow on you after a bit with repetitive chanting and percussion. "Kumoitachikumo Version 2.0" ends the disc with a reprise of the opening track, with a nice electronic tribal feel that ends by cutting out at random times. Most of these tracks feature what sounds like bongos and sparse guitars with other noises and sound source added in as needed. For example, "Uzunisase" and "Hotumori" both have a nice grove to them, with "Hotumori" consisting of bongo improvisation and a standard 4/4 beat on a drum kit. "Ubena" sounds like it features an abused guitar that is having its strings stretched beyond its comfort level. Some of it gets to be a bit boring though. For example, "Tawayagana" and "Warehavaenu" are both simply someone playing a drum set, but not in a terribly interesting way. Buddy Rich could make just a snare drum sound compelling for 10 minutes. At 1.39 and 1.19 respectively, I started wondering when it would change because it didn’t seem to be going anywhere. Overall, I get the feeling that this album as a whole would be much more interesting in a live setting. The only place I would take issue with the promotion of this album is the assertion that this would appeal to fans of Pink Floyd – not really, in my opinion. I just can’t see this getting much airplay on a station that would play Pink Floyd. Samples are available on Beta-lactam Ring Records’ website. The first edition of 500 copies comes in a full color custom made book bound sleeve and insert. This disc weighs in at around 48 minutes.

Jalan Jalan: Traditional Music Recordings (collected by Jerry Lloyd)

 Posted by Marc Urselli   Experimental / Avantgarde / Weird & Wired / Glitch / Noise / Field Recording
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May 15 2009
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Artist: Jalan Jalan (@)
Title: Traditional Music Recordings (collected by Jerry Lloyd)
Format: CD
Label: Urck Records (@)
Rated: *****
I love world music and records that bring us sounds of distant cultures and far away places (something Urck specializes in). This is one such record, and with 34 tracks featuring field recordings from 9 countries, it does a great job at portraying the sounds of Southeast Asia and the Middle East. It took Jerry Lloyd 10 years of travels through Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, Burma, India, Morocco, Egypt, Malaysia, Indonesia, Sumatra and Bali to capture this 79 minute long audio document. It's like a sonic travelogue with liner notes that put things into perspective and give you some background information. Unfortunately the audio quality is pretty poor (I read that some of it was recorded on a portable cassette recorder) and the mastering (or lack thereof) and editing is not top notch either, which is kind of a pity. Nevertheless the cultural importance of such a release is prominent and offers a very interesting and enthusiastic look at the differences in the traditional music of all of the portrayed peoples.

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.


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