Music Reviews



Tokyo Mask: Hinterlands

 Posted by eskaton   Experimental / Avantgarde / Weird & Wired / Glitch / Noise / Field Recording
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May 14 2007
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Artist: Tokyo Mask
Title: Hinterlands
Format: CD
Label: Low Impedance Recordings (@)
Rated: *****
I don’t know what I would call this or how I would explain it to someone else, but I liked this disc a lot. Here’s how the website describes the album: "Keeping the basic principles of slow rhythms and deep drones intact, 'Hinterlands' adds intricate details and subtleties that reward repeated careful listening. Guitars turned inside-out, mysterious echoes, gloomy drones and minimal dark-hop/dub rhythms are placed around the satisfying rumble of a bass guitar. The minimal approach to composition magnifies each element, turning the slightest change into a radical shift of perspective." This album relies heavily upon repetition, giving it a kind of hypnotic feel. But this isn’t repetition in a boring kind of way. Drones cycle in and out of the tracks, there is a constant beat that provides a thread of continuity throughout each track as elements (noises, occasional snippets of voice, etc.) surface, only to submerge again into the drones. The music is complex and engaging. If I had to give an album to someone who wanted to get into more experimental music but wasn’t quite ready for noise or more disjointed stuff like Bob Ostertag, I would hand them this disc. This is easily accessible, but interesting even for the difficult listening crowd. The disc weighs in at 50.16. I can’t really say that any of the tracks stood out above the others – they were all quite enjoyable. I would highly recommend this disc to anyone looking for something that tries to break out of the mold.

Frank Rothkamm: Moers Works (1982-1984)

 Posted by eskaton   Experimental / Avantgarde / Weird & Wired / Glitch / Noise / Field Recording
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May 14 2007
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Artist: Frank Rothkamm (@)
Title: Moers Works (1982-1984)
Format: CD
Label: Monochrome Vision (@)
Rated: *****
This is Rothkamm’s first sound experiments, released almost a quarter century after the fact. I was surprised at how, for the most part, the music still did not seem dated. It reminds me of some of the sound collages of Hafler Trio (Bang! An Open Letter) or Zoviet France (Loh Land). According to the website, "The system consisted solely of a turntable, a shortwave radio, a phaser, an EQ, a cassette recorder and an UHER reel-to-reel tape recorder." This is considerably different from his most recent album (reviewed here previously), "FB02 - Astronaut of Inner Space," which is considerably more well produced. If you are looking for more like that, this isn’t the album to go to. This collection of tracks retains the intrinsic qualities of its lo-fi creation, which seems to be the core source of its strength. Sound sources are cobbled together to create engaging soundscapes. The sound sources are at times easily recognizable, but it is the juxtaposition that keeps them interesting. The only track that really sounds like a traditional composition is "Quartett," with brass and orchestral percussion. Overall, this is an interesting album. I would recommend it to those into musique concrète especially, and experimental music in general.

David Khan: Music for Piano and Voice

 Posted by eskaton   Experimental / Avantgarde / Weird & Wired / Glitch / Noise / Field Recording
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May 14 2007
Artist: David Khan
Title: Music for Piano and Voice
Format: CD
Label: kRkRkRk Recordings (@)
Rated: *****
I had not heard of this New Zealand-based artist before. First, the description in broad strokes - this is really nice droney experimental music. Lets look at each of the tracks individually.

1. Sunlight: Pleasant drone with ambient elements interspersed throughout. Think O Yuki Conjugate meets Vidna Obmana.
2. Humdinger is a noisy track that builds until a sudden ending. This is not noise though – this is drone that has been overloaded to slight distortion. This is one of the standout tracks on the album. It’s engaging and interesting.
3. Moth Dusted Halogen has a pulsing beat that goes through half the track and then completely shifts gears into peaceful synth drones.
4. The Vanishing: The shortest track on the disc at 3.59. Slowly evolving drones with a nice piano line woven into it that builds well before quickly fading out. A very good track that I wish would have been about three times as long.
5. Big Country: This track doesn’t fit as well with the other ones. It’s a bit glitchy with a fair amount of high frequency beeps and clicks. The drones of previous tracks do not enter until about 3 minutes in but up to that point it doesn’t seem to go anywhere. However, it eventually becomes much more engaging, once again weaving in a piano interlude into the slowly pounding drones. Despite its poor opening, this is the best track on the disc.

The tracks only somewhat hang together in a coherent manner. But the disc still works. If you are looking for neo-classical, you will be severely disappointed. Also, the voice on the disc has been processed beyond recognition, so don’t pick it up based on the title. However, it is still a good disc to check out. The music is good overall, with just a few weak points. At times it doesn’t evolve fast enough, but in the end it was worth the tedious moments for the segments of pure beauty. Definitely one to take a chance on.

Seht & Stelzer: Exactly What You Lost

 Posted by eskaton   Experimental / Avantgarde / Weird & Wired / Glitch / Noise / Field Recording
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May 14 2007
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Artist: Seht & Stelzer (@)
Title: Exactly What You Lost
Format: CD
Label: Intransitive Recordings (@)
Rated: *****
I had not heard of either of the artists or the label for that matter. First, the basic description. This is experimental music. A bit on the noisy side, but not really noise. The main comparisons that come to mind are Arcane Device (but much more engaging) and Lustmord. The disc weighs in at 46.53. On to the individual tracks.
Track 1 – At 2.47, this is one of the shorter tracks on the disc but it certainly has intensity. It sounds like someone standing with a microphone at the top of a very windy mountaintop constantly cycling through a shortwave radio. I think it was just about the right length because it ended just about the time I was beginning to lose interest in it.
Track 2 – I didn’t expect this kind of complete shift in sound. This track is soothing drone that sort of gains a kind of noisiness toward the end, but nowhere near the level of spasticness with which the disc begins.
Track 3 – Begins in a very minimal way with some field recordings and some processed synth. The synth provides a nice dark undertone to the piece and different elements of the filed recordings emerge, only to submerge back into the track. Much more subdued and not noisy at all, but one of the best tracks on the disc. This would make nice background music to a disturbing film – very nicely done.
Track 4 – At 2.02, this is the shortest track on the disc. It mainly consists of staticy field recordings and drone that seems to threaten at any moment to completely fall apart.
Track 5 – At 26.24, this is by far the longest track on the disc. This track builds slowly, starting at almost nothing, building with heavy dark drones. This is really good dark ambient for the first 22 minutes – something that could be an outtake from Lustmord’s "The Monstrous Soul." Drones and light static permeate the track. It evolves almost glacially and never really seems to go anywhere, but that’s OK because the scenery along the way is so pleasant. At about 22 minutes in, it shifts, becoming more noisy, with what sounds like constant footsteps and noisy bursts. To me it didn’t quite work with the rest of the track. Even so, this was my favorite track on the disc.

Brendan Murray: Wonders Never Cease

 Posted by eskaton   Experimental / Avantgarde / Weird & Wired / Glitch / Noise / Field Recording
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May 14 2007
cover
Artist: Brendan Murray (@)
Title: Wonders Never Cease
Format: CD
Label: Intransitive Recordings (@)
Rated: *****
The press release that came with this disc describes the album as Murray’s "latest / greatest album of cinematic drone anthems," and state that this should appeal to fans of William Basinski, Greg Davis, Birchville Cat Motel, Colin Potter, and Andrew Chalk. I’ll be honest – none of those artists are in my collection at the moment, so I’ll try to come up with some of my own comparisons. Overall, this is an interesting mix of field recordings and noisy drone. This disc started as live recordings that then were taken into the studio and reworked, but one would not really be able to tell. Let’s look at the individual tracks.
Hymn One – Starts with a buzzing drone that reminds me of some of Jliat’s work. At about 3 minutes in, some synth drone kicks in to take some of the edge off of it. Noisy elements come in at times, keeping the track engaging.
Seize - Seems like mainly field recordings of someone moving stuff around in a warehouse but with little processing. Not terribly engaging until what sounds like a harmonica or accordian kicks in at about 2 minutes. As the track progresses, it becomes ever so slightly more chaotic, which keeps it interesting.
Hymn Two – At 2.59, this is the shortest track on the album. This track is straight up noise. It sounds like someone fast forwarding a cassette tape in a busy laundromat. I like it. Flows smoothly into the next track.
Seas – The harmonica returns for what is the longest track on the disc (19.42). This has an odd sort of irregular rhythm with different drones entering and leaving at various times. Kind of reminds me of Zoviet France’s "Loh Land." At about 13 minutes in, it becomes a bit more minimalist drone but still interesting.
Hymn One (Reprise) – Drones and electronic crackles begin this track. Eventually the drones from Hymn One come in, but it is a lot more chaotic and noisy, especially toward the end.


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