Music Reviews

Sphyxion: 2

 Posted by Andrea Piran (@)   Experimental / Avantgarde / Weird & Wired / Glitch / Noise / Field Recording
Dark / Gothic / Wave / New Wave / Dark Wave / Industrial Gothic
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Nov 13 2018
Artist: Sphyxion (@)
Title: 2
Format: CD
Label: Zoharum (@)
Distributor: Alchembria
Rated: *****
Apparently it's a new name but Sphyxion is the minimal wave project of Frédéric and Olivier Charlot, better known as Maninkari. While their main project it's at the crossroad between classical and experimental influences, this one is more enjoyable as it makes heavy use of rhythm box while the drones frequently evolves in melodic lines and the use of female voices gives a pop touch to the whole. As the tracks are untitled, they will referenced by their number.
The first track opens this release with a structure centered a rhythmic cage and a buzzing background; as a voice is looping the effect is hypnotic. The melodic apertures of "2" reveals the influence of minimal wave and "3" inverts the canonical form of this genre as the synth is almost metronomic while the rhythm is slightly variated. The vaguely middle eastern pattern of "4" are matched by a rolling beat and "5" borders IDM with its complex but sonically skinny beat. "6" is catchy with its sort of glockenspiel used to expose the main melody. "7" is the first track not using a beat while creating a minimal lied with repetitive, but slowly variating, string melody. "8" use the amplitude enveloper to create a rhythm out of a oscillating melodic cell. The synth melody "9" emerges after misleading the listener with its introduction hinting a static track based on loops. "10" closes the release with a minimal wave track almost canonical but avoiding triviality.
With a more easy listening framework, it will probably attract more listener than the average Maninkari's release but they could be disappointed if they won't be patient enough to capture the subtle nuances in a apparently static form. Listen with care.

Julien Bayle: Violent Grains of Silence

 Posted by Stuart Bruce (@)   Experimental / Avantgarde / Weird & Wired / Glitch / Noise / Field Recording
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Nov 12 2018
Artist: Julien Bayle
Title: Violent Grains of Silence
Format: CD + Download
Label: Elli Records
This short collection of nine sonic vignettes is built from sound recordings made in Mechanical & Acoustic Research Lab LMA-CNRS’ anechoic room. But despite being one of the most soundproofed rooms it’s possible to find, there is still some distant hum and atmosphere, not to mention imperfections in the recording equipment that result in electronic impulses. It’s these imperfections that have been wraught, quite aggressively, extremely amplified, filtered, layered and processed to turn near-silence into a series of nine brief and aggressive electronic soundscapes on the very boundary of found sound.

Apparently coinciding with “deep personal difficult times” on Bayle’s part, this is raw, rough-hewn stuff, with tracks like “cut_” little less (or little more) than a single-tone sonic assault, while pieces like “unpr” are more complex, with curt percussive sounds and a more electronica-esque bubbly glitching. The steady pulsing beat of “post_” is notable as its steadiness turns it into a form of involuntary proto-techno. It’s hard to decide sometimes whether the rage on display is organic or post-produced but the result is a edgy and cathartic 22-minute force, like a primal scream performed by electrics. Unusual and eye-opening.

Jana Winderen: Spring Bloom in the Marginal Ice Zone

 Posted by Stuart Bruce (@)   Experimental / Avantgarde / Weird & Wired / Glitch / Noise / Field Recording
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Nov 05 2018
Artist: Jana Winderen
Title: Spring Bloom in the Marginal Ice Zone
Format: CD + Download
Label: Touch # Tone
Layering high-latitude field recordings of the border between sea ice and the open sea into one found sound composition, this is an elegant work with a lot of fascinating detail. While there’s underwater seal and whale sounds (mostly faint), it’s never in danger of becoming a relaxation cliché, mainly thanks to the crisp and almost electronica-like noises of the ice itself, which are gentle but still slightly alienating, and which ebb alternatively with windier, quite barren sounds.

There’s a 37-minute “headphones mix” and a 35-minute “speakers mix”. I didn’t compare or side-by-side them, instead being perfectly happy with a 72-minute listening experience that didn’t overstay its welcome.

It’s framed in terms of marine science and ecology rather than art, nevertheless it’s a beautiful thing to listen to, toeing an unusual line between emptiness and grandeur that really draws you in.

Jeton Hoxha: Vowel

 Posted by Andrea Piran (@)   Experimental / Avantgarde / Weird & Wired / Glitch / Noise / Field Recording
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Nov 04 2018
Artist: Jeton Hoxha
Title: Vowel
Format: Download Only (MP3 + Lossless)
Label: Eighth Tower Records (@)
Rated: *****
Already included in the "Balkan experimental survey". Jeton Hoxha is Macedonian composer mainly interested in an electro-acoustic music based on field recordings and drones heavily processed to generate a blurry overall sound. This is apparently his first full length release and seems mostly influenced by a current of ambient called 'isolationism'.
"Vowel" is a lengthy composition starting with a low frequency drone at the threshold of audibility in an unquiet environment which is slowly juxtaposed to other drones obtaining a developments in dynamics and frequency. As a wider spectrum drone is added, a thicker sound mass surround the listener as a musical fog illuminated by sharp insertions. As this part stars to fade, the last drone of the first part, the higher frequency one, returns and introduces an industrial oriented section based on loops which create a suspended, and hypnotic, atmosphere which becomes meditative as bells appears. Then, there's a section based on loops over a sharp drone slightly pulsating. As elements of the previous sections appear, there's a sense not only of time passing but also that there's an aspect of memory of the listener involved in the writing of the track. As the elements of the track starts to be sequentially eliminated hinting at a final silence, there's a section focused on church's bells which introduces a final slow melody played on organ synth which closes the release leaving the listener with a background noise moving in the aural field.
Due to its length, this is a demanding listening which is also fully enjoyable only in a quiet environment as the particular spectrum, especially in the first part, can be easily masked by the everyday background noise; however, in its apparent opacity, the composition is developed in a linear way which captures the listener's attention which is not taken for granted in a genre plagued with boredom. Listen with care.

VV.AA.: Historische Aufnahmen / Historical Recordings Vol II

 Posted by Stuart Bruce (@)   Experimental / Avantgarde / Weird & Wired / Glitch / Noise / Field Recording
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Oct 31 2018
Artist: VV.AA.
Title: Historische Aufnahmen / Historical Recordings Vol II
Format: LP
Label: Gagarin Records
Eight years after the first volume, Felix Kubin again compiles ten archive recordings ranging from 1930 to 2002 into what essentially serves as a sampler of rare found sounds, and an exploration of where found sound ends and sonic art begins. Ten tracks, generally between two and four minutes long, are accompanied by extensive notes, although somehow the release is more appealing if you avoid the notes and try to imagine what it is you’re listening to based purely on what you can hear- it’s a challenging game.

I’m normally loathe to copy and paste from often over-florid press releases but there’s one paragraph in this release’s notes which tells you pretty much everything you need to know. So I’m going to control-C control-V, just this once, as follows:
“[...] the focus has been put on the quirkier corners of recorded sound: curious events, remarkable characters and fascinating tales - revived and restored for the edification and amusement of modern ears. Listen to a wooden automaton piano player, a microtonal choir of larynx patients, the sound of a rescue device used for the purpose of evacuating miners, the demonstration of a water leak detection microphone, a violent demonstration accompanied by Christmas carols and many more. The sound quality of these recordings is not perfect and the inevitable imperfections are audible.”

It’s a weird and wonderful- if rather brief- set of found sounds that’s engaging and rewarding. Many are strongly musical; “Etude pour un larynx écrasé” sounds like the kind of Lygeti piece Kubrick would have put into 2001 A Space Odyssey if he’d known about it, “Pianist” is a novel but conventional bit of automated wooden piano. “Island Of The Pig Men” is strongly reminiscent of Radiophonic Workshop-esque electronics. “Eiscreme-Krieg Jingle” is a decidedly weird piece of proto-experimental oddness that in terms of context feels like a highlight, as well as a real ‘WTF?’ moment.

More overt voiced recordings like “Lecksuchmikrofon” and “Anti-Schill Demonstration Hamburg” seem a little less worthwhile somehow, reminding me prosaically of German comprehension tapes from school and old reportage newsreel respectively, and certainly not feeling exotic.

Collectors of found sound will appreciate the diversity of this compilation.

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