Music Reviews



EK (Electric Kulintang): Dialects

 Posted by Marc Urselli   Ambient / Electronica / Ethereal / Dub / Soundscapes / Abstract
Experimental / Avantgarde / Weird & Wired / Glitch / Noise / Field Recording
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Dec 22 2006
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Artist: EK (Electric Kulintang) (@)
Title: Dialects
Format: CD
Label: Plastic Records (@)
Rated: *****
Electric Kulintang is the new project by Cuban American drummer/percussionist Roberto Juan Rodriguez (www.robertojuanrodriguez.com) and Filipino American drummer/percussionist/keyboardist and (now) singer (for the first time on this record!) Susie Ibarra (www.susieibarra.com). If you don't know these fine folks you better go check them out and you'll see the massive amount of collaborations they sport: with a couple (in music as in life) of such extraordinarily talented downtown NY musicians you can only expect the best!

The entire EK concept is based around the traditional Philippine instrument Kulintang (a series of eight gongs played with sticks) and the pairing of that with jazz drumming, electronic programming and percussion playing. "Dialects" is a great record that balances these multiple worlds of sounds and sonic palettes, moving in and out of chilled downbeat lounge-type blends of world music and electronica to more uptempo compositions with thriving beats and loosely pronounced bass lines.
The layering of sounds and motifs aids the trance-inducing effect of such visionary music. Every tune, although often connected to another, almost represents a small microcosm on its own, where things happen and sounds take positions in an aural soundscape that, however, knows no space and no time.
There is so much to discover in this record, from the colors generated by the hypnotic drumming to the visions of distant worlds evoked by the restless Kulintang melody lines/improvisations; from the field recordings of the Kalanduyan family in Cotobato, Mindanao, to first time experiences, like hearing Ibarra sing. "Dialects" also features two awesome guitar player guests (Oz Noy and Thurston Moore, of Sonic Youth fame) and some mellow Rhode/Wurlitzer type keys.

In the words of associate producer and liner notes writer Steve Lowenthal "whether you enjoy it as a hipster, a jazzbo, a music lover, an artist or a head-nodder, Electric Kulintang is the sound of love. It's for all of us, and we're lucky to have such a gift". Why re-word it or phrase it differently when I happen to wholeheartedly agree?
It just so happens that when great people get together, great things happen and great music is made. This is one of those times, so you know what to do, don't you?

VV.AA.: Expedition_2

 Posted by Marc Urselli   Experimental / Avantgarde / Weird & Wired / Glitch / Noise / Field Recording
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Dec 13 2006
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Artist: VV.AA.
Title: Expedition_2
Format: CD
Label: Everest Records (@)
Rated: *****
Having been born in Switzerland myself, I am always a potential fan of anything Swiss. But fear not, I will not loose my objectivity (if there is such a thing within the subjectivity of a music review) over nationalistic pride and will tell you when Swiss products have more holes than their cheese. Although I have gotten some less than fantastic stuff from Switzerland, I am pleased to announce that Everest records seems to be putting out good stuff. The "Expedition_2" label sampler is a compilation of 15 artists (mostly Swiss, one Canadian, two French, two British) who present a pretty wide array of music styles, ranging from experimental/glitch-noise and ambient music to industrial/electronics and idm.
A lot of valid artists, great talent and good music populate this tracklist and being so varying in style it is hard to categorize it. There is definitely a majority of noise-connected acts (not extreme harsh noise, but rather glitchy experimental, ambient, drones etc) so it actually is easier to remember to ones that stick out from the crowd for differing. That would be the case of French artist Hopen (probably the most British and Warp-sounding of the IDM batch; very cool), Swiss artist Jotta (a fantastic and aggressive slow pounding mix of distorted post-industrial with echoes of NIN, Nada, Skinny Puppy, Ministry, Flugschadel etc; right up my alley! - surprisingly with Spanish lyrics), French artist Paral-lel (new-school ebm with some videogame-type sounds), UK artist Eakui (and their cool blend of broken rhythms and fast-panning electronic sounds) or the Swiss artist Misel Quitno (and their backward ambient layering).
The record was launched during Switzerland's popular festival Fri-son in Fribourg last November.
On a different note, although no mention of it is made, it would seem that Everest is taking a vegetarian/vegan stand by using a picture of a slaughtered pig at a Butcher's for their art work. I hope that they are not just going for the shock effect but actually mean something with this, which would make it much more worthy of merit in my book.

FREIBAND: Leise

 Posted by Eugenio Maggi (@)   Experimental / Avantgarde / Weird & Wired / Glitch / Noise / Field Recording
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Dec 13 2006
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Artist: FREIBAND
Title: Leise
Format: CD
Label: Crónica
Rated: *****
Besides being a cult hero of mine for his activity in a theory of projects (Kapotte Muziek, Goem, Shifts, Beequeen, Wander...) and his heroic "Vital Weekly" newsletter, Frans de Waard is also a father, and various raw sounds produced by his daughter Elise (hence the title anagram) were used to assemble this cd, after a series of digital manipulations. Besides some voices and more recognizable toy playing at the beginning, you won't grasp much of the starting point: the Dutch soundmaker, as predictable, has stretched, pulverized and re-assembled the files into an algid electroacoustic pulp. The final shapes range from droning sinewaves ("Knippers") to dusty microsound particles ("Krassen") to para-ambient ("Daisee") and rhythmic structures ("Vuur", "Storm" and "Paarden", which sounds like an even more liofilized Goem). De Waard has maintained the raw essence of child play, so that, despite their sharp electronic edges, these tracks have a spontaneous, semi-improvised feel. The final result is quite nice, though honestly not as exciting as with other releases of his.

RANT: A Direct Sensuous Pleasure

 Posted by Eugenio Maggi (@)   Experimental / Avantgarde / Weird & Wired / Glitch / Noise / Field Recording
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Dec 13 2006
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Artist: RANT
Title: A Direct Sensuous Pleasure
Format: CD
Label: Schraum
Rated: *****
Second cd from this duo formed by Merle Bennett (drums) and Torsten Papenheim (guitar), surely the most "regular" outfit in the Schraum family, after "Seumsund/Sundseum" (2004; browse the archive for Andrea Ferraris' review). The new work doesn't change anything in terms of formula: clean, elegant jazzy guitar lines mixed with a varied, but never aggressive drumming. All is pleasant indeed from start to end, which is also part of the problem: Rant's instrumental music tends to sound all the same, and a bit anemic, after a while. Having said that, this could be a nice listen for cold December afternoons - as Ferraris put it, "winter melancholia for winter snapshots".

LOW DYNAMIC ORCHESTRA: s/t

 Posted by Eugenio Maggi (@)   Experimental / Avantgarde / Weird & Wired / Glitch / Noise / Field Recording
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Dec 13 2006
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Artist: LOW DYNAMIC ORCHESTRA
Title: s/t
Format: CD
Label: Alice
Rated: *****
The Low Dynamic Orchestra is a Swedish ensemble featuring Kjell Nordeson (percussion), Sten Sandell (piano and harmonium), Amit Senn (cello) and Peter Soederberg (lute, teorbo and guitar); in this recording, from a concert at the Stockholm New Music Festival in 2003, they are joined by an Italian guest, Stefano Scodanibbio, on double bass. A couple of years ago I had the lucky chance to see Scodanibbio live in a mesmerizing concert of droning, mostly e-bowed contrabass; this time, though, he mostly plays it in a more typical jazz/improv way. The Orchestra offers a series of improvisations and versions of Cage ("Five"), Cardew ("Treatise") and Mats Persson ("Games", "Songs", "Refrains" and "Choral"). All sounds well-oiled and carefully played, but eventually without much grasp on yours truly. The final, and loger, piece, Persson's "Choral", stands out from the rest in terms of intensity and nuances.


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