Music Reviews

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
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
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.

KEVIN DRUMM : sheer hellish miasma

 Posted by Andrea Ferraris (@)   Electronics / EBM / Electronica
Experimental / Avantgarde / Weird & Wired / Glitch / Noise / Field Recording
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May 10 2007
Title: sheer hellish miasma
Format: CD
Label: Mego (@)
Rated: *****
I think there's no need to introduce mr. Drumm, but recently I've found he appears on Wikipedia alas if you never heard his name that's a good opportunity to learn something more about this geat experimental artist. In the past I bought a couple of good records featuring this Chicago based musician, but this repress will help me and you to understand why he has become such a popular name for what concern experimental (and electronic) music. Being a Mego release realized in 2002 you know it's both top notch, smart, but at the same time muscular infact get ready because when Kevin is in for the explosion he’s gonna do it hard. This five legs journey begins with a buzzing drone that grows progressively screwing your ears even if you can’t but notice there a gloomy melody that drives the trip. "Turning point" moves the ground you walk upon by presenting a distorted noisy and altered electronical sound which gets deformed as if it was from Merzbow. This "deformed" digital sensation remains unaltered also in the next episode, this time it’s mostly based on high frequencies thus take for granted the listening is even more "painful" (for those who remember Massimo’s work on Mego, you know what I mean). What can you expect from a track titled "the inferno"? I can’t say if that’s the sound you’re gonna hear while crossing the doors down at "south of heaven", but to quote Cheetah Chrome Motherfuckers: "Well, what about anarchy? Please don't ask it no more cos’ we're already living in it". It’s funny for I can imagine Kevin Drumm when choosing the closing track of the album probably felt fter all this "controlled digital violence" melted in "distortion" it was time for a break. Well, "Cloudy" closes this cd with a soft and odd dronical misty... hem... cloudy journey heading nowhere. Ladies and gentleman that’s Kevin Drumm: love him or leave him.

Mahlon Hoard: Slicnaton

 Posted by Steve Mecca   Experimental / Avantgarde / Weird & Wired / Glitch / Noise / Field Recording
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May 10 2007
Artist: Mahlon Hoard
Title: Slicnaton
Format: CD
Label: New Music Solutions (@)
Distributor: New Music Solutions
Rated: *****

Okay, here’s the deal. When I received this CD to review, I popped it in the player without any pre-conceived notions of what kind of music I was getting into , began to listen to it, and absolutely hated it. Just what the hell is this- a squealing sax over some vaguely experimental electronic ambience? I took it out, put it away and decided I’d save my cutting remarks for another day. I’m glad I did.

After getting back to it in a couple of weeks, I began to understand what was going on. What we have here is a rather unusual experimental premise- an avant-garde saxophonist improvising (on first takes no less) over some rather strange experimental/ abstract backing tracks. When it comes to the avant-garde, I tend to grimace a bit, because I really have to be in the mood for it, especially avant-garde free jazz. Although I used to think this stuff was the domain of intellectuals who were much further out in the planes than I'd ever care to be, I came to the realization over the years that this kind of music is much more about feeling than thinking. Pop music is soulless compared to it, when it’s done properly. This is music from the gut, and a good player lays out his very essence before you in the often-twisted fashion that unrehearsed expression takes. So... how does that jive with electronically created ambiences, ala Ornette Coleman meets John Cage and Brian Eno in a dark alley kind of thing? You’d be surprised.

"Slicnaton" opens with what sounds like film ticking through an old projector and some subtle, soft and low horn burblings. Warped melting strings with light ghostly arpeggios from some kind of keyboard morphing into something else... ? provide the next backing tracks, while sparse, restrained overblown notes play sporadically. Something akin to a thumb piano on speed offers light melodic percussion and the sax meanors into jazzier territory. I can even recognize a few riffs now.
The weirdness kicks in on the 4th track, "Operator" where a sample and hold bit of electronics mixes with light random percussion and the sax begins to get wiggy. The following track, offers multi-tracked sax over a drone-tone... interesting how it all sounds so far away...

"Dron" has the most overtly electronic ambience, like a barrel-full of tiny bells, while the sax plays stray notes. I think I had given up by this time on the first listen, not knowing that the best was yet to come.

Next something completely different was happening, and it seemed like the sax and the ambiences were working together. Still an odd combo, but better integration. On "Whorgan", a track evocative of Phillip Glass in his abstract phase, the sax seemed more comfortable flitting around weaving emotion, rather than just random notes. It’s the ten+ minute long track, "Ishe", where the experiment really begins to pay off. It evokes a lonely, cry of desperation in an environment of dark isolation, a fruitless struggle against hostile elements, like birds caught in a black tide of oil. It’s tragic, painful, and full of woe. This is where the emotion really grabs you.

"Hey Sarah" is almost upbeat in comparison, but in spite of percussive elements, there is no beat. Maybe now is a good time to mention the backing tracks were created by Nic Slaton. I’m sure though, that some of the percussive sounds I’m hearing on this track were produced by rapid fingers over the sax keypads. The playing grows more frenetic matching the rapid percussive sounds, then adds a few poignant suspense notes. This is actually turning into quite a showcase of what Mahlon Hoard is capable of with minimal accompaniment. The playing is restrained, and a lesser skilled player could never have pulled this one off. It’s interesting, even if every track doesn’t ultimately work. If avant-garde sax, or experimental music with tendencies toward the minimal toot your horn, give it a listen. This isn’t one for the masses, but I doubt Mahlon Hoard was even remotely shooting for that.

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