Music Reviews



Mahlon Hoard: Slicnaton

 Posted by Steve Mecca   Experimental / Avantgarde / Weird & Wired / Glitch / Noise / Field Recording
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May 10 2007
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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.

SCOTT TINKLER : Backwards

 Posted by Andrea Ferraris (@)   Experimental / Avantgarde / Weird & Wired / Glitch / Noise / Field Recording
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May 07 2007
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Artist: SCOTT TINKLER (@)
Title: Backwards
Format: CD
Label: Extreme
Rated: *****
It took me a while to review this release, I've always have an hard time with the analysis of solo performances like that, sure you have many helpful factors like technique, influences, sound...but like in many other cases to like it or not it's a subjective decision. What else?!...I think you've to add everything is intentionally reduced to a solo instrument and differently from what many people believe it brings in front to the complexity of some solo "playing" vs band/big band/orchestral works where "the whole is still the sum of the parts". The curriculum of Scott Tinkler is impressive but honestly you can get his incredible technical skill from the way every track sounds "fluid". Differently from many solo releases this australian musician avoided to fall in the dogma of "electroacoustic abstractism" a la Axel Doner or a la Kyle Bruckmann (just to mention two of the best and most expressive exponent of this "modus essendi"), Tinkler combines abstraction with tradition an if you think I'm wrong just give a listen to the eight minutes of "Cranck" where like Zorn he fuses fragmented playing with the evolution of some jazz masters like Lacy or Braxton. "Jazz reactionaries" out there are warned, even if I dare anybody to deny the influence of the genre on the most of these compositions you can bet Tinkler is trying to go ahead. This eight tracks features both fast playing and "soft" abstract (extemporary?) compositions. The funny thing is that you have a bass drum kick here, some resonators (like cymbals) there and it all augments the "ambience" around the "voices" of the trumpets. "Backwards" is a personal effort recorded and played in an intelligent way which helps Tinkler to go beyond conventions.

SLARAFFENLAND: Private Cinema

 Posted by Maurizio Pustianaz (@)   Experimental / Avantgarde / Weird & Wired / Glitch / Noise / Field Recording
Dark / Gothic / Wave / New Wave / Dark Wave / Industrial Gothic
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May 07 2007
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Artist: SLARAFFENLAND (@)
Title: Private Cinema
Format: CD
Label: Rumraket (@)
Rated: *****
Eight release for the label run by the band Efterklang and second full length for Slaraffenland (which means 'land of milk and honey" in Danish). PRIVATE CINEMA is a record that will please the lovers of guitar noise music as well as improvisation enthusiasts. Slaraffenland's sound is a particular blend of pop (see their vocals), noise (notice the way they duet with guitars, creating dissonant layers) and experimentation (see the use of trumpet or sax which sometimes are treated or reversed or see the band's way of creating pop structures which after few minutes go berserk). The first tracks are influenced by the fathers of the genre (i.e. Sonic Youth) but Slaraffenland's music is a thing on its own because I didn't heard no one sounding like them. It is true that guitar noise isn't one of my nowadays preferred genres (too many bands that sound like garage bands on acid) but Slaraffenland have something that makes me say that they are unique. Check "This one will kill us" and its six minutes and half and you'll find everything I mentioned (pop, experimentation, noise and a bit of melancholy), the following "The run up" (a melancholic instrumental song which seems made by a folk psychedelic combo) or the noisy "Rod" with its two minutes of pure guitar noise on the run. The band is able of doing a track like this last one and then make it follow by "Watch out". A cool pop indie song (a particular one) which starts with acoustic instruments and just to turn into a jazzy noise track on its ending. Interesting...

LAUB: Deinetwegen

 Posted by Maurizio Pustianaz (@)   Experimental / Avantgarde / Weird & Wired / Glitch / Noise / Field Recording
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May 04 2007
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Artist: LAUB (@)
Title: Deinetwegen
Format: CD
Label: AGF Producktion (@)
Distributor: Wide
Rated: *****
Born from a collaboration of Antye Greie (a.k.a. Poemproducer) and Jotka (producer and guitar player, motion graphic designer and founder of Arme Irre), Laub releases its first album for Antye's personal label AGF. The album see Antye singing and reciting her poems while Jotka create soft ambience built out from the interaction of blues music and glitch experimentations. The result sounds like a blues record with experimental arrangements as well as an experimental/ambient album played with rock/blues attitude. The atmosphere is gloomy and melancholic but I can't tell you about the lyrics, because unfortunately I don't understand the German language. The songs are in balance from pop attitude and improvisation and on most of them a bluesy guitar drive the melody and the structure of the track. Personally I appreciated most tracks like "Ruf" or "Schnee" where the characteristic blues structure is less interfering and the couple is free to experiment a little more.

HAPPY WELLY: Irritable Vowel Syndrome

 Posted by Marc Tater (@)   Experimental / Avantgarde / Weird & Wired / Glitch / Noise / Field Recording
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May 03 2007
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Artist: HAPPY WELLY
Title: Irritable Vowel Syndrome
Format: CD
Label: Haunted House Records (@)
Distributor: CDBaby
Rated: *****
Well, I’ve included this release under the genre "Experimental", because I really don’t know where the musically combination between Electronica sound design and Slapstick up to Nonsense would fit in. Be sure, this release is the strangest thing you’ve ever heard! HAPPY WELLY is leaded by the UK-based musician Mat Howlett who likes to present his humorous kind of Electronica music. This output manages hard to sound like never-ever heard before - be it an instrument, a melody or be it a strange vocal a-cappella performance (...which Mat often likes to use as an instrument...), it all got mixed to a climax only designed to poke fun on musically structures, genres or behavior. If it sounds awful and trashy enough - it may fits into the musically world of HAPPY WELLY. "Song" titles like "Back Pack Sock Rat", "Snortacus" or "Pablo Dubios And His Smiling Tits" will prove you nicely that life has more to offer than bitter and gray seriousness – while I’ve at least found with the track "Gripping Stripes" a constant political-associated message. My favorite track for sure, maybe besides the pretty decadent tune "Paint Your Wogan", on which Mat acts like a single entertainer and the "music" sounds like played with "my first Bontempi" keyboard. It’s a fun release at all – but somehow unique in its kind.


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