Music Reviews



SAMARTZIS/ENGLISH: One Plus One

 Posted by Eugenio Maggi (@)   Experimental / Avantgarde / Weird & Wired / Glitch / Noise / Field Recording
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Dec 27 2006
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Artist: SAMARTZIS/ENGLISH
Title: One Plus One
Format: 3" MiniCD
Label: Room40
Rated: *****
A tight duo recording by two excellent artists from down under, namely the extraordinary turntablist Philip Samartzis (formerly involved with vinyl-manipulation forerunners GUM) and Lawrence English, author, among other things, of a wonderful disc on Crónica (see archive). I don't really know what they play, possibly turntables (duh!) and effects-Samartzis and laptop-English. The four tracks offered here are culled, I suppose, from a series of improvisations, and are wisely kept short and to the point (21 minutes total), but sometimes they're so good I wished they lasted longer. "Faster than Cold" starts with a frantic accumulation of loops, vinyl skips and pulses, soon paired by more recognizable digital bleeps and an almost regular, "techno" rhythm. "Gut Bucket Blues" is more droning and static, with a looped strumming sliding in and out of the mix, while the following "Goin' Back Home", arguably the strongest track of the ep, features a fragment of melody stuck in neverending cycles, soon submerged by a crescendo of high frequencies. "Phosphorecent Clouds" closes this nice disc (hopefully an appetizer for something more consistent) with a sort of tribal drumming and/or steady beat (think of Goem's "Disco"), but who knows if it's "just" a vinyl loop.

RICHARD CHARTIER: Current

 Posted by Eugenio Maggi (@)   Experimental / Avantgarde / Weird & Wired / Glitch / Noise / Field Recording
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Dec 27 2006
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Artist: RICHARD CHARTIER
Title: Current
Format: 3" MiniCD
Label: Room40
Rated: *****
A new ep from one of the masters of digital minimalism, microsounds or lowercase, you choose the tag. "Current" is a 19'50" composition released by the ever excellent Room40 in its series of finely designed quasi-3" cds, coinciding with Chartier's 2006 Australia/Japan tour. The track starts with high-end frequencies, soon smudged by white noise, then plunged deep in an ebb and flow of ghost frequencies. All at a very low volume, of course. Described like this, it could sound all too easy, but Chartier does know how to put a careful assemblage and, most of all, an engaging atmosphere in the most anemic sound matter. It's nothing that you wouldn't expect from him, but with such a quality production this is surely not a defect.

VV. AA.: Jukebox Buddha

 Posted by Eugenio Maggi (@)   Experimental / Avantgarde / Weird & Wired / Glitch / Noise / Field Recording
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Dec 27 2006
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Artist: VV. AA.
Title: Jukebox Buddha
Format: CD
Label: Staubgold
Rated: *****
You've probably read about the latest hype gadget, but here it is: the Chinese duo FM3 (its member Christiaan Virant, to be exact) found a Buddha Machine (a "battery-operated meditation device" playing a sequence of loops, with one-touch control parameters) in Beijing, decided to adapt it with their own sounds, and spread a certain number of modified versions around. Many musicians, including Brian Eno, soon went crazy for it, and here we have the first sampler of Buddha Machine-based compositions. Being after all a loop playing device, don't expect anything particularly new technically-wise: it's minimal/repetitive music like any other, the true difference laying - as always - in the quality and fantasy of each performer. Wang Fan seems to stick to an almost pure layering of drones, while Thomas Fehlmann, Robert Henke (of Monolake/Ableton fame, and composer of a recent Buddha Machine-based cd) and sunn0))) lean on ambient, Adrian Sherwood and Doug Wimbish on eerie trip-hop/dub rhythms, Es on Coil-esque cosmic music, Alog on an almost exclusively vocal composition, etc. And of course leftfield beat-based electronica is represented as well (Kammerflimmer Kollektief, Gudrun Gut, Mapstation). Blixa Bargeld stands alone in terms of weirdness with the bird tweets of "Little Yellow", but the most convincing interpretations come from the above mentioned Henke and sunn0))), together with the feedback-driven track by Minit and Sun City Girls' ghostly psychedelia. A curious and entertaining sample, though honestly with only few truly outstanding moments.
Dec 27 2006
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Artist: THE OPERATIVE (@)
Title: An adoring circle af Radical Calamity
Format: CD
Label: Crunch Pod Media (@)
Distributor: DSBP
Rated: *****
After some well recognized underground releases out on his own website www.mechanismz.com, THE OPERATIVE and Crunch Pod Media have decided to unite their forces. So here’s a first mutual released full-length release of this one-man act, which provides a mixture of Powernoise tunes, flavored with some Breakbeat, Ambient and IDM influences. At times some voice samples provide the content of the tracks (strange example: "Disembodied", "A Man, A Fuse, A Bomb"), also some sparse included vocals ("Dead Beat") are joining the scenario. Mostly straight and rhythmically arranged ("Dawns Turbulent Rise", the angry "Dead Beat"...), the tracks also leave some space for trips into some more experimental fields, just check the atonal sounds on "Fleeing Tribal Rule". The winning point for THE OPERATIVE can be named in the huge diversity which is rich offered here. It needs some attention and also a few more rotations until the listener will be able to discover the whole content. Who by the way stands behind THE OPERATIVE? Well, he keeps in secrecy and wears a mask also on gigs. Go out, buy this album and check his activities.

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?


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