Music Reviews

Trio 96: Duo '03

 Posted by Perry Bathous   Experimental / Avantgarde / Weird & Wired / Glitch / Noise / Field Recording
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Mar 13 2005
Artist: Trio 96
Title: Duo '03
Format: CD
Label: Poseidon Records
Distributor: Musea Records (NOTE: distributed in U.S. by Syn-Phonic)
Rated: *****
While down to just the two core members Ishikawa Kenji and Tanaka Yasuhiro (see "Quartet '99" review, above), Trio 96's Duo '03 CD has richer tonal textures, and definitely WEIRDER stylings. As you can guess from the titles, the earlier CD was indeed recorded in 1999, and this one from 2002 to 2003, both in Tokyo. This time around, Trio 96 has moved away from being a traditional-sounding jazz combo, straying into sound effects territory, and I applaud this direction. From the sampled-string-bending on track number two, "Kerenmi Afureru Pray" to the strange Hendrix-y wah-wah guitar and staccatto bass patterns on "Improvisation (Braford)" to the synth-like brooding melancholy of "Hommage à A & G," there is, ironically enough, a lot more tonal variation to sink your teeth into. Poseidon/Musea's promo sheet compares the guitarwork on this CD--a six-song EP, really--to that of eighties King Crimson, and I think that's quite right. To me, it also goes a long way toward bridging the gap between avant-jazz and works like the amazing jazz-electronica of fellow Japanese duo Boom Boom Satellites. Less is more, kids.

Von Magnet: De L'Aimant

 Posted by Marc Urselli   Electronics / EBM / Electronica
Experimental / Avantgarde / Weird & Wired / Glitch / Noise / Field Recording
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Mar 08 2005
Artist: Von Magnet (@)
Title: De L'Aimant
Format: CD
Label: Fairplay
Distributor: Orkhestra International
Rated: *****
You may probably think of Von Magnet as a sort of super-group, where great music originates from the joint efforts of the leader Phil Von (electronics, vocals, lyrics) together with Flore Magnet (vocals, lyrics), Mimetic (electronics, percussions), the collaboration of flamenco guitarrist Sabine Van Den Oever and the additional production of sound designer Norscq (Colder, Atlas Project). Even though this album is less exciting to me than some other things I love more, it deserves five stars for its originality and beauty. Phil Von has always been a precursor, a piioneer, a researcher, and all his love for experimenting with multi-cultural sonics show through his work in "De L'Aimant", an album that he describes, sings and promotes as "electro-flamenco". For once, the description is more than appropriate and not nearly exxagerated or showing off. You get the characteristically Spanish sounding flamenco guitars, the beautiful cajon percussions and other percussive patterns, the andalusian singing and all the warmth, melancholy, sweetness and intense passion that come with them All of this is matched to electronic textures and programming, lots of samples (italian voices, english voices, arab instruments and more), beats and layers of inspiring digital sound. While still re-inventing himself after 20 years of great music (remember 1987's "El Sexo Surrealista"), the Von Magnet music collective will provide you with awesome, passionate, inspiring, poetic and truly borderless music. Highly recommended!

Quikion: Ramadan

 Posted by Ian Hall   Experimental / Avantgarde / Weird & Wired / Glitch / Noise / Field Recording
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Mar 07 2005
Artist: Quikion
Title: Ramadan
Format: CD
Label: Gazul Records/MUSEA
Distributor: Poseidon
Rated: *****
Ramadan, the fourth CD by Japanese-based folk trio Quikion, is a far-out flight of fancy that whisks the listener headlong through crumbling columns of the cultural divide. This disc features twelve traditional tunes harvested from such far-flung corners as England, Germany, France, Romania, Yugoslavia, and even Pakistan! There are plenty of other delightful twists and surprises to be found on this CD, beyond the diversity of sources from which the material was garnered. For starters, lead vocalist Totoki Yukiko intones these songs in a new and exciting way, singing them in her native Japanese tongue. Sasaki Emi lends her vocal talents, as well, on some of the tracks. These soothing sounds are augmented by superb instrumentation, provided by all three band members. Yukiko plays the concertina and harmonium with skill and savvy. Emi gives her all on the accordion, glockenspiel, psaltery, and, pianica. Both women provide percussion, as well. Oguma Eiji’s fingers fly across the strings of his guitar, bouzouki, and tempura. Toy instruments are also utilized with some frequency on this disc, adding a playful air to the presentation. Too many individual highlights to mention here in total, though I will give a special nod to "Moon and a Bride," the title track, "Cha-Ri-Ne," and "Spellbound," which are all exceptional. "Concertina Blues" and "Sirba D’Accordion" are also special songs, centered on charming refrains that flow freely from their namesake instruments. Enchanting and lovely, this CD makes me want to get up and dance around – what a treat!

Large Number: Spray On Sound

 Posted by Ian Hall   Experimental / Avantgarde / Weird & Wired / Glitch / Noise / Field Recording
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Mar 07 2005
Artist: Large Number
Title: Spray On Sound
Format: CD
Label: The White Label
Rated: *****
I didn’t know quite what to expect when I popped this disc in the player. The mélange of strange items (which could pass for a mess on my bedroom floor) gracing the cover superimposed over an old analog synthesizer, beneath a green eye, topped by a brow-like feather, and capped with a pink box really grabbed my attention. Initially, I thought I’d be bombarded with straight-up, noisy experimentation a la Voice Crack or some of Nurse With Wound’s more cacophonic offerings. Instead, I discovered a wide array of styles, sounds, and all around funky weirdness from former Add N to (X) founder/member, Ann Shenton and her new comrades. This rowdy bunch includes a blind banjo player, a guitarist, a female harmonica virtuoso, former Add N to (X) drummer Rob Allum, and a veritable plethora of synthesizers and other electronic toys that have been assembled by Shenton for the purpose of producing this strangely seductive racket. To put it bluntly, this is just plain cool! Each of the fourteen tracks is its own unique entity. "The Creaky O.K." kicks things off on an uncomplicated, funky note. "Pink Jazz" defines itself with its quirky vocals about (you guessed it) Pink Jazz and its trippy, oscillator-infused meanderings are a perfect backdrop for the strangely robotic discourse. "Hunchback in the Dark" is a purely instrumental stint, as low horns frolic gently in a field of gently chirping, retro-synth sounds. "Crazy" bops absurdly along in utter merriment, the male and female vocalists trading silly lyrical lines over softly vocoded backing vocals and a wonderfully relaxing guitar theme, before a beat interrupts the flow. "Chronosynclasticinfundibulation" sounds vaguely like a trip to the video arcade circa late 70’s/early 80’. Xevious, Break-out, and a couple of others I can’t readily identify are in the mix, along with some well-placed theremin shrieks, and a spate of insistent drumbeats, some of them bona-fide wooden-stick-on-stretched-skin, and some synthetic. "Spring on Electris" begins with a song from a tiny calliope and degenerates into erratic burps and bubbles of sound backed by a light soup of snares and cymbals. "The Transgenic Banjo Player" busts some seriously freaky moves, with its sneaky bass line and jazz-induced feel underlying a lament about "my body falling into the black hole of chaos." The song proceeds to do just that, as the banjo joins in for a brief spaced-out country jam, ultimately withering away into quietude. "Lexical Synesthesia" keeps the banjo in the mix, along with the guitar and acoustic drums. The requisite synth oddities take backstage to this broth of natural instrument sounds and a few sketchy lines of vocals that give this track the feeling of a more traditional song structure. "Autumn on Electris" marks a return to this fantastic locale – if this is what is sounds like on Electris, I’m booking a ticket today! "Today, This Flea" is a modest little 40 second bit, perhaps a suitably short and tidy ode to one of this small critters? "Love in the Asylum" is a gorgeous groove, powered by an infectious harpsichord hook, replete with swooping synths and an occasional wail from the theremin. "Twenty Two Seconds" reminds me of that shuddering-vibe sound effect used so often in murder mystery movies. The mystery here is embodied in the nearly indecipherable words, spoken lightly throughout this short track until it fades away. "Emotional Life of Animals" evokes images of an alien landing on some farm. One can hear dogs barking, cattle lowing, sheep bleating, and plenty of otherworldly noises in the background. A live recording of "The Earth Has Shrunk in the Wash" closes out this totally odd but addictive musical escapade. My only complaint is the short playing time, as the disc clocks in at a mere 38:16. Hopefully next time, they’ll spray on some more sound!

MERZBOW: Sha Mo 3000

 Posted by Eugenio Maggi (@)   Industrial Noise / Power Noise / Harsh Noise
Experimental / Avantgarde / Weird & Wired / Glitch / Noise / Field Recording
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Mar 04 2005
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Title: Sha Mo 3000
Format: CD
Label: Essence
Rated: *****
I haven't listened to much of Merzbow's digital production, and this cd made me regret that quite a bit. Coming in a gorgeous matte-cardboard gatefold sleeve (with Akita's ongoing obsession for chickens, here in a wildly psychedelic mood), "Sha Mo 3000", played with ma-computer, guitar and EMS synthesizer, is much more diverse and tasty than I expected. The noise element is crisp, and while I'm not a fan of laptop-generated noise, there is enough care here to keep it intense throughout. But what makes "Sha Mo 3000" particularly interesting is the attention to structure and flow. Save for the initial short burst of "Suzunami", all tracks are lengthy (above the 10/15 minutes mark) and quite elaborated. Akita is always minimal in choosing his sources (often just one looped sample), but at the same time very careful with variations and details, so that the sound doesn't stagnate - which is quite fundamental in a good noise (and ambient and...) release. The title track, with its drum samples creating a heavily rhythmic backbone for the screeching feedbacks, and the fuzzy guitar of "Hen's teeth", have a flamboyant rock feel which sounds like a respectful, if perverted, tribute to '70's space music and psychedelia. "Ghost hide your eyes" and "Dreaming k-dog", on the other hand, are full of subtle and disquieting atmospheres - electroacoustic/concrete music drenched in an acid bath? Of course, there is probably enough sheer violence to make this worthwhile for a noise freak, but, unlike many ultra-noise releases, this definitely begs for repeated listens.

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