Music Reviews



15 Degrees Below Zero: Our Urgency

 Posted by eskaton   Experimental / Avantgarde / Weird & Wired / Glitch / Noise / Field Recording
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Jul 30 2017
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Artist: 15 Degrees Below Zero (@)
Title: Our Urgency
Format: 3" MiniCD
Label: Inner Demons Records
Rated: *****
15 Degrees Below Zero is the work of Michael Addison Mersereau, Daniel Blomquist, and Mark Wilson (who also records under the name of Conure). This band grew out of the ashes of Imperial Floral Assault Unit, so this group has been performing together since 2000, and as 15DBZ since 2004. This shows in the finely crafted music that they have created on this disc. “Our Urgency” is a track of processed guitar and synth drone, which becomes more and more unstable over time. But this is not chaos; rather, it is the illusion of chaos, as they build a maelstrom of sound to a beautiful conclusion of noise, static, and feedback. In some ways it reminds me of Terry Riley’s minimalist work “In C,” where things shift ever so slightly to become something entirely different. “attempt_3” is a short track of noisy bass drone and peaceful synthesized bells/chimes. It’s like listening to a roughly running truck engine in front of your grandmother’s house on a windy day as her windchimes randomly hit the notes. “attempt_1” is longer, at 7 minutes, and sounds little like the previous “attempt.” There is a heavy, low end rumble that sounds like the earth’s tectonic plates have worked their way into the composition, with bits of metallic grinding. This then gives way to a much more sedate droning ambiance, as a keyboard plays out quarter notes over the endless drone. It’s like listening to someone play the piano in your dreams. Everything is foggy and you can barely remember it when you wake up, but you know that something happened there. This is well worth picking up. Hurry, because it is limited to only 42 copies.

Loss: She, Zombie

 Posted by eskaton   Experimental / Avantgarde / Weird & Wired / Glitch / Noise / Field Recording
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Jul 30 2017
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Artist: Loss
Title: She, Zombie
Format: 3" MiniCD
Label: Inner Demons Records
Rated: *****
For those who have not been paying attention, Loss is the work of Inner Demons Records founder Dan Fox. His work tends to be highly emotional and complex, and this release is no exception. “She, Zombie” opens this up with a grinding sawtooth wave drone and a bass line over a woman’s voice on an answering machine repeating, “I’m sorry, please don’t leave me,” followed by a barely intelligible “I just want to see you.” This is an exercise in slow moving repetition, as more and more lines draw together into the composition. About 6 minutes in, there is a male voice spoken word segment about a drug addicted woman. Phrases like, “I was the second most important thing in the universe …. in my universe, she still came first,” highlight the kind of co-dependency hinted at in the opening machine message. This is brought home as the answering machine message returns, but slowly morphs into what sounds like both male and female voices saying the same phrase over and over again, until it is distorted beyond recognition. For those who have followed Loss and are used to the heavily distorted vocals, this is a track with depressing moments of clarity. “Dead Dreams” is the other track on this disc, and has more of a harsh beat feel to it, but with the lush synth work that one would expect from Loss. It works as an interesting upbeat contrast to the haunting feel of “She, Zombie.” Overall, this is a great addition to the Loss discography and well worth picking up. However, you will want to do this quickly because it is limited to 42 copies. This disc weighs in at around 21 minutes.

VV.AA.: Delineation- A Collection Of Reinterpretations & Remixes

 Posted by Stuart Bruce (@)   Experimental / Avantgarde / Weird & Wired / Glitch / Noise / Field Recording
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Jul 28 2017
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Artist: VV.AA.
Title: Delineation- A Collection Of Reinterpretations & Remixes
Format: Tape
Label: Midira Records
“Delineation” is a four-cassette box set containing just under two hours of reworks of Midira Records tracks from N, Ninemiles, Caudal, Piiptsjilling and others, reworked by 13 different artists who are allowed to cut fairly loose and put their own spin on things. The reworkings are so broad that it plays more like a compilation of original label tunes than a remix album, and in some parts it’s so consistent that it feels more like an indulgent artist album.

The opening two tracks, remixes from Nadja and Aidan Baker, are both lengthy slices of slow sinister drone with supremely slow (circa 50bpm) rock drumming echoing away underneath. They’re both reworks of N tracks, which comprise almost half the collection and which generally follow the same pattern- languid drone with heavily effected guitar ambling over dark, almost zombie-walk rhythms. The trumpet playing on the Zenjungle remix, initially purist and then gradually and subtly glitched, helps that one stand out with a unique character, while the Andrea Belfi remix revolves around a plucky semi-synthetic sound that’s more than a little bit Twin Peaks.

The non-N tracks are mostly pushed to the second half of the set, and add a moderate amount of extra scope without being radically different. Aidan Baker’s “Consciousness Bridge” reshaped by Architeuthis Rex shifts things somewhat, with a sorrowful and hard-to-decipher, slightly folky female vocal and more ethnic percussive sounds providing a different kind of energy underneath the two-chord drone. Ninemiles’ remix of Piiptsjilling’s “Kobbeswerk” ups the electrical sparking and industrial flavours, and a Birken remix places subtle, deep-underwater thump patterns underneath the wash. A Tissika remix of another Piiptsjilling track and the appropriately-named ‘Desolation’ version by Dirk Serries of another N track wrap things up with a couple of longer and more barren soundscapes as proceedings tail away, fading carefully into silence.

The extensive duration of most of these tracks (averaging 9 minutes each) is perhaps inspired by the tape format, with most of the tracks allowed to fill most or all of a 15-minute side of a tape, yet I don’t quite see that this release lends itself to the tape format. Periods of silence at the end of each side, and having to turn the cassette over after almost every track, makes it feel like the worst limitations of the format have been exposed. Luckily each box set comes with a download code, so in practice I’m sure most listeners will enjoy the continuous two-hour listening experience, and the cassette box will be an unusual little bookend or paperweight.

Sudaria: Lucid nightmares

 Posted by Andrea Piran (@)   Experimental / Avantgarde / Weird & Wired / Glitch / Noise / Field Recording
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Jul 25 2017
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Artist: Sudaria (@)
Title: Lucid nightmares
Format: CD
Label: Frozen Light (@)
Rated: *****
Just a few months after "The Syncretic Labyrinth" this Spanish project returns with a release which confirms the quality of this project. While in the previous release the black metal influence was under the curtain of experimental music, this release shows more clearly this reference as there's even vocal and a more defined song form in certain parts of this album which, however, is closer to a single piece in seven parts than a collection of tracks.
The masses of violins of "Lucid Nightmares" introduce a listener into a sound field where movement is generated by the overtones and some small noises in the background so it could be a little too long and requires a reasonable high volume to be fully appreciated. "Mirrors of Ignorance" is instead a more constructed and atmospheric track as the various sounds are immersed in silence while the second part is a slowly moving line of synth. "Pale Old Gods" oscillates between quiet synth movements and dark moments of noise where the black metal influences emerge clearly. While the first and third part of "Age of Vice" are based on a sort of lied for piano, guitar and growl vocals the second and central part is a thick soundscape for low frequency drones. After some seconds of silence "Shapeless Flame" erupts in a mass of feedback which has a resolution in "Abhorrent Breeding" with his mass of sustained tones of synth that, after some second of silence, introduce the listener to "Abortion" whose quiet and almost psychedelic developments accompany the listener towards the end of this release in an almost dreamy atmosphere as a sort of relief after a nightmare.
More focused than his predecessor even if plagued by a production somehow a little too blurry or unbalanced in volume in certain moments, but this is a standard for the genre, he gives the impression that there's more to come from this project. Highly recommended for fans of weird black metal.

p.s.: there's also space for an unlisted bonus black neofolk track.

Afredo Costa Monteiro / Miguel A. Garcia: Aq'ab'al

 Posted by Stuart Bruce (@)   Experimental / Avantgarde / Weird & Wired / Glitch / Noise / Field Recording
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Jul 24 2017
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Artist: Afredo Costa Monteiro / Miguel A. Garcia
Title: Aq'ab'al
Format: CD
Label: Mikroton
This is the first published collaboration between these two experimental improvisers. In it, some familiar stalwart sounds of dark experimental ambient music including drones, industrial noises, feedback, white noises (and other flavours I think), analogue modulations and glitches wash and wave, sometimes fairly slowly, sometimes abruptly, as you’re taken into an alien environment that’s complex, immersive yet largely unwelcoming.

Though packaged as 4 tracks, each around 10 minutes long, it’s a relentless work with little distinction between the sections. Things do mellow out briefly towards the end of second piece “Und”, but it’s a temporary reprieve. The hollow tones at the beginning of “Toj” have a slightly more horror movie flavour for a while, while parts of “Sappnicran” feel like they’ve been pumped through a plastic tube.

It’s abrasive but over time it gradually becomes quite compelling, with a sort of sonic scouring effect. Particularly on headphones it’s somewhat cathartic. It doesn’t peddle anything particularly new or distinctive, but as a well-wrapped dose of experimental noise it develops its own sense of function.


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