Music Reviews



Smalts: It's Good to be on a well-run Ship

 Posted by Marc Urselli   Experimental / Avantgarde / Weird & Wired / Glitch / Noise / Field Recording
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Nov 05 2002
Artist: Smalts (@)
Title: It's Good to be on a well-run Ship
Format: CD
Label: Korm Plastics (@)
Distributor: Staalplaat (NL), Soleilmoon (US), Demos (It), These Records (UK), Target (De) and more...
Dutch band Smalts formed 20 years ago with a line up that included three members of their original band Minny Pops (whose material will be re-issued on UK LTM label shortly) plus a new drummer and that is still the same line up today. "It's Good to be on a well-run Ship" is a concept album dedicated to the victims of two years ago tragic and controversial disaster of Russian submarine Kursk and their families. The entire CD booklet is written in both English and Russian and comes with pictures of the sub, victims and mourning families. Musically they move between psychedelic electronic and post wave vanguard rock inspired by their former band, the Residents, the Legendary Pink Dots, Velvet Underground, Vadergraaf, Studio Pagol, Pink Floyd, Barry Adamson, Brian Eno and so forth... You'll find apocalyptic atmospheres engraced by ethnical percussions (track 5), introspective pinkish experimental vocal-centered acoustic ballads (1, 3, 13), almost out of context ethno-dub (2), electronic floors with ethnic passages (4, 8, 12), typcally Russian-inspired music with Russian words (6), very modern eastern-flavored electro-acoustic suites (7, 11), modern folk music soaked into electronic music and treated as dub music (9), interesting and challenging blends of blues-inspired funktronics (10). Very variegated and eclectic album with a noble intent and a theme that deserves more attention and more action than what has been done (or better say, not done...).

Dan Burke & Kevin Drumm: Mort Aux Vaches

 Posted by Marc Urselli   Experimental / Avantgarde / Weird & Wired / Glitch / Noise / Field Recording
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Nov 05 2002
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Artist: Dan Burke & Kevin Drumm
Title: Mort Aux Vaches
Format: CD
Label: Staalplaat (@)
Distributor: Staalplaat (NL), Soleilmoon (US), Demos (It), These Records (UK), Target (De) and more...
When two experimental veterans like Dan Burke from Illusion Of Safety and Kevin Drumm team up, you know it's gonna be some weird shit! The two have toured together last year and, in the process of doing so, recorded an improvised session at the VPRO radio's studios. The CD envelopes around the almost silent with hard to hear rumbles, hi pitched sibilant glitches and all sort of other analog and digital waveforms, but it also peaks into sheer industrialisms at times with balancing moments that can easily sound like the sound of a battle being fought somewhere, in the distant European fields of WWI and WWII... The record's primary sound sources include a guitar, but you won't hear anything resembling a conventional six string instrument in here. One track, fifty seven minutes.

Coh: Mort Aux Vaches

 Posted by Marc Urselli   Experimental / Avantgarde / Weird & Wired / Glitch / Noise / Field Recording
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Nov 04 2002
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Russian laptop artist Coh (which means "sleep" in Ivan Pavlov's native language) became a name know to the scenes with his 1998 release on Carsten Nicolai's Raster Noton records. Throughout the years he did pretty much stick to Raster, to Austrian Mego records and to Idea records, plus a couple of detours, among which a collaboration with two Coil members that came out on Coil's label Eskaton. Sleepy is one thing Ivan and his electronic-noise music is not and makes you not. His laptop drives out warm, textured, wrapping and atmospheric electronics. Noise is pumping throughout the entire and only track of this almost fourty minutes long CD but it is not fiercely scratching your insides, like some noise records do, or unconsciously and caninely caressing the top shelf of your hearing capabilities, like other glitch music records do. In this "Mort Aux Vaches" (recorded in 1999 for his Paradiso, Amsterdam, live set and issued with a wood-looking plastic wrap-around cover) Ivan sets noise in motion and keeps it rolling under the surface serving as a floor of wilderness, above the surface as a reminder of the power that lies beneath or in the middle of it all as the natural origin of all sonic creations and of all throbbing rhythmics. Overall murky but raw and Sevenish I highly recommend this record for those who enjoy creative laptop artists and can appreciate the departure from the usual improvised buzzing, hissing, glitching material and the approach of rather well thought out and designed musical structures where electronics teams up with all of the above to reach for a higher level...

VV.AA.: Morvern Callar

 Posted by Marc Urselli   Experimental / Avantgarde / Weird & Wired / Glitch / Noise / Field Recording
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Nov 04 2002
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Artist: VV.AA.
Title: Morvern Callar
Format: CD
Label: Warp
This is not your average Warp release, so don't expect complex futuristic electronic textures or stuff like that, and that's mainly because it is a soundtrack to the new film from independent director Lynne Ramsay (Cannes' aficionados might remember Prix du Jury winners "Small Deaths" and "Gasman" or internationally acclaimed "Ratcatcher"). It's a little awkward to dive into a movie soundtrack when you haven't seen the movie, especially when, like in this very case, the music is complementary to the visuals. Every song is an integral part of the film that enhances the sensory experience of the scene you are currently looking at. The movie (from an adaption of an Alan Warner novel) tells the story of Morvern Callar (interpreted by Samantha Morton), a woman who looks for life and excitement in the club scene but then drifts away from that in search for more and in doing so travels from Scotland to Spain. Trips and traps are accompanied by music from mainly the seventies and the nineties (with a couple of pieces from the decade in between). Experimental, introspective, surreal, flowery and dark at the same times, the fourteen compositions give you an idea of the variety of emotions the film carries with it... As I said earlier, expect less electronics and more experimental wave approach, with a line up that includes Can, Aphex Twin, Boards of Canada, Stereolab, The Velvet Underground, Broadcast, Gamelan Drumming, Holger Czukay, Lee 'Scratch' Perry, Nancy Sinatra & Lee Hazlewood and Ween.The musical voyage is appealing and what I read about it sounds interesting, so be on the lookout for this film (let's hope that the IFC Independent Movie Channel will soon show this fine European production on the other side of the ocean). The movie was released two days ago, on the 1st of November, and Warp's soundtrack CD will be released tomorrow, November, the 4th. For more info about the movie go to www.allianceatlantisfilms.com

D'Divaz: D'Divaz

 Posted by Julia Soultanova (@)   Experimental / Avantgarde / Weird & Wired / Glitch / Noise / Field Recording
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Nov 01 2002
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Artist: D'Divaz (@)
Title: D'Divaz
Format: CD
Label: Bruka 973-1
The theme of the tragic fate of Yugoslavia is like a red line crossing the creative work of the trio D’Divaz founded in 1998. The trio participants Milica Paranosic, Danijela Popovic and Aleksandra Vojcic are all Yugoslavian but the girls have been living apart from their native land for about ten years now. The Julliard School graduates reside in New York without ignoring their roots, though. They support their people not only throughout their work but also via charity concerts.D’Divaz is a unique band, because their activities cannot be filed under academic electronic music, nor can they be labeled as downtown music’ or the so-called club music. Their music has grown with the integration of both, evolving into a unique genre. This genre could be personified by the image of a crystal palace on the basement made of firm material tested by time. Their first and by far only album was released in 2000. The debut, nevertheless, doesn’t let to file the girls as novices’. They started their musical education already in Yugoslavia, continuing to study after moving to New York. At the moment Aleksandra and Milica work as teachers in Julliard School while Danijela is a pianist of the Girls Choir of Harlem. The creative energy of Milica who is the leader and inspiration for the group feeds the collective but the band’s integrity is the result of equal partnership between three outstanding individuals. There are at least a few elements that make the trio so unforgettable: their connection with the folk roots of their country, the free and harmonic expression of three female individuals, the harmonic mix between classical music, academic electronica and progressive avant-garde stylings and the last, but not least, the constant presence of strong civil position and humanistic roots.The album of D’Divaz wasn’t self-titled by chance, because it fully reflects the inner worlds of the participants as well as their emotional experiences. Even without any video image, the listener’s imagination will switch on the associations connected with the situation in Yugoslavia. One cannot exclude the political aspect when getting into D’Divaz’ creative work, because it works like a carcass that holds the artistic tissue of compositions. The album lasts a bit less than an hour, consisting of rather short compositions, none of them sounding the same. The mutated world of D’Divaz seems logical and structured in comparison with the objective reality. It’s filled with natural human drama. All music is intended to be performed on two pianos and is enriched by synthesized lines, and, in some compositions, percussion, drums and electric guitar, plus the obligatory injections of the superb free-floating primordial vocals in it’s electronic and instrumental flow. Despite the diversity found on this album, the tone is already set by the first composition «Crne Oci». It’s beginning sends the listener straight back to folky cries - the lengthy female singing is the prelude and the background for this composition. The stiff metallic strings with their thunderous sound announce the beginning of the generous summer rain - the insinuating piano lines, assisted by electronic noises. The beginning of the second composition «Go / Kolo» is quite insinuating as well, but you shouldn’t relax yet, the tension builds as we progress and when it reaches the apogee, it will evolve into a wonderful and completely scintillating dynamic melody.The next five tracks make up the series called «Nobody’s» which is shifting between polar moods - from quiet sadness to furious protest, from total numbness to sparkling inspiration. Everything is stirred as one single cocktail of tears, optimism and the intuitive hope.The longest composition on the CD called «Panasonic» is also the most colourful one as well as the most diverse. It’s something that could be called miniature instrumental electronic symphony. According to this definition «Panasonic» can be divided into parts. The first part is intriguing and exciting, taking on a «talk» between two pianos growing into real argument on top of synth washes and noises. Upon reaching a point where all discrete impressions and recollections flow into one single consciousness flux the music segues into the second part which is very lyrical and sad, where troubles of the past are revived and the bleeding wounds of the present open up for you to see. The third part denies desperation, though. It’s the impersonation of the inner force and of longing for life. The expression and unbelievable eloquence of the composition is reached by means of its dissonant scale.The next composition «S’X» develops in a slow and intriguing way. A half perceivable piano theme is joined by the mournful synthesizer drone, reminding of whales crying or the distant boat whistle, like a dam holding in the emotional waves. Gently flowing, thin musical lines slowly become twisted. A brief heady dance with its passion and significance reminds of Argentinian tango. It’s the culmination of this gem, the denouement being the same weightless melody that was featured in the beginning of the track. A generally the same scenario is used for the 11th and 12th compositions, only this time with greater sharpness. They’re called «Boo-bah / go» and «Saran» and essentially they are one single piece, because no intermission and no pause can be found in between. The main nerve of the music remains the piano, whose quietness is interrupted by the crazy drum rhythm that instigates explosive reactions. The composition is untwined like a shiny merry-go-round and the offensive movement never ceases until the very end. During the finale, the sparse and uneasy atmosphere takes on a quirky and clear stance, constructed from private experience and the rich cultural heritage of the people. The name of the final track, «D’Divaz», is self-describing. The composition resumes the album while stating the artistic credo of musicians. The coziness of the forest during daylight, the proximity of the all-understanding ground, the caressing of the wind and the fragrance of wild flowers are felt in this composition. The wisdom and beauty of nature are the basis for this music. Bird’s chirping is a guide of faith, the symbol of unity for everything that exists, the gentle voicing of the peace, concealing the hysteria of war - every kind of war, be it near or far, political or individual - it’s always totally senseless and unnatural. The atmosphere of the primeval purity absorbs all the troubles and pain of human existence. The ringing laugh of the performers as well as their native speech are the link between dream and reality. That’s what the final chord of this talented and diverse work is like. The unlucky fate of the D’Divaz’ native land are the leit-motif of all their creative work, but it’s inspired by the light and the warmth of ancient traditions. When listening to the disc one cannot help but feel the complicity with the once flourished nation. The pathos of D’Divaz is that of the burning national self-consciousness, never fading away even when being so far away from native land. Their music is full of reflection of general human character that touch every thinking person irrespective of his place of living.


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