Music Reviews



Grant Cutler: Self Portrait

 Posted by eskaton   Experimental / Avantgarde / Weird & Wired / Glitch / Noise / Field Recording
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Nov 26 2017
cover
Artist: Grant Cutler (@)
Title: Self Portrait
Format: CD
Label: Innova (@)
Rated: *****
I had previously reviewed Cutler’s collaboration with Chris Campbell, “Schooldays Over,” and had enjoyed it, so I was interested to hear what this solo disc sounded like. As the label describes it, “Cutler recorded artists improvising to delayed recordings of themselves, a kind of sonic déja vu where memory and experience blend together in an evolving present. Slowly evolving colors wash over the listener; as though placing a mic in front of a fresh Rothko.” Considering that I had called the previous disc “well done dreamlike music,” this sounds like we are in for a similar ride. “Georgia” starts us off with some staccato arpeggiated tones that give way to a composition of slow moving piano quarter notes and saxophone. Peaceful and calm, but gets more intense as more and more layers emerge out of nowhere.
“The Dream I Float Away” brings us lush soundscapes of strings and drone, a feeling that continues for the next few songs until we reach “Part 2.” This is a bit different, at times keeping with the tranquil feeling of the other tracks, before suddenly kicking in with heavily amplified organ and a bit of distortion and convolution to the track. It is almost startling after the peacefulness of the earlier tracks. This moves into the plodding piano of “Stairwell” before shifting gears once more for “Paroxysm,” which is almost noisy by comparison to the other tracks. This is not harsh noise, but rather a sense of pressure with warbling drone and rumbling bass. Finally, “Drowning” brings it all together with a track that is both noisy and soothing at the same time. The music crashes over you like staticy waves. Overall this lacks the melancholy feel of the previous collaboration. Instead, we have intermittent moments of storminess over a placid sea. If you want to get mellow, this is one to reach for. This album weighs in at around 38 minutes.

Peter Aaron / Brian Chase Duo: Purges

 Posted by eskaton   Experimental / Avantgarde / Weird & Wired / Glitch / Noise / Field Recording
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Nov 26 2017
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Artist: Peter Aaron / Brian Chase Duo (@)
Title: Purges
Format: CD
Label: Public Eyesore (@)
Rated: *****
I was familiar with Chase’s work with the Yeah Yeah Yeahs and Aaron’s work in Chrome Cranks, so I was interested to see how it all came together. Duos often run the risk of sounding too stripped down, so let’s see what happens when you throw Brian Chase on drums and Peter Aaron on guitar. From the opening track this duo comes out swinging. “Purge 1” is noisy as hell and a good time. Hard to believe that this much racket is coming from two people. “Rolling” keeps it noisy. High pitched noise and feedback in full effect. Eventually the drums come in and like the first purge, it keeps up with the noise. Purge 2 brings back the freewheeling improvisation with the guitar and drums both trying to solo for different songs at the same time. On “Space,” drums takes center stage here, with the guitar providing more of a wavering whine that gets more intense as the track progresses, like listening to Buddy Rich in a hornet’s nest. “Purge 3” lays down more of the raw improvisation that I am really enjoying. “Delay” uses its namesake to create an intense wall of sound. If you like it noisy, these guys deliver in this track. “Purge 4” gives us machine gun drums over guitar feedback. On “Swirl,” they take turns sharing the spotlight as Chase beats the hell out of the drums, and then steps aside for Aaron on guitar, before they both decide to unload with both barrels together before slowing down to something almost resembling calm, if it weren’t for the feedback. “Purge 5” almost sounds like a 4-track demo tape of a punk band trying out a new song. Overall, this was fantastic. I give it a rating of “hell yeah,” and highly recommend this. I would go see this duo perform live because I would guess that it would be intense. This is serious improvisation, and Chase and Aaron have fissured out how to make this work while sounding like complete chaos. Well done. This album weighs in at around 23 minutes.

Mondo Flockard: s/t

 Posted by eskaton   Experimental / Avantgarde / Weird & Wired / Glitch / Noise / Field Recording
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Nov 26 2017
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Artist: Mondo Flockard
Title: s/t
Format: CD
Label: Tone List (@)
Rated: *****
I was not familiar with Mondo Flockard, but this is the work of Melbourne-based drummer Maria Moles. The label describes it this way: “You're not sure where you are, sounds feel close-up and far-away all at once, with only the memory of bells and chimes keeping you in familiar territory. A driving rhythm sets in and marches you into uncharted parts of the land - bells ring and snares crack right in your ears as a guitar string rings through a misty valley and a wave of rich resonance slowly washes over. At last when things seem to slow down, the drums are everywhere and nowhere, a solo from behind a veil, whilst a spacious melody is a much needed reminder of home.” Sounds promising, so let’s see if it lives up to the description. “New Age Tape Bath” starts off the disc, and sounds like listening to a CD of a recording of a toy factory where all of the toys are making noises, but the disc is badly scratched and skipping all over the place. There’s a lot going on here that keeps it interesting. Next up, we have “Dance If There Are Seven.” Frantic percussion that sounds like it is done on a variety of metal cans with droney synth over it opens this track up, before bringing in snare drum and more slow moving synth and random cymbals. Lots of percussion, and as a drummer I enjoyed this immensely. “Gazing Over” brings it all together with jangling jingle bells and percussion with an improvised synth line that seems almost random, like someone trying out a keyboard over a low bass hum. I liked the percussion, but the synth felt a bit out of place here. Overall, this was a pleasant listen. If you want more percussion (and not just cowbell) this is one for you. I would be quite interested to see this performed live. This album weighs in at around 14 minutes. This is limited to 100 copies, so if this sounds like your cup of tea, you’ll want to get it quickly.

Hey Exit: Inhale (EP)

 Posted by Steve Mecca   Experimental / Avantgarde / Weird & Wired / Glitch / Noise / Field Recording
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Nov 26 2017
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Artist: Hey Exit (@)
Title: Inhale (EP)
Format: Tape
Label: self-released
Rated: *****
Every time I receive a cassette to review (which isn't all that often) I can usually guess the genre(s); either experimental or black metal. This one goes mostly to the former, with sort of a twist. Hey Exit is Queens, New York based guitarist Brendan Landis. Landis's musical style is of the experimental variety, and the 'Inhale' EP is a collection of songs ranging from hazy slowcore chorales to waves of heavy sludge. Landis has been doing this (putting out cassette releases) for more than a few years (since at least 2010 as far as I can tell) either by himself, or in collaboration with others. When I first listened to the 7 tracks on 'Inhale' I have to say that I wasn't very impressed. It sounded like Kevin Shields (MBV) just screwing around testing his guitar settings. There was a lot I wasn't hearing that became clearer when I listened to these tracks digitally off Hey Exit's Bandcamp site. ( www.heyexit.bandcamp.com). Instead of being a blur of shoegazer guitar chords with some heavy distortion thrown in here and there for the sake of sounding experimental, the tracks really took on a life of their own. "Holding Collapse" is ultra-shoegaze with gauzy reverbed-out guitar work typical of the genre, light soporific soprano barely-there vocals and minimal drums. In its own way, it's kind of beautiful. Technically, it might have benefited from better recording but possibly at the risk of losing its rough charm. "Cut Them Out" is a bit heavier with more distortion in the mix, somewhat noisy, and the vocals even more receding into the background, as if they might have been recorded in another room, maybe even on another planet. This one didn't resonate too well with me, although the chorale voices at the end was a nice touch, brief as it was. "Vulpine" is comprised of electronic squeals and squalls over a background of gauzy guitar and murky choral voices, as well as deep-end sustained drones from the lower strings. When the squeals and squalls subside, we are left with minimal heavily chambered guitar notes that allude to an air of the psychedelic. Minimal, lonely, lovely. "Lianas" is a track where shoegaze meets experimental and the result actually pays off. Carefully controlled feedback dredging up walls of fuzzy, nebulous guitar clouds makes this a most intriguing piece. "Yes They Said So" is bleakness at its most desolate making use of a number of guitar and sonic techniques to achieve its end. I didn't find "Bore Through" that interesting, perhaps because there was just too much "fingers on fretboard" sound for my taste. The staticy noise squall that began a little later didn't help either. Perhaps the most atypical song on 'Inhale' is the final track - "Puppies". It starts out with just a few guitar notes, then Brendan's delicate fey voice in sing-song style with lyrics I could actually understand ("You watch purple dreams in the summer...")...then after a bit of this the noise and feedback kicks in adding a much more ominous dimension. It's quite a dichotomy of the innocent vocals and the overwhelming explosive guitar sonics. The whole thing ends up in a total deconstruction as it regresses into entropy. Hmmm...something to think about.

There is more at work on 'Inhale' than I first imagined and I'm glad I didn't dismiss it outright. Although I'm not a big fan of experimental guitar (I've heard and reviewed a good number of these kinds of projects) there is much more at work here than some bedroom musician with a guitar, effects, amp and recorder. Still, experimental projects like Hey Exit tend to get minimal exposure no matter how good they are. My suggestion - 1. Form a shoegazer band with a charismatic singer (preferably female, but that's your choice). 2. Write a ton of melancholy pop songs and record the best ones. 3. Get yourself a crack publicist (not a publicist on crack) who appreciates and understands your music (tough one). 3. Release an album on vinyl (vinyl is forever; other media is disposable) and tour the world. (If not the world, then at least the nation.) You WILL get noticed, and maybe even famous. Then you can do whatever you like, and a lot more people will plunk down good money for it.

Maninkari: L'Océan Rêve Dans Sa Loisiveté (second session)

 Posted by Andrea Piran (@)   Ambient / Electronica / Ethereal / Dub / Soundscapes / Abstract
Experimental / Avantgarde / Weird & Wired / Glitch / Noise / Field Recording
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Nov 26 2017
cover
Artist: Maninkari (@)
Title: L'Océan Rêve Dans Sa Loisiveté (second session)
Format: CD
Label: Zoharum (@)
Distributor: Alchembria
Rated: *****
While their last release on Zoharum, "Continuum Sonore Part 7>14", was a canonical but well constructed ambient release "L'Océan Rêve Dans Sa Loisiveté" is on another territory. Once again, is a second part of a release published on another label but it's completely based on traditional instruments: marimba, cymbalom and bodham among the others. The result is deeply based on repetitive and hypnotic beats and simple but catchy melodies which could create a sort of trance if they were not occupied with the variation of the overall release.
As all tracks are untitled, the hint is that the listener should take this release as a single track in nine movements.
The first movement of this release is based on the dialogue between bodhran-tar and viola which, with his long and sustained tones, seems not to follow the beat but this is due to the fact that the percussion is used as a voice, not as a time reference. The second movement is based on the cello and resonances with the percussion on a more canonical role. The marimba of the third movement introduces the listener towards another sound field based on the accumulation of the sources to fill the spectrum and creating an hypnotic sonic mass. While the fourth movement returns to the territories of the first, the fifth uses the reverb to create a dreamy atmosphere. The sixth and seventh movement are focused on the use of the cimbalom to obtain a sort of ethnic effect as it's a sound culturally connoted with the middle east, even if the use of synth create a link with modern times. The rhythmic emphasis of the eight movement introduce the listener to the final movement where the use of cymbalom and santoor permits the movement from rhythmical oriented form of strumming to more meditative ones.
Even in his rigorous use of the instruments, it's a sort of meta traditional music that could find an audience towards diverse genres from minimalism to ambient. Quite a surprise.


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