Music Reviews



Erland Dahlen: Blossom Bells

 Posted by Vito Camarretta (@)   Ambient / Electronica / Ethereal / Dub / Soundscapes / Abstract
Experimental / Avantgarde / Weird & Wired / Glitch / Noise / Field Recording
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Mar 10 2016
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Artist: Erland Dahlen
Title: Blossom Bells
Format: CD
Label: Hubro (@)
Rated: *****
The definition that a reviewer on Uncut zine gave about the surprising Norwegian drummer Erland Dahlen - a "one-man band-in-a-box sounds fuller and imaginative than many 'post-rock' quartets" - seems to be confirmed by his second solo output. Named after a set of bells engineered by the legendary instrument-maker Pete Engelhart, that Erland plays in many moments of this album together with traditional and less conventional instruments - including a set of cake moulds and springs built by Hallvard W.Hagen (one leg of Xploding Plastix), a sort of "percussion bass" by Harald Hougaardand and a wind up wood with elastic band built by Kenny Wollesen -, "Blossom Bells" rekindles the flame of the acknowledged oestrus of this musician, who manages to combine a penchant for new sound and a remarkable way of shuffling different styles. The way by which he sprays his drumming sessions by means of krautrock, ambient music, contemporary music, soundtrack-like music and drones into a blend of dark-spotted rock-inspired energy is so catchy that he wouldn't really need a so meticulous focus on sound, which is a detail that doesn't corrupt the genuine hooks and the pizzazz of his meaningful pastiche. Likewise his previous solo album "Rolling Bomber", "Blossom Bells" got exclusively played by Erland, but on this occasion he involved both Johnny Skalleberg, who partially recorded the album at Oslo Klang, as well as his long-lasting mates Xploding Plastix - Jens Petter Nilsen and Hallvard Wennersberg Hagen...besides the borrowing of the above-mentioned bizarre set of percussions, there are some similarities with their sound in tracks like "Pipe" -, who recorded the other half of the album at Coffee Fabric. Masterfully mastered by Helge Sten at Audio Virus Lab, this musical pearl is a must-have.

Erik Nyström: Morphogenèse

 Posted by Vito Camarretta (@)   Ambient / Electronica / Ethereal / Dub / Soundscapes / Abstract
Experimental / Avantgarde / Weird & Wired / Glitch / Noise / Field Recording
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Mar 10 2016
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Artist: Erik Nyström (@)
Title: Morphogenèse
Format: CD
Label: empreintes DIGITALes (@)
Rated: *****
British computer composer Erik Nystrom seems to focus more on the process of making a shape than the shape itself in the explorations that got collected in "Morphogenese"; the explanation of a process could be more or less an easy task, but rendering it by means of sounds is much more engaging and troublesome, but Erik managed to walk over this arduous and somehow trackless path by means of riveting sonic strategies, that he developed within pertaining conceptual field. A sort of elastic noise is the sparkle of the opening "Catabolisms", whose thrilling sequence of aggregating and disgregating textures really mirrors the description of catabolic processes by German art theorist and perceptual psychologist Rudolf Arnheim in his essay "Entropy and Art" ("all sorts of agents and events that act in an unpredictable, disorderly fashion and have in common the fact that they all grind things into pieces."), referred in the introduction of the track, which gradually reaches a sort of point of no return, where the breaking of all chemical bonding and the bursts of energy that followed each step of these catabolic processes pushes listener close to a sort of nowhere; similarly, a sonic sparkle - the elongation of a pure frequency of a sort of diapason - ignites the following "Latitudes", a track which manages to evoke a generative process of gradual expansion that begins with a compressed sonic corpuscle. "Lucent Voids", the longest composition of this collection, sounds like an unpredictable game, whose aim is the modelling and the thinning of the diaphragm between time and space, while Erik seems to add film and sheers to pure sounds on the track "Cataract" in order to render the analogy with the medical condition of the eye lens as well as the Greek etymology of the term "acousmatic" - its origin can be traced back to Pythagoras and should derive from the term akousmatikoi, the outer circle of the disciples of the Greek philosopher who could hear the lessons of their teacher, who spoke from behind a veil so that his presence could not distract them from the content of his lessons -. These four pieces are stereo versions (for home listening) of pieces that were originally conceived for 8-channel concert projections, while "Far-from-equilibrium" - an impressive electroacoustic translation of almost randomly self-generating entropic sonic entities and textures - comes from a stereo tape. A pair of really good headphones is highly recommended.

Pequod: Ex-

 Posted by Andrea Piran (@)   Experimental / Avantgarde / Weird & Wired / Glitch / Noise / Field Recording
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Mar 06 2016
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Artist: Pequod
Title: Ex-
Format: 12"
Label: Kohlhaas (@)
Rated: *****
This new release on Kohlhaas is from a quartet whose music is something writing and improvisation. Pequod is one of the project dealing with the codification of the language of "free improvisation" whose path is now on the exploration of spaces rather than on dissonances or noises related to social situation. So the reverb of the place where music is played has a role when it takes the musician into a state of introverted playing, and listening, where quiet nuances of sound are generated in the surrounding silence.
This release sounds as a single track in four movement; the slights masses of sounds which are the base of "Ex-I" depicts a sense where meditation is paired with action. "Ex-II" is, instead, a track based on silence where all sounds start barely audible to gradually evolve in a final part. "Ex-III" has twitch of sound that tie together a noisy first part and a quiet second part. The guitar's ostinato that opens "Ex-IV" is the skeleton of a track where all sound are in relation to the tone until they are left alone to close this release as a slow movement to silence.
This is that kind of release where instrument are explored as sound source rather than canonical musical instruments so it's a research for subtle tones and abstract shapes that immerse themselves in the environment to even disappear in the today's soundscape where all noises raise their volume. In a quiet environment is an education to listening.

Krojc / Fischerle: John, Betty & Stella

 Posted by Vito Camarretta (@)   Ambient / Electronica / Ethereal / Dub / Soundscapes / Abstract
Experimental / Avantgarde / Weird & Wired / Glitch / Noise / Field Recording
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Feb 29 2016
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Artist: Krojc / Fischerle (@)
Title: John, Betty & Stella
Format: 12"
Label: Monotype (@)
Rated: *****
One of the most original releases that recently met my eardrums is this bizarre sonic collage that Polish musicians and producers Jakub Pokorski and Mateusz Wysocki, who amalgamated a series of fragments they took from one of those cassette-based educational English lessons for beginners that were quite popular in the 80ies. The source of these fragments is "Listen and learn" (authors: J. Smalska, J. Rusiecki, B. Krasnodebska - issued by Muza Polskie Nagrania) and it was quite bizarre to discover that this collection of innocent English lessons got mentioned in an academic study around the more or less subliminal role of media in the gender-specific division of roles and functions. The way they re-arranged different fragments are really funny as they built a proper and somehow thrilling plot, that got enhanced by a sort of audio commentary, which explores many different areas of electronic music on the basis of the textual content. For instance, the somehow disquieting hyper-reverberated orchestral mayhem after a voice announces a lesson about modern art perfectly renders John's inability to understand or empathize with modern painting unlike Stella in "Figure Behind You", the smokey techno movement they inoculated while Stella blames John for smoking too many cigarettes in the same track, the obsessive and piercing musical dramatization of John's headache and the psychotic slowed movement for a discussion about the recipes of porridge between John and Betty. The acme got reached on the final track "A Musical Evening" (Section 52 of the course!), where the authors build an amazing electronic movement in between Felix Kubin-like dadaism and sci-fi lounge music, that gradually interrupts as if the tape got more and more jammed, demagnetized or overwritten. A nice way to improve your English!

Nicola Di Croce: Istruttiva serie

 Posted by Andrea Piran (@)   Experimental / Avantgarde / Weird & Wired / Glitch / Noise / Field Recording
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Feb 28 2016
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Artist: Nicola Di Croce (@)
Title: Istruttiva serie
Format: CD
Label: Kohlhaas (@)
Rated: *****
'Istruttiva serie' is based on a set of field recording done in territories near the city of Rovereto; as Nicola Di Croce is a composer whose musical language starts from thought about the relation between territory and sound, he decided non only to document the sound of the places but also to create a dialectic with folk guitar which is one of the typical instruments of those territories.
"I" starts this release with samples played backwards and filed recording whose resonances are clearly audible and it evolves, after an almost pure field recordings part, in a juxtaposition of drones which fill the audible spectrum and, when it seems to close with the tapes that opened, it shifts direction and uses sparse sounds. "II" is a short track where a guitar melody interacts with field recordings and noises. "III" shows how a field recording could be progressively transformed into into an almost noise track. The guitar samples and the samples of "IV" generate a soundscape of subtle nuances interrupted by static noises. "V" closes this release layering samples which almost hypnotize the listener.
All tracks are characterized by an impressive cure for details: the samples are often placed in a particular place in the aural field and they move with great precision, the resonances are enhanced when they create a relation with the underlying soundscape and the guitar is not used as an exotic spot but to avoid the effect of pure sound to hook the recording to the territories they belong. It's arduous as is sometimes abstract but is truly impressive.


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