Music Reviews

autoclav1.1: Overtime EP

 Posted by eskaton   Experimental / Avantgarde / Weird & Wired / Glitch / Noise / Field Recording
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Aug 04 2019
Artist: autoclav1.1 (@)
Title: Overtime EP
Format: 3" MiniCD
Label: Inner Demons Records
Rated: *****
I had previously reviewed autoclav1.1’s “Daylight Saving EP” and enjoyed it a lot, so I was interested to see how this would compare. “Daylight Saving” was heavy soundscapes, and “Overtime” keeps this going. “On Call” kicks it off with almost peaceful, slow moving synth drones. This is reminiscent of some of the dark ambient work that Cyclic Law has put out over the years. “Housebound” switches it up, with a more ominous bass drone and metallic chimes in the distance. Bits of scraping noise come in at times to break it up. great composition that keeps things interesting. “Released” takes us further down the rabbit hole with an orchestral track with muffled martial percussion. This is not quite as bombastic as Phragments or In Slaughter Natives, for example, but it is in the same ballpark. Another solid release from this artist. This album weighs in at around 18 minutes.

En Creux: Default 0012

 Posted by Stuart Bruce (@)   Experimental / Avantgarde / Weird & Wired / Glitch / Noise / Field Recording
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Jul 30 2019
Artist: En Creux
Title: Default 0012
Format: 12" vinyl + Download
Label: SM-LL
On the same day En Creux contributed the tenth in the SM-LL label’s “Batch” series, she has also contributed this, the twelfth release in the “Default” series. It’s unclear whether there’s a technical distinction between the two series, because in essence this release comes from the same sonic universe, though not perhaps from the same planet. An obvious thing both series have in common (with all other SM-LL releases) is the plain black artwork- this is not an error.

This is a half-hour pack made up of four live sonic performances which the accompanying press release at first seems to be excusing and blaming on “last-minute preparations” and “unfamiliar and faulty equipment”, but it quickly becomes clear this is not an apology. Quite the opposite, this is the core purpose of this work. This is equipment-torturing noise work that revels in its own difficulty.

“WhiteNPlugOto17” is a cross-mix of actual white noise that seems to have been sidechained by impulsive, hand-triggered electric bell tone pulses that loop and attack unpredictably, but sometimes rhythmically.

Comparatively, “OscNoisePOto17” is less abrasive- again pulse driven, but this time using bass-rich and toothy oscillators that wouldn’t sound out of place in dark acid techno. Knobs are gradually tweaked for a four minutes that disorients your stereo perception and has your ears forgetting what’s normal.

“FbackRverbFlangIktick18” is similarly pulse-powered but more lightweight, with a slightly more playful tone that feels like it harks back to electronic experiments of decades past. A gradual acceleration in pace takes it through quirky territory before the initial core instrument fades away, subsumed by gated waves of oscillator attack that all sit over a sedate sci-fi drone bed.

Final track “Tai-giVolcaVoiceOto17” is quite a different beast altogether. It’s constructed from spoken word samples that are bounced and retriggered rapidly, sometimes settling into loop patterns which sustain for a while before suddenly loop points shift and the synchronisation shifts, finding new settling ground for a few seconds before shifting again. It’s a fascinating exercise and also a strong success, building rhythm where none exists. Also, for better or worse depending on your point of view, most of the track is only a bassline and a kick drum away from being a Josh-Wink-DJ-set-friendly bit of very deep house. The soft spoken tone throughout, which feels like it could potentially have belonged to a teach-yourself-a-language audio recording session due to how measured it is, also makes it a very accessible and genuinely relaxing way to finish a release which started so aggressively and noisily three tracks earlier.

It’s an unusual set of live tracks where the inconsistency is a merit. Undoubtedly powerful live, in edgy experimental music terms it’s a healthy buffet of ideas.

En Creux: Batch 0010

 Posted by Stuart Bruce (@)   Experimental / Avantgarde / Weird & Wired / Glitch / Noise / Field Recording
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Jul 29 2019
Artist: En Creux
Title: Batch 0010
Format: 12" vinyl + Download
Immediately after Vialan’s contribution 9 to the “Batch” series, follows En Creux’s, the tenth in the series of all-black-cover experimental electronica works- and although part of the same series, it’s a very different work indeed. The latter, which I’ve just reviewed, is electronica with a slightly experimental edge, but this is a full-on devolution into sonic abstracts. Built primarily (or possibly purely) from mixer feedback, self-feeding loops and the textures of analogue inconsistencies, looped back on itself and heavily distorted, this is dense, dark electric noise work.

Out of the initial formlessness of “High(+15)” gradually emerges an awkward rhythm, almost 12/8 but not, which then impulsively drops to jump a thick, rubbery bass sound to the fore, before the pulsing elements gradually reappear and build systematically towards a tense, alarm-like pulsing plateau. The right side of the stereo drops out unpleasantly at times, forcing me to check my headphones weren’t broken, and they weren’t- it’s a genuine sonic consequence of this approach that’s both raw and clever at the same time.

The two short pieces “Aux1(U)” and “Aux2(U+3)” take the starting point of dodgy lead connections and feedback familiar to any sound engineer that’s struggled with faulty analogue kit, and layers it up and wallows in it until it starts to become oddly comfortable. The latter track very much purrs its way into the emotional part of your brain.

This flows into final track “Low(-15)”, which begins with softer, faster pulses that at times sound like hyperactive industrial techno sped and pitched up to absurd speeds; it will be interesting to see what it sounds like slowed down. Under this, distortions and twisted noises arrive in waves. It’s a level of energy that feels over-sustained in a piece that’s fourteen minutes long and which feels genuinely tiring by the end.

Hard-edged experimental for those who like their analogue sonic aural scrubs on the gritty side.

Kevin Richard Martin: Sirens

 Posted by Andrea Piran (@)   Ambient / Electronica / Ethereal / Dub / Soundscapes / Abstract
Experimental / Avantgarde / Weird & Wired / Glitch / Noise / Field Recording
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Jul 28 2019
Artist: Kevin Richard Martin
Title: Sirens
Format: 12"
Label: Room40 (@)
Rated: *****
As stated by Lawrence English in the liner notes, "Sirens" was first presented at Berghain for CTM festival and it "documents documents the intensities surrounding the delivery and early days of his first child" with "a sense of deep affect". As this words suggest, this new work by a veteran of the electronic scene is widely different form his latest work e.g., The Bug, which are more urban oriented.
With the first seconds of "There is a problem", the listener is immersed in a sort of ambient music which has the canonical stillness but has an element of menace given by deep basses and noisy sections which underline the moments inspired by the complex circumstances in which his wife and his son had health issues. Even if almost all the track are rather short, under five minutes, there's a sense of continuum as the dub frequencies are the skeleton of this release so there's a clear musical path marked by the progressive release of the bass which has its apex with the final lullaby of "A bright future" which closes this release.
At first sight, this release could be seen as a return to the ambient form already explored in his Techno Animal days but, at a closer listen, it's really a step forward as it features the most carefully constructed sound of his career. Practically a masterpiece.

Bana Haffar: Genera; Live At AB Salon, Brussels

 Posted by Stuart Bruce (@)   Electronics / EBM / Electronica
Experimental / Avantgarde / Weird & Wired / Glitch / Noise / Field Recording
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Jul 24 2019
Artist: Bana Haffar
Title: Genera; Live At AB Salon, Brussels
Format: CD + Download
Label: Touch # Tone
“Genera” is a live performance in five pieces (labelled ‘zones’), 32 minutes in total. Haffar uses a large array of modular synthesizers and is compositionally very free with them- melodies are present but spontaneous, non-repetitive, and unpredictable. Into the mix are thrown field recordings of environmental atmospheres, and snippets of traditional music performances- some possibly related to Haffar’s Saudi Arabian heritage, others more rooted in her modern North Carolina life. The result is a collage of disparate elements, presented expressively and emotively.

The first zone draws heavily on flute-like sounds that are twisted and shifted hypnotically, while in the second zone the synths form an organ-like drone for a flatter and more mesmeric landscape. This then brightens up into brighter and breezier synth arpeggios in the third zone. Unexpectedly and quite suddenly, zone four is a hollow cavern- low rumbles, trickling water noises, distant echoes- while the final zone, of stuttering chords and mellow Tangerine Dream-esque arpeggiators, both creeps up and fades away gradually, with a final devolution into crisp walking atmospherics and wind-like noises to close. Throughout, digital clicks and textures decorate the top end, providing a linking consistency.

It’s a short but sweet performance that would have been fascinating to catch live back in May. Fresh-sounding, despite familiar ingredients, it’s a premium package that represents modern electronic music well, and which could also serve as a strong entry point for people new to the genres being touched on here. The only awkward thing about it is the reference to the division into ‘zones’, ‘zone’ being one of those words that, once over-used, starts sounding quite silly somehow.

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