Music Reviews

VV.AA.: Karl Marx's 200th !

 Posted by Stuart Bruce (@)   Electronics / EBM / Electronica
Experimental / Avantgarde / Weird & Wired / Glitch / Noise / Field Recording
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Jun 07 2018
Artist: VV.AA.
Title: Karl Marx's 200th !
Format: 2 x CD (double CD)
Label: Karlrecords
“Karl Marx’s 200th” is a charity record with a difference- or rather many differences- marking the 200th year of Marx’s birth (albeit with a release date which misses Marx’s actual birthday by over a month) with a non-ironic anti-capitalist consumer product from which all the proceeds will be donated to charities. To whom the proceeds will be donated is completely undisclosed into the press release- I’m assuming it won’t be the Republicans or the Conservatives.

Musically it’s two hours of a relatively un-mixed bag. Many of the artists have already put out releases reviewed on ChainDLK in their own right and could be said to be part of an established scene, and working within their comfort zones. Artists like Aidan Baker and Porya Hatami offer up unusual recipes of drones and electronic soundscaping, while tracks like AGF’s remix of “Capitalism Crashed” are more electronica-minded affairs with soft kicks, glitches and noise washes.

There are some exceptions to the consistency of the sound. For example, the album is wrapped up by a live acoustic song performance by Warnings. Kammerflimmer Kollektief’s offering is 90 seconds of sonic chaos built from looping guitars and odd percussive hits with a certain, perhaps unintentional, sense of daftness- similarly Gitter’s offering sounds dangerously close to a metal band arsing about. Nickolas Mohanna’s “La semaine sanglante” is enjoyably theatrical in parts, as is Guido Möbius’s angular concoction of tape effects and teeth-grinding industrial and construction site noises.

Schneider TM, normally associated with somewhat mellower electronica, must have been having an angry day creating “Hand In Den Mund” which ends up sounding quite Venetian Snares-like in its brusqueness.

While other tracks like “Kali” use spoken-word vocals, Nicolas Wiese’s “The Revolution Will Have Been Youtubed #2”, revolving around spoken word samples looped and processed in a variety of ways, is the only piece that seems to tackle the themes of Karl Marx’s work in a verbalised and direct, albeit quite heavy-handed, way. All other references to Marx are more oblique- often just in the track titles, or notably in the poetry of Seda Mimarolu’s appropriately-titled “Circuitous”.

Highlights include Jasmine Guffond’s stark juxtaposition of gentle electric guitar patterns against harsh electronic noise in “Niche Service”, Pharoah Chromium’s sinister, gaming-environment-like “Der Zerfall des Systems”, Alexandre Babel’s energetic percussion work “Karlstag” and a crisp, strangely optimistic-sounding glitch-electronica of Mark Weiser’s “Kapital”.

Most of the pieces are kept rather short, so as to pack 28 pieces in, cutting some of the more interesting drone work a little before its prime, with only two pieces breaking the six minute barrier- Yr Lovely Dead Moon’s rather lush 11-minute feminine beat-poetry-driven devolving deep house workout “Kali”, and Caspar Brötzmann’s eight minute Silber-esque guitar drone “Marx Crash”.

Possibly the strangest charity record you’ll ever buy, at two hours long it’s a bumper value pack and if you’re a fan of avant garde electronica and also of the apparently anti-capitalist cause, then you should buy it, unironically.

Mark Van Hoen: Invisible Threads

 Posted by Stuart Bruce (@)   Experimental / Avantgarde / Weird & Wired / Glitch / Noise / Field Recording
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Jun 04 2018
Artist: Mark Van Hoen
Title: Invisible Threads
Format: CD + Download
Label: Touch
Long-established experimental musician Mark Van Hoen offers up a compact album of cinematic atmospheres- long drones and sub-bass notes, sustained glacial string sounds, sparse and carefully chosen higher-end twinkles and decorations all group together into a consistent environment that maintains both a sombre tone and a relaxed atmosphere simultaneously.

On pieces like “Aether”, there’s a slow unfolding, a gradual introduction of elements to give a sense of dawnbreak that never rushes into any dramatic revelation, while on pieces like “Instable” there’s a less evolving, more ambient environmental set-up of synthetic winds and slow waves.

Though Van Hoen cites a variety of influences and sound sources- field recordings, YouTube and beyond- the end result ends up sounding rather purist, as though entirely constructed from digital synths and effects. There’s a boldness to it that’s beautiful, bordering on simple- the flipside of which is that there’s a slight shortage of truly distinctive or original elements at play here, and if listening devoid of artist or title information, you would be hard pushed to work out who this release was by. It’s one of those releases that is high-quality and polished, yet moderately forgettable.

Nytt Land: Oðal

 Posted by Andrea Piran (@)   Experimental / Avantgarde / Weird & Wired / Glitch / Noise / Field Recording
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Jun 03 2018
Artist: Nytt Land (@)
Title: Oðal
Format: CD
Label: Cold Spring (@)
Rated: *****
Almost a year after Fimbulvinter, this Siberian band returns with a release inspired by the traditional music of their land. However, they play folk music using not only traditional instruments, but also field recordings of nature, to underline the link to their land, and some sparse keyboard to enhance the musical spectrum. The gravity center, and most recognizable character, of their music is the overtone singing technique, “kargyraa”, used by both the male and female voices.
The opening dance of "Darraðarljóð / The Song of the Valkyries" opens this release with his grave pace. An howling wolf opens "Ragnarök" and the track evolves in a rhythmic cage underlined by the jew-harp with a rather dramatic crescendo of the tagelharpa and an effective use of musical suspension which has a coda,and a further refinement, in "Midsommar". "Hávamál" is a slow tempo song that makes full use of low frequencies. "Norður / Yule Song" is based on the use of the double ranges of the male and female voices. "Tagelharpa Song" is a catchy interlude on the tagelharpa introducing "Deyr Fé / The Heritage" whose first parts features a dialogue between father and son where the former teaches a poem, or a prayer; and the track evolves in an epic horse ride. "Völuspá" features some synth and "Sigrdrífumál / The Ballad of The Victory-Bringer" closes this release with a quiet song for voice and drums.
Perhaps even better than his predecessor to use some means of modernity to remove a dust's patina to a form rooted in ancient times, so it could be enjoyed even by fans on modern songs. It's really worth a listen.

Død Beverte: Polarination

 Posted by Steve Mecca   Experimental / Avantgarde / Weird & Wired / Glitch / Noise / Field Recording
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Jun 02 2018
Artist: Død Beverte (@)
Title: Polarination
Format: Download Only (MP3 + Lossless)
Label: self-released
Rated: *****
Død Beverte is Stefan Klein from Colorado Springs, Colorado who began his musical career with his avant-garde extreme metal band Dethcentrik back in 2009. According to his website, Død has been in, worked with, and has remixed/been remixed by many other projects and artists, including Blank Faced Prophet, Cold Metal Future, Fill The Void, Dawn of Ashes, The Rust Punk Tribe, Angelspit, f.kk.d, Omega Dub Experience, Jeremiah Whitman, Chris Vrenna (Nine Inch Nails, Tweaker, Marilyn Manson), Disturbing Taxidermy, and many others. Kinda sounds impressive, eh? Well maybe so, until you listen to 'Polarination' which is supposed to be experimental music, but all too often as in this case is a catch-all category for not too good music. First and title track on 'Polarination' is nearly 5 minutes of poorly improvised noise with repetitious dialogue samples of pundits saying "this is the most racist bigoted" and other acrimonious political jargon, obviously directed at #45. Speaking of the Cheeto-in-Chief, "Echoes of a Dark Past" continues with more dialogue samples, namely the "I alone can fix it" gem pitch-shifted down several octaves to demon range. The improvised music on "Brooding Conflict" is slightly more intriguing, but not enough to make up for what preceded it. "Straight Outta The Cold War" gives us unadulterated Trump - "Madmen, out there...shooting rockets all over the place..." underpinned with bassy warblings sounding like sad whales. "Bipolar Partisanship" is just a manipulated mess, likely as it was intended to make a statement on the current political scene. The mess continues on "The War Has Begun" with lots of chaotic crowd samples and some really bad distorto-bass playing. Plenty of anger, not much else. The short (barely over a minute) track "Holding Onto The Pieces" was the first one that seemed to have an interesting ambience in its plucky minimalism. That quickly falls by the wayside though when Død Beverte tries some avant-garde guitar and bass dissected by a steady feedback tone on "Last Moment To Reflect". Later throwing in some reverb for good measure doesn't make it any better. The fourteen and a half minute "Nuclear Holocaust" has elements of dark ambient, (monotonous) avant-garde minimal improv and noise, but the elements don't coalesce well enough to form anything more than filling 15 minutes of space with sound. "Wasteland" started out being the most interesting track on the album with minimal atmospheric bass pulse in a slow, sinister rhythm, but then "the other bass" shows up a few seconds over a minute in, and kicks the crap out of anything that might have been worthwhile in its belligerent annoynace. Even the deeply chambered sonics that eventually follow seem kind of contrived. Lastly according to Død, track 11 is an open source track he completed after the album and gave away along with giving away alternate mixes and stems, entitled "Nowhere To Hide". Funny, it's the most musical thing on the album; a bit awkward but it has its strange charm. I'd be more inclined to have liked the album if there were more tracks like that on it. I can understand that (some) artists want to make a statement and ruminate on the current socio-political crisis that is enveloping the world, and especially this country today. Let's face it, it's permeating our culture, and to a degree our music is part of that culture. You're not going to be getting anything deep out of Taylor Swift, Kanye West, or others in the pop world, so it falls to the fringe carry the torch. 'Polarination' isn't the answer though because it's just too fractured and amateurish to even leave a lasting impression. I'm sure Død Beverte was looking to leave an impression when he concocted this; I just don't think it will be what he intended.

Anne-James Chaton & Andy Moor: Tout Ce Que Je Sais

 Posted by Stuart Bruce (@)   Experimental / Avantgarde / Weird & Wired / Glitch / Noise / Field Recording
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Jun 02 2018
Artist: Anne-James Chaton & Andy Moor
Title: Tout Ce Que Je Sais
Format: CD & Vinyl
Label: Unsounds
The second part of their “Heretics” series continues to fuse together Anne-James Chaton’s French-language freeform and sometimes quite frenetic beat poetry with Andy Moor (The Ex)’s looped and layered improvised and mostly rhythm-driven experimental guitar work.

It’s recorded live, though you wouldn’t tell from the sound quality, which is very rich and deep- only the appreciate audience responses between tracks give it away. A curious bit of anachronistic soundscaping after the first track, seemingly featuring bees and tractors, is shortlived and not fully explored, with the release focussing almost exclusively on guitar and voice.

Being unable to speak French, the voice here is just another instrument to be judged on sonic rather than lyrical quality, but it stands up well in that regard. It’s dramatic, well-performed, both evocative and strangely authoritative, though there isn’t necessarily a great deal of variation between pieces which is highlighted more when you don’t understand what’s being said.

The guitar, meanwhile, generally has one particular sound, but does adopt a variety of playing styles- “Coquins coquettes et cocus” being more than halfway to full-on rock guitar, “Clair Obscur” being a little more folksy, “Casino rabelaisien” being somewhat darker.

Final track “The Things That Belong To William” (again a French-language track despite the title) stands out for being more freeform, using timestretched vocal recordings as a throat-singing-style atmospheric bed and using the guitar for spontaneous and dynamic clanging rather than the beat patterns that dominate most of the other tracks.

It’s a strong piece of guitar poetry in a relatively conventional style, and thankfully you don’t have to speak French to appreciate it.

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