Music Reviews



Lawrence English + Stephen Vitiello: Fable

 Posted by eskaton   Experimental / Avantgarde / Weird & Wired / Glitch / Noise / Field Recording
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Jun 01 2015
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Artist: Lawrence English + Stephen Vitiello (@)
Title: Fable
Format: CD
Label: Dragon's Eye Recordings (@)
Rated: *****
Lawrence English is a composer and artist based in Australia and Stephen Vitiello is an American musician who is also a professor of Kinetic Imaging at Virginia Commonwealth University. According to the label, this collaboration focuses on their 'joint interests in modular synthesis, field recordings and the blurry boundaries between acoustic instrumentation and electronics. . . . Its palette, whilst diverse remains focused and as the album progresses themes of arrhythmic percussion, electronic-like field recording, prepared piano and vintage synthesis begin to take form.' We open with 'Over Inland' which maintains a nice juxtaposition as vibraphone provides a peaceful, pleasant melody over clanging bottles, pipes, chimes, snippets of voice, and field recordings. But this is not random; it is composed together well. For me, this was the standout track of the disc. 'Encased In Blue Marble' takes a more spacey approach, with pulsing drone and analog sweeps thrown in for good measure. Kind of peaceful. 'A Chime For The Fable' clangs its way through, giving you the impression that you're in a clock factory and you're in the testing room. 'Forecast The Dawn' is like listening to incidental music in a film (and you know something is about to happen....). Not too bad, but not as engaging as the first two tracks. This blends into 'A Fable For The Chime,' which continues along the same trajectory. Once again, you get the sense that this is well crafted, with nothing left to chance. 'That Caress, Inverted' brings back some of the spacey feeling, with a wheezing synth and plodding, thudding bass. Finally, 'Tender Unison' finishes up with some pleasant drone. Overall, this was interesting but sort of a mixed bag. The first few tracks were great, but the middle section was not anything that would stand up to repeat listening for me. It was well crafted, but just not as engaging for me. This album weighs in at around 32 minutes.

Golden Diskó Ship: Invisible Bonfire

 Posted by eskaton   Experimental / Avantgarde / Weird & Wired / Glitch / Noise / Field Recording
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Jun 01 2015
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Artist: Golden Diskó Ship (@)
Title: Invisible Bonfire
Format: CDS (CD Single)
Label: Spezialmaterial Records (@)
Rated: *****
Golden Disko Ship is the work of German artist Theresa Stroetges. The label describes this album as 'one might imagine Ma- rumari played live by The Boredoms via The Hototogisu after a session with Sonic Youth and Felix Kubin. But this would be completely reductive and unfair.' Well, reductive is what we aim for here, so let's get to it. We open with 'These Thoughts Will Never Take Shape,' which begins with sultry female vocals and stripped down percussion before adding just a hint of processing. It then kicks into a mix of synth, percussion, and guitar, until it almost sounds like a pop song, although one colored by years of listening to Cocteau Twins. 'Fake Horse' features some nice ethereal vocals and synth; once again, this is almost like a pop song, but not quite. 'Little Stream' puts the 'disco' in Golden Disko Ship, with a nice grooving beat and bass line with a lot of analog synth weirdness and some guitar. Imagine if someone broke into Autechre's studio with a bag of shrooms. It's a good time. 'Movie Theatre: has a nice apocalyptic folk vibe going on until the vocals suddenly get run through a fuzz pedal with a more driving beat; it tacks back and forth between mellow and distorted throughout. 'Snowflake Helicopter' is a nice, somewhat peaceful track, while 'Say Goodbye To This Island - Over And Out' mixes it up by getting noisy after the first half and distorting everything. The mixture of her lovely vocals while everything gets run through layers of distortion makes for a fun juxtaposition. 'New Year / Under The Wave' is one of the more interesting tracks, where her vocals seem like they are being heard at a distance from the other end of a large drainage pipe as a muddy bass line plods along. 'Swan Song' wouldn't be out of place alongside Sol Invictus' 'Trees in Winter.' Overall, the most endearing thing about this album is its ability to walk just on the other side of the line of what most people would consider to be 'normal' music. I would love to hear this in a coffee shop or a bookstore to gauge the reactions. The compositions are interesting and her vocals are beautiful, but then she tweaks it ever so slightly. Quite enjoyable and worth checking out. This album weighs in at around 48 minutes.

Yvan Etienne: Feu

 Posted by eskaton   Experimental / Avantgarde / Weird & Wired / Glitch / Noise / Field Recording
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Jun 01 2015
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Artist: Yvan Etienne (@)
Title: Feu
Format: CD
Label: Aposiopèse
Rated: *****
Yvan Etienne is a French 'artist and activist' whose 'sound art research questions the perception and physicality of sound spaces.' He is also the founder of the sound workshop at HEAR/Mulhouse, Art school of Mulhouse and co-manager of SONIC, master of sound research. Other than a note that he 'composes and plays pieces using electronic, phonography, analog synthesizers and the hurdy-gurdy,' there isn't much to go on concerning this album, so let's dive in. We begin with 'Une Nuit,' a short piece that sounds a lot like being in a factory, with static, air blasts, metal scraping and clanging. We're off to a good start. 'De La Charge' has a lot more going on. As we begin with clinking metal, you begin to notice layers of music underneath the sounds. There's a lot of complexity, and you get the sense that this was carefully put together. However, as the piece continues on it becomes much more stripped down, with crackling static over the noise of quietly howling wind in a tunnel. At just over 21 minutes, this felt like it went on for a bit too long, and he could have cut the last 5 minutes without much effect. Finally, we close with 'La Lueur,' with swirling waves of digital tones - like listening to modem transmissions ' that dissolves into drone. This then shifts into a sawtooth drone with what sounds like a flute or recorder underneath. This also became a bit dull, as it shifted just slightly as it proceeded along. There were definitely some interesting points, but I found this to be a mixed bag. At times it was interesting and engaging, but then toward the end of the track, the idea would get beat into the ground. This album is limited to 300 copies and weighs in at around 41 minutes.

Westwind: Survivalism

 Posted by eskaton   Experimental / Avantgarde / Weird & Wired / Glitch / Noise / Field Recording
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Jun 01 2015
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Artist: Westwind (@)
Title: Survivalism
Format: 3 x CD (triple CD)
Label: Steelwork Maschine (@)
Rated: *****
I had not heard of Westwind, nor could I find much info about the project, but the biohazard emblem on the cover and the title give some sense of what they're after here. The info on the press sheet consists mostly of this quote from Robert Heinlein, which solidifies the sentiment: 'Let us suppose that you were quick-witted, far sighted, and fast on your feet; you brought yourself and your family safely through the bombing and have them somewhere out in the country, away from the radioactive areas that were targets a short time before. The countryside is swarming with survivors from the edges of the bombed areas, survivors who are hungry, desperate, some of them armed, all of them free of the civilizing restrictions of organized living. Enemy troops, moving in to occupy, may already be present or may be dropping in from the skies any day. How, on that day, will you feed and protect yourself and your family?' Obviously this is some feel good music, so put on our dancing shoes and see what this 3 disc behemoth of a release has to offer. Disc 1 opens up with what sounds like a theremin (mimicking a shortwave radio) and some pounding percussion before kicking in to a nice grooving track with a good bass line moving things along. On this disc, there is a general feel of heaviness, but not in a heavy handed sort of way. This disc is mostly instrumental, with some samples here and there and some vocals buried deep in the mix at times. I am reminded in some ways of video game music (and if you think it's all simple, I would refer you to Alien Sex Fiend's 'Inferno'). However, I was surprised at the music here, given the bleak topic. It seems almost hopeful. Some of the standouts are track 3 with its intense, pounding percussion and arpeggiated synth lines, track 7, with its medieval feel and heavy bass, and track 8, which opens with the sounds of countless hungry seagulls before the synth and, by now familiar martial percussion, and the sampled vocals that intone 'you're all pigs.' Well done. Now on to Disc 2. I was hopeful as it opened up with gritty, noisy, marching percussion and droning synth, but overall this is similar to disc 1, although a bit more structured. But yeah ' if disc one was the soundtrack of hope, disc two is the one where you realize just how screwed you are and how difficult this is going to be. Your water supply has been contaminated, the stores have been looted, and you're almost out of gas. Things aren't looking quite so rosy at this point. One comparison that comes to mind is a more stripped down Phelios. Some of the standouts here besides the opening track include track 3, which slows things down a bit, but uses samples judiciously as a way to maintain atmosphere; track 4, which has a good beat and interesting complexity that keeps everything engaging; and track 9, which is a 19 minute scan for life on the airwaves, with static hiss, analog warbling, and voices that you just can't make out no matter how hard you strain your ears. Only one thing is certain: you're not alone. If you're wondering about the theme of Survivalism, Disc 3 delivers the goods. This is more of what I was expecting when I put in the CD. We begin with weird warbling sounds and voices that have been processed beyond recognition as a beat thuds through the track like a heartbeat. This disc is more experimental then the other two, so if that's what you're looking for, this is the one to skip to. Some of the standouts here include track 2, which samples what is probably a Civil Defense film talking about nuclear warfare, bomb shelters, and fallout run through an immense amount of reverb and run over minimal synth. Track 4 features more spoken word over organ, covering themes like fallout, food safety, sanitation, radio, etc. Track 5 features distorted vocals that are so processed that it is difficult to make out what they are saying, with slow, pounding percussion. Track 6 is a bit of an outlier, with sedate drone with just a hint of dissonance that begins to incorporate high pitched tones toward the end. It is almost peaceful. Track 8 begins with a siren of missile silo doors opening, which continues through the rest of the composition, which is slow, mellow droning, providing an interesting juxtaposition. You can almost feel the cold detachment of the individual launching the ICBM. This not Slim Pickens in Dr. Strangelove; this is the technocrat who presses the button and then walks calmly into his well stocked shelter. We end with a quiet bass drone that increases in volume and slowly gets noisier over time before diving into a beat and more synth. Overall this was pretty good, although at times it seems to get into a bit of a rut, especially in discs 1 and 2. Disc 1 weighs in at around 66 minutes, disc 2 weighs in at around 66 minutes, and disc 3 also weighs in at around 66 minutes. Nice touch.

Teeth Engraved With The Names Of The Dead: Starving The Fires (Part I)

 Posted by eskaton   Experimental / Avantgarde / Weird & Wired / Glitch / Noise / Field Recording
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Jun 01 2015
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Artist: Teeth Engraved With The Names Of The Dead
Title: Starving The Fires (Part I)
Format: CD
Label: Malignant Records (@)
Rated: *****
I had heard of this Portland, Oregon duo and was interested to check them out. Simply the fact that they are on Malignant Records' roster is reason enough to be interested. The label describes this release as 'one of the more despondent and grime encrusted releases to populate the roster; Frayed, noxious frequencies, crumbling static, and corrosive drones that teeter on the edge of abrasiveness mixed with a rotting underbelly of cluttered, industrial churn, falling somewhere between the smoldering scourge of Gruntsplatter and the dread filled, post-mortem atmospherics of Anenzephalia.' Wow ' Gruntsplatter? Sounds promising, so let's get into it. We begin with 'Radians,' which is like sitting in a cave at the end of the world. The wind howls and the earth shakes, and all of this reverberates and echoes off the walls around you. Nicely done. 'Vital Reaction' features drone and staticy, unintelligible spoken word, like a radio transmission from the past. It gets progressively noisier as the track continues, but keeps the soothing bass front and center. 'Shredded Sky, Hung In Tatters' eliminates any of the calmness hidden in the previous track as the noise overcomes the drones, which become more pained as distorted screams and feedback puncture the noisescape. 'Lacerate' brings us more crunchy noise, but this is melodic noise, which reminds me of Loss. Very nice. 'Broken From Inside' carries us deeper into the abyss with distorted, tortured unintelligible growling and vocals over chaotic noise and synth drone. That said, the vocals seemed to become a bit pointless after a while, and this was my least favorite track. Finally, 'When Storms Come' gives us pure, chaotic noise. If there are any vocals here, they are completely buried in the pulsing maelstrom. Although it becomes almost hypnotic after a while, at almost 26 minutes it seemed to go on a bit longer than it needed to. Overall, this is a good addition to the Malignant roster and worth checking out. I will be interested to see how this duo evolves. This album weighs in at around 71 minutes and is limited to 500 copies.


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