Music Reviews



My Silent Wake: Invitation to Imperfection

 Posted by Steve Mecca   Dark / Gothic / Wave / New Wave / Dark Wave / Industrial Gothic
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Mar 15 2017
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Artist: My Silent Wake (@)
Title: Invitation to Imperfection
Format: CD + Download
Label: Opa Loka Records (@)
Rated: *****
It seems like only a short while ago I reviewed My Silent Wake's 'Eye of the Needle' album, and here they are already again with something brand new and quite impressive to boot. Those that haven't been paying a lot of attention to MSW lately might think they're still a UK Gothic Death Doom Metal band. They're still in the UK, but the Gothic Death Doom Metal aspect has been put on the back burner for the time being. While 'Eye of the Needle' was atmospheric psychedelic dark ambient, 'Invitation to Imperfection' is largely acoustic darkwave; that is to say, the acoustic elements are most prominent. Inevitably there will be comparisons to Arcana, Dead Can Dance, The Soil Bleeds Black, and other similar artists, but My Silent Wake is really now in a league of its own. According to leader Ian Arkley, very little of this album was recorded in a normal studio, much of it with a hand-held recorder, and most parts recorded directly after being written, which didn't allow for spit 'n polish, hence the title 'Invitation to Imperfection'. It was also recorded in various locations thus not giving it a uniform "feel". The idea was to "place more of an emphasis on atmosphere and feel than anything else." To that end they succeed, and it is quite remarkable for having an eclectic ambience all its own. The lineup for this album is a bit different too. Normally MSW consists of Ian Arkley, Simon Bibby, Addam Westlake, Gareth Arlett, and Mike Hitchen. This recording features Ian Arkley (noises, cello, shakers, percussion, mandolin, Risset drum, acoustic guitar, zither and zither with cello bow, chimes, natural manipulated sounds, household items, voice, keys, and field recordings); Andy Stamp (violin, plucked violin); Simon Bibby (keyboards, acoustic guitar, voice, pump organ, glockenspiel); Craig Evans (jouhikko and throat singing); Misty Blamire (djembe); Alana Bibby (voice); Mark Henry (percussion); Luke Kilpatrick (tin whistle, wooden flute, percussion, didgeridoo, karimba and occarina); Gareth Arlett (percussion); Marc Ellison (bass); Addam Westlake (double bass drone, singing bowls, Erhu). Once again, Attrition's Martin Bowes mastered the album, and added synthesizer touches here and there. Of course not everyone plays on every track, but surely you get the idea of what this might possibly sound like from the instrumentation.

Over the course of the fourteen tracks on this album the listener is treated to neoclassical darkwave ("Vorspiel"); psych dark ambient tribal ritual ("Helgar Kindir"); martial neoclassical with a Middle Eastern flavor ("Volta"); mystical folk ("Bleak Spring"); Renaissance revelry ("Tempest"); semi-industrial dark ambient ("The Fear"); somewhat traditional neofolk ala Death in June ("Lament of the Defeatist"); ghostly darkwave dark ambient ("Aventurine"); magickal neofolk ("Song of Acceptance"); cosmic ambient ("Nebula"); funerary mood dark ambient ("You Drift Away"); darkwave ambient drone ("Cwiclác"); wordless sailors' lament ("Return of the Lost at Sea"); and finally, a 20 minute walk in an enchanted Elven forest ("Melodien der Waldgeister"). In terms of aura and atmosphere, 'Invitation to Imperfection' is really something special. Arkley and crew have managed to create a unique listening experience that is without pretension or contrivance that transports you to other realms. Largely instrumental (only a few songs have vocals with lyrics, and those are generally subdued), this work though diverse in form, still maintains a consistent flavor throughout. A good deal of it recalls another age, centuries ago as it conjures ghosts of the past. 'Invitation to Imperfection' is one of those albums that will probably never find widespread appreciation but is most likely to spawn a devoted cult following. And as far as that goes, you can definitely count me in. Highly recommended!
Mar 10 2017
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Artist: X-Navi:Et (@)
Title: Technosis
Format: CD
Label: Instant Classic (@)
Rated: *****
Despite the fact the phenomenon is still evolving, the theme of consequences of technology on humanity and the (also biological) mutations related to this unprecedented technological acceleration as well as the development of an addiction to technological devices is not so new as a plenty of sociologists, anthropologists, psychologist and many other expertises in different branches of human knowledge wrote a lot about this subject, but the way by which such a fear got translated into sound in this last output by Polish producer Rafal Iwanski (I already introduced many projects he's taking part of such as HATI, Innercity Ensemble and Alameda 5) is fascinating. The title "Technosis" itself is a quotation of the definition ("civilization disease related to technology"), taken from "Philosophy of Civilization", an essay by Polish philosopher and educator Jozef Marian Banka, who keeps on studying this phenomenon. The opening track "Matnia" (Polish word for the French expression "cul de sac", referring to a path of no return) immediately sets the mood by a well-balanced mix of rising crippling percussions and thrilling sounds (close to the ones you could hear in horror movies when the watcher expect the appearance of a dangerous entity from some dark place of the scene); the breath you'd hear in the following "Ex Homo Sap" seems to render the above mentioned human mutation with the burden of concern that it could imply, while the following "Oto Technosis" sounds like the summoning digitalization of some old African tune. The whispered murmuring of Ewa Binczyk in the sinister mist evoked by the sonorities that Rafal assembled in "Medium" could mirror that diaphragmatic phase when the expected changes are still in progress but could let you guess what the next stages are going to bring about. Rafal wisely absorbs different ethnical influences in this unusual rendering technology-driven civilization disease: besides the previously sketched connection of the described tracks, it becomes clear in the following "In Extremis" as well as in the disquieting chimes of "Orient: Melancholia". All ethnic percussions you could recognize in his melting pot (an Irish bodhran, a South African mbira, a Chinese hulusi, an Egyptian zummara and a Moroccan bendir) are real, but the whole release is made by real entities: a relevant feature of Rafal's sound in "Technosis" is the total lack of field recordings, synths, samples or drum machines (besides the list of ethnic instrument I already mentioned, he just used Shanti chimes, bells, metal objects, contact mics, analog filter machine, a tone generator, a loop system and so on ) and such an aspect can be logically related to the conceptual framework of the album. The natural soundscape in "Pseudo Ambient" could be considered as another claims of forgotten human roots, while the final "Alchemy of Sounds", whose length (23 minutes and 23 seconds seems to be a desired aspect, due to the "esoteric" meaning of number 23), could keep on feeding the in-depth meditation a listener could be absorbed by. Do you remember the "fearful symmetry" of William Blake's tiger? Well, "Technosis" could be the roaring of that tiger in a sense. After its genetical mutation, of course...

Babils: Ji Ameeto

 Posted by Stuart Bruce (@)   Dark / Gothic / Wave / New Wave / Dark Wave / Industrial Gothic
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Mar 06 2017
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Artist: Babils
Title: Ji Ameeto
Format: 12" vinyl + Download
Label: Sub Rosa
Babils’ fourth album, their first without founder member Michel Duyck, is a pair of sixteen-minute-long prog-rock wig-outs that hark back to the 1970’s heyday. Gently distorted guitars fed through rich analogue effects, rasping indistinct trumpet noises and muddy reverb-soaked vocals hanging on a string in the vicinity of lyrical structure, are constantly underpinned by a regular 4/4 bassline and steady live drumbeat that keeps everything at least vaguely grounded and prevents each piece from wandering into the stratosphere of soundscapes.

Each track starts off with a structure that’s almost pop music- French vocals on the title track, and sometimes hard-to-distinguish English lyrics on “C'est la raison pour laquelle nous ne cesserons jamais de recommencer”- showing that a steady groove and song structure is the seed from which each improvised adventure grows.

This is a release with more than one foot in the past, it’s practically prog nostalgia. Extremely brief glimmers of what may be more modern effects processors don’t shatter the illusion. An indulgent LP to enjoy with long hair, tweed and a lava lamp.

Halo Manash: Elemental Live Forms MMV - Initiation

 Posted by Vito Camarretta (@)   Ambient / Electronica / Ethereal / Dub / Soundscapes / Abstract
Dark / Gothic / Wave / New Wave / Dark Wave / Industrial Gothic
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Mar 04 2017
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Artist: Halo Manash (@)
Title: Elemental Live Forms MMV - Initiation
Format: CD + Book
Label: Aural Hypnox (@)
Rated: *****
This recent output by Finnish experimental ritual-oriented Finnish label, focusing on the releases of the Helixes collective, has a relevant historical significance for the followers of their trail and the more obscure (or I'd rather say, esoteric) dark-ritual sonorities, as it includes nine previously unreleased movements by Halo Manash - one of the most famous name on their roster - that were performed during the very first live ritual at Syntesia on Joly 8th 2005 in Tampere, which could be reasonably considered a proper initiation, as the title says. The release is, as usual, maniacally packaged: the 444 copies of regular CD edition are enclosed in an oversized screen printed cardboard covers including a 4-panel booklet, 4-panel xerox-insert and eight two-sided insert cards within a stamped envelope and a similar format got chosen fot the 70 copies of the tape edition, while the 45 copies of the boxset (including both the CD and the tape) also includes a screen printed 30 x 30 cm canvas and four two-sided inserts from the preparation sessions held in Temple Hwaar. In my hands, I have the regular CD edition, and I have to say that its package perfectly enhances the sensation you're handling something really precious, rare and somehow mysterious. According to the introductory words by the label, that live ritual focused "on the boundless elemental form returning from metaphysical pilgrimage", bridging the "worlds of being and non-being" and the three group of three movements by which they subdivided the nine movements of this recording - in details "The Trail of Bones" (from movement I to III), "The Path of Fire (IV-VI) and "The Ghost Ceremony" (VII-IX) - mirrors the world of "re-birth, initiation and primal thundering" respectively. Some listeners could feel detached by this esoteric and mystic dimension of some aural experimentalists, but the evocative power of Halo Manash's music (even at this early stage of their research) can hardly be denied by this kind of listener, particularly in some moments of this "initiation" such as the third movement of The Trail of Bones, where they intersected the nocturnal whispers of the second one, the sonic "lacerations" of the first one and some entrancing tribal percussive hits, the subtle thunderous roaring of the fifth movement (really entrancing!) and the shamanic halo of the final tripartite set "The Ghost Ceremony".

Nash The Slash: Decomposing

 Posted by Stuart Bruce (@)   Dark / Gothic / Wave / New Wave / Dark Wave / Industrial Gothic
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Feb 13 2017
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Artist: Nash The Slash
Title: Decomposing
Format: 12"
Label: Artoffact
Canadian multi-instrumentalist, and predominantly electric violinist, Nash The Slash’s 1981 EP “Decomposing” was, it’s claimed, the first EP that was intentionally composed so that it would play ‘correctly’ at 33-and-a-third rpm, 45rpm and 78rpm. In the digital version, each of the four tracks is included three times, once at each of these speeds; vinyl purchasers will have to track down a turntable capable of running 78rpm if they want the full package! Though the original 12” is rare, it has been re-released before so this isn’t the first dusting-down for this particular EP.

The electric violin is the melodic lead on all four tracks, doing the multi-tracked ‘singing’ in a way that’s not wholly dissimilar to how Mike Oldfield will sometimes use electric guitar; initially well rooted in a poppy and familiar melodic structure, but with the will and virtuosity to wander into more prog-rock-esque diversions and solos.

But to call this ‘electric violin music’ would be a disservice. Ignoring the lead sound, these tracks are proto-electro-punk, dramatic synth stabs throbbing over robotic rhythms. “The Calling” is relatively light, with a tonal quality very similar to Brian Eno’s “Another Green World” but substantially faster (even at 33-and-a-third). “Life In Loch Ness” is a darker rumble, with a single electrically-charged rubbery bass note starting solitary before the door eventually opens into a rather epic cinematic overture performed by distorted synths. The seven-minute-long (at 45) “Womble” is early-doors bedroom techno, with heavy reverbs and delays layering up a fantastic groove. “Pilgrim’s Lament” wraps things up sweetly with an almost Vangelis-like warm salve, again with a very cinematic feel.

I’m partially but not wholly convinced by the 33/45/78 concept, which originated from a radio DJ’s error in playing one of Nash The Slash’s previous EPs at the wrong speed rather than from any high concept. In parts, it works- the more filmic pieces “Life In Loch Ness” and “Pilgrim’s Lament” breathe more freely and with more melancholy at 33rpm. However at 33rpm, “Womble” reaches almost ten minutes long, losing its energy and outstaying its welcome a little. At 78bpm however, while things are not completely happy hardcore, is a little bit Pinky & Perky and the squeakiness is no more musically valid than pretty much any 45rpm record is at 78! Certainly I would say you would pick one of the three speeds and stick to it; listening to them back-to-back is a too-repetitive 12-track experience.

The production quality is a little dated but it’s easy to hear why Gary Numan invited Nash The Slash to be his support act around this time. Nash sadly died in 2014 so a chance to revisit some of his work was overdue.


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