Music Reviews

Tashaki Miyaki: The Dream

 Posted by Vito Camarretta (@)   Ambient / Electronica / Ethereal / Dub / Soundscapes / Abstract
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Apr 16 2017
Artist: Tashaki Miyaki (@)
Title: The Dream
Format: CD
Label: Metropolis (@)
Rated: *****
I'm not a great fan of that mixture of shoegazing and dream pop that someone named dreamgaze, to be honest, but there are some amazing details in the style of Los Angeles-based singer and musician Tashaki Miyaki that manage to boost the canons of the genre. Those canons are still there: the plain popsicle of quickly sliding pop rhythmical patterns, a set of dual guitars, one sustaining the chords of the other, a lollipop of schmaltzy melodies, a lulling pace that sometimes brushes against the backcombed style of 50ies American female singers or 60ies Americana country-folk ones. Some songs are the ones that you could expect coming after giving a kick against an old jukebox, but the way her dream (to reprise the aptly forged title) melts various elements by means of some slight distortion on the guitar, the guessed effects of her candied vocals that adds some shirring on a stream, sounding so fluid that her dream could become yours, some unexpected hiccoughs of the sound (such the distorted lead guitars on songs like "City" or "Get It Right") and the strange beauty of their fusion with the angelic serendipity evoked by Taskaki's voice could let you surmise that that juke-box fallen down the sky after getting kicked by a furious angel. Such a description could have been influenced by the catchy intro and outro of L.A.P.D., where the makers of this selection of Ms Miyaki's more or less recent outputs injected something lysergic that could vaguely resemble the ephedrine atmosphere of Amorphous Androgynous's "Slo-Mo" in a more orchestral sauce.

Oiseaux-Tempête: Al-'An!

 Posted by Stuart Bruce (@)   Dark / Gothic / Wave / New Wave / Dark Wave / Industrial Gothic
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Apr 13 2017
Artist: Oiseaux-Tempête
Title: Al-'An!
Format: CD & Vinyl
Label: Sub Rosa
Oiseaux-Tempête’s latest album is sonically ambitious, fusing their French shoegaze and post-rock sensibilities with an array of guest musicians, substantially recorded in Beirut and with a range of Middle Eastern flavours. Combined with multilingual found sounds and with a raw feel to the effects, diversity is at the core of this album.

However some of this ethnic variety is a better fit for the languid tone than others. While pieces like “Electrique Résistance” are definite successes, evocative modern moods with expert careful use of sound effects, tracks like “Mish Aaref Eish W Leish” feel a stretch too far, with a tempo just too slow to sustain the almost poppy vocal. Some of the shorter pieces, many under four minutes, feel like experiments or diversions that didn’t get properly concluded, but it’s the subtle segueing between tracks that justifies their inclusion.

Sometimes it’s the simpler pieces that make more sense- “Ya Layl, Ya 3aynaki” is a relatively classic bit of drone structure, with warm ebbing hum-and-strum that is on safe ground and works well. “Carnaval”, structured around an alarming saw-toothed synth loop with slow-stepping building arrangement surrounding it, is bold and confident in its use of the plaintive vocal as a form of interlude from the electronic relentlessness. The almost jazzy tones of “Feu Aux Frontières” are a highlight.

“Through The Speech Of Stars” is a standalone seventeen-minute track that’s quite a different beast from the rest of the album. The emphasis is closer to post-rock here, stabbing bass guitar notes and slowly accelerating drums underpinning a slightly indulgent distorted lead guitar that meanders around a five note melodic core. After temporarily fading to nothing, a long spoken-word English language poem is an extended interlude before the band reform for a Resonance Association-like second phase and crescendo.

It’s an impressive multicultural mélange but there’s something about the overall product which somehow doesn’t seem to achieve its full potential.

Nash The Slash: And You Thought You Were Normal

 Posted by Stuart Bruce (@)   Dark / Gothic / Wave / New Wave / Dark Wave / Industrial Gothic
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Mar 30 2017
Artist: Nash The Slash
Title: And You Thought You Were Normal
Format: CD & Vinyl
Label: Artoffact
This posthumous re-release of Nash The Slash’s second 80’s new wave album revisits an album with a very broad range. There are some common elements among the 20 tracks- a distinctly lo-fi effected guitar approach to melding rock, pop and synths- but from those core ingredients the range is ambitious. Vocal songs are mixed in with instrumentals that range from quirky little ditties to broad film score work.

From the vocal tracks, “Citizen” with its crisp digital beat seems to predict LCD Soundsystem grooves over twenty years early, yet with a Meatloaf-style vocal. “R.S.V.P.” as a song is Rock with a capital R, but set on a bed of driving rough electro with no drums. Opening track “Normal” has a slightly Soft Cell swagger with a hard edge.

“Dance After Curfew” was a radio hit that with hindsight has elements of early techno, a Kraftwerk-esque vocal yet blended again with show-off guitar twiddles. Two of the bonus tracks are remixes of “Dance After Curfew” that bring relatively subtle but previously unheard differences to the album version.

Among the instrumentals,“The Hypnotist” has the groove of an energetic Tangerine Dream track with a virtuoso guitar solo on top, while “Animal Jamboree” is a more sinister downtempo affair with the ‘animals’ digital squeaks and bleeps in an ominous downtempo jungle. “Remember When” is a wobbly, effected guitar waltz. “Memories” evokes images of a late night danger montage in an 80’s cop show while “Stalker”, despite the name, is more of a chase scene score.

Although the title suggests a wilful weirdness, this album isn’t actually that odd. There are some lyrics that are certainly bizarre and hard to decipher, for example in “Vincent Crows”, but the theme of ‘being normal’ isn’t a recurring one.

The final four short tracks on the original album make up “The Ontario Suite”, originally part of the soundtrack for the Colin Brunton short film “A Trip Around Lake Ontario”- these are gentle, mellow numbers with a travelling vibe, and frankly a little generic compared to what preceded them.

Over 64 minutes (including the three bonus tracks) the seemingly deliberate lo-fi aesthetic does begin to wear a little thin. It’s as though the whole album has been recorded as a demo, with a view to going back and re-recording the whole thing properly later- which could have resulted in one of the 80’s strongest albums. As it is it’s still a great listen though, full of energetic inventiveness, and it’s a real shame that Nash didn’t release any further albums for almost a decade afterwards because it would’ve been intriguing to see which direction he was headed.
Artist: Scheerling, Thaumaturgist (@)
Title: Vertoeven LVI / Mysteries Van De Droom
Format: Tape
Label: Oggy Records (@)
Rated: *****
Let's dig deeper in sonic world's underbelly that is often so 'under' that some of you could think weird things related to them (occultists, aliens, mad psychiatrists making experiments, ghosts or whatever omitted to get credited as producers...). Fans of the darkest side of drone-driven music and gloomy ambient will be maybe delighted by the listening of "Vertoeven LVI" on side A of this split tape release, filled by Dutch sound artist Bert van Beek aka Scheerling with four acousmatic drones (lasting five minutes each) - mostly driven by effected scorched guitars, but also featuring whisper-like sounds, whooshing noises that got often used by tape art and metallic hits -. The abrasive first track "Schemmer" sets the ground for the hypnotical "Guurn", where some of the above-listed aural entities have been immersed into a dilated reverberation, which makes them feel like coming from some parallel dimension. The third movement "De Danne" - my favourite one - is a combination of tricks of the first two ones, as both slightly scorched guitars and reverb-puffed bubbles got joined, and precedes the final "Tehoape", which sounds like a cathartic reprise of the initial "Schemmer". I read somewhere it got inspired by the translation of some poetry of Dennis Gaens, but it's a detail that doesn't help me in explaining nuances I didn't catch due to the fact I didn't find anything in English or other languages I understand, so that I can only say it's an entirely recommendable listening. Likewise absorbing the sound that Thaumaturgist spread over two 10-mins lasting tracks on "Mysteries Van De Droom": this guy used some briquettes and pellets of acid-house and Berlin techno to develop a seemingly lo-fi sound (more sedated and uplifted on this first part, slightly morbid and psychotic on the second one, landing on those fractured bleeps you can hear when some old Korg drum machine is close to tilting), that could vaguely surmise some industrial techno experiments of the late 80ies.

Golden Oriole: Golden Oriole

 Posted by Stuart Bruce (@)   Dark / Gothic / Wave / New Wave / Dark Wave / Industrial Gothic
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Mar 20 2017
Artist: Golden Oriole
Title: Golden Oriole
Format: 12" vinyl + Download
Label: Drid Machine
“Funky concrète” is the tagline of this mysterious release, in a supremely brief press release that only acknowledges Golden Oriole as “members of Staer + Tralten Eller Utpult” but won’t name them or even discuss the work.

And true to that description, this is a 25-minute soundclash. One half long ambient metallic drones. The other half distorted is funk instrumentals consisting of a solid real-drum rocksteady groove and a 70’s-esque bouncing bassline that’s been crushed and noised. The opening track “The Approaching Of The Disco Void” initially starts with the former, then the latter cuts in abruptly. The two halves co-exist, but to say they compliment each other would be an overstatement. Even at my most open-minded this sounds like two unrelated records being played simultaneously. Six minutes in, everything drops, switching tack to a sort of dark lo-fi blaxploitation chase music with the right ingredients but with the funk replaced with fury.

Second track “The Trilithon” is more coherent, a jazzy fusion of the same thick bass and drums with a more complementary set of electronics. Final track “The Pyrite Wink” is more off-kilter, with a less accessible groove in a changing time-signature and siren-like synth alarms on full blast. Some structure forms in the second half with steadier kicks but ultimately I’d enjoy this track more if the drone elements- which on their own I’d probably like- weren’t there.

This is grungy and difficult stuff with attitude. Somehow the combination of the garage band ethos and the sustained and confrontational avantgarde sounds doesn’t quite gel for me, but it should be praised for raw energy at least.

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