Monday, May 17, 2021
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Music Reviews

Deborah Martin & Jill Haley: The Silence of Grace

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Artist: Deborah Martin & Jill Haley (@)
Title: The Silence of Grace
Format: CD + Download
Label: Spotted Peccary Music (@)
Rated: * * * * *
One of the things Spotted Peccary mainstay ambient electronic artist Deborah Martin is known for is her superb collaborations. Her last, with Dean De Benedictis (under the name Desensitized), 'Hemispherica Portalis' was a "wonderama of a dreamscape" as I put it. Here she combines her talents with oboist, English horn player, pianist and composer Jill Haley, who has a series of National Park soundscapes. Together they interact with the realms of nature in its pristine environs, inviting the listener into the depths of quiet beauty and graceful repose. Exploring various locations in the Pacific Northwest, these pioneering artists experienced first-hand the very essence of the natural world; steeped in these remote majestic settings culminated in their crafting colorful musical expressions that weave lush ambient textures and melodies layered together with recordings of Oboe, English horn and various percussion, tenderly revealing passions and emotions emanating forth from those moments.

With Haley's woodwinds as the main melodic instrument(s) there is a classical, or new classical element here that separates this work from more abstract, amorphous ambient soundscapes. Yet the melodic content is not necessarily strictly defined, but more interwoven with Martin's ambient electronics. To me, the oboe is one of the more melancholy orchestral instruments (I tried to play it for a time but with little success) lending a wistful aura to the sort of gentle pastoral themes explored on 'The Silence of Grace.' If you want to call this "New Age" music, well sobeit, but it is not of the clichéd and cloying variety. There is a richness throughout the eight compositions on the album that are like pairing an exquisite mousse with a fine dessert wine for a sophisticated palate. I was a little surprised, and delighted as well by "From Fire Into Water" with its primitive didgeridoo-like sounds, and could really have used more of that. In fact, if some of the music had gone the way of the Third Ear Band I would have been really excited. Still, there are so many fine moments on 'The Silence of Grace' that I can't complain. (Not much silence but a lot of grace.) If you're looking for an album that is elegant and quietly contemplative, this is certainly it.



Rudy Adrian: As Dusk Becomes Night

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Artist: Rudy Adrian (@)
Title: As Dusk Becomes Night
Format: CD + Download
Label: Spotted Peccary Music (@)
Rated: * * * * *
'As Dusk Becomes Night' is New Zealand soundscape composer Rudy Adrian's 17th full length album and his 7th release on the Spotted Peccary label. This might be considered to be the darker side of Rudy Adrian, but you really couldn’t categorize it as "dark ambient." It is not what I would call ominous or malevolent. Yes, there is an aura of mystery and nocturnal secrets through the 11 tracks totaling 58 minutes, but all the evil spirits have gone somewhere else in this outing. Long, textured droney passages, occasionally punctuated by bells or wind chimes are the mainstay of the music here. When a lead instrument is called for, such as on "Conifer Grove," it's an exotic flue in the alto range, used more for atmosphere than melody. Sometimes Adrian's compositions can get deep and dense, as on "Starlane," in an almost cosmic way. Most of the album is a slow journey through night where shadows reach and stretch across the landscape, but it is not just dusk becoming night, but also night becoming dawn followed by a sunny day as evidenced by the titles of the last two tracks. "Night Becomes Dawn" still retains some vestige of darkness, while "Sunny Day" is a brighter awakening, putting the gloom of eventide to bed with a willingness to face the morning. Once again Rudy Adrian has proven adept at capturing a time and a mood, this one in the gloaming.



Der Blutharsch and the infinite church of the leading hand: Rejoice

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Artist: Der Blutharsch and the infinite church of the leading hand (@)
Title: Rejoice
Format: CD + Download
Label: WKN (@)
Rated: * * * * *
You may recall encountering Der Blutharsch somewhere along the line if you've been listing to goth-industrial music for a good long while. Back in the mid-late '90s Der Blutharsch started as a side project of The Moon Lay Hidden Beneath a Cloud, an Austrian medieval neofolk electro-acoustic duo composed of Albin Julius and Alzbeth. They put out a bunch of albums but never made it to the 21st century as Albin Julius decided to devote most of his musical energy to Der Blutharsch. That project began as a martial industrial/dark ambient kind of thing, and that's undoubtedly where I heard of this before. Heard of, but never really heard, unless it was a track on a compilation. Sort of odd considering I did have a fondness for martial industrial in the late '90s/early 2000s, and this project put out a lot of releases. I guess Der Blutharsch just wasn’t on my radar back then. Anyway, somewhere along the line Der Blutharsch changed its name to Der Blutharsch and the infinite church of the leading hand, but put out (different) release sunder both names, and may even continue to do so.

Things kick off with "Coming," a nine minute trudge in the neoclassical/martial vein with Marcato strings in an ascending and sort of repeating progression with real drums beating out the tempo and intermittent vocals that are more spoken than sung. The effect is serious, tense and cinematic. (I can imagine it being used as a theme for some intensely dramatic movie or series.) There's also some sustained overdriven guitar chords accenting for effect as well. This may be just what some people who haven't heard Der Blutharsch in a while might expect.
The neoclassical melts away with "Fear," a distorted guitar driven thing underpinned with muscular drumming and reminding me a lot of Swans, until the vocals come it. I don't know if the voice is male or female but to me it was reminiscent of David Tibet (Current 93), but there's a section with slide guitar that had me thinking Legendary Pink Dots. Just like the Dots though, this is uber-hard to classify. Sort of psychedelic with a dark malevolent edge.

"Darkness *" definitely sounds psychedelic-lysergic with a slow paced beat, tremolo guitar, whispered vocal, and even some hippy flute. This is the kind of music old heads probably wish was still being made, though precious little of it is anymore. This is more Manson Family psychedelic than flower children though. The pace and intensity picks up on "Darkness **" with an underpinning of neoclassical strings in high drama mode. The vocal is bolder too, but not as upfront as it could be. Title track ("Rejoice") is the one thing that sounds most like a rock song, maybe even kraut rock; Amon Duul II and Hawkwind come to mind. Vocals are more spoken than sung (except on the word "rejoice") here and there is plenty of improvisational flute.

Final track "Burn" is over 10 minutes long and the quasi-tribal rhythm at the opening absolutely reminds me of early My Life with the Thrill Kill Kult. Vocals are sung but they're so mixed into the music that it's not easy to make out the words without listening really really hard. It does seem to have a ritualistic bent though. The track dances on this way throughout until it finally peters out, with spoken word samples revering the Prince of Darkness, almost a nod to MLWTTKK. All in all this is a very cool Der Blutharsch album, definitely worthy of owning.



Novocibirsk: Télévision 1945 (volume II)

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Artist: Novocibirsk
Title: Télévision 1945 (volume II)
Format: CD
Label: ProdutctionB
Rated: * * * * *

BUY from HERE
If two years ago you read the review I did of the first Novocibirsk volume of "Télévision 1945" (available here https://www.chaindlk.com/reviews/10917) you can imagine what this volume two could sound like because ProductionB is bringing us five "new" tracks picked up from the archive of music that Hervé Isar recorded from 1982 to 1993. If you didn't read my review and you are too lazy to do it now, I can tell you that Novocibirsk's music is inspired by the best artist of the electronic Berlin school of the 70s of the twentieth century (Klaus Schulze, Tangerine Dream, Popol Vuh, etc) and by the French experimenters which were recording their sound gathering under the wing of the Groupe de Recherches Musicales (people like Pierre Schaeffer, Bernard Parmegiani, Pierre Henry, Daniel Teruggi, Jean-Michel Jarre, etc). The people at ProductionB this time choose to present: two long suites which are based on sequenced lines enriched by sound effects, sounding like a perfect blend of French and Berlin school ("Baïkal Depths" and "Nuclear Propagation"), a short one where the vocoder is king, sounding like a robot which is about to rule the earth ("Die Sonne Über Novocibirsk") and the last one titled "Anfang Als Ende", which is the first one having a drum machine, where a slow bass line arpeggio is enriched by improvised synth melodies and waves. Somehow, I have the feeling to be listening to a classic electronic record which has also experimentations which are 100% Hervé Isar. This is a really nice release.



Kazuya Ishigami: Mind Liberation

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Artist: Kazuya Ishigami
Title: Mind Liberation
Format: CD + Download
Label: Dada Drumming (@)
Rated: * * * * *
An extremely prolific Japanese composer, sound performer, sound engineer and programmer, Kazuya Ishigami's releases go all the way back to 1996. He is the owner of Kobe based experimental & noise label Neus-318. Besides works under his own name, Ishigami also released under the name Daruin. 'Mind Liberation' is heavily influenced by Buddhist concepts and teachings; sometimes noisy and sometimes tranquil, just as the mind in transition. This is an intricate and sometimes delicate sound composition in two parts for your journey on the Path of Enlightenment.

Since this is my first experience with any Kazuya Ishigami release, I have absolutely no basis of comparison in regard to his other compositions. The album is divided into two parts - "Mind Liberation 1" (28:53) Anger, Sadness, Apathy; and "Mind Liberation 2" (28:54) Vanity, Pride, All Emotions. The first thing one may notice is how busy, or active "Mind Liberation 1" is in comparison to "Mind Liberation 2." From the outset there is a swirling of pseudo-metallic sound over low drone, and the sonics just keep on pouring in. Granted, there are spaces where not much is happening, but they're somewhat few and far between, excepting a segment in the middle with the whistling wind alone after a mechanical sound has faded out. Some passages have a definite industrial/mechanical sound, and because something interesting is usually happening, and not for too extended a period of time, the work is fairly fascinating.

"Mind Liberation 2" opens with some downtempo piano chords and other sonic effluvia and at first seems like it might be as active as the previous track, but no- a dark grey ambience takes over clouding the sky and plunges the listener into a sort of darkness. It's quite minimal for a while with drones wafting through the aether going on for several minutes until something else happens. That something else is sort of an alarm, a kind of sci-fi electronics alarm at that. Sounds are a lot more varied on this track; real sound samples are often used but in unusual ways. There is still plenty of electronics in use though. In fact, there is one section in the middle where the repetition (sounding like a feedback loop) gets really annoying, but just when you think you've had enough and you're ready to skip over it, it stops. There is an inkling of activity on this track, but it is somewhat subdued. As with Part 1, Part 2 seems to be episodic, with a certain set of sounds carrying on for a while (usually with a generous amount of repetition), then either fading or stopping while a new set begins. The correlation between these segments to me seems enigmatic, and as blurry as the image of the statue on the CD's cover. Still, there is something about this work that may appeal to people outside of the hardcore avant garde music realm in its fascinating hallucinatory sound collage that manages to captivate the listener's attention. For that reason, I'd strongly recommend it.