Thursday, February 25, 2021
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Music Reviews

NOR_POL: Construction

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Artist: NOR_POL (@)
Title: Construction
Format: CD
Label: Zoharum (@)
Distributor: Alchembria
Rated: * * * * *
NOR_POL is the result of the collaboration between ukasz Szaankiewicz aka Zenial and Jorgen Knudsen which is sometimes a guest in the former's releases. "Construction" is their first release and, while it could be categorized under the ambient genre, the music has a sort of organic feel instead of the usual electronic sounds linked to the genre.
The sonic organization of the first two tracks, "Durational (Jazz version)" and "C.PH.E Bach", is focused on acoustic instruments with the electronic component in an ornamental role. "Dangerous Chemicals" marks a section of this release with is closer to Zenial's music and it's centered on synthetic sounds and evolves from ambient territories to noisier ones bordering idm. The album ends with "Twice Less" when small clumps of noise introduce a voice as after a successful radio tuning.
This release has a precise musical movement from almost catchy territories to more experimental ones, so the listener is cleverly conducted towards this journey moreover if he's not accustomed to this sounds. A truly enjoyable gem.

Denis Smalley: Vues spectrales

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Artist: Denis Smalley
Title: Vues spectrales
Format: CD
Label: empreintes DIGITALes
“Vues spectrales” gathers together three of Denis Smalley’s multichannel works from between 2001 and 2011, converted to stereo. (It also bolts on one older work “Vortex” from 1982, more about which later on.)
Each of the formerly-multichannel works is a roughly 15-minute, ambience-driven, atmospheric construction that are dominated by great swathes of space and patience. “Spectral Lands” is, as the title suggests, something of a landscape portrait, with moderately natural-sounding rustlings akin to bird noises and wind through trees, but with more alien and ambiguous sonics grafted in to increase the complexity.
“Ringing Down The Sun”, by way of contrast, feels somewhat more alien. Low metallic rumbles open, hollow bottle-like distant melodies follow but at such a low level that you suspect you might be imagining them. There’s a tale being told here- not with excessive drama, but with a few more percussive and unexpected twists- and it’s gently sci-fi, but with a dose of introspective sorrow.
“Resounding” opens with a bell, then silence, before adopting a variety of other quite church-like tones of hammering and reverberation for something which manages to remain ambient and sparse yet have a dose of theatricality about it as well.
The older work “Vortex” is markedly different. While there are still periods of breathing space, it’s much busier and at times more chaotic, with a decidedly Radiophonic Workshop feel at times, very much reminiscent of the Doctor Who soundtrack work from around or just before 1982 when it was created. It’s curious, but without offering up a strong reason for it having been dug up, or attached to a series of more measured and more recent works with which it arguably doesn’t belong.
As usual, Empreintes Digitales has unearthed some intriguing pieces from the archive, and while there’s no revelations or masterworks in here, it’s certainly a collection of interesting textures.

Sinitsin: Borderline State

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Artist: Sinitsin
Title: Borderline State
Format: Download Only (MP3 + Lossless)
Label: Ukonx Recordings
Rated: * * * * *
Andrey Sinitsin is a guy coming from Moscow who in the past played the drums in a rock band. Since his interests aren't limited to rock music, he explored also electro, i.d.m. and techno, finding his place creating a mixture of the previous genres under his moniker sin:it:sin. During 2020 he self-released six EPs (available at his Bandcamp at a pay what you want basis along with an EP of his new techno project New Terrain), two digital EPs for Urban Connections, a split with The Droid for Crobot Muzik and a tape for Raw Russian. That's a lot of music for one guy but maybe the lockdowns helped to find inspiration and time. The new year finds Andrey back on track producing new music and he just release for Ukonx Recordings his new four tracks EP titled "Borderline State". "Pathfinder", "Borderline State", "Digitize" and "Maschine Learning" are the tracks that you’ll find on the release and they show mostly the electro space side of sin:it:sin, while singles like "Fire/Tunnel" (available at his Bandcamp) were more focused on techno. I think that the tracks born from jams, as he did for the "Checkbox" EP, because they tend to revolve around one idea and then the sounds and rhythms come and go creating movement. The sound is the classic one you would expect to find on Ukonx: rich, powerful and upbeat.

Craig Padilla & Marvin Allen: Strange Gravity

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Artist: Craig Padilla & Marvin Allen (@)
Title: Strange Gravity
Format: CD + Download
Label: Spotted Peccary Music (@)
Rated: * * * * *
Electronic music veteran Craig Padilla and electric guitar virtuoso Marvin Allen team up once again for their second collaboration, 'Strange Gravity' on the Spotted Peccary label. It was back in 2019 that I positively reviewed their previous album, 'Toward The Horizon,' and compared it to Pink Floyd's Dave Gilmour working with Tangerine Dream. That's not much different than what's happening on this outing, and although the title track takes a long time building to break out of new age embryonic egg, by nearly the fourteen minute mark you will be amply rewarded with soaring guitar and synth drama. There are only five tracks on the album of varying duration (the aforementioned title track being the longest at 18:47) clocking in at 65 minutes for the album. Padilla and Allen work hand-in-glove together as each composition may start off on a sea of calm, but Marvin's fiery guitar playing soon rockets you beyond the stratosphere. Even when he's not ripping off those explosively soaring riffs, Allen's guitar work is sublimely engaging. The combination of the two meshes so well together you'd think these guys had worked in a band together for years.

The music on 'Toward The Horizon' seemed like Padilla and Allen felt they had something to prove with their collaboration, but that's all been done now, and 'Strange Gravity' has a more relaxed sound overall. That doesn't make it any less potent, just different (but not radically different), like a sophomore album should be. There's plenty of power ("Fractured Illuminations" is rife with it) as well as contemplative passages too. The pieces take a while to build, but it turns out that it's well worth the wait to reach the summit. Even when a long time is spent cruising (like the middle of "All Around Us," another 18+ minute track) it's still at a high altitude. I really don't know why more artists aren't collaborating with in the Berlin School electronics/bluesy space guitar vein; there is certainly a market for it. These guys do it so well though that they're setting a standard that will be hard to beat. My only disappointment is that there's not more percussive oomph in places where there could have been. Still, a very good album.

Danielle De Picciotto: The Element Of Love

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Artist: Danielle De Picciotto
Title: The Element Of Love
Format: 12" + Download
Label: Broken Clover Records (@)
Rated: * * * * *
You may recall Danielle De Picciotto from her collaborations with founding Einstürzende Neubauten member Alexander Hacke under the name hackedepicciotto and their album titled 'The Current' which I reviewed last year. Based in Berlin, De Picciotto also sings with Crime & The City Solution and Space Cowboys, as well as exhibiting her artwork internationally and releasing books. She co- initiated the Berlin Love Parade in 1989 and “The Ocean Club” together with Gudrun Gut. 'The Element Of Love' is her third solo album after 'Tacoma' and 'Deliverance'. Her compositions on this album are a mixture of spoken word, electronic soundscapes and melancholic violin harmonies moving from experimental sounds to mystical melodies. The album reflects the broken heart of our society, which has almost destroyed our planet thanks to corruption but also reminds us, that: “We who fly to the moon and have Einstein’s theory, Truly underestimate our own glory.”

One cannot listen to 'The Element Of Love' without thinking of Laurie Anderson and her (seemingly) stream of consciousness style of storytelling over an electronic music background. (They both play violin in performance, albeit a little different from each other.) The twelve tracks on the album pass very quickly, not necessarily because they're very short, but more because they're very engaging. The opener, "Sea Of Stars" sets the tone for what's to come as Danielle speculates about life on other planets over a background of violin melancholia. You can almost picture an astronomical documentary playing on the screen. A somewhat more cosmic musical background is employed for "The Miracle Of The Dead Trees," with a fairly positive verbal message. Lots of industrial noise on "Solitude" with a melodic wordless vocal, like a siren singing in a sea of debris. On "Beautiful Creatures" Danielle opines a litany of pop culture references concerning humanity's potential as well as its folly with animal sounds in the background. "The Element Of Love" title track is a bittersweet violin-led instrumental with rich melodic content.

Finally, we have a somewhat solemn instrumental ("The Decline of Western Civilization") consisting primarily of violins and synthesizers and a beat, yet there is hope in it. If you're good with spoken word (instead of the usual sung lyrics) you will probably enjoy this album very much, and if you're a Laurie Anderson fan, you will probably enjoy it all the more. There are also a couple of videos associated with the album you should check out on Danielle's Bandcamp site. The album's release date is February 14 of this year, and the vinyl is limited to 500 copies. 'The Element Of Love' is magickal, in the truest sense of the word.