Sunday, March 7, 2021
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Music Reviews

Lightphaser: Sacred Journey of Heart

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Artist: Lightphaser (@)
Title: Sacred Journey of Heart
Format: Download Only (MP3 + Lossless)
Label: self-released
Rated: * * * * *
'Sacred Journey of Heart' combines Lightphaser's last three two-song EPs ('Instincts of Future, ''Serenade,' and 'Stay With Me'), plus extra tracks into a 12-track album. It relies heavily on the Hatsune Miku vocaloid software program (which sounds as cute as the Manga cover images created by ALYCESON for these Lightphaser releases) which some people can't get enough of (as evidenced by Hatsune Miku's huge online fanbase), and others really can't stand. Most Hatsune Miku content you'll find on YouTube consists of huge live events with glowstick waving audiences in the rock and dance pop vein with song lyrics primarily in an Asian language. Lightphaser shows the softer side of Hatsune Miku (in English, thankfully); more dreamy space pop (I guess space pop is a genre now, since Echozone thinks so) than anything else. Two of the tracks I've heard and reviewed previously ("Play With Me" and "Serenade"), but the rest is newer material. Although the other shorter (EP) songs ("Stay With Me," "Brighter Than The Sun," "What I Have Been Looking For," "Beautiful") are nice enough, the real magic here is smack dab in the middle, with a couple of longer tracks ("Dream," Heartbeat") which uses wordless Hatsune Miuku vocals over extended synth instrumentals. Not only does this keep Hatsune from wearing out her welcome, but it adds an extra dimension to the album as a whole. The one thing you may notice about the vocaloid program is that the words aren't always easy to understand unless they're very simple phrases.

The last couple of tracks are more varied and interesting as well. "Final Determination" is a bit longer than Lightphaser's average Hatsune Miku track with lyrics, at over six minutes, with a more serious tone and somewhat progressive. The closer, "Wish," is sort of melancholic, but a fitting end to 'Sacred Journey of Heart.' Joseph Gogh may well carve out his own Hatsune Miku niche with what Lighphaser has been doing lately, but I wonder if it won't eventually become clichéd. Still, very enjoyable in the here and now.


Chorea Minor: Black White Moon

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Artist: Chorea Minor (@)
Title: Black White Moon
Format: CDx2 (double CD)
Label: Echozone (@)
Rated: * * * * *
In the age of continuing Covid I really haven't felt much like reviewing new music, so I'm a little behind on some things. In this case, a whole year behind, misreading this album's release date as Feb. 20, 2021 when it was actually released Feb. 20, 2020. Oh well...sorry about that. It doesn't change the fact that I'm still a little on the fence about it, but we'll get to that later. This seems to be the first (solo) release from Chorea Minor who had a couple of albums back in the '90s with a band called Hekate back in the '90s on the German Krokodil Records label. Haven't heard them, as they're pretty obscure and scarce now. The man behind Chorea Minor also calls himself Chorea Minor which I'm sure isn't his real name. (Chorea Minor is another name for the neurologic disorder, St. Vitus Dance, which I certainly hope he does not have.) 'Black White Moon' is a double CD album with the "Black" half having more vocals than the "White" half. As for the music, Echozone categorizes it as "Space Pop," but I think that's just a genre recently made up. A good chunk of this album sounds more along the lines of Futurepop, which is a recognized genre. Just don't get your hope up that Chorea Minor is going to sound anything like VNV Nation, Covenant or Apoptygma Berzerk.

Beginning with the Black disc, the six songs on it are carried out spritely, with spoken and sung vocals. The sung vocals are definitely understated, which isn't really a good thing and contributes to the overall generic tone. To some degree it compares to Kraftwerk, but Kraftwerk's beat intensity is much more pronounced that what we have here. The music is good but unexceptional and nothing stayed with me even after multiple plays. The last thing you really want your music described as is electro wallpaper, but that's how it came off.

Moving on to Disc 2, the White CD which is also 6 tracks (clocking in at about 32 minutes as opposed to Black's 30 minutes), you'll notice the difference right away with the heavier, more organic drum sounds (as opposed to Black's standard electro programmed drum machine sounds), giving more of a tribal vibe with richer, more evocative synthwork. The vocals are well in line with this too, even though they still seem to be in the background. The novelty continues with "A New Daylight" with forcefully bowed strings and a relentless rhythm track. Vocals are wordless but effective; the cinematic impression I got was one of primitives running through the jungle, but you can let your imagination run wild. The pace is kept up with the title track ("Black White Moon") which reverts back a little to electro but doesn't sacrifice any urgency. Things are more relaxed on "Another Kind," which offers a bit of a breather as the vocals in it cross into a dreamy kind of World Music. "Question Mark" heads back to '80's style electro terrain, albeit more modernized. Once again vocals seem to swirl around in the ambience (and some female vocals as well I believe), with some spoken word as well which seemed superfluous. Musically, "Health" is a apt closer in its wind-down spirit, although it's the least interesting composition on the White Disc.

Perhaps the reason for the disparity between the two album halves is that there was a different producer for each disc- the BLACK-CD by Krischan J. E. Wesenberg (Rotesand) and the WHITE CD by Patrick Damiani (ex-Rome). Considering what I thought was the failure of the Black portion and the success of the White portion, I could offer Chorea Minor some advice: get a really good vocalist and cut out (or at least drastically cut down on) the spoken word bits. Your synth skills are good but you really need to work on some catchy hooks that will make your music memorable. Maybe put a real band together and benefit from the input of your members. There are just too many people out there trying to make it in this genre, and merely good just isn't good enough anymore. On the positive side, the package for this release is attractive, and it's a limited edition (500), hand-signed and had-numbered by Chorea Minor. I'd be curious to hear what this project has to offer in the future.



Celer: Being Below

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Artist: Celer
Title: Being Below
Format: CD & 12"
Label: Two Acrons
My past and very positive experience of Celer music is with works that could be described as long-form- long ambient albums which draw you in for a good, indulgent hour. So this EP is something of a surprise- an 18-minute EP comprising six tracks initially described as ‘songs’. Would this represent a massive change in direction? Is Celer about to rock out?

For better or worse, the answer is no. From opening track “Great Circles” on it’s clear that these will still be gentle ambient manoeuvres, full of soft hums and calm washes, but always managing to avoid being cheesy. Celer’s music has been perfect for lockdown since before lockdowns were a thing.

“The Absence Of Atmosphere” accurately describes its own sci-fi, deep space tone, also adopted in the alien “Geodesy”, while pieces like “Two Months are Past, and More” and “After Departures”, while very similar in construction, feel a little more introspective and thoughtful.

Think of this like an artist’s small sketchbook, or a sampler, and enjoy a little snippet of the fairly straightforward but beautiful pleasures that Celer’s longer works offer you in more abundance.


Pyrroline: Struggling

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Artist: Pyrroline (@)
Title: Struggling
Format: CDx2 (double CD)
Label: Electro Aggression Records (@)
Distributor: Bandcamp
Rated: * * * * *
No, the protagonists of Germany's Dark Electro/Industrial duo Pyrroline have never been that sort of loud-mouthed posers of the scene, although measured with their immensely talent they surely could! Schmoun and Arnte aka Pyrroline, one of my most beloved female-/male-duos out of this special niche of the dark music scene have always made their impact on me already with their very first beginning under their previously chosen project name Nordschlacht and their unforgettable debut “Silence, Beauty and Cruelty“ released in early 2007.

Nordschlacht became soon history because Schmoun and Arnte felt to that time that their chosen band name was sounding too martially, too aggressive – what the protagonists aren't and never have been. The music though hasn't changed too drastically. Now, 14 years later and with their fourth Pyrroline album (+ the one Nordschlacht album) in stock, the third signed to the Canadian label EAR, they start their epic sounding comeback and can be well sorted into the prominent row of quality Dark Electro music albums released in this very first weeks of 2021.Almost four years in the making after their last opus „In the Dawn of Freedom“, Arnte and Schmoun give us the expected kind of a comeback, the necessary daily doze of classically produced Dark Electro music with that so beloved old school vibe founded in the heydays of the late 80s / early 90s.

Pyrroline in the year 2021 stands for refining their audio perfection still woven into the known and beloved veteran-like sound design. As for the typically stereo-type rating which we reviewers always have been confronted with, just think about a musically intercourse between „Revelations 23“-Like M&tF, Placebo Effect and/or Abscess for possible comparisons. Yes, it's only meant to give you, the listener, a hint.To me actually Pyrroline stand on their own feet and are able to formulate themselves new and unique in their style. This mainly belongs on the fact that you'll get an artistically output filled with intelligent hints, with depths and springs of inspiration on which Pyrroline extract part-wise their lyrically content always infected with meaning and message. Writer and poets like James Montgomery, William Blake or Edgar Alan Poe find their homage with their inspirational works in Pyrroline lyrics and Schmoun and Arnte aren't also afraid to take The Holy Bible (“Nothing Besides You – Psalm 73”) into their composition process too. I guess it doesn't need to mentioned especially that this demanding content and concept stands light years above the pseudo-aggressive testosterone-driven muscle-and-sweat EBM formula. This is purest dark aesthetic.

„Struggling“ is the album title, but nothing struggles here, not at all. It is highly recommend to pick up the physically released product, which is a nicely designed DCD set. The bonus CD won't be available via digital downloading procedures and this DCD set is only limited to 500 exemplars. You know it... when there are gone, they are gone... so... what are you waiting for? Next point is the awesome looking bluish cover art painted by Sorin Sorin (http://www.arts.md) which shows an old sailing vessel trying to find it course through a stormy sea with jagged rocky coasts. An absolutely eye-catching kind of work and no digital download could be able to replace it.

First off, the main album starts with a slow and haunting Dark Electro pearl entitled „Decency and Integrity“ which is a co-composition with Martin Sane of Fix8:Sed8. Check it, consume it, inhale it – and play it with its epic Synth string pads side by side to Skinny Puppy's „Worlock“ - and it fits perfectly! Check also out the meticulously arranged bass line programmings especially on this one, the best under a quality pair of headphones. So much hand-made details between harmonic and filter resonance manipulation can be discovered quite seldom. „Battleground“ comes next and drags the scenario into a more pummeling and subliminal aggressive mood. It is one of the very few tracks breaking out of the mid-tempo scheme to a more straight and danceable environment and also Arnte's voice sounds more darker and fx-treated than usual. It is one of those Blade Runner-like classic early 90s-inspired Dark Electro tunes which can mess with the biggest hit tracks of comparable projects.
„Song of Deliverance“ is lighter-minded, almost catchy produced with a constantly well-balanced song structure. Arnte's nearly natural sounding sounding voice swims perfectly mixed in between the beautiful installed synth pads. Not a Synthpop track, no, but a quite accessible and suitable tune for a wider interested audience of . “Suffer” is another outstanding example of the lesson “how-to-turn-a-Dark-Electro-tune-into-a-space-odyssey”. Nearly completely exempted of all heavier percussive elements this track enters the galactic nebular with it's ambiance, various installed icy synth pads and Arnte's voice drastically manipulated with a vocoder effects. The nailing bass line bring in some unfamiliar restlessness into a track like “This Dusky Faith” while the majestic integrated synth pad bring back the beloved goose-bump-impression to Pyrroline's music.

“The Grave” is one of the earlier released appetizer tracks of this duo which offers opulent synth pad sounds pretty much linear installed into the parts and a rather forward-pushing attitude plus Arnte's heavily vocoderized vocals. It is straight oriented, yes, but at least lesser danceable like “Battleground” or “Song of Deliverance” for example. To me the strongest moments are following with the last few tracks as this are the moments when Schmoun seems to be taking more impact into the Pyrroline sound and composition process. “Chaos and Order” is a well-chosen title and services already perfectly into this review. This tracks starts unfamiliar chaotic with some noisy rhythm FX sounds and Arnte's deep dark distorted voice. This scenario leads us to the chorus where Schmoun takes control on this track with her beautiful voice and brings everything back into order.
“My Rebirth” is a breathtaking and very catchy mid-tempo instrumental tune filled with moody synth pads which reminds in its kind a bit on some Delerium works out of the Leeb / Fulber fame - at least this track can accomplish with them. Finally – and to me their best tune on this top-notch produced album – comes in with “The Divine Image” - another “Schmoun”-song brilliantly placed in the mid-tempo with her providing the lead vocals. Same impression here which I had already with opener: check out the bass line programming skills here! I love that wobbling creaking here as much as I like her voice on here. An ice-cold produced combination again filled with this special goose-bump-factor, but so damned epic and majestic above all expectations.

Have I mentioned before, that YOU MUST order this DCD set? YES, YOU MUST, because also the second CD of this beautifully styled digi-pack offers a rich and valuable content to fulfill your highest expectations.Three additional original Pyrroline compositions and with “Atelier Complex” another breathtaking Blade Runner-like instrumental tune which could be easily added to a FLA score album like “WarMech” and you as the listener wouldn't recognize an alteration of quality.
“State of Things” is a quite straight produced smasher with enough potential to rival with “Battleground” on the main album. Regarding the Leeb-/Fulber-like bass line programming skills represented here - somehow I'd wish that Arnte would be the producer for the next FLA album.Additionally 9 remix contributions provided by the creme of the creme out the current Dark Electro scene could be place with Placebo Effect, Jihad, Sleepwalk, Terminal State, The Opposer Divine, Fix8:Sed8, g.o.l.e.m. and Amorphous.
Yes, the surprise is Placebo Effect but not only for their comeback as a duo after 21 years at the end of 2020 and their self-released album „Shattered Souls“ (produced by Arnte...). PE haven't provided any remix for foreign bands with the one exception of La Floa Maldita in 1995, so to find them here featured with two fairly produced contributions of „What might have Been“ and „Suffer“ is a little sensation.

To go for the real deal and to point out the best remix contribution is kind of my very own taste and perspective – but what Mr. James „Jihad“ Mendez extracts out with his smooth piano inserts on the track „Where has no Child to Die“, a rather „normal“ sounding Pyrroline track, has left me absolutely speechless! This track in its original version is featured on here on this bonus CD too – but sorry to say that but this remix of James kicks out the already good original composition.
Also worth to mention is the straight and pounding interpretation from Amorphous on „Chaos & Order“. This is surely one of the most difficult remix works compared to the fascinating original composition on the main album and to to find it in this rather EBM-related danceable style is at least unusual - but solidly solved.

Since already this DCD set is worth enough to pick it up only thanks to the three original Pyrroline compositions, I again strictly advise you to purchase it. Again, it is only limited to 500 exemplars. Regarding the whole package I will have again sleepless nights from now on because this Pyrroline album is another contender for the imaginary „album of the year“ contest surely together with Fix8:Sed8 latest album – but I hardly can't decide so far.

Today it is Valentine's day – also today is Schmoun's and Arnte's wedding anniversary! And the release date of „Struggling“ is set for today too! Congratulations to you both and all the best for your further mutual walk of life.

Normally you both deserve all the praise and presents and not contrary.

But so it is – this album is a gift for all fans and friends of quality produced Dark Electro music in the classically style!




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.