Saturday, January 16, 2021

Music Reviews

Endif: Falling Into The Sky

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Artist: Endif (@)
Title: Falling Into The Sky
Format: Download Only (MP3 + Lossless)
Label: Manual Control Records
Distributor: Bandcamp
Rated: * * * * *
It has taken 12 years until Jason Hollis could decide to return with a new album of his IDM / Ambient-Electronica / Rhythmic Noise music alter ego Endif, his third so far. Since it has been a while back let's bring his earlier works back into your memory, when Jason has counted to best signed projects of such renowned labels like Crunch Pod (album “Meta” out in 2006) and Tympanik Audio (album “Carbon” out in 2008). Once highly praised and named in a same row with such outstanding projects like Terrorfakt, E.S.A., Alter Der Ruine, Pneumatic Detach, Cervello Elettronico, C/A/T, Caustic and/or Manufactura, Jason surely had his heydays in the mid-2000s, just in those days when the Rhythmic-Noise movement became relatively popular.
He now presents us under his own Manual Control label this new album which is sort of a collection of the things recorded in between. The time span of these tracks includes the years in between 1999 and 2015 and these tracks have been constructed in different cities (Reno, Seattle and at least Minneapolis, where Jason nowadays lives).
The first impression was a bit strange I have to admit and it took me a while until I noticed that artists tend to develop instead to repeat themselves over and over again. Same has happened to Endif plus it also has to be noticed that Jason seemingly produces differently than before, I guess the “Everything-on-this-album-was-sequenced-and-assembled-in-Fruity-Loops-edited-in-Cool-Edit-Pro”-times of the “Meta” album are gone for good.
“Modularism” is magic word of Jason's creation processes and the booklet gives some interesting summaries how each of the tracks have been constructed. It's a rather more glitch, experimental-minded Electronica outlet, much lesser straight oriented than on the both albums before. The often pronounced European Electronica influence with which Endif has been often confronted has almost gone, abstractly produced but still densely installed Ambient-Electronica-layers leading the scenario appointed by a massive and crunchy poly-rhythmic percussion feast.
Asides the dark voice samples in “Blind Angels” you'll get a real projectile-like bombardment placed into the wide stereo field blown through your head (use a pair of good headphones!).But since this albums extracts its content out of different time epochs, I strangely found the oldest one “City” with its massive interruptions of the complete song structure as being one the outstanding tune on here (“Antiquated time-stretch algorithms and photoshopped beats fillet superheated Moog blasts and Mono/Poly blips. It's a feature, not a bug” - so the info of the artist). And with “Dislocation” and moreover “Grain Of Sand” he finally returns into that area of a more accessible style, even if the latter one ends in a another anarchistic sound chaos.
What still impresses is the crispy and crystal-clear sound production out of Jason's studio, this meticulously mastered by Michael Dietel. Even if this album as a whole needs some more spins to get completely via the ear-drums into the brain, this is for sure one of the state-of-art albums in this rather experimental kind of modern IDM / Electronica-music.

Ben Peers: auto-mátiqa

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Artist: Ben Peers
Title: auto-mátiqa
Format: 10"
Label: Elli
Ben Peers’ “auto-mátiqa” is a set of four long electronica pieces created (like so much else) during lockdown in 2020. It’s relatively minimal in its sonic palette, and it explores the sense of randomness, in music that has been both composed and algorithmed (if that’s a word).

Opener “mátiqa” begins with three minutes of a simple but shifting melodic pattern, before the abrupt arrival of rubbery and expressive synthbass and unexpectedly frenetically programmed but soft kick drums. Second track “máqina” is much more conventional, a mellower series of slow chord washes with the familiar pace contrast effect of pulling rapid, curt, glitchy rhythm programming against the languid and plaintive melody sounds.

Third track “mátiqo”, by contrast, foregoes the slow elements and is packed with skittish, energetic clicks and beeps- with occasional echoing space between flurries serving as the substitute for space. There’s something of an Aphex Twin vibe about it at times, but without some of the edge and attitude outside of the ambient works. This rolls on almost unnoticed into final track “auto-” as the energy and fizz slowly dissipates and longer calmer notes are gradually reintroduced.

It’s a smooth long-term listen and a greater sense of the structure and flow of it as a 52-minute album is only really noticeable by stepping back and considering it as a whole- in shorter sections and quick Spotify drop-ins it may seem a little bit of a mess. It is worth taking the time to appreciate it as a whole, certainly.

Fix8:Sed8: tHe iNEVITABLe rELAPSe

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Artist: Fix8:Sed8 (@)
Format: CD + Download
Label: Dependent Records (@)
Distributor: Bandcamp
Rated: * * * * *

The awful situation during our pandemic days during the whole year 2020 makes it possible – if not necessary – that artists have the need to concentrate on their composition and production processes. Concerts and festivals are almost completely canceled or deleted until further notice. Surely hard times for the whole scene and all artists themselves which still try to earn at least a few bucks to pay some bills. And even if it is actually a sad fact that artists have free time during lock-down days, it brings us listeners in difficult times into the situation to consume music more intensely than ever before.This all happened also to Martin Sane, mastermind behind Fix8:Sed8.

I guess there isn't any need to introduce this notorious Dark Electro musician more detailed as he has become everybody's “darling” through his well selling releases "Foren6" and last year's “Warning Signs” album. So we are talking meanwhile on this new release of one of the genre-leaders when it comes to unite the classic, late-80s synthesized sound ideas of the Canadian Industrial school (Puppy / FLA / Numb) combined with the layered complexity of their early-90s followers (Mentallo & The Fixer / XMTP).It is Martin's fifth full-length album, the third released again under the roof of the German Dependent Records label. “tHe iNEVITABLe rELAPSe” comes out as the normal 10-track CD edition, but it is also available as a special 2CD edition which features 10 cover versions of the 10 album tracks provided by 10 different artists of the international EBM / Dark Electro music scene.

Well, what's so different compared to the successfully selling predecessors? After the first listening obviously not too much, what a pity. Martin still doesn't produce polka or schlager music and he won't be able to dispute the ultimate throne of Gerhard Müller, the German spear-head of poly-rhythmic polka perfection.But seriously and as usual with all of Martin's releases also this new album needs a bit more time and several spins to grab a glimpse of the rich layered and densely installed dark content of his music. And since the content of the main album differs extremely compared to the companion “Rail At A Liar”, both albums have to be reviewed separately.

1.) “tHe iNEVITABLe rELAPSe”
Also “tHe iNEVITABLe rELAPSe” is a thrilling and epic soundtrack to satisfy your inner darker-minded demons, an album to balance precisely the thin line between elegance and fragility on one side, and the cold, morbid and at times raging kind on the other.Already with the opener “eNIGMa” Martin starts with a haunting and ominous sounding track filled with several oppressive voice samples of a female being interviewed in a hospital. It is astonishing how meticulously Martin has installed these samples in between his music as they carry the story and transport extremely well the sick and angst-driven content of this track. This one actually seems to be more the kind of work of a movie score musician. “pROGNOSIs” then takes control on the dense mood submitted through “eNIGMa” and pushes the speed and mood straight forward with its oscillating synth bass lines and multiple percussion inserts. Martin's alien-like effected vocals do its best to support this rather forward-moving tune which should appeal to the dance-floor addicts of the dark music clubs – just in case we'll be able to experience a club visit after our pandemic times. This is one of the appetizer tracks of the album previously released and supported with a video clip.
A bit more homogeneous and actually also more straight-forward moving is “hUMAn hARVESt”, to me one of the “Fixi-tracks” to go. This one features all positive aspects of Martin's music including the rise into a straight and quite danceable tune after the sense and haunting introduction. Relatively comparable turns out “uNKNOWn tO vIRTUe”, the second previously presented track supported through a video clip.
In between thrones with “tREMORs (fEAt. EMKe)” the ultimate Dark Electro pearl to warm your cold hearts during our snowy winter days as this features the brilliantly acting Emese Arvai-Illes of the Hungarian Dark-Pop project Black Nail Cabaret. Actually I can not imagine how this track would sound if Martin himself would try to perform with his voice on it. Since this tune is a rather calm and quite catchy one filled with multiple layered synth-pads to undersign the dark mood, it doesn't matter if you're a Goth-, Wave-, Synthpop- Industrial- or Metal-head, this one deserves respect and will surely appeal beyond all genre-boundaries. The ideal hymn to sit in front of a fire-place in a lonely, completely snowed-in wood hut!
Respect also for the title track and its cleverly produced arrangements. Starting as usual again with so typically eerie layers that it once again leaves me baffled with a „how-the-f...-does-he-do-that?“ face. The good thing to point out here is the fact, that especially on this track Martin is able to balance extremely well between the eerie fragility and the pulsating aggression in the chorus, that special talent to build, to interrupt and to rebuild the mood and float of a track.As for the more bulky content of this album there can be discovered something disruptive and spooky in „cHLORINe cLEAn tEARs“, to me thanks to its uncountable breaks and interruptions the most Puppy-an inspired track on this new album.
Even if not all of the 10 featured tracks get a more detailed mention here it needs to be said that all of tracks offer enough space / elements worth to get discovered. Not to forget to mention a few lines of credits as this album has been produced additionally by Arnte of Pyrroline and hasbeen mastered by Vincent Uhlig of 2nd Face. So it MUST be top-notch, mustn't it?
“tHe iNEVITABLe rELAPSe” offers at least a thrilling experience of Dark Electro music which doesn't get boring even after the 417th listen. To me the better one directly compared to “Warning Signs” because consumed as a whole album it sounds more harmonic and homogeneous instead to present the listener another compilation of variously collected tracks. And actually, since almost all used musically weapons out of Martin's arsenal with its dedication to the early 90s Dark Electro movement, it makes sense to produce a totally floating album its length and brilliance.

2. “Rail At A Liar”
The second chapter of this new album isn't at all the usual remix companion which the one or other listener maybe has expected. It is more than a usual business-related idea and follows seemingly a quite different concept which I haven't discovered anywhere else before. Currently while writing these line I can only make my assumption on this one and the Martin surely needs to be asked about but I guess that all participating bands and projects have received the lyrics of the tracks, the voice samples and maybe the midi files with the clear order to produce cover versions in their free will and sound. The participants of this initiative represents for the most part the who is who of the currently rising Dark Electro music scene and all of the people behind can be counted to Martin's inner circle of friendship:

01. “eNIGMa” by Frontier Guards
02. „pROGNOSIs“ by Mildreda
03. „hUMAn hARVESt“ by Cryo
04. „tREMORs (fEAt. EMKe) by Black Nail Cabaret
05. „uNKNOWn tO vIRTUe“ by Jihad
06. „tHe iNEVITABLe rELAPSe“ by Amnistia
07. „mELTDOWn“ by 2nd Face
08. „pALe lIGHt sHADOw“ by Akalotz
09. „cHLORINe cLEAn tEARs“ by Amorphous
10. “mETABOLITe” by Full Contact 69

Yes, the order of the tracks of these cover versions is the same like on the main album which actually invites the listener to explore deeper the differences to Martin's original versions. Each contributing band brings life into Martin's compositions using own instruments, sounds and ideas to completely create a track sounding at best drastically different to the original. So it is at least an album in the view of the participants and in that style how they interpret and transport Martin's newest compositions.
The advantage is obviously as this kind of work is more promising than to initialize another more or less interesting sounding remix war. It is therefore not an option to talk about winners or losers of this cover version album, but some surprises can be pointed out. First of all Akalotz as they are old-school EBM purists and therefore musically relatively far away from Martins layered compositions. But they solve this riddle quite fair with „pALe lIGHt sHADOw“. „pROGNOSIs“ got fabricated by Jan Dewulf's Belgian Dark Electro Project Mildreda and provides remembrances to early 90s projects like yelworC, what an excellent contribution.
Cryo and in person of Martin Rudefeldt I haven't actually heard that aggressive when it comes to add his vocals into „hUMAn hARVESt“. Clever idea also to leave „tREMORs” in the hands of Black Nail Cabaret since Emese Arvai-Illes already provided the lead vocals on the main album. Deeply impressed I am also with the Martin Pavlik's conversion of “eNIGMa” which introduces us to Mia Bohemia (Jitka Charvátová), a new female vocalist who could play a bigger role in the upcoming works of this Czech project.
Also thumbs up for the nasty lo-fi lead synth-sounds which Vincent Uhlig of 2nd Face has used to manipulate „mELTDOWn“ - it is high-modern ultra-sonic purity! The further appearances DO NOT AT ALL disappoint but they rather provide as expected and their very own style.

Let's agree that 2021 is a very young year but it couldn't kick-off any better with this new Fixi-album. Yes, we'll start counting to remember ourselves on the best of the bests in the second half of this year but it can be assured that Fix8:Sed8 will be on this list and can expect highest positions.Please note that the limited edition of this new album is limited to 666 exemplars (individually numbered) and contains a lavish 36-page hardcover artbook, which includes this bonus album "Rail At A Liar". Release date is set to January 22nd, 2021, so... what are you waiting for?

0x0: Nastrophy

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Artist: 0x0
Title: Nastrophy
Format: Download Only (MP3 + Lossless)
Label: HUM_an

Zero X Zero is a new project by Antonio Caputo and Marco Milanesio exploring dub industrial with partly added classical structures. Field Recordings are as important as Harmonica, Guitar, Cello, Bass and Synth.
The 4 tracks recorded at home and O.F.F. Studio, Torino during 2019/20 are an serious attempt at fragmented melancholy. Dissected sounds lead to more desolation instead more clearity and melancholy is reflecting itself with an uneasy feeling. The track titles do not give away much either and listening is a surprise.

In "Surgkung" a guitar entering the noisy arena dominates for a little while before getting lost in synthetic ramblings which could go on forever but don't. A straight, dubby beat opens "6602" which is set against a freestyle sound scenario where cello and guitar meet before they get lost again as the beat did.
The title track is the most challenging; an uneasy shade of oriental blues meets a heavy, drunken beat and analouge space sounds aid the impression of altered reality short before collapse.
The final track "6601" is especially impressive; post-hope, post-everything, post-darkness. A longish mainly accoustic intro leads seemlessly into a drone part morphing back again and concluding with a perfect mix of all parts.

In a way Naostrophy is a continuation of the DsorDNE/Onda Lunga release 'Inside' from March 2020 - but less ambient and more organic. For fearless souls only.

A pdf photo booklet is included.

FAX + Braulio Lam: Mixed Signals

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Artist: FAX + Braulio Lam (@)
Title: Mixed Signals
Format: Download Only (MP3 + Lossless)
Label: Dragon's Eye (@)
Rated: * * * * *
The signals can be mixed without being confused or confusing. I'd rather say that the sonic sources/sorcerers of this output could have been felt fused or fusing, as they sound deeply amalgamated in the diversified emotional set that these two Mexican forgers of this sonic experience manage to lodge in the listener's mind. The name of one of them at least should be easily recognized by electronic music lovers, as FAX (moniker of Rubén Alonso Tamayo) is maybe the second name that comes to mind after the one of Murcof (both artists got invited to the notorious and prestigious MUTEK festival), if someone tries to talk about Mexican electronic music scene. Those, who have a deeper knowledge of that fascinating scene (mostly concentrated in the borderline region of Tijuana) by following some outpout of FAX's imprint Static Discos, could have met the name of the young producer Braulio Lam as well. Yann Novak - the man behind Dragon's Eye curtains - managed to intercept and embed in his catalogue their highly reverberant signals. The dynamics of each track is pretty similar: washed pads sound ether, but as other entities such as shimmering resonances or thin guitar tones, reverberation gets added and those feathery pads sounds like expanding and get more and more hypnotic. This strategy is particularly clear on the opening "Insomnia" as well as on the fleecy lavishness of the following "Focus", whose sparkle is a sort of jingling sound, which could resemble some of those meditation collective sessions evolving into a track that sound pretty close to some outputs by Christian Fennesz. Those pads evoke a sense of tragedy on "Mute", whose syncopated thumps could be matched to an extremely slowed heartbeat to the point that the whole track could let you think to the sonic representation of a near death experience, whereas a vaguely blessed astral touch crops up from the resounding pond of the title-track "Mixed Signals", which, for some mysterious reason, resembles to me a version of "Starship Melody" by Adam Douglas's Deeper Than Space (who follows ambient since the 90ies could remember that project).