Monday, November 30, 2020

Music Reviews

Craven Faults: Enclosures

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Artist: Craven Faults
Title: Enclosures
Format: 10"
Label: The Leaf Label
During lockdown, one of the albums I’ve returned to several times is Craven Faults’ previous album, “Erratics & Unconformities”. There’s a steady calm to it that manages to be conducive both to relaxing and to work, an almost stiff-upper-lip attitude in the gently looping analogue electronic patterns that are incredibly warming as well as beautiful. It’s like a home-knitted rug of analogue texture.

This short new album (possibly mini-album) “Enclosures” is pitched as being a return to Craven Faults’ earlier, more tense sounds, with “dark clouds gathering”. I’m relieved to report that it is a subtle evolution in tone rather than a wholesale change though.

“Doubler Stones” is night-time motorway material, a steady journeying pattern reminiscent of early Tangerine Dream long works, especially around the seven minute mark when the slightly sawtooth chord sounds appear. “Hard Level Force” continues in a fairly similar style initially, but as it progresses, just the slightest shades of the aforementioned tension do start to rear their head- resolutely pulsing single notes gently detached themselves from the main melody, and building washes of more discordant, pitch-meandering rumbles.

Longest piece “Weets Gate” switches some of the tension for a bit of melancholy, centring around big sparse synthbass notes that are ever-present, and which gradually get joined by a series of additional elements in a decidedly soundtrack-like form, in a piece that feels like it evolves more, and is more composed- which is not to say that the other pieces are flat.

It’s beautiful, steady and gently soporific, painting sleepy industrial and urban landscapes but with a soft analogue brush. Whilst there are shades of the dark clouds in the sound, I would and will still turn to this album as a way to wind down and stretch out my thoughts through the Winter and beyond.

Artur Rumiński: AR (Untitled)

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Artist: Artur Rumiński (@)
Title: AR (Untitled)
Format: CD
Label: Zoharum (@)
Distributor: Alchembria
Rated: * * * * *
Artur Rumiski is a guitar player which is active both as a member of ambient/drone/black metal bands (Arrm, Thaw, Furia, Gruzja, Mentor) and as a solo artist. While his bands are more or less revolving aroundmetal, his solo music can be classified as minimalism because it's based upon layers of guitars mostly using reverb, echo and delay. The result is something in between psychedelia and ambient.
As "I" starts the listener is surrounded by a guitar drone full of resonances which is juxtaposed by spacious arpeggios, "II" is instead based on a sort of counterpoint for guitar lines, "III" is pure reverberated guitar chords and "IIII" uses guitar layers reinforcing themselves. "IIIII" is a spacious guitar drone and "IIIIII" is a meditative psychedelic track. "W SOSNOWCU" closes this release with a noisy abstract track.
While this release could be superficially classified as a rehash of already known forms, the balance of writing, the sense of proportion and the diversity of solutions make this release a small gem of composition. Truly recommended for all fans of minimalism.

Fail: Ode To Kittyhelp

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Artist: Fail
Title: Ode To Kittyhelp
Format: Download Only (MP3 + Lossless)
Label: Inner Demons
Rated: * * * * *
Fail is one of the many projects of Dan Fox, the man behind the Inner Demons label, This Is What I Hear When You Talk, Loss, and others. In this one, Fox is joined by an extra bandmate. That bandmate would be his cat.

This album consists of one track titled "This Track Would Have Been A Couple Of Minutes Longer Had My Kitty, Ulthar, Not Launched Himself Onto My Keyboard And Stopped The Recording." According to the notes, this track was "created using 14 delay pedals only. Sound sources were 2 circuit-bent delay pedals and a delay pedal fed back into itself. When multi-effect pedals were used, only the delay function was engaged." So let's get into it without delay.

It opens with pulsing bass that marches forward, but soon begins to shift and evolve. Feedback loops, heavy drone, high pitched squeals. What sounds like an analogue synth through a speaker that is going bad. As it progresses, it begins to become increasingly chaotic, which makes it much more interesting. I'm impressed that all of this was done with delay pedals because there is a lot going on in this track. It eventually all dissolves into a wash of feedback. Overall, this is very nice. I like the concept, and the execution of it belies its simplicity. Still, this stands on its own merits. Well done.

This release weighs in at 18:36 minutes, and it’s free, so you really have no reason to not get this release.

Steve Roach: The Sky Opens

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Artist: Steve Roach (@)
Title: The Sky Opens
Format: CDx2 (double CD)
Label: Projekt (@)
Rated: * * * * *
Live discs can be something of a mixed bag at times. A lot of moving parts have to come together seamlessly for them to work well. Is the sound quality any good? Do the tracks work together? People can be pretty forgiving at a live concert, but once you listen to it outside of the moment it can be a different kind of experience. Thankfully, both Roach and Projekt have been at this for a long time, so they each know what they are doing, and the results are evident in this excellent live set. So let’s dive into the set and see what we have here.

Disc 1 opens with “Structures From Silence,” a simple, sparse track that flows like a lullaby. No sudden movements – just a nice, soothing track. “Mercurius Presence” keeps this peaceful feeling going but with an added layer of complexity to the composition. Lush synth pads slowly flow over you. “The Mystic Within” switches it up somewhat with a darker feel. Minor tone synth drones mix with pounding piano for an uneasy feeling. “The Sky Opens” is considerably different from the previous tracks. This is heavily arpeggiated synth analog synth. The track is incredibly complex in comparison to the previous tracks. The overall result ends up being somewhat hypnotic. Overall, this is a wonderful track and one of the best on the disc. If you've ever wondered what it would sound like if Erasure collaborated with Steve Roach, this is your answer. Finally we gets to “Merge Infinite,” and this track alone is worth the price of this disk. Weighing in at 31 minutes it's the longest piece in the entire set and one can easily think of it as a composition in multiple movements. We keep the arpeggiated analog synth from “The Sky Opens” and add a sense of rhythm and motion that keeps the track interesting across its half hour duration.

Disc 2 kicks off with “The Continent,” slowing it down considerably with gorgeous synth washes and slow thudding percussion. The overall mood is peaceful and beautiful. “Songline” kicks it up a notch with more aggressive percussion and the luscious drones in the didgeridoo. Yes, I was wondering when this instrument would make its appearance, as it wouldn’t feel like a Steve Roach album without it. “Time Of The Ancients” opens up with heavily processed breathing before giving way to ominous dark synth drone and snippets of analog goodness. Percussion is buried in the mix giving it kind of a far away feel. This track is all about atmosphere. “Magnificent Gallery” is a short track with a peaceful melody over synth washes that pulse like the ebb and flow of the ocean. “Circular Ceremony” keeps this mellow feeling going with a calm, peaceful synth number with sparse percussion sprinkled throughout. “Looking For Safety” concludes the disc with a lovely number that doesn't so much begin as emerges into being. Lush synth and percussion that comes in without you even noticing. As it progresses, the atmosphere changes as the drums become more pronounced and you find yourself in the middle of a ritual. The intensity builds over time until it finally dissipates into a slow dissolve.

The nice thing about this set is that the tracks flow together in such a way that you would almost not even know that they were different tracks. The music shifts seamlessly from track to track, as if you're listening to one long track that is constantly shifting and evolving. At times you don't even recognize that you've moved on to another track until halfway through when the feeling changes slowly, but deliberately. This is more than just a group of tracks put together and performed in front of an audience. There's a sense of cohesion that is often lacking in live performances. The fact that Roach was able to keep this entire feeling going through two discs is a testament to his ability to weave together a tapestry of sound that works well together. The tracks as a whole feel both familiar and new at the same time. Those familiar with Roach’s work will find no surprises here, but they will definitely not be disappointed. This is beautiful and well worth picking up.

Wilt: A Deep Reflecting Gloom

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Artist: Wilt (@)
Title: A Deep Reflecting Gloom
Format: Tape
Label: Self Abuse Records (@)
Rated: * * * * *
I have followed Wilt’s music for many years and have admired his work. For those unfamiliar with James Keeler’s output, it manages to straddle the line between noise and dark ambient. Sometimes he falls definitively on one side or the other, but it is this mixture of noise and calm that I find intriguing About his work. Then again, this is on Self Abuse Records, so let’s see what this particular tape sounds like.

We kick it all off with “The Fiery Visaged Firmament Expressed Abhorrence,” and from the very beginning, you get the feeling of darkness. This is the sound of a house burning down during a thunderstorm in the woods. You stand outside. Alone. With nothing but the crackling flames to keep you company. And the eyes staring at you from behind from the cover of the forest. “Where Poisonous And Undying Worms Prolong” is droning soundscape with just a hint of noisiness and synth creeping through. Reminds me of the feeling that Lustmord manages to evoke, more than style. “The Darkness Which Ascends With Me” features drones that wash over you like waves of the sea. Nice and dark. “Whose Horrible Lusts Spread Misery Over The World” is a short, noisier track. “The Earth Groans Beneath Religions Iron Age” is pulsing synth drone with crackling noise. There is a lot of variety in this track that keeps it interesting. Layers of sound submerging and then coming up to be heard before diving back beneath the surface. “Like Darkness To A Dying Flame” ends the side with a repetitive synth line over howling wind noise. Kind of peaceful, if a bit unsettling.

Flipping the tape over, we have “The Lamp Of Earthly Life Extinguished In The Dampness Of The Grave.” You could almost file this under "peaceful noise." It's noise, but not harsh. I really like this. “Loathing Vapours Hung” has swells of drone with subtle, crackling static over sounds of decaying machinery in the distance. “Raking The Cinders Of A Crucible” features analog tones that sound like lightsabers with low level synth drone underneath. This is like listening to a sci-fi movie soundtrack, but not during a battle scene. This is the suspenseful part where the two sides are trying to get the jump on the other, but it's dark and machines are hissing in the background, obscuring the other's footsteps. “A Deep Reflecting Gloom” keeps the cinematic noisiness going, with a repetitive synth line over deep bass noise rumblings. Keeping with the soundtrack theme, this is the scene where the battle has all but ended. There is still the faint sound of ordinance in the distance, but the conflict has been decided. It is not a happy ending for anyone involved. “Cave And Ruin” feels a bit more noisy than the other tracks, but blends well with them, maintaining a sense of continuity. A nice close to the tape.

This was incredibly cohesive, and everything felt like it belonged together. Not calm enough to be dark ambient, and not noisy enough to be noise. If you are looking for harsh noise, this is not going to fit the bill. But if you like interesting sound textures with a bit of a jagged edge to it, this will be just what you are looking for. The best comparison I can come up with is Inade. Well worth getting.