Tuesday, June 15, 2021
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Music Reviews

Murcof: The Alias Sessions

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Artist: Murcof (@)
Title: The Alias Sessions
Format: CDx2 (double CD)
Label: The Leaf Label
Rated: * * * * *
What goes around comes around, so Tony Morley, head of the appreciated Leaf label, could have exclaimed when the orbit of the wondrous Mexican electronic music composer and performer Fernando Corona, commonly known as Murcof, crossed the one of the label, that launched his awesome sound art in 2002 by "Martes", that masterpiece that also gave certain visibility to the so-called Nortec Collective and the vibrant scene of Tijuana. The last spotting in my headphones was on the occasion of a collaborative release ("Being Human Being") with the French trumpet player Erik Truffaz, that came some years after "The Versailles Session", his latest on Leaf in 2008. Thirteen years after that output, he comes back with this new album, that like the previous one, was born under commission. Even if the commission came from the same company, the Swiss performing company Alias, masterfully directed by the Brasilian choreographer Guilherme Botelho, the two halves of the session can be somehow considered two different albums, as they refer to two different projects. The first cd comes from an adaptation of the music for "Contre-Mondes" (2017), while the second includes music made for "Normal" (2018), but besides this publishing detachment, the sound appears pretty unified and somehow consistent with the distinguishing marks of Murcof's sound: rhythmical patterns in between ambient-dub, minimal techno and IDM, a constant drifting over stylistic territories of avant-garde jazz, drone music, ambient, ethnic, glitch electronics, atonal percussive music, Berlin sound and classical music (with many hints to baroque style), where an approach that could be shallowly labelled as 'minimal' manages to condense many emotions, where almost maniacally aesthetic research can join and inspire the highest intellectual upheavals, including the current questioning, the general restlessness and the urgent anxieties as well as the spread feeling of existential stifling, that maybe makes this release even more dramatically timely. All those who already know will soon understand that these sessions are maybe the best and highly inspiring collection that the Mexican artist ever made.



Spherical Disrupted: 25 (Past / Future)

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Artist: Spherical Disrupted (@)
Title: 25 (Past / Future)
Format: CDx3 (triple CD)
Label: Audiophob (@)
Distributor: Bandcamp
Rated: * * * * *
Already more than 25 years active in German Ambient- / Industrial music scene and also not at all an unknown project on our website here – but Spherical Disrupted have tarnished themselves perfectly from my personal music radar so far. Actually it has been their brilliant remix for Villaborghese available on their last “Remixed” release earlier this caught my interest.Nearly unbelievable that this one-man project of Mirko Hentrich has made it to such a huge amount of releases in its discography as well as with plenty of live performances on some highly recognized Industrial-/Noise-events like “Maschinenfest”, “Elektroanschlag”, “Schlagstrom” and/or “Summer Darkness”. this all has brought a high level of recognition.

Secondly, the foundation of the own managed Audiophob label in 2004 (with Mirko being the co-founder – Carsten Stiller of Alarmen represents the other responsible half...) and with projects like Mandelbrot, Zero Degree (also being active on ant-zen...), Wesenberg (yes, the rather Experimental-oriented solo effort of Krischan Jan-Eric Wesenberg – better known for his being in Rotersand or Straftanz and well recognized as one of the best producers / studio magician for mastering processes), or the Swiss-based duo of Skalpell, was at least a clever initiative to provide a professional audio resource.

The history of Mirko under his main project Spherical Disrupted once started in 1995 and so during the heydays, when underground music projects normally recorded tapes. Same it was also with Spherical Disrupted and the tape “Zerschellt, Zersplittert”, the very first release of this project. Thanks to this release, it was the right time to celebrate this anniversary and to give the listeners an overlook to some rare available recordings, highlights out of the long discography, long-out-of-print compilation appearances and also the possibility to invite some guests / friends for contribution purposes.

Therefore the fitting title “25” for this output, initially released during the end of the last year as a special 3CD box. Actually, this special box-set consisting of a carton box, three CDs in two digi-packs, three inlay prints, and as a special gimmick a "Granite hardware remix kit" (two stones), strictly limited to 100 hand-numbered exemplars only, is completely and long-time SOLD OUT.Both the CD albums, “25 - Past” (2 CDs) and “25 – Future” (1 CD) now can be purchased directly via the Audiophob website, several mail order services, or at Bandcamp.
I personally prefer to review this release as being as a whole item and so I will spend attention to both albums separately.

“25 (Past)”
As already mentioned above, the double-CD “25 (Past)” offers new and revamped versions of past recording, rarely available compilation appearances and remix contributions for other projects (Bloody Dead And Sexy, Experimentum Crucis, Yipotash, The Trial, KiEw, Mimetic Dancing, The_Empath, Xabec, Mandelbrot, Still Patient?) taken out several epochs during the 25 years.A lot of this tunes have been available on strictly limited, out-of-print releases, mostly on tapes for example, and do see the light to be pressed on CD format for the very first time. Some of them have been completely unreleased so far and to collect all of these old recordings, to polish and to transform them into the present was surely challenging.
For statistic nerds I recommend to have a detailed look to the website of Mirko, www.disrupted.de, under the tab “Oscillation” you can find a table with every track recorded is listed there alphabetically and where it has been released before. Move then towards to Discogs to explore the wide ranging release catalog of Spherical Disrupted.

Musically, Spherical Disrupted acts mainly in the wide field of Electronic-based Dark Ambient music. Mirko produces a relatively static form of dark and at times noisy Electronic music often accompanied with slow-stalking EBM-oriented beats and bassline work. The noise elements often occur through massive pitch shifting and filter frequency manipulations of changing in velocity, dynamic or harmony. There's definitely a high factor of a DIY mentality listenable, several tracks offer various FX manipulations seemingly live recorded and with a strong field recording behavior, “Solar Luminosity (Terminal Mix)” is a perfect example in this sense.One of the strongest moments I found in “Cavity Block (Not The :W: Master)” which reminds me on slo-mo Orphx combined with some lengthy tracks out of The Klinik / Marc Verhaegen's archives.
Another striking factor for the music composition process of Mirko seems to be his strong interest in astronomy as he often names his tracks after the discovery of remarkable objects and phenomenons out of this science area (“Through Homunculus Nebula”).

The second CD out of this “Past” edition then offers us 9 remix contributions fabricated by Spherical Disrupted for foreign band projects and friends, as per listed above. Best and rather IDM-related Electronica entertainment I've found with the breathtaking remix on The_Empath and the track "Second Earth (Down To The Ground Mix)”, for sure one of highlights here.The overall sound outfit of Spherical Disrupted comes out pretty much abstract and provides a strong hypnotic impression, although it and there gets monotonous and offers at times unnecessary lengths too.
But generally Mirko's music is an oppressive sound outfit and to me additionally the ideal sound environment to confuse the neighborhood.

“25 (Future)”
As initially described above, the “Future” edition of this fascinating release offers at least completely new tracks, new remix contributions and for the first time guest vocal appearances. We have here the track “Basalt” with Tino Claus out of the TC75 / Amnistia fame and not only because of Tino's timbre this mid-tempo track with its nicely installed bass lines sounds quite comparable to Tino's TC75 recordings.Also Jana Komaritsa of the Russian Dark Industrial project Darkrad (among other recording for Audiophob or earlier for Cold Meat Industry...) offers the listener a haunting vocal performance on this mutually composed track.

Generally it comes the impression that the first 5 tracks of the newer compositions of Mirko show a tendency to keep the music a bit more accessible which in case of tracks like “Crust” or “Comet” can be noticed within a higher level of Electro-/EBM-like beat- and percussion-elements.On the opposite, tracks like “Pluton” or “Granit“ are drowning deeply into the Dark Ambient genre and rather focus to express the oppressive mood.

Remix contributors can be discovered excellently with Slovakia's Dark Electro-duo Disharmony and their very calm and catchy interpretation on “Comet”. Again, their ability to mix smooth synthesized, piano-sounding fragments with dense and darker-minded layers still thrills and impresses totally. Also Mr. Wesenberg gives a lighter-minded remix contribution on “Basalt”, the mutually composition of Spherical Disrupted with TC75.

Well, at least 225 minutes playing time of variable and thrilling produced Dark Ambient / Experimental music with the tendency to integrate a valid amount of Dark Electronica available on three CD's totally available for a price of two releases should be a good reason for a purchase. Yes, the 100 hand-numbered exemplars are gone and should become collectible rarities.



Sweeney: Misery Peaks

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Artist: Sweeney (@)
Title: Misery Peaks
Format: CD + Download
Label: Sound In Silence Records (@)
Rated: * * * * *
'Misery Peaks' is the third full-length album by Australian artist Jason Sweeney, and what an aptly named recording it is. If you read my review of Sweeney's 2019 album, 'Human, Insignificant' you might have some idea of what to expect. While the musical backing on that album was primarily piano-based, Sweeney takes a different tack on 'Misery Peaks'; one that is both more oblique and more bleak.
The first track, "To the Lake" uses ominous drones as its primary musical backing. Sweeney relates a strange sort of abstract tale - "Took his car and I drove to the lakeside...never thought he'd come back....he was still on my mind...trying my best...and I'm trying too hard...trying my best...am I trying too hard...stays long enough for me to take him home, to know I was falling in love...and he says, leave me here by the lake..." This kind of abstract expressionism is certainly open to interpretation, but I get the impression everything is not hunky-dory in relationshipville.

Things are no more cheery on "Kid" which has a slow rhythm track (and more drones) while Sweeney wails between song lyrics. There are some nice key changes on this one and it does have an industrial ambient vibe. I am now realizing who Sweeney sounds like vocally on this album - David Sylvian, albeit a very depressed, morose Sylvian. Actually, that's a compliment as I really like Sylvian's voice. "Please Accept My Love" really brings that to the fore to. There's a delicateness and fragility Sweeney's songs too, and it really comes through on a track like "Stolen Bones".

Accompaniment throughout the album is generally minimal, but highly effective. There are noisy, industrial moments too, such as on "Sun" which is an atypical for the first third, but settles into the groove for the rest. 'Misery Peaks' does have a Scott Walker circa ‘Tilt’ vibe to it, and it would be nearly impossible to like this album if you don’t like that one. Sweeney returns to simple piano backing for the final track, “Sometimes the Rain Falls,” a plaintive ballad, and his strongest vocal performance over all on the album. Sweeney might be an acquired taste for most, but rewarding for those who do. Better than ‘Human, Insignificant’ in a multitude of ways. Typical Sound in Silence custom packaging, limited to 200 copies.


The Green Kingdom: Solaria

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Artist: The Green Kingdom
Title: Solaria
Format: CD + Download
Label: Sound In Silence Records (@)
Rated: * * * * *
This is my first experience with The Green Kingdom, although this project has plenty of previous releases. The Green Kingdom is Michael Cottone, a graphic designer and sound artist based in Michigan. Interested in creating compositions which blur the lines between soundscape and structure while keeping a sharp focus on melody, his pieces are crafted using a variety of instruments, electronic sources, sampled textures and field recordings.

'Solaria' is a nearly 40 minute album consisting of eight tracks with simple titles such as "Arc," "Geodesic," "Dome," etc., etc. It's kind of a structured ambient on most of these pieces with the synths/electronics providing the atmosphere/ambience and guitar and guitar-like sounds with the melodic content. The music is pleasant, cloudy but not too dark, sort of like an overcast day. Environments are rich and fully textured and where a rhythm track is employed it is generally discreet and minimal. Some passages have an oriental flavor, but there is no obvious Asian, or for that matter any particular ethnic influence easily discerned. Although much of the music comes at a languid pace, this is a deceptively quick album because you just won't realize the passage of time much while listening to it. It is almost as if the music has some mesmerizing effect, which is difficult to describe, but after you hear it, you're likely to agree.

This limited release comes in two physical versions – the typical Sound in Silence handmade and hand-numbered CD-r in light turquoise recycled cardboard envelope with the front cover image printed on a Polaroid style photo paper and an insert sheet containing tracklist and information printed on a 120 gsm cream recycled cardboard. It also comes bundled with a download code coupon and a Sound In Silence card. Then there is a deluxe limited edition of 100 handmade, hand-stamped and hand-numbered collectible copies. The disc of this edition includes three exclusive bonus tracks, not included in the other edition or the digital download. It is packaged in a lovely sewn fabric envelope, which includes a 4 panel insert sheet containing tracklist and information printed on a 250 gsm light turquoise recycled cardboard and the front cover image printed on a Polaroid style photo paper. It also comes bundled with a download code coupon and a Sound In Silence card. Of course if you don’t care about physical copies and want to cheap out you can download the album off the label’s Bandcamp site for about 7 Euros. Whichever you choose it’s a recommended purchase that you will likely enjoy many times over.



Johan Agebjörn and Mikael Ögren: Artefact

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Artist: Johan Agebjörn and Mikael Ögren (@)
Title: Artefact
Format: CD + Download
Label: Spotted Peccary Music (@)
Rated: * * * * *
'Artefact' is the second collaboration between Swedish electronic music artists Johan Agebjörn and Mikael Ögren after 'We Never Came To The White Sea.' They're calling this album "an unofficial soundtrack inspired by Arthur C. Clarke’s classic novel Rendezvous with Rama, where the artists explore another wilderness: the unknowable vastness of space." You don't have to read Clarke's novel to appreciate this album though, but you will have to have a love of things "not of this earth." I don't always do this, but before we begin with the description/review, I thought you might want to know what equipment was used on this album. Here's the list: Access Virus Indigo II, Alesis Micron, Clavia Nord Lead 2, Kurzweil K2000, Novation Supernova, Propellerheads Reason II (with Korg MonoPoly), Roland DJ-70, Roland JD-800, Roland JP-8000, Thoraiz AS-1, Waldorf Blofeld, Yamaha AN1X. You'll notice that list includes a lot of analog gear, some of it rather old school. I think that's very cool. In spite of all the great gear, it don't mean a thing if the imagination and execution isn't there, but it is here, in abundance I might add. Also aboard for some of this outing are Stefan Strand (Between Interval) and Johan Emmoth (Le Prix), as well as guest vocals by Martina Björk on one track.

The album is twelve tracks and approximately 64 minutes in length, plenty of time for your galactic voyage, with track titles such as "Extravehicular Activity," "Static Air," "Octapod," "Interplanetary Threat," and "Space Travel," to remind you of where you're going. The first track is a brief atmospheric setup for the trip, which really begins on the next one, "Passing the Gates." The music is a balance between space ambient and space rock, never getting carried too far into either direction. The pacing is really great, and when the (mostly simple) melodies arrive, they're as welcome as an old friend you haven't seen in years. The synth sounds won't be unfamiliar, but they are used very effectively. Where there is a rhythm track (and they're used fairly often on this album) it tends to be understated, never dominating the proceedings, yet compellingly inducing momentum. The real star here though is the sequencer, or rather the sophisticated use of it. While the old Berlin School of electronic music relies heavily on it, the sequencing here isn't confined to that rudimentary trancey sort. There are times when multiple sequences are in play and you may not even notice it for the first few listens.

The melodicism on 'Artefact' is undoubtedly going to remind you of other electronic artists. For me, Patrick O'Hearn in particular comes to mind, but you can catch wisps of Jean Michel Jarre, Steve Roach, and similar artists. Similarities aside, this is an incredibly immersive listen that should not disappoint any space music enthusiast. While there is some inevitable NASA type space chatter, it's kept to a minimum.

Various different moods, styles and motifs are explored, ranging from the coldness and vastness of space thing, to funky passages, themes of grandeur, percolating rhythms, and even some proginess ("Octapod"). Over all though, balance seems to be the byword, the content not leaning too much toward the dark or the light; not too heavy nor too airy; not too simple nor too complex; and definitely not steeped in "New Age." In fact, I don't think you could call this a New Age album at all, unless you were describing the new age of space music, which would be absolutely fine. Highly recommended!