Sunday, September 27, 2020
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Music Reviews

Artist: Mlehst (@)
Title: More Punishment
Format: Tape
Label: Oxidation
Rated: *****
Man. This is a blast from the past. I remember seeing this artist in catalogs from Self Abuse and others. The descriptions sounded intriguing, but I was broke and never managed to pick anything up from this artist. Mlehst is the work of Englishman All Brentnall. One of the things I remember being interested in was that the music was never quite described as noise, and this tape is no exception. This is more Hafler Trio and less Merzbow. Mlehst seems intent on creating a feeling - not a bad feeling or a good feeling, but more an unsettled feeling. Let’s get into it.

Side A opens with high pitched whine and some barely audible voices. The voices stay just out of reach, as some slight static and what sounds like footsteps on a sandy road creep in over time. If you like your changes slow and subtle, this is for you. Suddenly the high pitch drone cuts out and you can clearly hear what is left (although the voices have long faded away). This shifts into heavily processed voice with varied drone. At times, there is little there but the voice, and you still can't make it out. You can just sit back and enjoy the soundscape as the songs blend together. At one point, there is a drum machine keeping a beat, which seems a bit out of place with the previous tracks. Soon we are back to the familiar gritty droning. This is just on the border of noise.

On Side B, almost before you realize it, it becomes noisier and noisier. It never becomes totally harsh noise wall or anything. It's almost like listening to a noise performance from backstage. Then it shifts gears to an almost mellow bass line with various frequencies and textures of drone. It is almost hypnotic and quite pleasant listening. Bits of sound bubble up in the sea of drone, only to submerge again, leaving space for other sounds. This too becomes increasingly dissonant as the track marches on. Finally, we have a short, percussion-based track that becomes slightly distorted before quietly ending.

Overall, this was a nice listen. It is quite limited, so you'll want to pick this up while you have a chance. One thing I enjoy about the Oxidation releases is that they hearken back to the weird packaging of late 90s early 2000s noise releases. The general tape edition features a handmade plaque with whip & cassette, both of which are nailed to the plaque. Mine was the non-whip variety, so I guess my Saturday nights will have to be much as they have been…. for now.
This tape weighs in at around 90 minutes.

Artist: DsorDNE
Title: Lontano Da Dove?
Format: 12" + Download
Label: Details Sound (@)
Distributor: Rubadub
BUY from  HERE
This nearly unpublished and lost Mini-Album was conceived during the mid to late 90's and only recently rediscovered. Now remastered and redesigned Lontano Da Dove? could be easily a current release - asking existential questions of the Where from? to the Where to now?
The Torino based Italian collective DsorDNE in this incarnation were Marco Milanesio together with Luciano Gelormino, an early associate and Maisie's singer Cinzia La Fauci.
Musically the four pieces are surprisingly accessible with solid basslines, trip hop influenced beats and most of all the ethereal hushed female vocals from Cinzia. There is even a rare vocal appearance by Marco on 'Zerouno'. Too soon 'Zeroedue' continues upbeat and expands the dreamy side while 'Zerotres' moves on hinting at the more ambient direction Marco soon would take. A well balanced melancholy continues and shimmers through in the last track 'Piano Zeroquatro'. The more experimental sides of DsorDNE's past do show only in small details - an abrupt ending in 'Zerodue', the ultra clear accent when the beat starts in 'Zerouno', a tape ending sound as finale.

This was actually DsorDne's final release for close to 20 years - Marco went on to built himself a career with O.F.F. Studio, engineered, remixed, guested, scored videos and produced many interesting projects besides appearing solo and disguised as 9cento9. Since 2017 interest in DsorDNE led to various more than interesting releases and some re-releases from facsimile reproductions up to this LP with completely new artwork.
The cover, designed by the Swiss graphic agency Enea Bortone choosen tastefully by the Label adds another accent of timeless pop appeal meets abstraction.

Artist: Steve Roach (@)
Title: A Soul Ascends
Format: CD
Label: Projekt Records (@)
I assume that most of you as most of the people into ambient music are quite familiar with the name of Steve Roach. I would also include most of the audience following what gets normally labelled as 'new age', that I personally consider more a way to functionalize - sometimes in a not so guessed way - music belonging to different genres, that the well-known social and cultural phenomenon and set of sometimes freakishly syncretic beliefs of new age. Steve could have become a sort of spiritual guru for some of this kind of audience after some of his recent albums - "Spiral Revelation" (2017) and "Molecules of Motion" (2018) - received two consecutive Grammy Award nominations as New Age Album of the Year (a notorious contest won by big names like Pat Metheny, Yusef Lateef, Andreas Vollenweider, Peter Gabriel, Peter Winter or Enya), but this aspect is not necessarily an entrypoint to the heart of music lovers or simply audiophiles. By the way, this recent output, pushed by the awesome imprint by Sam Rosenthal, can satisfy both listeners who love synths and sequencers and those who talks to angels or other alien entities by burning tons of scented oils and coloured waxes. Including three long suites, recorded at the Timehouse studio in April 2020, Steve immediately brings the listener into a lavishly austere suite of flowing synth brasses and sort of whistles over the 32 entrancing minutes of the opening "The Radiant Return", that slowly pour into the central "In Present Space" (16 minutes lasting) after those cosmic whistles temporarily dissolve to come back as isolated beams of light in the darkness, evoked by a slightly different set of reverbs, that seems to support a sort of expanding movement of the above mentioned sonic entities. If audiophiles won't be overwhelmed by trance, sleep or boredom, they will appreciate more "Reflection in Ascension", the third stage of this album (other 26 minutes to be added to the listening or meditative session - depends on your expectations!), where Steve feeds less fluffy dynamics by nice percussive elements (I guess maybe stones and woods). If some mystical experiences will be somehow inspired or triggered by the listening of this album, please share!

Artist: Sleepy & Boo
Title: Perception
Format: Download Only (MP3 + Lossless)
Label: 3Bridge
The reliable 3Bridge Records have offered up another 4-track EP from the mellower, more progressive side of house- and this one is gentle and laidback even by their standards, with New York-based Sleepy & Boo offering up a nostalgic sound of afternoon beach house.

Perception is quite loungey thanks mostly to its key sounds. “Expectation” starts off with thicker kicks and more of a sense of purpose, but before too long gets to a breakdown full of long Balearic vocal pads and a soft wistful two-note melody- but it’s a well crafted blend and a highlight once the beat comes back.

“Impressions” is nicely bright and optimistic and “Notion” has a flatter, more journeying tone, but essentially they’re all built from the same recipe of crisp house beat, layered pads and plinky synth arpeggios, and a structure that makes the chord sequence the star, in the absence of any vocal or other top line that would normally take that accolade.

For circumstances where house music being forgettable isn’t a problem- gentle afternoons, office work or slower workouts, dare I say it even ‘muzak’- this package has got all the quality in the right places, without anything to make it stand out.

Artist: Sverre Knut Johansen (@)
Title: Dreams Beyond
Format: 10"
Label: Spotted Peccary Music (@)
Rated: *****
'Dreams Beyond,' Norwegian electronic artist/composer Sverre Knut Johansen’s fifth offering on the Spotted Peccary label, is a wondrous adventure through musical visions and sonic dreamscapes. Inspired by the album’s striking and surreal cover artwork (created by Micha Karcz), Johansen reveals a beguiling collection of compositions infused with imagination and beauty. Guiding the listener on a fascinating voyage, the album’s nine tracks travel through quiet spaces and mysterious realms, frequently propelled by dynamic rhythms that build to powerfully dramatic moments. Using his collection of synths, electronic percussion, electric guitars, and sound design software, Johansen infuses the tracks with a creativity that satisfies the ears and sparks the imagination, weaving melody, rhythm, and texture into a captivating musical tapestry that constantly evolves from beginning to end.

And of course, the above paragraph is promo text from the Spotted Peccasy label, but it's certainly not inaccurate. 'Dreams Beyond' consists iof nine track in 72 minutes -"Tatra Mountains" (Intro), "Awakening," "Skylight," "Dreams Beyond," "Dawn," "Tatra Mountains," "Causeway," "Echoes of the Past," and "Human Connection." Since Tatra Mountains figure so prominently on this album, you might like to know where they are. The Tatra Mountains is a mountain range that forms a natural border between Slovakia and Poland. They are the highest mountain range in the Carpathian Mountains. You might think that because of this, the music would be cold, dark and isolationist. Actually, quite the opposite is true. While not brimming with the sounds of civilization, there is much that alludes to nature thriving in this environment. It is sewn through the rhythms and indefinite melodicism Johansen employs throughout this album, breathing life into the realms of imagination. Everything works together to complete a picture, as a painter's palette does with drawing and blending colors to the image she creates.

Opening strong with the Tatra Mountains Intro, the artist lays down broad, grandiose synth strokes that rival Vangelis's cinematic quality and immediately grab your attention. Following that, "Awakening" sets the tone for the journey, with a strong, but gently steady rhythm emerging from the synth effluvia that takes up about the first third of the track. An arpeggiator opens "Skylight" and forms its base as a gentle synth melody rolls over the horizon while other synth sweeps and sequenced bits underpinned by a simple rhythm track play along. Through headphones, this is a real brain massager, bringing both a sense of adventure and bliss to the fore. The title track offers a bit of romantic wistfulness in familiar tones and forms and stronger melodic content than before. "Dawn" is as you might expect, rising languidly from slumber, the voices of birds chirping in your ears, a hive of activity commencing, sunlight and cool water splashed on your face, all of these things together perfectly captured. On the trip to the "Tatra Mountains" Johansen evokes grandeur and awesomeness that do these peaks justice with his expansive synth palette. As you may know, a "Causeway" is a route constructed over water, and the liquid below on this piece is palpable. Although somewhat transitory, it retains its own identity in the motion of crossing, of the journey being perhaps more important than the destination. "Echoes Of The Past" is the most ethereal track on the album, so light and airy you might think you're floating away. It ends on more solid ground though with "Human Connection," a good ending that just might be a couple minutes too long.

I've heard a good number of Sverre Knut Johansen albums, both solo and collaborations with others, and I believe 'Dreams Beyond' may just be his most fully realized work yet.


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