The fifth album from James Vella’s alias A Lily is a collection of eight warm analogue looping electronica. Soft-stepping melodies and pulses, gradually rising and falling mid-tones, the odd arpeggiation or two and a few higher-pitched sparkles meander around in short rhythmic circles over equally warm and rich bass notes.
On paper, that sounds like nothing new, and to an extent that’s true, this is not an album of boundary-pushing or surprises. But appreciating it as a well-balanced piece of composition, like a warm mug of caffeine free tea at the end of a long day, there is still plenty here to make you go “ahhhhh”.
Slightly more unusual tones do sneak through at times, such as the faintly guitar-solo-ish lead melody in the second half of “Do Not Dash Your Feet Upon The Stone”, or the more skittish, time-wrestling notes that open “Endless Jasmine”. There’s a sense of analogue history too- it’s hard to avoid citing Tangerine Dream when talking about tracks like “Colour The Senses” or “A Softly Glitching Reality”, and the flute noise on “Kalimba Heart” has just a hint of the prog rock about it.
“Slipped At The Edge Of The Pool” seemed a little ‘off’ to me somehow, in ways that are difficult to put a finger on.
It’s an indulgent blanket of cosy synth sounds, unchallenging without being completely ambient or textureless, and it’s very enjoyable if you’re in the mood to settle.
The second full-length collaboration between Kush Arora (Only Now) and Lucas Patzek (Orogen) runs as a deep and slow series of bass rolls, gutpunches, atmospherics and effects, that feels like the very darkest elements of EDM have been untethered from their dance music moorings and allowed to go and live rough in a cave.
There are echoes of a more structured, underground vibe, such as the pitched-and-sped-up choral sounds in part one (somewhat “Rites Of Mu”-esque), or the metal-tinged building pulses and remnants of an industrial breakbeat in part three. However it can also detach itself completely from rhythm and even drama, such as in the soft sandpapery ambient washes that constitute part two, or the breathier waves of part six that feel like a sombre night at a dark beach.
A more cinematic flavour grows through the gentle arpeggios of part four into the atmospheric, if slightly on-the-noise, low choral chanting sounds of part five.
It’s a relatively short release- six numbered parts, totalling 33 minutes, but it’s supplemented by a 31-minute “megamix”. The term megamix seems almost comical here, bringing to mind superstar DJ’s, but instead it’s the same six pieces but sensitively sequenced together (and at times barely overlapped) into a single listening experience. As a single ambient journey it doesn’t take a particularly obvious route, or follow one single progression, but it does continue consistent with the soundtrack-y flavour.
The textures and production are top notch and it’s got more than enough character to make it engagingly weird and immersive. A very unusual electronica dive that deserves your attention, and all of it when listening.
To launch his own imprint FR Records, Rhys Fulber (of Front Line Assembly, Delerium, Conjure One et al) offers up an EP which is described as an “ambient detour”, devoid of his recent harsh rhythms. I wouldn’t call it ‘ambient’ though, as steady arpeggios and lighter rhythms still give this a firm electronica structure.
“Charleroi” opens, with big wide rolling rumbles and waves of low noise. The gradual introduction of Tangerine Dream-esque arpeggios, and then a decidedly synthwave-like top melody line, end up giving this track something of a introductory feel, as though it’s the tone-setter for a massive heavy EDM album that’s about to rock your ears- but it isn’t. This pattern is repeated surprisingly closely in third track “Meaningless Marker Of Mortality”, even down to the sudden drop at the end.
“Disused” is more experimental, with light industrial hammering sounds charting out a swaggering 12/8-ish rhythm, with another surprisingly perky melody following on later.
Final track “Monolithic Myriad Manifold” charts a course from dark to bright, again adopting rather synthwave-styled lead melodies over a brooding tuned drone.
There is an extent to which these four tracks feel a little like leftover experiments or diversions- but when Rhys Fulber is the artist in question, you know that even the off-cuts are going to be worth listening to- and such is the case here, a really intriguing EP that teases the prospect of longer works perhaps a little more than it satisfies within itself.
Compest is the work of German composer Martin Steinebach. His other projects include Conscientia Peccati, Monoid, and StillStand. I have been familiar with his work for many years (I did a split with him many years ago and contributed a remix for his amazing Heimat set), so I was interested to hear how his music has evolved. The label describes this particular project this way: “First known as Conscientia Peccati (orchestral and ritual/tribal synthetic atmospheres), Steinebach later launched two other projects to explore new paths: Monoid for more rhythmic industrial sounds, and StillStand for more ambient abstract soundscapes. Then he melted all his influences in Compest that can be seen as a kind of meta-project.”
One of the things that I have enjoyed about his work is that it never seems to stay in one direction. This is by design though. In one interview I found while looking for a website for this project, he was asked, “Many artists dream of a “magnum opus.” Do you have a vision of what yours would sound like?” He responded, “No, I’m sorry. I am rather exploring new directions than going extremely deep into one.” This is oddly fitting for this release as well, which translates out to "Ladders and Paths." Let’s see which direction he is taking us this time.
“Leiter” kicks it off with a track that is a bit darker than some of the stuff I am familiar with, but really engaging. The percussion keeps it moving along, as the synth lines intermingle together. “Aufstieg” is a bit weirder, with pitch bent analogue synth. “Sprossen” shifts gears with droning synth with a hint of distortion. There is a melancholy feel to the composition. “Umweg” closes the side on a noisier note, as if he took a synth line and covered it with a blanket of static which dissipates over time.
Flipping the tape over, we have “Pfad,” which is a heavy synth composition that flows like the waves of the sea. “Oben” has a kind of a cinematic feel to it. This is the part of the film where the battle is just about to commence; the calm before the storm. “Abseits” is perhaps my favorite track on the tape, with pulsing synth lines with bass guitar and clashing cymbals and chimes. A very interesting composition.
Overall, the feel reminds me of some of Asmus Tietchens' more mellow works. I enjoyed how he changes things up to keep it engaging. If you have enjoyed Steinebach’s other works, this is a solid entry into that catalog. If you have not heard his work yet, this is a good place to start. Like all of the Oxidation releases, this is also packaged in an interesting way. The cassette is tied to a wooden tile between two ladders with dirt affixed to it. Those of you on the other side of the pond will have to affix your own dirt because of shipping regulations. Well worth checking out.
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.
Lontano Da Dove? is a bittersweet romance - promising and exciting but also vague and misty.
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.