Tuesday, October 20, 2020
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Music Reviews

Deison: Substrata

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Artist: Deison
Title: Substrata
Format: 10"
Label: Drone Records
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Italy's Cristiano Deison is a musician active since the mid 90's in the noise / experimental / ambient realms. Many of his releases are collaborative works among them quite known names like John Duncan, K.K. Null or Maurizio Bianchi.
This EP is part 28 of the ongoing Substantia Innominata series by Drone Records.

Substrata features three new atmospheric compositions based on prepared tapes, metals, strings, wires and electronics recorded on different locations assembled and processed afterwards.
"Terra Firma (Pt. 1 & 2)" is a 16 Minute exploration of organic development, split in two parts. A soft, soothing ambience develops slowly until clear, crystalline sounds evolve and together with calm pulsating deeper sounds which shape together the picture of an acoustic stalagmite cave.
With "Prima Materia" he tries to describe "the primitive formless base of all matter similar to chaos, the quintessence or aether." A bold aspiration which leads to an more diverse soundscape but bearing the same smooth tranquillity. Starting with the same crystalline sounds embedded in a mysterious distant rhythm it shifts into soft ambient paired with distorted everyday noises. A collage which equally occupies the senses as "Terra Firma" and passes faster than the track length suggests.
Side B closes with an short afterthought, "In Vacuo Momentum", which plays with channels and sounds leaving the impressions of passing whales deep down in the Ocean.

Deison's compositions have an very organic feel to it, illustrated on the cover with what could be a spiderweb on a rusty fence hit by raindrops. The green, transparent Vinyl of this edition of 300 supports the artistic vision appropriately.

KMRU: Peel

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Artist: KMRU
Title: Peel
Format: 12" x 2
Label: Editions Mego
Nairobi-based KMRU (aka Joseph Kamaru) has joined up with Editions Mego to offer up a blend of electronics and Kenyan field recordings that is predominantly ambient. Contrasts run deep, as the colder-sounding electronic pads and drones blend with warmer, thicker textures, but the overall tone is stretched and slowed and minimised (with exceptions) into something both abstract and mesmeric.

Across six long pieces, totalling 76 minutes, a trusted format is followed. Different tones and notes are used, but each one is essentially a variant on the same velvety bed of fixed melody, with more organic elements sounding like they’re happening outside. “Well” is somewhat closer and tighter-sounding, while “Solace”, unsurprisingly from the title, feels more barren and melancholic, with a faintly breathing pulse under.

An exception to the generally minimalist tone is “Klang”, a much more room-filling arrangement with an endless feeling of building and waking that never seems to climax. It’s like an orchestra warming up, but an orchestra made of synths and city life, and it feels quite overwhelming after being lulled into the calm that preceded it. “Insubstantial” restores the calm after and offers the album’s most melodic loop pattern, albeit a faint one.

The title track is the last and longest piece, a slightly cleaner-sounding 23-minute slow progression around a two-chord pattern that pretty much sums up the whole release.

It’s not as adventurous or diverse as some might hope, nor does it have the ‘ethnic identity’ that Europeans or Americans might stereotypically expect from African music, but as a richly textured calm piece of ambient, it’s like a high quality quilt.

Artist: Siavash Amini
Title: A Mimesis of Nothingness
Format: 12" + Download
Label: Hallow Ground
“A Mimesis Of Nothingness” is a series of six dark abstract soundscapes where Siavash Amini derived inspiration from the photography work of fellow Tehranian Nooshin Shafiee, whose photographs were sadly not included in the promo package so I can’t comment, but as described in the accompanying sheet, showed not “the Tehran that everyone projected into their work” but instead “Tehran showing itself through tiny and giant overlooked places and objects”.

And there is certainly plenty of sinister undercurrent here. “Perpetually Inwards” is scarcely more than just a brooding rumble. “Lustrous Residue” feels somehow alien and dangerous, short stabbing percussive sounds and scratches carrying a sense of latent threat.

But there is also a sombre beauty too, as exhibited in pieces like the very melancholic “Moonless Garden”, which introduces hollow and more melody-driven string-like sounds and birdsong noise that somehow manages to avoid feeling cliché, perhaps because it feels chaotic and zoo-like rather than like a genuine landscape.

This conflict of moods is clashed together most dramatically in “Observance (Shadow)” where the soft choral-like pads seem to be quietly resisting the sharp-edged, impulsive, metallic and unpredictable screeching noises that come along to try and break them.

It’s 36 minutes of very dark portraiture, a kind of brooding semi-ambient yet one you can’t ignore thanks to the various unsettling tones and unexpected bumps. It’s far removed from the traditional images of Tehran and tells you something you didn’t already know, which is often the sign of a good portrait.

Artist: Doug Haire
Title: Campsites
Format: Download Only (MP3 + Lossless)
Label: Arpaviva (@)
Distributor: CD Baby
This collection of sound-pieces is the work of an very experienced recording engineer - Doug Haire from Seattle, Pacific NW, USA who's spent a long time of his life supporting experimental musicians hosting a radio show and recording exclusives for it. He is also a member of the Seattle Phonographers Union - a collective working and performing only with unprocessed field-recordings since 2002. Campsites is his first solo release since 2012's Removed And Haunted.
I imagine him now retired from session work, sitting by the campfire he could not resist to capture the moods and it's really incredible how he transmits the atmospheres with his field recordings which later on where supplied by decent drones. This reflecting on the reflection is executed with true mastery.
The overall calm sounds aided by the underlying subliminal drones lead inescapable to a loss of the sense of time.
The seven tracks are all subtle individual but work as a coherent whole, none is too lengthy and all mixing, mastering and production was done solely by Doug Haire himself.
I've found myself sitting suddenly in the last fading light of the day, mentally completely caught up in the moment - just like a campfire meditation - with engaged senses fully aware of the never ending surroundings. Campsites is as pictorial as a sound-work can be and leaves a lasting impression of an artists vision, offering his experiences to any open-minded listeners.

Artist: Homogenized Terrestrials (@)
Title: the defending magician
Format: CD + Download
Label: Terrestrial Records (@)
Rated: *****
Phil Klampe is back again with another Homogenized Terrestrials release, and you just can't keep a prolific guy like Phil down with a little pandemic. If I'm counting right, I think 'the defending magician' is HT's 23rd album , but I could be wrong. Once again the CD's cover features Phil's cool close-up and colorful insect photograph cover, which is never a clue as to the music inside, but looks great anyway. If you've ever heard a Homogenized Terrestrials album, you might have a pretty good idea what to expect- instrumental dark electro-acoustic environments that often defy description- ambient-industrial in places but also much more than that meager description. Take the second track, "yoong" for example. It begins with a struck or plucked note and something that sounds like tightly coiled feedback drone, and gets repeated in different ways with supplementary sounds mixed in before it turns into a gauzy dreamworld that envelopes the listener like a cloud. Some might think that this piece is minimal but it's really not; there is a lot going on beneath the surface. As calm and non-threatening as that track sounded, the next one, "huel," sounds hugely horrific, as if you've entered another dimension where the rules of physics don't apply at all. Not to be outdone, "queal" which follows starts out strange and spooky, introduces some semi-metallic creaky sounds then just goes full ambient pad drone, all in the space of 2:23.

The one thing that can be said of the fourteen pieces on 'the defending magician' is that they're all different, and chances are that if Klampe used a sample or sound on a previous track, it has been altered, modified or mangled in some way as to render it unrecognizable from its past use. This takes an incredible amount of skill and natural talent for sound sculpting, but since Klampe has been at it since 1986, I guess that it's not surprising. While most of the compositions don't seem to have the traditional musical components (ie; melody & rhythm), there are exceptions. After what sounds like an amplified version of an insect digging its way underground through the dirt to the open surface on "ruptivate," there is a repeating slow, melodic rhythmic figure played on something like metallic tubular bass, while a ghostly voice moans a higher counter melody. It could have gone on a lot longer in my opinion but HT never dawdles for nostalgia's sake. These little gems of harrowing goodness remind me of an amusement park, but more like Dark's Carnival in Bradbury's "Something Wicked This Way Comes" than Six Flags over Anywhere. In a way 'the defending magician' could be said to be cinematic, but it would certainly be a surreal movie soundtrack with thriller and horror overtones, and likely an art house film as well.

I should mention the package Phil Klampe sent me contained two other CDs, both prior limited releases on cassette, and although I've listened to them, I'll review them when time permits in the near future. In the meanwhile I highly recommend you get 'the defending magician,' a most rewarding encounter in creepy darkness.


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