Monday, September 28, 2020

Music Reviews

Artist: Rhys Fulber
Title: Resolve EP
Format: Download Only (MP3 + Lossless)
Label: FR Records
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.

Artist: Compest (@)
Title: Leitern Und Pfade
Format: Tape
Label: Oxidation
Rated: *****
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.

Artist: DsorDNE
Title: Lontano Da Dove?
Format: 12" + Download
Label: Details Sound (@)
Distributor: Rubadub
BUY from HERE or 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.
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.

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: 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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