Ben Coxhas been a musician for thirty years and a recording engineer for twenty years. His interest in music has taken many forms over time, from playing trumpet in jazz bands to singing bass in an informal renaissance music group. His electronic music has been heard in television and radio advertisements, installation projects, and at trade shows, in locations ranging from Indiana to Australia. Although he doesn't have a lot of releases of his own, Ben's mastering engineering credits with Spotted Peccary include albums by Darshan Ambient, Craig Padilla, Paul Ellis, Jeff Greinke, Rudy Adrian, Phillip Wilkerson, Shane Morris, Chris Russell, and many more. 'Consciousness and other tricks of the light' is Ben's second album and an adventurous expedition through the musicality of synthesizers and electronics. It consists of six tracks and clocks in at about 39 minutes. The opener, "Einstein Cross," features a loping rhythm, repeating echoed synth bass pattern, some minimal synth chords and Ben reading text from the Physics StackExchange site on the Jacobian Matrix. To me it sounded a bit like Mitchell Froom meets Joe Frank in the mathematician's study. Sort of sets a mood though. "Delta Waves" is nowhere near as esoteric, comprised primarily of a slow-filtered sawtooth drone, intermittent simple synth melody, light synth pads and floating amorphous arpeggios. It's a new age brain massager for the overly stressed. The base of "Just Begin Again" is arpeggiated synth pattern(s) that Ben builds upon with a glissando lead line and bass. Definitely new age electronica on this one. "Now" struck me as not much more than a rhythmic key tapping (mostly on the same note, but a little variation further on) exercise and low synth drone. "Chirality" might just be the most experimental track on the album and also the shortest at 2:40. It sounds very electric guitar-like (but probably a synth) noodling in a very spacious environment with a heap of chordal distortion in the end. Final track, "Matins," is the longest at 13:07, again with a slow-filtered synth drone and sparse melody, swept by an occasional gust of wind. I'd call it cosmic except for the presence of an undercurrent of some sounds I can only describe as subtle synth farts. Don't really know what the artist's intention was with that, but I found it distracting. So most of 'Consciousness and other tricks of the light' seemed to be a pretty good effort, but there were a few things that could have been done differently that might have enhanced it.
Alexander Julien, a Canadian resident American is the sole member of Vision Eternel. Starting in 2007 he released a batch of highly conceptualized EP's circling around romanticism, heartbreaks and solitude. As the cover by Michael Koelsch illustrates this EP explores thematically no new ground. In the making since 2017, aborted and reworked from scratch the 4 tracks had time to ripe until they finally got mastered in early 2020 and now be published this September as limited Cassette (with additional Cassette of rarites), CD (with exclusive bonus track) and unlimited Files. No vocals or lyrics are set to the music so full attention went into composing this mood pictures just with electronics and guitars. The careful arrangements and lush production are those instrumentals strongest and weakest points at once. A mellowed out ambience drifts by moment after moment which invites the listener to drown in his own reflections and memories but is too kind to grab the attention completely. I think a few samples and a little more space in the arrangements could have made them more memorable and differentiated but this seems not be the artists intention here. After reading the short story which accompanies this EP I'm sure he strived for a coherent mood and this Julien achieved successfully.
Artist: Lionel Marchetti
Title: PLANKTOS / 2015 - 2020 ~ composition de musique concrète
Format: Download Only (MP3 + Lossless)
“Planktos” is a series of musique concrète works, divided into five movements and running almost four hours in total. It’s an exploration of electroacoustic sounds, predominantly drones, hums and pulses, with a stretched out and mesmerising slow attitude and a lot of long, low, bass tones- but it’s not electro-ambient or pure drone, and there are melodic layers, arhythmic percussive sounds and some sharper electronic twists and glitches along the way.
Some of it is two-tone electronic, that gradual rocking between two pitches that feels like being lulled to sleep by a robot- the end of the first part of movement 1 typifies this, and there are smoother more slow-breathing-like waves to be found as well. Acoustic instruments make appearances that feel somewhat like cameos, such as the sparse harp-like melody in movement 2 part 1, and parts are nothing less than melodic, including the haunting and Ligeti-ish movement 2 part 4.
At times there is a decidedly Radiophonic Workshop feel, prompting unavoidable subliminal feelings of watching alien worlds in black-and-white- movement 1 part 4, or the anti-gravity spaceship landing of movement 3 part 2, being examples, and the sudden synth wash nine minutes into movement 4 part 4 could hardly be more Peter Davison-era Doctor Who if it tried. The curious alien monkey noise (I think from manually tweaked sine oscillators) that pervades several parts becomes something of a recurring theme. This isn’t always comfortable- the squealing tones at the start of movement 2, and the tinnitus-tingling high tones at the end of it, are both of the nails-down-a-blackboard type that some listeners will grind their teeth in discomfort at, and the insectoid sounds towards the end of movement 3 might not sit nicely with certain phobias either, invoking thoughts of creatures much weirder than the jellyfish in the artwork.
Movement 3 is not industrial per se, but there’s certainly an increased sense of activity initially, distant rumbles and pneumatic tones that feels like business, and this makes the contrast with the purer melodic sections (e.g. the end of movement 3 part 1) feel like more of a relief, in a positive way. Curiously, the warm melodic aftermath and persistent monkey-like noises in this end up throwing up comparisons with Future Sound Of London works, despite the alleged genre mismatch.
Although movement 5 has the label ‘Ocean’, and certainly has its squelchy expansive but high-pressure feel, for me it’s movement 4 that most reflects the aquatic artwork, with part 1 a particularly bubbly and wet-sounding piece with some distant whalesong-like noises. But the sense of alienation persists, with a texture that’s more gelatinous than oceanic, and continued glitching and grasshopper-like scratching. “Calming sounds of the sea”, this certainly isn’t.
The movements are broken into pieces of varying lengths (not counting the 2-second pauses between movements), though many of these pieces could easily have been broken down into far more and smaller chunks too, with parts like movement 3 part 4 arguably a series of related vignettes. But broadly, each movement is 40 minutes and could standalone as its own independent work, if you wanted to consider it a ‘five for the price of one’ musique concrète multipack. With enough imagination, you could regard the five movements as a long sci-fi journey, travelling between different alien planets and the deep space inbetween, but in more sonic-specific terms the progression or order in the five movements is less obvious. While each certainly has its own character, or perhaps is better described as having its own priorities, it does feel as though you could drop into these movements in any order for equal impact.
Over the course of nearly four hours, it is an engrossing journey and it certainly has the capability of switching your headspace and mood entirely. It’s not overtly chillout music, nor is it routinely calm, yet it has some of the same heart rate lowering and entrancing effects that the best of such music can offer. Indulge yourself in a long dive into this collection that’s neither one thing nor another, and see how you feel when you come out the other side.
Artist: Gintas K
Format: CD + Download
Long-established Lithuania-based sound artist Gintas K has offered up a single-track 44-minute work Amnesia, and it is experimental noise work that really demands the listener’s attention. A controlled chaos of glitches, squeaks, and distorted percussive sounds, played out on a bed of rumbling drones and slow creaks and with garnishes of high-pitched hisses and noise washes, it’s a soundscape with a great deal of texture, that draws you in to listen to the details.
It’s not without structure or form though, by any means, and the relatively violent opening could misrepresent some of the later movement. There are comparatively more measured sections, such as around the nine minute mark- I wouldn’t go so far as to call it ‘calm’, but everything’s relative by this stage. Particular mention is due to the bold drop around 27 minutes, which works as though the motor powering the melée is manually wound down, leaving a hollow ambient expanse which, when it winds back up again, feels consciously changed- more wooden, more mechanical but less of a metropolis.
Sometimes there’s pulsing and throbbing that offers up a rhythm, of sorts, though the other elements seem to go out of their way to avoid it (e.g. sixteen minutes in). There are moments that are alien, moments that are quasi-industrial, and at times it borders in the bizarre. The detuned honky-tonk piano sounds audible around six minutes in seem almost tongue-in-cheek, though later on it does contribute a more conventional abstract melodic element. The cut-up work around 37 minutes is expressive to the point of feeling vocal, one of several “how did they do that?” moments. The alarm clock tones just before the 40th minute are rather on-the-nose and signal the beginning of the final bookend of noise, providing a symmetry with the frantic opening. It’s not all gradual fades and progressions, either- with a little over one minute to go, the waveform drops off a cliff before a nearly-romantic postscript.
It’s a well-executed deep manoeuvre in experimental noise control, with a great deal of latent and hard-nosed beauty lurking under a noisy shell. It’s well worth cracking through that shell and exploring.
9cento9 is a solo alter ego of Marco Milanesio of DsorDNE which he invented in the 2000's. Most of the time used for experimental tinged ambient electronic works 'Reflected' is not an exception but an further exploration. Recorded in May during lockdown in Italy and self-published via his own HUM_an Netlabel this is a fine example of today's independent production and release possibilities. Reflected is worth listening especially in the quieter moments; interesting movements of electronic layers, carefully arranged beats supporting the moods and shades of harmonies appearing unexpected. Thoughtful Electronica reflecting the times we all have to go through. Self reflection, questionable future perspectives, a little nostalgia. "Biochemical Reactions" as intro leads into a soundworld where nearly anything can follow, "Structure" promises a way before "Modern Discomfort" uncomfortably chimes in, "Core" dives even deeper before "Perpetual Sound" appears as mixture of soothing and stretching at once before "Slow Motion" as in a hydropower plant sets in. The final track "Provides Energy" is a strange 10 Minute + outro which leaves me confused - Is it Irony to call it this? It's a troubling, discomforting ride to somewhere entirely else, a bewildering conclusion returning to the themes of "Modern Discomfort" but in it's very exhausting version.
No words can be as meaningful as words for those able to listen closely.