Monday, January 18, 2021

Music Reviews

Endif: Falling Into The Sky

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Artist: Endif (@)
Title: Falling Into The Sky
Format: Download Only (MP3 + Lossless)
Label: Manual Control Records
Distributor: Bandcamp
Rated: * * * * *
It has taken 12 years until Jason Hollis could decide to return with a new album of his IDM / Ambient-Electronica / Rhythmic Noise music alter ego Endif, his third so far. Since it has been a while back let's bring his earlier works back into your memory, when Jason has counted to best signed projects of such renowned labels like Crunch Pod (album “Meta” out in 2006) and Tympanik Audio (album “Carbon” out in 2008). Once highly praised and named in a same row with such outstanding projects like Terrorfakt, E.S.A., Alter Der Ruine, Pneumatic Detach, Cervello Elettronico, C/A/T, Caustic and/or Manufactura, Jason surely had his heydays in the mid-2000s, just in those days when the Rhythmic-Noise movement became relatively popular.
He now presents us under his own Manual Control label this new album which is sort of a collection of the things recorded in between. The time span of these tracks includes the years in between 1999 and 2015 and these tracks have been constructed in different cities (Reno, Seattle and at least Minneapolis, where Jason nowadays lives).
The first impression was a bit strange I have to admit and it took me a while until I noticed that artists tend to develop instead to repeat themselves over and over again. Same has happened to Endif plus it also has to be noticed that Jason seemingly produces differently than before, I guess the “Everything-on-this-album-was-sequenced-and-assembled-in-Fruity-Loops-edited-in-Cool-Edit-Pro”-times of the “Meta” album are gone for good.
“Modularism” is magic word of Jason's creation processes and the booklet gives some interesting summaries how each of the tracks have been constructed. It's a rather more glitch, experimental-minded Electronica outlet, much lesser straight oriented than on the both albums before. The often pronounced European Electronica influence with which Endif has been often confronted has almost gone, abstractly produced but still densely installed Ambient-Electronica-layers leading the scenario appointed by a massive and crunchy poly-rhythmic percussion feast.
Asides the dark voice samples in “Blind Angels” you'll get a real projectile-like bombardment placed into the wide stereo field blown through your head (use a pair of good headphones!).But since this albums extracts its content out of different time epochs, I strangely found the oldest one “City” with its massive interruptions of the complete song structure as being one the outstanding tune on here (“Antiquated time-stretch algorithms and photoshopped beats fillet superheated Moog blasts and Mono/Poly blips. It's a feature, not a bug” - so the info of the artist). And with “Dislocation” and moreover “Grain Of Sand” he finally returns into that area of a more accessible style, even if the latter one ends in a another anarchistic sound chaos.
What still impresses is the crispy and crystal-clear sound production out of Jason's studio, this meticulously mastered by Michael Dietel. Even if this album as a whole needs some more spins to get completely via the ear-drums into the brain, this is for sure one of the state-of-art albums in this rather experimental kind of modern IDM / Electronica-music.

0x0: Nastrophy

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Artist: 0x0
Title: Nastrophy
Format: Download Only (MP3 + Lossless)
Label: HUM_an

Zero X Zero is a new project by Antonio Caputo and Marco Milanesio exploring dub industrial with partly added classical structures. Field Recordings are as important as Harmonica, Guitar, Cello, Bass and Synth.
The 4 tracks recorded at home and O.F.F. Studio, Torino during 2019/20 are an serious attempt at fragmented melancholy. Dissected sounds lead to more desolation instead more clearity and melancholy is reflecting itself with an uneasy feeling. The track titles do not give away much either and listening is a surprise.

In "Surgkung" a guitar entering the noisy arena dominates for a little while before getting lost in synthetic ramblings which could go on forever but don't. A straight, dubby beat opens "6602" which is set against a freestyle sound scenario where cello and guitar meet before they get lost again as the beat did.
The title track is the most challenging; an uneasy shade of oriental blues meets a heavy, drunken beat and analouge space sounds aid the impression of altered reality short before collapse.
The final track "6601" is especially impressive; post-hope, post-everything, post-darkness. A longish mainly accoustic intro leads seemlessly into a drone part morphing back again and concluding with a perfect mix of all parts.

In a way Naostrophy is a continuation of the DsorDNE/Onda Lunga release 'Inside' from March 2020 - but less ambient and more organic. For fearless souls only.

A pdf photo booklet is included.

Emerald Suspension: Eruption / Ashfall

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Artist: Emerald Suspension (@)
Title: Eruption / Ashfall
Format: CD
Label: self-released
Rated: * * * * *
Emerald Suspension is the rather bizarre sonic stylings project of Troy Curtis from Minneapolis. If you recall my 2017 review of Emerald Suspension's 'Divination' album, you may remember that I found it interesting, but wasn't completely sold on it. I don't know what ES has been doing in the meantime, but now, in Covid-19 Country ES has produced a 6-track CD (qualifying as an EP because it's only 16 minutes) titled 'Eruption,' and also a remix CD titled 'Ashfall' that remixes tracks from 'Eruption,' plus a track from elsewhere.

Taking the 'Eruption' CD first, I can say that it's not as all over the place as 'Divination' was, but it's nowhere close to normal. The EP title (and consequently, the title track by the same name) was inspired by the Van Halen song, "Eruption," as well as the guitar virtuosity of Eddie Van Halen who passed on October 6, 2020. The first track, "Level Ground," begins with a very brief recitation by (some girl named) Noodle, then launches into the song that sounds like Alvin the Chipmunk fronting the Stooges (proto-punkers, not Moe Larry & Curly) in a speak-singing rap style. Okay, this is different, kinda Residents, and I dug the female vocal chorus at the end. The voice processor used reminded me of an old episode of The Avenegers TV series circa 1965, I think it was the 'The Cybernauts.' (Check it out if you can; very Dr. Who-ish.) "Eruption" lives up to its name being a gradually more explosive noise-fest, but no Van Halen style guitar solo. Fortunately only 2:45 of that but noise enthusiasts should like it immensely. Donna Bayliss does an interesting recitation over semi-minimal music on "Jaded" and I'm reminded a lot of Anne Clark here, with a nod to Anna Wildsmith (Sow). "General Random" begins as something akin to an even more minimal Joy Division before launching into a 4-second military drill song about the commander in the title, then the song goes punk-rock crazy for the song's remaining 42 seconds. Goofy, but strange...or strange, but goofy?

"Mitten Fidget" is the lengthiest track on the EP at 4:05, and also the most muddled, yet enigmatic of the lot. It is semi-structured experimental noise that refuses to be contained inside the box. Finally, we have "Your Eurorack" which has a laughably bad vocal over old movie soundtrack music ("Fuck your every tiny jack..."). For the uninitiated, Eurorack is a popular modular synthesizer format. As a whole, 'Eruption' isn't going to blow anyone's mind apart, but it has its fair share of interesting and amusing moments.

The remix CD 'Ashfall' (titled from the falling ash after a volcanic eruption) is 8 tracks in 32 minutes. First up is "Oddly Even" (Radio/Video Edit) which is a minimal bass figure, sequenced minimal percussion and some treated noise, with semi-muffled vocal dialogue samples occurring halfway through. Something one might expect from Coil. "Level Ground" (Headache Remix) bears only a passing similarity to the first track on the 'Eruption' EP, eschewing the chipmunk vocal processing for a different type of electronic vocal processing. The female vocals on the track are under-mixed, likely purposefully. The punk rock element has been replaced with a sort of EDM vibe. The Broadcast Mix of "Oddly Even" is sort of a trance-noise experiment with only subtle variations over the course of its 3:32 duration. The Noodle Mix of "Level Ground" plays with Noodle's prelude recitation vocal sample then bounces it all over the place - cut~paste~repeat; snip~fold~manipulate. That's really all this track is. "General Random" gets a Euro Remix that incorporates some elements of "Your Eurorack" given the Sonic Youth treatment. The "Mitten Fidget" Woolly Remix is as oblique as the original, but in a different way. The last remix of "Oddly Even" lives up to its Extended Club Mix name at least in terms of time (8:30), but dancing may be difficult as the club doors are all locked, and the electricity's been turned off. Finally, we have the last track - "Séance" (Jaded 'Live' Remix), which sounds a lot like "Jaded" but uses only snippets of Donna Bayliss vocal samples. I liked the original better.

I think these are really companion CDs and if you're going to buy one, then buy both, readily available on the Emerald Suspension website. As I suspected, Troy seems to be a fan of the Residents, and even has a neat cover version of "Smelly Tongues" on the Emerald Suspension website that was a winning entry in the "I AM A RESIDENT" project. In fact, you can listen to every song I reviewed plus a lot more there too. C'mon! What else have you got to do anyway.

Kryshe: Continuum

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Artist: Kryshe (@)
Title: Continuum
Format: CD
Label: Serein
Rated: * * * * *
Kryshe is the work of Berlin-based artist Christian Grothe. His website states that he "creates music by experimenting with tape, self made sampler instruments, circuit bending and adding soft and airy notes from is trumpet playing." The label describes this disc as "an album of texture and colour. Singing trumpet lines and vocals float along delicate, sparkling streams of experimental sound. Melodies emerge over soundscapes full of plucked strings and tines, white noise and field recordings." Sounds good, so let's get into the music.

The disc begins with "Continuum," a peaceful trumpet and piano number. The piano is almost hypnotic as it swirls around you over a bed of lush pads to provide a base for the track. The trumpet comes in slowly and deliberately. As the notes hold out it becomes more and more staticy as the is it the microphone is too close to the trumpet. This provides an interesting bit of noise and texture to the piece. "Epilog" is a another peaceful piano number that has a kind of soundtrack feel to it. "Fragile" is an interesting mix of voice, droning synth, and what sounds like a broken music box. "Pulse" is more drones and a bit of saxophone; there's a pulsing rhythm throughout that almost sounds like a heartbeat (which is fitting for the title). "Shouting" has just enough distortion and processing of the trumpet and saxophone to make it seem like it's falling apart throughout the bed of drone buried underneath. "Fragile II" brings back the plinking broken music box back with heavy drone this time without voice. "Nocturnal" lays down some heavy dissonant drone with a stuttering synth line over the top of it. Lots of layers in this. For me, this was the standout track on the disc. "Caravan" features strummed guitar with saxophone and a loping beat that has the feel of a person staggering down the street. "Murmuration" is a track of honking horns that sound like a dying seal with some rattling percussion and bits a piano interspersed throughout. "Reprise" finishes off the disc with a very short track (less than a minute) of mostly strummed guitar.

For me this was kind of a mixed bag. There is a lot that I liked about this; there is a feeling of experimentalism that I appreciate and a healthy dose of dissonance in several of the tracks. On the other hand, there are times where it gets a bit too new-age feeling for my tastes and it didn't quite have the same feeling of cohesion as the other Serein disc I reviewed in this batch (Jonas Meyer: Konfusion). That said, it was well done and may simply be a matter of personal taste. This album weighs in at around 40 minutes.

VV.AA.: Peace . Love . Joy

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Artist: VV.AA. (@)
Title: Peace . Love . Joy
Format: CD
Label: Zaftig Research (@)
Rated: * * * * *
Brett Lunceford of Zaftig Research has been in the noise scene since 1997 or so and has done Christmas compilations since about 1999. Several years were missed but I'm sure things got busy as they do with all of us, it is nice to have him actively doing them again though. Instead of trying to pick favorite tracks and describing them here is a short piece about each track in the order that they appear.

C/A/T brings a track (X-Mas 2020) filled with samples from the news about Christmas events canceled by COVID-19 and slow rhythms.
Nava Spatiala presents a beautiful glitchy ambient piece (Promise Number 5).

Conure pretty notoriously records a track every year based on Ralphie from a Christmas Story but this year's track is (Randy’s Turn). Randy being Ralphie’s younger brother the track is compromised of several loops and layers masterfully placed for a fun/ominous track.

Humanfobia layers dark spooky drones and haunting indecipherable female vocals. Really beautiful haunting track. (Cold Nights On Route 182)

Larmschutz successfully uses a horn or horn sample to layer into a guitar droney piece called (Nasty Sliding Boy).

Next, we follow Miguel A. Garcia and Garazi Gorostiaga into an abandoned factory for some cold rattling winter drones (Skeenines). I have fairly recently discovered Miguel’s work through the project Wolkorots, and have been slowly working my way through checking out his great catalog of sounds.

Orange, the power electronics project of label founder Brett Lunceford brings a bleak look at what will be the (Last Christmas) for a lot of folks.

Narishkeit creeps in with a slow ambient piece, not too sure of the origin of this project but I like what I have heard on a previous Christmas compilation and an Inner Demon's CD. (326.096 Minuten Tussen Vier Muren)

This Is What I Hear When You Talk is a project from Dan who runs Inner Demons. This project brings such a mix of emotions at all times. He has an entire page dedicated to Harsh Noise Wall textures “inspired” by various forms of feelings and emotional trauma and self-doubt. In several of his releases off that page, he also injects humor into the titles of his pieces. (I See No Reason Why This Shouldn't Be The Best Xmas Ever)

Yaka-anima is a side project of Humanphobia, from what I can see online this project delves into Witch House, which is fine by me. I personally enjoy the genre. This track may not be for everyone who would enjoy the other projects on this compilation, I dig the change up myself. (The Climber's Ghost Of The North Pole)

Stolen Light, another project from Brett, is a master at layering found/sampled sounds. Everything feels organic, the textures are wonderful. (Sleigh Ride Accident)

Foot And Mouth Disease is a name I am familiar with because of the two releases available from Inner Demons. Here Foot And Mouth Disease has a piece that would go great on any cold lonely night. The title of the piece (Jingle Bell Cock) doesn't really fit with the track from what I hear but it is a good track nonetheless.

Praying For Oblivion is no stranger to the Zaftig Christmas compilations, he has appeared on a few in the past and always brings a great representation of his sound. (Weihnachtsgrüße Der Ostfront)

While I used to follow Ben Arp’s work more closely in the past I wasn’t aware of the project Corvx De Timor, which according to Discogs is his Witch House pseudonym. This track is a bit noisier than what I would consider standard for that genre. There is also a story about the Spirit Of Christmas spoken over it. I will have to go back and see what this project is all about in the near future. (The Spirit Of Xmas)

Goose brings a beautiful ambient track called Christmas Morning that sounds like a morning opening presents with the kids. Really well done, a good listen even if it feels like you are just a fly on the wall looking in on someone’s personal life. It does showcase a time we can reflect upon when a lot of the stress of life is put on hold. Thanks, Brett! (Christmas Morning)

This is another successful compilation for the Zaftig Research Christmas season and I hope Brett continues to curate these in the coming years.