Monday, January 18, 2021

Music Reviews

FAX + Braulio Lam: Mixed Signals

More reviews by
Artist: FAX + Braulio Lam (@)
Title: Mixed Signals
Format: Download Only (MP3 + Lossless)
Label: Dragon's Eye (@)
Rated: * * * * *
The signals can be mixed without being confused or confusing. I'd rather say that the sonic sources/sorcerers of this output could have been felt fused or fusing, as they sound deeply amalgamated in the diversified emotional set that these two Mexican forgers of this sonic experience manage to lodge in the listener's mind. The name of one of them at least should be easily recognized by electronic music lovers, as FAX (moniker of Rubén Alonso Tamayo) is maybe the second name that comes to mind after the one of Murcof (both artists got invited to the notorious and prestigious MUTEK festival), if someone tries to talk about Mexican electronic music scene. Those, who have a deeper knowledge of that fascinating scene (mostly concentrated in the borderline region of Tijuana) by following some outpout of FAX's imprint Static Discos, could have met the name of the young producer Braulio Lam as well. Yann Novak - the man behind Dragon's Eye curtains - managed to intercept and embed in his catalogue their highly reverberant signals. The dynamics of each track is pretty similar: washed pads sound ether, but as other entities such as shimmering resonances or thin guitar tones, reverberation gets added and those feathery pads sounds like expanding and get more and more hypnotic. This strategy is particularly clear on the opening "Insomnia" as well as on the fleecy lavishness of the following "Focus", whose sparkle is a sort of jingling sound, which could resemble some of those meditation collective sessions evolving into a track that sound pretty close to some outputs by Christian Fennesz. Those pads evoke a sense of tragedy on "Mute", whose syncopated thumps could be matched to an extremely slowed heartbeat to the point that the whole track could let you think to the sonic representation of a near death experience, whereas a vaguely blessed astral touch crops up from the resounding pond of the title-track "Mixed Signals", which, for some mysterious reason, resembles to me a version of "Starship Melody" by Adam Douglas's Deeper Than Space (who follows ambient since the 90ies could remember that project).

Luz1e: Radical Optimism

More reviews by
Artist: Luz1e
Title: Radical Optimism
Format: 12" + Download
Label: VOITAX (@)
The title of this release landed in my mailbox immediately surmised the one of a recent album by Lawrence English. If the optimism according to that title by the appreciated Australian producer was cruel, the optimism by this young techno-forger hailing from Frankfurt is radical. Getting influenced in her own words by her brother's records orbiting around the big planets of New York and Chicago House (she quotes Kerri Chandler and Larry Heard in particular) and the glorious culture of Detroit techno and all the other "electronic" extensions of house music, but I would also file under Luz1e's sources for inspiration and sonic influences by the interesting sonic entourage of Frankfurt, site of pretty famous venues like Sven Vath's Cocoon, pre and post Dorian Grey clubbing scenes, Andreas Thomalla's pollination, Robert Johnson, Tanzhaus West and many more as well as the electro techno bridging many more or less independent producers from Nortern Europe and Northern America (I could quote labels like Satamile, Planet Mu, Rotters Golf Club or producers like Andrew Weatherall, Alan O'Boyle or Larry McCormick, just to render a frame). After a careful listening to the four tracks of this EP (in particular the opener "Transition" and the harshest follow-up on the same side "Electronic Warfare"), I would say that its geometric electronic cuts, the robotic mumbling and the sudden storms of metallic clangours could be considered a revision of the perfectionist electro revival of another talented "frankfurter", Anthony Rother, in particular all the workouts that were like bricks of Psi49Net. On the B-side, she gets closer to the dynamics of legendary producers like Drexciya and Basic Channel by means of melodies, gradually hacked by electro basslines and funny breaks both on "Emotional Intelligence" and the title-track "Radical Optimism", lighter (or maybe just more daydreaming) face of the moody duality of this nice sonic trinket.

Babe, Terror: Horizogon

More reviews by
Artist: Babe, Terror (@)
Title: Horizogon
Format: Download Only (MP3 + Lossless)
Label: Glue Moon (@)
Even if I'm not really persuaded by the fact that pain (particularly when undeserved) is the element that turns a piece of art into a masterpiece, some interesting artists are resurfacing from the depths of oblivion or the chaotic ocean of web during the surreal pandemic situation we're experiencing. Babe, Terror, the brainchild of Sao Paulo-based soundscaper Claudio Szynkier, could be considered an interesting re-discovery. On "Horizogon", he collected six pretty long suites lasting almost one hour in total, but in reality it's a multimedia as each track got hooked to the six clips belonging to the footage "Os (Brazilian-Portuguese meaning "the poles"), that Claudio made during the first days of the pandemic in Sao Paulo, showing what is related to this assumed medical emergency that anyone can imagine and maybe experienced. In spite of the crucial and somehow inescapable visual part of the project, the music is so evoking that it doesn't really need a visual support to evoke those scenes and its obscure emotional framework. Slo-mo playbacks of bleak choirs, sombre piano choked phrases and dry and austere chord tunes that sound like curling, fading and sometimes trembling on "Scalar Velodromeda", wisely cross breeding sonic clues of that glossy tropicalism of late 70ies and 80ies movies on the following track "Alcalis", whose atmosphere almost evokes a raped illusion of an earthly heaven and a certain sense of disenchantment by a sound that could match an anthem for an imaginary spooky version of The Love Boat, the famous sitcom set on the fictional luxury passenger cruise ship S.S.Pacific Princess, whose crew and passengers turned into zombies or ghosts. The funereal chorus opening the following "Horizogon Squadra" got masterfully melted with a tune that sounds coming from a synth-trumpet-driven 80ies television commercial and could be the perfect ironic and iconic national anthem for a Brasil in Bolsonaro format, as well as the spectral music-driven intensive care by any possible instrumental phrasing in e track "Estuario Transurania", whose circling all-pervading ghostly choir impels the listener to the weird catalepsy of the following "Salina Lumen", whose black procession lead to the final grinding glitches of what could be labelled as doom-jazz of the final "Horizogon Catalase".

Steve Roach: A Soul Ascends

More reviews by
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!

Edoardo Cammisa: Flux

More reviews by
Artist: Edoardo Cammisa (@)
Title: Flux
Format: Download Only (MP3 + Lossless)
Label: LINE (@)
I was on the point of writing this review while listening to this release by Edoardo Cammisa (also known as Banished Pills), when I realised I had to stop typing to follow the suggestions by its author in order to appreciate the listening experience as much as possible. He or maybe Richard Chartier, mentor, curator and owner of LINE imprint, warmly recommends doing nothing but listen, as "Flux" is purposefully “aimed at contemplating nothingness and its manifestations”, so that it's recommended to do nothing while using a good pair of headphones and listen to the release at a mid-low volume level. The nine minutes lasting incipit "Towards a Flux" begins by one minute of snapshots rendered through field recordings, preceding a ghostly haze of distant pads, where other entities and field recordings of distant voices or physical actions resurface little by little (some of them sound more like captures of hydrophones), as if they were moments getting out of a mnemonic pool, before getting dissolved in the above-mentioned nothingness. The full-fledged "Flux" is a sonic trip of more than 40 minutes, where the suggestion by the author makes sense as its immersive effect cannot be really appreciated if you're doing anything else that could distract your mind from the sonic source. A rough reminiscence of a loop can be rendered by a sort of buzzing noise of some electric system, permeating the first third of the track, but many changes and many seemingly weird entities will appear within the fences evoked by this hypnotic buzz. The low level of volume of the first minutes can make you feel noises generated by your own body or slight noises from the environment and their apparent merge with Edoardo's "Flux" (forged by this list of tools, as reported on Line introduction: hydrophone, binaural and contact microphones, magnetic tape, broken walkman, sine and triangle waves) can be part of the listening experience as well. The frequencies, that will appear and draw cycles around the listening sphere of the audience over the track, can be imagined as fibrous parts that gradually detaches from the main core to wrap the listeners by other mental images and feelings. Do nothing and listen then!