Friday, June 18, 2021

Music Reviews

The Red Hour: Cracks

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Artist: The Red Hour
Title: Cracks
Format: Download Only (MP3 + Lossless)
Label: Manual Control Records
Distributor: Bandcamp
Rated: * * * * *
There's activity behind this Minneapolis-based electronic label established by Jason Hollis (Endif, Retcon) and Brooke R. Calder (Felipe & Brooke, Lolly Pop). As a result out of this, The Red Hour is a mutual project between both. “Cracks” is as far as I know their first release under The Red Hour moniker, a Maxi-Single release which surely is intended to gain some first recognition and to introduce a coming album.
While Jason's Industrial-/Noise-project Endif is rather intended to satisfy the needs of a small niche of specialized listeners, The Red Hour is surely destined to reach a wider audience with the clear intention to be successful.A "Femme-forward Darkwave duo from Minneapolis" so they call it, it needs to be said, that musically “Cracks” is a catchy and fast-forward marching Techno-/Electronic tune with a crafty produced dancefloor-compatibility.
Outstanding is the general nasty attitude provided through the raunchy vocals and BDSM-inspired lyrics of Brooke on here. Well, who won't like to lick her boots now...?;-)
Already the chosen remix contributors speak for itself and the strategy behind, as there's prominence on this release available. The names of the remixers include the famous Belgian musician Jean-Marc Lederman (The Weathermen, Fad Gadget, Front 242), the UK-based and Analogue Trash-recording project Nature Of Wires, DJ Transporter, Steven OLaf (who has been around for years by remixing acts like Xorcist, Out Out or Hate Dept.), Prophei, and Badrich.
Both the remix contributions of DJ Transporter as well as Nature Of Wires bring in fresh club food while the interpretation of Jean-Marc Lederman unites Jazz and Big Beat elements and is surely the strangest and most unexpected contribution on here. Badrich tested diverse Glitch percussion elements on it, while Steven Olaf used a few Break-Beats and guitar loops on it to integrate a rather more classic Industrial-/Coldwave influence to this globally modern sounding track in.
Decent stuff available on here provided by all remix contributors available as download-only release available via the Bandcamp refrences of label and band project. A YouTube video to support this track and the project is in the works too. Give a try!

Sébastien Guérive: Omega Point

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Artist: Sébastien Guérive (@)
Title: Omega Point
Format: 12" + Download
Label: Atypeek Music (@)
Distributor: Diggers Factory
Rated: * * * * *
After a close listening of this album by Nantes-based composer and sound engineer Sébastien Guérive, he could undoubtedly be one possible suggestion to some moviemakers of the contemporary sci-fi scene, if in need of a score composer. I'm not sure if "Omega Point" belongs to one of those release for an imaginary movie that will never be released, but its listening can certainly feed imagination. Most of the track can easily fit an episode of Black Mirror, including the less disquieting... if you saw this famous TV series, don't tell that tracks like "Minchir", the one that features the collaboration of Manuel Adnot, or "Nashira" - very good choice for the title, as Nashira is the name of a star transitioning to a giant one belonging to the constellation of Capricorn, whose name origin is an Arabian expression meaning 'bearer of good news' - wouldn't be perfect for any tropical reverie of immortality like the one described in "San Junipero". Actually, there's no need to discommode science fiction, considering all the weird facts (not necessarily on mainstream) related to the last months of global history, this album could also be a perfect soundtrack for the pretty dystopian reality we're experiencing almost daily. That black exploding globe on the eloquent cover, but above all the general mood of "Omega Point" evokes that kind of concerned mood of those journeys with no return, which seems to permeate those real and concrete nightmares of ecologists or the likewise scary ones coming from catastrophists and maybe their intimate hopes or mental getaways. There's a certain heterogeneity in the dynamics of each track, ranging from resemblances to the sonic riding by some so-called krautrockers (in particular Tangerine Dream, Cluster and Ash Ra Tempel) to the recent sumptuous electronic diversion of Nils Frahm's pianism (partially evoked by the combination of electronic sequences with the piano phrasing by Cédric Le Guillerm in "Bellatrix") or Moroder-like electronic progressions ("Adhara"), even if sometimes I had the feeling that sound editing tends to be quite recursive, particularly on the different 'Omega' tracks. Such a mole doesn't break the fascination of the evoked atmosphere and a certain visionariness by Sébastien music, that deserves a check by our readers.

Nigel Mullaney: The Navigator

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Artist: Nigel Mullaney
Title: The Navigator
Format: LP
Label: Behind The Sky
Rated: * * * * *
There are not so many positive facts related to restrictions and lockdowns. Maybe one of the few is the impressive quantity of music releases, partially related to the excess of time amount available to work on sounds at studios or home studios, particularly for all those musicians and sound engineers, who usually spend a lot of time in forging sounds. Waiting for that moment when all these artefacts can be joined with some real audience... The biography of the skilled sound engineer Nigel Mullaney could match the profiling of this kind of sampler/keyboards worms (a big jump in the evolution of bookworms!). Making computer music since he was 11, the aural material he forged over the years was licensed for use mostly in TV shows and films, broadcasted or available on popular networks and platforms like Netflix, HBO, BBC, Fox, AMC, Marvel, DC. Nigel also spread some breakbeat stuff in the past as well as more explicitly esoteric contributions for a collaborative project (nicely named Best Before) with the English occult author and publisher Ray Sherwin, co-founder together with Peter J.Carroll of the so-called chaos magick, but besides grimoires and danceable beats, he shows a love for the somehow sacred melting of vintage, modular and digital synths in this output, whose "esoteric" inspiration is the mythical voyage of St.Brendan, also known as The Navigator, whose quest for a sort of Eden (named "Terra Repromissionis Sanctorum" in the 120 original manuscripts that circulated mostly in Europe of "Navigatio Sancti Brendani Abbatis" or Tír na nOg, the Irish otherworld), embellished by that magical halo of Irish tales (even if there are some resemblances in his stories with the tales of another famous mariner, Sindbad), supposedly brought him and his crew on landing on American continent centuries before Columbus, or maybe on Iceland or Faer Oer. This bestseller of the Middle Ages cannot be considered a hagiography of St.Brendan, but its fascinating aspect lays in the fact that it looks more like a quest for the divine, that is what that could have propelled the ten stages of the musical journey offered by Nigel. The source of some sounds could be recognized by trained ears of synth lovers. I'm pretty sure that Nigel used a Korg Sigma of his collection which was proudly exhibited at Synthfest 2019, as I perceive the presence of many Korgish sounds, even if that crystalline drop you can hear the lovely "Paradise of Birds" - one of those tracks where get closer to those stylistic coastlines where Polyporus seemed to quote Californian New Age cassettes era - inspired a quarrel between me and a friend who listened to it (it seems coming from an Alesis or a Korg - but not the Sigma, maybe an MS series - to me, from a Behringer Poly to my friend). My favourite moments of this voyage are the ones where Nigel manages to transpose vintage sounds into structures that fit the so-called chill-step format (the favourite genre of many coders, while programming apparently) such as "A Shifting Sea", "Eternal Return" or "The Final Voyage", where he seems to quote Boards of Canada's harvesting (!), but synth lovers will appreciate most of the stages of this sonic journey.

Beat Noir Deluxe: Crash

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Artist: Beat Noir Deluxe (@)
Title: Crash
Format: CD + Download
Label: Echozone (@)
Rated: * * * * *
This is the first of the last two Echozone physical product holdovers from 2020 I had yet to review. Beat Noir Deluxe is the electro-pop project of Sascha G. from Bolzano/Bozen, Italy. He performs on drums, keyboards and guitar as well as handling the vocals. According to the artist, Beat Noir Deluxe's music blends loneliness and defiance with melodic tunes and lyrics that are mostly introspective, sometimes provocative and always asking for tolerance. 'Crash' is BND's debut album, the title inspired by a serious auto accident in which Sascha nearly lost his life. The album consists of twelve tracks, eleven of which are originals. Most of the songs are sung in English, except "Allein," which is sung in German, and "Emma," in Italian. Sascha is supported by female vocalists Annika Borsetto, Doris Warasin, and Lisa Anesi on some tracks, and also guitarist Thomas Vareso on a couple tracks.

Right from the get-go, there are problems. First, the cover- featuring a black & white Sascha holding a pair of drumsticks and cradling a guitar looks more like someone's grandfather. There are much better pictures of this guy inside this 5.5" x 7.5" 6-panel digipak, posing with some cute goth models no less, so why have a cover pic of somebody that looks like a sad old man? The album opens with the sounds of a nasty car crash, then a beeping hospital life monitor on "Morphine," where the only lyrics you are likely to remember are "The chemical slide is taking me high...hiiiighh..." Here you will get your first taste of Sascha's whiny, abrasive vocals. Uh-oh...and this is actually one of the better tracks on the album. Supplemented by Borsetto's vocals on this one, but as nice as they are, it doesn't help a lot. By the second track, "Velvet Morning," you come to know that this guy shouldn't be singing; flat, dull vocals that won't win any fans. A rather ordinary electropop song that just kind of plods along. "Bleeding" introduces spoke word vocal samples with Trump being most prominent, and that's about the last thing I want to hear after four years of that orange turd. 'Nuff said there about that one. At least "Allein" opens well with some neoclassical strings over heavenly vibraphone, but the Deutsche vocals can't save this electro-march. "New City" has a good strong beat, and that's about the most positive thing I can say about it. Annika's vocals on "Please Help Me" are the best thing about the song, and when Sascha's spoken word crept in, I thought that might be it, but NOoooo, he had to belt it out with emotive singing. Just imagine an average Joe Shmoe in a karaoke bar taking on a tune well beyond his ability, and that's what this sounds like. The tunefulness of the ladies only makes it seem more like a joke. Not just bad, but really, really bad. Laughably bad.

"Never Do What Cannot Be Undone" has a distinctly '80s pop groove, and even sort of sounds like Clan of Xymox, but without good vocals or memorable hooks. After that it becomes apparent that no amount of supporting female vocals are going to save this unless Sascha stops trying to sing, which of course, he doesn't. Beat Noir Deluxe saves the ultimate travesty for last though- a cover of Type O Neg's "Black No. 1," which should have Pete Steele turning in his grave. Now every Chain D.L.K. reader knows this song; it's an iconic goth tune. To do such an underwhelming, dull version of it...well, that's goth metal suicide now, isn't it? Not even any Munsters organ..not even the additional female vocals can save it. Ugh! After that, I just don't know what to say, except that maybe the title should have been 'Crash...and Burn.'

Foretaste: Happy End!

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Artist: Foretaste
Title: Happy End!
Format: CD
Label: Boredom Product
Rated: * * * * *
Tense. This is the first adjective that is coming to my mind while listening to the latest Foretaste's album "Happy End!". Their sixth album has been deeply influenced by the feelings the pandemic events raised in all of us. Most of the lyrics are dealing with a feeling of uncertainty and self-preservation. Since the cover which is showing two people holding hands while the worlds collide, one can think that Creature XX and Creature XY are trying to make the best out of the time left. Some examples? Here are some excerpts: "In this day I'm terrified. I'm feeling like I just can't hide", "Living fast but I'm not scared. Fighting soldiers in the air. Welcome to my dream. Welcome to my dream.", "I love the way you're not scared. Cause we don't need to hide again. We don't need to lie. Into the night." or "I don't even know your name. I'm a dead star, in a black world.". Musically I appreciated the rich rhythmic structure which is a good counterpart to the vocal parts which are approached in a way to create a sort of synthpop torch song (Jb Lacassagne a.k.a. Dekad helps singing on "Robotic Blues") where passion and detachment are battling while the synths paint a web made of minimal melodies. My preferred songs are the opening "Welcome", "Pure Madness" (on this one the melody is a bit more catchy), the instrumental "Bored To Death", "Dead Star" (which recalls me a bit Depeche Mode of the 80s) and the closing "Happy End!" (this one is almost a techno tune and I found it really intriguing and I'd like they would have played a bit more in this key just to give to the album a wider palette of sounds). A usual for Foretaste, the album needs more listenings to be fully appreciated