Saturday, September 26, 2020

Music Reviews

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

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This nearly unpublished and lost Mini-Album was conceived during the mid to late 90's and only recently rediscovered.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.

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.

Artist: Eternell (@)
Title: Imagined Distances
Format: CD + Download
Label: Sound In Silence Records (@)
Rated: *****
It seems only a short while ago that I reviewed Eternell's prior release, 'Still Light,' but it was actually back in December 2018. How time flies these days. Be that as it may, 'Imagined Distances' is Eternall's 2nd release on Sound In Silence, and perhaps 11th or 12th album overall. Eternell is the project name of Swedish ambient artist Ludvig Cimbrelius, who also has other music projects under other monikers. While 'Still Light' was 3 very lengthy pieces (nothing under 19 minutes), 'Imagined Distances' is six track of varying length, with only two of them being over 20 minutes. Other than that, the differences between the two albums are not exceptional. They both utilize airy synth pads and gauzy ambient guitar to produce gorgeous, sumptuous ambient soundscapes, and only minor differences seem to separate them. One thing I noticed is that on 'Still Light' the guitar seems to be sewn into the ambient pads while here on 'Imagined Distances' it seems to ride on top of them. Another thing is that the synth pads seem a bit heavier, sort of like the differences between cirrus and stratus clouds. As for the feel of the album, to me this sounds like music for a cloudy day rather than the picture of a spectacular tropical sunset that's on the album's cover. Yet there seems to be some more dramatic moments on this album than the previous one (the track "Singularity" is a case in point) but nothing that really disturbs the generally tranquil atmosphere. Maybe because of the kind of year it's been, and the fact that summer's over, this kind of strikes me as an 'end of summer' album; majestic but wistful, chill but not chilly, entropic but hopeful, languorous but not still. There are subtle devices employed by Cimbrelius that are so subliminal you will hardly even notice they're there, but they will affect your perception of the music on the album in positive ways. 'Imagined Distances' is a dreamy album that will not wear out its welcome even after repeated plays, and that could be the best testimonial for it of all. As per usual with SIS releases, limited edition of 200 CD-r in handmade packaging.

[.que]: And Inside

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Artist: [.que] (@)
Title: And Inside
Format: CD + Download
Label: Sound In Silence Records (@)
Rated: *****
[.que] is the solo project of multi-instrumentalist Nao Kakimoto, based in Tokyo, Japan. Since 2010 he has released ten albums and many EPs and singles on labels such as Schole, IntroDuCing! and his own Embrace. He has also composed music for many film movies, television commercials, websites and exhibitions.And Insideis his eleventh full length album (2nd release on Sound In Silence) and consists of ten tracks with a total duration of about 35 minutes. Harmonizing the warmth of acoustic instruments with delicate electronic textures, [.que] creates an emotional album full of nostalgic melodies, dark atmospheres and complex rhythms. Mastered by Shigeharu Ieda of One Day Diary, ‘And Inside’ perfectly blends gorgeous twinkly folktronica, joyful dream-pop and elegant post-rock and it’s a must-have album for fans of artists such as The Album Leaf, Message To Bears, Miaou and Epic45.

OKay, the aforementioned paragraph is straight artist/label promo fodder. This is my first experience with [.que], and it has it plusses and minuses. I don't necessarily agree with all the promo text either; ie, I didn't find anything dark on this album at all. I should mention that every track has a one word title - "Return," "Haze," "Sepia," "Nothing," "Divagate," "Film," "Inside," "Said," "Thaw," and "To," lending a certain haiku minimalism. Because at first this album seemed more like Windham Hill New Age Instrumental than true ambient, I was about to dismiss it as Weather Channel background music, but upon subsequent listenings I came to the conclusion it does have a bit more going for it than that. For one thing, tracks are varied and do explore some different avenues. The brief opener, "Return," is a nice solo guitar piece that could have come from any number of artists - Pat Metheny, Steve Hackett, William Ackerman, Michael Hedges, or even Ritchie Blackmore; nothing complex, just something nicely melodic. "Haze," which follows, is a more moving piece with minimal rhythm track, twinkling electronics, sequenced synth, piano, bass, etc., that takes its time to build to become something much greater than its beginnings. "Sepia" is built on a base of ostinado guitar arpeggios, then fills out with a repeated piano melody and a gentle electric guitar lead-line on the refrain. It actually sounds kind of proggy in a smooth-jazz sort of way. (I think it might have been this track that made me think "Weather Channel Music.") "Nothing" is a primarily piano-based piece of sentimental fluff. "Divagate" still carries a sense of melodic sentimentality and nostalgia but is more instrumentally realized. By this time I was hoping for something different, and sort of got it with "Film," a multi-tracked guitar transitional piece that serves to add a different spin to the album. While the (semi) title track "Inside" began as if it was going to head back into sentimental-land, it got busier and more progressive as it went on adding more interesting melodic elements expanding technique, and exploding with expressive ideas that really enhanced the album quite a bit.

The rest of the tracks are a melange of the familiar - "Said" - nicely orchestrated New Age; "Thaw" - amorphous and ambient; "To" - sentimental, romantic piano ditty. If your thing is placid new-agey instrumental music, you will probably enjoy this album very much. It ruffles no feathers, but makes no new inroads. As always with a Sound In Silence release, limited hand-numbered edition (300) CD-r with the usual Polaroid picture on a cardboard envelope packaging.


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