Wednesday, August 12, 2020
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Music Reviews

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Artist: Lionel Marchetti
Title: PLANKTOS / 2015 - 2020 ~ composition de musique concrète
Format: Download Only (MP3 + Lossless)
Label: self-released
“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.


Glok: Dissident Remixed

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Artist: Glok
Title: Dissident Remixed
Format: 12" vinyl + Download
Label: Bytes
Around a year ago I gave “Dissident” a generally positive review, as a decent piece of synthwave work (from the historically non-synthwave Andy Bell, not the Erasure one etc.), with the 20-minute title track earning particular praise but some of the other tracks feeling a little experimental and running out of steam. Now, a year on, Glok have enlisted the help of a stellar list of guests to remix the tracks, and in some cases fully realise pieces that perhaps felt a little bit underbaked on first outing.

Many of the tracks play on the safe side, rolling steady DJ-friendly electro and progressive house vibes that unfold gradually and without drama. Richard Sen’s version of “Dissident” and Franz Kirmann’s version of “Kolokol” are among these, although the latter’s extra dub version at the end of the release is perhaps more interesting than the main mix. Glok’s own extended mix of “Pulsing”- of which there’s a 15-minute version, but the album version has been cut down to 7- exemplifies the patience of just letting a groove, that’s acid and house without being acid house, meander and fade in and out, and the resulting sense of satisfaction- with its exit through the ‘ambient’ door slightly unexpected.

Others allow themselves to break off in different directions. The unexpectedly funky bouncing-bass groove and glitchy dance-rock of Minotaur Shock’s version of “Weaver” comes from the leftfield. C.A.R. takes the trip-hoppy original of “Weaver”, strips it down and spaces it out into something much more atmospheric. Timothy Clerkin’s 90bpm take on “Projected Sounds” elasticates and rubberises the groove and gives it a kind of adventurous swagger, covered in many layers of top-end pretty sounds- though the screaming guitar loop that arrives halfway through does feel a touch noisy and invasive.

Special mention obviously has to go to the late legend Andrew Weatherall, whose contribution to making the electronic music landscape as diverse and rich as it is has been justifiably much discussed, but really can’t be understated. Weatherall mixes were never predictable, and so it is here, with a version of “Cloud Cover” that goes for soft synth-symphonic electro, nicely underplayed but always steadily evolving- and with a fitting and almost symbolic catch-you-out tempo change ending.

The Jay Glass Dubs Reboot of “Exit Through The Skylight”, curiously, ends up sounding a little more old-school-Weatherall-like than the Weatherall remix thanks to its Sabres Of Paradise-ish use of slow delays in its electrodub. The Maps remix of “Pulsing” embraces the synthwave idea most of all, with its bright chord breakdowns, but enough complex production to prevent it from sounding truly retro.

To top it off and add value, an eight-minute edit of the original album’s 20-minute title track, that sounds more and more Tangerine Dream-like the more you listen to it, wraps things up nicely.

There was certainly nothing wrong with the original album, at all, but if anything this remix album manages to make it better- fully realising and fleshing out some of the sketchier tracks, and adding more breadth thanks to the diverse range of contributions. Rather than ‘milking another remix album’ as other labels are sometimes prone to, Bytes (as part of the Ransom Note group) have rolled out an essential electronica work that absolutely deserves to be listened to, even if the original passed you by.


Signal~Bruit: Hyperborée

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Artist: Signal~Bruit
Title: Hyperborée
Format: CD
Label: productionB
Rated: *****
"Hyperborée" is the second album by Signal-Bruit, the second solo project of Celluloide's keyboardist Member U-0176.
"Hyperborée" is also the second release of productionB, sub-label of BOREDOMproduct which is dedicated to the release of projects sounding a bit more experimental compared to what BOREDOMproduct is releasing usually.
This album contains nine new tracks which are chapters of a story based on the journey of Pytheas, a Greek sailor lived in the 4th century BC who embarked toward the northern seas, aiming to prove that the Earth is a sphere and that if someone was standing on the top of it, he should be able to see the sun all day.
Each track is a soundtrack to a different moment of the travel: if "Lacydon" shows the start of the trip, on "Pentécontère I" he's heading to the pillars of Herakles just to pass to the open Atlantic on "Atlantique".
At every stop, he's meeting new people or strange creatures until on "Baltique" he's facing the cold and the ice.
His travel ends with "Nuit Blanche" where the sunset and the sunrise melt in only one moment.
Musically the tracks ideally melt the '70s Berlin/French school of electronic music.
Most of the rhythms are produced by sequencers (if you have in mind the early Klaus Schulze albums, you know what I mean) while melodically I hear echoes of early Jarre and I'm not saying this because Member U-0176 is French.
Think about that mixture of styles and add also a modern production that gives a fresh approach to classic sounds.
Nice release!



Gintas K: Amnesia

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Artist: Gintas K
Title: Amnesia
Format: CD + Download
Label: self-released
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.


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Artist: Darcey Electronics
Title: Hallo
Format: 12" vinyl + Download
Label: Plant Life
A debut in a few ways- a first release from duo Darling and Tracey, as Darcey Electronics, and a first release for the Plant Life label- the Hallo EP sets off in its own direction, very mild and laidback, but still a bit of a statement of intent.

“Morgen”’s light, steppy beats run at about 145bpm, while the perky synth melody and chords amble gently over the top, the classic heart-pounds-while-brain-reflects combination. “Handbird” has a similarly floaty, dreamy top line, but eases off on the percussion- broadly balearic and incredibly mild.

“The Berries” is a little jazzier and quirkier, with a nice build-up, playful keys and some indistinct vocal samples that give an extra bit of texture, before the EP’s strongest instrumental melody line. It’s wrapped up by “Auto Zap”, again a bit perkier, almost Luke Vibert-ish at times, but again with the dreamy arpeggios and floaty chords.

It’s got its own character set as a release, and sits in an unusual hybrid zone inbetween chillout and the lower end of drum-and-bass, whilst keeping everything light and fluffy throughout. Interesting fare for home-listening or the more open-minded and eclectic of DJ’s.



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