Friday, August 7, 2020
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Music Reviews

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Artist: VV.AA.
Title: Oxygen: Critical Level I
Format: Download Only (MP3 + Lossless)
Label: Korpus 9
The Korpus 9 label begins a new compilation series here with a four-track various artists EP of thick, kick-heavy techno.

It starts aggressively with “M2S” from Kusp (UK), which stands presumably for ‘menace to society’ since those words are used in the sampled monologue about the dangers of drugs, an established and seemingly ironic approach given techno’s 90’s drug associations. Tom Hades’ “A Constellation” offers up a slightly more spaced-out arrangement of long sci-fi cinematic pads that are just about audible over the thumping, then Bleur & MB1’s “Cerenity” [sic] sits somewhere between the two, foregoing much melody in favour of a repeated vocal sample whispering ‘serenity’ over a beat that’s the opposite of serene, in a good way. Quisan’s “Epiphany” uses the familiar contrast of growling lower synths against wispy, airy top notes over a housier beat, and feels almost mellow by comparison.

Overall this EP feels like it thrives on the fairly simple energy of the mid-90’s techno heyday, and there’s nothing in here that pushes boundaries, stands out, or drills itself into your memories. But as a polished set of reliable, DJ-friendly, journey-techno, it’s very polished.


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Artist: Cernichov
Title: s/t
Format: Download Only (MP3 + Lossless)
Label: self-released


BUY from  HERE   or   BUY from  HERE
The self-titled debut release of Cernichov was actually recorded some time ago - between October 2017 and April 2018 - but got recently discovered and reissued by limited edition specialists Cathedral Transmissions from the UK (whose version is already sold out as of today).
It's 5 tracks, developed as the first collaboration from Bruxelles based David Gutman (who also releases experimental ambient and improvised music as Drawing Virtual Gardens a.o.) with Torino based Marco Mazzucchelli, are too refreshing to be called Dark Ambient.
There is constant movement, transformation and a sublimity in the use of sounds which makes it easy to listen to this as a whole. None of the tracks outstays it's welcome, in fact my favourite is even the longest one "Dissipated Poets".
The well constructed and mastered pieces are drones - painting a mood picture which is open to individual interpretation. As such they actually work as ambience too and very well.
As of now Cernichov are working on their second Album which should appear later this year and is definitively something to look forward to.



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Artist: Philip Corner
Title: Chord / Gong! (with Carles Santos)
Format: 12" vinyl + Download
Label: Unseen Worlds
“Chord / Gong!” is a digital restoration of a 1978 recording of two long piano pieces from Philip Corner, assisted by Carles Santos (and performed on Charlemagne Palestine’s piano!). Originally available on cassette, it has been dusted off and it has to be said, the remastering is excellent, and the recording quality shines as though it was a brand new recording, with just a slight exception of some crushed tones at a couple of points.

Musically, the beginning of “Chord” inevitably draws comparisons with the other famous minimalist Philip, the arpeggiated chord feeling somehow almost a trademark of Philip Glass- but over the course of 28 minutes it leaves such comparison behind and heads off into a selection of different tone variations, ranging from very light and fragile, through to romantic, before ending aggressively. It’s an interesting exercise in the range of expressivity possible with self-imposed chord limitations, and while it never goes truly out-there- no thrashing or hammering, no gaps, nothing overtly experimental- it is something of a journey nevertheless.

“Gong!” does push the tonal range somewhat more, beginning with low rumbles and reverberant tones accessorised by small atmospheric noises that are periodically recognisable as piano, but often just very low drone, finishing with a barely audible tail that really draws you in as you genuinely struggle to hear the last section.

The two pieces are a very well-balanced pair, a yin and yang of romantic and dark, and they feel like special works. The only thing I find offputting about the release is the oddly vain artwork, strangely, but musically it is simply formed but exquisite.


Lightphaser: Serenade (EP)

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Artist: Lightphaser (@)
Title: Serenade (EP)
Format: Download Only (MP3 + Lossless)
Label: self-released
Rated: *****
I don't know about you, but this Covid-19 pandemic is really wearing me down. Now that I don't have a brick & mortar store (3 months of having to be closed without any $$ for rent or utilities will do that) it's hard to get motivated to do anything, let alone reviews. Besides, not much physical product seems to come my way these days, and I've never been a fan of "digital only" releases. Seems too cheap and easy as any yahoo can put up music online. There are exceptions though, and this is one of them. Hungarian electronic musician/composer Joseph "Lightphaser" Gogh is back again with a new EP (release date July 31st) with something really different this time. The anime cover art is a dead giveaway, and if you're virtual J-Pop savvy, you may even recognize (a version of) Hatsune Miku who does the vocals on this EP.

If you don't know who Hatsune Miku is, suffice to say that she's the biggest "virtual" pop star coming out of Japan today. The key word here is virtual, because as a living person Hatsune Miku doesn't exist. ( Her source voice is provided by the Japanese voice actress Saki Fujita.) What Hatsune Miku really is, is Vocaloid software voice-bank developed by Crypton Future Media and its official moe anthropomorph, a teenage girl with long, turquoise twin-tails. This creation is SO very popular that it has sold out many virtual (holographic) live concerts in the J-Pop and EDM genres. You can find literally TONS of Hatsune Miku content on YouTube, usually with plenty of anime. It comes across as happy spectacle more than anything else, especially when accompanied by huge crowds of glowstick waving fan-atics. The music though seems like it has more "teen appeal" than anything else, and often the vocals are in Japanese.
Not so here; Miku with Lightphaser actually sounds very different. Without all the bombastic music and over the top visuals Hatsune Miku sounds like a gitlish pixie through a vocoder. (Certain people might be able to imitate it inhaling helium and singing, but not for long.) Because the voice still sounds a bit computer generated, all the lyrics don't seem crystal clear on first listening. The way Gogh uses the Vocaloid program within the context of the songs though is quite nice. "Serenade" is a space love song ballad, for lack of a better description. Although the Vocaloid is front and center, it is definitely enhanced by the other worldly synths, and combines into something magical. "Play With Me" is ultra cute synthpop with a strong hook that jumps at you right off the bat. Third and final track is the instrumental version of "Serenade." Stripped of the Vocaloid program it sounds like Gary Numan meets Kraftwerk in Vangelis's Blade Runner theme park.

Joseph told me via email that 'Serenade' is the second EP of Lightphaser's using the Miku program, and the "Instincts of Future" EP was the first release with it. There is a third EP planned for September, but what happens after that is still up in the air. It should be interesting to see if Hatsune Miku fans take to this different aspect of the girl's performance. I know I like it a lot more than the typical applications that have exploded across the Internet.

There is a kind of silly but amusing little video made for the "Serenade song, and you can check it out with this link.



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Artist: Field Works
Title: Ultrasonic
Format: 2 x 12" vinyl
Label: Temporary Residence
Field Works: Ultrasonic” is the work of Stuart Hyatt, but with guest contributors on every track, it almost steps across into being a various artists compilation. Hyatt’s musical tone persists throughout however, giving a consistent backbone, which is primarily warm pads and drones with subtle atmospherics, as exemplified by the track “Torpor” with Ben Lukas Boysen. The result is a chilled out work where the guests bring the breadth.

This is normally a fairly straightforward fusion. Mary Lattimore’s harp on “Silver Secrets” or Jefre Cantu-Ledesma’s piano (I think) on “Night Swimming” are given centre stage and allowed to play out, sometimes in loose and abstract fashion, sometimes in gently repeating and evolving patterns, with gentle reverb easing their tone into conjunction with the pads underneath.

Some pieces have a little more energy, such as “Sodalis” with Kelly Moran which adds a gently rolling bass pattern, or the surprisingly EDM-like pulsing synth of “A Place Both Wonderful And Strange” with Noveller. But for the most part, this is relaxation music.

It’s also a concept album about bats, incidentally, and claims that it could be “perhaps the first-ever album to use the echolocations of bats as compositional source material”. For the most part you wouldn’t notice this, and while there’s certainly a sense of nocturnal calm, there’s not a lot of audible connection with what you’d conventionally think of as bat sounds, save for a few book-ends that briefly open or close pieces, and the unexpected spoken-word poetry of final piece “Between The Hawthorn And Extinction” which gently explains why bats are a cause, without proselytizing.

“Echo Affinity” with Taylor Deupree is a notable exception, the soft clicking sounds playing well against romantic piano, and their appearance at the start of “Music For A Room With Vaulted Ceiling” with Christina Vantzou is strongly reminiscent of the Alex Paterson style of ambient, in a very good way. “Night Vision It Touched My Neck”, with Felicia Atkinson, is perhaps the only truly ‘bat-centric’ piece, a curious call-and-response between bat sounds and light piano noises- though the tinnitus-tickling high-pitched tones of “Indiana Blindfold” might in fact be an album *for* bats, rather than about them...

It’s a sonic comfort blanket, soft and thick and large, but with enough detail and eventfulness to keep a more active listener’s attention as well. It’s even suitable for people who are scared of bats! It’s been available digitally for a couple of months already, but physical copies are available from July 26th.



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