Friday, July 10, 2020
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Music Reviews

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Artist: Chronotope Project
Title: Lotus Rising
Format: CD
Label: Spotted Peccary (@)
Rated: *****
According to the label, “‘Chronotope’ refers to the essential unity of space and time, a concept with numerous expressions in literature, physics and the arts. The music of Chronotope Project explores this time-space confluence and invites the listener on ambient journeys of deep texture infused with gentle pulsing rhythms and soulful melodies.” The artist adds that this album “focuses on the poignant image of the lotus flower – which ascends from the murky depths of desire and attachment to bloom in the light of realization – as Buddhism’s most recognizable symbol.”

This may give you some idea of what you are in for. To me, the general mood seems to aim for mysical and melancholy. Some of the tracks are pretty good, such as Opening the Hand of Thought (which for me was the standout track on the album) with its heavy drone and multiple arpeggiated synth lines, and Zazen, which is a peaceful track that reminds me of Voice of Eye's work. However, most of this album just didn't really work for me. It was pleasant listening in a "new age synth" sort of way, and the compositions are well put together, but for the second half of the album there was nothing that really reached out and grabbed me. Then again, your mileage may vary. This album weighs in at around 59 minutes.


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Artist: RNL (@)
Title: Conquering King Kong
Format: Tape
Label: Vonconflon (@)
Rated: *****
RNL is the work of one Jesse Farber, who is an accomplished visual artist. According to the artist, “Conquering King Kong is a 45-minute trail through mental states and thought patterns, an abstract audio film that unspools with the logic of a dream. Woven together from a massive archive of tapes, the album builds ambient spaces and puzzling sound objects out of location recordings, found sounds, private performances, and endless analog and digital manipulation.” So let’s see if the music is as good as the visual artwork.

The music on the tape is heavily synth-based, with bits of field recordings and voice thrown in for good measure. For example, the tape begins with pulsing drone that adds a layer of noise like a helicopter spinning up and preparing for takeoff, followed by a series of staccato, barking synth hits with a thin layer of warbling flutelike sounds. Later on, we have someone beating sticks against the floor with the sound of a howling wind outside. Turning the tape over, we begin with a short, interesting ditty with percussion that gives a sense of marching band, more drone, some heavily processed voice,and more synth based noise with a heavy beat. Overall, this is pleasant, but it began to get a bit dull and predictable at times. RNL is at their best when they incorporate other elements besides the synth or going beyond the standard drone (the heavily processed voice, for example).



Sea Of Poppies: s/t

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Artist: Sea Of Poppies
Title: s/t
Format: Tape
Label: self-released
Rated: *****
Sea of Poppies is the work of Czech artist Marek iška, who also has the dark ambient project Deprivation Chamber. As described by the artist, “‘Sea of Poppies’ is my first foray into purely analogue sound. As such, I wanted to experiment with different sounds and techniques. This album is the result of that - each track is made from different sources and in a different way. It is both a love letter to the old school industrial scene, and a document of sorts, of me exploring a whole new world of sound.” Sounds promising, so let’s dive into it.

On side 1, Sea of Poppies comes out swinging from the beginning with high pitched feedback matched up with heavily distorted rumbling. The next track has everything processed to oblivion, like someone keeps changing the speed of the record over and over again and everything is run through 27 layers of echo. Flip the tape over and we have more harsh noise, only this time with a some circuit bending madness thrown in for good measure.

This is my kind of noise. Constantly shifting and lo-fi as hell. This is everything that you would expect from noise that comes on a cassette tape with a hand cut paper J-card. There are no track names, and not even a title for the tape. But it delivers. If this is a “love letter to the old school industrial scene,” it is heavily perfumed with gasoline and has a match taped to a strip of sandpaper on the inside of the envelope. This is limited to 30 copies, so if you like heavy noise with a lot of variety you need to get this.



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Artist: Albert / Day / Kreimer (@)
Title: Mutations
Format: CD
Label: Public Eyesore (@)
Rated: *****
This is the work of Marco Albert on voice and electronics and Bryan Day and Jay Kreimer, both on "invented instruments." Like many artists on the Public Eyesore label, these artists are new to me. However, I have found that I have enjoyed most of the things that PE has put out, so let's see how this measures up. I hope it measures up well, since Bryan Day is the man behind the label!

Mutation 1 begins with sparse bits of heavily processed chaotic noises. This is incidental music to play in the soundtrack of your dreams. It becomes increasingly aggressive as the track moves on until it is full on chaos. Mutation 2 features whispered Spanish and English voice over loosely strung guitar and balafon, interrupted by scraping metal, with the voices becoming increasingly processed over time. Mutation 3 is chanting/singing over chaotic percussion and bowed strings, and Mutation 4 keeps this feeling going with spoken word about art theory over a noisy background. Mutation 5 is thudding percussion over the sounds of wheels on rough pavement. An organ drones as bass slaps and metal rattles. It has a rhythm like an off center washing machine until it eventually falls completely apart. Mutation 6 changes it up to conclude with lots of drone, voice, and bubbling water.

This was interesting and well constructed. If you like experimental improvisation, this may be up your alley. Another solid entry to the Public Eyesore catalog. This album weighs in at around 36 minutes.


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Artist: Steve Roach (@)
Title: Bloom Ascension
Format: CD
Label: Projekt (@)
Rated: *****
Steve Roach is one of the few artists that I have followed for almost 30 years. In that time he's definitely evolved as a musician, which one would expect in such a wide ranging career. So let’s get something out of the way right off the bat. If you're expecting more of the traditional ethno-ambient that he has created in the past, you may be a little surprised. In some ways, this has more in common with techno-era Cabaret Voltaire than it does with some of his earlier stuff. On “The Beauty Relentless,” Roach is in fine form. Arpeggiated synth mixed with slow, shimmering synth washes to create a hypnotic sense of being. When the percussion comes in you almost don't even recognize it. The track slowly changes and evolves over time. “Motivating Factor” is an exercise in repetition as the main theme remains unchanged, but the underlying textures constantly shift.“Synesthete” reminds me of a sci-fi suspense movie soundtrack. You're floating in the void and your spaceship is inching away from you. The question is whether you'll ever return to Earth again. Bloom Ascension is another hypnotic, repetitive track, but with a more frantic feel than the other tracks until it all dissolves into lush drone. Overall this is a great album. There's a lot of complexity to the compositions that keeps it interesting. This album weighs in at around 41 minutes.



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