Tuesday, October 20, 2020
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Music Reviews

Artist: Italo Brutalo
Title: Knight Fever
Format: 12" + Download
Label: Bungalo Disco
Although it’s not the overt tribute to the Pontiac Trans Am or the Stuart Phillips theme of “Knight Rider”, the Knight Fever EP is a more open-ended slice of retro. It’s instrumental italo-electro-disco style material with a thoroughly 80’s make-up, but with modern production values and a genre-open approach that allows the inclusion of acid squelches and other elements of varying levels of anachronism. And yes, it’s kind of synthwave, sort of.

The bright infectious riff of “Taniacid” is unashamedly feel-good and is a highlight. When “Trust Doesn’t Rust” takes a similar attitude but over a lazier groove, it doesn’t quite shine as brightly. “Knightmares” is also at more of a walking pace, but its more aggressive throbbing light-industrial bassline and nicely quirky melody carries it through- but when “Not A Drop To Drink” sets off at the same tempo, with another old school simple Italian-ish bassline, in a few ways it does start to feel like it is a single musical idea that has been stretched and filled out somewhat even just to fill a 4-track EP.

It’s strong synthwavey production with some really strong melodic elements, but it doesn’t constantly sparkle.

Artist: Etrusca 3D (Spencer Clark & Francesco Cavaliere)
Title: Etrusca 3D
Format: 12" + Download
Label: Pacific City Discs / Discrepant
There’s a curious concept behind Etrusca 3D, where Cavaliere recites the names of various deities from the ancient Italian civilisation, at various intensities, and then the two loop them and use them as the core of electronica compositions that attempt to add further instrumental narrative to the chanting.

The result, however, isn’t nearly as reverential or ethereal as it is pitched as. Instead, it has to be described as playful. Pitching the voices up and down in a sampler has an old-school, 1980’s, ‘joy of sampling’ feel to it and in pieces like “Il Demone Blu” it feels like it’s channelling the early work of JJ Jeczalik more than it’s channelling any ancient Gods. This is reinforced by the analogue synths used for some of the melody lines in tracks like “Tuchulcha”, and the somewhat lo-fi treatment of the vocal sounds at times.

When it’s at its weirdest, such as in the lengthy textured dialogue of “Velathri”, is actually when it’s at its least successful, but when it gets a bit of a groove on, such as in “Vanth”, or lets the instrumental music meander in the foreground a little more such as in “Fulmini”, it’s a very enjoyable, almost foot-tapping listen.

So in terms of its conceptual target, it does seem like something of a mis-fire, but as a short (37-minute) playful album of light electronica, it still has a lot of merit.

Artist: Hologram Teen
Title: Pizza Conspiracy
Format: CD & 12"
Label: Ransom Note
The second album from Hologram Teen, aka Morgan Lhote, is genuinely eclectic. Eclectic is an overused term nowadays, and here it doesn’t just mean a few esoteric samples, it means a collection of hip-hop and disco-funk tracks with a truly international and expansive range of international sources. It’s jazzy, quirky, multi-lingual and it has a bit of a sense of humour too. The closest comparison I can think of is the Avalanches’ earlier stuff, but Pizza Conspiracy, despite the paranoid title, has a unique character of its own that’s more laidback and it treads with a light step. As well as plenty of African- and South American-sounding patterns, it also brings in other influences less frequently heard in this context- including an interesting bent towards prog rock and wig-out electronica.

Very few of these tracks top the three minute mark, and as a result some leave you wanting plenty more, or Googling for the extended remix. Highlights include the punchy opener “Élixir Trémolo” the dubby samplitude of “Cosmogatto”, and the wilfully genre-antagonising African-loungecore-meets-70’s-cop-show-love-theme of “Bongos Over Dyke Slope”.

At times this feels like an instrumental version of an unreleased early De La Soul album, with steady concise positivity-infused grooves like “Rock Eagle Rock” feeling like they’re tailor-made for Plug One and Plug Two to roll their lyrics over. Backing this up is the sense of skit tracks, several sub-two-minute pieces that feel like shorter-baked half-ideas, adding to the general sense of montage.

A 39-minute ‘beat tape’ mixes together all the tracks into a continuous flow, and it’s in this mix that the tracks feel more at home, strangely, a bit more homogenised but an easier background listen.

There’s no crossover hit here that will garner massive attention as a single- first single “Dalston Wizardzz” is sweet but a little forgettable and sync-music-ish, though the perkiness of the bonus Al Kent remix gives it a nice lift. But as a true exercise in jazzy eclecticism and successful crate-digging with a properly feel-good attitude, it’s impossible not to like.

Amorphous: Moth Metaphor

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Artist: Amorphous (@)
Title: Moth Metaphor
Format: CD + Download
Label: Semantic Productions / Razgrom Music (@)
Distributor: Bandcamp
Rated: *****
Amorphous is the follow-up music project of Gil O. Santos, a Brazilian Electro-/Industrial musician who has made himself a quite good name with his previous, almost legendary project Morgue or also known under the alter ego Morgue (Mechanism) and a couple of highly recognized releases via the Brazilian label Cri Du Chat accompanied with licensing deals to the German labels Subtronic ("The Mind Is A Labyrinth" - 1994) and Off Beat ("The Sweet Apology Of Death"- 1997). Once started as a duo, later on been active as a trio, Morgue (Gil O. Santos, Marcelo Manieri - RIP, and Rene R. S. Menezes) existed at least between 1990 to 2010 and can be seen as the best-known and most influential Brazilian Dark Electro-/Industrial-project next to Aghast View in the mid-90s.

Not to be forgotten are the early years of this project with a vital being in the international tape-recording scene thanks to such sensational releases like "Scatology" (which later became due to its success the CD release "The Mind Is A Labyrinth" on Cri Du Chat / Subtronic Records) or their debut "Breaking All The Bones" as well as with various "Live Actions" performances recorded on tape around the dark music clubs in the Sao Paulo area.
Also the highly recognized international collaborations of this music project with the Slovakian webzine-legend Crewzine, Germany's Stillbirth Management and a few self-released compilation tapes under Gil's very own small tape label New Will Productions needs to be mentioned. It has always and forever been the managing part of Gil to kick out the best possible promotional efforts to push Morgue and to present this fine Brazilian Electro/Industrial-project to a wider audience and to leave the boundaries of Brazil behind.One of the latest actions of Gil has been that he has invested some free time to digitalize some of his good old tape-treasures and they can be freely downloaded a this Bandcamp website: https://morguemechanism.bandcamp.com/ Get these goodies!

It needs to be said that it has been especially Gil, his smart and friendly kind, his personal contacts and friendship built up around the globe in times when there wasn't email or social media available. Morgue and in person of Gil has left Brazil to storm the stages with unforgetable live performances in 1995 in Bratislava (Slovakia) and Bremen (Germany). Those days have been eventful and unforgetable especially in Bremen (first Morgue live performance in Germany ever...) connected with me personally and they still bring back a smile on my grim face.

After the last audio sign of Morgue with the compilation "The Dark Files" in 2007 it has become silent around this project. Gil has made in the 2000er years some musically different experiments into Longue-, Chillout- and Psytrance-music (Mukunga Umbura / album release "Secret Vision" in 2003 under the Italian label Inpsyde Media) and due to ongoing financially problems and his inner unsatisfaction with his daily job as well as the draining situation of Brazils politically system and difficult economy, he made the hard decision to leave his home country and culture behind and immigrated to Brighton, UK.Finally and since the things turned out to be more relaxing to live in Europe, Gil established his own label brand with Semantics Productions and so also Amorphous came into life for the restart into the field of classic Electro/Industrial music again, finally that kind of music he's really into and without any timeline or economic pressure.

And while I've rambled far too much of heroic deeds of our almost mutually experienced past, this is finally meant to be a review on this new, initially self-released Amorphous album "Moth Metaphor", the third studio album after the debut "Behaviourism" (2015) and the follow-up "Shapeshifting" in 2017.Amorphous picks up musically the path which Morgue has left incompleted, although there are differences between both projects to point out. Compared with the often rather filmic and interlaced song structures of Morgue especially noticed on "The Sweet Apology Of Death", Armorphous is definitely the more upbeating, pounding and more dynamically sounding alter ego. Gil's recent song structures rather concentrate to focus on its percussive moments instead to drown too deep into the dense ambience Morgue has been known and appreciated for. This kind of work can be reduced on a simple formula: if Morgue has ever been inspired by Skinny Puppy, then Amorphous turns rather into the Front Line Assembly playing field.

Although the opener "Kingdom of Darkness" kicks off with a mighty and ominous sounding lead synthpad accented by piano-like drops, it doesn't take too long until the raw bass line and the tricky arranged percussion elements take control over the song structure. "Blackout" shows simplification in its building by repeating a voice sample phrase over and over again but it shows precise and well-thought bass line and rhythm programming skills. With the exeption of the instrumental tune "The Mystic Man" and the rather poem-like outro track "Our Deepest Fear" by Jacques Brel and read by Dennis O'Connor, Gil's vocal performance needs to be pointed out. If Morgue have left impact on you in the past with their dramatic sounding performance by Rene R. S. Menezes, don't be surprised that the style of Gil's vocal expression is quite comparable - if not similar.
"Wasteland" then sounds for the most part as being a relic of the more Puppy-related past than any other track on "Moth Metaphor", as this one brings back a lot of haunting synth pads in a slower, more stalking-like song tempo filled with bizarre voice samples, surpringly incoming song interruptions and with Gil's FX-driven vocals.
Highlight and surely the most FLA-inspired tune is to me personally is "Unknown Things" with its solid kick and snare-work, pushing synth bass lines and some Wumpscut-like German voice samples ("Überall Hass..." - hasn't this been actually never sampled by anyone else before? ). Surely the track with the best balance between dancefloor-compatibility and athmospheric content.

Just in case and to avoid any misunderstandings: we have here a full-scale authentic-sounding release of classic inspired Dark Electro / Industrial music. I am sorry to say it, but no Trancewhackedgoregalore / no oontz-oontz Techno as well as no preset-sound-recording music-environment has been used to create this highly recommended Dark Electro/Industrial album. This fact - and the provided quality speaks for itself - has been also made its impact on the Russian label Razgrom Music and their founder Alexey Ignatov as this fine and growing label has released meanwhile the CD version of "Moth Metaphor" in a limited edition of 300 exemplars. It needs to be added that 3 bonus tracks ("Confinamiento", "Kingdom Of Darkness (Empire Version)", and "A New Morning") have made their way onto the silver plastic circle. Top notch work of all people involved and a must-have release for every fan of this music genre.

Melorman: For The Sun

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Artist: Melorman
Title: For The Sun
Format: 12" + Download
Label: Same Difference Music
The new release from Antonis Haniotakis as Melorman arrived in my inbox with the labels ‘electronica’ and ‘ambient’ prominently attached. I’d actually take issue with the latter- obviously all genres are subjective but nevertheless I’m not sure it actually qualifies as ambient, on the grounds that it’s always got a steady beat, usually with drum patterns and pulsing synths- but it is certainly mellow and relaxing. The most apt word in the press release for describing it is probably “fluffy”. It’s buckets of fluffy.

It’s a pack of six fairly long downtempo electronica instrumentals that gradually unfold in fairly familar patterns, introducing elements one at a time and rotating them in and out to evoke a feeling of long, steady travelling (with one track even called “Travelling”). This is music for headphones whilst staring out of the window of a train.

Some of the sounds border on kitsch- the organ tones on opener “Eliquis”, or the vocal ahhh pads in “Travelling” maybe. Others manage to avoid pushing quite that far, but there’s certainly a sense of warmth, brightness and optimism pervading most of these tracks that will strike a chord with listeners who are in the right mood for it.

There are glitches and mildly crisper tones in play as well, but not prominently. Slightly crunchy edges to the wash sounds in “Night Falls” are useful for avoiding the whole track sounding like a throwback to some “90’s trance chillout” compilation- and the wave noises on that track couldn’t sound much more balearic than they already do.

“8 a.m.” particularly appealed to me, and it’s a little more purposeful than the other tracks, with a more overtly synthwave tone and a decidedly Vangelis-ish bassline- and some unexpected chords in the second half that are halfway to classic house piano.

For forty minutes this release doesn’t exude originality or grab your attention, but if you’re looking for a very competent update of a well-trodden downtempo electronica sound, with some pretty melodies and an abundance of fluff, you will certainly enjoy this.


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