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Artist: Cousin Silas and the Glove Of Bones
Title: Kafou in Avalonia
Format: Tape & Digital Download
Label: Submarine Broadcasting Company


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This is already the fourth ambient dub collision of Cousin Silas (Guitar, Keyboards, Ambience) and The Glove Of Bones (Beats, Samples, etc.). They teamed up at first in 2016 and since have nearly annually released an album worth of near unique and original material besides their own solo works.
This one is heavy underlaid with a concept to fit art and music: "Kafou In Avalonia imagines a world where the landmass if Avalonia (an early microcontinent which got torn apart) remained connected and civilisation took a more integrated path." Well. Kafou is a manifestation of Papa Legba, of the Hawaiian Pantheon of Voodoo Loas. Legba facilitates communication, speech, and understanding. Today the parts of Avalonia are spread between England, Wales, Northern Europe and the eastern coast of North America (….).

So. Many thoughts and time have been finding the way into this album, visually implanted in black and white voodoo associated graphics for each track and the limited edition tape version including gris-gris charms, wax sealed and covered in a Juju bag.

Musicwise the African chanting, the solid rhythms and the carefully arranged loops, samples and noises work as one continued maelstrom, permanently evolving and mutating. A continuation but also a development of their last album with a storyline and a structure feat. shorter interludes ('Rituals') to underline the impressions and moods. Still this soundscapes takes no prisoners, it’s brooding and melting heavy psychedelic Dub. If a reference is needed - it can be reminiscent of African Head Charge at their heights while adding the spiritual freedom of The Grateful Dead.

Stand out tracks include the utterly rhythmic 'Segue Drum Ritual' and the equally powerful 'Xangô Marchin', the long-form tracks 'Oxalá of the White Sky' and 'Nzambi Meridian' and the final track‚ 'Ezili Dantor Awake' which features prominent psychedelic spaghetti –western desert island guitar work which rounds this off perfectly.

Mastered by the label’s owner himself there has no effort been avoided to make this as good as it can be, playing this loud works equally well as per headphones. A diverse experience with a coherent flow which allows the listener to keep aware and not getting lost or distracted.

Escapism would be something different, this is mere a step in an alternative Universe.



VV.AA.: Sounds From The Matrix, Vol. 20

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Artist: VV.AA.
Title: Sounds From The Matrix, Vol. 20
Format: CD + Download
Label: Alfa-Matrix (@)
Rated: *****
Gotta get this one in before the year closes out. Every year the Belgian record label Alfa Matrix releases a compilation of (hopefully) its best and brightest, and this is #20 in the long line of great compilations. Participants this go-round include: Psy’aviah Feat. Kyoko Baertsoen; Helalyn Flowers; Synapsyche; IMJUDAS; I-Scintilla; Junksista; H.O.W.; Llumen; Mental Exile; Metroland; Implant; Aesthetische; AD:Key; Kant Kino; Avarice In Audio; Reactor7x; Dunkelwerk; Circuito Cerrado; and Alien Vampires Feat. Chainreactor. 8 of them are returning participants from last year.

This year's offerings are somewhat less varied than last year’s, but there are still plenty of cool tracks. Psy'aviah kicks it off with "Plan B," a track from their 2018 'Lightflare' album in case you missed that one. A bit low key for an opener, but still a great voice and melody from Kyoko Baertsoen. Helalyn Flowers makes another stellar appearance with "Tetrachromatic," a strong melodic tune that should perk up some ears. Ferrara Italy's Synapsyche reflects some "Mirror Terror" with both clean and dirty vocals; pretty standard electro music but it has a good bouncy beat. IMJUDAS slow it down considerably with "Without Us You Are Nothing" ...good vocals but I’m not really sure what this song's about... Chicago's I-Scintilla makes an impression with "Human" (Angelspit Mix), some rousing electro-industrial fronted by Brittany Bindrim. Junksista's "A Little Naughty" doesn't have the impact of "Monday," their entry for last year's comp, but it's still a pretty good song. Can't really find anything on H.O.W., but their "Happiness Imperative" is a neat little electro gem with nice melodic female vocals. Llumen offers some dour synthpop with "The Dark Inside Her Eyes" (Bunker Edit). Unfortunately there's not enough going on to make it interesting, with verse, after verse, after verse, after verse... Damasius Venys' Mental Exile puts forth one of the stronger tracks on this comp with "Renegades". You might know him from the band Mondtraume, who were on last year's comp. Metroland had one of the more intriguing tracks on last year's comp with "Man in a Frame," but this year's "Memorabilia" sounds like a Heaven 17 outake from the late '80s that was excised from an album, and better left that way. Disappointing, with nothing more than retro-sequencing and stale vocoding. Implant's "Oxynoxe" (Karl Hefner & Hugh Lagerfeld Remix) sounds a bit phoned-in; I expect better from this Alfa Matrix staple. Aesthetische gives "Berlin" a bit of a martial beat, and any DJ willing to give this track a spin in the club may get some surprising reactions from the dancefloor. AD:Key lays it on the line with "You Can't Fuck Me" with expected results. Oslo's Kant Kino offers up some old-school EBM with "Destruct," a solid entry on this comp. Never heard Avarice In Audio before, and this seems to be the first band on the comp that has any real aggrotech leanings. If that's your thing, you just may enjoy their "Trojan Horse". More of that style comes your way with Poland's Reactor7x, and their "Circus of the False". Not my thing, but I have to admit that it's very well done. I could have done without Dunkelwerk's "GxSTxPx 4C" (Bunker Edit) as this isn't the time to dredge up any Nazi memories, especially sung in German. Mexico's Circuito Cerrado shows some promise winning over Hocico fans with their wild "Revolution," and this will make a killer dancefloor track. Finally, Alien Vampires Feat. Chainreactor close out Vol. 20 with "Hyperbolic Doubt," maybe an aptly titled track if there ever was one. I hyperbolically doubt this is much of a song. Great for the dancefloor, headache-inducing just for pure listening. Those scratchy vocals are at a minimum though.

As usual, this comp is free with a purchase of any of Alfa Matrix's roster of artists' albums (while supplies last, I imagine). Or, you can just purchase the digital download from Alfa Matrix's Bandcamp site.


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Artist: Haythem Mahbouli
Title: Catching Moments in Time
Format: CD
Label: Schole (@)
Rated: *****
“I don’t want to predefine my genre or have an instrument-centered composition (e.g. piano). I see music as a mix of sounds that create emotions. Emotions can emerge in any music form. I picture music as images; each of them is associated with an emotion. This album (Catching Moments In Time), is a journey throughout experiences I lived and tried to translate. My goal is for the listener to adapt it to their own, mix it with their emotions and create their own images”. By these words, the Tunisian composer Haythem Mahbouli introduces his brilliant release landed on the Japanese label Schole and feeding the expectations following such an introduction since the symphonic breezes of the opening "Catching The First Moment", whose piano and string driven grandeur mirrors the one of the closing "Catching The Last Moment", opening and closing brackets detaching the musical padded bubble of the aural experience he offered. Two big names of contemporary music scene sustained the emotional flight by this guy, who reprised his compositional work after a hiatus following his settlement in Montreal after the Tunisian Revolution in 2011 and the start of a job as sound designer for gaming industry: the name that most of our readers would recognize is the one by Taylor Deupree, who cared the mastering of the album, while the name that you wouldn't maybe expect, even if it makes sense considering the strong component of classical music into the recipe by Haythem is the one of City of Prague Philarmonic Orchestra, playing strings all over the album. In between the two brackets, many layered emotional sounds flood over listeners' eardrums and souls and the way such a flood gets organized through frequent crescendo, overlapping symphonies and the implant of spooky operatic parts could break the emotional banks of many of them. Some voiceovers have been embedded in some ascensional movements of this album, recorded as if they were transmissions from outer space and quoting lines by American poet Robert Lee Frost, such as the one from Birches: "I'd like to get away from earth awhile / And then come back to it and begin over". They sound consistent with the mood of the album - sometimes getting closer to the cinematic style well expressed by Jóhann Jóhannsson or Hildur Guðnadóttir, particularly in tracks like "Passage" or "Transition" -, whose general dynamics seems to activate different emotional or mnemonic areas before cathartic explosion, partially emulating techniques normally belonging to soundtracks. Awesome output!


VV.AA.: Sounds From The Matrix Vol. 19

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Artist: VV.AA.
Title: Sounds From The Matrix Vol. 19
Format: CD + Download
Label: Alfa-Matrix (@)
Rated: *****
A great way to discover new music and bands (or maybe some bands you already know but haven't kept up with) is through label compilation CDs. For the electro/industrial/synthpop genres, few do it better than the Alfa-Matrix label. This is their 19th label compilation, and that has to count for something. Alfa-Matrix comps can also be collector's items after they go out of print, so it's worth getting the physical CD. I can't say I've been lucky enough to own many of them (I think I acquired
one years ago, but can't remember where it is now) so I can't compare this one to others, but there is plenty of really cool stuff on it. Twenty tracks by twenty different artists, and I can only give a thumbnail description of each. Begins with ElektroklÄnge doing "Heimkonsole" (Mehrsprachige Version), a retro Kraftwerkian number with vocoder German vocals, steady kick for the beat, and bubbly synths. Low key but effective. Metroland offers "Man in a Frame," with spoken male & female vocals in the same mid-tempo rhythm as the previous track. Nice noirish synthwork. AD:KEY picks up the pace with "Reanimator"(Phoenix Version), more German vocals (male & female), in monochromatic melody, and the enhanced rhythm makes for good dance fodder. ELM's "Wapenrustning" (Hard-Mix) begins with the vocal chorus - "Know your place in the food chain" so you'll know right off the bat what this song is about. Carried off with a basic beat and nice bass synth groove, but not much more than that. Mildreda's "Neon Eon" starts out with a jarring vocal sample - "I said your fucking baby's gonna burn" and the music is full of plenty of industrial samples and sounds amidst the synths with
vocals that border on hellectro. It's kind of a mish-mosh but still pretty cool. Then you get "Blowback" from Psychic Force and this is a monster of a dancefloor stomper. The hook is in the instrumental synth break, and although the melody sounds like something I've heard before, it still carries some weight. Vocals sort of along the lines of early Front Line Assembly. Star Industry's "Shiver" (Aesthetische Cold Mix) sounds like John Foxx gone electro-industrial. So far this is the best realized track on the CD, with really good hit potential. "Anathema" by Crytek offers both raspy and clean vocals, but it's the clean vocals that have the grabbing hook. Mondtraume shows you "All You Cannot See" (Crytek Mix) and though the vocals are kind of "meh" it has a good driving beat. Kant Kino's "Wrong" sounds right to me with a really good chorus hook and brief amusing sampled phrases. Junksista featuring Essence of Mind disses "Monday" (everybody hates you), and sort of sounds like two different songs, but is memorable enough. I'ce already reviewed Psy'Aviah's "Game Changer" on the "Lightflare" album review, but it fits in well enough with the other tracks on this comp. "Kamikaze
Angel" comes courtesy of Helalyn Flowers, and it's the kind of track that makes you want to hear more from this band. Powerful female vocalist sounding like Pat Benatar gone electro-industrial. Outstanding, and another highlight from this comp. "Dead Sea" by Lovelorn Dolls didn't impress me nearly as much; sort of came off like Bel Canto gone metal. Sin.Sin featuring Helalyn Flowers has a moody groove, but wasn't nearly as good as Helalyn Flowers' "Kamikaze Angel." Imjudas is the dark
electro project of maXX from Helalyn Flowers (that band seems to have their prints all over this comp) and "Tulpa" sounds like Duran Duran gone dark electro. If nothing else, Komo Kommando will likely be remembered for their catchy "Music is My Religion"; just one of those songs that invades your brain and won't let go. Now here's a blast from the past - Mentallo & the Fixer with "Methodical Damage." Every lesson these guys ever learned from Skinny Puppy is packed solidly into this
instrumental track. Not likely to get much radio or club play but it's still loads of industrial fun. Implant's "The Phone Call" (Implant RMX) is strange and experimental for sure. Weird techno meets performance art. Final track by Schwarzblut is indeed an interesting one. Classical meets EBM, sung in German and I wouldn't have it any other way with these folks. Light and dark, heavy and floaty, totally eclectic, poetic and wonderful. I was actually stunned when it ended and left wanting more more more!

So as you can see there's plenty of good stuff on this Alfa-Matrix comp, and it can be yours for absolutely free- with a purchase of one of their physical products from the Alfa-Matrix store (CD, DVD or vinyl). Or, you can listen to it streaming from their Bandcamp site for free! If you'd prefer a digital copy, you can get that there as well for about 9 Euros. Go buy something- support the label, support the band, support the music!


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Artist: Erik Friedlander - Black Phoebe
Title: Rings
Format: CD
Label: Skipstone Records
Rated: *****
I already quoted this amazing project by New York-based accomplished and talented cellist Erik Friedlander, while introducing "Nothing On Earth," Erik's soundtrack for the expedition in Greenland by Mick Abrams and Murray Fredericks. A particular cinematic nuance is listenable in the sound he developed together with Japenese talented musicians Satoshi Takeishi (percussion) and Shoko Nagai (piano, accordion, and electronics) as listeners can readily perceive in some tracks of this newly assembled album, which look like portraits such as the cheeky tango they crafted on the opener "The Seducer", the gentle gipsy riding on "The Risky Business" and the exciting "Flycatcher" or the almost grotesque chamber music scherzo of "A Single Eye", but it's not the main feature. The stylistic adhesive cementing the twelve lovely tracks they recorded in "Rings" is the way the trio build the loop-based composition approach by Erik in each single song, who doesn't sound repetitive at all, due to the varieties of music styles by which Satoshi and Shoko implant during their sonic landscaping. Don't expect anything really super revolutionary, but just some well crafted good music by three brilliantly peppy musicians (not a small thing nowadays). In my opinion, the better way to appreciate this feature is focusing on the repetition on strings by Erik and almost unselfconsciously sink the delicate piano-driven melodies and the likewise sensitive or pleasantly faster tapping on percussions in between vibrant or lazier moments, that could let you imagine Black Phebe were aimed to give a sound to an interstate between fiction and reality for secret admirers of daydreaming, who keep having a head on its shoulders.



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