Tuesday, July 7, 2020

Music Reviews

Artist: Timothy Clerkin
Title: The War Wolf E.P.
Format: 12" vinyl + Download
Label: Sprechen
Although “The War Wolf” EP is named and artworked as being ready for battle, sonically it feels more ready to party. While the circa 100bpm stepping beat does have a slight marching vibe, the squelchy acid bass, bright plucky synths, and the use of that old famous fluttering panpipe sample (which works better here than it ought to on paper), all have too much of a feelgood vibe about them on the title track to make it feel really fighty.

Second track “Acid Drive” does have a slightly more warrior feel, thanks to its 120bpm-ish tempo and distorted squelchy acid line, but it’s tempered again by bright keys and a spectacularly old-skool ravey breakdown that feels like it’s been sampled straight out of the best bits of 1992.

Timothy Clerkin’s remix- or rather his “remix reprise”- of Night Giant’s “Bleak House” is a bonus inclusion that’s treated like a bolt on, but which the EP may could’ve led with, as it has an epic unfolding opening that leads into an almost Jarre-ish (but on the simpler side) melody line. This would’ve been a heroic album opener.

Not nearly as violent as it may appear, this short EP (that’s barely an “extended play” at all, you might argue) is quality thinking-person’s-dancing-music, baked at a home-listening temperature and with a lot of endearing old school ingredients that will appeal to people of a certain age, myself included.

Artist: Zea + Oscar Jan Hoogland
Title: Summing
Format: CD + Download
Label: Makkum Records / Klanggalerie
After originally meeting in unusual circumstances- teenage Hoogland attending a gig with Zea performing one evening, then attending school to find Zea was his new sociology teacher- the duo have since been collaborating for some time, combining Zea’s guitar and voice with Hoogland’s piano, electric clavichord, “synths and sirens”. Summing is a nine-pack of short experimental-rock-alt-pop pieces that sounds like the duo are still challenging one another, rather than settling and getting comfortable.

There’s something of a 60’s or 70’s wig out feel at times, including sonically- sometimes relatively static, at other times not. The title track’s chaotic final minute, that segues gently into the brooding “You’re Dead”, is a strong example of that. Some tracks, including again the title track, have various production details that qualities that demonstrate the 2019 nature of the recording, but at times the only detail that indicates that the tracks are modern, rather than unearthed from the annals of prog rock, are lyrics such as “We Lost Our Phone” (which is not as flippant as the title suggests) and the talk of track-and-trace delivery in curiously passive-aggressive “I Never Threw A Stone”.

More introspective moments come in tracks like the surprisingly moving “Atomic Heart”, which if it had been released in a more acoustic form by a pop-singer-songwriter, might be getting lauded as a beautiful pop song. Final track “Trip the Light Fantastic” is notable for its jazzier, more laidback feel as well.

At only 32 minutes it’s a compact album that buzzes with ideas and moods. The duo work together with other musicians on other releases too, and it feels like that’s probably necessary in order to drive the inventiveness further. But this level of expressiveness from a duo is rare and heartfelt.

Artist: Halftribe
Title: Archipelago
Format: CD + Download
Label: Sound In Silence Records (@)
Rated: *****
Halftribe is the solo project of Ryan Bissett, an ambient/electronic music producer and DJ, born in Northern Ireland, residing in Manchester, UK. Since 2014 he has been producing his sublime music having released four albums and four EPs on labels such as Archives, Dronarivm, Vent Sounds, Dewtone Recordings and Silk Sofa Music. ‘Archipelago,’ Halftribe’s fifth full-length album and first for Sound In Silence, features eleven new compositions with a total duration of something less than 45 minutes. Bissett creates one of his best albums to date, skillfully blending together airy synths, soothing pads, hazy drones, delicate chimes, processed vocal samples, lo-fi plucked guitars, overlapping tones, looped crackles and calm field recordings.

Of course, all that is label promo description, but it's not far off the mark. On "Exposed" the listener is treated to a low, slowly oscillating drone tone with an intermittent low counter-melody and occasional chittering. "We Are Dust" begins with a slightly funerary vibe (loop) that is subtly expanded upon with cello and other minor low key elements. On "Broken Beams" an intermittent tone is struck over a constant background drone, then up turns a little melody. "Drops" is comprised of fragmented melodies over a held pad drone tone with a little bit of staticky noise sprinkled on it for good measure. The title track is comprised mostly of washes of noise drone with vague melodic content. "Fader" sounds as if it really wants to be a real song with voice-like melodic loops and a repeating half-formed melody. The undercurrent of rhythm in "Two Teaspoons Of Wishful Thinking" is the main thing that keeps this track alive, and is one of the tracks with the most musicality on the album, often threatening to become more than the simple idea it actually is.

Things head into the realm of abstract downtempo on the brief "Breather," but the follow-up, "Rejected," pulls the music back into elongated ambient drone, and "Subliminal" continues along this line, as well as "Imperfect," albeit with a little more melodicism. 'Archipelago' is an interesting work that sounds a bit like outtakes/demo ideas Eno never used for his Music For Films/ASmbient Series recordings, but that's not a bad thing at all. Once again, this is a limited edition of 200 handmade and hand-numbered collectible copies.

Artist: Endless Melancholy (@)
Title: A Perception of Everything
Format: CD + Download
Label: Sound In Silence (@)
Rated: *****
Endless Melancholy is the self-descriptive music act of Oleksiy Sakevych, based in Kyiv, Ukraine. Since 2011 he has released six albums, a remix album, a compilation and many singles and EPs on various small labels. He has worked on collaboration/split releases with artists such as Desolate Horizons, Lights Dim and Hotel Neon, is also member of the post-rock band Sleeping Bear and has released music under the aliases of Moonshine Blues and bc_ranger.

'A Perception Of Everything' is the seventh full-length album by Endless Melancholy and his first for Sound In Silence. Inspired by traveling and visiting new places. it is made of field recordings made using a microcassette tape recorder, tape loops and synth pads. The music is ultra-ambient with a musicality that works hand-in-glove with elongated synth pads and drones; little light melodic touches that enhance a superbly relaxing environment. One track blends seamlessly into another on this 9-track album for about 40 minutes. True to the project's name, there is a wistful melancholy about some of the pieces ("Immersion" in particular comes to mind), and perhaps a sadness brought about by the current state of isolation, as well as a longing for people, places and events you have experienced before. Yet there is a certain amount of comfort in it, as if being wrapped in a quilty cocoon. Although darkness threatens on the edge, 'A Perception of Everything' provides a safe space in which to just chill and be. Subconsciously, some of the field recordings employed by Sakevych will undoubtedly stir memories in most listeners that are sure to bring about an emotional response. I think this album may hold a different meaning for every listener. It is an extraordinary ambient work that will be an asset to any collection in the genre.

This is a limited edition of 200 handmade and hand-numbered collectible copies. It is packaged in a lovely hand-stamped ivory cardboard envelope with the front cover image printed on a polaroid style photo paper and an insert sheet containing tracklist and information printed on azure cardboard. It also comes bundled with a download code coupon and a Sound In Silence card.

Artist: Aisha Orazbayeva
Title: Music for Violin Alone
Format: CD + Download
Label: SN Variations
Like many releases at the moment, “Music For Violin Alone” is a work prompted by lockdown, and dare I say inspired by lockdown. Orazbayeva’s fourth solo album contains performances of works from six different composers, ranging from J.S. Bach through John Cage to Angharad Davies. It’s then topped off by one of Orazbayeva’s original compositions, seven pieces in all.

The album is bookended by some decidedly avantgarde work. “Circular Bowing Study” (Davies) sets a tone, a rhythmic scratching that rises and falls in waves, a divisive piece that will mesmerise some and be like nails down a blackboard to others. At the other end, Orazbayeva’s own “Ring” is a dark arrangement of slow breathy string drags that’s strangely compelling but which does feel somewhat like horror movie sound design.

Between those poles is a slightly more conventional collection- most obviously “Largo from Sonata no. 3 in C major” (J.S.Bach), a beautifully recorded and expressive meandering solo which flows beautifully into the energetic and optimistic “Alla Fantasia” (Matteis Jr.). The second half is a tad more experimental- “Koan” (Tenney) is the longest piece, and feels it thanks to its relentless bowing and alarm-like steady pitch rise that begins to feel like a Shepard tone as it gets under your skin. It makes the sparseness of “Eight Whiskus” (Cage) feel like relief.

“Blurry Wake Song” (Leith) is double-tracked, layering up (I think) two takes into a duet with some unexpected tonal changes, but most of the rest of the recording is single-layered and it’s a testament to the playing and the recording quality that a single instrument can maintain your attention and keep things interesting for forty minutes.

It’s another introspective but fascinating work from the lockdown period.


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