Saturday, July 4, 2020

Music Reviews

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.

T.Raumschmiere: Schaukelstuhl

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Artist: T.Raumschmiere
Title: Schaukelstuhl
Format: Download Only (MP3 + Lossless)
Label: Shitkatapult
Schaukelstuhl translates as ‘rocking chair’ (hence the artwork) and there’s a mesmeric steady rhythm to this 6-track mini-album- though I’m not sure I’d call it ‘rocking’. It’s six slabs of steady electronica-house with an assured feel that gets more laid back quite rapidly, after an initially upbeat beginning, and once it gets fully horizontal, it stays there up to the point where the final track gets you up and dancing again.

While there are some analogue squelches and a grumbling vibe to it at times, it’s moved on quite far from the more aggressive electroclash-ish sounds of T.Raumschmiere albums of old. That familiar 12/8 groove can still be heard in tracks like the purposeful “Edith”, and aforementioned final track “Isidora” which has pure danceability at its core, but it is contrasted nicely by unashamedly chill out tracks like the soft and deep “Klaus”, and the positively balearic sunwashed vibes of “Bela”.

It’s premium quality stuff with a mood that feels very 2020, but it’s the tracks where the more familiar T.Raumschmiere attitude shines through that provide the best moments.

Artist: Grotta Veterano
Title: Talbot Bells
Format: Download Only (MP3 + Lossless)
Label: Midira Records
Gianluca Calliagaris, as Grotta Veterano, recorded this debut album during lockdown and, like a lot of other work being done under the same circumstances, it feels like a downbeat embodiment of the patience, space and unsettlement that many have been feeling.

It’s principally ambient and soft drone, and wanders through a variety of soundscape set-ups, some quite familiar-sounding. Even in the title track alone, we journey from completely ambient, through a lovely two-chord repeating key pattern that feels soporific and warming before getting gently looser and more jazzy, before ending up with organ and bell-like tones and a more ‘empty church’ feel.

“Colliding Tones” has very little collision, again building from emptiness into tones that feel sparse and hollow yet grandiose. “Dawn At Prvi” brings more sorrowful piano chords that flow almost unnoticed into “Morning Tom”, the electronic underbelly of which is arguably more interesting than the melodic core. It’s final piece “Roseneck”, with its bubbling and heartbeat sounds, click rhythm and oddly backwards feel, that provides the most unexpected set-up of the pack.

Overall it’s a beautiful album, without feeling very original. A well executed layering of soft tones gives a rich sonic fabric that doesn’t dazzle or sparkle, but which provides a very comfortable listen with just a hint of lockdown catharsis.

Artist: Boston 168
Title: Vax Of Love
Format: 12" vinyl + Download
Label: BPitch
Italian duo Boston 168 have returned to BPitch with a three-pack package of industrial-tinged 303-led techno that doesn’t push any boundaries, but which revels in the sheer joy of a 303 sound that never seems to get old.

There’s a decided retro flavour here that feels like a throwback to the 1990’s. For “Kiss My Accent” the squeezed 303 sounds draw comparisons with Hardfloor at their angriest, while the slightly more measured and introspective “Mononucleacid” feels Josh Wink-ish, but with an absolutely lovely and strangely train-like whistling pad melody that’s really enchanting on top. The title track is a bit rave-ier, with a hint of breaks in the rhythm patterns, a slightly more aggressive groove and some breathy and indistinct female spoken word elements on top. With minimalism still seemingly the order of the day in techno, it’s nice to hear an unashamedly dramatic building church organ-style pad sound for once!

The production quality is top notch throughout and makes it a pleasure to wallow in a good old-fashioned acid bath.

D Tiberio: Jeffy Just Needs A Hug

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Artist: D Tiberio
Title: Jeffy Just Needs A Hug
Format: 7"
Label: Timetable Records
Jeffy Just Needs A Hug and “Honey” are a pair of short, gently glitchy electronica tracks from LA-born producer D Tiberio. The kind-hearted sentiment and warmth of the title (borrowed from an unexpectedly introspective graffiti tag found in D Tiberio’s neighbourhood) can be sensed as a thread in the tracks, but there’s also a certain coldness here- icy crisp melodic bits and pieces on top, stammering over curt, pinched and complex kick patterns. Cut-up vocal sounds are the real character at play, and while there’s no outright melody that would make either track a crossover, the energy levels and slight cuteness are rather endearing.

It’s a very short snippet, but it feels self-contained rather than just a tease for a longer work- a short little postcard of friendliness in a musical genre (and an outside world) that’s been tending towards the bleak and isolationist recently.


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