Thursday, May 28, 2020

Music Reviews

Artist: Psychiceyeclix & Caecus Animi (@)
Title: Instrument Sleeve #1
Format: 12" vinyl + Download
Label: Doubledgescissor
Rated: *****

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Instrument Sleeve # 1 is the collaborative effort of Psychiceyeclix and Caecus Animi. Before I delve into my review of this album, I think it is important to first provide a little background about these artists. Psychiceyeclix is the anonymous multimedia (sound and visual) project of an electronic and mechanical engineer. The project has been around since 2001 and has produced a number of releases. Much of Psychiceyeclix’s music is made via modified or “circuit bent” synthesizers, toys, etc. You can purchase some of Psychiceyeclix’s modified equipment here:

Caecus Animi is a producer and electronic musician who has worked with a variety of artists through the years and has a residency with Aria, which is a collective that puts on various underground parties. Like Psychiceyeclix, he is known for using unconventional sounds.

With that background, let’s talk about this album. After first reviewing the various press materials for these two artists and the album itself, Instrument Sleeve # 1 was not the wild album I was expecting. Having anticipated erratic glitch beats complemented by abrasive and odd noises from an array of modified instruments, I instead heard a very smooth, polished, and structured collection of songs that can best be described as a cross between AFX, 8-bit video game music, Crystal Castles, and Bernard Favre’s more recent work.

As a whole, the album is rather downtempo. All of the tracks have roughly the same bpm. None are particularly fast paced. All of the songs have a steady base rhythm that is supplemented by the occasional glitchy overlay. It is not at all erratic or in constant flux like a lot of glitch and IDM. The synth parts and melodies are steady, but dynamic enough to keep you interested. The build ups and crescendos are gradual. What is nice about this album is that the music is comprised of simple parts that are thoughtfully layered. My favorite parts of the album are the interspersed blips, beeps, and glitches that reminded me of Joy Electric, if Ronnie Martin used 8-bit emulators. Some of my favorite tracks include 808 Game, Chinese Disco 8 Bit, Portersound, and Talking Teacher. Overall, I liked the album and found it was great to play while working. Specifically, I was doing some statistical analyses and it provided an excellent soundtrack. I like it more with each listen.

On a final note, the physical version of the album includes an “onboard noise box” that is attached to the sleeve, which you can fiddle with while listening to the album or use for your own creative endeavors. I’m not going to lie, that is pretty damn cool, and I hope to get a copy.

Artist: Simon Šerc
Title: CMBR
Format: Download Only (MP3 + Lossless)
Label: Silent Records / Pharmafabrik
Simon Šerc’s CMBR is the ‘sonification’ of data from the ESA’s Planck space telescope, studying “the coldest objects in the universe”, tracking variations in the baseline sound of the universe, “the oldest sound in the universe” and other such statements that seem like grand hyperbole but which are broadly scientifically valid, as far as a layman like myself can tell.

Of course the passage from data to sound is such an arbitrary and redefinable concept that it’s in that translation that the creative composition is found; given the same data set, other people could just as easily have transposed it into coloured noise or glitch rhythms. But Šerc’s approach is a touch more purist, in a way, offering up four fifteen-minute-long pieces of atmospheric and ambient sound design that feel like they paint different landscapes.

“Cold Care” initially comes across as a relatively typical, almost familiar-sounding sci-fi representation of what deep space might sound like if there were any sound in space. Hollow, reverberant tones give an open chamber feel. There’s a sense of distant wind. But as it proceeds, the wind gets louder and noisier, until it is a thoroughly gritty and jarring, with an abrupt end. It’s a transition effect that is repeated throughout the other three pieces as well, each beginning far more calmly than they end.

Surprisingly, “Greybody Fit” sounds like a medium-sized industrial unit, with a steady background hum that feels decidedly mechanical. Perhaps the curve of a statistical analysis became a waveform, and if so, it feels like a familiar and very human pitch, a steady vibration that anyone working in industry or manufacturing might feel very at home with. Top-end rustling sits somewhere between distortion and the digital rustling of the leaves on artificial trees.

“Flux Density” sounds like high level sonic wind, relentlessly battering and pummelling the spaceship you’re trapped in, loud and oppressive yet also somehow safe, before the gradual arrival of clicking sounds that feel more invasive. Final piece “Declination” begins with a low synthesized bass tone that feels quite soundtrack-like, reminding me unexpectedly of the “2010” movie, before again devolving into noise. The most unexpected part is the final minute, which feels, perhaps intentionally, like all the equipment suddenly breaks and the relentless whirring winds down. It’s an unusual, almost comic way to return your ears into normal space.

ChainDLK’s format options prevent me from listing the unusual array of formats that this release is available on- namely 7-and-a-half inch tape reel, Blu-ray disc, and 24-bit digital. The format options feel like the most ostentatious part of the release. There’s really nothing wrong with 16-bit stereo and the promo I listened to was comprised of compressed MP3’s, and contrary to what some audiophiles will tell you, it sounded fine! Sadly I can’t comment on the ‘responsive video’ on the Blu-ray, which would be interesting to see and could add another dimension.

It’s nicely executed if slightly indulgent as a work, an interesting way of translating publicly available data into sonics. A few more surprises or unexpected production twists might have been welcome, and by the time the sound devolves into noise for the fourth time it feels a little ‘done’, but as gritty ambiences and hums go, it’s certainly well done.

Artist: Seeded Plain (@)
Title: Flying Falling
Format: Tape
Label: Eh? (@)
Rated: *****

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Seeded Plain is a project of Bryan Day (who runs Eh? and Public Eyesore) and Jay Kreimer with what seems to be occasionally a changing cast of additional performers. The Flying Falling album is the duo of Bryan and Jay. Personally I am very familiar with Public Eyesore which has released music by some of my favorite artists since about 2001.

On Discogs, this is often listed as "Jazz", "Experimental" or "Free Improvisation" which I feel like are pretty generic terms. While sounding unique I hear a lot of Musique Concrète influences. Flying Falling is a slow-moving scrape and dirge with various instruments being played in a non-traditional manner and distorted sounds of metal being rubbed and scraped to build a beautiful sonic experiment. Everything is laid out very well and you can tell the performers have experience in mixing these methods of sound generation together.

This release is extremely chill and relaxing and shouldn't be missed by purveyors of experimental music.

Artist: Eva Lindal, Anna Lindal
Title: Bäver
Format: CD + Download
Label: Plugged Records
Swedish siblings Eva and Lindal went into a studio in the summer of 2019 armed only with some track titles, and some discussion of their “love and ambivalence” towards the tradition of Western art music. Beyond that, everything was improvised from the two violin players (with Eva also switching to viola).

The outcome is an hour-long package that wanders across a broad spectrum of what’s possible from a violin- often adopting a fairly traditional and melodic, albeit meandering, old school familiarity, while at other times stretching the instrument somewhat, using it percussively and impulsively to broaden the sonic palette.

It is predominantly somewhat purist though, with an absence of post-production trickery or live effects to really extend that abstraction, and what you hear remains two people, in a room, playing off one another and conversing, in length and detail, using their violins rather than their voices.

There’s an interesting pull between melody and discord at times. In the title track, it feels like one instrument is charting out a fairly simple romantic melody that would befit a Jane Austen-ish television period drama- but the other violin is being cheeky, playing against it, almost laughing at it with its spontaneous and pitch-jumping short expressions. The tension rides high but steady in longest piece “Olivier”.

By contrast, in “Hjul” there’s an emptiness and scratchiness that’s engagingly barren and quite bold- possibly evoking the teethwork of the beaver of the album’s title (assuming I’ve not misunderstood it). This piece marks the beginning of the album’s final third which is notably more sparse than what precedes it- not featureless, and still with the occasional flurry, but eventually leading to the wooden creaking of final piece “Knust” that is oddly evocative of the sound of an abandoned pirate ship creaking on the sea.

It’s a curious and very expressive work. Often I find myself saying that works show performers to be working in synergy, ‘on the same page’ is a phrase I’ve used a few times. And while that’s true for large parts here as well, it’s actually the counter-play and melodic contradictions in the first pieces that yield the most interesting results. A strong bit of post-classical experimentation.

Artist: Yasuyuki Uesugi (@)
Title: Feelings Of Depression Are Created To Prevent Collapse Of My Spiritual World
Format: Download Only (MP3 + Lossless)
Label: self-released
Are artists the true authors of their artistic output or do they “channel” that which already existed; that which needed to be “liberated”? I found myself ruminating on this question while listening to Feelings Of Depression Are Created To Prevent Collapse Of My Spiritual World. The album is described by Yasuyuki Uesugi as a “noise wall”. It is a collection of “deeply experimental noise tracks that reflect ideas of the spiritual world, mental illness and the human brain”. Its creation involved setting up a noise-making chain of synths and effects and then - crucially - leaving the equipment to make continuous sound and recording the results into a Tascam recorder.

Walls of noise these pieces may be, and formidable they may appear, but - much like the remaining facets of the Berlin Wall, adorned as they are with wonderful art - this music is as beautiful as it is horrifying. Each track draws us into its sound world, and forces us to think while we are there. Every track is around 4:30, and for that time we are self-isolating with darkly sardonic titles such as “It is More Convenient for Society if My Brain Isn’t Active” or “Mental Stability is Made Chemically”. We enter each piece with trepidation and caution, feeling out its environment - the drones, the hiss, the distortion, the screeches. Each track pulsates steadily. The sound is threatening in its harshness but also inviting in its warmth. There is a circularity and a stability in the darkness. A very important element, which holds our interest in the face of the monotony, is the presence of microscopically subtle variations from each piece of analogue gear’s own unique “personality”.

We might imagine post-apocalyptic scenes, relentless biting winds, representations of our own demons rising up from scorched ground and dancing sarcastically in our faces. But we can learn to find the safety and security in these worlds. This is pure electronics and this is also pure nature. It is only disappointing when each track ends (very abruptly); we learn to appreciate and understand each new sound environment and then it is taken away from us without warning. But we accept this as well as we move to each next track.

The “ethos” and general sound of each piece on this 35-minute album is essentially the same, but the album holds our attention. The cohesion between tracks allows us to use the immersive and cathartic music and clever titles as catalysts to considering the type of world(s) we want to inhabit and to better understanding how our own minds relate to our external and internal realities.

Listeners interested in the genre who choose to invest in and live with this record will ultimately be able to have their pain eased and to feel uplifted. One way or another we all sometimes need to feel liberated from the battles we fight in navigating the world. This album could be part of your path towards that liberation.

Feelings Of Depression Are Created To Prevent Collapse Of My Spiritual World is available for streaming and download now at


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