Music Reviews



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Artist: AKB
Title: Marianergraven
Format: CD & Vinyl
Label: Lamour Records
Anna-Karin Berglund’s “Marianergraven” album is a collection of soft ambient sonic vignettes that are apparently inspired by the ocean. And while waves are certainly involved, the overall feel of this album feels more like an invocation of space, expressed in sci-fi terms. Long melodic synthetic pad sounds ebb and fall over low warm bass hums, while occasional details and textures flit by- often crisp, gentle wind-like effects. Tonal changes are gentle, without always being predictable.

It’s deeply smooth and tailor-made for sleep playlists, but it’s also bordering on featureless at times, making highlights or distinctive sections scarce. “Subduktion” is notable thanks to its rolling bass and slightly odd low drawn-out vocal-like noises, which are allowed to progress and evolve in a ten-minute space when the other pieces are kept more succinct at five. “Topikerna” layers up the melodic chords in an interesting rolling fashion that forms a kind of audible Moebius strip while “Soluppgangen” has slight shades of Tangerine Dream at their most mellow about it.

Bonus track “Saktmodet” introduces organic orchestral sounds, including a clarinet, and as a two-minute long bolt-on to the album, leaves you wanting a lot more of that particular work. Hopefully it’s an indicator of the direction that Berglund’s next work will take.

It’s softly beautiful and soporific, and forgettable in the nicest possible way. As you nod off to this, it feels like an album that if you sleep through the end of, it’s not a case of missing out, but a case of it having done its job.
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Artist: Scott Young
Title: Ket City
Format: 12" vinyl + Download
Label: Discos Capablanca
Across the five tracks of his “Ket City” EP, Scott Young takes on a variety of different electronica styles, and proves quite deft at each of them.

After the deeply glitchy beatless low-end scratchiness of “Social Climber Guide”, which serves as essentially a long intro, the EP starts properly in “Drum Orgies”, a driven collection of complex yet danceable kicks and electronic-meets-tribal sounds that takes elements of dub but works at a much higher tempo- around 120bpm, though it feels faster as it’s very busy.

“Hyper-Domestication” feels more old school and could easily be mis-identified as a Wagon Christ track, taking a familiar trip-hop drum loop and crunching it satisfyingly under a jaunty bassline and odd effects. The title track is less playful but still odd, a downtempo affair with low piano stabs and curious arpeggios that, despite being the title track, ends up being a low point of the release in my opinion. Final track “Pad Jacuzzi” is a slightly more conventional bit of deep techno, that takes some of the structure and principles of progressive DJ friendly tracks and twists them, replacing hits and kicks with found sounds, but keeps essentially to the established recipe of long synth pads and beats, and some lovely zappy sounds for good measure.

It’s a little showy to have a picture of a brain on your artwork, almost conceited in how obviously it is meant to be imply that this is intelligent dance music. But, fair play, this is electronica with a lot of thought poured into it, and some very interesting moods baked in.
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Artist: Laurent Perrier + David Fenech
Title: Plateforme #3
Format: 12" vinyl + Download
Label: Bam Balam Records
“Plateforme #3” was an idea Laurent Perrier had, inviting some musical collaborators to submit a selection of raw material of themselves, unrelated to each other, and challenging himself to assemble pieces built solely from that material. In the third of his own series, Perrier invited David Fenech to oversee the first of the two eighteen-minute, vinyl-LP-friendly pieces.

The result is not nearly as disparate or chaotic as the concept might suggest. The first part is one large self-contained evolution, in a direction not too often travelled, beginning with fairly upbeat rhythmic, acoustic percussion and slowly transitioning, over more than quarter of an hour, out of rhythm and into a gently abrasive drone space.

The second part begins much more mildly, with sporadic soft melodies floating in nothingness, before heading off in a different direction again- gradually bringing in glitching, stuttering synth patterns and delving deep into 70’s style analogue meanders. This time around the slow progression is from calm to tense, with delayed percussion and more structured patterns appearing as time goes by- though this loops back to sparkling and cathedral-hollow melodic ambiences at the end.

It’s a bold pair of works, and an intriguing pair in the way they contrast against each other. It fuses a more traditional analogue synth form with some fresh touches, and it’s a strong example of how to maintain interest without drama. Quality stuff.
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Artist: VV.AA.
Title: Musicity x Culture Mile
Format: Tape
Label: Musicity Global
The concept behind this compilation is a ‘site-specific’ notion, recording found sounds in an ‘acoustic survey’ of the area of London that’s been rebranded as Culture Mile thanks to featuring the sites of the Museum Of London, the Barbican, the Guildhall School of Music & Drama, the London Symphony Orchestra and so on. Ten artists have taken these sounds and the accompanying inspiration and offered up pieces on the theme. These are predominantly downtempo electronica, dripping with arty cool.

As I write this, the Barbican is currently hosting an exhibition of Tangerine Dream photos and artefacts, so it seems appropriate that opening track “Running Out Of Limbs” is slightly T.D-esque, with steady changing arpeggios and a mellow, in-it-for-the-long-run vibe. This tone is reprised in Guidhall EMS’s “Eternal Descent” later on, in a good way.

“Running Out Of Limbs” doesn’t feature much by way of found sound however, although this begins to appear starting from the second track on. Some are as background textures only, such as on “A Synonym For Light” by Tania Nwachukwu and Bump Kin which foregrounds a full-length poem that dominates the consciousness, or on the theatrical mini-epic vocal playfulness of Alex Ho’s “Upon Brick”. Other pieces, like Mandhira da Saram’s scratchy and expressive “Anchor”, take the acoustic and incidental sounds and concentrate their focus on them.

The sonic environment elements do take something of a back seat sometimes, making this compilation feel less conceptually-driven and more like an old-fashioned compilation of ten random local artists. There’s no harm in that necessarily, as tracks like Fari B’s quality post-trip-hop calm “The Visitor Book” or Craig Richards’ soft electronica patterns in “Deep Slow” that make you want to Google more of their work (the hallmark of a good compilation).

An unexpected highlight is Kassia Flux’s “Rahere”, a really unusual piece that takes a beautiful and fairly purist, cathedral-toned choral work and treats it with reverence yet also chops it and twists it around the edges, melting it into a new frame.

So while people seeking out ambiences and found sounds may feel a tiny bit duped by the general pitch of this package, the musical quality and breadth of ideas that’s been offered up here more than makes up for it.
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Artist: Banquet Of The Spirits
Title: John Zorn - Masada Book 3 - The Book Beri'ah Vol. 9: Banquet Of The Spirits - Yesod
Format: CD
Label: Tzadik
John Zorn - Masada Book 3 - The Book Beri’ah Vol. 9: Banquet Of The Spirits - Yesod

Banquet Of The Spirits was conceived by percussionist Cyro Baptista, who released an album of that name in 2008. Since then, the name Banquet Of The Spirits became the name of the band rather than just an album title. With Brian Marsella on piano, Shanir Blumenkranz on bass and Tim Keiper playing drums, Baptista provides all manner of percussion. ‘Yesod’ clearly leans toward Latin-jazz with clear influence from African along with Brazliian music/rhythms, and of course, because these are compositions written by John Zorn, Jewish/Middle Eastern traditions form the basis, and the melodic framework.
It would be easy to imagine that the album is a showcase for the powerhouse percussionist Baptista, as it was he who formed the group and also due to the fact that he is such a wizard in all manner of polyrhythm and exotic percussion. I find, however, that if anyone shines, it’s Marsella on piano. The way he switches gears from weaving a beautiful melody through dense polyrhythms, to joining in fully as part of the rhythm section is fantastic to hear.
Obviously kudos are due to two stalwarts of the John Zorn family - Blumenkranz on acoustic bass and Keiper on drums. The groove they create on some of these compositions is hypnotizing.
The album begins with a piece titled “Iggulim”, which encapsulates everything that Banquet Of The Spirits is about - the sizzling Latin rhythm and feel with melodies that are instantly recognizable as traditional Jewish music a-la Zorn. The third track, “Hekhalot Rabbati”, is a masterclass in laying down an entrancing groove and improvising over the top of it. One of my favorites on the album. “Berudim”, the lengthiest composition on the album, begins with jungle songbirds and the beautiful, exotic percussion of Baptista. Marsella plays most delicately here and the band create a tension, even in such a beautiful environment, by not allowing any resolve for the first few minutes. A solo by Blumenkranz breaks the ice and the rest of the band almost disappear, to come creeping back slowly around the edges. A hauntingly beautiful song.
The album is a nice mixture of pieces that really center on the jazz-groove feel and those that are more ethereal.
The recording sounds beautiful and nuanced. Recorded by Tim Tedesco at his Tedesco Studios as well as Iuri Oriente at OMM Studio, both in New Jersey and mastered by the Tzadik mainstay Scott Hull. Mixed by Iuri Oriente.
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