Music Reviews

AKB: Marianergraven

 Posted by Stuart Bruce (@)   Ambient / Electronica / Ethereal / Dub / Soundscapes / Abstract
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Feb 26 2020
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.

Laurent Perrier + David Fenech: Plateforme #3

 Posted by Stuart Bruce (@)   Ambient / Electronica / Ethereal / Dub / Soundscapes / Abstract
Experimental / Avantgarde / Weird & Wired / Glitch / Noise / Field Recording
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Feb 24 2020
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.

Darshan Ambient: A Day Like Any Other

 Posted by Steve Mecca   Ambient / Electronica / Ethereal / Dub / Soundscapes / Abstract
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Feb 17 2020
Artist: Darshan Ambient (@)
Title: A Day Like Any Other
Format: CD + Download
Label: Spotted Peccary Music (@)
Rated: *****
'A Day Like Any Other' is the 11th album by Michael Allison who is Darshan Ambient. In spite of the rather bland title Allison creates 11 tracks that are thematically simple but richly arranged and somewhat atypical of ambient music. In fact, this falls into the "melambient" sub-genre for the most part, where a definite melody overrides the atmosphere. First track, "City Of The Seven Hymns" doesn't bring to mind any city or hymns, but does kind of sound like a train ride through the Midwest with its chugging rhythm, and slidey guitar mimicking a pedal steel. "Ah! Sunflower" is the most adventurous piece on the album with a rich, repeating Marcato string section giving the piece a playful momentum. It almost sounds like orchestral prog-rock. Elsewhere there are dreamy woozy pieces that lull you into a soporific state; nice little semi-ambient interludes in the vein of Mike Oldfield vs. William Orbit; shimmering sleepy guitars mixed with synth voices ("LightFighter"); and a piece ("Shadow Lines") that recalls the Eno/Brook/Lanois 'Hybrid' collaboration. Some of this has a Boards of Canada feel, so if that's the kind of ambient you're into, you may very well enjoy 'A Day Like Any Other.' The one thing I didn't particularly care for was the repetitive guitar loop used on "The Rain Has Flown" as well as the title track (which reminded me a bit of the guitar on the Nilsson version of Fred Neil's "Everybody's Talkin'"), a small quibble compared to the whole. If you're looking for strictly minimal ambient music, you'll have to look elsewhere, but if a pleasant, low-key kinda drifty musical excursion is what you're after, this will hit the spot.

Jan St. Werner: Molocular Meditation

 Posted by Stuart Bruce (@)   Ambient / Electronica / Ethereal / Dub / Soundscapes / Abstract
Experimental / Avantgarde / Weird & Wired / Glitch / Noise / Field Recording
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Feb 17 2020
Artist: Jan St. Werner
Title: Molocular Meditation
Format: 12" vinyl + Download
Label: Editions Mego
I’m just going to come out and say this. Mark E. Smith is posthumously revered as a kind of post-punk counter-culture icon, but I just don’t “get it”. His train-of-thought, beat poetry-esque narratives have somehow never connected with me. I’ve heard others say the same about Karl Hyde’s lyrics (which as it happens I do appreciate), but for me, it’s Mark E. Smith whose word salad doesn’t connect or inspire. It’s entirely subjective, but I’ve got to put this out there first and face the inevitable wrath from those for whom his work had more power.

“Molecular Meditation” is a selection of Smith’s spoken-word work set to a dense, thick, experimental analogue electronic backdrop from Jan St. Werner, whose work I only know from the typically more structured Mouse On Mars. The words are front and centre, but there are hiatus points where the music speaks alone. It’s extremely scene-driven, with a series of rapidly varying electronic noise arrangements that jump and shift spontaneously and with urgency, rather than with any gradual evolution. In that way, it’s quite theatrical, adding to the sense of jazz beat poetry translated into electronica. Smith is the ringmaster, and it’s the electronics, rather than the jazz musicians, that react in a manner that feels improvised, driven by the varying levels of despair or fury in Smith’s voice.

It was originally performed in 2014, before Smith’s death, and has now been reworked in undisclosed ways. The twenty minute title track is the ‘original’, and it’s supplemented by three unreleased tracks that were recorded around the same time. Both “Back To Animals” and “VS Cancelled” feature more of Smith, and are urgent, angry, distorted, sweary, and compact compared to the main track, but act as interesting adjuncts.

Of the extra tracks, the standout is “On The Infinite Of Universe And Worlds”, a twelve minute ‘electronic opera’ piece based on Giordano Bruno’s Renaissance writings which Werner was asked to conceptualize for a Finnish new music festival. It’s a showcase track and an excellent tutorial on how to make rough-edged electronics feel more expressive, meaningful and emotive than most word choices.

For me, it’s the electronica that shines here. The dense but measured noise frenzy that opens “Back To Animals” is more to my taste than some of the looser, lazier, more drunken-sounding sections. So forgive me if you don’t agree, but I’m afraid I would find this album a more interesting listen if it were stripped of some or all of Smith’s monologuing, the extremely awkward mock-American accent, the talking about killing magpies with detergent, the bitter (bordering on childish) mocking and exposition of a fairly polite email cancelling a music project, and so on.

Angst78: 78-Angst

 Posted by Andrea Piran (@)   Ambient / Electronica / Ethereal / Dub / Soundscapes / Abstract
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Feb 16 2020
Artist: Angst78 (@)
Title: 78-Angst
Format: CD
Label: Zoharum (@)
Distributor: Alchembria
Rated: *****
Angst78 is a collaboration between Patryk Ggniewicz (Revisq) and Lukasz Szalankiewicz (Zenial) and this release is naïvely presented as a compilation of tracks composed between 2013 and 2019. As neither Revisq nor Zenial has recorded in the same cities, it's rather obvious that the collaboration is internet based, so it's not taken for granted that this release could sound as a cohesive whole.
As the first track starts the listener is introduced into a sort of techno ambient vaguely reminiscent of '90s ambient-house at least by the wide sound and the catchy melodic lines. As the album advances, apart from episodic incursion towards IDM territories the structure is so clearly defined that even the three remixes of this release, Fisherboyz. Dawid Chrapla and Dominik ochowski, sound like regular tracks. This is due to a musical form (a dancey beat, a catchy line of synth and elaborate textures) that doesn't need particular tricks if the balance is carefully set.
Somebody could argue that this release is another in an infinite series, and he forgets that this is not a matter of innovation but of craft i.e., how to sound new using an old form. This is a remarkable example of this task. Recommended for fans of the genre.

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