I assume that most of you as most of the people into ambient music are quite familiar with the name of Steve Roach. I would also include most of the audience following what gets normally labelled as 'new age', that I personally consider more a way to functionalize - sometimes in a not so guessed way - music belonging to different genres, that the well-known social and cultural phenomenon and set of sometimes freakishly syncretic beliefs of new age. Steve could have become a sort of spiritual guru for some of this kind of audience after some of his recent albums - "Spiral Revelation" (2017) and "Molecules of Motion" (2018) - received two consecutive Grammy Award nominations as New Age Album of the Year (a notorious contest won by big names like Pat Metheny, Yusef Lateef, Andreas Vollenweider, Peter Gabriel, Peter Winter or Enya), but this aspect is not necessarily an entrypoint to the heart of music lovers or simply audiophiles. By the way, this recent output, pushed by the awesome imprint by Sam Rosenthal, can satisfy both listeners who love synths and sequencers and those who talks to angels or other alien entities by burning tons of scented oils and coloured waxes. Including three long suites, recorded at the Timehouse studio in April 2020, Steve immediately brings the listener into a lavishly austere suite of flowing synth brasses and sort of whistles over the 32 entrancing minutes of the opening "The Radiant Return", that slowly pour into the central "In Present Space" (16 minutes lasting) after those cosmic whistles temporarily dissolve to come back as isolated beams of light in the darkness, evoked by a slightly different set of reverbs, that seems to support a sort of expanding movement of the above mentioned sonic entities. If audiophiles won't be overwhelmed by trance, sleep or boredom, they will appreciate more "Reflection in Ascension", the third stage of this album (other 26 minutes to be added to the listening or meditative session - depends on your expectations!), where Steve feeds less fluffy dynamics by nice percussive elements (I guess maybe stones and woods). If some mystical experiences will be somehow inspired or triggered by the listening of this album, please share!
I was on the point of writing this review while listening to this release by Edoardo Cammisa (also known as Banished Pills), when I realised I had to stop typing to follow the suggestions by its author in order to appreciate the listening experience as much as possible. He or maybe Richard Chartier, mentor, curator and owner of LINE imprint, warmly recommends doing nothing but listen, as "Flux" is purposefully “aimed at contemplating nothingness and its manifestations”, so that it's recommended to do nothing while using a good pair of headphones and listen to the release at a mid-low volume level. The nine minutes lasting incipit "Towards a Flux" begins by one minute of snapshots rendered through field recordings, preceding a ghostly haze of distant pads, where other entities and field recordings of distant voices or physical actions resurface little by little (some of them sound more like captures of hydrophones), as if they were moments getting out of a mnemonic pool, before getting dissolved in the above-mentioned nothingness. The full-fledged "Flux" is a sonic trip of more than 40 minutes, where the suggestion by the author makes sense as its immersive effect cannot be really appreciated if you're doing anything else that could distract your mind from the sonic source. A rough reminiscence of a loop can be rendered by a sort of buzzing noise of some electric system, permeating the first third of the track, but many changes and many seemingly weird entities will appear within the fences evoked by this hypnotic buzz. The low level of volume of the first minutes can make you feel noises generated by your own body or slight noises from the environment and their apparent merge with Edoardo's "Flux" (forged by this list of tools, as reported on Line introduction: hydrophone, binaural and contact microphones, magnetic tape, broken walkman, sine and triangle waves) can be part of the listening experience as well. The frequencies, that will appear and draw cycles around the listening sphere of the audience over the track, can be imagined as fibrous parts that gradually detaches from the main core to wrap the listeners by other mental images and feelings. Do nothing and listen then!
Artist: Skeptical, DRS, Safire, Zed Bias, Morph
Title: With You / Set The Bar
Label: Plasma Audio
Plasma Audio keeps on being on the most active drum'n'bass labels that keeps on putting somehow unconventional and outstanding releases out of the oven, in spite of an apparent downhill of the genre waves due to the stop of many festivals and parties all over the world. Just two tracks, but the quality of the main one "With You", kneaded by six wise hands - the ones by Skeptical, Safire and Morph - with DRS vocals, is so high that someone can nominate this track as the best dnb output of 2020. There's something of those anxious moods in the foggy atmosphere of the track that could vaguely remind the one of the first outputs by The Upbeats, an almost maniacal way of chiselling any single sound, those deep bass punches and a prompt intertwine of all the elements as they were parts of an engine that cannot flood, which all together are distinguishing traits of many Melbourne-based label Plasma Audio outputs. Any artist who signed the track left its mark, even if my ear detects a stronger influence by Skeptical. If you feature a well drum'n'bass trained eardrum, have a check if you think my words are excessively laudatory. The other side of the red vinyl seems the grabbing of a more relaxed mood compared to the soulful tension of "With You", as "Set The Bar", forged by Safire and Zed Bias for the vocals of DRS, sounds more fitted for a chilling situation by means of its lovely Jazz&Soul recipes, mixed by a shaker rotating at a speed of 170-175 beats per minute.
Operations of transplant of a genre into a completely different one often smells like an attempt of flirting to a different market, and this grasp of some of the most known KMFDM songs into dub grounds could be too condescendingly labelled in this way. Finding points of contact between industrial/rock and dub/reggae is not that easy, even there were some interesting attempts of melting together some elements of these two styles were done by bands like Meat Beat Manifesto, Swamp Terrorists or Pressure Drop (to mention just a few), particularly in the 90ies. In a recent interview, Sascha Konietzko, the lead of this punky industrial-rock band, that got famous for a style that never adheres to a purist definition of industrial music, besides the awesome covert artworks by Aidan "Brute!" Hughes (fostering his inspiration by means of Italian futurists, Russian constructivists and Golden Age comics), said he was remarkably influenced by dub and reggae while moving the very first steps in productions. Furthermore, he considered punk and reggae as strictly connected, not only for the common criticism against society in respective ages, but also for some technical aspects. Besides his words, the clearer evidence of some connections with dub (besides some tracks within the huge discography over more than 35 years of activism) is maybe their last album "Paradise", whose opening track "K-M-F", featuring Andrew "Ocelot" Lindsley, has been reshuffled and inserted in the tracklist of "In Dub" (...and that 'Bing Bing Bong Bong' vocal excerpt perfectly fits to the new dub-reggae suite!) together with a nice dub version of the title-track "Paradise", re-titled "Para Dub", and "No God", which didn't need any particular retouching as it was a proper dub song with an industrial-rock injection in the middle. Any possible doubts on the meaning of such an operation of conversion of KMFDM song files into a dub format will definitely fade away after the awesome level fo quality of some of these conversions: my favourite ones are songs mostly driven by the voice of Sascha's partner in art and life Lucia Cifarelli, that are "Amnesia" and "Superhero", while the dub version of songs like "Real Thing", renamed "Real Dub Thing", as well as the remake of "Bumaye" where both Sascha and Lucia used to shout on the mic, sound excessively sweetened to me, if compared against their sources, while the pretty surprising dub versions got out from songs that I couldn't imagine that would work in a dub shape such as "A Drug Against War" (retitled "A Dub Against War").
One of the main aspect of natural processes and nature in general is non-linearity, a known feature of complex systems, but it's fundamentally paradoxical how the contemplation of nature by the majority of people could inspire an idea of almost naive simplicity. Maybe the root of such a paradox could derive by the long-lasting inoculation of the idea of a sort of superior and sometimes unintelligible Will operating behind nature itself, coming not only from religions, but also by many apparently logical systems of beliefs. Maybe the awareness of being part of such a paradox inspired this output by which Somerset-based sound artist Ishmael Cormack landed on Italian label KrysaliSound. Named after the thin coating of ice, covering projecting elements like branches or leaves during frost, "Ammil" was initially a simple set of improvised sketches by which Ishmael made some tests on polyrhythms. Later on he deconstructed and reshaped them in St.Andrews, a 13th century church in Somerset, but the mental driving force behind this output was the above described awareness. The listener can constantly have the feeling that something flaps within the seemingly cold layers, as the damped guitar chords or some subtle rustling noises of the opening title-track "Ammil", for instance, seems to imply. The listening experience and its thrift (the fact that a limited set of resounding elements can be sometimes more evocative than an entire orchestra is a nother paradox, sticking the previously described one!) sounds suited to wintry beholding or emotional sets that could be matched to this situation. As it can be clearer on tracks like "Sister on the Shoreline" or "Fallow keen", the guitar, as the pivotal element of the dynamics, also seems the harmonizing element that better mirrors all the underlying phase transitions and mental photograms that the general movement of each track could render in listeners' mind.