Reviews

Third party reviews

Review of Stringmodulator’s ‘Manifesto’ from Monolith Cocktail Blog

Dominic Valvona’s New Music Reviews Roundup A bumper roundup this month from me of eclectic tastes from across the sphere, including albums, singles, cassettes and EPs from Kammerflimmer Kollektief, Andrew Heath, Picturebox, Bokanté And Metropole Orkest, Acid Mothers Temple & The Melting Paraiso U.F.O., Perhaps and Stringmodulator. In brief, ‘lower-case’ minimalist composer Andrew Heath delivers […]

via Tickling Our Fancy 068: Kammerflimmer Kollektief, Picturebox, Bokanté And Metropole Orkest, Perhaps… — Monolith Cocktail Blog

MANIPULANT – Single Review: “What Good Are the Stars?”

Brilliant review of the new Manipulant single from Eclectic Music Lover:

ECLECTIC MUSIC LOVER

Manipulant WGATS art

Lancaster, Pennsylvania-based artist Manipulant (aka David Speakman) is an imaginative and intensely creative multi-instrumentalist/composer of electronic music that he refers to as “scientific sound spaces.” In 2016, he released his debut album Méthode de Narration, and followed up a year later with the superb Eclectro, which I reviewed and you can read here.  On July 4th, he dropped his latest work, an EP of sorts with the single “What Good Are the Stars?” as the main track, plus three remixes.

“What Good Are the Stars?” is mysterious and sublime, with a glittery soundscape of swirling synths that seem to float above the subtle bassline. A gentle hypnotic drumbeat  keeps the languid pace, and a delicate but haunting repeating piano riff adds a sense of unease to the mesmerizing track. Manipulant’s smooth, echoed vocals have an otherworldly feel as he sings the lyrics that question his inability to…

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Review: Pendro/Figmentland

Pendro is the name of Tim Jones’ experimental music and sound design project. He released his latest album, ‘Figmentland’, in March. It’s unapologetically experimental, but that’s no left-handed compliment; it’s a fiercely creative album, full of textures, cinematic sound-staging, and even emotion. It’s also an album that rewards repeated listens as familiarity with the basic shape allows some of the deeper layers to be exposed.

The album opens with ‘Stalking The Floating Brass Jaws’, brash, startling and uncompromising, effectively setting the tone for what is to come. The track includes repeating sequences of treated metallic clangs, one of several motifs that will re-appear several times during the course of the album.

The following track, ‘Black Moths’ is rhythmic and insistent, with burgeoning, distorted beats and almost dub-like echoes trailing off into the ether. The track ends with chilling synthetic wails and screams. Moths that flew too close to the flame maybe.

‘Over The Fire Glade’ that follows, starts all slow and swirling, with textures overlapping. It’s worth noting that the whole album warrants headphones to truly appreciate the ingenuity of Tim’s sound design, but particularly in this piece, as themes and motifs chase each other from side to side and front to back. The tone here is ominous, almost monstrous. This soundscape is teeming with wildlife, and possibly not all of it friendly.

The highlight of the album is the epic ‘Turquoise Lagoons’. The piece starts with a bed of gamelan-like bells, chimes and gongs, which are gradually blended with industrial scrapes and hisses. Several minutes in, the gongs give way to clarion alarms and bird-like shrieks, and the track starts to turn dark and foreboding. Like emerging from a tunnel, towards the end the gamelan starts again, this time backed by soothing major chords. The track ends peacefully enough but it’s definitely been a journey.

Just as the first track set out Tim’s stall, the final track ‘Descent To Silver Valley’ is a fitting close to the album. It’s probably the most accessible track on the album, a meditative flowing drone, with numerous textures all interweaving and rising to the surface. Then, just as you begin to think the album is closing with an air of optimism, apocalyptic bass chords fade in, unsettling and desolate. Happy ending denied.

This is an album that demands active listening; it’s not background music for cooking or dinner parties. But for the listener who can dedicate an hour, they will find their investment very well rewarded.

Review: The Modul 303 Benefit Album Vol 2

One of the revelations of operating in the world of netlabels was when I realised there is no huge gulf between the big name successful acts and the independent artists; there is quality to be found at every level of fame and accomplishment, you just need to know where to look.

I mention this because Studio 4632 know exactly where to look. Concentrating on electronic and ambient music, Candy L and Studio 4632 continually release music of the highest quality; this particular album, The Modul 303 Benefit Album Vol 2, whilst not strictly limited to artists from the Studio 4632 stable, maintains this tradition. You would be hard-pushed to find a better collection of electronic/ambient music, regardless of label or budget.

When discussing this album it’s worth noting that there are a number of styles and genres contained here; if electronic music suggests ethereal ambient soundscapes washing over you, there’s much more to this compilation. Indeed Candy has sequenced the tracks with great care such that tracks of similar style and tempo are grouped together and the listener is gently transitioned between the various genres.  The album starts with the contemporary uptempo music of Altocirrus and the positively danceable sounds of Globotom. Thaneco’s ‘Temple IV’ features a playful bassline accompanied by swirling, bubbling synths, building into very satisfying piece. Mixtaped Monk, who follows, delivers one of few guitar-based tracks on the album, the heavy yet haunting post-rock ‘Sense in Sensation’.

As we move out of the uptempo tracks, Glenn Sogge’s ‘Insert Modul 30ED3 Here’ is an exquisitely atmospheric piece, slightly melancholy and despite the hi-tech connotations of the title I felt something ghostly about it. A ghost in the machine perhaps. Another highlight for me is Jaime Munarriz’s delightfully textured ‘Blind Line in Nairoby’,  which changes as it progresses, taking the listener on a journey through a changing landscape. The track that follows, ‘So Little Time’ by Cousin Silas, is achingly beautiful, built on bell-like synths and ornamented with Silas’ trademark crystalline guitar and piano figures. Earthborn Visions’  ‘Kaumendert’ follows, starting with a vaguely ominous asymmetric bass line; additional layers appear as the track progress which help to soothe the sense of foreboding, but it’s a fantastically clever, unsettling piece.

The track from Kellerkind Berlin, as the name suggests, contains many delicious references to the Berlin School of synthesizer music; unusually it also contains a waltz sequence, and even more unusually it succeeds brilliantly, with a natural, deft and airy approach.

Probably my favourite piece on the album is the haunting ‘Journey’s Least Travelled Path Never Ends’ by Playman 54  (Colin Blake). This beautiful piece is centred around Colin’s dreamy, melancholic piano, with synth pads that have the effect of making the listener immediately nostalgic. In a previous review I likened Colin’s work to that of Harold Budd or Roger Eno; this is music of the very highest order and deserves a far wider audience.

There are a couple of beautiful tracks featuring the late Wolfgang Gsell, himself a frequent presence on Modul 303. Both tracks are collaborations, firstly with Lutz Thuns and then Martin Neuhold. Both are joyful, uplifting pieces that feel to me like celebrations of life and nature.

The album closes as strongly as it opened with the cosmic sound of Tim Kays, the playful fairytale soundtrack of EternalKeys and the striking words and music Allen Pitt’s majestic musical poem, ‘Albion’.

I would wholeheartedly recommend this album to anyone interested in exploring the output of Studio 4632, the broadcasts of Modul 303 or just top quality electronic instrumental music. There’s a minimum $3 price tag on the album but I’d suggest you should really pay north of $10 as this is a genuinely superb album.

Keeps Me Alive review of our Manipulant – Perspective EP

Keeps Me Alive gave some very positive feedback on the forthcoming Manipulant EP:

keepsmealive

Brace yourselves, folks, it’s new Manipulant music for 2018!

You’ll recall that I covered the excellent 2017 release Eclectro, and even interviewed the artist. Read it RIGHT HERE.

So, imagine my joy when an email appeared recently to say that a new Manipulant EP will drop on March 26! Happy days indeed, and thank you very much for the chance to hear this, sir.

This EP is 5 tracks in a total of 16 minutes. Let’s get straight to the tunes:

Wander, RTL is a short minute (and a bit) of synth intro, shifting from right ear to left ear, repeating notes creating a mood for… SandS, which takes the tone darker, that bell-like tone pulsing throughout as the drums lay down an energetic beat and the vocals drone and echo and reverberate. This track has a real push/pull to it, equally danceable and melodically meditative, and it…

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Rocking Magpie – Review of Crayon Angels’ Postcards

What a lovely review from Rocking Magpie. Now, you heard the man, buy the CD (so I can get back in the dining room).

CRAYON ANGELS X

Crayon Angels
POSTCARDS
Submarine Broadcasting

Well Crafted and Quintessential English Pop/Folk Crossover At It’s Finest.

I have to hold my hands up here because Crayon Angels not just appealed to my vanity when they got in touch asking if I would review this, their second EP (saying really nice things about RMHQ) but also resorting to ‘payolla’ by including a cool badge with the CD …..and I do like a badge!
In fairness that only goes so far with me; as my time is far too precious to waste on music I don’t like; so it was a lovely surprise to hear opening track The Last Leaf sounding uncannily like mid-period Beautiful South; with singer Natalia Castiglioni’s warmly absorbing voice winning my heart in an instant on a quirky love song.
As they say themselves this trio from the Essex Hinterlands are very difficult to pin down; as they are…

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Review: Ian Haygreen/The Tides Erase All Things

‘The Tides Erase All Things’ is the latest release from Ian Haygreen, self styled “Classically trained pianist who buggers around with electronic music in several genres as the mood fits”. The mood in this instance is revealed in a footnote that indicates this release is ‘Droneseries #1’; it’s a long-form piece comprising a single track weighing in at a stately 43 minutes.

The world of drones is a broad church and I don’t feel we really have the vocabulary yet to properly describe and differentiate the various styles and approaches… but if you think that’s going to stop me then we clearly haven’t met. So as far as ‘Tides’ is concerned, this is very much at the ambient and accessible end of the spectrum, so if you are of a nervous disposition and not sure whether drones are for you, don’t worry, there are no road drills or bursts of radio static here.

The piece starts with swirling overtones, synth filters rising and falling, and this motif continues throughout. The piece changes over time, but very gradually, almost glacially slowly.

‘The Tides Erase All Things’ is a thing of fragile beauty; Ian Haygreen’s tides suggest an arctic sea, desolate and remote and cold. The music is largely in a minor key, with several ominous touches; nonetheless the mood is contemplative – danger is there, but alluded to, not signposted. For all the bleakness of the soundscape, the listener’s journey is not downbeat or depressive,  but thoughtful and reflective.

The best way to enjoy ‘Tides’ is to succumb to it, to wallow in it, inhale it. This is music that rewards your investment and your patience; as with much drone/ambient music, it is as much about the texture and the detail as it is about the broad strokes and to fully appreciate the music you should immerse yourself as far as possible.

Put some time aside and listen to this beautiful, moody piece. You can thank me later.

 

Monolith Cocktail review: Post:Soc

Monolith Cocktail’s detailed review of Post:Soc. Definitely +1hp for use of “moiety”.

Monolith Cocktail Blog

NEW MUSIC REVIEW ROUNDUP

WORDS: DOMINIC VALVONA


A somewhat shorter selection but just as much quality and eclecticism, my final roundup of the year includes the cinematic pop and harrowing void explorations of Alpine Those Myriads; the latest compilations from Edinburgh label of alternative and post rock mavericks and sonic explorers, Bearsuit RecordsThe Invisible & Divided Sea, and the altruistic, charity driven Submarine Broadcasting Company’s latest sprawling collection, Post:Soc; the fourth edition of Knitting Factory’s curated Fela Kuti box sets, with albums chosen by that rebel soul songstress and polymath Erykah Badu; and for the first time ever the entire – admittedly small – 1970s recorded oeuvre of one of Cameroon’s leading Gandjal rhythm providers, Hamad Kalkaba and his Golden Sounds band.

Alpine Those Myriads   ‘Visions & Disorders’
See Hear Feel Smell,  out now.

Set adrift out into the void, though…

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Review: Dream Topography

Rob from SBC and Beltism reviews Argali Records’ new experimental compilation, Dream Topography:

In the interests of full disclosure, I should point out I was delighted to have a Beltism track included on this compilation. But let’s pretend I’m impartial and concentrate on the other tracks.

Argali Records is the brainchild of John Lithium (aka Nathan Carter) and continues its reputation for promoting new independent experimental music with this compilation, loosely themed around dreams.

What immediately struck be about this compilation is the variety of artists taking part; in addition to the usual suspects who frequent my quarter of the ambient and experimental nether regions of the Internet, there were several artists completely new to me. And the other notable feature is the quality of the submissions. As we at SBC can testify, you never know what you’re going to get with an open-call compilation, and it’s difficult to please all tastes, so ultimately it’s pretty rare to produce a compilation that doesn’t involve reaching for the Skip button at some point, but the quality on this one is consistently high.

The album opens with one of its most melodic tracks, Cousin Silas’ evocative ‘Fever Dreams’, with its repeated piano motif full of half-memories and yearning. Glove of Bones’ ‘Psychopomp (Fuck Turquoise)’ that follows shortly after is an altogether more disturbing affair – the dreams that inspired this dark and damaged piece were the result of blue cheese and peyote buttons before bedtime. Mean Flow’s ‘Dream Land’ is a short drone, dark but also meditative, unsettling but cleverly textured.

One of my favourite tracks is Ars Sonor’s ‘Shattered Dreams’, a barren haunting soundscape, redolent of winter, possibly a nuclear one. James Lowe’s ‘Transparency One’ continues in the same vein, a fragile and chilling peace which unfolds into a collage of disturbing sounds that would work nicely in a Tarkovsky film.

Jack Hertz’s ‘Half Moon Dream’ is delightfully textured, rich with unnerving sounds drifting in and out of focus; I don’t think this is a particularly happy dream, but to answer Bill Nelson’s question, I’m fairly sure Jack dreams in colour. Jaime Munarriz’s ‘Out of the Dark Zone’ swirls ominous bell-like (campaniform?) sounds, cleverly teasing us that something beautifully melodic, or terrifyingly anarchic, will happen, but much like trying to read a newspaper in a dream, we never get a clear view for long enough to be sure.

Playman54’s music is always a delight, and ‘Ghost Echoes 2’ on this compilation is no exception. I don’t know Colin’s influences, but I often find there is something in his music that makes me think of Harold Budd or Roger Eno; he has a way of making his reverb sound reassuringly expensive, I just want to sink back and wallow in it.

My two favourite tracks on the compilation appear back to back, starting with ‘Liquid Tale of a Dying Star’ by Citiborax. One of the longer tracks on the compilation, this track takes the listener on a journey, reaching a threatening peak midway through, then at the ten minute mark a beautiful and haunting guitar refrain, joined later by scattered analog synth reassures you that it’s all going to be OK and it was only a dream.

The following piece, ‘Hexakosioihexekontahexaphobia’ (that’s the single, right there guys) by Sharpen!Strokes is another track that cleverly forms beauty from chaos. Initially suggesting you might be in for seven minutes of harsh noise, the saw waves give way to melodic burst of bleeps and an underpinning of mechanical rhythm. I can’t find the words to do it justice, but it’s genius.

This is a very solid compilation; if you like experimental or dark ambient music, I would strongly recommend this album as you’ll find many tracks that you will want to return to again and again. If you’re new to experimental music, or just experimental-curious, do give this a try; it’s relatively free of white noise and static and packed with ideas and ingenuity. It’s ‘name your price’ on Bandcamp, so you really have no excuse not to own this album.

 

Review of One String Inspiration from Monolith Cocktail

A lovely review of One String Inspiration (you’ll need to scroll down a bit; we’re not top billing!)

Monolith Cocktail Blog

REVIEWS/PREVIEWS ROUNDUP
WORDS: DOMINIC VALVONA


Not that I ever mean to do it, but this month’s roundup does have a tenuous theme of sorts, or rather many of the releases in this, the 52nd edition of my eclectic revues, are more or less all experimenting with the electronic music format in one way or another. The sagacious counterculture totem and beatnik poet of renown, John Sinclair leads the charge this month, his vivid jazz lyricism recitations put to an evocative soundtrack by Youth on the mini-album Beatnik Youth Ambient. Jono Podmore’s recently re-launched label, Psychomat, follows up on the inaugural release with another electronic peregrination – this time far more melodic and dreamy –, from the mysterious Reason Stendec. Working in isolation and apart, never meeting in person, the Room Of Wires duo release their third EP of otherworldly and atmospheric techno and downtempo beats, Black…

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