Thursday, October 15, 2009

N.Strahl.N / Metek - "Drowning Devices" CDR

This collaboration between a pair of obscure avante sound-artists from Germany (N.Strahl.N, aka W.Loehr) and Sweden (Metek, aka F.Nilsson) is a series of subtle, cinematic, and often dark experimental/industrial-type soundscapes, often minimalistic and sparse yet wholly effective. It seems that most of "Drowning Devices" consists of field recordings with processing and electronic effects, and Loehr and Nilsson utilize these with a strong sense of tension and restraint. "Ambient 8", for example, creeps along like a shadow along a wall, perhaps hinting at a presence unseen. "Komfort" is very much in the realm of ambient-industrial, with the humming of what sounds like big machines in a spooky, long-abandoned warehouse. Perfect for creating your own '"Saw" scenario! Hah! "Eiserne Reserve" is a quiet mix of grinding metal, drones, and cavernous reverberations. Superb work, and a top-notch soundtrack to your paranoid thoughts. (Cohort Records)



Wednesday, October 14, 2009

JANVS - "Vega" CD

Another standout black metal hybrid from ATMF, this Italian act's second album reflects a distinct progressive (as in prog-rock) tendency. The superb opener, "Torri Di Vetro" is booming and blasting, but it's got a unique technical side that aims it away from your usual xerox black metal. "Saphire" ushers in an extremely melodic, almost commercial sound, but that's not to say it sucks, by any means. It's still a powerful and highly listenable collision of heavy, layered riffing and vocals that don't sound like a fourth-rate Mayhem knockoff. It's probably too complex and almost psychedelic, perhaps, for those with an ear for more traditional heavy sounds, but I rather like it. "Tarab" is even more grand, complete with dark, mysterious electronic textures and orchestral flourishes. It's big, epic and really something to behold. "Mediterraneo" brings it back to earth with a bruising, blackened thrash stomp, complete with proggy twists. JANVS fuse elements from usually disparate angles of metal, and create their own tasteful spin on the ever-broadening genre. A superlative and forward-thinking release. I am impressed! (ATMF)


band site

Faust - "From Glory To Infinity" CD

Apparently oblivious to the fact that there's already been a prominent and influential group called Faust which has been performing and recording for decades, this Italian death/speed/thrash metal act bludgeons away with unmistakable technical prowess, electing to leave any semblance of originality far behind them. This particular Faust, the brainchild of vocalist/guitarist/producer Aleister, chooses silly cartoonish gurgled vocals that epitomize and pigeonhole this style. And let's not get started with the sophomoric lyrics, which are mercilessly included here. Yikes. On the positive side, the band's strongest point is easily the double-pronged guitar attack, which displays a tight-knit and melodic, almost-classical temperament. No doubt the experience of the band, which includes former members of Sadus, Testament, Death, Iced Earth, and Dimmu Borgir, is evident here. The production is also quite good, allowing space for all the instruments to shine clearly. It's just a shame it all gets lost amidst this formula and cheesy death metal posturing. There's better and heavier music out there. Sorry lads. (Paragon Records)

band website


Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Ethernet - "144 Pulsations Of Light" CD

Using sound as a meditative or healing instrument isn't a new idea. In fact, this is likely among the earliest applications for music itself. Tim Gray (who is Ethernet) seeks to re-establish the self-healing and trance-provoking elements of ambient sound on his debut here. Beginning with the drones of "Majestic", Gray's shimmering pulses are grounded by an underlying 808 backbeat -- a singular, simplistic rhythm. "5 + 7 = 12" is almost melodic, as a lilting loop is placed among the electronic textures and field recordings. That dubby back-rhythm, combined with the trancey natural landscapes, reminds me a bit of the landmark work of Wolfgang Voigt as Gas, although Ethernet is more drone-based and hazy/distant. "Summer Insects" drops the beats entirely, and becomes even more effective and organic, like a paean to a lost rainforest. "Seaside" is a calming affirmation, while "Kansai" is more upbeat. The closer, "Temple", is a celestial gem that sparkles and gently lulls. This is some righteously beautiful and timeless work, and here's to hoping that Ethernet can continue on this splendid, nature-oriented path. (Kranky)


Tanuki Dreams site

DJ Spooky That Subliminal Kid - "The Secret Song" CD

Suffice to say this is possibly DJ Spooky (aka Paul D. Miller)'s most fully realized and wide-reaching release in his already deep and extensive catalog. He's got collaborators from nearly every continent (and genre) at hand. The list alone is impressive: Thurston Moore, Jungle Brothers, Rob Swift, The Coup, Mike Ladd, Sussan Deyhim, Abdul Smooth, Vijay Iyer, Zimbabwe Legit, and more. But the star of the show is unquestionably DJ Spooky himself, who takes the material from these disparate sources and creates a worldly, wise, and hopeful travelogue that traverses the fringes of culture(s). "Dazed And Confused Dub" is a massive rock symphony. "Where I'm At" is forward-thinking hip-hop. "Heliocentric" is funky electro-jazz, and "Azadi" is full of smooth, sensual, Middle Eastern chants. And that's just a few of the 20 cuts here. DJ Spooky masterfully fuses the sounds of urban hip-hop, academic electronica, gritty rock, futuristic classical, musique concrete, and out-jazz, and in effect creates as close to a comprehensive modern-day pop music/sound collage as you're likely to hear this year. Or this century. Stunning and essential. (Thirsty Ear)

DJ Spooky's home

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Shadowfost - "Essence // Mindscape" CD

From Italy comes this quartet who have a sound noticeably founded on black metal, but with an added technologically-curious thrash element. Like early Fear Factory, Shadowfost harness breakneck tempos, but add their own contemporary spin on the tired and overplayed death/thrash genre. Stellar production and dense layering of sounds (are those samples?) make this one a definite bass-bin boomer with a good amount of sound depth. "Fear Shaped World" is a winner, with a super-huge guitar and scathing vocals that remind me of Carcass (which several other tracks do, too). The drum sound is also notably huge and pummeling, and "Essence // Mindscape" is a fast and furious album of inhuman speed, intense drums, and hellish vocal torment. My complaint here is that the band so rarely change up tempos during the album's 30+ minutes. It's a strong showing for a debut, but without at least some book-ended ambient or atmospheric flourishes, this one's positively numbing, and ultimately forgettable. (ATMF)

Shadowfost website

Clifford Brown - "Sonny Rollins / Max Roach Quintet - "Complete Studio Recordings- The Master Takes" CD

This all-time great set of progressive jazz dates back to 1956, and collects all the tracks of this superlative quintet, as originally released on the "Clifford Brown And Max Roach At Basin Street" and "Sonny Rollins Plus Four" LPs. It all opens with the hopeful tones of "Gertrude's Bounce" -- an apt title as it does seem to have a "spring in it's step". Later tracks, like the more complex and contemplative "I'll Remember April", swings high at points, then wind down to a reflective post-bop tempo. "Time" is a late-night in a smoky club, nursing a hangover and wondering just what happened. "The Scene Is Clean" is a bold statement, and a sober track that stays close to home, never going out late or challenging too much. "Love Is A Many Splendored Thing" is certainly another highlight -- showing the particular intensity and cohesiveness of this group, all the while maintaining their sense of improvisation and melody. Masterful. "Vaise Hot" is a cool slice of swinging waltz subtlety from Rollins. No doubt about it, this one's a classic recording by some of the genre's heavyweights, and a once-in-a-lifetime recording.

(Essential Jazz Classics)