Tag: Dark Jazz

Senketsu No Night Club – Shikkoku – Review

Artist: Senketsu no Night Club
Album: Shikkoku
Release date: 25 September 2018
Label: Dark Jazz Records (Aquarellist)/ Toten Schwan Records

01. 衝動の契
02. 漆黒
03. Nothingness
04. Pleasure Can
05. Nikutai No Gakko
06. 愛の渇き
07. Shikkoku
08. Aokigahara Jukai

I really want to stress the point from the start that this album should be a revelation to followers of Bohren und der Club of Gore. I’ve been a massive fan of that project for years, and I have desperately hoped that there would be more projects of this style to follow. There certainly are, in a sense. But, the combination of melancholic jazz, dark ambient, and an ear for subtlety and restraint is one that has proven elusive to many of the albums I’ve heard in this corner of musical oddities. Recently, there have been some sparks of interest in this area that I have found more aligned with the sound palette for which I’m searching. But, Shikkoku is consistently committed to combining these elements to a perfection for an entire album.

Speaking of recent releases which come close to this dark jazz perfection, but only for brief moments. The final track on Shikkoku, “Aokigahara Jukai”, reminds me of a combination of Cryo Chamber releases. Flowers for Bodysnatchers and Atrium Carceri certainly come to mind in the piano, while Phonothek and Wordclock elements stand out on the jazz side, with light saxophone elements fading in and out in a ghostly transition, bass gently plucking away. There is a dark and yet fascinating atmosphere created by this music which is truly on par, in my opinion, with the aforementioned projects on Cryo Chamber. It’s easy to make the connection, based on relevant themes. But, the truly impressive part of the connection is on the technical side. “Aokigahara Jukai”, like the entirety of Shikkoku, truly has an atmospheric depth that is magical when heard.

Senketsu no Night Club is comprised of Adriano Vincenti (Zoloft Evra, Macelleria Mobile Di Mezzanotte, Cronaca Nera, Detour Doom Project), Ian Ferguson (The Sarto Klyn V, L’assassinat), Giovanni Leonardi, and Furachi Life. Stated inspiration from material such as “the erotic lyricism of Mishima’s novel Nikutai No Gakko, 愛の渇き, and the eternal clash of Eros and Thanatos by G. Bataille”, shows that Senketsu no Night Club comes at this dark jazz style with a depth and love for their topics which gives them added emphasis. They are truly interested in exploring this Eastern/Western dynamic in a more profound way through dark jazz music. Furachi Life, a Japanese filmmaker as well as sound and performance artist, is considered to be the defining motivating spark behind this project. That she doesn’t contribute musically on Shikkoku, shows how important her influence must be over the structural creativity of the project. Through ideas conveyed to the musicians and through visual artworks conveyed to the audience, Furachi Life is sort of the director of this project, at least from a creative perspective.

Shikkoku has moved much further from the noise roots that were often prevalent on the debut. I am not one for noise music, there are times I will delve into it, but in general it’s a bit too much for me. While Senketsu no Night Club never descended into the chaotic end of that genre for more than brief periods on their previous S/T album, it did make the digestion of their debut album a bit harder for someone preferring a lighter touch. We’ve certainly gotten that lighter touch on Shikkoku. Particularly looking at a track like the closer, “Aokigahara Jukai”, there is a great deal of restraint here. This restraint seems crucial to the combining of all these elements into an entertaining and coherent whole, which will be magnificent to many genre aficionados, but it will also turn the heads of many newcomers. This is music that could be taken on a jazz club tour circuit and find an audience.

I am more attracted to this dark jazz genre by aesthetics and not technique, so I can’t speak to the jazz technicalities of the album. But, I can certainly say that it hits that perfect spot for me. Comparisons to Bohren und der Club of Gore are obviously inescapable, and warranted. To me, this could be one of their albums. There are images of dark smoky rooms. It might be a proper jazz club. It might be some city apartment overlooking Rome or Tokyo as the taxis drive past. It might be the imperceptible depths of Club Silencio. It could be a troubled detective hunting their killer through the haze of the early morning hours. There are a lot of images to conjure and a lot of things to love about the dark jazz genre.

Shikkoku is definitely a step in the right direction for Senketsu no Night Club. They need not abandon the noise elements. But an album where they are as minimally present as Shikkoku worked out well enough that they should not get too concerned with specifically conforming to their past work. With that said, I suppose their future could take them in any direction. We could see more like this, or more of the noise elements coming back to prominence. I would love to see some more input from Furachi Life, in terms of the sound end of the project. But, this is not a necessity by any means. I highly recommend Shikkoku to dark jazz fans, but I think it should find plenty of acclaim from most discerning dark music fans.

Written by: Michael Barnett

Leila Abdul-Rauf – Diminution – Review

Artist: Leila Abdul-Rauf
Album: Diminution
Release date: 13 April 2018
Label: Malignant Records / Cloister Recordings / Black Horizons

01. Diminution
02. Life Leaving
03. Causeway
04. Abjure
05. Wayward
06. Self-Recognition (For Pauline Oliveros)
07. Hindsight
08. Light Rising

Leila Abdul-Rauf is a multi-talented musician out of the San Fransisco bay area. She’s contributed to a rather large number of musical projects, including: Hammers of Misfortune, Saros and Vastum to name a few. Through these projects she’s delved into a wide range of music from doom and folk metal in Hammers of Misfortune to post-industrial in Ionophore. But, on her solo albums, as Leila Abdul-Rauf, we have heard much calmer and more atmospheric music.

Leila Abdul-Rauf creates her dark ambient(ish) music in a way that delivers a more musical, song-based result than much of what you will see covered here. The trumpet and vocals play a major part in this difference. Her haunting yet beautiful vocals lend themselves to some of those Blue Velvet vibes. It is easy to envision that dark club where Jeffrey (Kyle MacLachlan) first witnesses a performance by Dorothy Vallens (Isabella Rossellini) over an ice-cold Heineken. Of course, the trumpet certainly helps produce this vibe. The connection can also be made by the way Leila Abdul-Rauf is creating music that is thoroughly dark, without ever feeling too languid or depressing. This is likely part of the reason the album is being promoted as early morning solitude music; a nod to the interplay between light and dark that flows through the album.

Leila Abdul-Rauf does a great job of building these visuals into the sounds. Unlike some releases we cover, Diminution doesn’t appear to follow any set narrative. It’s not supposed to tell us one specific story. Instead, we are given a sort of mood-enhancer. Diminution plays best at those late-night hours, after much of the world has retired for the day, or in those early morning moments, dew still glistening on the leaves, as the sun begins to peak out upon the horizon. This is a sort of midnight music. A sound that isn’t particularly depressing, but is certainly not happy. The track titles and lyrical content of the album, as well as the cover-art, all feed into this mood. Titles like “Life Leaving”, “Self-Recognition”, and “Hindsight” all lend to a feeling of reflection and contemplation, of the acceptance of loss and death. But, this isn’t a brooding lament, instead it seems to look at these concepts from a more constructive perspective. For instance, the opening track, “Diminution”, uses the combination of trumpet and piano in a way that draws equal parts serene contemplation and sorrowful despair. This formula emerges for me throughout the album, making it something I love using for lazy driving music. Following a dark highway home at night, or cruising aimlessly through some national park, Diminution is able to enhance the vibe, bringing out a well of divergent emotions.

Photo by: Allan I. Young

“Light Rising” – Paradoxically seems like one of the darkest tracks on the album. The thing that puts it into this context for me is the doom-laden repetitive sound, which gives a sort of black metal or dungeon synth vibe to the track. The track begins and ends with this isolated sound, but throughout “Light Rising” Abdul-Rauf uses her voice and trumpet to give it that lighter contrast. The vocals on this one give me the greatest reminder of something we would hear in Twin Peaks, that dark synth-pop vibe which Lynch has helped to cultivate over the years. Though, of course, here we get a much slower pace and a significantly more atmospheric vibe. For me, this balance between some more active genres, like synth-pop or jazz, with the more subtle sounds of dark ambient and neo-classical comes together perfectly on Diminution. We get the closest we can to the experience surrounding a Lynchian film, with the visual elements melting into the soundscapes to create a dark and cinematic atmosphere where sound can replace visuals altogether.

“Self Recognition (for Pauline Oliveros)” is, as one may guess, an ode to the highly influential musician Pauline Oliveros. I have not personally spent a lot of time with Oliveros’ music. But, shortly after her death in 2016, I read a rather thorough article about her impact on the music world. There are obviously a great number of reasons for Leila Abdul-Rauf to find inspiration in the work of Pauline Oliveros. Her presence was felt heavily in Leila Abdul-Rauf’s San Fransisco bay area, particularly through the San Fransisco Tape Music Center, founded in the ’60s. But her work in the, at the time, untrodden frontier of experimental electronic music would be one of her most notable lifetime contributions. “Self-Recognition” provides a thoroughly enjoyable “deep listening” experience which would likely make Oliveros proud.


Photo by: Nathan A. Verrill

The success of 2015’s Insomnia, her sophomore release, through Malignant Antibody, was due in large part to the musical content. But, there was also no shortage of praise for the cover-art, a painting by Mark Thompson. This time around, Matthew Jaffe contributes some of his beautiful artwork to the project. This painting of buildings in background, fronted by a thick fog which enshrouds trees and what could be either gravestones or shrouded figures, make for a brilliantly atmospheric cover-art. This artwork is given further justice through the vinyl variants; one of which is solid black and the other is gold with black swirl.

Art by Matthew Jaffe – featured on vinyl insert

Leila Abdul-Rauf brings back everything we loved about the highly-praised Insomnia. But, this time around the music seems even further refined. I would recommend Diminution to any fans of dark ambient with more active elements such as vocals and trumpet. This one will not be particularly jarring to the passive-preferring listeners either. With near universal praise again this time, it seems we can be expecting a good many more years of musical output from this highly talented individual. Not to mention all her other musical projects. Highly recommended!

Written by: Michael Barnett

Noir – A Dark Jazz Mix Pt.2

This is the second part to the Noir – Dark Jazz mix.

On this mix we dive deeper into a blend of dark jazz, dark ambient, and other urban smoky club music. This one will be a bit more active than the first, diverging a bit further from the dark ambient elements. Again, this one deserves a glass of Scotch and your finest smoke. For late, contemplative summer evenings, in the privacy of your home or aimlessly wandering your nearest metropolis. You can find links to the albums featured below the Mixcloud player. Enjoy!
You can check out the first half here.

01. 0:00:00 Michael Arthur Holloway – Dead Weight
02. 0:05:55 Bebopovsky and the Orkestry Podyezdov
03. 0:09:55 Atrium Carceri, Cities Last Broadcast & God Body Disconnect – Miles To Midnight
04. 0:15:40 The Orchestra of Mirrored Reflections – Dissociative Fugue
05. 0:22:05 The Sarto Klyn V – A Rumour
06. 0:29:30 Elegi – Full Av Tomhet
07. 0:32:30 Bohren & der Club of Gore – Im Rauch
08. 0:37:45 Jon Hassell – Estaté (“Summer”)
09. 0:42:30 Detour Doom Project – Nightfall
10. 0:47:15 Wordclock – Where Mercy Lives
11. 0:50:45 Somewhere Off Jazz Street – Rest Your Head
12. 0:56:00 Michael Arthur Holloway – Short Change
13. 1:01:15 Atrium Carceri, Cities Last Broadcast & God Body Disconnect – The Sleep Ensemble
14. 1:06:30 L’Assassinat – Train To Lepell’s
15. 1:11:00 Gamardah Fungus – Too Much Crime In The Paradise

Noir – A Dark Jazz Mix pt.1

This mix was born of my love for crime noir, David Lynch films, and dark jazz music. The three elements come together to form a sort of otherwordly crime noir experience. Enjoy at sunset with a smoke and a glass of your favorite elixir. 
Part two will follow in the near future.

Check out the tracklist and links to the artists’ albums below the Mixcloud player.

01. 0:00:00 Dale Cooper Quartet – Aucun Cave
02. 0:06:35 Atrium Carceri, Cities Last Broadcast & God Body Disconnect – The Other Lobby
03. 0:12:20 Daniel James Dolby – Noir
04. 0:15:30 David Lynch & Dean Hurley – The Air Is On Fire: VII (Interior)
05. 0:19:40 Johnny Jewel – Windswept
06. 0:23:00 Phonothek – Heavy Thoughts
07. 0:28:30 Barry Adamson – Hollywood Sunset
08. 0:30:15 Dean Hurley – Shanghai Mysterioso
09. 0:34:45 Thelonius Monk – Round Midnight
10. 0:38:00 Wordclock – Heralds
11. 0:41:10 Musica Cthulhiana – The Unnamable
12. 0:47:35 Elegi – Vemod
13. 0:54:15 Manet – Zygomatic Bones For Days
14. 1:02:10 Phonothek – Red Moon
15. 1:06:15 Miles Davis – Generique
16. 1:08:55 Senketsu No Night Club – Megyaku

Atrium Carceri, Cities Last Broadcast, God Body Disconnect – Miles To Midnight – Review

Artist: Atrium Carceri, Cities Last Broadcast, God Body Disconnect
Album: Miles to Midnight
Release date: 9 January 2018
Label: Cryo Chamber

01. Miles to Midnight
02. A Thousand Empty Rooms
03. Scene of the Crime
04. Floor 6, Please
05. The Other Lobby
06. Sorry Sir, You Are In The Wrong Room
07. The Sleep Ensemble
08. Quiet Days On Earth

Miles to Midnight is one of those surprise records that you didn’t realize you needed until it presented itself. A collaboration between Atrium Carceri, Cities Last Broadcast and God Body Disconnect sounds like the perfect combination. But, then we add to this the unexpected dark jazz elements, which takes the concept from interesting to must-hear.

The first thing that will immediately jump out at any previous fans of these three artists is the addition of drums. It would seem that Bruce Moallem of God Body Disconnect was not ready to fully bury his love for the instrument, even if he’s moved on to the genre of dark ambient, which very rarely includes the use of a proper drum set. Throughout the album we hear these elements of dark jazz and dark ambient play off one another in a wholly unique way.

There really aren’t many albums out there that could be compared to Miles to Midnight. Of course, many of us will be familiar with dark jazz acts such as Bohren und der Club of Gore or The Kilimanjaro Darkjazz Ensemble. Miles to Midnight certainly plays off much of this style, but it also manages to keep its dark ambient roots intact along the way. Tracks like the openers “Miles to Midnight” and “A Thousand Empty Rooms” work heavily within the dark jazz framework, creating sounds that are vastly more “song-like” than much of the dark ambient genre’s output. Yet, particularly in the second half, with the exception of the closer “Quiet Days on Earth”, we hear tracks that keep the atmosphere intact while moving into territory more familiar to fans of these artists.

The reason for this stylistic shift from the first to second half of the album has to do specifically with the underlying theme of the album. The vinyl edition is the perfect fit for this release, on account of this split. Side A takes us through a sort of Lynchian crime-noir storyline, following a worn-down, unstable detective as he enters some seedy hotel with a dark history of murder. But as the detective makes his way to the 6th floor, he finds that this hotel has much darker energies than were first imagined. Side B takes us to “the other side”. We move from the scene of a gruesome crime on the lower levels to this twisted and otherworldly realm which has somehow made a connection with the upper section of the hotel.

Bruce Moallem of God Body Disconnect helps keep this first half in check, particularly through the use of his drum kit. We are able to enjoy something surely dark, but not necessarily unearthly. Though, as we move into the second half, the strange occult influenced talents of Par Bostrom from Cities Last Broadcast, among his many other varied and intriguing projects, become paramount in the recipe. The foundation goes from dark jazz to a twisted and troubling form of dark ambient. Bostrom’s vocal contributions, which can be heard creeping in and out of particularly the second half of the album give Miles to Midnight a truly mystical edge. Simon Heath’s (Atrium Carceri) contributions will be most noticeable to many in his piano elements, which fit perfectly with the dark jazz percussion of Moallem. Aside from their more obvious contributions, it seems fairly evident that each of these musicians contributed to the foundational layers of dark ambient throughout the album, in their own unique ways.

A particular highlight of the album, for me, is the closer, “Quiet Days on Earth”. On this track we return to the straightforward percussion of Moallem, which sets the foundations for the only truly dark jazz track on the second half of Miles to Midnight. There are guitar and piano elements accompanying this, which I expect are the work of Bostrom and Heath, respectively, but I can’t be certain. As the track nears its end we hear one of the most melodic and yet haunting vocal performances to-date by Par Bostrom, which really helps to fully solidify the dark jazz elements in our minds as the album reaches its close.

As I’ve been moving into my new apartment, this album has been pretty much on repeat for the last few weeks. The blend of dark ambient with dark jazz works in a way that gives the album energetic highs and lows, making it the perfect music for when one is trying to focus on some other project, but still wants to keep themselves thoroughly entertained. And yet, sitting down in the dark with a set of headphones, one is able to dissect the multitude of elements here, building a clearer picture of the underlying story.

Miles to Midnight is a brilliant and novel release for Cryo Chamber. Following on the footsteps of their recent release Heralds by Wordclock, Cryo Chamber takes the dark jazz elements in an even more focused direction. While they are obviously a dark ambient label at heart, it’s great to see them taking chances and testing the waters of different genre influences, which should ultimately make for a more diverse catalog of releases and widen their fan-base even further. A highly recommended release especially, but certainly not only, for fans of dark jazz!

Written by: Michael Barnett


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