Tag: experimental (Page 2 of 2)

Valanx – Radiant Orbs of Abzu – Review

Artist: Valanx
Album title: Radiant Orbs of Abzu
Release date: 10 April 2017
Label: Cromlech Records

01. Radiant Orbs of Abzu I
02. Radiant Orbs of Abzu II

Arne Weinberg is becoming an ever-more frequent name in the world of dark ambient. Last fall we witnessed two major releases from his two musical projects. Valanx gave us Ouroboros on Reverse Alignment, a well renowned label in dark ambient circles. The second offering was Arc, by Solemn Embrace. Arc took us into more experimental territory with its entirety being created through an analog device, the Eurorack modular synth system.

Arc also happened to be the first release on Cromlech Records, Weinberg’s new record label. Cromlech gives us a focus on drone, dark ambient and experimental electronics. While Arc was released as a beautifully designed digi-wallet, the next two releases, An Homage to Luciano Berio by Limited Liability Sounds and the current album in question Radiant Orbs of Abzu by Valanx, would both be released on cassette.

After that bit of history, we are brought to this present release, Radiant Orbs of Abzu. Being Weinberg’s main musical project, Valanx was sure to pick up a bit more attention than the previous two releases. This concept makes sense for a new label to get a slow start and then release something that will draw in greater attention, and give fans a chance to look through and hopefully purchase the back-catalog of releases.

Any listener already familiar with the work of Arne Weinberg on either of his musical projects will have a good idea of what to expect here. His main focus being analog synth, the sounds always take on that experimental vibe. Rarely, if ever, do we here field recordings or live instrumentation. Albums like this can make or break an artist. While, in general, I lean more toward the break side on many analog synth releases, Arne Weinberg manages to keep his albums entertaining, dark and often tinged with a bit of emotion.

Abzu is the Sumerian god of fresh water or the primeval sea itself, depending on the culture in question. With that in mind, its immediately recognizable that Valanx has opted to add in a noticeable layer of aquatic soundscapes. The album starts off with, and indeed keeps using throughout its entirety, a sound which immediately reminds of the sonar beeps in a submarine. They have just enough added effect to make them sound more like they are coming from the water itself, than being transmitted through some machinery.

This first track progresses at a glacial pace. There are changes over time, but they are slight and often the sounds begin to take on a meditative quality. The second track becomes much more active. It carries over many of the elements from the opening track. But, these elements are more often manipulated into contortions of their original forms. There is a great deal of other elements added into this second half. The album really begins to come alive.

Looking at the story itself, we seem to be witnessing a sleeping god on side A. As if we are moving through the depths of the sea, searching for something, which we aren’t even sure is present but we have faith that we may discover. As we move into side B, the god seems to really come to life. It slowly awakens, as we watch helplessly, in a combination of equal parts awe and terror. By halfway through this second track, Abzu has fully awakened. The god is now making itself known to the world of sea creatures, as well as the humans, which were unfortunate enough to have brought this entity back to consciousness.

From a physical standpoint, while I don’t have a copy of the tape, it appears from the images to be a well crafted j-card with an ultra-minimal approach to the tape itself. A solid gray cassette marked only as side A or B and numbered in its limited edition of 50. This trend of tape releases seems to work out quite well for artists, it’s a cheaper route for manufacturing and fans seem to really enjoy the nostalgia of returning to the musical format of cassettes. A win / win. Some releases even have a bit of character added to their sound by way of the gentle tape hiss in the background.

In all, Radiant Orbs of Abzu is my favorite release yet by Arne Weinberg, as well as his nascent Cromlech Records. The release is highly entertaining. It has enough detail to allow the listener to continually find new elements on multiple replays. The tape edition is the perfect fit for a release of two 20 minute tracks. I would recommend this as the first place to delve into the discography of Cromlech Records, as well as Weinberg’s music as a whole. Fans of the analog side of dark ambient will find much to love here. Even those who feel a bit pessimistic about fully analog dark ambient are likely to find aspects to love about this release, and to find it a pleasant experience. Cromlech Records seems to be off to a great start, and there will surely be more well produced releases to come in the near future.

Written by: Michael Barnett

Kryptogen Rundfunk – Liquid Circuits – Review

Artist: Kryptogen Rundfunk
Album title: Liquid Circuits
Release date: 7 October 2016
Label: Zhelezobeton

This is the first review on This Is Darkness by Przemyslaw Murzyn known for his respected and well-revered zine, Santa Sangre!

I stumbled upon this very cool sounding name quite often, on the occasion of various splits, collaborations, compilations or live show announcements on social media. So I have to admit, I was a bit surprised when I realized that Liquid Circuits is only the second album by this project run by Zhelezobeton label manager. Second album in 12 years – who would’ve thought?

So I guess we should expect something epic – a creme de la creme of all Artyom’s ideas that had been born in his mind during all those years. I’m guessing it might be the essence of his creativity, as the album is quite huge in all possible aspects: its duration, production, atmosphere and the abundance of used sounds and effects. At the same time, it is representative of the Russian industrial scene and their cherishing of analogue synths and the meaty, natural form of the sounds instead of purely digital output. Check the booklet and the technical specification of Liquid Circuits to see in detail what kind of equipment Artyom has used.

Kryptogen Rundfunk music is hard to classify because several musical fascinations are playing an equal role here. It is experimental, because even for a not very experienced listener it seems obvious that the artist is often improvising and checking the possibilities of the equipment and the sound forms it is able to create. It is industrial perhaps even “dark” industrial thanks to the machinesque and soulless feeling. The rhythmic pulsations, hums, diverse noises, radio waves make you feel like you’re inside a giant electric device or installation full of – not necessarily liquid – circuits, coils and resistors. Its purpose is still to be determined, but it doesn’t include a human factor in any aspect.

More in the background you’ll notice a few dark ambient inclinations as sometimes the sounds take a more drone-like shape, like for example in the third track, “Pyramidoid”. The drones and textures are also filling the holes in the composition structures, they’re like concrete which bonds the whole thing into one monolithic construction. And on top of that a pinch of noise, not very aggressive, just underlining the cold and mechanical character of the album, having no ideology, no message to the people, which in this case is so unnecessary. Unless you consider the immersion with the music literally and feel that your soul is merging with the integrated circuits making one half-organic, half-artificial entity. After all, who knows if it isn’t the future of humanity. Something of which we should all be afraid.

So is it a unique album? By all means no, we were drowning in these atmospheres a lot of times in the past. But at the same time, Liquid Circuits gives a whole lot of listening pleasure as it is a well prepared dish for all the connoisseurs of honest, quite old-school industry devoid of useless flashiness.

Written by: Przemyslaw Murzyn

The Caretaker – Everywhere at the End of Time: Stages I-II – Review

Artist: The Caretaker
Album: Everywhere at the End of Time: Stages I-II
Release date: September 2016 / April 2017
Label: History Always Favors The Winners

01. A1 – It’s Just a Burning Memory
02. A2 – We Don’t Have Many Days
03. A3 – Late Afternoon Drifting
04. A4 – Childishly Fresh Eyes
05. A5 – Slightly Bewildered
06. A6 – Things that are Beautiful and Transient
07. B1 – All that Follows is True
08. B2 – An Autumnal Equinox
09. B3 – Quiet Internal Rebellions
10. B4 – The Loves of my Entire Life
11. B5 – Into Each Others Eyes
12. B6 – My Heart Will Stop in Joy
13. C1 – A Losing Battle is Raging
14. C2 – Misplaced in Time
15. C3 – What Does it Matter how my Heart Breaks
16. C4 – Glimpses of Hope in Trying Times
17. C5 – Surrendering to Despair
18. D1 – I Still Feel as Though I am Me
19. D2 – Quiet Dusk Coming Early
20. D3 – Last Moments of Pure Recall
21. D4 – Denial Unravelling
22. D5 – The Way Ahead Feels Lonely

The Caretaker is one of the musical projects of James Leyland Kirby. Kirby is also known for his projects: V/Vm and The Stranger among several others. He started The Caretaker in 2011 as a look into the past, with a focus on the failings and degenerations of the human mind. The Caretaker project was named after the character from The Shining, Jack Torrence. Some of these sort of sounds could be heard in the 1980 film by Stanley Kubrick. Deciding to build a musical project around these premises, it wasn’t long before Kirby had a highly successful offering in the second proper album, An Empty Bliss Beyond This World.

Stage I

The Caretaker project is based around borrowing sound samples from a period of musical history which has been all but forgotten. He started the journey in old records stores, perusing collections of vinyl which were coated in dust from years of neglect. From these hidden gems, Kirby sampled and manipulated the music to fit into his narrative.

Everywhere at the End of Time is being released in six segments, but the entirety of the series is a one-off purchase. At a very low price, the final three year period of The Caretaker music project will be fully available to buyers. This gives Kirby the ability to spread his music to as many listeners as possible. This is a bold move, while many artists try to find ways to maximize profit, Kirby has vied to maximize exposure, caring more for the ears than the wallets of his fans. Of course, this direction is easier to choose for an artist with multiple music projects from which he may continue collecting an income.

Each section of Everywhere at the End of Time will focus on a different aspect of the degenerative stages of dementia. Stage I, released in 2016, focuses on the early signs of memory loss. It is bright and generally has a positive vibe. It is sort of a throwback to the heyday of the “patient”. It is a window into the fond memories and high points in life. Each track is rather upbeat, with only a few taking on a slower pace. Even with the more laid-back tracks, their is always an uplifting energy present.

Stage II

Stage II takes a turn to darker thoughts. It focuses on the saddened acceptance of the disease. The Caretaker begins to realize the full ramifications of his position. As his memories begin to fade and become foggy, so too does his mood become more negative. There is a heavy sadness weighing down the entirety of Stage II, an extremely noticeable shift from Stage I. Track titles like “A Losing Battle Is Raging” and “What Does It Matter How My Heart Breaks” give the listener further cues to understanding the emotional elements presented, with the latter being an alternate version of “It’s Just A Burning Memory”, the first track from Part I.

For the most part, Stage II brings all new (in the sense that it hasn’t previously been used by The Caretaker) material into the project. From a technical standpoint, the music is much less direct, it seems to meander between varied levels of energy and emotion. Some of the tracks feel like they have a light use of field recordings complementing the sampled music loops. This second stage brings the track count up to 22, each of which are beautifully presented.

Each stage of the process is being released on vinyl, a fitting format to present this wonderfully staticy and purposefully flawed material to the public. The last four stages are set to be released between September 2017 through March 2019, at which point The Caretaker project will be officially laid to rest. Such a massive undertaking seems fitting for the close of a project which has managed to receive such positive feedback from fans and critics alike. There is no doubt that James Leyland Kirby will continue making music through one project or another. Yet, knowing that the end of The Caretaker is near gives fans a termination date that they can look toward with an air of sadness. It is a clever maneuver on the part of Kirby. As we know that the project will soon “die”. We can be part of the process, watching, waiting, and fearing the inevitable death of The Caretaker.

Written by: Michael Barnett

Album art

Eighth Tower Records – Superspectrum – Review

Artist: Various Artists
Album title: Superspectrum
Release date: 17 February 2017
Label: Eighth Tower Records

01. Warpness – Mørkerom
02. Sysselmann – Wasted Land
03. Alphaxone – Majestic
04. Xerxes The Dark – Oblivion
05. Heliocentrism – Breath
06. Gopota – Attitude
07. Ocadium – Manuscript
08. Damballah – L’éveil de Baron Samedi
09. Nagaarum – Az Orias Felfalja Gyermekeit
10. Sonologyst – Ceremony
11. vÄäristymä – Kvasaarit
12. Cordis Cincti Serpente – Canis Tindalos
13. Vesicatoria – Number Zero

Superspectrum is a dark ambient, experimental ambient compilation. It is the first release on Eighth Tower Records, a sub-label of Unexplained Sounds Group. Run by the man behind Sonologyst, Raffaele Pezzella, it should be no surprise that what we are presented with is an album that is as deeply dark and horrifying as it is experimental in its execution.

Superspectrum brings together a wide range of artists, some well known and others that may be wholly unfamiliar to listeners. This sort of a combination is always helpful in attracting attention to a release. Still, it has enough breadth of talent that listeners will never quite know what to expect.

The focus of Superspectrum is freak occurrences in the natural and electronic world which cannot be classified by modern standards. Eighth Tower Records describes this phenomenon as, “a shadowy world of energies that produce well-observed effects, particularly on biological organisms (namely people). The Superspectrum is the source of all paranormal manifestations from extrasensory perception (ESP) to UFO, ultra-dimensional entities and occult presences. It is hard to pin down scientifically, because it is extra-dimensional, meaning that it exists outside our own space-time continuum yet influences every thing within our reality. ”

The sounds that can be heard on Superspectrum are as broad as the subject matter. Damballah “L’eveil de Baron Samedi” for instance, displays a sound which is certainly able to be classified as dark ambient. The track has a haunting feel and is entirely grounded in field recordings. This heavy use of field recordings takes away all notion of calling it a song, leaving us with a set of atmospheres and noises which paint a brilliantly vivid picture of paranormal activity within the natural world.

Highlighting the diversity of sounds presented, we can look to the very next track, “Az Orias Felfalja Gyermekeit” by Nagaarum. This track finds its grounding in analog synthesizer equipment, giving it a highly electronic feel. We can imagine the machinery of some scientific laboratory running in an unexplainable fashion, taking on a life of its own, to the horror of the present scientists.

Sonologyst makes an appearance with his track “Ceremony”. His trademark style of alien soundscapes is certainly present in “Ceremony”, there seems to be a combination of field recordings, analog synth, and vocal manipulations which all come together to give listeners a feast of varied emotions.

The well-known Iranian dark ambient artist Alphaxone helps secure a bit of name recognition with his submission. Yet, fans of Alphaxone will find a track that is noticeably different from much of his recent dark ambient work on Cryo Chamber. “Majestic” takes a bolder approach to dark ambient, with more sounds that jump out to the forefront. These elements give “Majestic” an experimental feel, and seem to work out very well within his skill set.

Gopota delivers one of the most unique tracks on Superspectrum with “Attitude”. True to the Gopota style, we hear often harsh and experimental noises grounded in the foundations of a dark ambient track. The combinations of these styles gives “Attitude” its unique flavor and fit together very well, producing a track which is well rounded yet simultaneously unusual. This track is also one of the most horrifying on Superspectrum, which should be no surprise to fans of this master of the macabre.

As a whole, Superspectrum is a varied, wide-reaching endeavor. The songs presented take more than their fair share of experimental composure. This could be a death sentence for some compilations but helmed by Sonologyst, the tracks all work together quite well. The blending of natural, mechanical, and electronic sounds easily brings to mind the pictures of phenomenal occurrences rooted with occult or extra-terrestrial origins.

Superspectrum should be just what Eighth Tower Records needs to jump-start their venture, while giving listeners an idea of the thematic and experimental releases which are to come in its future. I would recommend Superspectrum to fans of ambient works which are on the experimental side. There is plenty of unorthodox thinking here. Fans of more traditional forms of dark ambient may also enjoy this album as a gateway to the more experimental output of its collaborators. With a solid debut, it should be interesting to see where Eighth Tower Records takes us in the coming months. The direction will almost certainly be one which is as unusual as it is professional.

Written by: Michael Barnett

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