Marc Broude – Medicine (2010, No Zen Records)

Here is another story of a musician who has worked in noise, grindcore, black metal, and punk, but who has taken what he has learned from those genres, and has reconstructed them into avant-garde compositions that are mind and genre-bending. This isn’t surprising in today’s world. Ulver worked in black metal, but then turned to more experimental and avant-garde tendencies such as ambient, glitch, electronica, and progressive rock. Mick Harris played the famous machine gun-like drums that defined the sound of grindcore in Napalm Death before eventually giving up drumming completely to work with his experimental, dark ambient projects Lull and Scorn. Lustmord was a part of the industrial scene back in the 1980s, having worked with Chris and Cosey, SPK, and also having contact with Throbbing Gristle, which nevertheless contributed later on to his menacing soundscapes in “Heresy” and “The Place Where The Black Stars Hang”. These are all musicians who were involved with extreme and heavy music, but later turned to more experimental and minimal genres while still keeping the basic sense of dread, doom, and fear with them. Marc Broude is someone to be added to this expanding list. He played with punk, grindcore, black metal, and noise bands including the Chicago-based outfit Panicsville, while also making a name for himself as a solo artist. However, his music has always played hard to get. Each release is different sonically, some on the verge of noise and heavy metal, and others on the verge of long-form dark ambient releases in the vein of Lustmord and Lull. Broude’s album, “Medicine”, however, contains an even more experimental approach, incorporating dark ambience, noise, as well as avant-garde jazz and free improvisation to the mix. It breaks many boundaries, and at times, it breaks so many rules that it can leave listeners in confusion, confronting them straight in the face and making them decide what the true definition of music is. The definition, however, may not be satisfying for many listeners, but for others, “Medicine” will embody just what that definition is perfectly.

The album begins with “Mineral Water”, in which reversed noises with touches of delay are present throughout the entire piece. Low bass frequencies, strange guitar strums, and other alien drones are present throughout, which then escalates into a clean acoustic guitar riff on top of the dark and bizarre ambience. “Face Covered In S**t” contains dark industrial noises with a lot of harmonics and bell-like tones, as well as other rumbling atmospherics at the onset, before a jazz-influenced drum beat enters the mix. The track sounds very similar to the artists I mentioned earlier, in that Broude successfully combines the experimental jazz-influenced beats of Scorn and the disturbing and hellish soundscapes of Lustmord, and does it in such a way that though the influences are there, he still makes the sound his own. “Fire On The Water” contains more of the dark atmospherics of the previous tracks, but here, the sound is more alive, with lots of strange drones and feedback that sounds as though the piece could be used in a horror or suspense film. “Happy Like Jazz” begins with pounding bass frequencies and haunting synth tones similar to the Theremins used by sound designers and composers in the 50s, along with the sounds of singing bowls and other strange effects that makes the piece shine and glow, but yet still completely shatters any sense of hope or happiness. In the middle of the track, more of the jazz drums enter, along with a smooth guitar solo that acts as a perfect opposite to the disturbing atmospherics of the track, though the guitar itself reveals some darkness of its own, sounding similar to the strangely beautiful guitar work that Angelo Badalamenti worked into the soundtrack for the show “Twin Peaks”. “For The Flies” contains more of the strange singing bowls and dark sound design of the last track, as well as more reversed sound effects, which distinctly remind me of the soundtrack to Von Trier’s extremely controversial and disturbing horror film, “Antichrist”, where unnatural bass drones and creepy growls overtake the music. A slow trip-hop beat creeps its way into the mix, but before it seems that it will go into a nice climax, they cut out to a creepy atmosphere of distant drums, guitar strums, and other strange and otherworldly sound effects, along with some high-pitched tones and what sounds to be a radio that remind me even more of the “Antichrist” soundtrack. The drums slowly make their way into the mix again in the last few seconds of the song, but yet again fade out. “War Of The Worlds” is rather a musical re-interpretation of the infamous radio adaptation that Orson Welles performed back in 1938, with Orson’s words weaving in and out of a creepy atmosphere of atonal guitar riffs, singing bowls, hellish sound effects, and off-kilter drums. A jazz bass riff makes its way into the mix, along with some smooth jazz drumming underneath the radio broadcast, along with more strange and droning sound effects that sound as though an alien invasion is happening right now. “Muerte” begins with thumping bass notes and subtle guitar melodies engulfed in a strange, dusty reverb. Later on, strange harmonica or accordion samples can be heard, moving in and out of the mix like some of the dub experiments in the 1970s, which then eventually fades out, into which the album then ends.

Overall, it is very hard for me to describe just how I feel about Marc Broude’s “Medicine”. Though I do listen to a lot of experimental music, this album has taken me to a new dimension that I just can’t fully comprehend. The dark and disturbing atmospheres are magnificent, and every element on this album works to create a very gloomy and depressing mood, whether it be the jazz guitars, the haunting singing bowls, or even the harmonicas or accordions in the end track. The album is also very well produced, and at times, the songs do have a great arrangement to them. However, on other occasions, the songs break linear fashion, in that where there is usually a climax or a build-up, it is very hard to distinguish here. Drums can enter, but they never build to anywhere except to cut off abruptly, as well as atmospheres can continue on for very long periods of time, with very slow and rarely evolving textures occurring throughout. Does it sound like a mixture of Lustmord and Scorn? Yes. Is it a very minimal and industrial album? Indeed, yes. Has Marc Broude successfully created an eccentric mix of avant-garde jazz and dark ambient soundscapes? That will be up to you to decide, but in my opinion, he’s come pretty darn close. In fact, much closer than any other musician has. If you are a fan of Lustmord, Lull, Scorn, dark ambient, avant-garde jazz, or just flat-out strange music in general, this will most likely appeal to you. However, please note that this album is not for everyone, nor is it necessarily for the faint of heart at times as well. Would I recommend it? Most definitely. 8 out of 10 stars.

Album: Medicine

Artist: Marc Broude

Genre: Experimental/dark ambient/avant-garde jazz

Released in 2010 by No Zen Records

Available now at all major retailers!

Leonardo Rosado – Opaque Glitter (2011, FeedbackLoop Label)

I’ve never really revealed this, except for maybe on a few reviews, but if you have seen how much I love ambient music or just music that has an atmospheric quality in general, then here’s an album that you might as well see me, the hardcore ambient fan, freaking out over. Leonardo Rosado is an experimental artist specializing in abstract, electro-acoustic ambient soundscapes, as well as some dreamy photography and beautiful poems. He also curates the Feedback Loop netlabel, which is releasing his newest album, “Opaque Glitter”. Well, really, there’s not a whole lot more I can say in general before getting into the nitty-gritty of this album. Instead, let’s just take a look at this beautiful album cover, shall we? [insert long pause here] Maybe it is a bit minimal, but this is also going to be released as a physical CD, and the packaging is very beautiful and sleek. Furthermore, there are even more images that go along with this album, along with a couple of beautiful poems written by Rosado himself.

The album begins with the reverberating, seeming random taps of “Leaving and staying”, with some very beautiful ambient chords ringing throughout, as well as some sound effects throughout, such as the opening of locks, keys, doors, and chains. It is minimalism at its best, but the arrangement and structure of the sounds here work beautifully, and create an intriguing opening that allows the listener to enter the sound world that Rosado creates here. “Scratching the surface” begins with strange filtered lo-fi synth pads that vibrate lively throughout the piece, and soon, the beautiful ambient chords from the first piece begin to sound yet again, along with more sound effects such as what sounds like rain or a waterfall, as well as some of the random tapping noises again. Beautifully surreal piano or harp melodies fill in the cracks, and more glimmering pads shine throughout, which remind me some of Tim Hecker’s pieces, though here, they don’t directly show the electronic glitches that Hecker is known for, but rather, a very smooth and non-intrusive texture that is great for relaxation. “Amidst the crowd a love story” begins with fuzzy and faded pads, distant field recordings, and the occasional humming of a bass drone. More of the harp-like melodies can be heard in this composition, and overall, the piece shines with a calm, relaxing, and peaceful feeling, as though it is morning somewhere in a forest or in the mountains, perhaps in an Eastern country such as China or India.

“For a moment there” begins right where the last piece left off, with more humming bass frequencies, distant glimmering chords, and the strange electro-acoustic sound effects that have already been introduced throughout the album, though here, it is a bit more strange and bizarre, but in a good way. The light plucks of a guitar and some Indian-sounding percussion can be heard in the middle of the piece, adding a gorgeous counterpoint to the strange sound design that has already been ongoing throughout the piece. “Dancing and falling” contains a strange, bowed-like drone, which builds in complexity with other humming sounds to create an otherworldly mantra that continues throughout the entire track. Some other clicks, pops, and hisses make their way into the mix at times, but mostly, the piece focuses only on this cold, slowly moving, and utterly bizarre mantra that sounds close to the hums of an alien spacecraft of some sort, to say the least. “It ends here” contains what sounds close to either distant waves, an avalanche, or traffic, as some more glimmering pads are shown prominently throughout the track. It slowly evolves into more bizarre samples and synths throughout, as well as at the end, a creepy kick drum that calls to mind some of the pieces off of Lull’s “Dreamt About Dreaming”. “The wind blowing in my face” yet again picks up where “It ends here” left off, minus the creepy drum kick, in favor of slow melancholic chords and what appears to sound indeed like the wind. Later on, a soft experimental beat created out of many different obscure samples enters the ambience, weaving in and out until the end of the piece, creating a nice contrast to the previous pieces on the album. The last piece, “Soft like leaves falling”, starts out slow with evolving and glimmering pads, moving at a glacial speed from one note or chord to the next. Soft samples of raking leaves and distant cars can be heard in the foreground later on in the piece, and towards the end, a strange exploded hiss can be heard, repeating like it is the beat of the piece, in which the piece later ends.
Overall, Leonardo Rosado’s “Opaque Glitter” is a different but exciting take on ambient and electro-acoustic music. It shines and glimmers throughout, moves along from one sound to the next, and as electronic-heavy as the album is, it always sound strangely but beautifully organic, as though it was recorded on an old saturating tape machine dated from the 1970s. The production here is great, and though at times, it seems that sounds seem to bleed into one another, or one frequency seems to overtake another, still, I feel that it is important to the sound of the album, because as much as I love to hear a perfect album, I love to hear imperfections in the sound as well. This is one of the rare moments where electronic music actually sounds human, as though it was taken with care, carefully and painfully pieced together one by one in order to reach perfection, but yet, it never quite reaches it because at times, something awry in the sound has screwed something possibly significant up, but in the end, it is a happy accident, because it only makes the album more memorable and enjoyable. Leonardo’ Rosado’s “Opaque Glitter” is one of the more interesting ambient releases of the year so far, ranking with Kyle Bobby Dunn and Tim Hecker. Rosado is someone to watch out for in the coming months, as his unusually organic and imperfect sound in a delightful thing to hear in the midst of a society where we are forced to believe that music is supposed to be ultra-polished. Take note. 9 out of 10 stars.

Album: Opaque Glitter

Artist: Leonardo Rosado

Genre: Ambient/electro-acoustic/glitch/tape music

To be released on June 15th by FeedbackLoop Label

The physical copy of the album (limited to 100 copies) is available for pre-order as of the time of this review at http://feedbacklooplabel.blogspot.com! A digital copy should be available to download as well on the site at the time of release.

The Fierce & The Dead – If It Carries On Like This We Are Moving To Morecambe (2011, Self-Released)

If you are an avid reader of this site, then you already know how much I enjoy the hotly debated genre of post-rock. Much of the music I have reviewed from the genre have been intensely atmospheric symphonies filled with ambient guitar, melodic basslines, and soft drums that all build incredible crescendos, in which they reveal very emotional climaxes. Don’t get me wrong, I love all of this. However, let it be known that post-rock did not begin with these ambient rock soundscapes. Sigur Ros, Mogwai, and many other bands pioneered this side of the genre, but there is another side to the scene. A darker and more intense side that goes above and beyond the lush guitar work. Slint heavily influenced the genre with their dynamic compositions that range from clean guitars, light drumming, and whisper-like spoken word to highly distorted and squealing guitar solos, heavy hard rock drumming that sometimes contains complex time signatures, and harshly screamed vocals. Godspeed You! Black Emperor was also a huge influence, in that though they had ambience in their works, they knew when to drop bombs of atomic-like heavy rock on listeners. In the past few years, not much of this side has turned out. The influences are there, but it is not as prevalent as back in the 1990s. The Fierce & The Dead, a relatively new (as of last year) project from London, England, comprised of guitarist Matt Stevens (also acclaimed for being a looping guitarist, able to compose huge walls of noise from only the live recorded loops from his guitar), audio engineer, producer, and musician Kev Feazey (who plays bass on this album, by the way), and drummer Stuart Marshall (a busy drummer who has played everything from surf rock to hardcore), is bringing the intense side of post-rock back with their debut album, “If It Carries On Like This We Are Moving To Morecambe”. The usual ambient soundscapes are still here, but they have way too many noisy and fun surprises up their sleeves that at times even challenge just what the style and genre of this album is. Though sometimes, that is a good thing, because why would anyone want to try to spend time categorizing what the album is, when, in fact, they can just take the music as it is: a brilliant and noisy masterpiece unlike anything that has come before it, bringing back the remnants of Swans, Slint, Napalm Death, Mogwai, Godspeed You! Black Emperor, and so many other bands all into one 37 minute journey?

The opener, “Flint”, is one of the strangest atmospheric openings I’ve ever heard on an album. It starts with heavily processed guitars, filled with twang, delay, and reverb, along with so many other combinations of sounds, ranging from distorted drones to white noise, and coming from a variety of instruments, including the cymbals of the drum set. The track seems to have no sense of beat or rhythm, except for an improvised bass line that then starts a smooth drum beat along with beautiful guitar riffs, which sometimes attacks clear as a bell, while at other times, it just swells in and out of the mix. Often, distorted guitar and bass enter the mix, and alternate between the two, while soon ending out quietly, which starts the album out great. “Part 2″, which may be a hint to their previously 19-minute release, “Part 1″, begins with smooth drums and off-kilter bass and guitar riffs, though they are never the less just as beautiful and cinematic as the opener. Later on in the track, heavily distorted guitar and bass riffs, along with some symphonic choir-like samples enter the mix, giving the listener a thought of the theme to a film that was never made. More emotional guitar solos ensue throughout, sounding almost like they have somewhat of a Western flair to them, before eventually ending out. This track again shows how emotional The Fierce & The Dead can make their music without using so much ambience to shapes the dynamics of the track. “The Wait” is a beautiful and happy-sounding guitar piece with a lot of guitar riffs and chords going on, as well as a soft beat in the background, and what may sound like ambient synths and some piano and organ as well. It gives a nice break from what has happened in the album, but it gives no trace of what is about to happen next.

“H.R.” is where the album picks up the speed, beginning with strange and dreamy sounding guitar riffs, a nice bass riff underneath, and a soft beat. It is hard to tell what the chord progression is, as the riffs seem to mesh together to the point where they become one. A harder beat then ensues, continue the strange riffs either further until eventually, an extremely distorted and speedily picked guitar riff takes over the track, almost in the same matter that a guitar solo would dominate in a punk rock track back in the 70s. It’s hard for me to say anything more than that, as the track is an experience within itself. “Hotel No. 6″ is an ambient interlude featuring droning and mysterious guitar riffs that weave in and out to create a relaxing atmosphere, and yet again, it provides a nice break from the rest of the craziness going on in the album. However, there is still an unexpected turn around the corner. “Landcrab” is where the band shows their influence from grindcore and heavy metal, and it is intense as ever. Insanely fast and sharp drum hits, distorted guitar grooves, melodic yet dangerously noisy guitar leads, and melodic bass lines occur throughout the 2-minute long track. I can’t help but get the feeling of an intense fight or scene from a Western-inspired action film while listening to this, though maybe listeners have other ideas for the track.

“Daddies Little Helper” is a soft, dub-inspired track featuring light drumming, catchy bass lines, and short guitar strums before leading into beautiful guitar riffs and ambient soundscapes underneath the beat. Also, later on, saxophonist Terry Edwards makes a guest appearance, which shows how much jazz has also influenced the band’s works, in that Edwards’s saxophone licks range all over the place: from the styles of  John Coltrane and Miles Davis to Anthony Braxton and John Zorn. All in one track. It is a nice change of pace from the rest of the album, and is quite a fun song to listen to. “Woodchip” is yet another ambient interlude, only this time, it is composed only with samplers, synthesizers, and effects, which gradually changes from beautiful and lush to bleeps and creeps by the end of the track. “10×10″ begins with a soft drum rhythm, a melodic bass line, and ambient guitar swells before later on, clean guitar riffs pile on top of each other one by one, leading then into a faster section with more atmospherics and beautiful guitar work. The most surprising aspect of the song, however, occurs a little over a minute into the song, with an arpeggiated and distorted acid house bassline entering into the mix. There is a break that occurs with more atmospheric guitar riffs, before later on, all the elements previously introduced in the song combine to create an explosive and unforgettable climax. A beautifully arranged track. The last track, “Andy Fox”, begins with ambient noises before a creepy piano riff and more ambient guitar and string-like sounds appear, along with the bass riffs. The track builds steam when the drums finally enter, and the song flows at its own pace, before building up with more riffs, as well as more smooth saxophone riffs from Edwards, which sounds like a misty bar at midnight in the streets of a huge city. The track yet again builds more steam, as the guitar riffs grow even more louder, and the saxophone riffs become more and more intense and paranoid, similar to John Zorn’s works such as in “Spillane” or with his band on their self-titled album, “Naked City”. The album then slowly closes out with the ambient guitar loops, and soon, the album ends.

Overall, The Fierce & The Dead’s “If It Carries On Like This We Are Moving To Morecambe” is one of the more solid releases I’ve heard in a while. It brings post-rock back to its roots, as well as incorporating other genres such as avant-garde jazz, heavy metal, and progressive rock. It doesn’t focus on making ambience as much as it does in making emotional and cinematic music. It could quite literally be a post-rock album, but I don’t even think the term is strong enough here. Quite simply, “If It Carries On…” is the soundtrack to the film that never was. A Western-themed action epic of sorts, complete with huge fight scenes, steamy romance, and dark images of misty city bars in the dead of night. Maybe this is going too far. Maybe I’m over-analyzing. Or maybe, just maybe, I might be hitting the nail right on the head when talking about this album. I sincerely enjoyed listening to this album, as some of the tracks really caught my attention, such as “10×10″, “Landcrab”, “Andy Fox”, and “H.R.”. The other tracks were also exceptionally well made, willing to create ambiences and scenes of their own, which makes this one of the most intriguing and must-have independent instrumental albums of the year. Highly recommended listening. 9 out of 10 stars.

Title: If It Carries On Like This We Are Moving To Morecambe

Artist: The Fierce & The Dead

Genre: Instrumental post-rock

Self-released May 16th, 2011

You can pre-order the physical copy of the album (copies will be shipped out by June 13th), or buy the digital copy for a name-your-own-price deal now at http://thefierceandthedead.bandcamp.com/!

Kyle Bobby Dunn – Ways of Meaning (2011, Desire Path Recordings)

Here is an album that I am very happy to share with all of you. If you remember my review for Kyle Bobby Dunn’s “A Young Person’s Guide To“, then you probably already have an idea of what this album is going to be like. Kyle Bobby Dunn is a composer based in New York City who makes ambient drone compositions by using heavily processed electric and acoustic instrumentation, similar to the works of Stars of the Lid. His last monstrosity of an album: the double LP “A Young Person’s Guide To”, contained both new and previously released works that contained brilliant soundscapes made from strings, horns, piano, guitar, and laptop electronics, some of which moved slowly up to 18 minutes in length, and others that moved at a average pace of around 3 to 8 minutes. This new LP, “Ways of Meaning”, is much different than what you would expect, though. The trademark ambient drones are still here, but it’s the instrumentation that is different, as well as the fact that we’re talking about an LP that is around 40 minutes in length instead of a double LP. The six pieces on this album are arranged mainly for guitar and organ, but listening to it, you wouldn’t think that this album was made from mostly those two instruments. The incredible thing is that, well, it just is made from those. The guitars here sound like smooth string ensembles, and the organs like droning lo-fi synthesizers, and together, they sound like they were recorded in a church with the quality of a choral ensemble. “Ways of Meaning” is possibly one of the best ambient drone releases of the year, and Kyle Bobby Dunn is at the forefront of becoming one of the most important up and coming composers of our generation.

The opener, “Dropping Sandwiches in Chester Lake”, begins with slow, processed guitar riffs droning out in lush reverberations, playing emotionally nostalgic chords at times, as well as the sounds of processed organ weaving in and out at times. The combination is beautifully majestic, bringing to mind images of innocent and naive times in our lives, which makes us yearn for those days again. Overall, it is a very minimal and quiet opener, but the images it creates for the listener are awe-inspiring. “Statuit” begins with melancholic organ chords, which strangely remind me of Milieu‘s work, in terms of the electronic sounds and the chords used. The chords here are infinitely beautiful, and though it is yet again very minimal, the feelings it creates are too complex for language to describe. The only thing that comes to mind is of a time in my childhood, when I would go to a retreat in the mountains of my home state of Pennsylvania. The sun gleaming through the trees, the snow on the ground, the stream flowing through the forest, the huge retreat itself, with its numerous rooms and long, Shining-esque hallways, all these images come to my mind when hearing this composition. It is a beautiful piece of work. “Canyon Meadows”, however, is where organ chords and guitar work combine to create a  huge, spacious soundscape. Though I have never been to a canyon out west in Arizona, Utah, or so on, still, the images of a night in those places somehow come to my mind. Watching the glittering stars in the sky, feeling the cool breeze rolling throughout the landscape, staring in awe at the majestic structures of rock in the distance, all of these things come together in this droning piece filled with harmonic guitar swells, electronic-sounding organs, and some bass frequencies. Yet another beautiful composition.

“New Pures” is a short drone composition featuring the quiet hums of guitar chords. At times, the guitar work does build up to huge dynamics, but are always blurred and obscured in order to keep from disturbing the listener. It works as an fine interlude, giving the listener a short vignette, so to speak, but nowhere giving any hint of what is to come. The biggest movement on the entire album at almost 15 minutes long, with probably one of the most provocative titles Dunn has attached to any of his works, “Movement for the Completely F***ed”, is actually nowhere as violent as what the title alludes to. Rather, this is a somewhat sad and passive-aggressive composition that gives the listener a moment of quiet inner reflection that is not only of themselves, but also of their surroundings, in connection to society, the government, and so on. The composition begins with quiet, slowly drifting guitar chords covered in a smooth, pad-like reverb. Throughout the composition, it slowly builds with more guitar melodies and chords, but nowhere near as intense as “Canyon Meadows” or “Statuit”. Nevertheless, this is a stunningly arranged composition that could be considered one of the most personal compositions that Dunn has ever composed. As previously said, nowhere in this composition is there any inkling of violence or anger. This is rather a composition to induce reflection and contemplation, and it works amazingly well. The final track on the album, “Touhy’s Theme”, is about as quiet as the opening piece, showcasing more processed guitar work in a minimal arrangement. The choice of guitar chords here is actually similar to “Canyon Meadows” at times, except that obviously, this moves at a slower pace and is more subdued than that composition. However, at times, there are some beautifully stunning chords that ring out with such stunning harmonics. Nevertheless, it is the perfect closer to this beautiful album, giving the listener one last breath in this stunning church-like space before heading back into their normal surroundings.

Overall, Kyle Bobby Dunn’s “Ways of Meaning” is without a doubt one of the best ambient drone albums of 2011. Like his last album, Dunn has proved himself to be a master at creating spacious atmospheres, playing with spatial qualities and manipulating acoustic and electronic instrumentation into beautifully smooth and silky drones. The first 3 pieces of the album are some of the strongest compositions I’ve ever heard begin such a minimal album like this, and “Movement for the Completely F***ed” is one of the best compositions Dunn has written to date. I have said it before and I’ll gladly say it again: on his last album, Dunn was noted for being one of the most important up and coming composers of our generation. On “Ways of Meaning”, he has established his place in the realm of ambient, drone, and modern classical music by creating highly emotional pieces that will make even the most callous listener burst into tears of joy. Highly recommended listening. 10 out of 10 stars.

Title: Ways of Meaning

Artist: Kyle Bobby Dunn

Genre: Ambient/modern classical/electronic

Released in 2011 by Desire Path Recordings

The album is out now at all major digital retailers, as well as is available as a special edition vinyl (limited to 30 copies) at desirepathrecordings.com.

Detailed rating:

  • Production values – 10 (Dunn’s mastery of processing instrumentation such as guitars and organs are brilliant on this album, being able to take these instruments that would otherwise be used in heavy metal/rock and gospel music, and create them into brilliantly smooth and dreamy drones. If you are a fan of Stars of the Lid, you will love what Dunn has done on this album)
  • Songwriting and Arrangement – 10 (Dunn’s compositions may be minimal in approach, but he is able to keep the listener listening by creating such slowly moving dynamics and rich chord progressions on this album. As previously said, the first 3 pieces and “Movement for the Completely F***ed” are some of the best drone pieces to have come out in a long while. Definitely something worth listening to)
  • Enjoyment – 10 (Listening to this at night, in the dark, in my own bedroom is very rewarding. The drones fill up the space, instill a sense of calm and peace within me, and gently lull me to the brink of sleep. Most people aren’t able to listen to something like this patiently, but listening to it at nighttime will yield amazing results. A very enjoyable listen throughout. A must-have album)

Imst – North Frontenac (2011, Brainstream Records)

If you have been an avid reader on the site for the past few months, you may remember a review I did of Imst’s “Vanishing Point“. Otherwise, I will gladly re-introduce Imst to you if you don’t remember the review or have never heard of him before. Imst is the ambient project of Ottawa-based recording artist Adam Feibel. His last album contained music that reminded me of Lowercase Noises, but yet, Adam managed to create his own unique sound on that album. This new EP, “North Frontenac”, takes the sound a bit further, but shows that something has changed since the last album. The sound here is darker and more mature, with a bit of neo-classical tendencies. The majority of the EP contains synthesized strings and pianos, and it’s obvious that it doesn’t sound as realistic as a string quartet or a grand piano. Then again, it doesn’t matter, because it’s the beautifully melancholic melodies here that breathe life into the instruments. Imst’s “North Frontenac” is a stunningly dark and mature neo-classical EP that shows a sense of both open space and clautrophobia at times.

The opener, “The Tundra”, begins with synthesized strings playing emotional chords, along with the sound effects of the wind blowing across a landscape. Shortly, a minimal piano riff enters, along with other strange instrumentation such as the sounds of ice or glass. Throughout the opener, it boasts these synthesized instruments and effects played to beautiful lengths, sounding about as wide and open as a real tundra. It is strongly emotional and stunningly produced, and from the onset, you know you’re about to hear some pretty mature stuff. A great track overall.

The second track, “Great Minds Turn Inward”, begins with beautiful piano chords before entering a huge cinematic section of melodic piano melodies and sweeping strings. I say cinematic because this is something that could be played in a film. Who knows what it could be played under? The aftermath of a disaster? A funeral? A break-up between two lovers? It is that emotionally impacting and mature that it could literally work under any intense scene. Towards the end, a soft drum beat plays in the background before ending out with a soft piano line. Another brilliant track on this EP. The third track, “Tiny Vandals”, begins with a melancholic piano melody and some strange percussive sounds in the background. Eventually, string pads enter along with some vocal samples that are hard to make out directly, sounding as though they are coming from a dying lo-quality radio. The strings here sweep up into higher notes, giving the composition some sense of movement and dynamics as it goes along. At times, the sounds of glockenspiels and church bells can be heard in the distance as well. This is the shortest track on the EP, but it still is a good addition concerning the dark and mature musical themes here.

The fourth track, “Locked In An Empty Room”, begins with soft string pads and piano melodies. Later on, more of the hugely cinematic string sections can be heard, along with some electronic vibraphones or glass synths at times. The sound here is about as dark as the rest of the EP, but the difference is it does give some relief and feelings of hope at times, as if the listener knows that soon, the person who is locked in this empty room will eventually find his or her way out, though there are not necessarily any happy notes in this piece either. The last piece, “North Frontenac”, is about as emotional and intense as the EP gets. Melancholic piano chords and melodies, along with huge and yet again cinematic-sounding strings set the mood here. This piece actually reminds me yet again of a funeral, or rather a very close friend having to leave their family and friends. Also, the tundra noises on the opening track are also present again on this track, bringing the EP full circle. Near the end, electronic glass chords, pads, and piano end the track out, thus ending this EP.

Overall, Imst’s “North Frontenac” is a huge improvement over his last album. Whereas “Vanishing Point” was about the happiness, nostalgia, and everything in-between of life, “North Frontenac” is about the not-so-happy moments of life. It is an intensely emotional, dark, and mature EP, and though you can tell all the instrumentation is synthesized, still, it’s all about how Imst is able to breathe life into these instruments in order to create a riveting EP. Here, Imst succeeds with flying colors. If you are a huge fan of ambient and modern classical music, or are looking for something different, this EP will most likely interest you. Highly recommended listening. 10 out of 10 stars.

Title: North Frontenac

Artist: Imst

Genre: Ambient/modern classical/electronic

Released in 2011 by Brainstream Records

You can buy the CD (limited to 17 copies) and listen to audio samples here: http://imst.bandcamp.com/album/north-frontenac. However, if you are looking for a digital copy of the album, Imst has allowed me to give everyone the Mediafire link to the album (note that it is in RAR format, so make sure you have a proper extractor like 7-Zip): http://www.mediafire.com/?7xdl9ndb07az88n

Detailed rating:

  • Production values – 10 (Overall, the EP is great with the production, and like I said, everything is synthesized and sounds very cheap at times, but that is okay. It actually reminds me of the synthesized music of the 70s and 80s, so really, there’s nothing wrong here with that)
  • Songwriting and Arrangement – 10 (Like I said, though the synths are cheap, it’s all about how you breathe life into them. Here, Imst’s songwriting and arrangement is outstanding and definitely improved from “Vanishing Point”, showcasing a dark and mature sound. It’s something you have to hear for yourself to understand what I’m talking about)
  • Enjoyment – 10 (Not much more to say for this section. I enjoyed this EP immensely, and simply recommend that everyone should take a listen to it. It is definitely one of the better modern classical EPs I’ve heard in a while)

Damn Robot! – Hunang Skrímsli (2011, Hawk Moon Records)

Last month, I had reviewed an impressive compilation entitled “Hawk Moon Records: Volume II“, which promoted some of the best up and coming artists in the post-rock genre. A few short days after receiving this compilation, I was informed that one of the artists on the compilation, Damn Robot!, were releasing their debut album on May 16th. After enjoying their song on the compilation, “The Great Landfill In The Sky”, I had to hear this new album. Damn Robot! is a project from Hampshire, UK consisting of brothers Rob Honey (Oceanus, Inachus) and Tom Honey (Good Weather for an Airstrike). Their sound is a delightful mixture of electronica, trip-hop, ambient, post-rock, and other genres in-between, which sort of reminds me of the music of Futuro Primitivo, one of my favorite artists who works in the field of post-electronica, except that Damn Robot!’s music contains real instrumentation along with the electronics. Their debut album, “Hunang Skrímsli”, which from translating the phrase through different online translators, I believe it is Icelandic for “Honey Monster” (if I am wrong with this translation, please let me know), shows a great beginning for this duo of brothers, showcasing their love for all of these different genres by combining them into one 33 minute album.

The beginning track, “A Smile Spreads Across My Face”, begins with emotional string and synth pads before a soft bass and downtempo/trip-hop electronic drums enter the mix. Strangely, this song reminds me of something that could have been played in the film “28 Days Later”, perhaps at the end of the film or so. Later on, a break reveals quietly plucked guitars and more ambience, before it heads back into the trip-hop mood, and eventually ending out with low arpeggiated synth lines, ambience provided by strings, and some other percussive effects here and there, before eventually leading smoothly into the second track, “The Great Landfill In The Sky”. This track was already provided on the Hawk Moon compilation, so therefore, I will repeat what I have said about the track from that review here: The track begins with soft ambient drones before going into an electric piano progression, soft electronic beat, and a spoken word sample that sounds to be in a foreign language. Ambient drones keep building on top of each other underneath this foundation before later in the track, guitar riffs washed in a lush reverb can be found before adding back in the beginning elements, as well as some more soft synth leads. Near the end, some people can be heard yelling, which then leads into the interlude, “(Pass) The Switch Over”. Here, the sounds of a radio being tuned to different stations can be heard, ranging from news broadcasts and talk shows to musical jingles. The fourth track, “No Slack, But Luckily The Seats Go Back”, contains some deep bass drones and reverberated percussive elements, along with some more guitar being heard in the background, which eventually leads into a beautiful and very emotionally played guitar solo. Eventually, this leads into a break, where the guitar slowly fades away while the ambient drones continue on. However, when the main beat comes back, some minimal vocals come in, along with some variations here and there, as well as some very trippy effects. This is a very soothing track that plays with your mind a little bit, but in a good way.

“These Plugs Need Adaptors” is yet another interlude featuring tuned radios, but there are so many different styles of music in this small track, featuring heavy metal, atmospheric rock, insane techno music, and chill-out music among other things. “Electric Sheep I Can’t Tell Whether Or Not This Is A Dream” is actually an ambient dance track featuring stuttered beats and synths, ambient arpeggios, and some delightful house-like chords here and there. It is a refreshing change from the ambient post-rock and trip-hop style that most of the album has. It actually reminds me of some of the tracks that Orbital and Aphex Twin produced back in the early 90s at times, in that it successfully combines house beats with ambient atmospheres. “Antics” begins with a finger-picked guitar lick washed in a beautiful reverb, in which eventually more guitars enter. A huge beat performed on acoustic drums, a light bass line, and some other ambient effects here and there can eventually be heard. Some vocal samples are present as well. Overall, this is yet another change in the album’s combination of pure electronics and guitars, though there is an electronic kick drum and bass present at times, but it is yet another relaxing track. The final track, “Errors of the Pacifist”, which is the longest track at almost 8 minutes long, begins with soft electronic chords, which seem to be played backwards, before eventually, the beautiful chords are played forwards. Some electronic trip-hop beats enter the mix later on, as does a very smooth bass riff, some guitar work, and a strange sample that sounds very similar to a didgeridoo. During the ambient break, some more strange samples can be heard along with the chords, before it eventually leads yet again into the trip-hop drums, along with a lot of varied glitch effects that breath life into the track. Near the 2 minute mark, the tracks ends out slowly with what might be 30 seconds of silence. At the end, a reprise of what sounds like the beginning track is heard, in which arpeggiated synths, trip-hop drums, and a strangely frightening processed vocal sample are present. This short track within a track builds up steam a little bit, but then ends out, thus ending the album.

Overall, Damn Robot!’s “Hunang Skrímsli” shows a promising beginning for this duo, in that it combines electronica, trip-hop, post-rock, dance, and other genres into one album. The production here is stunning, and the songwriting and arrangement at times is superb. However, I will admit that I was expecting perhaps a more dynamic album, so to speak. Usually, post-rock is minimal, but it builds up steam with its dynamics and density of sound. However, that isn’t present much on this album. This is more like an pure ambient album with occasional beats, smooth basslines, and stunning atmospherics. It’s hard for me to exactly know what to think of this debut album. Apparently, I’ve heard that Damn Robot! are planning to perform gigs, so I’d love to know how that will turn out, but by listening to this album, you really have to be into the style to enjoy it. I love all of the genres that are present on this album, but its combination seems to be more minimal than I had initially thought. If you’re a fan of these genres, you’ll find something to like on this album. There should be something for everyone to enjoy on this album. 8.3 out of 10 stars.

Title: Hunang Skrímsli

Artist: Damn Robot!

Genre: Ambient post-rock/electronic/experimental

Released in 2011 by Hawk Moon Records

You can buy the album starting May 16th at http://hawkmoonrecords.bandcamp.com/ Also, you can pre-order an extremely limited edition CD (only 17 copies available in the world at the moment) at http://hawkmoonrecords.bigcartel.com/product/damn-robot-hunang-skrimsli-cdr

Detailed rating:

  • Production values – 10 (Overall, the album is great with the production, in its ambient effects, sound samples, guitars, and so forth)
  • Songwriting and Arrangement – 7 (Some of the tracks on this album are great, and some have variation so that it keeps the listener listening. However, most of the album is pretty minimal in approach, and like I said, I wasn’t exactly expecting that. However, it is a promising album nonetheless)
  • Enjoyment – 8 (If I had listening to this at night or on a rainy day, I probably would have understood this album better. However, I listened to it at 3 in the afternoon on a sunny day, so I’m not sure it was exactly the right time to listen to it for me to enjoy the most out of it. Nevertheless, I enjoyed what Damn Robot! have done on this album, and I’d be interested in seeing how they’d pull off their live gigs after hearing these lush tracks)

Achenar – Super Death Explosion Kittens (2011, Earthen Records)

While at a gym, I put on my iPod, got on one of the bicycles in the room, and began a 20-minute workout. However, nothing prepared me for what I was about to experience. I decided to put on one of the albums I had recently received, and began to pedal. Within seconds of the ambient opening, I ended up becoming immediately tired while trying to keep up with the speed of this particular music. I sweated viciously, my heart raced, and my entire body was in pain. By the time it was over, I couldn’t even think straightly for the rest of the day. It was a very intense and ferocious experience. Now, why am I telling about a day at the gym in context with music? Simple: music can be a powerful tool. Let’s face it: dance music works well in the gym, but most of the time, the top 40 hits are played, which aren’t necessarily suited to get you into the mood. What I heard, however, pushed me within striking distance of what would be humanly impossible. If only everyone else around me heard the same music, because at the end, everyone would have been tired for the rest of the day. What I heard was the 20-minute long, 7 track-EP, “Super Death Explosion Kittens”, by the Aviemore, Scotland-based project Achenar,  run by solo member Duncan Hemingway since 2003. The music itself is hard for me to describe. Whereas it could be described as a experimental crossover between industrial music and technical death metal, still, it doesn’t quite describe it enough. From what I know, Achenar takes in such a wide variety of influences that it ignores genre restrictions, and utilizes whatever elements are appropriate, which often is a combination of traditional organic instrumentation and electronic sounds. This can be heard some of the time, but most of the album is stripped-down to the bare bones, and sounds about as raw as possible. The album sounds gapless, going from one track to the next, and much of the time giving listeners a huge shock before the next piece or section is introduced. This is an intensely frightening and absurdly fun and noisy album filled with a lot of chaos and aural anarchy for the listener to soak in.

The short, 44 second opener, “Arise, Minions!”, begins with the atmospheric sounds of feedback and tuning radios, before diving head-first into a massacre of sledgehammer beats, gritty basses, and atonal noises. It leads to some rest, before the sound of a bleep signals the beginning of the next track “Vocal Opposition”, which is filled with even more sonic anarchy. From the huge break-beat-like death metal drums to more of the gritty basses and high pitched melody lines, this is obviously a track that does not let up easily from beginning to end. It sometimes returns to the main theme of the song, but most of the time, it is a violent storm of drums and noise, before going into a technically complex rhythm at the end, fading out into ambience, and then being rushed again to the track “The Enthralled”, which for the first time contains growled vocals in the chaotic mix. However, the middle of the song introduces us to a death metal inspired section, featuring less noise and more bass, more epically screamed vocals, and huge, sludge metal beats. The ending is also amazing, featuring hugely fast beats and stuttered noises, sometimes dropping out to hear the reverberations before being thrown back in again, but then it ends out with dark ambient drones. The interlude “Liberation” contains samples that actually remind me of something straight out of a video game, featuring dark sound design, industrial sounds, and a darkly humorous conversation between a man and something that sounds like a machine, in which the machine wants the man to give him death, and does so as the machine dies away.

“Neon Storm” is pretty much the perfect title for the track, because it sounds exactly like that: a neon storm. The beginning contains quietly growling and electronically processed vocals before moving yet again into a massacre of sound, featuring more noisy, high-pitched atonal melodies and extremely fast drumming that sound like a cross between extreme metal and drum and bass. There are also some interesting sections in this as well, where there is some complex drumming, another sludge metal-inspired section containing minor bass melodies with more processed vocals, and an almost steady rock rhythm at times. “God Agog” is about as melodic and accessible as the EP gets, with the beginning featuring some very distinctive melodies and semi-intense drumming before moving into yet another ferocious drum and noise breakdown, with yet again some complex rhythms that slow down, stop, or speed up in place at times, making for a whole lot of insane fun for the listener, before eventually ending out again with ambient noises. The last and longest track on the EP at about over 5 minutes long, “Born Into Steam”, is an epic finale, featuring a complex but moderately fast drum rhythm and more of the intensely dark noise textures that the album already has. Some actual melodies can be heard, as well as clean vocals, though sadly, they were sort of buried in the mix at the beginning, and I couldn’t understand them much. However, it drops out to introduce for the first and only time on this EP an orchestral section, along with some nice reverberated vocals, before eventually going back into the noisy madness. The breakdown in the middle of the track actually reminds me somewhat of an epic battle or fight, along with some delightfully minor and dark melodies and clean, folk-like vocals, which actually remind me a bit of Ulver’s work, though a bit noisier and not as ambient. The track, however, ends out on an ambiguous note, in which the previous section reached its climax, but only ends with the strange ambient sounds of, I believe, a fridge vibrating against shelves of glasses, in which at this point, the EP ends.

Overall, Achenar’s “Super Death Explosion Kittens” is an insanely fun and enjoyable listen, featuring extremely noisy synthesizers, epic orchestration at times, vocals ranging from beautifully clean to harsh screams, huge heavy-metal inspired industrial beats, and a whole lot of variety in the rhythms to keep the tracks alive. Though I would’ve preferred to have heard some variety in the synths used, as well as maybe some of the sounds of beats used, still, the addition of the vocals throughout and the orchestra in the last track sort of make it up. Also, the production for the most part is top-notch, as are the atmospheric sounds throughout the album, though I was a bit disappointed in that I couldn’t quite make out what the vocals were saying at times, since the chaos of the track buries it. Luckily, there is an album booklet available with this containing lyrics and some notes on the philosophy behind the album which makes the album as a whole even more interesting. This is an album that actually deserves to have a new genre to categorize it. Or perhaps, there shouldn’t be a label assigned to it. Maybe the music just is what it is. If you’re into this type of music, or just enjoy insanely chaotic and fun songs, then this album will probably appeal to you. Heck, even if you’re not into this, I highly recommend at least checking it out. 8.9 out of 10 stars.

Title: Super Death Explosion Kittens

Artist: Achenar

Genre: Technical death metal/industrial/electronic/experimental

Released in 2011 by Earthen Records

You can buy the album, as well as take a look at the artwork, lyrics, and download free MP3s here: http://www.earthenrecords.com/sdek/

Detailed rating:

  • Production values – 8 (Overall, the album is great with the production, but as said, I really wish I could’ve understood the vocals if they weren’t so buried at times)
  • Songwriting and Arrangement – 8.5 (I enjoyed how Achenar is trying to eschew melodies and harmonies most of the time in favor of noisy and rhythmical industrial textures (with the exception of the last track, which joins both melodic and atonal content together), as well as the variety of rhythms works well. However, I think that there could have been some more interesting textures on some of the tracks in order to make each track stand out as a whole, but nevertheless, it is still listenable and enjoyable)
  • Lyrical content -9 (I didn’t look at the lyrics as closely as I should’ve, but from reading them, I liked how poetic and different the lyrics are from most of the songs out there today, especially in the last song, as well as I especially enjoyed that darkly humorous video game-like dialogue in “Liberation”)
  • Enjoyment – 10 (Not much more to say for this section. Though I criticized the album for some of its technical details, it does not affect how much I enjoyed this album. Very chaotic but insanely fun stuff. Definitely made my workout in the gym memorable)

DJ Future Sphere – Teenage Ignoreland (2011, Anclear Records)

On a rainy and cloudy Friday night, traveling on a highway where only the lights from distant cities and cars were making the cloudy skies glow, I turned on my iPod, and took a listen to a new album I had received. The environment around me suddenly glimmered and shined, almost dancing to the music that I was listening to. The pulsating bass-lines, the warm, sunny synthesizers, and the soft beats of a drum machine complete with all sorts of different sound effects started to buzz around in my ears. Even at one point, I saw a low-flying airplane pass over me right as the music was building to a climax, and saw the plane for one last time before the next track began. It was an experience I will never forget. The album, in question, was DJ Future Sphere’s “Teenage Ignoreland”.

Sergey Konovalov, the producer behind the project, is not new to The Death of CDs. I previously reviewed both his albums “Desolate and Stardust” and “Corally Fixated”, which was released under the alias Coral Orange. If that isn’t enough, he runs his own WordPress blog, love songs on the radio, as well as has provided from time to time music reviews on this very site, such as the recent guest review of Joy Division’s “Unknown Pleasures“. His music is a wondrous mix of ambient and house music, harkening back to Orbital and other ambient house artists of the time, as well as incorporating other influences such as indie rock and shoegaze at times. The simplistically beautiful ambient interludes of “Event Horizon”, “A Drop of Grass (in a Big City”, “Untitled”, and the closer “Let There Be Another Day”, the progressive deep house of “Tender Is the Night”, “Remember”, Inbetween Heartbeats”, “The Big Relay”, and the epic “Forward Voyager”, as well as the long-form acid house composition “Crime of Emotion” are what you can expect from this album, and truthfully, though at times the mixing of the album does seem a bit awkward, this has to be one of the biggest indie ambient house releases of the year. The music sounds very minimal, but is actually packed with a lot of depth and meaning behind the tracks, and though you can dance to it, it never seems to be suited for a club setting. This is music for the at-home post-club listeners who want to both feel the rhythms of the night, as well as chill out at the same time. The bass is grooving, the beats are smooth, and the ambient synths and textures throughout the album are just heavenly. However, there are many other elements of this album that I couldn’t possibly tell you myself.  Therefore, in a first for The Death of CDs, I sat down (or rather sent messages back and forth while sitting down in the comforts of my desk, armed with a laptop) for an interview with the mastermind behind this album, Sergey Konovalov himself. Also, before I reveal this interview, I do have to note that this is not only the first time I’ve ever interviewed an artist, but that this is perhaps the first time I’ve ever interviewed anyone. Sure, you can ask your family and friends questions, but obviously, it’s more natural to strike up a conversation with them. However, this sure was a different yet enjoyable experience for me, and I hope that I can continue to interview artists in the future. Henceforth, the interview:

Photo by Mikhail Vovk

Ian Felpel: First of all, since most of our readers probably aren’t familiar with your work, which ranges from acid techno to house to even ambient shoegaze soundscapes, can you sort of describe what it is that you do?

Sergey Konovalov: I’d say that what I do is mix all of the influences I’ve had over the years together into one big pile – that would define the DJ Future Sphere pseudonym. Die Struktur is pure acid techno, and Coral Orange is what Gas would sound like were the rave taken out of the forest underwater, but that just adds to the explanation I posted when I was summarizing the last year so there you are.

IF: How were you inspired to make this album? What influences can we perhaps hear on this album? I thought I could pick up a little bit of Daft Punk at times…

SK: A little bit of everything, just like with all of my work. The main influence for “Teenage Ignoreland” was autumn, though, and my surroundings – to be more precise, my daily routine like subway and going home from school and all that stuff – and the crucial element would be the pervasive feeling of loneliness that I experienced, I mean, the alienation, lack of common interests with your peers, common reference points. I kinda mentioned it in the booklet for the album, I had a feeling as if I’m stuck in the titular teenage Ignoreland. Musically… yes, there is a certain Daft Punk influence – on “Forward Voyager” to be more exact, but mostly I was influenced by deep house and the aforementioned shoegaze, like Larry Heard, Moodymann, Slowdive, and the more melodic stuff in the vein of Saint Etienne, Annie, Deadmau5 and the like. Though, even that would be too limited a reference pool, so just as I’ve said – a little bit of everything.

IF: As you’ve mentioned a little already, there is a 16-page booklet that comes with the album, which contains some of the topics we’ve touched a little on, but it also includes imagery that you took  around Kharkov, Ukraine. In trying to create a visual entity for the album, in which I can see the autumnal moods, what did you try to focus on?

SK: Well…there wasn’t a particular focus or anything. [pause] As a matter of fact, I’ve just tried to capture whatever was before my eyes at the time since I’ve received a new cellphone then and wanted to experiment. There was also an element of what to me is something like ‘accidental beauty’, when you try to seize the moment before it’s gone, and downtown where I live in there were plenty of such moments.

IF: So it was an urge to take images of your surroundings, and experiment with them to fit the mood of the album?

SK: Not really, seeing as it’s the music fitting the imagery in the booklet rather than the other way around. Especially with the front cover, that captures a flock of pigeons on the stadium a couple of minutes away from my house that were frightened by the local folk and were flying away. It’s probably the shot that I’m really proud of that captures the mood I was going after perfectly.

IF: In your previous works, such as “Corally Fixated” and “Desolate and Stardust”, you were sampling other artists either by manipulating the samples beyond recognition or by implementing them into the world of your music, which has worked perfectly. However, I can’t detect any samples in this album. Am I wrong on this?

SK: No, you’re not – I didn’t want the album to contain any samples or contributions by other people, since it’s pretty much a deeply personal affair, and I wanted to fight this battle all alone.

IF: To continue with sampling, what are your thoughts on sample-based music, and do you believe that the music industry is perhaps taking the legalities of sampled music too seriously?

SK: Seeing as I love French house and alternative hip-hop that are reliant on samples, I approve of it wholeheartedly. I guess that music industry is really taking it way too seriously, as such, my opinion is that the people in the industry are more concerned with getting money from the songs than hearing what can people make out of them. I’d rather be more concerned with the note-for-note knockoffs of some songs masquerading as completely original ones, as if talent really borrowed and genius really stole – you can’t really call sampled songs that since they only use portions of the original to make something completely new. Though, granted, I might be wrong, but yet again, plagiarism is more worrying than sampling to me, and equating them is not the right thing to do.

IF: On “Teenage Ignoreland”, the album showcases genres from ambient and deep house to progressive and acid house (such as in the track “Crime of Emotion”, where a 303 bassline is used). However, I also understand that there is an anime influence (and perhaps this was mentioned earlier). Can you perhaps elaborate a bit on this influence?

Photo by Mikhail Vovk

SK: I was mostly influenced by the background music in anime – the first thing I notice about anime is usually its soundtrack. In that regard, the Key Visual Art’s series produced by Kyoto Animation really stick out – by that, I mean Kanon, AIR and Clannad – because as well as staggering stories they have really evocative music to go with them, symbolic of the seasons they are set in. To my knowledge, Key never produced a visual novel based around autumnal imagery, so you can basically call the album a soundtrack to an imaginary something set in autumn, however corny or cumbersome that sounds :D

Having mentioned those series, I guess I could pull most of the other Kyoto Animation series I’ve watched so far into the equation – that would include Lucky Star, K-On!, and The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya which is my favorite out of them all, and also Hanamaru Kindergarten by Gainax. As you might’ve probably guessed, music would be the main draw for them all for me personally, because they would be considered as guilty pleasures by more seasoned anime aficionados – but hey, I’ve only just begun, you could forgive me that.:D And I also guess that it really lightened the recording process up, because making “Teenage Ignoreland” was really hard, and I needed something to lose myself in, satiate my escapism urges.

IF: The album is gapless, flowing from one song to the next. Is the album meant to be listened to fully as an experience, or can any one of the tracks be taken out of context, and used in, say, a club atmosphere?

SK: It is supposed to be an experience. Besides, I don’t really think that any of the tracks in their iteration on the album can be used in a club atmosphere, just like with most of my later music – however, they are pretty much reworkable and remixable which means that they could be adapted for the dancefloor, if there’s anyone interested in that kind of stuff. Take this last statement as the unsubtle call for remixers.

IF: Since your music is different than most music out there, is the music scene in Kharkov, Ukraine more towards electronic music, or is it something completely different?

:DSK: It’s something completely different I guess. The music scene in Kharkov – at least as I know it – is still more geared towards what was prevalent during the times there was the USSR. But still, there are some interesting developments, like Liquid Break and 99INJECTIONS that are playing live electronic stuff – the former are live drum’n’bass and the latter are more, well, heavy in their music. I would also point out The Hustlers since they are quite eclectic and their style is sort of J Dilla-esque hip hop meets bluesy arrangements… but I can’t really describe their sound adequately. Either way, they’re still as far from the mainstream as it gets.

IF: Well, at least there are some interesting developments. I will definitely have to check those out. I’m guessing that there are currently no shoegaze bands in Kharkiv as well, since your music has that similar sound?

SK: Alas, there are no shoegaze bands in Ukraine in general… again, so I know – just as with slowcore, I get the feeling they were slept on unlike Britpop and garage in Ukraine, seeing as there are much more bands that are influenced by, say, Oasis, Blur, recent indie bands and Radiohead before they released Kid A than Low, My Bloody Valentine or Slowdive. Well, it’s my intention to learn how to play guitar in order to – quite possibly – be one of the first people in Ukraine to write and play music in the vein of the aforementioned bands. But yet again, there’s still the question of finding people who have to be in the know about shoegaze, slowcore and just all the music movements of the late 80’s – early 90’s in general… that might go unanswered since teens of my age are more likely to listen to (terrible) Russian rap and/or nu-metal than whatever I listen to.

IF: Speaking of live music, is there a possibility that we may see DJ Future Sphere and/or Coral Orange play live in the future?

Photo by Mikhail Vovk

SK: I guess there is such a possibility. I’ll be investing in a laptop and a guitar pretty soon, so I might find some software in order to perform live, or buy some additional hardware in order to control whatever I’m going to play – but still, Coral Orange is more likely to perform than DJ Future Sphere. Not least because Coral Orange is simpler to reproduce in live setting – I often feel like the DJ Future Sphere material could only be adequately reproduced live if it were played by a full band – with drummers, percussionists, keyboardists, whatever – since it’s so dense-sounding.

IF: When I think of Coral Orange performing live, I almost have an image of Gas’s live performances, where he uses Ableton Live with only one audio track and a few tweaks of a MIDI controller. However, I could also imagine DJ Future Sphere material being performed with a live band, maybe like how Ariel Pink has his band Haunted Graffiti perform his older solo efforts.

SK: Yeah, sort of like Gas – but still, I’d have to move more unlike Gas because I’d have to change up the songs I’ve sampled. Quite possibly, making new ones in the process. And I don’t really know about Ariel Pink, but I’m rather getting the idea of Moritz von Oswald Trio, except that the trio would have to be bigger and the guitars would be more relying on textural pad-like sounds just like shoegaze. I’d also love to cover songs I like while playing as DJ Future Sphere, but I guess that would be the privilege of a rock band that I’m going to form anyway, so I guess the DJFS show will be DJFS-centered.

IF: Thank you for taking the time to answer these questions. Is there anything else you would like to say to our readers?

SK: Not really, just your generic stuff like “stay positive, don’t believe the hype” and – more importantly – spread the word and keep circulating the tapes, if you’re pondering what I’m pondering.

Sergey has also provided a list of favorite tracks that he believes you should listen to before listening to “Teenage Ignoreland”, as well as I have provided a list of tracks known as “Points of Entry”, which are some of my favorite tracks of his.

Favorite tracks:

Daft Punk – Voyager

Saint Etienne – Heart Failed (in the Back of a Taxi)

Shinji Orito – Pure Snows (Anemoscope version)

Points of Entry:

DJFS – Hold Me (feat. The daunting)

DJFS – Tender Is the Night

Die Struktur – In Den Kosmos (direct from Acidplanet)
The Daunting & H4N – You and Me (Coral Orange Remix) [Another direct from Acidplanet]

In conclusion, there is not much more I can say about DJ Future Sphere’s “Teenage Ignoreland”. I could describe the sound, but it is very difficult to describe just how it affects me. The album is gapless, and as said previously, not really meant to have any one track taken out of context for the clubs. The album is more or less meant to be taken in as an experience, and due to this, each listener will have his or her own interpretation of the music, and what it means to them. I did say that there are a few awkward spots in the mixing here and there, but obviously, there is no such thing as a perfect album. Sure, every human on the face of this planet have their own opinion of what a perfect album is, but even if someone rates an album a 10 out of 10, it doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s the best album of all-time, nor does it mean that everyone will enjoy it. It just means that it’s something that the listener really enjoyed, and wants everyone else to take a chance on it. I can tell you that for myself, I really did enjoy this album, and the score is pretty darn close to a perfect 10. Not everyone will enjoy this album, but I highly recommend taking a chance on it. It’s certainly one of the greatest indie ambient house albums in a while, and deserves to be heard. 9.7 out of 10 stars.

Title: Teenage Ignoreland

Artist: DJ Future Sphere

Genre: Ambient/house

You can buy the album here!: http://anclearrecords.bandcamp.com/album/teenage-ignoreland

Also, I have decided from now on to show you all the reasoning for my scores, because let’s face it: how can we truly know whether an album is good or not when there is such an ambiguous score? Here’s my reasoning:

  • Production values – 9
  • Songwriting and Arrangement – 10
  • Enjoyment – 10

If you take the average of these numbers, and round it, it should be 9.7, which is exactly what I am feeling on this release. The production was great despite the awkward mixing here and there (the reason why I took off one point), the songwriting and arrangement was on par with much of today’s house and ambient tracks, yet keeps its own unique and diverse style, and I thoroughly enjoyed the album as a whole. Not much more I can say besides that.

New reviewing system, new section for site, and other news…

Hello, everyone,

I would like to thank those of you who have been submitting music for me to review, have been reading this site, or have been telling others about this site. I am very flattered that you have taken the time to do so, and am happy that I am getting different music out to the world.

There has been one thing that has been bugging me for a while, though, and it is this: for the past month, I have been putting out reviews almost every other day. This has been due to the fact that there are some albums I have reviewed before they have been released, but I did not want to leak the reviews before the release date. Instead, I wanted to release them on the review date, but likewise, I didn’t want to release reviews sporadically. I wanted to keep them going on an almost daily basis. Therefore, that would explain why reviews have been coming every other day or so. Also, some albums I’ve reviewed were released on the same day and/or a day that I had already put out a review, which is why it seems like I’ve been late in reviewing things. On the contrary, I have actually been reviewing ahead of release dates, but could not release them all at the same time. I wanted to keep things moving smoothly and on a scheduled basis.

However, this is not the problem. Rather, the problem is that due to all of the albums I’ve listened to, I’ve been giving almost the same score, whether it be 9, 9.5, or 10, except for the Squarepusher album, which I gave a 7.5 for, and I’ve felt that I haven’t been as truthful with my reviews as I should be. Truthfully, every album and/or EP I’ve listened to I’ve enjoyed in some way or another, and all my reviews up to this point have been based solely on enjoyability. However, being a musician myself, even if I enjoy the album overall, there are going to be things that I may have a problem with, whether it be the musical production, the songwriting, and so forth.

Therefore, in order to keep truthful to myself, and hopefully to everyone else, this month, I am starting a new review system. The only thing this will effect is the score/stars. There may still be 9s and 10s, but as far as in between, my rating system will be probably similar to Pitchfork’s. What I am basically reviewing on, from a scale of 1 to 10, is this:

  • Production values
  • Songwriting and Arrangement
  • Lyrical content (if applicable)
  • Enjoyment

Therefore, I am adding production values, as well as songwriting and arrangement to the rating. Also, I may add additional criteria in the future, but for the most part, this is basically what I’m looking for. If you look at the star ratings, this is what they mean:

1-2: Not really my style or not good

3-4: Not bad or Not as good as I had hoped

5-6: Neutral or it’s good, but it could have been better

7-8: It’s great or there were minor things that I had an issue with, but nothing that hurt the album overall

9-10: Completely amazing or very few to no things that I had a problem with

Therefore, I hope that these ratings are a more accurate representation of what my thoughts on the albums and/or EPs that I review are. Still, I hope this doesn’t discourage anyone from sending me music to review and/or reading this site! Honestly, I think there are many sites out there that don’t give music the justice it deserves. Even at times, I fall under that trap. However, many music review sites will only review certain kinds of music, and once it a while, it reviews something different, which sort of screws fans of that particular genre. Here, you’re not going to be screwed. I listen to a lot of different genres, and have been able to find something enjoyable out of each of them. If I truly like something that I hear, you’ll know, and if there’s something that I don’t quite like as much, hopefully, you’ll be able to see that as well. Hopefully, this will only improve this site more.

Next, I had received a suggestion to include a section entitled “Love Songs on the Radio”, which is actually the name of one of my friend’s own WordPress site (it is up in the navigation bar) who also reviews music, and has also contributed some guest reviews to this site as well. What the section will include is basically new album reviews, but the difference between this and my regular reviews are that this is sort of like an article, where I will include interviews with artists concerning their works, production behind the new album, and other topics that are more or less relevant. It will also include images of the artists, any of their favorite tracks or other works worth mentioning, and so forth. I think this will make the site more interesting and may open up the public to a more in-depth look at the different albums that I am listening to at the moment. In fact, the next post after this will be the first for this new section, which will be on DJ Future Sphere’s upcoming album, “Teenage Ignoreland”. Look out for it in the coming days.

Also, to tell what is to come, I will be reviewing Moby’s upcoming album “Destroyed”, coming out May 16th, Kyle Bobby Dunn’s new album, “Ways of Meaning”, due out May 23rd, Damn Robot!’s debut album, “Hunang Skrímsli”, due out May 16th as well, August Burns Red’s new album “Leveler”, due out June 21st,  as well as Washed Out’s debut album, “Within and Without”, coming out July 12th. I am highly anticipating these two albums, as well as any other albums that I come across in the coming weeks.

This is all the news that I wanted to share with you for the moment. I can only hope that these changes will improve the site, and gives readers a more accurate representation of my thoughts on the albums, though I truly do enjoy each and every album I have received in the past few months. Take care, everyone!

Ian Felpel

Various Artists – Hawk Moon Records: Volume II (2011, Hawk Moon Records)

In all the time I’ve reviewed music here, I don’t believe I’ve ever reviewed a compilation. Luckily, I’ve gotten the chance to review this incredible compilation, “Hawk Moon Records: Volume II”, which is a collection of ambient post-rock tracks from artists that are up and coming in the genre. Some of these artists I’ve already heard of before, such as Lowercase Noises and The Echelon Effect, who makes some incredibly emotional and dynamic compositions in the genre, and I am happy to see some new, previously unreleased material of theirs on here. However, the nicest part about listening to this album is that luckily, this album has also given me the chance to discover some artists that I had previously never heard of before. It is hard for me to sum these tracks up without going through each one (as I usually do with all my reviews), because each track has a different feel and style, though all related to the vein of ambient and post-rock that the compilation revolves around for almost 40 minutes. Hopefully, you, as the listener, will also have a chance to check out this compilation, because it is certainly something you don’t want to miss.

The first track, “Sun”, which is by In Lieu, the solo project of 21 year old multi-instrumentalist/producer Martin Ruffin, begins with a beautiful ambience of synth pads and some reverberated piano. Eventually, some soothing vocals and a soft electronic beat enters into the mix, but they never interfere here in the beginning with the ambience that continues to shine and glimmer throughout. Further in, the intensity builds as more traditional drum kits and higher-ranged powerful singing take over more of the mix. Finally, the song builds to a huge climax containing hard, military-like drumming, distorted guitar riffs, and the presence of some glockenspiels, in which the song builds yet again with more and more noisy distortion, before ending out in an ambient soundscape. Overall, the song really caught my attention, and was, I believe, the perfect choice to begin the compilation.

The second track, “FL150″, which is by the UK-based project The Echelon Effect, contains an ambient opening with light guitar riffs and distant sound samples, which could range from radios to TV stations. As the track progresses, glockenspiel melodies and some electronic beats in the background unveil themselves to the listener, and the riffs become more layered and complex. Suddenly, powerful drumming, melodic guitars, and intense synthesized strings drop on the listener unexpectedly, almost like a soundtrack to a film. It then quiets down to the soft plucks of guitars, lots of studio effects, and more sound samples, before eventually building up intensity in the last minute of the song, and then finally ending out in a quiet fashion. Overall, this is yet another great example of post-rock, as previously demonstrated by Mogwai and other artists that were claimed to have worked in the genre.

“The Great Landfill In The Sky”, the third track on the compilation, is performed by a new project entitled Damn Robot!, which consists of the brothers Rob and Tom Honey, who have worked respectively in the projects Inachus and Good Weather For An Airstrike. The track begins with soft ambient drones before going into an electric piano progression, soft electronic beat, and a spoken word sample that sounds to be in a foreign language. Ambient drones keep building on top of each other underneath this foundation before later in the track, guitar riffs washed in a lush reverb can be found before adding back in the beginning elements, as well as some more soft synth leads. Overall, though it is not as dynamic as the first two tracks, it still can be categorized as post-rock simply because of the way that it uses traditional (and some non-traditional) instrumentation in an ambient matter to create a soothing soundscape of drones, textures, and quiet riffs. In fact, if there is any dynamics here, it’s the foreign vocal sample, since at the end of the track, people can be heard yelling. Overall, it works to calm down the listener from the first two tracks of the compilation, giving them some time to relax.

“The Cure”, the fourth track provided by the Sussex band “…And The Earth Swarmed With Them”, contains an even more ambient approach, consisting of only melodic melodies from guitars and either vibes or keys, processed with delay and reverb, as well as the sounds of the wind in the background, which together create a slightly unsettling effect, but is nevertheless beautiful. It is also the shortest track on the compilation at around only 3 minutes in length, but nevertheless, it is still a great addition to the compilation, showing that post-rock can be ambient as well as still preserving the rock roots. However,the fifth track, “Yardsticks”, which is by the Liverpool-based atmospheric instrumental rock band MinionTV, is the longest track on the compilation at over 7 minutes long, and begins with actively buzzing and rhythmic synths, moving in stereo around the listener, but still being as connected to drone as most of the album is already. Eventually, a tremolo picked guitar enters the mix, along with some other strange and otherworldly sounds seeping in and out. Eventually, the song picks up steam with a fast moving and electronically manipulated drum rhythm, along with distorted ambient guitars and more strange sound effects that are almost reminiscent of Joy Division’s works. The song builds up further and further with more waves of ambient lead guitar, until the drums fade out, leaving behind ambient lead guitar, a huge wall of sound, and the buzzing synths, which over time gradually die down until the track ends. Overall, this is one of the more interesting listens, and I’d certainly want to hear more from this band soon.

“Blood and Toothpaste”, which is by multi-instrumentalist Alex Previty’s solo project On Escalators, takes post-rock to another level, combining not only the ambience at the beginning of the track, but after a while, the track immediately becomes complex with math-rock drum rhythms and melodic distorted guitars, similar to what Slint did with “Spiderland”, but without all the dissonance of that album, showing yet again just how powerful post-rock can truly be. Also, unlike most of post-rock’s minimalism, the song constantly changes throughout without much repetition, building tension as to what is going to happen next. In the middle, the song immediately becomes slower and closer to what most of today’s post-rock music sounds like, along with beautiful clean guitars and light druming, in which the drums slowly build up the tension only to unveil more ambient drones to end the song. Overall, like the last song, this is definitely another interesting listen with a lot of variety going on in one track, and I will certainly be looking out for this project as well.

“The Days of Winter”, which is by the New York-based Circadian Eyes, the solo project of Bryan Collins, begins solely with slow piano rhythms, which over time change into more complex and upbeat rhythms closer to modern pop, rock, and classical music. However, a light kick drum builds up the tension of the track, progressively getting louder along with some synthesizer pads, and eventually reaching a beautifully nostalgic climax before ending out with piano. It is a nice change of pace from the rest of the album, and I believe it was a good choice for the compilation. The last track, “Let In The Morning Light”, which is by none other than the New-Mexico based Lowercase Noises, the solo project of Andy Othling, begins with beautifully lush guitar chords, a softly stuttering electronic beat, and some electric piano. The instrumentation works really well here, and creates a very relaxing atmosphere. Eventually, both acoustic and electronic drums can be heard, which builds up to a nice, slow-moving pace featuring more brilliant ambience. In the middle of the song, a very interesting synth lead can also be heard, which I haven’t really heard in most of Andy’s music, unless of course, I was focusing too much on the atmosphere of the song to notice it before. Towards the end of the song, all of the elements heard in the song come together to create a very stunning climax before ending out quietly with electronic beats and electric piano, in which the album ends.

Overall, “Hawk Moon Records: Volume II” showcases some great post-rock music from the latest up and coming artists. Though I had already heard The Echelon Effect and Lowercase Noises before, and I really enjoyed their contributions to this album, the rest of the songs really surprised me in the way that though they were all very ambient overall, they each took post-rock to a different degree, from Circadian Eyes’s simple piano melodies, Damn Robot!’s drone-y ambience and …And The Earth Swarmed With You’s minimal atmospheres to On Escalators’s math-rock influenced grooves, MinionTV’s epic cinematic soundscapes, and In Lieu’s huge dynamic range. Every piece on here is unique in their own way, and I thoroughly enjoyed each and everyone one of them. If you are someone who has never heard post-rock before, let alone heard of any of these bands before, you should take it upon yourself to get this album. It is a great entry point into the realm of post-rock, because I can guarantee you that once you listen to this album, you will be hooked to the genre, and want to hear more, either from the artists that are featured on this album or from others who work in the genre. Highly recommended listening. 9.5 out of 10 stars.

Title: Hawk Moon Records: Volume II

Artist: Various Artists

Genre: Ambient/post-rock/electronica

Released in 2011 by Hawk Moon Records

You can download the album for free here!: http://hawkmoonrecords.bandcamp.com/album/hawk-moon-records-volume-ii