WOLFRAM: X CD Monotype Records
It’s been 11 years since Wolfram created an actual ‘new’ album as such; other pieces of work that have been released have been older tracks used for movies and theatre etc. Either way, ‘X’ is a more than suitable return.
Opener, ‘W:Xswarm’ is a noisy affair that rises into a raging slab of hive activity, fizzling out into a serene ‘Introspektiv’; that teeters on the edges of Dark Ambient, but most likely owes more to movie soundtracks than anything else.
With a seamless flow, track two glides into ‘Exploded View’. A wiry ambient number that plays on scratching glitch as it progresses into the lighter ambient leanings of ‘N:xizhe’; that throws in a background heart beat to give the essence of pace.
‘X’ finishes on a combination of sounds that represent the album as a whole. Machine-like in its approach it draws on touches of Industrial; and is a fitting end to the release.
Overall, this is a sold and fine return to making music. It won’t set the world alight with brilliance, but everything Wolfram has done here, does well as an all-rounder. The CD has some nice laser etching on the playable side too.
JOHN CHANTLER: Which Way to Leave LP ROOM40
The ninth instalment from Stockholm’s John Chantler, charges into life somewhat erratically with an array of scattered computer electronics that become all too irritating, all too quickly. Followed up with the treated field recordings of ‘Two and Four’ and the non directional bleeps of ‘Clearing’, and you start to just wonder whether the rest of the album is worth listening to at all.
Luckily, the guitar ambient that surfaces in ‘Fixation Pulse’ went some way into clawing back my attention; just as my final thread of patience became frayed. Along with ‘First December’ and its partner ‘Second December’, these are without doubt the best tracks on this latest piece of work, but would have worked best overall as an EP of some sort.
The rest of ‘Which Way to Leave’ is a nonsensical mess of pointless drivel; and it would take the casual listener a small age to derive anything of value, with the better tracks hidden far beyond the realms of sanity it takes to find them.
MATT ELLIOTT: The Calm Before LP/CD Ici d’Ailleurs
Some people will be aware of Elliott’s tenure with The Third Eye Foundation and just how influential they were in Drum n’ Bass circles. This, his eighth solo album, couldn’t be any further removed from that act, with a collection of weird singer/songwriter numbers.
Matt has brought together a collective of musicians that clearly know as much as he does, just how capable they are. For the most part, ‘The Calm Before’, is acoustic in nature with the odd stumble into madness (where it almost appears SWANS like); and would have been the path I trod down throughout if I were him.
There’s absolutely nothing wrong with this album at all, let me get that clear. It’s well played, well produced and well constructed; but it’s just not my bag as a whole. I prefer music of this ilk when it ravages the senses, ten times as desperate; and this is just a little too easy on the ear for my tastes.
FRANK BENKHO: A Trip to the Space (Between) DL Clang
Utilising the possibilities of improvisation between analogue instruments, effects pedals and voice is nothing new; many will try and many will fail and a small few will succeed in producing something worth listening to. The key word I am playing on here is ‘improvised’.
Benkho actually has things more on an even keel than I envisaged. There are moments on this latest release that steadily progress, without an inkling of falling apart; such as ‘Deep Love Below the Earth’, that builds and allows all the futuristic sounds to build upon each other well.
However, for the most part ‘A Trip to Space’ is a mish-mash of sounds that filter through randomly (of no surprise considering improvisation) and without any concern for meaning, care, or indeed worth. This is a pity, because in some stages, Benkho does appear to have his head screwed on; and I get the feeling that if he actually sat down and constructed something like this a little less randomly, then it could actually be quite special.
MONOLITH: Domination CD HANDS
Following on from his release ‘Crashed’ from two years previous; Eric Van Wonterghem slams home once again why he is one of the most revered of stalwarts within Industrial circles.
This, his 9th album under this banner; displays Monolith at its competent best. The opening title track is a rhythmic march that clinically progresses forward with less brutality than may have been envisaged, but leads well into an even less aggressive ‘Angel of Death’; replying more on its technicality as the song progresses.
This is the story for the remainder of the album. Here, Wonterghem has filed down the abrasive edges of the project and concentrated his efforts on a more techno slant to the rhythm sections; which ooze out on a drip-feed as opposed to smashing the listener in the teeth.
Not without the odd journey into atmospherics (not all of which work and sometimes feel a little ham fisted), ‘Domination’ is a lot quieter than its title might suggest; however, it is all the better in its totality for it. There was a time when it was anathema for bands of his ilk to produce anything other than blistering hammers of noise and blast-beats. I am sure things will go full circle, but in this era listeners demand a little more for their buck; and bearing that in mind, Eric has delivered something on a level that’s a touch more progressive for the Hands followers out there.
THE DWARFS OF EAST AGOUZA: Bes 2xLP/CD Nawa Recordings
This Egyptian trio from Cairo are a bizarre bunch. With their debut album they take in a variety of styles such as folk and trippy rock, with a heavy slant on a variety of cultural leanings awash with Jazz sensibilities.
There is a heavy amount of spazzed out guitar noodling along the way, which for the most part is quite enjoyable in an experimental sense; but can become irritating as over-indulgence sets in.
Atmospherically speaking, there are momentary glances that did grab me, but these were too few and far between. ‘Bes’ is one of those albums that simply doesn’t float my boat, not because of any imperfections, but because it simply isn’t for me. The album feels heavily improvised (whether that is the case or not) and its jumbled nature doesn’t appeal to me on any level.
This is not discounting the musicianship on display; it is clear that these guys have a high level of technical ability and they do have an audience that will lap this up. I applaud them for their competency and skill, but on an emotional level I need pits of darkness and shards of light; where this unfortunately loiters as a murky pea soup (and don’t get me started on their grammatically incorrect band name).
ERLAND APNESETH TRIO: Det Andre Rommet CD Hubro
Take one of Norway’s youngest fiddlers alongside a couple of sound explorers and the end result is this. Music with its feet firmly planted in Norwegian folk tradition.
Gathering a real sense of urgency, rich tones are scattered and broken with a swift drag of a bow, as ambient textures breathe a frosty air amongst sparse tribal percussive elements.
There is an overall earthly and grounded feel to this release that plays with ethereal reverberation. The fiddles echo as though played out from the crags above a dense forest; a call to nature and almost Pagan leanings that occasionally dip in to medieval reverie.
However, there is a down side. As much as this plays out well as a whole, the experimental nature of this album takes over all too quickly; taking away some of the raw magic that was achieved with simplistic instrumentation and straightforward musicianship (as on the exceptional, ‘Magma’). There is a time for messing about, but I applaud the simplicity that can be derived from pure ambience; and whilst this album has it in abundance; it is spoiled somewhat by a tendency to try and be too clever for its own good.