MICHAEL IDEHALL: Prophecies of the Storm CD/DL Ant-Zen

MICHAEL IDEHALL: Prophecies of the Storm           CD/DL Ant-Zen

Electronics approaching from a sinister corner permeate the entirety of Idehall’s latest full-lengther. F rom the sparse throbs and slow paced beats overridden with rasping vocals of ‘Built Apart’, to the ambient soundtrack elements of ‘Bear Nemesis’; and the Industrial overtones of ‘In the Dark Vapour’, there is much to be gaged from sitting through this album in one sitting.

For me, ‘Prophecies of the Storm’ is one of those releases that play’s out as though it was staged in a different genre.  The structure itself feels as though it has been constructed in the same pattern as Power Electronics, but with an entirely different medium; like producing fine art, without the conventional pencil or paint palette and brush.

The overall effect works well and serves as a bridge between different aspects of musical corners that are normally far enough apart, so one does not usually engage with the other.  The end result is an engaging album that provides a gripping and sometimes horrific tale from start to finish.

8.5/10

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PHILLIP MÜNCH: Greyscale CD/DL Ant-Zen

PHILLIP MÜNCH: Greyscale         CD/DL Ant-Zen

Phillip’s solo work has always culminated in a barrage of oddity and peculiarity, whilst still retaining a high essence of remaining listenable; which I assure you, is quite a task. ‘Greyscale’ though, provides a new chapter, moving on from the concepts provided with ‘Into the Absurd’ and ‘Post Elysium’; and suitably, the aesthetic follows suit.

From the somewhat ambient intro of ‘Alive!’ things really kick off with a somewhat old school electronic industrial track, in the form of ‘Mantra’; providing an engaging and full-throttle no-nonsense step back in time, genre speaking.

With the lyrics now predominantly sung in German, everything pulls on the nature of previous glories that permeated the scene way back when everything was so fresh and new; and alongside the sound sources provided, Münch hosts a truly enthralling nostalgia trip for the listener, without ever falling into the trap of sounding dated.

‘Greyscale’, for all its trading on the past, sounds as fresh and relevant as ever; and as expected, still carries enough of the madness we have come to expect from this artist as to keep it enjoyable and entertaining throughout.

9/10

RIOTMILOO & FRIENDS: La Pierre Soudée CD Ant-Zen

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RIOTMILOO & FRIENDS: La Pierre Soudée CD Ant-Zen

Riotmiloo (aka Emilie Verbieze) has been on the circuit for many a year now, being in great demand for her vocal talents on many a release for many an artist. This his her first release under her own moniker; and it’s fitting she has called for collaboration on this release as others have called on her talents in the past.

Documenting factual studies in women’s suffering in the world, this release goes straight for the jugular pretty much from the off, with the cold electronics of Eva|3 assisting in the title track providing the first visceral slice.

Dirk Ivens aides Verbieze in spitting out her voice as effective punk-ish venom, merging well with Philipp Münch’s collaborative efforts on ‘Monster’. An almost anarchistic feel to the vocals help push the message across well with a duality that allows the stories to be translated to the listener; forceful but not as oppressive as the lyrical content itself, getting the statement across in a contemplative manner.

Musical styles vary but the thematically work as a whole given the subject manner and the electronics kept inky black. From the slick opaque tar trip-hop of ‘Child Bride’ with Scalper, to the electro-Industrial patter of ‘I Was Once’, with Chrysalide and the bombastic ‘Freedom From Fear’ with Babylone Chaos; the music as a whole may switch kilter, but systematically gels seamlessly due to the order in which they appear on the album.

The roster on ‘La Pierre Soudée’ showcases the abilities of the artists to great effect, whilst retaining the nobility of this being Emilie’s baby, throughout. Under her direction she has produced a mature and emphatic release that has an essential variation in acoustics, keeping the listener on their toes; providing a platform to bring the valid and often ignored message home.

9.5/10

NIMON / NOMIN: The King is Dead / Long Live the King CD & Digital Download Ant-Zen

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NIMON / NOMIN: The King is Dead / Long Live the King CD & Digital Download Ant-Zen

Keith (Keef) Baker has been a very busy individual since closing the lid on his electronic self-titled output, with his Nimon project that approaches music from an altogether more serious tone. As the follow up to last years ‘Drowning in Good Intentions’ (dedicated to his mother who passed away), I can only feel for Baker as his father also left this world, resulting in his latest work ‘The King is Dead’ (which also includes a slip to download it’s partner album ‘Long Live the King’). Life can deliver many a cruel blow, but I feel Keith has approached this with humility on both counts, with what can only be the most cathartic way to deal with such episodes in life’s journey.

As the distant chamber reverberations of ‘When a Home is no Longer Anyone’s Home’ rise, it is all too easy to feel the immediacy of Baker’s grief. However, underneath the ranging and soaring waves of guitar led ambience, there is undoubtedly, memories of greater and happier times that I am sure are led with flagships of photographs on the walls, representing the existence of an individual who brought a great deal of happiness; and in reality, no matter how sad it is when someone is torn away from us, they never truly are, as memories always live on in the smiles on those faces forever frozen in time.

‘The King is Dead’, whilst travelling the same corridors as its predecessor, speaks with an ever-so-slight difference in tone, reflecting the feelings towards the personality of his father, whilst no less as loving as those towards his mother. It is hard to break down individual tracks, as once again this is best consumed as a whole listening experience; where there are inevitable nods at the likes of Christian Fennesz musically, whilst retaining the individuality of Keith’s drone-work and programming skills.

Cleverly, Baker has produced a counter-album in the form of ‘Long Live the King’, that is meant to be played simultaneously along-side its CD released brother. This has been done before, but not by many and takes a great deal of gusto and bravery to attempt such a feat.

Together (yes I managed it), this digital download younger sibling fills out the (not so evident) gaps of TKID that you miss when playing it as a sole item. Inevitably as a result, LLTK is a strange beast if you play it as a separate entity, hanging on the darker crannies of the ambient scale; providing an altogether peculiar and almost psychotropic experience.

The culmination of effort made with this latest output deserves attention and a round of applause from those that make music themselves; and whilst it would do a disservice to his debut (and indeed everything that it represents) to score this higher, it would be unfair not to recognise the sheer toil involved in producing something of this nature. Looking to the future I sincerely hope Mr Baker has other (and happier) avenues to focus his attention on when it comes to producing future work under this banner.

9.5/10

NIMON: Drowning in Good Intentions CD Ant-Zen

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NIMON: Drowning in Good Intentions  CD Ant-Zen

Veteran to the scene, Keef Baker recently announced that he wouldn’t be producing any more music under his own name.  This brought some initial sadness, as I have always loved what he has released upon the world; and now that ship has sailed, we have Nimon to fall back on as his latest vessel for moving forward.

‘Drowning in Good Intentions’ provides us with an ultimately different beast to what has come before, concentrating on blissful droning guitar-led ambience.  This is not a new medium by any means, as the likes of Aiden Baker and such will attest to; however none of them quite hit the levels that Baker does on this emotionally gut wrenching warts and all, project debut.

Texturally deep, it’s best to consume ‘Drowning in Good Intentions’ as a whole rather than on a track by track basis.  In one sitting it’s easier to become immersed within the waves of grief as they push you further into the depths, with one hand outstretching to lift your head above the swell just as you run out of air.  Many a dynamic filter through the mix and the blended shoegazing backdrop, reminiscent in part of some of the works of the mighty Fennesz alongside a cavernous well of reverb, providing an engaging mass of self-examination.

As with many albums out there, Nimon specifically requires the listener to be in a set frame of mind.  It would be impossible and neither is it fair to judge this work alongside previous incarnations of Baker’s work; and should be approached as something ultimately new in it’s own right, with no preconceptions as to how you feel it should sound.  For those expecting electronic beats and happy go lucky song titles, this is no less personal than previous affairs, but hitting from a drastically different array of emotions that are as uplifting as they are tragic, but nonetheless something we all can relate to.

9/10

THE [LAW-RAH] COLLECTIVE: Field of View CD Ant-Zen

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THE [LAW-RAH] COLLECTIVE: Field of View CD Ant-Zen

For me, the ‘Collective’ have always given more than the Dark Ambient moniker they have usually associated with. Fundamentally the music has always been centralised round the foundations of drones that find themselves occasionally flirting and hanging around indirectly with other elements of the electronic scene, even if they bare zero resemblence sound-wise by anything produced by their colleagues.

Bauke Van Der Val laid the foundations solely for what this project would ultimately become. Gradually with the addition of Martijn Pieck and now the reintroduction of female vocalist Hiekelien Van Den Herik (after her appearances on ‘1953’ and ‘…as it is’), this latest version of Law-Rah truly feels like the solid collective their name implies.

Opening up with ‘From a Distance’, we are treated to sparse vocalisations from Herik who is in turn joined later on in the track with Bauke. The music rises initially as one multi-layered drone that eventually gives rise to an almost Dead Can Dance pad, that in turn eases into an undercurrent of rich, inky sub level ambience, with a slow machine head hypnotic beat to cement the latter stages together.

‘Power’ has all the markings of those tense moments that arise mid-field in any self-respecting horror movie; the airy ambient pads that have a backward feel to them are a pleasure to engulf yourself in. It’s about 2 minutes into this that first wave of obscurity hits, as the resonating hypnosis is broken with the off-key harmonies of Herik once again, interrupting all with a light percussion that eventually is accompanied by further light drones. It’s a difficult beast to describe, but imagine ambient drone work produced and chopped together the same way a Jazz artist would approach their compositions; bizarre, but it works.

The remainder of this latest release follows suit admirably, never drifting from the path this trio have chosen for this new offering. There are my favourites of course, namely ‘Underneath’ which typifies everything I love about The [Law-Rah] Collective. With a combination of varying degrees of simplistic headspaces that range from dark to light in an ultimately immersive journey, it’s easy to misplace time as you lose yourself in the frosty imagery this unfolds in your mind.

‘Field of View’ is an impressive addition to the lengthy works from this act that have come before, with touch more bravery to attempt something a little different to the norm, whilst still retaining the essential ingredients that make this act what it is. As a project the evolutionary status this album provides will be better served to those who have an understanding of the Collective’s history, to be consumed as one long story; although this more than holds enough weight to tie down the attention of the uninitiated as well.

9/10

SONIC AREA: Music For Ghosts CD Ant-Zen/Audiotrauma

SONIC AREA: Music For Ghosts  CD Ant-Zen/Audiotrauma

Arnaud Coëffic of Chrysalide and Audiotrauma fame co-releases this latest project with the excellent Ant-Zen.  With an almost lucid fairy tale approach to electronica, fused to an alternative approach to the steam punk aesthetic, the resulting album presented crosses many a boundary whilst remaining tethered to an industrial platform.

Thematically rolling along like wired up cabaret of bizarre electronic performance, simplistic bleeps and beats provide a landslide of drama more often than not, as is blatantly evident and none more personified by the combination of ‘The Endless Staircase’ and ‘Eureka’; the latter oozing pomp and circumstance, that rides its overindulgences well.

There is an aura of genuinely original concepts throughout, which remains remarkably familiar to the listener.  A touch of the bizarre creeps within every nook and cranny, providing a diverse tapestry of styles that transcend a lot of modern day electronica; tiptoeing on the edges of the obscure, ever threatening to fall off the ledge.  The emphasis is heavy on waiting for the release to fall over and become a mash of wasted talent, indeed you are almost expecting a disaster to happen; the clever programming skills involved however are one step ahead and every chop and stab of lunacy is firmly chained to the floor.

“Music For Ghosts’ is one of those excellent albums that comes around rarely and should be embraced by all fans of obscure and playful electronica, with a penchant for industrial theatre.

9.5/10