JOHN CHANTLER: Which Way to Leave LP ROOM40

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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.

6.5/10

PIERCE WARNECKE: Memory Fragments CD ROOM40

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PIERCE WARNECKE: Memory Fragments  CD  ROOM40

Recorded over the space of three years, Pierce’s debut album is a sparse electro-acoustic affair that plays with silence as much as it does actual music.

Toying with the vision that when we recall past experiences through memory, they’re never the same as when we originally encountered the event; Warnecke has produced what is a very personal release, but one I am sure we can all relate to.

Musically speaking, ‘Memory Fragments’ is a drone affair; that mainly relies on pitches and drawn out tones that are stretched as far as is humanly possible.  This is one of those albums that you have to make time for to become truly enveloped in the experience; and on moments such as ‘Built on Folds and Braids’, it is all too easy to get sucked into the void of gloopy overwhelming harmonies that feel like they’re slowly compressing your skull.

Whilst this album has its fair share of events that seem pointless, they do lead onto more meaningful apparitions of beauty, should you choose to give this release the time it truly warrants.

8/10

NEW ROME: Nowhere CD ROOM40

newrome

NEW ROME: Nowhere     CD  ROOM40

Poland’s Tomas Bednarczyk’s returns with music under the banner of New Rome; as opposed to solo work under his own name.  Whether this differs greatly from other output is anyone’s guess, as I haven’t heard previous affairs.

That aside, ‘Nowhere’ balances a melting pot of subtle ambience, low-end electronica and backwards note play to great effect.  Gentle, rounded bleeps and whirls, glide over and through layers of drifting pads and rich thick resonating ambient walls, that soak up the harmonies like a sponge.

It is all to easy to get caught up in the constant wave that New Rome creates for his listeners; and if nothing else, the only criticism I can throw his way is that it sometimes feels a little safe, lacking something truly daring.  This is a minor quibble none-the-less; as ‘Nowhere’ utilises Tomas’ ear for crisp production and attention to detail, as far as where microscopic changes in tonal interplay are concerned.

Overall, this debut release under this moniker; is a solid and enjoyable ride from start to finish.

8.5/10

CHRIS ABRAHAMS: Fluid to the Influence LP/CD ROOM40

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CHRIS ABRAHAMS: Fluid to the Influence     LP/CD   ROOM40

From the nonsensical garbles of opener ‘1 Liter Cold Laptop’, it would be easy to discount this latest piece of work from Abrahams, as complete gibberish; as random mash ups of organ and noise pointlessly stumble away.  Luckily this is counteracted with the summery and pleasant flowing piano work that is ‘Scale Upon the Land’; and immediately all seemed well.

However, it becomes all too evident come track three, that this is an experimental album; and not in a good way.  Yes there is the odd moment on this album that bodes well, such as the subtle jazz piano of ‘Clung Eloquent’, as well as the harmonies that prevail on ‘As Tranquil as an Apple’.  However, the rest of the release is a pointless array of field recordings and random acts of badly played Tibetan chimes and instrumentation.

If anything else, by the end of ‘Fluid to the Influence’, you start to doubt if Abrahams actually played anything on this album at all; and if this is just some recording of a drugged up diary event of a trip to the Himalayas. Either way, more often that not it’s awful.

5.5/10

NORMAN WESTBERG: MRI CD ROOM40

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NORMAN WESTBERG: MRI   CD ROOM40

Westberg may be better known for his work with the legendary SWANS; and for me it’s a treat to hear the solo output of this great guitarist (I haven’t up until now).

Norman recently underwent an MRI scan over loss of hearing loss in his right ear; and this album conceptually follows the experience through a series of rolling guitar pieces. The end result is wiry and engaging reverberated affair, with a sea of delay providing a wash of ambient resonance.

Musically speaking, the title track is a sparse echoing affair that is overshadowed by ‘410 Stairs’; capitalising on the experience by letting individual guitar plucks create a harmony that was lacking on its opening counterpart.

Whilst not being maybe the finest example of what can be done with guitar ambient (Fennesz, springs to mind), Westberg has delivered a solid piece of work that does its job well. ‘MRI’ creates a cold, almost mechanical interpretation of the genre; and for me just lacks some more essential key harmonies to engage me as a whole. This is worth getting hold of however, as the disengagement is most likely the whole point of this release given its subject matter.

7.8/10

ROSS MANNING: Interlacing LP ROOM40

rossmanning

ROSS MANNING: Interlacing   LP ROOM40

Sound exploration is a tricky thing to manage well. More often than not, the artist creates something that is so introspective, that it alienates the listener; a lot of the time its because those creating music in such a format haven’t got a clue what their doing, let alone be capable of making music. Australia’s Manning; is a mixture of the two, with a vast knowledge of the sonic spectrums that he plays with, I did expect more and was a trifle let down.

Opener, ‘Led Vert’ is a warming ambient number that draws the listener in with consummate ease; as subtle wire like whirs dance over a welcoming hum. Unfortunately though, ‘Sinew and Cats’, is an catastrophic mess of irritating screeches and whines ad is best forgotten; alongside the pointless clatter of ‘%’.

‘Expand Scatter’ starts off well enough with comforting drones, but ends up falling apart in a sea of nonsense; leaving ‘Silhouettes to be a combination of all the styles on this album, culminating as one track.

I like ROOM40 and the majority of their output as a label; however, ‘Interlacing’ is one of the few disappointing releases to have come from that stable.

5.5/10

CHIHEI HATAKEYAMA: Moon Light Reflecting Over Mountains CD ROOM40

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CHIHEI HATAKEYAMA: Moon Light Reflecting Over Mountains CD ROOM40

Drawing on 30 years of influences, for his latest in a long line of releases, Chihei Hatakeyama brings together eight tracks of straightforward ambient pads, drones and soundscapes.

‘Prince of the Sea’ opens up well with a simplistic array of ascending strings, that whilst don’t baffle the listener with science; immediately draw attention.

‘Path of the Sacred Forest’ carries a more distant tone, as though you are viewing the music from afar as pictures amongst the branches of trees, which are then reflected back through a ‘Broken Mirror’.

Guitar drones overdrive their ambience on ‘Mausoleum’, whilst their acoustic variant is the basis of ‘A Bronze Pike’. Hatakeyama then proceeds on drawing on all these influences for the rest of the album.

‘Moon Light…’ is a decent piece of work. Not too distant from the sounds of Fennesz (but ultimately not as concise), Chihei, thematically has constructed this album well enough to enjoy and appreciate; although for me something is lacking, preventing him from touching the echelons of ambient music’s big boys just yet.

7.8/10

JOHN CHANTLER: Even Clean Hands Damage the Work LP ROOM40

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JOHN CHANTLER: Even Clean Hands Damage the Work LP ROOM40

Following on from 2011’s ‘The Luminous Ground’, Chantler continues his experimentation with electrical sounds that grind and whir as textures and noise, as opposed to actual music.

There is an eccentricity to John’s work that is almost palatable. However, for the most part this will not sit well with many.

Sitting on the fringes of experimentalism is one thing; unfortunately though, neither providing enough musicianship for the leftfield out there; nor those that would appreciate this the most (those who reside in the realms of Power Electronics), leaves him sat on the fence, somewhat directionless.

Hidden amongst this work are varying key structures; and it takes a keen ear to pick these out. Ultimately this is where this latest work shines, but it will be missed by the many (who take this album at face value).

Overall I have to give kudos to Chantler for standing his ground and merely producing what he enjoys, without folding and giving in to convention; but this will forever leave him in limbo (musically speaking), should he not decide which path he is going to take in the future.

7/10

DAVID SHEA: Rituals CD ROOM40

davidshea

DAVID SHEA: Rituals CD ROOM40

US based Australian composer David Shea returns with a semi-acoustic wash of immersive dream states pegged as ‘Rituals’. Shea spent time immersing himself in Buddhist and Taoist traditions; and in some respect these have come across in this aural representation of his thought processes.

Opener ‘Ritual 32’ drags on classical influences, interwoven with Dark Ambient, obscure pipes and piano work that glides off into a vast ravine as the song stumbles graciously; purposely losing its footing on the edge of the crags, whilst ethnic chimes clang in the distance.

In contrast, ‘Emerald Garden’, is a darker affair that loiters within a web of psychosis. Reverberated drama unfolds in a backdrop of cinematic terror, eventually concluding in a calming swamp of blissful drones; and whilst ‘Wandering in the Dandenongs’ meanders pointlessly in self-absorbed Tibetan dribble, ‘Sunrise’ picks up the pace with a range of tribal drum work; providing a welcome abstinence from an obsession with incense sticks and hessian rugs.

It’s at this point that I find myself torn whilst listening to this latest album. I have a deep appreciation for the majority of work on this release, especially where the ambient tones are concerned; however, I have never been a lover of music that bases itself of eastern tribal influences. Don’t get me wrong, Shea’s interpretation of such sounds, holds itself together better than the works of Z’ev and such like; but it’s still an irritation, in what is a competent display of pitch and tone.

7.5/10

LAWRENCE ENGLISH: Wilderness of Mirrors LP/CD ROOM40

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LAWRENCE ENGLISH: Wilderness of Mirrors LP/CD ROOM40

Two years in the making, a lot is expected of English, given the amount of work the press sheet states, went into the production of this album; based on the poem ‘Gerontion’ by T.S. Elliott and a phrase that became associated with the campaigns of miscommunication within the cold war.

‘The Liquid Casket’, opens up the proceedings with frost tinged pads that splice quickly into a barbed overdrive of fractured distortion. Layer upon layer of ranging drones purposely envelop and swamp the track as it glides forward until they eventually amalgamate into a brash sea of dark ambience that envelops the listener; whilst still retaining a rich grasp of harmony.

Seamlessly folding into the title track, you could be forgiven in missing the crossover between songs, as there is little to differentiate between the two sound wise; and it’s up to ‘Guillotines and Kingmakers’ to source a break. Providing a quieter undercurrent of machine-like hums however, this once again tallies onto the shirttails of its companions as the epilogue of their story.

Lawrence has cleverly produced a seamless body of work, which drifts through nine tracks that pay no attention to conventional time constraints. Covering a wide range of Dark Ambient, teased with soaring pads and the odd undercurrent of rumbling power electronics; this is one of those albums that arrives at its destination without the listener noticing the clock steadily tick by.

‘Wilderness of Mirrors’, is an excellent display of engaging inky black atmospheres and attention to detail, that holds itself well within the genre; outshining many of the scenes top brass with ease.

9/10