LUSTMORD: Dark Matter CD Touch

lustmord

LUSTMORD: Dark Matter     CD   Touch

Lustmord can comfortably sit with the legendary status he has attained within Dark Ambient circles; with a catalogue that stretches back as far as the early 80’s.  Recently he has had a number of albums re-issued by German label Ant-Zen, so it is a surprise to see his latest output on the well-respected Touch label.

Built upon ten years worth of cosmological sounds compiled in an audio library; there is no doubt as to the concept surrounding this latest piece of work, spread over three long tracks and housed in a nice oversized ekopack wallet.

The songs themselves are suitably bleak.  Rich, throbbing low-end bass pads out cavernous dense air as ghostly apparitions of high-end musicality reach out into the vast unknown corners of space.  Lustmord tries his hand at grasping an unseen and unkown quantity, that of dark matter and its influence on the universe.

Overall, this is a quality piece of work end to end.  Densely layered and mysterious with many a nook and cranny to become enveloped within and providing everything a Dark Ambient release should.  There is really nothing to compare Lustmord to as he has created his own mythos and received well-deserved acclaim; this latest opus just adds to that.

9.5/10

HEITOR ALVELOS: Faith CD Touch

heitoralvelos

HEITOR ALVELOS: Faith CD Touch

This is Alvelos’ debut full length release after many a collaboration with label mates aplenty. Many of the sound sources have been collected through five decades; and now as a collection of treated field recordings Heitor has deemed them worthy of release.

Broken into twelve individual tracks, ‘Faith’ seamlessly flows as one long piece with varying degrees of tones and rolling air, forced out in ambient fashion. For the most part the change in pitch works well and slides well into the drone genre with ease.

Don’t expect any stop-starts, don’t expect to be blown away; however do expect to be drawn into a foreboding and sometimes oppressive display of bleak sub consciousness, where time dissolves as the varying degree of hums and sonic throbs swell around your ears.

The Touch label for the most part, has released its fair share of albums that could easily be categorised under the Dark Ambient banner; I just don’t think they really are aware of the wider genre. In that respect, some of the best DA releases I have heard have come from the label, with minimal efforts to reach out to that scene. You can stick ‘Faith’ in that pot as well.

8.5/10

BIOSPHERE / DEATHPROD: Stator LP/CD Touch

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BIOSPHERE / DEATHPROD: Stator LP/CD Touch

Norwegian duo Biosphere and Deathprod have been releasing solo works for some time now; approaching the electronic music scene from a slight difference in angle of attack. Whereas the former is noted for his ambient and Techno leanings, the latter concentrates on homemade electronics.

As a joint effort to create this album, I expected collaboration on all tracks; but in this case we have three from Geir Jenssen’s Biosphere and four from Helge Sten’s Deathprod. Thematically drawing a concept from an electrical engineering perspective of rotary machines and generators, or the fixed blades of an axial flow compressor, may not be the most conventional of subject matters; but musically speaking, everything relates cohesively.

Subtle harmonics are the key to what makes this album work so well. Background key changes by Biosphere, offset well against mechanical grinds and subtle distortions, providing an engaging rising ambient picture, of great depth and resonance.

In contrast, Deathprod’s analogue interpretations add a variation to the proceedings that create balance. Less mechanical than his cohort, he provides a summery tone to the overall feel of the release that offers light to Biosphere’s autumnal slants; with the occasional winter frost and spring bounce, to nail down a whole season of sounds.

Overall, ‘Stator’ is an engaging album that requires a fair amount of patience to appreciate the attention to detail on offer. For those that take the plunge, the results are ever more rewarding with a stark lesson in Dark Ambient/off-key electronic bliss.

9/10

JACASZEK & KWARTLUDIUM: Catalogue Des Arbres CD Touch

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JACASZEK & KWARTLUDIUM: Catalogue Des Arbres   CD Touch

For his latest release Poland’s Michal Jacaszek has come together with quartet Kwartludium and the 441Hz choir, to produce an album based on the forms of trees. He has utilised ‘”open air” (translated as field recordings) sounds as the foundation to the production and allowed the musicians free ranges on the additional instrumentation.

‘Sigh’ starts, as one would expect. Rain drizzles down through the woodland as droning clarinets and voices rise from the soil. The effect is a gracious breathing affair and an altogether excellent opening gambit for what is to come.

Sporadic piano is treated electronically on ‘Green Hour’ and is an altogether more lucid and weird output from the calming opener; although for me is interrupted all too frequently with the field recordings to bed into the consciousness of the listener. The next few tracks continue in much the same manner until the Dark Ambient leanings of ‘From a Seashell’, which is one of the albums highlights; displays a greater range and depth that was promised from track one.

‘Catalogue Des Arbres’ is an obscure composition, from start to finish; and long the way there is a rich tapestry of sounds that carry a lot of weight once the songs bed themselves in. A lot of though has gone into the album, this much is obvious; however, the downsides appear in the skittish nature of design, which I am sure comes from the subject matter (I suppose this is the point). Altogether though, this is a decent release if not significantly ground breaking or ultimately engaging for its entirety.

7.5/10

THOMAS ANKERSMIT: Figueroa Terrace CD Touch

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THOMAS ANKERSMIT: Figueroa Terrace CD Touch

Ankersmit is an installation artist from Berlin, basing the majority of his work around the Serge analogue modular synthesiser. I have to admit my heart dropped somewhat upon the realisation that this album is one long track just shy of 37 minutes; that as well as the installation work, as this never translates that well onto CD.

Through a field of wave shaping, feedback and distortion fed through oscillators the result is as one would expect. A mish-mash of noises that would work well I imagine with gallery imagery to accompany it; but with very little to enjoy sat at home with it pouring out of the speakers.

The overall result is an irritating mess and ultimately pointless. I know Touch are one of those labels that dare to experiment and the quality of their output is usually of a high standard; however they need to re-address their approach with this one.

4/10

BJ NILSEN: Eye of the Microphone CD Touch

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BJ NILSEN: Eye of the Microphone  CD Touch

Alarm bells were firmly ringing the moment I read the press bumpf that came with this release.  Split into three parts, this album appears to be a collage of field recordings that Nilsen has collected on a journey through London; as I abhor the majority of output on the market comprising solely of this medium, I sat back with gritted teeth whilst pressing ‘play’.

‘Londinium’ opens up the proceedings with a warm Dark Ambient driven hum.  Over the course of just under 11 minutes, Nilsen allows the recordings to filter through as an undercurrent that never oversteps its mark.  Clever manipulation and layering raises BJ’s stock in this field as someone who knows what he has set out to accomplish and actually produced something worthy of note.

The droning ‘Coins and Bones’ is adequate as the second track on this disc, but does fall slightly short in the interest stakes compared to it’s predecessor; leaving the obscure ‘Twenty Four Seven’ as the epilogue of Nilsen’s journey.  These latter tracks do have a place, with middle number seeming slightly out of tack with the rest of the album.

‘Eye of the Microphone’, does one thing alone that many Field Recordings ‘artists’ fail to realise; and that is that people do actually want to listen to songs the majority of time.  In an era where money is tight, people don’t deserve to pick up an album where some self-indulgent fool thinks just recording stuff with a microphone shows any form of talent.  Luckily, Mr Nilsen is not one of these individuals and has produced a solid and expressive Dark Ambient album (knowingly or not).

7/10

PHILL NIBLOCK: Touch Five 2xCD Touch

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PHILL NIBLOCK: Touch Five  2xCD Touch

Phill Niblock has been treading the boards for a few years now with albums that focus on sonic artistry and experimentalism.  With five tracks spread over the course of two CD’s, you know you are in for the long haul in some respects and given previous output I would have expected nothing less.

‘FeedCorn Ear’ comprises mainly of cello parts drifting through various ranges that Niblock, (whilst not playing the initial parts himself) has recorded and layered into selected drones.  Setting aside the fact it wasn’t actually him stroking the strings with the bow himself, in some respects he has effectively created a desperate ambience, which whilst teetering on monotony, does hold some weight over the course of 30 plus minutes.

‘A Cage of Stars’ at just over 28 minutes in length begins where its predecessor left off.  It takes a lot of effort to complete one score and immediately take on another monolith of strings that differ slightly in tonal pitch from it’s counterpart, requiring as much stamina as it probably took to produce.

Disc two is three versions of the same track, performed by three different quartets.  In some respects this is almost similar to way an electronic artist would approach a remix and has to be applauded, considering this is mainly analogue.

Each version of ‘Two Lips’ clock in at a little over 22 minutes, unfortunately showing little to differ one from the next, bar minor different pitches in key; if anything, because of the approach, much of disc two mirrors disc one.

‘Touch Five’ in its two halves, also divides my opinion.  I respect the amount of effort and do enjoy key areas from disc one, but find the output of disc two a tedious addition to what would have been a stronger effort without it; ultimately resulting in a resounding feeling of overkill.

7/10

BURKHARD STANGL: Unfinished. For William Turner. Painter. CD Touch

burkhardstangl

BURKHARD STANGL: Unfinished. For William Turner. Painter.  CD Touch

I am always wary of pieces of music dedicated to some type of art form, or indeed specific artists; more often than not the music composed focuses mainly on sculpting sounds over actual songs themselves.  Safe to say I approached this album with some trepidation.

Stangl first got his inspiration when he visited the Tate in London and saw the paintings of the man he has devoted the title of his album to; I will omit the press spouting’s surrounding this and concentrate solely on the music, because as usual there is minimal reference to anyone else listening but Burkhard himself.

The sounds of crowds through tapes and electric guitars are the general make up of this release.  Pleasant enough to listen to, the majority of this ironically would have come across better as an installation set up within any art gallery, let alone JMW Turner’s work.

On the whole there is nothing wrong with the compositional talents on display.  There is little however for the general listener at home to latch onto to and I feel whilst it’s easy to appreciate the concept and just how inoffensive this is, it’s not going to be one of those albums you just pick up to listen to at any given time; this is more of an oddity, accompanied with personal gratification and an exercise in chin stroking for Stangl himself.

6/10

CHRIS WATSON: In St Cuthbert’s Time CD Touch

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CHRIS WATSON: In St Cuthbert’s Time  CD Touch

Subtitled “The Sounds of Lindisfarne and the Gospels”, it’s of no surprise to learn that this is dedicated somewhat to the exhibition of the Lindisfarne Gospels at Durham Cathedral.  Being a massive fan of the Touch label I was as normal intrigued and excited as to what I might hear; unfortunately, being a collection of field recordings I was ultimately let down.

This latest album contains no music whatsoever.  It takes zero talent to sit there and record the sounds of birds and the general meanderings of nature and even though there is a specific level of natural ambience captured, it’s simply not enough in any respect for any person with half a brain to spend their hard earned cash on.

I would be lying if I said I hadn’t amassed a certain amount of releases over the years that slotted into this genre, but I am quite picky with what I keep.  For this medium to work well there has to be something more to listen to and usually this slots in well with a lot of Dark Ambient albums.  Watson, unfortunately just brings absolute zero to the table with regards to anything interesting of note and I will score him just on the patience it must have taken to collect these recordings as a whole.

4/10

MIKA VANIO. JOACHIM NORDWALL: Monstrance CD Touch

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MIKA VANIO. JOACHIM NORDWALL: Monstrance  CD Touch

After listening to a varying degree of output from Mika Vanio I have to admit to approaching this latest release with a small amount of trepidation.  The fact that he has collaborated with Joachim Nordwall in this instance does however bring something else to the table.

Opening up with a thumping heartbeat of bass resonance and gritty distorted guitar, ‘Alloy Ceremony’ provides the aesthetics of doom metal under a hypnotic mask of Dark Ambient and No-Wave screeching noise.  The effect is engaging enough to keep you listening for the full 11 minutes without any hesitation and they have to be applauded for that alone.

‘Live at the Chrome Cathedral’ is up next and whilst openly being a fan of outright noise, this is track displays the first warning signs that ‘Monstrance’ may not be all it’s cracked up to be.  The sounds are a dense wash that whilst obviously built up of many a layer, are completely lost amongst the rumblings and guitar feedback and buried so deep as to become a pointless mess.

Vanio has always struck me as one of those artists who will either provide you with something from the book of genius, or on the flip side of the coin, something ridiculously stupid; I can’t help but feel that ‘Midas in Reverse’ with its pointless scraping and minimal piss-taking, is his doing.

After the tedious follow through of ‘Irkutsk’, ‘Praseodymium’ luckily plays this duo’s trump card.  With a gloriously offset balance of layered ambience and beautiful soaring harmonics it begs the question as to why the whole album couldn’t have been this good.  If the talent is there, it’s excruciating to comprehend what could have been had these guys made the effort over this entire release.

Overall I was left dissatisfied with the end result; there is a feeling of talent being squandered as when Vanio and Nordwall play well, they really do excel and it’s a great shame considering what could have been.

6.5/10