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

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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

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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

BRUCE GILBERT AND BAW: Diluvial CD Touch

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BRUCE GILBERT AND BAW: Diluvial  CD Touch

There is an overtly green element to the concept that feeds ‘Diluvial’.  Dwelling on the dynamics of global warming and food geology, climate change is a subject many of us can get to grips with, so it is always interesting to see how the subject matter is translated into musical form.

Swelling pads rise patiently through ‘The Void’, with a creeping malevolence as scattered scratches sporadically invade the space with slicing wires of sound, providing a humming desolate soundtrack to the end of times and a sparse barren landscape.

The field-recording heavy, ‘The Expanse’ did little to enthuse me, but in the context of the entire release fits I guess with the following dust driven noise of ‘Dry Land’.  Back to back however, when you are dehydrated for music, this does little to quench your thirst.

‘Lights’, picks up from where ‘The Void’ left off.  Rich, resonating bass hums through the speakers as droning waves gradually pierce through the mix, with a grasp of the genre most notably felt on some of the earlier works of The Law-Rah Collective.

The following four tracks cover varying degrees of ambient, from cavernous echoes to light pulsating electronics.  It’s hard to pin down this release as whole, as more often than not it feels a little disjointed, as if the tracks should have been shifted into a different order.  However, this is an interesting album for the most part, but does require more than your fair share of patience to invest your time on it end to end.

7/10

GEIR JENSSEN: Stromboli 12” Touch

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GEIR JENSSEN: Stromboli  12” Touch

I am often unenthusiastic when it comes to field recordings; even more so when someone has managed to have work of this nature released on vinyl. Norwegian Jenssen has taken his Fostex recorded sounds from the edges of the active volcano, Stromboli and fused them into a mash-up of naturally crushing sounds.

There is obviously an element of humour at play here with side B, titled as the ‘dub’ version of the track; safe to say though… there is no dub, none whatsoever; which is a shame considering some of his previous industrial and electronic output.  More so I guess, the emphasis on this release has to be focussed on the effort made to obtain the sources used to create the record.  Jenssen climbed Stromboli three years after its last major eruption and whilst providing no musical reference, could provide a key source of natural interest to volcanologists the world over.

As a whole though, to the casual collector this release merely becomes an oddity of an EP and mainly just one to show your friends and have them ask just why the hell you have it at all.  In some respects, for all his efforts he would have possibly gained more by releasing his exploits as visual media.

6/10

MIKA VANIO: Fe304-Magnetite CD Touch

MIKA VANIO: Fe304-Magnetite  CD  Touch

With a credible history with the legendary minimalistic Pan Sonic, Berlin based Mika Vanio has found himself releasing a number of solo projects of late, alongside working within the Finnish Industrial and noise scene.

It is of no surprise then that ‘Fe304-Magnetite’ starts off with a fair amount of minimalism in its own right; light droplets of sound that are interrupted with off key drones and machine head bass electronics.

Whilst as clever as the first half of this album is, it isn’t until the glorious ambient beauty of ‘Magnetosense’ makes its appearance on track four that things really become interesting. Drones float away into breathing, resonating clarity and a cold wave of emotion is left for the listener to capture their own thoughts.

For the most part, there is a purity to this album that I relish.  When Vanio takes time to stop what could be deemed as tomfoolery, he does set apart a space where residual electronics can capture your thoughts and hold you in a small vacuum of hypnosis.  The only aspect letting him down in a lot of respects, are the frequent self-indulgences of art taking precedence over actual music.  This is in turn a real pity, as when Mika really sets his mind to it, his compositional qualities shine a very bright torch indeed.

7.5/10

THOMAS KÖNER: Novaya Zemlya CD Touch

THOMAS KÖNER: Novaya Zemlya  CD Touch

As with all releases from the mighty Touch label, you have to give yourself some free time to sit back and truly appreciate what’s on offer.  I have struggled to find anything lacking quality in their back catalogue that I have encountered so far.

Thematically this is geographically based around the archipelago in the Arctic Ocean, the opening sounds of this album giving a feeling of being submerged in the freezing depths, as the rudder of a ship edges past the ice.  As you come up for air there is an impression that atmosphere itself is utilised as natural drones; a heavy spatial awareness follows.

‘Novaya Zemlya’ follows this up with the impression that you are now a passenger on the journey this ship takes, sat in the depths of the engine room below.  As an experience, this is somewhat eerie if truth be told, reminding me heavily of the debut album by Sleep Research Facility, ‘Nostromo’, which concentrated on the listener sat along for the ride in the bowels of this famous space vessel, as it made its course through the stars; this album of course lacks the threat of any malevolent alien life forms, but is no less oppressive along the way.

Without a doubt this is yet another quality release from this label that should appeal to a multitude of listeners out there and a name that dark ambient enthusiasts should seek out at all cost.

8.5/10