My review of the Ryuichi Sakamoto, Alva Noto and Bryce Dessner soundtrack for The Revenant has been posted over at Cyclic Defrost. Here’s a sample.
For the most part, there’s a kind of ascetic, restrained feeling, a mirror to the film’s harsh, cold setting. There’s hints of single-fiddle folk-tunes, dragged out to contemplative, almost-stopped lengths, but there’s more fulsome moments, too. The ‘Killing Hawk’ cue mines the emotive vein popularised by Arvo Part – indeed, some of the string prods are reminiscent of that composer’s Te Deum, isolated moments of touched-nerve consideration, heard through reverberation.
My interview with composer and multi-instrumentalist Oren Ambarchi (whose records are ace) has been published at Cyclic Defrost. Here’s an excerpt:
“I’m chasing a feeling I get from some of my favourite musics. Something that’s transporting, otherworldly. Ecstatic free sound. I’m searching for something that is almost unknown to me, until I find it, that is. Some kind of beauty.
“I know it when I find it. Somehow everything falls into place – hopefully – at a certain point. I’m happy for this to take a while, so it’s a journey.
“There is some perfectionism but I’m trying not to be too anal about it all. I don’t want to suck the life out of it from refining, refining, refining. It still needs to retain a rawness, an unpredictability. There’s a fine line there, and I have to watch it.”
My review of a live disc of Zeitkratzer performances of Whitehouse songs has gone live (a little while ago, now) over at Cyclic Defrost. Here’s a sample.
Zeitkratzer are a great ensemble. Their acoustic mastery is undeniable, and the sounds they recreate without access to a bunch of broken boxes and fucked electronics are spot-on. But somehow the execution of the task seems almost redundant: there’s as much enjoyment to be had by the idea of a bunch of traditional instruments covering Whitehouse as there is from having the end result in your hand.
My review of Quixotism, Oren Ambarchi’s new album on Editions Mego, is now live at Cyclic Defrost.
(Spoiler: it’s really good. )
Here’s a sample:
There’s a cold feeling to some of the composition – ‘Part 2′ touches on the ground Gavin Bryars walks upon – but it’s leavened with the joyous humanity of ‘Part 5′. Organ notes, muted guitar picking and tabla are joined with swooning strings in an elegiac celebration. It’s humanity writ large, and gives the piece narrative – this burst of sad joy seems to tell the story of a machine gaining sentience, a soul, before relapsing.
My review of Howard Stelzer’s Brayton Point album has gone live at Cyclic Defrost. Here’s a sample.
The album consists of manipulations of field recordings taken from around the Brayton Point Power Station in Somerset, Massachusetts. The station is to be decommissioned in 2017, so Stelzer’s recording acts as a kind of memorial to the site; a document which initially captures working sounds of the area before transforming into a thrumming, windy meditation on the limitless potentials of power. The industrial grime of the power station is strongly present, though it’s not in the jackhammer way which one would associate with an Eraserhead ethic.
Another of my reviews for Cyclic Defrost has gone life. This time, it’s a look at Bruno Sanfilippo’s ClarOscuro album.
The music is uniformly quiet in a way you’ll be familiar with if you’ve heard Nyman’s The Pianosoundtrack (‘Absentia’), or perhaps the piano works of Gavin Bryars (‘Luciana’), Yann Tiersen (the titular opener) or (in her quieter moments) Elena Kats-Chernin. It’s lyrical and there’s alot of sustained notes, stretching into decay. There’s touches of the rainy-afternoon Erik Satie or Claude Debussy about the work, but I feel that’s just in terms of emotional association rather than in terms of execution: the sound of the piano played this way makes the listener feel this way, almost regardless of the content. It could be library music.
My review of A. Dobson’s Lost Broadcast has just gone live at Cyclic Defrost. Here’s a sample:
Everything is so honest a tribute to synth-heavy, jazz-kit almost-prog-but-a-bit-cooler, Kraut-it-yerself music (crossed with a little Atari ST magic, perhaps) it’s easy to imagine the album has been stuck behind someone’s couch for a couple of decades. There’s a couple of non-period sounds on the tracks which keep the ear alert – it’s not all heated-dust synth action, as the dub-squelch-cum-Barry-Adamson swing of ‘Don’t Trip’ shows – but this is as close-to-source retro for this genre as you’ll find. This thing breathes angles and neon.
My review of The House In The Woods’ Bucolicahas been published over at Cyclic Defrost. I liked it so much I actually bought my own copy before I’d even finished writing the review.
The principle of Bucolica appears to be obfuscation; snatches to gain orientation. ‘Untitled Blackniss’ is the sound of waiting, as something large and mechanised – accompanied by the pan-pipes of the damned – comes. ‘Dark Lanterns’ offers a feast of winds and pregnant statis, while ‘Favershell’ is a soundtrack to a procession of the devotees of Dagon, heard from a few streets over. You can hear something either excellent or fucked is occurring just over there – but you’re uncertain you need to see it. It’s not going to make you feel any better, is it?
My review of Nagual‘s self-titled LP has been posted at Cyclic Defrost. I swear the people at that site must think I’m like some kind of Kurtz, going dark for ages and then sending strange proclamations downriver when least expected. Suffice it to say I just wrote what I heard.
Here’s a sample:
The track moves slowly, steadily towards the light until, a third through, a buzzy, busy sound (akin to a melodica or harmonium) comes through. It’s a Carnatic contender against the large-fisted drone, and becomes more insistent as the track moves, by turns sinuous and deadly, as if charming electronic snakes. The ear’s inability to discern actual instruments – was that a clarinet? – places the listener delightfully off balance a very vocal line swoops against itself, like Narcissus and his own reflection. Until, that is, the track becomes a riot of either buzzsaws or traffic noises, like a Tzadik album abandoned by a freeway, left to bum its way to Masada.
A couple of months ago, I wrote a review of Frank Bretschneider‘s Super.Trigger album for Cyclic Defrost. Here’s a sample:
Eschewing romanticism doesn’t remove character, though some tracks are more favoured in this regard. ‘Pink Thrill’ is all nerdly tetchiness, but ‘Machine.Gun’ is the clear winner. Staccato drum rolls imitate the track’s titular weapons while a frenetic background conjures the image of a gunfight held over the top of a Blaxploitation soundtrack. It crackles, and when the end comes – in an echo-chamber of steely ricochets – it’s triumphant. Worth special note too is the album’s attention to bass sounds. On some tracks – the opener ‘Big.Hopes’, and ‘Day.Dream’ in particular – there’s window-shaking kicks and tones that are so immense that it’s difficult not to fist-pump in celebration. Coupled with the appropriate atmosphere, such as the dubby, dark sound of ‘Over.Load’, it’s overwhelmingly great.