A bit of an experimental one for you all today. KonstantinAS takes guitars from around the globe and weaves them into avant garde instrumental pieces that sounds like Eastern background music. Some of them are melodic, some are freeform, all of them are inherently interesting as they twist and warp around. As of yet, there’s little out there to watch and view but his ReverbNation page is the best place for song samples so you can play “guess the influence”!
Hopefully we will have more of this guitar virtuoso in the future.
I Am A Man With A St Tropez Tan
The quite bizarre soundscape artist that is Rick Senley released an album in 2011 under the pseudonym of “I Am A Man With A St Tropez Tan”. The album called “Just A Ghost” is almost like an audio painting of the world seen around you.
Opening with the short distorted introduction of “In France You Can’t Call your Pig Napoleon” you’re given quick flashes of what will be coming up before the electronica heavy “Please Be Careful What You Do With Yourself” bleeds onto the speaker. Encompassing sirens, barely audible humming bass and phased to the heavens keyboard stabs the track goes out of its way to be as in-cohesive as possible, almost to disorient you. It sounds like a musical beat heart factory churning in the centre of London. “Breaking” doesn’t cut any slack either mumbling twisted announcements and breathes warp around empty phone beeps and whaling guitars. It reminds me of something from Akira Yamaoka’s earlier Silent Hill soundtracks and from the Demento Soundtrack. Eerie and devilish – especially at the end when everything pitch bends downwards. ”Just A Ghost” the title track is the first track to resemble something of a normal song structure with a guitar riff and some intermittent drums and the guitar is seriously rocking out – even though it’s mostly the only instrument playing! Rick’s monologues in the middle again aren’t singing, they spoken thoughts and feelings. You know that when this is the closest to an entry point for someone, you’ve got a completely experimental album!
“Tea For Me” reminds me of Bjork’s “Drawing Restraint 9″ soundtrack in that its a pulsating speedy bell led track that gradually grows and grows into a furious frenzy. It really squeezes every drop of note spectrum out as it rises and distorts yet builds its tension and anticipation for a huge climax that doesn’t come. It is by far my favourite piece on the album and is a massive stand out. Melodic heaven.
“Southend” follows. It’s wet. It’s full of lapping water samples and crowd noise as it lays the foundations for the more celestial “Knives of Death” that runs some beautiful synths against a churning buzzing shaker. It’s not quite beautiful enough to feel at piece. It’s certainly not prickly enough to feel discomforted. It hits a really strange balance of the two which is fascinating. “Matt, Matt, Matt” the sheds the beauty and turns into an industrial pulse of static and low-fi explosives. It pulses away before some twisted evil screams, cries and noises are thrown in to confuse you. “Does Anyone Know What’s Going On” has a singular hum that fades in and out whilst various sample clips and loops burst in and out. Some are haunting. Some are confusing. Some are damn right creepy. In a similar fashion “There Is No Death” follows sample and vibrating guitars and harsh drum loops It’s like you’re flying through the white light into a tunnel that goes ever onwards.
“Just A Ghost” is as experimental and Avant Garde as you can find. Rarely do I find it difficult to recommend or describe something but this album is like taking a spiritual journey on a broken sound stage. Everything has gone to pot and you’ve just got to ride it out. There’s moments of beauty, craze, insight and skin crawl. You just have to open minded enough to give it a go.
Music For Voyeurs
Occasionally a musical artist will come along from such a left field angle it catches you off guard and makes you appreciate music as an artform. Music For Voyeurs is one of several names Rick Senley gives himself over his musical career and with 2011 album “The Long Sleep” he barrels in with a stunningly ethereal yet abstract album.
Opener “This Will End” is a gentle blissful harp, flute, bells and whistles entry with a heavily Eastern accented monologue that peacefully and gently settles you down into what is an album that’s best heard in an entire cycle so you get its full effect. “Probably Time To Go Now” is repeating guitar loop that remixes forward and reverse reverb beautifully and the occasional honking car horn. It’s so ethereal that each pluck of a guitar string feels like a cloud of cuddles coming in for an embrace. This idea moves forward with “September” that includes sound snippets from various animals and clips from what sounds like a terrible chat show! There is a solemn distorted guitar that feels so empty and lonely over the top and it mixed up of it all is beautifully introverted.
We switch to a piano for “Broomstick Night Electric” which aside from being an awesome name for a track, reminds me of something from Brandish Piano Collection which crafted a beautiful melody with the space and time to deliver it. It’s a really sad and melancholic solo piece with just a quiet string sample for most of the track. “It Will Have To Be The Last Time” trades piano for sumptuous guitar and bass for a warming instrumental. “Jane” follows which is a strange piano and synth track with Rick reciting a poem in spoken word over the top. It reminds me of Nobuo Uematsu’s Phantasmagoria album and although I’m not a fan of this type of music, it’s as effective as it can be for me.
“The Work of the Gospel” returns to the heavily reverberated guitars and pianos as they create a misty swirling haze of music around occasional phone beeps and dial tones before a sample of a someone talking about The Gospel is played almost as if we’ve phoned God! “Tonight Will Be My Birthday” continues with the abstract avante garde noises and hypnotic guitars and for the first time all album a drum loop kicks in. Heavily phased and like it’s coming from miles away it pulsates around the guitars and keyboards but never overtakes them. Making more of an impact is the bass guitar led “I Wonder If Things Are Changing” which is a beautiful looping riff.
It paves the way for “Waiting for Everything to Explode” which plays its namesake well because the piano sounds like it’s from the 1930′s whilst for the first time all album the guitars and feedback effects take on a more sinister tone instead of playful and inviting. Whilst the track doesn’t explode it beams down into “Someone Else’s Life” which is another meandering piano driven track that uses a crying baby sample and then adds some noise damaging effects to it so it sounds almost like an electric guitar. That and the slightly scary laughter samples almost tell a story without words and that’s a very clever thing to do. The album closes with “Song For Marta” which becomes a more climactic combination of everything that came before as it swirls from ear to ear in full bleeding stereo along with purring moans and creaking breathes.
“The Long Sleep” is an album that is unapologetically its own. It doesn’t half scrimp on its theme or sound and whilst spoken word samples doesn’t usually appeal to me, nine times out of ten Music For Voyeurs hits the nail on the head. Expressive, meditative and journey-like. A pretty much unique.
Wow. Soap&Skin continues to utterly haunt me. Fantastic.
With her debut album coming out at the end of the month, this is an eerie opener for Russian Aimee Bobruk and I love the way the whole song sounds like it’s on a slightly chewed up tape. Isn’t it great we don’t have to deal with those these days!
Recommended to me because of my love of Fever Ray (and The Knife) Planningtorock is like a relative of that genre. Electro-distortion. Janine Rostron takes on her moniker and gets going into a bizarre album of pulsating groove, twisted troll voices and saxophone solos.
Opening with brooding “Doorway” a constant pulse throbs throughout with pizzicato strings clicking underneath. Janine’s vocals are twisted and mutated to a low moan as the saxophone blares out dramatic fanfare. It’s very creepy, very stilted and very similar particularly to Fever Ray. “The One” then lets the dramatic get funky with a very stern string/organ melody slowly building into a dance frenzy without a drum beat while Janine’s vocals echo and dual each other. It’s like an electronic orchestra playing in the damp dark. It’s beautiful and haunting at the time. “Manifesto” brings in the percussion and the keyboard stabs in a bizzarro warp of tribal drumming, hyper distorted backing vocals that make half the melody and the whole thing sounds like it’s about to collapse and fall apart. Yet its strangely hypnotic and enticing. Part of the charm is that it doesn’t conform at all to how the song timing and structure should be. “Going Wrong” follows with a mash-up of all of the above. Her backing vocals sound like a plane falling out of the sky whilst mating with a bumble bee! The noises are wondrously weird whilst you can pick out real instruments among the strange.
“I’m Yr Man” then gets utterly nuts with a vicious and gritty track that bleeds every scream and electronic bleep into a graining barrage of sound to your ears. “The Breaks” is the first real “Normal” song – well as normal as the album gets anyway. It has proper hooks, choruses and audible lyrics that make an impact. It also has a usual song structure too. It’s a great introduction to the artist and a personal favourite. “Living It Out” then shakes it up with a disco beat! It also has a very funky clubbing worthy chorus. If Planningtorock is ever going to be on most of the clubs, this would be the song to use. “Milky Blau” is more of an abstract track with lots of saxophone stabs over heavy-handed keyboard chords that reminds me of something the Cocteau Twins would make if they had no guitars. “Jam” then goes more industrialist with some amazing percussive loops that really shows Janine can, if she wanted to, make an absolute stomper of a track. She chooses to with this one that has a crazy melodic riff that repeats for the verses. It’s another personal highlight as it feels relentless. “Black Thunder” is a moody instrumental of synthesizers and chopped up samples of other instruments layered over the top to make a strangely relaxing piece. “Janine” is a short message of warning to herself before the album closes with the steel drum infused “#9″ which has a great swaying drum beat and a strong melody that rounds things off with a bit of clarity!
Planningtorock’s “W” is an utter mess. Boy what a marvellous mess it is. I will say that it has taken a few listens to really get into the groove of it. Some songs instantly stand out because they have hooks and this is certainly one of the few albums to allow me appreciation for the saxophone too. It’s a wonderful clusterfuck of the kitchen sink of technology being abused from a great height. I wait for what else Janine is Planningtodo.
Naynt is the artistic name of Simon Gross, a composer whose music is in a similar vein to game music but he also crosses various genres and likes to mix and match genres over an electronic background.
His free album “Naynt” showcases his skills which you get immediately with “Colossal” which features a stomping, if overbearing beat over lots of downcast synth strings and pads whilst various vocal snippets and displayed throughout. The drum beat hits so hard it distorts the rest of the mix – something that does impact the album in a number of places. “Cultures Collide” is a fascinating merger of monk prayer, sitars, trip hop and soul diva singing. It verges onto something Moby would make in his more ambient days. “Naive to Think” takes things a little grittier with a more rap edged track however I recognise the vocal samples from my days mucking around with the E-Jay series. I did wonder why some of the samples seem random! “Africa Brazil” is a more successful mix of warped chants over slick if generic electronica but the sounds merged are interesting to listen to.
“Saphire” was one of two tracks that made me seek out the album and they still stand out as the two best tracks. There’s no production errors, the different effects, vocal samples and downcast down beats all fit perfectly with your monk chanting backing vocals. “Masked Ball” is too successful with its warped vocals and almost classical symphony of keyboards and big tom drums. It certainly stands out as different to anything else. “Loop Chemistry” didn’t do anything for me at all because the music again distorts and falls about around your ears the instruments all fight for the same sound space. Closer “Aura” was the second stand out track with its electronic Nightwish edges to it with piercing electric guitars and angelic vocal ad-libbing.
What this album has taught me is that sometimes bad production can really take away from an album. At least four tracks have noticeable noise problems where the instruments are peaking and distorting. It’s a terrible shame because there’s an idea in here with all the merging of different genres and it could work really well if the right jigsaw pieces were placed together. Sadly Naynt hasn’t quite made the right puzzle here and while there’s some flashes of brilliance, its swamped in flaws too.
Dead Can Dance are back! After far too long away from our speakers they’ve reunited. I’ve followed and thoroughly enjoyed their solo projects but sometimes things come together when you pair greats up. The eight track “Anastasis” is very much a tour de force and in many ways it feels a natural progression.
“Children of the Sun” opens the album, where vocal duties are split firmly down the middle. Brendan’s vocals have only became more soulful and wise over time. His recent solo album has a real influence over the general sound of the album but no more so than here. The album constantly flows in a mid tempo and the song builds and builds to its almighty fanfare finale. It makes you wait but the emotion by feeling the explosion is worth it. It’s great to hear the Yang Chin in full swing too. “Anabasis” veers more towards the spooky oriental with Lisa’s mysterious vocal delivery we’re now all so familiar with leading the way while a hang drum makes it début into the instrument collection and fits beautifully. Lisa’s vocals are more soothing than powerful throughout the record aside from the next track.
“Apage” continues the lean towards the Middle East with some fantastic bent string arrangements that do their very best to miss any specific note and just float and soar around them. Lisa’s vocals are left off the reigns around the stunning arrangements. Dead Can Dance have always had some top-notch melodies and bridges and this is not exception. “Amnesia” is a spacious track full of reverb and Brendan’s deep voice floating away over the piano and keyboards. Again it builds into a symphonic triumph. Brendan led tracks have this intense building to them which I particularly enjoyed.
“Kiko” has a great time signature to it as the Asian influence seeps through the instrumentation and even the guitar solo. It’s another mid paced track but the percussion is particularly foreboding and it feels almost like a march to the death. “Opium” is possibly the most pacey track on the album with lots of percussion and the hang drum returning to beat out the melody. It another excellent track before you break into the only track where both Lisa and Brendan really interact together. “Return of the She-King” starts off with synthesized bag pipes before mellowing into a collage of Lisa’s vocals that slowly envelope and rouse the track into something regal and noble. The final third then explodes into a fanfare of keyboards and both our members overlapping almost in call and response. It’s a real stand out part of the album. The album then closes with “All in Good Time” which reminds me of Archangel from Brendan’s first album but replacing guitars with keyboards. It’s a sweet closure.
Anastasis is a fantastic album. It’s a little one tempo if I were heavily critical but each song has such a different dynamic that actually you don’t notice until afterwards. It’s great to have them back with us and I hope there’s more to come in the future!
Peter Bjargo has been enjoying a nice solo career alongside from Arcana of late and his latest album of work “The Architecture of Melancholy” takes things closer to where his original band works lay textually.
The title track opener is a slow burning militant dawn of death with bells tolling, echoing guitars seeping through the speakers while Peter’s exceptionally low tone vocals break through the swirling ether to ground and bass the track. It’s so otherworldly and drenched in reverb there’s still nothing quite like it. “Bitteresque” then pulls back further to a spoken word piece overlaid with some wonderful instrumentation, most of which is tuned percussion and harp. It’s all about the atmosphere this time round and Peter nails it perfectly.
“The Hidden Compass” moves towards the slowly winding guitar for a beautifully eerie track while Bjargo’s vocals chooses interesting notes to end most of the lines he sings. It’s alluring yet destabilising at the same time. “Apathy” is the first track to feature percussion in a rhythmic sense and it’s more like a long trek than a freak out. Again it’s all about a collage of sounds moulding together and this is about creating a real desolate lonely journey in which is succeeds amongst the reverberant discord.
“A Wheel of Thoughts” has a wonderful pick on the guitar which evokes wheel spokes going round as Peter’s vocals fall back to gentle wisps and hums. “The Death of Our Sun” is the first song to really take a full song structure with its dramatic percussion, offbeat piano fills and spacious vocals. It’s so much bigger than the speakers allow, it really does feel like an epic piece of music and the culmination of the album in sorts. The closing track however is one of near experiment for Bjargo. “Sleep Dep.Loop1″ is essentially an evolving ten minute loop of the same keyboard sample that is barely noticeably changing. A slight flange here or there, the soften guitar sample seems to alter slightly over time too. It really can set you into a hypnotic state. It’s also strangely isolating despite its warm fuzzy overtones and I think the mood it evokes depends very much on your mood entering into it.
Peter Bjargo’s second solo album is by no means as immediate as his first. The melodies are replaced by soundscapes and landslides. It evokes, it dreams, it sullies itself to sleep but is never less than brilliant throughout.
Wow! Fiona Apple’s new album “The Idler Wheel” is now available to stream in full over at NPR. I’m am trying so hard to not click and listen away. I’ve only caved into the music video today and my word – what a music video it is. That octopus needs to have its own monster movie – preferably vs MegaSquid or something!
I’m trying to wait until release day… it may be a futile effort!
Bjork performed on UK TV “Later with Jools Holland” which is about the only mainstream TV show that’s musically decent and sound.
Bjork’s new PV for “Moon” is almost as a beautiful as the song itself which starts out very abstract and develops into something rather special. Biophilia is out next month.
I’ve not seen this fantastic ensemble live version of Soap&Skin’s “Marche Fenebre”. It’s absolutely delicious!
Because my review of her music just doesn’t do it any justice at all, here’s a lovely live version of “Quien?”
I have spent a long time thinking about how on Earth to write a review about Juana Molina’s absolutely ear bendingly original sound and I just can’t quite work out the best way to describe it.
Juana’s music from the off with the title track, which is the most approachable of the lot, deals with a lot of layers of repetition that build and build to cement a track. Usually its formed from acoustic guitar, with some kind of bass and percussion flowing behind it. Then usually there’s a lot of bending, twirling, detuned electronic syntherisers that pitch shifts it way in a seemingly random interlude. Songs are actually quite hard to distinguish although “Un Dia” is the most straightforward album to date.
The title track has a real progression and Molina’s strong vocals soar over the top, “Vive Solo” follows a similar pattern while “Lo Dejemos” ends up going right off on a tangent. “Los Hongas De Marosa” is a great track of epic proportions while both “Quien” and especially “El Vestido” have great hooks and a real tune flowing out to greet you properly – something of a shocking feat.
Now I’m being quite disrespectful in that statement. Each song has a real melody and atmosphere to them and each song is hypnotic to the point where a seven minute song can feel like its only two minutes and also half an hour at the same time. You can’t help but get lost in the plughole swirl and downward spiral. Some may argue its not really music. I’d argue its absolute genius. “No Llama” takes effectively two chords and stretches them for all their worth while the closing track “Dar” see’s Juana just freak out with the pitch bender for several minutes!
Absolutely barmy from start to finish, “Un Dia” is a work of unhinged art. It’s not for the faint hearted, nor is it for anyone who expects three minute specific song structures. This is acoustic electronica for the avant garde.