Sunday, 1 May 2011

Javi Canovas / Aureal

‘Open Flux’ is something of a scene setter. It’s as if dawn is breaking over a misty landscape. ‘Perception’ gets underway with beautiful plucked strings hanging in the air then decaying into the distance. Lush, warm backing adding a shimmering heat haze. Things take a decidedly dark twist for ‘Aeternus’, the sun going behind a mountain, leaving the valley in shadow. ‘Empty Memory’ takes us back to warmer realms but this time with a hint of sadness. Things are peaceful but somehow not as they were. Something is missing. ‘Downfall’ doesn’t lift the mood but to me provides a meditative atmosphere from which answers can come. ‘Echoes from the Dryland’ is a beautiful number with gorgeous flute drifting over a lush reverberating backing. Maybe we now have peace of mind and are moving on. ‘Fractal Dimensions’ drifts along pleasantly enough. We get to another flute lead piece, ‘Age of Irreality’. The mood is similar to ‘Echoes…’ but with a hint of sadness. So far all the tracks seem to have gone together as different chapters of the same story. We now move on to a new quest for the five-part title track. The opening section fizzes into life then settles down to a moody soundscape where unpleasant things could be lurking in the mist. The second part uses the most exquisite combination of sounds with bubbling effects giving it all a rather primordial swamp like feel; a bit like a slightly more melodic version of ‘Zeit’. I absolutely loved it. The next section is brighter with a slow lead meandering around warmer shimmers. The fourth is like an approaching storm with chollyThe final chapter has a subtle melodic quality and overall is all rather tranquil and dreamy. It’s a lovely way to finish a gorgeous album. Javi may be well known for his Berlin School outings but this album is a real must for Robert Rich fans, especially Aureal 1 to 5. DFL

Markus Reuter and Zero Ohms / The Sun is Just the Sun, But the Stars They Call The Heavens

Ambient albums aren’t usually my thing, but to me this one shines out against a backdrop of countless other drone merchants. ‘The Bridge and the Mother’ starts with abstract sounds of someone walking over gravel, backed by deep but warm textures and bright percussion. Gentle guitar touches shine above it all like the early morning sun. The music fades away leaving the walking sound effects. A car starts up and drives off. ‘Marsh of Sleep’ takes us to another beautiful warm setting, like a peaceful garden with birdsong in the background. Ethereal shimmering effects float through the air. There are no obvious patterns or structures, just a lovely ever shifting sea of sound conjuring up one pleasant image after another. ‘Of Praise and Motionless Skies’ is the best track so far with deep windy reverberating drones contrasted by angelic sighing pads. Bright note droplets fall like a gentle refreshing rain. As the track goes on the mood gets a little darker but it is still beautiful throughout. A deep dark sonic soup gives ‘Letting Go Is The Hardest Kind’ a rather eerie but also melancholy feel. As we progress things become increasingly intense, stormy and even aggressive. Anger amongst the sadness. So much seems to be going on in‘ How I Became’ that it is hard to focus on any particular element. Layer after layer of sound shifts, swirls and mutates. Best really not to analyse it at all- just go with the flow. ‘The Perspective of Disappearing’ creates images of dark undersea realms with curious Morse code bleeps over the top. There is loads of energy, indeed it could be said to get quite violent at times! It is the shortest track on the album at just under five minutes but another highlight. ‘The Emptiness Continues’ is initially a montage of swirling sounds until a bright lead line floats above the storm. Must admit that this track didn’t do a great deal for me compared to the rest of the album. Quite frankly it was too complex with loads of subtle sub plots going on underneath. There was just too much going on for me to take it all in. It just came over as chaos, but that could easily be to do with the limitations of my brain rather than the music! There is an instrument list in the sleeve notes but throughout the album everything is so processed it really means nothing to me. All I hear are electronic sounds and textures but what wonderful sounds and textures they are. DFL

Javi Canovas / Gravitational Waves

Please Comment on this Review
Javi returns to his roots for this superb Berlin School styled EP. Little echoing note droplets, like rays of light shining trough a dense overhead canopy, give a pleasant start to ‘Solar Dome’. A simply awesome bass laden sequence then becomes the main feature. A second higher register sequence erupts through the storm clouds and we surge forward on an incredible exciting wave of pure energy. Mellotron is used subtly as the rapid pulsations morph, having an understated melodic quality all of their own. The bass line is always there but surges to even greater prominence from time to time. Oh my goodness- what an opener. ‘Elephant Trunks in Space’ must be one of the more bizarre titles to a track. We have an appropriately cosmic beginning. Deep sighing drones come in but then, as with the opener, another amazing deep sequence makes an entrance. Turn up the volume and feel the ground shake (might be an idea to check your insurance policy covers music induced earthquake first!). More percussive note patterns chatter away in the background, like objects falling from shelves, and then the most gorgeous tron makes an entrance, as if sun is shinning through the slowly settling dust. A further sequence, this time quite melodic, darts this way and that. This is absolutely incredible- yet another highlight in Javi’s list of creations. I must admit I was going to say this is one of his best tracks ever but I think I have already put this many times in reviews of his music in the past. ‘Dispersion’ begins with twittering effects. A slow melancholy melodic loop emerges, backed by moody flutey synth. Two sequences materialize together; covering all areas of the sonic spectrum from those frequencies you feel rather than hear to the ones ideal for solo duties. The surrounding pads provide the ideal setting for such a complex picture of weaving notes. As with the other two numbers this is incredibly powerful stuff but this time there is also a sort of moody undercurrent. If you like your mid to late 70s style sequences these three tracks are essential listening. DFL

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Sunday, 13 March 2011

Takla Makan Kirkcarrion

Deep reverberating drones and ethereal sighing pads combine to create quite a dramatic beginning to ‘On Rookwood Down’. In no time at all, however, the first of many ballsy sequences surges forward. It overcomes the stormy effects and fits perfectly with a shuffling hissing rhythm. The resultant wall of syncopations attracted my attention away from a subtle lead line before a more forceful melody darts between the beats. This was already a truly awesome track but now it’s as if the rhythms and sequences are cranked up to eleven. Exciting melodies permeate the whole thing from the scintillating sequences to captivating leads. What an amazing opener this is! ‘Solstice’ has a rather dreamy opening, tinkling electronic flourishes providing a backdrop to moody flutey synth. Stabbing pulses break the tranquility then another full on bass sequence, as well as driving rhythm, puts the foot firmly down on the accelerator. A high register sequence soars over the top. This is incredibly infectious stuff; I just couldn’t keep my head still, nodding to the music like the Churchill dog (might not translate very well to non UK residents- sorry!). It’s not all at one hundred mile an hour though, as we enter a number of interludes along the way, giving us time to catch our breath. Then near the end- and brace yourself- we get a most wonderful angelic female vocal. Not a song, more a repeated sample but gorgeous nevertheless. A lonesome flute reaches for the heavens at the outset of ‘Elaine’s Song’. A sequence arrives and we get more of the lovely female vocals. This time it is a proper song but the way her voice contrasts with the warm analogue, though still synthetic, electronics is sublime. I have never heard vocals better used in electronic music. It has been done badly so many times. This is a lesson of how it can be pulled of and shows that when well done just how beautiful the results can be. It’s a return to purely instrumental realms with ‘La’al Stanes’. Swirling mists and other dreamy sounds give a lazy early morning feel. Another beautiful melody shines like a rising sun full of promise for the day ahead. We surge forward with a brace of tuneful bouncing sequences. The combination of pulsations and wistful lead is simply stunning. Just before the half way mark we return to the shifting atmospherics then a heavier sequence breaks through, quickly joined be mellotron pads. These suddenly subside for a shining lead to cut through the clouds. Pulsations soon return however, the bass line even heavier than before. ‘Greenwitch’ combines piano and a high hat line to get it underway. A slow beat and bass throb give a little energy to proceedings, also providing a structure through which first another fantastic staccato lead hangs then melodic sequence weaves. There are loads of elements to the track, each coming and going, melding around each other in different combinations to differing captivating effects but without over cluttering. At the nine minute mark the pace really quickens and I find it impossible to keep still such is the infectiousness of the beat and avalanche of notes. We have one brief return of the vocal to finish. It’s a wonderfully, Powerful, Beautiful but also Exciting track to finish an album which these three words would sum up perfectly.  I have liked every one of the Takla Makan albums, ‘Contour’ and ‘Landlines’ being particular highlights but this is my favourite so far. It is so full of power but also joy. It just makes me happy to be alive. If you let the mention of the occasional use of vocals put you off that would be a real shame, as you would be missing a truly stunning album. At its core this is a recording that has it’s feet firmly planted in the Berlin School but there is also enough else about it, especially in the melody department, that should widen its appeal to a much wider audience. DFL

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Sunday, 27 February 2011

Broekhuis, Keller and Schonwalder / Blue

I have been a fan of Keller and Schonwalder (both with and without Bas, who is excellent here) for more years than I can remember. Their music is varied but one of the main influences must surely be Klaus Schulze. This album is the second in a series starting with ‘Orange’ and which is due to finish with ‘Red’. It contains three tracks, each over twenty minutes long.  Soothing mellotron hovers over tinkling percussion to create a gorgeous laid-back start to ‘Blue One’. Cello type string sounds emerge as the percussion starts to form a foot-tapping groove. The sound is warm and lush but at the same time has real depth. I find something new each time I listen to it. Flutey synth makes an entrance. You can either let the wonderful complex swirling sonic brew flow through you as a whole or try and focus on each individual element. Whichever method used the experience is just as rewarding. We flow straight into ‘Blue Two’ without a break on the back of a swirling sonic melee. A slow shuffling beat adds a little structure which gradually increases in complexity as the backing becomes denser, even threatening. A slow lead line sighs over the top, gaining in confidence and intensity all the time. It’s like a ray of positive energy questing through storm clouds all around it. A piano lead heralds a momentary slowing of pace before new insistent rhythms break through, a sequence close on their heels. Before you know it we are hurtling along at break neck speed once more, theremin type sonic shimmers flying above it all. As with the first track it’s all incredibly intense but also rather relaxed and meditative at the same time. It all depends on how deeply you choose to listen to it. Again we move seamlessly into ‘Blue & Red’ on a sea of gentle shifting pads. This is a very different track to its two predecessors. It’s best just to close your eyes and let your mind float along with the ethereal soundscape. More gentle rhythms enter in the sixth minute, then a slow sequence but things are still fairly relaxed. A shimmering melody comes and goes as rhythmically things become increasingly complex but never too in your face. Yet again there is great depth to the music but this final number is not quite as complex as what has gone before. It’s a lovely blissed out way to finish a wonderful album. DFL

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