Reviews 2022

Reviews of physical releases received here by Richard Johnson (RJ) and Steve Pescott (SP). All reviews are of items either received during the past twelve months or more recently. All are from the UK unless otherwise specified. As always, if interested in anything being reviewed please pay attention to where interests lay, plus note that we do not review links to downloads or streams. Links tend to get left behind amongst the many emails received daily. Physical releases at least sit on a shelf here awaiting attention. We also just prefer to look at the whole package. We’re ‘old school’ and like tangibility. It’s that simple. Sorry if it can sometimes take a while to get to any release
, too. What with the Grim Humour books and Fourth Dimension Records, besides other activities, it just gets very busy here. We get there in the end, though. Thanks.

The address can be found elsewhere, but here it is once again:

Winnicka 57B, 32-020 Wieliczka, Poland


Doc Wör Mirran Feat. Schnitzler/Emerge Diaspar Parts 13 – 22 CDr (Attenuation Circuit, Germany, 2021)

From what I gather this is the second such collection of collaborations originally recorded in the 1990s before being then subjected to more work a year or so ago. Sound sources were provided by the late Conrad Schnitzler, Attenuation Circuit’s own Sascha Stadlmeier (a.k.a. Emerge), Michael Wurzer, Stefan Schweiger and Ralf Lexis. DWM’s own Joseph B. Raimond then arranged everything for the ten tracks assembled here, each one simply called ‘Diaspar’ and numbered accordingly. If already familiar with DWM, you’ll know that you can be taken anywhere within a roughly hewn electronic landscape of unevenly chiselled synth shards, ’50s sci-fi film noodling, found dialogue, chirps, miasmic psychedelic undertow and broken industrial weirdness of the kind Nurse With Wound were kings at back in the day. Along the way, everything is sometimes loosely held together by a rhythmic interlude or a series of crackles, whirrs and wheezes that look like they were placed into a semblance of order, but mostly this is typical bizarro DWM fare and, frankly, every bit as good as it can be because of that. I don’t often turn to my DWM releases but when I do I always thoroughly enjoy them. I get the impression Joseph B. Raimond always kinda liked his firm ‘outsider’ status, hence not actively pursuing much beyond, but a lot of his music certainly warrants far more attention than it’s ever been accorded. Of course, on this CD the distinct presence of Schnitzler can also be felt (and anybody with a keen interest in abstract electronic music should already have at least a few of his solo records!), but I’m sure all the other sound sources have played an equally significant role. It’s a great collection of pieces, anyway. Just wish I had the first disc now. (RJ)

Florian Weiss’ Woodoism Alternate Reality CD (Nwog, Switzerland, 2021)

The latest from this young Swiss quartet led by trombonist Florian Weiss proffers ten mostly quite short pieces of melodic yet sprightly enough jazz that showcases some great musicianship catering for all moods. The lengthiest piece, ‘Valse De Papillons De Nuit’, spanning just over 8 mins, is a sombre affair somewhat reflective in nature and perfect for the bass, sax and drums accompaniment to breathe, whilst ‘Feuer Im Termitenhügel’ assumes the kinda untamed posture I personally prefer in such music. In between, hooks fly in all directions yet remain underpinned by a sense of refinement suitable for a late night lounge. There are some inventive touches along the way, especially when Philipp Leibundgut brings in his glockenspiel to flesh things out, but I’d like to hear these players sound less constrained. The cover artwork by Corinne Hächler is fantastic, anyway. (RJ)

Rhys Fulber Brutal Nature CD (FR Recordings, Canada, 2021)

The fourth solo album by this co-founder of post-industrial electronic/EBM stalwarts Front Line Assembly catches him producing a pandemic/lockdown-inspired album of mostly aggressive but sometimes more reflective techno-based electronica of the kind I’m sure his fanbase will love. Perfect for these times, Brutal Nature is an unsettling voyage through relentless obsidian beats, brooding synth swells, occasional melodic detours and ravaged ambience. Vocalist Jeza helps lift the proceedings on three of the tracks, with ‘Fragility’ even possessed of a slight poppy edge vaguely recalling the likes of Faithless or Underworld in their more contemplative moments. Mostly, however, the tracks here are unflinching in their assault, driving home the album’s simple premise concerning humanity and nature’s power to overcome it. Youth Code’s Sara Taylor guests on final cut, ‘Stare at the Sun’, which is an appropriate demolition ball of an EBM-flavoured sonic overload to round things off with. Mighty. (RJ)

Gaap Kvlt eponymous CD (Zoharum, Poland, 2021)

This Polish artist first came to my attention via the now defunct BDTA label (also from Poland) and a series of limited run CDr releases almost 10 years ago. Since then, there have been a few albums ‘proper’ compounding a bare-bones minimalist rhythm stance of the kind Pan Sonic once likewise sculpted huge ice blocks from. The eleven tracks collected here, however, are from those early and now o/p CDr releases dominated by this atmosphere where post-industrial sounds are carefully knitted to stripped-down rhythms set to stun. Cranked up, it’s all very effective and appears like a take on Plastikman’s Closer period yet with added refinery sounds poised less for the dancefloor and more for that dystopian nightmare one may now feel themselves trapped in. To that end, even Gaap Kvlt’s oldest music makes more sense now than when first released. (RJ)

Lean Left Mederner CD (PNL, Norway, 2020)

Mederner is the eighth or ninth album by this fiery free music quartet featuring Paal-Nilssen Love (percussion), Terrie Ex (left guitar), Ken Vandermark (sax and clarinet) and Andy Moor (right guitar). Obviously, with a lineup of this calibre we’re not going to get any half-arsed stabs at the tumultuous end of improv here. Rather, these six cuts, recorded live in Warsaw, show the guys at the top of their game, delivering hammer blow after hammer blow of sonic fuckery that even the relents to quieter passages are akin to the sound of a limb being sawn off without anaesthetic while court jesters run amok. Absolutely wonderful stuff but, let’s be honest, I wouldn’t expect anything less. (RJ)

Snowdrops Inner Fires CD (Forwind, Ireland, 2021)

Third album, to my knowledge, by this French duo of Christine Ott (piano, gong) and Matthieu Gabry (piano, keyboards, tubular bells, effects) who, on the fourth and final cut, ‘Rüptur 47’, are also aided by Richard Knox on guitar. The four pieces slide gently into that space between contemporary ambient and that strand of music often known as ‘modern classical’ but is more often than not hewn from filmic textures, moody dynamics and little in the way of the more pronounced avant-garde sensibilities I’d personally equate the description with. What’s clear over the four pieces that constitute Inner Fires, however, is the depth of the sheer craftsmanship at work. The allusion to film soundtrack work is buoyed not only by the actual quality of the musicianship but also Christine’s own experience in having done such work before when collaborating with Tindersticks on Claire Denis movies, such as 2013’s Les Salauds. She is also recognised globally as a leading player of the ondes Martenot, an early keyboard. With all this in mind, it’s fair to say Inner Fires has a greater range than most such music due to its being imbued with a combination of stark tones and softer hues. For this reason alone, it makes for a commanding listen too good to simply reside in the background. Another triumphant release by the always reliable Forwind. (RJ)

Zsolt Sőrés Mitragyna Metro 2CD (Hinge Thunder, Hungary, 2021)

Zsolt Sőrés is a friend of mine and has not only been involved in collaborations with a group I’m in, but has graced my Fourth Dimension label with a couple of releases (so far) and I’m certain will remain a presence I want in all these realms. Usually, I’d try to steer clear of reviewing anything by those orbiting around my own endeavours, but Zsolt is an artist deserving of far more attention than he gets and even if these loosely spat words here only snag the interest of a couple more people towards his work then it’s worth it. On Mitragyna Metro, the latest release from his recently founded Hinge Thunder imprint, there are four pretty lengthy pieces that both chew on Zsolt’s penchant for a quasi-mystical approach to powerful psychedelic textures that glide and jostle over each other like undulating waves of seepage from a popped skull as well as more electroacoustic forms. Although known mostly for his work on the viola, he has always augmented it with an array of electronics and gadgets which either bring out new sounds from it or enrich it somehow. A skilled musician who works brilliantly either in an alchemical collaborative setting or solo, he draws from music’s outer reaches, adds the depth and drama learnt from avant-garde composition, and renders everything with a magical charm rendered by years of experience as a high-calibre improviser whose intuition rarely wavers. On the first disc, Zsolt ramps up the almost kosmische setting he’s now a master at, with both pieces serving vast labyrinthine layers of curdled sonics ideal for falling backwards into, while the second one proffers far more in the way of jagged rhythms and deeply serrated shapes from his strings that might well’ve stemmed from a bad day. On top of these, electronics crackle and hiss alongside heaved blocks of knocking sounds never afforded the chance to develop into a hypnotic state while prehistoric animals groan preposterously and pitifully as they die in close proximity to the proceedings. Most of the psychedelic undercurrents here are eschewed in favour of a comparatively less comfortable journey still worth taking for all the nightmarish yet fantastic visions moulded into view and only a subtle reference to an ’80s episode of Twilight Zone (called ‘Wordplay’) furnishes one with anything to latch onto directly. Thankfully, I like all that kinda stuff, however. Very much. Only 100 of these albums made, so get to it. (RJ)


Zenial Lancelot’s Delusions CD (Sublime Retreat, Poland, 2021)

Poland’s Lukasz Szalankiewicz has been creating music under the Zenial guise for almost 20 years now. Placed next to his various other collaborative projects he has been quite a prolific artist dedicated to the worlds inhabited by electronic music, with his expansive oeuvre seeping everywhere from sound art to post-industrial and techno music. On Lancelot’s Delusions we are treated to four lengthy tracks that start out like Roland Kayn’s voyages into subtly vacillating shimmer before later embracing carefully treated location recorded chatter more akin to some of The Hafler Trio’s work before then once again subsiding to its atonal stance. Everything is woven together with typical Zenial finesse but, what with a booklet featuring nothing but colourful computer-generated images that look like they’re from a bygone era, I’m wondering what the connection to the Arthurian legend of the title is. Maybe I’m missing something here? (RJ)

V/A Drone-Mind//Mind-Drone Volume 8 LP (Drone Records, Germany, 2021)

The Drone Mind//Mind-Drone compilation LP series has been operating for the best part of ten years now, pretty much doing exactly as one might expect from a range of records titled thus in bringing together a number of artists directly affiliated with or sometimes dabbling with ‘drone’ music. Naturally, and regardless of my own occasional protestations about such music, this is a term often lazily thrown about by those who tend to overlook exactly what it means next to the broad spectrum of proponents who deploy ‘drones and textures’ in their work yet both approach it from a wide variety of different angles and are quite capable of nourishing it with ideas drawn from disparate sources. While I’ll forever stand against those one-dimensional artists given to churning out slabs of drab timbres that hang in the ether like a bad smell that needs nuking with the pleasant scent of incense, many of the artists who’ve peppered this particular series so far seem to be a cut above, thankfully, and this entry is especially good. Snagging a total of six tracks by four artists on delightful purple vinyl, this is great way to become acquainted with any or all of them if not already familiar.

The first side clearly illustrates just how far-reaching the universe of ‘drone’ is. First up is Japan’s Kazuya Ishigami with ‘Clean 2020’ spanning nearly 13 minutes and absorbing all from processed field recordings to wavering tones, calming loops and what sounds like a space probe lost to a black hole, it’s far from yr granny’s arguments that La Monte Young-style minimalism was and is the final word on the matter. Following this is a similarly lengthy piece by US duo Aume, but this is perhaps the most ordinary contribution to the LP. Although powerful as it chugs along its miasmic meshing of deep timbres, train samples, anguished voices and low-key drum patterns before falling headlong into some psycho-ambience, it ultimately tastes like something I heard well over two decades ago. The guys should do something about that name as well. Too close to Aube.

The second side commences with Hiroshimabend’s ‘Syllabarimau’, which takes up over half of it and merges drifting shimmers, crystalline rhythms and carefully crafted key changes heavy in atmosphere and perfect for my staring out at the night sky and an almost full moon. There’s a vague whiff of Coil’s Musick to Play in the Dark to it, but there’s enough other stuff going on to take this beyond. Hiroshimabend produces a lot of music that’s then available online, but I strongly feel a physical album will appear some day soon that’ll truly take things up a couple more notches. Meantime, dive in. Anybody with an interested in such moody atmospherics will find much to enjoy here. After this, there are three shorter Baldruin pieces which are incredible blends of melancholic songwriting, hazy drifting, nicely crafted dialogue samples, pulsing rhythms and guitar parts that round things off absolutely perfectly.

All in all, a wonderful entry in the series, perhaps bridging the older stylings via Aume with the new and far more contemporary and forward-looking sounds proffered by the other contributors. Neat Pete Greening artwork adorning a Puppy38 designed sleeve, too. What’re ya waiting for? (RJ)

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