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This is a list of delectable music reviews. Enjoy. Check back every other week for a list of 7 more.

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March 3rd, 2007

Ellen Allien & Apparat | Orchestra of Bubbles
Berlin's coolest club fixtures crossed paths again to conceive one of 2006's chief electronic feats. Apparat's micro-glitch/strings-snippet signature meets Allien's sly electro songcraft to create a chic soundtrack for the post-modern age. The sleek circuitry is shorn of extraneous clatter, distilling elements to their purest form. Ellen's heavily-accented, hazy vocals drift across slippery, lacquered beats and chunky synth constellations on "Way Out" -- far and away, the most successful contender in the cavalry. Reserved but not cold, Orchestra is an urbane alternative to the generic oontz of mainstream techno.

Gavin Friday | Shag Tobacco
Former Virgin Prune Friday crowned his solo career with this exotic caravan of neo-cabaret numbers. Shag Tobacco unfolds like a two-part theater piece, with its roots firmly planted in the gilded gutters of pre-WW2 Berlin and the homoerotic heyday of 70s glam. Act 1 ushers in a slew of seductive slow-burners with an elegant feline gait. The sultry flavor lends itself to low-lit bars with red velvet upholstery and smoky tendrils pirouetting in midair. Gavin whispers softly in our ears like a high-brow lounge lizard, growing brassier with each syllable. Act 2 struts into the spotlight with a campy showstopper titled "Mr. Pussy" that packs an emotional wallop you won't see coming. The eclectic hodgepodge of instruments, moods and languages is streamlined by producer Tim Simenon, who added similar flair to Depeche Mode's Ultra. Shag Tobacco is the best 90s album you never heard.

Black Lung | The Great Architect
David Thrussell prepares an industrial sandwich with power noise crunch, ambient fizzle and delicious, bite-sized beats. The Great Architect is a compelling exploration of inner and outer space that bursts at the seams with boyish imagination. Heaving dump-truck blasts, robot zaps, mechanical pandemonium -- it's all here. These trinomial tracks bypass dull tweakery, remaining succinct and internally stable. A dazzling panoply of sonic experiments that snooty DJs can namedrop and B&T clubbers can embrace.

Lansing-Dreiden | The Dividing Island
The Dividing Island is a refreshingly lean pastiche that pays homage to clever songsmiths of eras past. This Brooklyn-based collective borrows blissed-out 60s psychedelia, somber 80s post punk and a touch of 70s soul to whip up an inspired blend that speaks to today's generation. "Our Hour" steals the show with sensitive echoed crooning reminiscent of Bryan Ferry and OMD's Andy McCluskey. No misfires here, only lush pop patchworks with style to spare. Fans of XTC's Skylarking: take note.

Matmos | A Chance To Cut Is A Chance To Cure
This high-concept surgical symphony enchanted fickle critics and casual consumers alike -- and rightly so. The eccentric San Franciscan duo gleefully merge squirts, gurgles, slurps and gushes; all mined from the surreal locale of a plastic surgery clinic. Tongue firmly in cheek, they inject unlikely warmth into potentially gruesome subject matter. Quirky IDM trifles comprise the lion's share, but a seamy underbelly reveals itself on "L.A.S.I.K.", in which terrifying hospital din contorts maniacally and the mournful "For Felix (and all the rats)" which turns bagpipe-type howls, decrepit piano clangor and reverse-looped sounds into a marvelous avant-garde hymn. A Chance to Cut explores modern vanity rituals with humor and aplomb, making this one of the best theme albums to date.

February 8th, 2007


Carissa's Wierd | Songs About Leaving
If you're going to mourn the death of a band, this one seems to have ironically made the perfect music for grieving their own demise. Imagine a room with Will Oldham, Bright Eyes, and The Cure playing the most plodding, brooding numbers in their collective songbooks, each one about some kind of separation, death, or other iteration of Going Away. Add strings, piano, ghostly female vocals, and stream-of-consciousness titles - and you have Carrissa's Wierd (yes, spelled that way). The posthumous Seattle five-piece are adored and missed, not only because they spread equal amounts of devastating depression and tender beauty. On their second-to-last album, 'Songs About Leaving', they forecast their own separation, and make you fall in love with them in spite of it.

Colleen | Everyone Alive Wants Answers
The first full-length from Paris electronic dreamer Cécile Schott, 'Everyone Alive Wants Answers' is a hypnotic stare through the looking glass, replete with aural fantasy and soundtracky aromas. Colleen takes a host of stringed and keyed instruments and puts them through textured electronic effects, sometimes with crackles and hisses, sometimes with glockenspiels, xylophones, and music boxes. The album is ambient but much warmer than ambient; orchestral without the clinical quality of an orchestra. Essentially, it's like Amélie on acid. How marvelous!

Curium | Nowever
As creative as you can imagine, Evan Sornstein takes his love for the accessible humanity of E.E. Cummings' poems and sets them to evocative, transportive electronic soundscapes. The farthest thing from spoken word, he enlists the help of twenty-two people from all around the world to interpret each piece into a truly original suite of visionary musings on life and the meaning of it, and every one fits perfectly, surely as Cummings would have imagined. It's not existential - it's experimental...and experiential.

Ensemble | Ensemble
Björk-associate Olivier Alary failed to choose an original band name and album title, but he succeeded in getting an all-star cast of wonderful musicians together to put out a very enjoyable, frosty, delightful album. Joined by Cat Power's Chan Marshall, Lou Barlow, and London programmer-tripper Mileece, 'Ensemble' is a world tour of sights and sounds, with enough pop to keep you interested and enough glitch to shake it up a bit. Interspersed with white noise consisting of long howls of wind and closing with six minutes of driving rain, this strange brew is a cozy keeper, a creature comfort to let spring pass into sun.

Dustin O'Halloran | Piano Solos 1 & 2
Devics songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Dustin O'Halloran has more talent in his E-string than...well, you get the drift. In addition to his wonderful work with Sara Lov, Dustin recorded two albums of solo piano pieces in Italy over the past few years, and both deserve mention here for their haunting beauty, expressive honesty, and delicate vulnerability - all of which are clearly the artist's. While simple and unaffected piano work, there's nothing about it that allows the songs to be background music. Each opus pries you open, demands your attention, and cuts right to your core. If there's such a thing as 'creative reflecting music', this is surely it.

Cross-posted, as always, to Ixmae.

January 8th, 2007

If the name Pieter Nooten is familiar to you, you are aware that he has been away for quite some time. An on-and-off-again member of Xymox (of the classic early 4AD records roster), Nooten has always been an enigmatic figure working just outside of recognition – even within the underground scene of which he was a part.

The jewel of his past is the gorgeous, essential late-80s collaboration with infinite-guitarist Michael Brook, Sleeps With The Fishes, which continues to inspire up-and-coming musical experimentalists. Nooten’s compositions even found their way onto the records of the seminal 4AD ensemble, This Mortal Coil.

Now, years after his early-nineties departure from Xymox (he left well before the dodgy records), Nooten resurfaces with Ourspace, a record of subtlety and restraint containing the kind of music it takes years of experience and perspective to put together.

Pieter, it’s been far too long since you’ve put out a record. What has been going on with you during your time away?

I have been all over the place to be honest. but mainly I’ve been keeping a low profile and being tired of the whole music industry, working for media, theatre, and magazines.

Do you see the musical landscape in 2006 as having changed much from the last time you released music?

I have no idea. I do not listen to much music other than baroque. There is so much good music around and so little opportunity to get it released. MySpace is a real invention in that respect. Since I’ve signed in, I hear absolutely stunning material.

Describe the process you went through creating your brilliant new album, Ourspace.

Ourspace consists of material that has been lying around for some time, yet some tracks are more recent. Some I am happy with, some less so. I am currently writing new material and will be cooperating with other musicians, singers, and producers. Only a few of the tracks on Ourspace have been produced using high-end equipment, which bugs me, to be honest. Most tracks started out as bedroom recordings, using an out-of-date computer. Yet, working in absolute solitude, they have that intimate, quiet feel I AM happy with. I find most 'ambient' music a bit too detached, technically perfect, but self-aware, and to some extent, self-conceited. I have been trying to bring back a bit of a human feel to the genre, and not bothering too much with the sound as
belonging to a certain genre.

The bulk of the album is instrumental. Was this intentional, or did the material just lead you that way?

No, no, really. I am happy you ask. Actually, most of the tracks I wrote with vocals in mind. Mind you, it’s difficult to find vocalists who meet my demands, especially in Amsterdam and Holland. Next time things may be different as I am looking around for singers (also on MySpace!). I do not like my own voice that much. Anka (who co-produced my album) really encouraged me to sing, myself, and she is very bossy so I had no choice.

Geographically, where are you at these days? Are your surroundings playing a part in your work – either in a collaborative or creative sense?

Amsterdam is a lovely place to live in. It is small, has gorgeous architecture, but it is also rich, bourgeois, and a tiny bit small-minded in spite of everything we want tourists to believe! Yet the beauty of the place does indeed inspire me.

Ourspace is so multi-textural. Besides synthesizers, what other instruments do you play?

I am trying to stay away from using synth textures and electronic sounds as much as possible. It is a technical thing and I just don't think it is original. Presets are easy to use, especially in this kind of music. You stick a plugin into your audio software and press a key, hey presto: ambient!

Yet digital sounds are extremely tiring to your ears and mind. So I use and create multiple sampled sounds which I 'found' myself. I am not bothered with things sounding too clean-cut or having a pleasing quality to them; there has to be a rough edge to it all.

Tell us a little about I-Rain, the new label that has released your new album. Are there plans to release the album in the U.S.?

Absolutely! We have just started this whole project. Our main focus at this point is online but we are looking into licensing deals. Obviously this is going to take a lot longer than throwing our stuff online as we are able to do now and selling through iTunes and the I-Rain site. Allthough it’s interesting to us that so many people are ordering the real, physical CD as well from our site.

Among many of the new, younger generation of electronic musicians, your collaboration with guitarist Michael Brook, Sleeps With the Fishes is greatly admired and cited often as an influence. What are your thoughts on that album nearly twenty years later?

I am honoured. Working with Michael was inspiring. The combination of my melodies, harmonies, and his ability to experiment with music, his approach to turn it around, created a special, deep, and multi-layered sound. It worked from the moment we set foot in the studio! I would love to work with him again. His new album is fantastic.

Ourspace has become one of our favorite records of the year.
Please tell us you have plans to continue making and releasing music?

Thanks again, I am honoured, and yes: I am back and brimming with ideas and inspiration. The next album will be absolutely stunning. I cannot wait to get it out there.

In the spirit of the Ixmae concept, can you provide for us your seven current favorite CDs?

I am afraid I can't. I really do not listen to much 'popular music'. People who know me realize that it's my strength in keeping the material authentic and personal (with that touch of naivety); I have no 'ambient' influences. Mind you, I have been hearing some great stuff on MySpace. If you insist, I'll admit that I do mostly listen to baroque music. I always have. I still consider Bach's 'St. Matthew's Passion' to be an all-time masterpiece of unbelievable depth!

4AD

Myspace

R/R Coseboom | Dynamophone 2006
BetweenTrembling Lanterns
| listen
I meant to tell you about this gem earlier this year: it's got to be one of the top five albums of 2006. Seriously, even if I were objective! Two-thirds of the talented and evocative Halou, Ryan and Rebecca have woven such a nice collection of intimate and tragic stories, with topics ranging from rape and fetal loss to kinship with moths and hummingbirds. It is hard to not get shivers every now and then. It's pretty, it's brittle, it's warm, it's dangerous, it's nurturing. What more could you want? Merkur3

The Necks | ReR Megacorp, 2004
The Boys | listen
Dark and haunting jazz-drone soundtrack work from this Australian improvisational trio. The Necks construct somnolent percussive patterns below circuits of quietly evolving piano phrases, droning organs, narcotic bass, and tenebrous electronic atmospherics. The music has a kindred tonal palate to In a Silent Way-era Miles Davis but also draws upon the unrelenting pulse and more processed sounds of Krautrock bands such as Can or Harmonia. If you haven't heard The Necks, this album may be the easiest way to approach them. The songs on The Boys clock in between five and ten minutes each, which may seem rather abbreviated by The Necks standards. Other albums often contain only one song that slowly mutates over the course of an hour. The simplicity and open space of these arrangements let you focus on the subtleties of the performance and become absorbed by the slowly shifting patterns, creeping melodies, and burbling textures. Resurfacing themes and a zen-like restraint help the album feel like one continuous journey. This is introspective late night music, music for fireside drinks, reading poetry, or simply listening. Marmlezod

Nine Horses | Samahdisound, 2007
Money For All | listen |
I'm one of those unrepentant David Sylvian fans. So it goes without saying that I'm so biased toward whatever he works on that I am blind. That said, the three new tracks and the three reworked tracks on Money For All are just stunning. Midas touch. Nice to hear Stina (Nordenstam) again on 'Birds Sing For Their Lives', and to hear more of David's continued political frustration on 'Money For All' and emberic anger on 'Get the Hell Out'. This EP is great example of great craftsmanship and tenure at songwriting and music making. If you know Nine Horses and David Sylvian, you won't be disappointed; it's a gorgeous addition to your collection. Merkur3

Antena | Numero ,2005
Camino Del Sol | listen
Antena have been likened to Kraftwerk backing Brazilian chanteuse Astrud Gilberto. Warm analog synths wash across simple Latin-flavored drum-machine syncopations while understated female vocals float in and out of harpsichord filigrees. Noir-ish production values add a Martin Hannet-type feel to the recordings. Beautiful moments like the title track evoke warm, fuzzy memories of perfect vacations, beaches, and sunsets. This French trio was formed in 1981 and disbanded in 1983. The collection contains the re-mastered version of their self-produced LP, an EP, and a few odd singles. Quiet yet groundbreaking, the work was originally released on the Belgian label Les Disques Du Crepuscule which later joined with Factory Records to form the Factory Benelux imprint. During their brief existence, the band never attracted their due attention and before this 2005 release, they seemed destined to remain a musical footnote. Recorded over twenty years ago, the album still sounds current, vital, and hip. You can hear echoes of Antena's influence in the work of Stereolab, Bebel Gilberto, and Beck. If you enjoy this, also check out Isabelle Antenna's beautiful solo works.. Marmlezod

Marsen Jules | City Centre Offices 2006
Les Fleurs | listen
Cinematic, definitely, but for carefully shot reels. The kind of stills that reveal fine detail you might have missed upon first glance: a person in the reflection of another person's glasses. Each piece seems like a carefully set scene. At first you don't see anything but a wash of color and out-of-focus glimpses, but more and more becomes revealed when you are not looking. Lush, dark, and cold ambient settings that are far from trite, rushed, sloppy, or cerebral. Don't listen to it while driving, you'll forget the road. It's that good. Merkur3

Broadcast | Warp, 2006
The Future Crayon | listen
This is a collection of B-sides and rarities from a band sometimes unfairly looked upon as Stereolab's little sister. Unlike Stereolab's more recent music, which can at times feel over-thought and devoid of emotion, Broadcast maintain a naivety and quiet humility which help the listener traverse its noisier experiments. When in pop mode, Broadcast melt bittersweet pop melodies (a la Claudine Longet or Nancy Sinatra) across pulsing Kraut/Jazz rhythms, strange electronics, and growling hypno organs. At times, Broadcast seem to draw from 70s experimental space pop groups like United States of America, as well as the darker electro oscillations of Canada's Silver Apples, but throughout this collection, Broadcast manage to channel the future as much as the past. Later in the album, jazz/noise improvisations confront and challenge the timid, but the band's sense of charm and restraint keep it all from becoming too retro or self-indulgent. A few rare moments come off as sketches, experiments, or unfinished business, but the melancholic beauty of tracks like 'Locusts', 'Unchanging Window', and 'Poem of Dead Song' draws me back again and again. Tender imperfections and clever production keeps you engaged and discovering new things with each listen. This is the sound of Karen Carpenter dancing with Sun Ra off the shoulder of Orion, and is one of my favorite releases of 2006. Marmelzod

John Foxx/Harold Budd | Edsel Records 2003
Translucence + Drift Music
| listen
I was apprehensive when I first heard about this on Echoes, but now I see that it's one of those few albums that stands out from a person's catalog, completely and in all ways magnificent. Granted, there have been a few of John Foxx's albums over the past fifteen years that I just can't listen to (sorry, John!), but I just can't get enough of this one. Aptly named, these are two CDs of perfect, mysterious, velvety ambient music. Translucence is mostly composed of Harold Budd's exquisite piano timing that (thankfully) manages to never get Windham Hill-ish, which is more of what I always love. Drift Music is exactly that: great Rothko-like sweeps of sound; shimmering, amoebic loveliness. Might be life-altering with opium. Merkur3

Romulo Froes | Tratore/Bizarre Music, 2004
Calado | listen |
This is a beautiful album of raw sambas and dusty bossas perfectly suited for lazy mornings and quiet nights of quiet stars. Romulo's weary voice floats over stripped down sambas that remind me of the band Low as much as the bossa guitar of Joao Gilberto. Soft psychadelic touches nod towards the Tropicalist movement (think early Caetano Velosa or Gal Costa), yet never disrupt the the warmth and intimacy of the album. Tracks like 'Suite' with its squeaky, out-of-tune violins and heroin-nod bossa rhythms should be enjoyed by those with an affinity for lo-fi folksters like Smog and Devendra Banhart as well as those attracted to the intimate sambas of early Jorge Ben. Throughout the album, Froes manages to sound familiar but never too derivative. The quiet melancholy and honesty of the whole affair make this release feel like a rediscovered classic. Marmelzod

Chris Herbert | Kranky 2006
Mezzotint | listen
I was in Smallfish buying a few Type releases when Mike Oliver suggested that I might like this. Turned out to be an understatement. Such a biotic combination of familiar sounds. Sleepy but intent, gorgeous and scientific, this ambient/experimental metroscape of an album is constantly revealing new angles and shows a great adult understanding - with glitchy film-track moments and pondering mystery. This album brings out the need to be particular and thoughtful. Goes good with a 12-year DoubleWood Balvenie and a dear friend. Merkur3

Tim Hecker | Kranky 2006
Harmony in Ultraviolet | listen
Tim Hecker's sixth proper album sounds like a distress call from robots drowning in rivers of lava. Genres and isms fail to describe the terrible beauty in this music.This is not ambient music, as it demands the listener's complete surrender to it's churning fields of static, interstellar transmissions and turbulent decay. Plaintive granular melodies coalesce and slowly dissolve into rivulets of white and pink noise, boiling fissures through an otherwise frozen landscape.Comparisons will be made to the distorted manipulations of Christian Fennesz or Kevin Shields but Hecker's pathos is at times more akin to classical works such as Samuel Barber's Adagio for Strings or the sacred minimalism of Arvo Paart. Marmelzod

December 5th, 2006


Fovea Hex | Huge: Neither Speak Nor Remain Silent Two
Huge is 20 minutes of haunting loveliness from the mysterious collective that is Fovea Hex. The second short release of the three-part Neither Speak Nor Remain Silent project, Huge contains all the instrumentation, drama, and swelling aural poetry of any ambient full-length. Vocalist Clodagh Simonds is more of an instrument than a singer, and her terse lyrical possessions drift in and out of the rich, primeval electronic droning like a siren’s call. One would be hard-pressed to categorize Fovea Hex’s music as anything more than small, lush gems of beauty. But as their label, Jenet Records, claims, “if you must bang on the table like that, you won’t hear a thing”.

Tram | A Kind of Closure
I first stumbled upon Paul Anderson’s resigned falsetto guesting on Piano Magic’s Writers Without Homes, and quickly became a fan of his three-album project with Nick Avery and Tram. Quieter than Low and perhaps more gallantly futile than even Nick Drake, Anderson lists all the ways that intimacy hurts, and the dark, dramatic piano, acoustic guitar, and whisk-rapped drums paint a somber picture to effectively merge with his resigned lyrical portraits. Catch reclusive Cocteau Simon Raymonde guesting on piano and pour yourself some whisky to help stave off the chill – Tram’s closure is just another open wound.

Calexico/Iron & Wine | In the Reins
Joey Burns’ West meets Sam Beam’s East to form the very definition of Americana Gothic. It’s really a wonder these two didn’t meet sooner, for their seven-song EP is a natural synthesis. Gentle, driving acoustic guitar with bends and slides conjures a country feel but with a much darker core. One would expect to run across these guys playing in a lonely tequila joint somewhere just east of Santa Fe – and their lyrical stories are fitting for a chat at the bar afterward.

Efterklang | Tripper
Denmark’s premiere electronic conglomerate create something very special on Tripper, a deep, pristine vista of drawn strings and crackling synth, layered with male and female voices throughout. The quiet times within build to crashing crescendos of simultaneous reverberant electro-harmonics and exaltant orchestration like something out of a science-fiction religious ceremony. The angelic chanting on the album’s second track, ‘Swarming’, might as well be the representative choir for the Church of Technology. These songs, however, are hymnals for a new generation.

Film School | Film School
The massive production of Film School’s second album, as well as its washed, shimmery guitars and pressing drumbeats, conjures a younger blend of The Cure and Interpol, but to some degree, these San Franciscans are more edgy than both of their contemporaries. Making optimistic pop songs with moody, self-loathing undertones is Film School’s specialty, which is in itself just a prelude to their breadth of sound and skill. Also touching on psychedelia, shoegazer, and punk, all within the course of one album, the band will keep you guessing, nodding your head, and shamelessly pushing the play button rapidly in succession.

Cross-posted to Ixmae.










John Xela (Twells) is greatly responsible for a good amount of wonderful and innovative experimental soundscape music available today. He is founder of Type Records, has several albums of his own music (Xela and Yasume), has hosted many music nights in Birmingham (Default) and currently works for cult-status online music store Boomkat, and distributor Baked Goods.

Let's start with your long awaited new album "The Dead Sea." This album seems quite a departure from 'Tangled Wool'. Can you speak a little about the journey between the two albums?
Journey? I don't know about that... I think people said the same thing about the previous 'departure' - I just like to shake things up a bit. The truth is I'm a rabid music fan, I consume an inordinate amount of music and my tastes change week by week - when I wrote 'For Frosty Mornings and Summer Nights' I hardly knew a thing about electronic music, and then writing 'Tangled Wool' was more of a 'return' to the sort of music I used to write previous to that, albeit with some more contemporary influences and stylistic flourishes. With 'The Dead Sea' I returned to the idea of writing a concept album which is something I’ve wanted to do for years, my love of horror films (again a long-term obsession) and a desire to shake things up a bit. At the time I was planning and writing I’ve been listening to a lot of free folk/noise/metal, or more than I had before so it's not surprising to me that these influences seeped in - it's the way I work. Also I do consciously try when I pen an album not to repeat myself if I can help it, there’s nothing worse than buying three or four identical albums from an artist, something that seems quite a hazard in the independent music scene.


It seems that we really depend on musicians to re-invent themselves, and at the same time we desire a sense of familiarity. Do you find yourself listening to music 'outside' your interest and comfort level in order to get new influences?
Yeah I guess, in my job I'm forced to listen to music from all genres really though, and that makes me think in a different way about things. I have found myself purposefully challenging my own ideas though at times, but I can never listen to something I just don't like, I get bored quickly!

What is it about concept albums (rather than just a collection of songs) that you appreciate?
Maybe it's sentimental value but I think it's more likely that I love the idea because I'm such a film junkie. A concept album is about as close as you get to a film without all the rigmarole of making one!

You are greatly involved in the creation and promotion of experimental music: with Type Records, Xela and Yasume, and your work with Boomkat and Baked Goods. What inspires this kind of dedication?
I guess it all boils down to my obsession with music... when I was a student I was running club nights and gigs in Birmingham and trying desperately to get the label together while also trying to write music… it was always something I dedicated most of my time to, pretty much as long as I can remember. Working with music inspires me, I get to hear more, I get to comment on it, I get to be part of the scene which inspired me so much growing up. I can't really imagine doing something not connected to the music scene in some way.

Now that you spend so much time with recorded music, do you miss 'Default' and putting together the gigs?
Sometimes I do, it was a lot of fun putting on shows but it was also a hell of a lot of hassle. I don’t know if the me right now would want to go through all that again, I'm probably less patient than I was back then.

Because of the greater exposure to more music, do you find that you are more critical of yourself as a musician than before?
I've always been very critical of my own output, but yeah you’re right, the more I hear, the more I adore, the more I question my own compositions. That's healthy to a point though, hopefully it won’t stop me from composing altogether!

What do you find valuable about experimental music?
I haven't really made my mind up whether experimental music is more or less valuable than any other kind of music, but for me it just so happens that this sort of music stimulates something in my brain. I like the sounds, I like to be challenged, and the deeper I get into music the more I need that kind of stimulation I think.

There seems to be a parallel between that experimentation and risk taking in music with the experimentation in Film. Much of what is on Type definitely feels like soundtracks to movies we would love to see. Would you say your love for horror films and, say, Lynch, has influenced your catalog?
Without a doubt, that was a conscious and very strong influence for me from day one - studying film and being totally addicted to cinema guided me somehow into darker more textural material very early on in my life and continues to be an important part of what I do. I love it when a director gets that mix of the audio/visual totally right -Lynch is a good example of a director who has that power.

November 17th, 2006

The Knife | Silent Shout
Siblings Olof and Karin Dreijer buck techno-pop conventions, releasing a progressive piece of melodious magic. These elegantly skewed fairytales present a range of characters enacted by the punk yelps, garbled rumbles and possessed whoops of our narrator. Swarming synth patterns and huge amped claps punctuate the misty sonic moors, as sounds split and multiply in the periphery. The journey culminates with "Marble House", a majestic masquerade exalted by the bewitching croon of fellow Swede, Jay-Jay Johanson. The year's best, without a doubt.

Gridlock | Further
Pendragon alumni Gridlock [both band and label now defunct] eclipsed themselves with this exquisitely unfurled industrial symphony. The material summons a classical aura placed in a distinctly futuristic framework -- lending gravitas to a Gibson-esque cyberpunk wasteland. Key track "Sever" pummels your senses with a bone-quaking pulse. The sadistic sonance is tempered with hovering ambient filigree -- a fusion of elements that set this Bay Area duo apart from the pack. Never aimless, always compelling -- Gridlock foreshadowed a rhythmic noise revolution.

Oil 10 | Beyond
Oil 10's sound is characterized by molasses-thick bass kicks, warm analog tones and whimsical sci-fi touches. A soothing spacial recipe transported in iridescent bubbles floating toward the stratosphere. Ambient textures, Kraftwerk allusions and flecks of psytrance paint a cinematic vision that is hardly novel, but lovingly rendered. Clean, concise and altogether pleasurable.

Sadovaja | Kill Your Darlings
Released in 2000 on Memento Materia, this classy collection of intimate slow-burners was glossed over by the entertainment media. Fronted by Swedish chanteuse Sarah Zodiak in a tone both nasally and untrained, but delivered with enough conviction to tug at the heartstrings. The arrangements bloom into tender tableaux of lovesick yearning, comprised of minimal trip hop templates, sentimental string sequences and a funky underpinning that wards off monotony. "Sweet Design" is an absolute stunner that seduces the ears with amorous professions and a Middle Eastern flavor that recalls Talvin Singh's contribution to Siouxsie's "Kiss Them For Me". A recommended soundtrack for moonlit lovemaking.

cEvin Key | The Ghost of Each Room
Legendary sound-bender Key left listeners awestruck with this chemically-enhanced odyssey into the mind of a mad genius. He demonstrates astonishing command over poly-rhythmic noise sculptures, welding a junkyard heap of reverbed clatter and crunchy clomps; tricked out robo-twitches and painstaking percussive tangents. Everything but the kitchen sink, yet unlike many of his IDM contemporaries, it isn't just noodling for the sake of noodling. The flow is nearly broken with the Skinny Puppy reunion track "Frozen Sky", which sounds more like a pleasant B-Side than a solo effort. Still, Ghost provides a much-needed fix for electronic connoisseurs.

Invisible Ballet | Escaping Light
Incandescent, larger-than-life electro-pop from Cosebooms Ryan and Rebecca [of Halou fame]. The irresistible "66 Degrees North" is a floor-killer infused with ethereal feminine grace. The pair's method eschews the redundancy of vocal trance and the pretentious brooding of EBM, carving its own niche within the scene. The fresh angle is enhanced by smooth, sensual intonations -- between Madame Coseboom and Victoria Lloyd [Claire Voyant], California has the market cornered for alt. pop divas. At times the mega-watt bass threatens to swallow her nuanced performance, but balance is mostly maintained. Flair for melodic construction is most apparent on the dazzling "I Am Right", featuring an unrestrained, driving rhythm and exultant chorus that catapults to the stars. Polished, tuneful, addictive -- and not a weak cut in the bunch.

Mount Sims | Wild Light
On second outing Wild Light, Mount Sims [AKA Matt Sims] swaps electro-trash affectation for serious artistry -- and I do mean serious. 15 dog-eared compositions that revel in the murky undercurrents of the human psyche. With a monotone drone eerily similar to the oft-emulated Ian Curtis, repetitive bass plucking and proto-synth palpitations, the formula is far from original. But it's enough to have the likes of She Wants Revenge shaking in their pointy hipster boots. Pitch-black tunes like the stand-out "No Yellow Lines" and gorgeously woozy "Ashes" evoke the menacing air of a dank underworld. As with a prolonged dreary comedown, you may need a shower afterward.

September 4th, 2006

Tweetronic!

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Isan | Plans Drawn in Pencil
The masters of tweetronic do it again. With this new album to stack on top of their other great albums, you can now listen isan all day long and feel good all over all day. Light-hearted yet somehow deep, enriched by soundscape pieces like 'Immoral Architecture' and 'Stickland' amoungst the clips and smirks of 'Corundum' and the lovely 'Roadrunner.' I can't recommend this one enough.

Apparat
| Duplex
Even though this is a couple of years old, it still seems ahead of it's time. Duplex is an album that reeks of many long late-night/morning edits, yet still somehow contains a great amount of heart. Mostly light and detailed instrumentals, the few tracks with vocals 'Wooden', and 'Contradiction' seem to balance out the epic graciousness of the album. fans of Yasume and Isan will certainly appreciate this, if they don't already have it!

a lily | wake:sleep
A stunning album. Light, dense, organic and so full of love, it's contagious. The first half of the album are like morning pieces -light streaming in through the windows, waking you up with clicks, whirs, and glorious melodies. While the second half of the album are like time shifts, so long and pure and comforting me to sleep. James Vella has a knack for these organic textures, regardless of instrumentation, and the melodies woven throughout stick in my mind for days. If you want some warmth and love in your life, then by all means pick this one up.

Harold Budd + Robin Guthrie | Music from the Film Mysterious Skin
I can't tell you how happy I was to finally get to listen to more music from these two masterful gentlemen. How many of us longed for more of 'Moon and the Melodies?' Since so much time had passed since they had put out a release together, I tried not to have too many expectations. I love Robin's Imperial, and this album is even lovlier. Very smooth, and gorgeous. Some of it still gives me chills, really. The whole album feels so effortless for both of them and all the power to them. Thank you Harold and Robin for more of your selves.

Styrofoam | The Point Misser
Sorry for always using food references, but this album from 2000 is really quite crunch and yummy. Like really good home-made Kettlecorn. Why I haven't brought this album up earlier, I don't know. It's a perfect mix of the pretty side of electronic music and the crunchy pre-glitch side. It is a child-like and playful album for sure, inventive but not innocent. tracks like 'Words never spoken" and "Future Debt Collector are akin to the screengazer wonder of Manual. Delightful.

Manual | Bajamar
Speaking of Manual, this time he's shifted away from the rhythm oriented work of the likes of Ulrich Schnauss and has done a mesmerizing album of ambient wonder. It has the stunning longing that Manual is famous for, and its calmness is somehow startling. Nice long pieces that drone like a hot summer evening, but never get stagnant. Bajamar seems so reminiscent of Ivo Watts Russel's earlier sensibilities, it could have been on 4AD if they ever did ambient.

Yasume | Where We'r from the Birds Sing a Pretty Song
To top off this list of tweetronic, the collaboration of John Xela and Gabriel Morley also know as Yasume, is, imho, a perfect thing. laid-back and smoky, the non-intrusive glitch merged with the ephemeral environments set just the right mood for me. If you want to get some work done and feel intrigued at the same time, this is the ticket. There are several Twin peaks references through out the album, and just enough to not make the album creepy. it's not. but it does, somehow contain the 'other side' so prevalent on Lynch's work.

July 5th, 2006

Sorry we've been slackers lately. Well, we haven't really, just late on the reviews.

What we have been up to is setting up a performance series called the 'Ixmae Soundscape Performance Series.' The first event will be in London on August 17th featuring live performance and video by: Isan, Ochre, A Lily, Curium, Rigil, and Sleeprobot. If you happen to be in the U.K. then, don't miss this very special event.

The second in the series will be in San Francisco on November 10 featuring; R/R Coseboom, Nux Vomica, RF, Curium, and 2:07am. For more information on these events please go to the main page of ixmae or here.

May 8th, 2006

Park Avenue Music | For Your Home or Office
It seems that the 'girl-singer coupled with a laptop wielding electronic musician type boy'band is perhaps a dime a dozen these days, but Park Avenue Music is an exceptional blossom in that venue. Glitchy, yes, but tasty. Breathy, yes, but so interestingly rendered and edited an composed, I can't stop listening to it. It being an EP makes me want more, and keep an ear out for more, because these two have really got something going.

Milosh | Meme
Mike Milosh does it again. So much soul and richness from a white man. Sonically consistent, with a great use of FM bass sounds, gorgeous syncopated multi-tracked vocals. Oh so funky for eclectica. Girl music, for sure. Can't be beat or compared.

Kuchen Meets Mapstation | Kuchen Meets Mapstation
A wonderful fusion of pretty and clever. Mellow, innovative and optimistically pensive. This makes some of the best background music with its cut-up gentle guitars and warm electronics. Damn, where did the afternoon go?

Worm is Green | Automagic
What a perfect combination of my old-school dark days interests and my current northern sound ones. Inventive, warm, odd, and evocative. Such variation in sound as well from their cover of Joy Divisions Love Will Tear Us Apart" to soundscapes of "Small Reverb. This album has it all. Sultry trip-hop style vocals at times, glitchy and experimental at others, this album somehow is very cohesive and doesn't come off ass skitzo. I highly recommend this to anyone.

Geniuser | Mud Black
The album title is so appropriate I can't imagine a better one. It's a dark and mellow album, and kind of a downer, but in a really comforting healthy way. Featuring Michael Allen (the singer from the amazing Wolfgang Press). It's a dark glassed soho club/lounge with dark wall and candlelight. You just don't know what will happen there and it's O.K. Very Lynch in experience, you just don't really know what's going on under the skin of it all.

Populous | Queue For Love
If you ever need a pick-me-up after listening to Geniuser, then this is the perfect opposite. Bright, cheery, toe-tapping and playful. Like a drive around town on a hot day with the top down, Populous always manages to make interesting and fun music. Not an easy task for sure, fun usually ends up being dippy and trite, whereas this album is thougthful, AND optimistic. Very italian, actually.

Sybarite | Nonument
Arty New York musicians are so cool. Just when you think things have gotten stagnant in the US, this album demonstrates why living on the East Coast can be enjoyable and life affirming. With a really lovely combination of instruments and textures, this album is very well crafted and thoroughly enjoyable. It hearkens to what 4AD should have been doing for the last 7 years.
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