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Friday, February 24, 2012

Quick Looks 2-24-12

Alchemist - "Air"
[Sombre Soniks]
Apparently the 3rd release in a series of elemental-themed releases. Pretty typical "ritual ambient" release - the cover is a nice looking sigil with some unreadable text, there is no additional information, and the music is minimal, subdued drone. I assume the point of this release is something to do with meditating on some concept related to air - of course it would be nice if the artist would include that, but I guess offering an explanation wouldn't be deep and esoteric. The sigil looks nice -  whatever it is, whatever it is supposed to mean. It's got some bastardized astrological & zodiac symbols and some geometric shapes. The music is pretty straight forward. This EP is short - 2 songs, a remix, and 2 demos. The 2 demos are completely pointless, as they are exactly the same as the originals, the only exceptions being that they are perhaps sans mastering (which will scarcely be noticed by non critical ears) and are oddly louder than the originals (unmastered louder than mastered...that's a new one), so I'm treating this as a 3 song EP. The first track "Pilarit Taivas (Pillars of Sky)" is unimaginative but pleasant sounding. It does quite conjure up a sense of Air with it's light, floating drones. Not particularly adapted for active listening, this could work as background music for a ritual or meditation. The mixing is pretty tight; there is a deep, even low end and a strong top end. Though it's hard to mess that up where there are only 2 elements playing at the same time. For some reason this EP is ultra quiet - you will probably want to keep the volume low anyway, though you will still have to crank the knob just to hear anything. The second track is similar, but not as good. It's basically a low drone and an overly loud bell-ish sound that plays every few seconds looped over and over. At times another quiet drone comes in that sounds like it has an interesting texture, but it's often drowned out by the bell tone. After a few minutes the bell thing goes away and some murky rising drones come in and swell and subside gently. It's cold and empty like that Biosphere album Substrata...except less impressive and written 14 years later. The P23 mix takes the original and gives it a lo-fi grit; conjuring feelings of cold soil or swamplands. Overall, typical netlabel ambient stuff. If you like really minimal "ritual ambient" I guess give the opening track a shot. It's nowhere near the level of Kammarheit, Inade, Herbst9, New Risen Throne, etc, but it could work in a ritual atmosphere.

*edit. i found the sigil used here... it's from the anime Full Metal Alchemist. here

[Sombre Soniks]
Let me open this review by saying guitar improv stuff is totally not my thing. That aside, this is 4 tracks of improv by Tamerlan + Akoustik Timbre Frekuency recorded live. According to this press release, Ulug-Khem is a "fertile playground of shamanik evokations to sink into your very soul". What it sounds like is a guy strumming randomly on a guitar over another guy playing some minimal drone and windchimes or something of the sort. My girlfriend made a great point and said that this release sounds like Diablo. It is actually quite reminiscent of the town music in the original Diablo game. Perhaps directly influenced by that association, I feel that this album brings forth a strong atmosphere - hinting at ancient, ruined towns washed over by fog and rain. It is genuinely dark, unsettling, and weird. Not a pleasant listen, but hypnotic in it's atypiciality. All the tracks sound exactly the same to me, as they all feature the same elements and are in the same style.  Like I said, I don't seek out guitar stuff, but if you're more into it, you will probably "get this" in ways that are not apparent to me. The guitar has a good tone. The chimes are pretty cool as well. The drone stuff is minimal and lo-fi. I can see this for sure appealing to fans of folk-y, ambient black metal and maybe even apocalyptic folk stuff.

Mystified - "Coming Days"
[Attenuation Circuit]
Another drone album from the highly prolific Mystified. "Coming Days" is pretty typical Mystified, and after listening to this, it's not much of a stretch to figure out how he has released something like 250(!) albums in the last 6 or 7 years. He is a steadfast producer of routine, monotonous drone. Listen to a song for 15 seconds, fast forward to any point in the song and listen for another 15 seconds and it will sound exactly the same. There are a few nice sounding tracks here, especially if you like the ultra minimal stuff like Law-Rah Collective and so forth. Tracks like "Atlantic Passage", "Discordant Dreaming", and "What is Inevitable" have deep tones and textures to them, and they move along slowly enough that you don't quite notice the absence of things happening. One can become hypnotized by their patient, steady flow. These are good to let play in the background to give the room a sort of generic "dark" mood while you do other things. Some of the other tracks have annoying high pitched drones or they move quickly enough that the extreme repetition is readily evident and tedious. The mixing is a bit uneven from track to track. This stuff isn't bad; however, my biggest problem with this type of release is that there is no real purpose or direction to it. Any atmosphere generated is simply an inevitable "default" that comes from layering 2 or 3 droning sounds together - nothing deeper or more expansive than that. In short, Coming Days meets all the criteria for very plain, by the numbers drone, which may appeal to some, but if you're looking for something more exciting look elsewhere.

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