Music Review

Learning Modular Synthesis in 9 Simple Tracks with ((konexo))

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Artwork for The Shortest Days

((konexo))’s album, The Shortest Days, reaffirms my growing interest in modular synthesis. All the tracks were made using MakeNoise eurorack modules, in single takes. That’s the beauty of modular synthesis and having knowledge on what the individual modules can do. Modular synthesis allows one to create their own unique instrument.

The first track (I’m going to shorten the names for the sake of typing them out) xmas jugband is pretty good start to the album. It introduces the odd mix of freedom and order that one will find using this type of instrument. loose ends somewhat highlights the frequency range of instrument and beckoned astray provides a fun random, yet organized, arrangement.

sharp signals is definitely one of those improvisations you hear in demo synth videos. It’s blend of non-sinusoidal waveforms grabs your attention, the arrangement is recognizable but curious. Modular synthesis also allows for sonic opportunity. See how beeps can make a rhythmic progression, an organically made digital beat in beginners luck. Where guitar players use a wah pedal to alter the sound of the tone, a synth uses a filter while altering the cutoff and resonance. This can be automated on modular synths, which is most likely the case in march forth. Or it was done manually. Or I’m completely wrong.

 

While listening to evening snowstorms, I tried to imagine an orchestra playing it. It’s a very dynamic piece, certainly lending itself to be transposed. home alone is also very dynamic. The phrasing and space in it, like the other songs on the album, is what keeps things interesting while still sounding repetitive at times. Ending with grey sunday, ((konexo)) displays how the modular synth can create a kick sound, bass and a high pitched flute.

This shit just makes me want a modular synth even more. I’ve been looking at the Lifeforms System by Pittsburgh Modular. So thanks, now I’m closer to making that purchase.

Essential Track: sharp signals

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Review: Togoland, and the realm of musical deconstruction and destruction.

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Taken from Bandcamp page

I like Togoland because they’re pushing some barriers that usually make people uncomfortable and really helps address the conversation of what defines music. What makes something musical?

Music, by definition, is organized sound. Take that how you want it.

In this review, I’ll do a few short reviews of Togoland’s Demos (there are four of them) and then end with a short review of the recent release Harsh Noise. I tried to figure out a more interesting way to do this review, but it was taking too long. All the albums are available for streaming on Bandcamp. I posted a link at the bottom.

Demos

Demos is an in your face barrage of noise. The mix of frequencies making love being recorded on a cell phone and laptop. Not for the faint of heart, or those tripping on LSD (if anyone wants to try the latter, please let us know how that goes…). Five tracks of destruction, with Bomb Sounds being an appropriate introduction. Sounds like heavy unnatural winds in while riding the subway. Togoland is from New Jersey, so maybe a quick visit to New York City provided some sound sources

Demos #2

This one opens up with a more drone approach, evolving into a more defined form of destruction. Bird Seed features distorted drums in a hypnotic rhythmic loop that is complimentary of the drones and evil tones which make the harmonic structure of the album’s shortest track, at a little over 6 minutes. The almost 14 minute drone, Sustained String Tension Line, was made from the sound of the melting phone in Fail-Safe. This song also challenges the definition of music.

Demos #3

Demos #3 opens with the return of unfiltered destruction. Slint is perhaps the more matured track, provided the cinematic drum made by a slowing down a recording of a bongo. When listening to Drive Thru, try to imagine a chair being dragged around in a classroom. Because that’s how the song was made…

Demos #4

Demos #4 is strictly noise. Though most of the songs may be difficult to listen to straight through, the reward of noise and drone music is bringing the listener to new mental states. The state I experienced in Music Is Over, was a state that made me hear melodies that might not have been heard otherwise. And screams…Which hopefully weren’t real when I listened at 3am here in New York…

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Cover art for Harsh Noise

Harsh Noise

The thing about noise music that it can sometimes tend to sound the same. That’s the curse of it. But it is rewarding to listen, as well as craft, noise music that can lend itself to new experiences. Harsh Noise is exactly what you’d expect. It’s harsh.

Harsh Noise is perhaps the most challenging of all of Togoland’s releases. It’s demonic and, not sure if intentional, provides a concept that can be felt in nightmares. It is manipulative and explores the deepest fears of aural perception, which can be worse than visual nightmares. You can hear and feel the darkness in Chain and Fear of Rain.

My favorite thing about experimental music is its manipulation of sound and the ability to make ordinary sounds in to incredible atmospheres. Since Togoland clearly has a feel for darkness and destruction, I would recommend them to explore binaural audio and make a literal aural nightmare. It could be interesting and perhaps even groundbreaking.

Essential Track: Slint (from Demos #3)

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Artist Review: Golden Leap

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Golden Leap 2017

Every now and then instead of doing a full blown review of just an album, I’ll do an overall general review of an artist’s music, aesthetic, etc. “Artist Review” sounds wrong in a way, but I’m not sure what to call this type of post yet. We can figure it out along the way. In a future post, I’m going to explain what I’m looking for when receiving submissions for all type of posts.

Meet Golden Leap, an electronic musician from I don’t know where. He’s got some pretty cool beats and sounds going on, mostly techno and great visuals to compliment. The aesthetic of the Mother EP, released recently in January, is an interesting use of audio spectral analysis. The accompanying video uses these visuals to create an evolving terrain matching the sounds. I highly recommend checking it out.

The music itself is cool vibe of techno. Not too overwhelming with repetition and is generally balanced with use of space and equalization. The bass is controlled and the highs are open sounding. Almost like some of the songs on Selected Ambient Works 85-92.

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Mother EP artwork

While I personally favor the Mother EP, theres some great tunes on SoundCloud to check out. “Thinner” is a great start for some synth heavy boss battle techno. “PS4LM 2E – A” is sick bass tune with great use of glitching. There’s some great swing on “The Needle” and its clarity and arrangement overrides the repetition often found in techno music. The last two songs mentioned are both from the Preludium Nuit EP.

I like the sound and look Golden Leap has because its not overbearing like some DJs are. The music focuses more on the sounds and energy than some type of musical branding. The productions are very well done, done correctly in my view. Not overly compressed like most modern techno is and you can hear all the sounds clearly at all volume levels. This is a sign of good production in arrangement and mixing/mastering. The visuals are complimentary too, and show signs of development. Overall, I think Golden Leap has a really cool vibe going on and hope to see some sort of live production involving the visuals seen in the Mother EP video.

Essential Track: PS4LM 2E – A

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Review: Today’s Weather is ambient with a chance of surprise

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Album cover for Today’s Weather

It always seems weird when talking about ambient music. A lot of people I’ve spoken to find it to be boring, which to me is exactly what its suppose to be in some sense. Ambient music is background music and is a different type of listening experience. Some ambient music, like drone music, is a challenge of time. The repetitions and tones challenge the listener, rewarding them with visit to new mental states.

Ambient music can provide an enhanced experience within an environment and RedWater does this in Today’s Weather. Made mostly of soft tones and piano, the album is made of a single 20-minute piece which is a mixtape of material RedWater compiled in one night in 2016. Overall, it some of it makes me think what would have happened if Kid A era Radiohead collaborated with Nine Inch Nails on Ghosts I-IV.

For a 20-minute mixtape, it flows extremely well. Which needs to be done correctly with ambient music to be more effective. Some transitions are suddenly rough, while others are extremely smooth. This works though in creating the sense of uncertainty that accompanies the surprising movements within the piece. RedWater also makes use of reprising parts and rewarding listeners with familiarity.

Listening in 2017, during a snow storm here in New York, Today’s Weather is a warm embrace of soft tones with a few change ups to make sure you’re still awake. I recommend the album to people looking to hear ambient music as Brian Eno originally meant it to be. Or anyone in the Northeast United States looking for a soundtrack to the snowstorm we’re experience today, March 14, 2017.

The album is available on Bandcamp along with his next release due March 16th. There’s also nice visuals on his Instagram.

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Review: Eric Taxxon’s Copy is sample based excellence

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Artwork by Everlest Design © 2016

This album will kick your ass with samples and rhythm.

Seriously.

Eric Taxxon’s Copy is a sound collage of samples arranged in one of the most interesting albums I’ve heard all year. Harmonically rich, rhythmically intelligent and euphonious. The artwork is visually pleasant as well. Eric Taxxon taps into what electronic music, glitching and sampling can do when given enough time (Copy was produced between January and August 2016) to truly be explored in thoughtful expression.

The first half of the album is where Copy really shines. “Jousp” begins with a familiar sample to warm up to the bombardment that is “Diary.” The song is a montage of samples, a literal diary of sounds. I tried counting the samples but lost count because I couldn’t tell if one sample was actually two at times. If you don’t appreciate the beat production in “Peep Stealer,” then just fuck off. Its not until “15627” you hear a familiar progression, but even then it’s refreshing in its presentation. “Bellstep” is the perfect ambient track while night driving. In fact, bellstep sounds like it could be it’s on genre…

The second half, starting with “ASMR,” is perhaps more challenging to the average listener. Sample placement, as well as rhythmic arrangement is more playful to those who can make it to the piano and horns in “Buapsalk.” The real trip begins with “032 – Music Art and Culture.” Heavy sound effects and editing for an avant-garde piece, complimented with demonic snarls and an explanation on the pretentiousness of contemporary art. It’s destructive drone at the end fades into the ambient drones of “One Iced World.” Leading the album to its climax.

Copy is an extraordinary work. Crafted in Audacity and self produced, Eric Taxxon provides listeners with an album that is musically intelligent and constantly grabbing attention that isn’t overwhelming. The production is no amateur work either, since it sounded good in all the sources (studio speakers, noise cancelling headphones and professional mixing headphones) I used to listen. This is truly a work to be proud of.

Essential Track: Bellstep

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Labels featuring Eric Taxxon

Trite Ice Records

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Review: Iah & Ixchel, and friends and a Macbook

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Artwork by Ixchel (2013)

iah and ixchel is, or was, an avant grade duo from New York. Their first album i love moonbeams (or: portrait of the artist as an electric turtle) was released in 2013. While Iah wrote the majority of the music, the artwork and spoken word is by Ixchel.

The album is eclectic mix of collaborators and Garageband loops. All recorded using the external mic on a MacBook Pro, giving it the lo-fi effect. i love moonbeams.. features King Negus and other members of the psychedelic punk, hip hop group Wadada, which Iah plays guitar for and is the dominate songwriter of the group. King Negus brings conscious lyrics and smooth lines, that not only has an incredible flow, but are memorable performances.

While the tracks are mostly loops, guitar and bass, the record has an open sound to it. Probably because of the heavy effect use, but this is complimented by psychedelic lyrics of Iah and spoken word by Ixchel and MJ, a member of Wadada. “everywhere, i” is like a drunken Gorillaz b-side. “terrified” features another Wadada member, LoveGun, on the effected bass. On “the & me”, Ixchel showcases her imagery-ridden poetry to a melodramatic guitar. Ending with the sound of a click on the MacBook trackpad before a last second chord. Iah showcases his control of feedback and noise on “sometimes the stars can lead you home.” “angry birds” is probably the more accessible track on the album. Iah’s Beck-esque lyrics and approach with MJ on percussion. The album ends with “her highness”, a melancholy ending to an abstract album.

The album sort of flows similarly to Captain Beefheart’s Trout Mask Replica. Which makes sense, considering Iah is a big fan of the album and is influenced by Bill Harkelroad (Zoot Horn Rollo) of The Magic Band. Like Trout Mask, genre varies in each track. While there is definite hip hop influence, the surrealist spoken word and guitar work land on a different planet. Iah approaches the guitar fretboard in the similar fashion he once approached the piano keyboard with.

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Iah & Ixchel (2014)

Iah & Ixchel released another album, “hieronymous borscht vs. the cosmic seapig” in 2014 before disbanding later that year. While both continue their respective journeys in the arts, there is no intention of the third album. Iah is working on a solo album and Ixchel is working on her own art projects. Not much else is known.

Essential Track: everywhere, i

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Review: Pink Horizon

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PINK HORIZON BY KEITH CRYSTALS

While I was listening to this record, one of the first things that came to mind was: Aphex Twin. Surely enough, Warp Records was one of the influences Michael Summers (Keith Crystals) mentioned in a small email exchange on the record.

Pink Horizon was made like alot of my albums, I create multiple songs pretty much everyday in different genres (everything from ambient/experimental/electronic music to metal, pop and punk) and then I arrange them into albums that flow. Influences for Pink Horizon would probably be Warp Records, Flaming Lips, classical music, video game music, hip hop, and a pretty healthy dose of a sound I created myself.”

Pink Horizon definitely has a fun flow to it and the influences are there just enough to sound recognizable. “Never Let It Go” is two songs in one, a stroll through a warm trip of funky bass and a retro boss battle. “Gray Matter” is a nice blend of Aphex type techno and ambience, complete with dynamics and some of those “I’m not sure if I’m hearing noise in the song or outside my headphones” type sounds. You’ll hear some of that punk influence in “We’re Moving On” too.

“ I have a very large back catalog of tracks, recordings, ideas, random stuff that I experiment with and throw onto alot of my recordings to create more atmosphere.”

Every track has a new delivery of freshly baked sounds. A good sense of sound design and stereo direction is displayed here. Some soundtrack type stuff, but still short and sweet enough to be a song on its own. “Dark Day” makes for a good ambience for a horror video game, till a little acid bass break and leaves you with a few unsettling piano notes.

“I use FL Studio 10, Virtual DJ and Audacity to make beats/mix/master/etc. I use a Rock Band USB mic to record live guitar/bass/vocals/drums.”

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ONE OF THESE??

Released on his own Pleasant Fury Records, which has more from other artists ranging from Neo-Psychedelia, Electronica, Ambient and Drone to Blues, Hip Hop and Alternative, Keith Crystals has 13 albums available for download. In fact, during the time of this writing, a new album Condemned Row was released. You should probably check that out too after listening to Pink Horizon.

Essential Track: Never Let It Go

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Album Review: Un Deux Abattoir brings a refreshing sonic soundscape in debut EP.

 

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Album cover for Got The Goings Off Coming On

Un Deux Abattoir’s debut EP, “Got The Goings Off Coming On” is a promising start for the English musician. Current in Amsterdam, the multi-instrumentalist creates a psychedelic environment using dynamic instrumentation and beats, ambient tones and samples which provide an organic flow. At just over 18 minutes, the 5 track EP is a calming, yet exciting journey of mature arrangements.

The opening track, “Wet Turtles Have No Thirst,” provides the album’s only lyrical content:

Well it’s bitter in the winter,
But there’s a fire in your eyes,
Your rhythm throws me off girl, you’re all threes and fives,
But you’re common time somewhere between the thighs.

A poetic sense of imagery that is more of a compliment to the environment of sounds, the simple four lines provide the setting for a romantic and mysterious vibe that is consistent throughout the work. Where the album lacks in vocal or lyric content, it makes up in harmonic and rhythmic structure. “Mmmmm?” is an appropriate opportunity to ponder the words, before the jazz inspired bass enters in title track, “Got The Goings Off Coming On.” Possibly the more developed track, Un Deux Abattoir delivers sophisticated use of space and musicianship. A minimalistic music video provides the ambiguous aesthetic to the track.

“If Man Was Meant to Fly…” opens with chirping birds that slowly realize their melodic purpose when backed by the bass. The horns bringing a rather different feel and energy to the music, while giving meaning to its title. One can’t help but to daydream of being capable of natural aviation. The selection of bird songs (not sure what kind of birds) may or may not be purposeful, but its incorporation to the music is clever and widens the environment for daydreamers to play in.

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Taken from Bandcamp page

Ending with the tribal beats and soft electric piano in”Nightdrive,” Un Deux Abattoir’s debut is a rewarding listen. Originally released in December of 2014, Got The Goings Off Coming On is extremely refreshing from a songwriting and arrangement perspective. The soft tone is easily accessible while the production itself keeps things interesting. A nice, calming soundtrack to help ease the anxiety caused by the uncertainty of 2017.

Essential Track: Got The Goings Off Coming On

Buy The Album HERE