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J. Sriram

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R Plus Seven
R Plus Seven
Preis: EUR 16,99

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5.0 von 5 Sternen The Sound of the Digital Age refined, 7. November 2013
Rezension bezieht sich auf: R Plus Seven (Audio CD)
One of the first outings of the newest brainchild of Daniel Lopatin, recording under the moniker Oneothrix Point Never, was the video for “Problem Areas” featuring artist Takeshi Murata and his digital installations. You can see a silver, terminator-ish skull surrounded by oranges, eggs and a book titled `Art and The Future' or another installation with a miniature ship sitting in a plastic bottle; all set to the sonic ideas of Lopatin.

Out of many writings about the artwork and installations of Murata, the best term to describe his work and to put it into context with R Plus Seven must be something close to `digital vanitas images'. Just like the art movement in baroque times, artists would take various objects and put them in context of worldly existence, death, decay and eternity. While formerly this would include burning candles, wilting flowers, humans skulls and even instruments paired together on canvases, Murata brought this idea into the digital realm of the new centuries: Now even the images are eternalized digital code and the objects carrying the symbolic value of vanity have turned into modulated figurines like a broken IPhone, metallic bananas or music instruments made out of gum. Also the titles have changed from being as meaningful as `L'Allegoria della vita umana' (Allegory of Human Life) to quoting something irrelevant like `Get Your Ass To The Moon' (apparently from `Total Recall'). In all of this, may it be a notion of vanitas or anti-vanitas of the digital age, the music of Lopatin seems almost symbiotically intertwined.

R Plus Seven with its deceptively short 43 minutes reads like the schizophrenic cadre of everything Internet, everything that seems to shout out it's artificiality to the point of either discarding it as thrash or of contemplating the higher sense laying beneath. And yet, when one starts the machines of R Plus Seven with “Boring Angels”, what hits resembles the warmth of an church organ so closely that everything said before is thrown into perspective of the artificial imitating the natural so closely, the original might never be needed again. When the synths and the cartoonish sounds hit linear comprehension will black out until the circular repetition of the churchly organs. It somehow feels like Lopatin is messing with the most revered of musical traditions, pushing his mark of synth ridden space thump into the mix to elevate the boredom of those with short attention spans. This multi-layered and multi-sequenced conduct carries through the whole of R Plus Seven like an motif in itself. For example following track “Americans” starts off as a stroll through jungle wonderland with playful and beautiful sounds and strings blending together, ascending into a spacey crashing of noise and little gremlins giggling only to change to ethereal voices which yet again circularly segue into jungle wonderland again. One the first listen I personally thought I went through three different tracks only to look at the player to see that Lopatin managed to pull this off in five short minutes.

As some, especially with the shorter tracks like “He She” or “Cryo”, might feel like the changes occur to rapidly and some portions might have deserved to be fleshed out even more or be longer in general, the pacing adds to the experience of the vast digital empire we dwell in and the seamless blending – even when interrupted with starts and stop like a loading circle popping up – never gives room to tedium or to be entirely sure of what is occurring right now. This may, as with his previous work Replica, lead to a dismissing of this record as senseless mish-mash but this arguably just means that one should listen over and over again to get a sense of direction and destination. And I can say, maybe thirty listens in, this record never fails to captivate the attentive or even distracted listener.

Microcosmic tracks like “Problem Areas” slow down to a fusion of nocturnal sounds and voices just to jump into tattered EDM piece “Zebra” with its fast paced beat and crystal like tones in return evolving into ambient glitches laced with brass cadences. While “Problem Areas” might be the most concise track to the whole concept of the album, second to last track “Still Life” is the most awe-inspiring of them all. Not only for its especially mysterious opening, desolate midsection and factory-rave like crescendo, but for its visual accompaniment: The video for “Still Life” subtitled `Betamale' is a collage of seedy computer `desks', graphic hentai and fetish imagery and appears to be a horrific glimpse into the depths in and around the Internet. Additional there is a narrating voice of a woman putting the images into context with the loss of imagination and the possible deceptive look `into the screen for a glimpse of eternity'.

Overall the body of work presented in R Plus Seven often gives you the experience of surfing the Internet – having opened multiple tabs, in the matter of seconds switching from reading an news report of a tragic incident, to watching your favorite cartoons moments on YouTube or texting with someone you could easily meet face to face via your social wormhole of choice. Referring back to Muratas work, Daniel Lopatin has crafted what seems to be the aural equivalent of the digital world we live in (with Replica maybe being the fictional Television preface of what was to come here). The idea of vanity, be it the decay of our communication, creative power or the way we are transfixed with every little piece of information known to men, seems to be present at all times. Only two things remain: The strikingly beautiful expression this record still poses with it's angelic qualities and the recipient himself trying to figure out what is to be made of it. As put in “Still Life (Betamale)” we are still able to see every detail of this world we experience, but can't seem to grasp the meaning of it.

This record might be one of the best examples of visuals marrying the pure aural experiences to something greater and delving into R Plus Seven can be as mind boggling as it is rewarding.

10 / 10

Preis: EUR 20,70

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5.0 von 5 Sternen Adding Light To Darkness, 28. Oktober 2013
Verifizierter Kauf(Was ist das?)
Rezension bezieht sich auf: Virgins (Audio CD)
You're in a dark place. All your senses seem deprived, malfunctioning and don't serve as an indication of time, space or anything close to reality. Then there is light. Not of the bright and enthralling type as one might imagine in a transition from death to the afterlife, more like a glimpse of something that doesn't intend to be crushing you –
With this metaphor the transition from Tim Hecker's “Ravedeath 1972” to his newest effort Virgins seems to be described best.

As many listeners might have first heard Hecker through his 2011 album, there is no doubt that with every release, he furthers his lane of innovative instrumental – any other tag such as ambient seems to be failing for me – music. His Ravedeath is best described as nocturnal, maybe even depressing music. And this doesn't necessarily mean synonymous with sad and downbeat, but rather refraining from every color, black and grey in tone and putting the listener through a set of emotions best described as desolate. One can't really say that Hecker made a much “upbeat” record with Virgins (who'd want that anyway) but that he added a crucial color to the compositions reminiscent of Ravedeath and his Dropped Pianos – the color white. And with this addition the listener is welcomed into a very different experience of soundscapes, ideas and tones.

Already the introductory track “Prism” seems to glisten and give of a kind of warmth with its processed organs and what sounds like many layers of synths piercing through it. After this, what even in length could be described as the radiant parallel to 2011 “The Piano Drop”, on “Virgins I” the listener isn't thrown into any thick layer of sound but wanders through hammered keys with the textures of noise slowly taking the forefront again, just to drop out and repeatedly overpower the organic keys. Whilst following “Radiance” feels like the drony intermission that signifies the defeat of what felt like instruments being played without any processing, “Live Room I” leads back to the hammered keys – now clearly used as a kind of motif – played higher and more delicately this time around.

Here one could come to the conclusion that Virgins seems to be the invert of Ravedeath: As the latter was a highly textured amalgamation of sounds that was here and then graced with the sound of keys, on Virgins the keys more or less take the forefront and the heckerean` static grandiose while still be very much present, is toned down; not trying to crush the listener but reeling him in with a certain warmth that almost gives of a churchly feel. And still, with the following pieces Virgins II and the sum of all “Black Refraction”, the sound never tires out or becomes what might be associated as being ethereal. There is still very much urgency and substance to the compositions of the tracks. This might be the church music of the post-everything era, but very much so it doesn't seem to rest on itself or implications of anything to be searched after, the crystallized textures and fine keys seem to be a hand out for active contemplation and a sense of beauty any other contemporary adhering to the more general ideas of music will never reach.

The interlude “Incense at Abu Ghraib” seems to be the introduction to a very stretchy closing sequence in a way. Sticking with the sensation of a mass procession and the burning of incense, what was crafted over the first half of the album now critters and crumbles away leaving many warm traces and hints of its original components. The duo of Stigmata I + II tears away the bright washes of sound into the previously heard sensations of Harmonium eschewing any crisp tones entirely. “Stab Variations” closes the circle of light started in “Prism” and seems like the slow disappearance of what was in comparison screaming in your face earlier.

After the rising passage of light and clearing of perception - the movement from black into sudden white, the experience yet again ends in a kind of greyish embrace of sound. And right here one might find a spot of tedium in the album. With the finish of Black Refraction, there doesn't seem to be much more left to experience and the high rise ends in a lengthy outro with many stages. But still this fits the arc of this record and you'll definitely not feel the urge to end the experience any sooner then Hecker intended you to – you might just not remember your way out of the church as much as the procession you were graced to witness. Tim Hecker once again has created a unique experience without any kind of repetitions. The more organic approach pays off very well and one can definitely leave Virgins feeling lighter while still being overwhelmed by the sheer beauty Hecker can create while eschewing harmony and somewhat challenging the listening experience known to man.

Best Track: Live Room

9 / 10

Preis: EUR 14,99

5.0 von 5 Sternen A Dream from Sunrise to Sunset with thick guitars, 1. April 2013
Rezension bezieht sich auf: Pasiflora (Audio CD)
Best Tracks: Sunrise / Crosses

For Fans of: Shoegaze, Post-Rock, Dense guitar work
Constants are one of those bands that always leave you wondering what step they might take next. It's not like they stray far from a certain sound, their “Constants” sound. But repetition is always far from where these three Boston rockers are. Their 2012 effort “Pasiflora” is their take on shoegaze; you know that dreamy music with all those nice melodies, walls of guitars that give you the impression of floating. But don't let words fool you. When you push play (hopefully at a nice volume) the first thing you hear are, well walls of guitars, but not of the sweet “close-your-eyes-and-everything-will-be-alright” kind.

Throughout Pasiflora there is much more vigor in the sounds, a new kind of lush, lush with the destructive power taught be Justin K. Broadrick (known as Jesu, Final or under his newest moniker JK Flesh) who played a major role in the sound of their 2010 effort “If Tomorrow The War” which can be seen as Constants in “Metal-Mode”. There is always some “Synthi” flair going through these songs, and the word celestial might also find fit here, but what is the most impressive is their performance of “dreaminess”. The opener Sunrise sets the mood: Punchy drums and smashing guitar riffs that just translate into pure energy. Melancholic moments like “Mourning” still have enough drive for the listener to forget the lyrical content of desperation in Benoits words but still convey the feeling of teeth grinding and internal turmoil. With the interlude “Sunset” (which for it's one minute lenght is still able to convey the somber mood of darkness rising) the much denser closing part of the records begins. While the songs only slow down a bit (fast doesn’t always imply happy), there is a nocturnal feeling around them and “Austere” and grand closer “Crosses” have a moodier and more depressing tone to them. When Benoit repeats his “Do I bear this cross / Or does this cross bear me” with the rising guitar lead buried under the glaring synthesizers, the heaviness is ever apparent.

The biggest gripe however might be the overall thickness of the sound of this record compared to the sometimes seamy vocal delivery of Benoit. It's not that he mutters his words, the intentional side of his delivery has the forefront but as it is with most songs by Constants, what he is saying doesn’t really go hand in hand with how he is saying it. The vocals are well written, but don't really catch the attention in that way. I guess it's clear that this is also intentional (Benoit is a producer - with a recording studio run on solar energy for whom it may concern - and seems to be very gifted at this) but deep listening and trying to pick apart the music from the vocals does seem inevitable if one is trying to understand the vocals (of course and thank god, the vocals come with the album). In my opinion lines like “I push so hard / Only to find there is no resistance” are way too beautiful for them to go uncomprehended. But on the plus-side – and this can be seen as an advisory for every Constants record – the true beauty and dexterity of their music shows only with repeated listens, when the whole structure of the songs unfolds little by little.

So if you're looking for something powerful without going too much into anything that could be tagged as metal music or don't like shouts and rough voices, Pasiflora is a great pick. And with this said, Constants records are as diverse as the blend together in a way; I would argue that if you like one of their works, the others will also be to your liking.

Torres [Digipak]
Torres [Digipak]

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5.0 von 5 Sternen A soothing and catchy experience, 1. April 2013
Rezension bezieht sich auf: Torres [Digipak] (Audio CD)
Best Track: Moon & Back

For Fans of: Guitar-Driven Music, Singer-Songwriters

As a self-releasing artist Mackenzie Scott aka Torres, could easily be put in the category of “bedroom” musicians: The ones that record stuff so lo-fi every indie blog has to cover it and goes nuts over eventually. But expanding over the normal stereotypes, what you get is really heartfelt and at times stirringly minimalistic music.

Every song on here is guitar and vocal driven; only at times there are some drums, strings or a real bass to be heard. If one didn't know any better, he'd be reminded of early White Stripes (without the primal drumming of Meg White). But apart from that Torres does really care about melody and deliverance. Even if most of the time the gain is at a really “rockisch” level and the distortion stresses this, there is no screaming or crooning prevalent. Setting apart the musical aspects of this record, one comparison of last year might be the vocal delivery of Mike Hadreas of Perfume Genius. Not in the sense of frailty - Torres vocals are always powerful and even striking when soaked in melancholy - but one the note of emotional power and persuasion. When the songs about love, relationship are sung, the listener can experience the situations through the voice.

On tracks like “Honey” you can just feel the hurt and peevish mood when she repeats the chorus of “Honey / while you were ashing in your coffee” you can imagine being feed up by a past love and the constant reminiscence of “what you done to me”. The Track “Moon & Back” thereby brings a tighter narrative of a letter written from a mother to her child given away for adoption as “Life just thought that I should draw the shortest straw” explaining and apologizing with “Please don't look at this like a hit and run”. Here the record is at its sweetest and most melodic but also most agonizing point and the picked guitar melodies get backed by mellow strings as the drum hits stress the plea and hurt going through the whole song.

At times where most artists go down the road of electronic music that sounds mostly like cut and paste of a few ideas, Torres opus delivers really heartfelt and diverse music that is worth checking out. Every note seems to be played with feeling and even if her voice sometimes loses clarity in the upper registers, these little imperfections make for a more soothing experience altogether. For everyone concerned with genre, in my opinion this might work as the perfect mixture of rock with the mindset of a singer-songwriter without sounding to much like country songs; a more mindful and gripping listen for headphones and introspective times without being to heady, twangy or a constant melancholic hit in the guts.
If you are interested in powerful singing and splendid songwriting that is as catchy as it is intelligent, don't pass on this one. Support the artists in any way possible, for this is one of the most promising debuts of 2013.


And man do the glaring guitars on the closer “Waterfall” sound like a toned down version of Caspians “Last Rites” from You Are The Conductor

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