AMN Reviews: Joe Morris – Solos Bimhuis (2015; Relative Pitch Records)

1432516242880-2070290275I’ve always felt one of the downsides of the CD medium is the amount of data they can hold.  Many performers feel the need to maximize the content…stuff that silver disc to the gills with as much binary crappola as technologically possible.  Never-mind the fact that 50% or more is useless filler, if they have the darts, they gotta throw em all at the dart board.

Luckily for the listener of Joe Morris’ Solos Bimhuis collection, the filler factor is pretty much absent.  What we have here is 7 long pieces, ranging from 6 minutes to a ginormous 26 minutes.  One man, one acoustic (sounding) guitar…and a whole lot of notes.  Listening though this huge set, I was constantly amazed at the frequency of ideas that must have been pouring out of JM’s head.  The fact that he seemed to be able to process these ideas faster than a Cray astounded me.  There was some serious number crunching happening.

Using a multitude of extended picking techniques…moods, atmospheres, hell, even fully fleshed out novels were seemingly created in an instant.  Some that he showed us early on were revisited, only twisted and turned inside out creating yet further ideas.  My experience to all this was one of surrender, letting go and finally full engulfment into the sonic maelstrom.  Spanish themes occasionally popped their heads up only to be quickly supplanted by what sounded like a vicious bowing technique of a first violinist.  The latter being done on a guitar made it that more stunning…and that barely scratches the surface of this grand design that Morris was building.

The whole proceeding was one giant instant gratification after the next.  I was exhausted after it was over…but like any good box of chocolates…you are going to return again and again.  The replay attribute on this release is high.  Grokking it all on one listen is futile.  I’m looking forward to riding this wave again.

Michael Eisenberg

AMN Reviews: Chris Russell – Blur (2015; Relaxed Machinery)

I was expecting a static/floating/tuneless drone fest and I got that…and that’s cool but only if you are in the mood for it.  (Disclaimer:  I am, often.)  What was unexpected about this release…there is much more going on if you’re listening.

Blur seems to fit squarely in the (not too) dark ambient realm.  Space is definitely the place here, but Russell also takes some pretty interesting detours.  Melody and some field recordings also find a home on this sprawling 65 minute release.  Between the dark grey rumble and  smooth, thick chordal slabs of dark circuitry running free, the active listener will also experience the occasional tune.  I found myself actually NOT zoning out to this, instead I was caught up in some very beautiful melodic passages that added an unexpected god-ray of positive brightness to this release.

Of course, just like the natural order of all things, beauty does tend to fade, doesn’t it?  There are some very dark corners to explore and Russell is more than happy to take you there.  Gothic, dark images of crumbled signs of life, smudged out blots of blackness amongst dying things that were once vital, wisps of indeterminate forms moving quickly in and around your blindsight…are they there?  Of course not, that is until one of them quickly and quietly disturbs your personal space with it’s moist, rotted breath.

Were those melodies just chum to lead the listener to those corners? Were those gentle waves kissing a peaceful deserted beach on “Oceans” really that inviting, or where they the last remnants of a near dead lake lapping a ruined, jagged shore line?   Find out…listen to Blur.

Michael Eisenberg

AMN Reviews: Cinchel – Witnessing (2015; Pan y Rosas)

cinchel-witnessingThis is an artist from Chicago, apparently a guitarist but I don’t believe there are any guitars here, who succeeded in creating something very big from something very little.  While the raw materials, tools and overall results are completely different, I can’t help but being reminded of the Australian trio The Necks who use a similar work ethic.  That is, turning the bare bones, the very whisp of an idea into a Gulliver sized edifice of sound.

Starting with a taped fragment of a conversation, maybe about 30 seconds long as the base material, we then get treated to it’s gradual deconstruction and resulting reconstruction.  This Lucier-like transformation was in a word, fascinating.  Things start happening fairly quickly on this 39 minute release.  About 5 minutes in, and without hardly realizing it, the benign taped fragment metamorphosed into a rolling cascade of human voices.  If a voice was a physical construct, something that you can see, touch and feel, cinchel very cleverly animated this thing and kicked it down a mountainside.  Not just one voice, but hundreds…and it sounded like it was a tumbling avalanche gaining power as the seconds progressed.

Not sure how this was going to be resolved (spoiler…sorry) I could only keep listening.  After all, it’s not everyday voices take on a Nintendo character aspect as I could only believe that there was going to be a level change soon.  And there was, but it was very subtle…things very slowly started smoothing out. Rough edges started getting buffed, sandpaper-like shards of sound became velvety smooth drone-like things.  Buried within were razor sharp beams of noise that may have been the ghosts of that long dead 30 second conversation that started this piece.  After the nano second it took me to process those ghosts I probably uttered “What?” but, then again maybe I just thought I did.

Because, when it was all over I couldn’t help but think I was lifted from one place to another.  It made me smile.  Good stuff here!

Michael Eisenberg

AMN Reviews: Far Rainbow – No Medicine That Can Cure A Fool (2015; Bandcamp)

Far Rainbow is the UK based duo of Emily Mary Barnett and Bobby Barry. With this, their first release, we get a (too) short sampling of their improvised drums + electronics aesthetic that left me wanting more, much more!

I don’t know the musical history of either of these folks, but when a chance (or not) meeting happens with the intent of making a sound statement that works— i.e. takes the listener from point A to point B in a way that triggers memorable and identifiable emotions whether positive or negative, with no preconceived road map (or maybe the bare bones of one…hard to say on this release), resulting in the successful fruition of said intent…that’s a jewel that needs to be preserved.

Since everyone experiences music differently, from my very own personal headspace when I took the deep dive into these two 13 minute tracks, I was whisked along on a highly enjoyable inward pointing journey. The electronic aspect seemed to favor that of the borderline “power” variety. Loud (but not harsh), continuous and propulsive…these sounds set my skull a-hummin and my mind free falling down a charged rabbit hole of black noise. But wait, there’s the drums. At times scrappy and time-free, they also morphed into regimented…martial even…time keeping that actually grooved, hard.

As stated earlier, this meeting, chance or otherwise worked. Not only was this percussion/electronic sound pallet highly appealing from a raw sound perspective (Addictive? Maybe) but the listener gets the added bonus of a possible glimpse into a netherworld of their own making. Indeed…no medicine for that…and thankful for it.

Michael Eisenberg

AMN Reviews: Sound Awakener – September Traveler (2015; Bandcamp)

Sound Awakener - September TravelerSound Awakener is the nom de plume of Vietnamese pianist / soundcrafter Nhung Nguyen. September Traveler is a short, 30 minute sampler (so to speak) of her works from 2011 and 2012.

What we have here is…well, very interesting indeed! Taking a canvas of opaque, fuzzy and somewhat muddy (but not subsonic) drone-like material to act as a building block, Sound Awakener overlays contrasting sounds to bring the package to life. Against this mud-addled backdrop, bright piano “pings” and hammered strings are showcased and brought to vivid life.  The occasional three note melody pops up here and there adding a sinister music box vibe to the proceedings. Think of juicing up the saturation level of a photograph…if the ambient drone is the background, everything else is color. Boost those colors and the result is something, while not exactly dark and oppressive…not exactly sunshine and lollypops either.

There are five works on this record, ranging from under 2 minutes to over 16. All of them seem to have an unfinished quality to them…maybe intentional, who knows?  Most of them end abruptly, with a lightning quick fade out to silence. I’ll go ahead and posit the theory that Ms. Nguyen planned this to jolt the listener from one mind movie to the next. No spending time walking through that moist, dank Vietnamese jungle for you my friend…time to re-boot your brain and visit my little dark claustrophobic, black and white room where small unsavory things may or may not lurk in the corners…

Well, nice theory anyway.  This is a good listen…and depending on the current chemical balance of your brain, the movies are infinite.

Michael Eisenberg

AMN Reviews: Kevin Hufnagel – Kleines Biest (2015; Bandcamp)

I wasn’t too familiar with Kevin (I’ve heard about 30 seconds of Gorguts ages ago) so I’m coming in neophyte status here.  That being said…

…this is what else I’m going to say…

I absolutely adore music when I’m able to discern and appreciate the little details.  There are a lot of little details here…in fact, the whole album is “little details.”  I’m going to postulate that he spent many hours assembling this thing…hell…this monolithic edifice.

How can I break this down?  Start with a raw slab of metallic guitar noise and start molding.  Add some extended techniques here, some multi-track guitars there.  Throw in some drone to taste, maybe a little extreme noise just for some flavor…and garnish it all off with a nice big steaming dollop of darkness.

Yes, darkness, darkness pervades this release.  I’m not talking about the creepy crawly kinda darkness you might hear on an early “Univers Zero” record.  What I’m talking about is the scorched earth / blasted landscape / nuclear burn / Richard Pinhas sorta darkness.  This is the sort of darkness that closes in on your psyche, the kind of darkness that suffocates you as your oxygen tank wheezes out it’s last breath into your dying lungs…that kind of darkness.  Just to clarify, this darkness is aiming to blot out, deface and vaporize any thought of that long walk on the beach on that fresh Spring day with your best girl.


Got bludgeoned lately?  This is a fine and beautiful way.

Michael Eisenberg

AMN Reviews: Meanza / De – OU (2015; Aut Records)

This is what happens when you cross electro-acoustic with psychedelia—Hint:  It’s all good!

This is what I’ve noticed after listening to this record a few times:

1-The sum of Sitar player Filipe Dias De + electronic manipulator  Bob Meanza = a mind blasting trip through the baby-like silk smooth-bathed in newborn innocence /virginal / milk-fed brain of the unsuspecting listener.

2-At some point during this trip, the above soul (mentioned in #1) consciously realizes that he is quite powerless/helpless/hamstrung/fucked resulting in the above mentioned virginal/milk-fed brain to morph in upon itself, change its chemical and physical constitution in order to come out (safely) on the other side (albeit as a blackened smoldering, viscous mound of semi-cognizance).

3-The above mentioned semi-cognizant mind, in order to achieve adequate regeneration must immediately consume the essential salts (go downstairs, eat cold pizza) and, in a post-haste fashion curl up in bed for a hopefully dreamless (but probably not due to the lingering effects of #2) nights sleep.

That’s what I’ve noticed after listening to this record a few times.

(It’s really good, it’s really unusual and, as a post thought…there is a point when a highly manipulated / processed voice started talking in an unrecognized tongue on this recording…I believe this voice was mocking me for even thinking I can survive this and come out intact.  It was right.)

Recommended for the intrepid psychonaut.

Michael Eisenberg

AMN Reviews: Andrew Skeet – Finding Time (2015; Sony Classical)

81NOl2AjmWL._SL1500_Orchestrator, dabbler (or more than a dabbler I’m sure, since what he does here makes me believe he’s a consummate pro) in electronics / electronica, video game music composer and  all around great arranger, on this solo outing the synergies of all of the above come together swimmingly.  This release demonstrates that when done tastefully, (as opposed to a patchy hodgepodge of saccharin strings and dated keyboard sounds)…the melding of orchestra and various “small” electronic swirls can, and does result in something hugely uplifting and ever so creative.

I’m reminded of a release a few decades back by Wim Mertens called “Integer Valor Integrale”.  Like Skeet’s work, it too had the same pensive, personal and positive energy while at the same time packing an emotional punch that can leave one touched (saddened maybe) by it’s simple, repetitive motifs.

When music works at this level, and for me it takes something pretty special to get me “there”…well, we have a keeper.  Thanks  for wearing it (and sharing it) on your sleeve Mr. Skeet.  Very Nice!