Monday, February 28, 2011

A Setting Sun - Flower Garden of Rejuvenation

What a mess! Ok, it's not so bad as to say it's useless or a white washing of the senses, but... my review is a combination of kind and head-shaking.

Tonally, Rejuvenation contains themes of beauty and brutality, agitation and repose, personal struggle and loss. The rather obvious re-tooling of the original album’s title indicates that there was no theme for the remixers to emulate. This is reflected in the disjointed nature of the tracks. As fun as it may be to send one's tracks to like-minded music freaks and have them souped up and transformed, the remix album is taken to the next level when everyone is on the same page.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Aidan Baker - Lost in the Rat Maze

I have a special place for Mr. Baker in my heart, and I am not often inclined to go there. He's got more releases than I have days in a year, so I can say that this album is a decent place to link up with Aidan's dreamdirge style. I wrote a large review of it, too.

Despite the rather uninviting image that graces this album’s cover (taken by the artist in question), the music has quite a wealth of variety. Piano and flute sounds appear, which give Aidan Baker’s typically guitar-centric robo-drifts some expanded topography. Overall, the compositions are different enough from each other as to designate ‘songs’ as opposed to one long drift (as on albums like Green And Cold or Pendulum), and the album as a whole benefits greatly. The dismal yet gentle palette is peppered with variable drum lines, boyish exhales and indistinguishable lyrics, as well as an overall playfulness. Baker once again sounds like he is in total command of his world, and it’s nice to hear so many sides of his work in one place. The album’s cohesiveness throughout its experimentation is testament to Baker’s ability to maintain a narrative focus on every project.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Pleq - The Sound of Rebirth

By the time you read this, Pleq will have released another album. Perhaps many more. Those in the electronic music world have the opportunity to be highly prolific, as Sound of Rebirth is the Polish sound architect’s fifteenth LP or collaboration, roughly. Sharing similar down-tempo palletes with the likes of Benge and Arovane, Pleq’s sound here is fulcrummed on jazzy piano lines immersed in chilled, soft-focus electronic foyers. The tracks that work best feel like sound accompaniments to the exploration of long-abandoned, but furnished houses, the air flecked with the novelty of curiosity fulfilled. Female voices appear as apparitions, whispering or breathing through walls, like on “A Very Gentle Death.” Pleq’s penache for writing alluring pieces that bloom gracefully as they progress is quite lovely. On the other hand there are a few tracks where the female vocals dominate, and their breathy waywardness feels more an intrusion. No more is this true on the opening piece, “Black Dog”. Hiiro-tent’s voice may be compelling in another context, but here it meanders and contradicts any flow the song might have had. Ghostly siren Natalia Grosiak flutters about more purposefully on “Raindrop”, fitting in much better with the album’s overall framework. Overall, the record has great songs, but the arc of the album is broken up by weaker or unfleshed-out tracks, or just a case of too many different sounding songs bogging down the main themes. The violins on “Swell_Bliss__Downtempo_Edition_” are a great addition, but they appear so deep into the procedings that it sounds like a different album alltogether. I thought the album was over several times before it was. One thing is for sure: With Sound of Rebirth close to 74 minutes, Pleq doesn’t skimp on the quantity.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Apparat Organ Quartet - Pólýfónía

I wrote a gushy review about this incredible album. The return of AOQ! It's a happy one.

The robotic vocals that appear throughout Pólýfónía would be a crutch for most bands, but here they make a perfect match for the analog machines. There really are four organ players, all darlings of the Icelandic artistic community. When Jóhannsson founded the band, he joked that there was no precedent for an organ quartet album, and they were forced to invent the genre. Listening to each of their individual melodies interact and weave together is a joy to the ears. The apexes AOQ reach while ascending square rainbows and tossing cubic pixie dust are so high, it’s like eating really good chocolate, while driving in space, while orgasming (ok, choose your own hyperbole). By the time the corny and endearing “123 Forever” appears with its robo-Sesame Street singalong, we are best friends with these guys, and we can forgive any dissimilar tastes or oddball choices, because 98% of the other ones were purely awesome. Closer “Söngur geimunglingsins” is a near seven-minute acid burner that moves into sky-opening, prog rock territory until it fizzles out into a static-encrusted puddle of radiation and then disappears. At this point, replaying the album seems the only option. It truly is an irresistable listen.