Charles Barabé – ébauches

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[ Jeunesse Cosmique, 2017 ]

Another one from O Canada, this time by Montreal syntesist Charles Barabé, who goes more adventurous and experimental than his last year’s effort Les dernières confessions on two side-long pieces, throwing MIDI vocals, jagged rhythms and modern classical aesthetics into a blender, resulting in an ADHD-addled soundscapes that is at the same time pefectly musical and completely disorienting. Cut-up samples jump up all over the place while a piano plays a simple melody in the distance just to give way to some horns and xylophones. And the whole map changes every several seconds, while never losing the dynamic. How the hell does he do it!?

In case you considered this review tl;drhere’s a shorter and more concise opinion from the RYM user _nkb:

“what if Phillip Glass contributed avantgarde psuedo-rave music to the Age of Empires 1 Soundtrack?”

Make of that what you will. Age of Empires were fucking cool, and so is this EP. Recommended!

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Darius – FRAMEDRAG

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[ LapFoxTrax, 2016 ]

Darius is one of numerous aliases of the Canadian electronic producer D. Halley, mostly known as RenardFRAMEDRAG is a collection of loose ideas, mostly resolving around airy progressive electronics and MIDI structures, channeling the cheesy hauntology of 80’s science documentary soundtracks and easy listening tunes. The overall effect feels like being stuck somewhere between a lab, a shopping mall and an arcade.  There are moments of contrast here: while “OSC Tuning” sounds like Software, “Have You Been to the Tower?” sounds like a schizophrenic metalhead doing an old video game soundtrack and “Strings Fashioned From Old Souls” could easily be an extra track on OPN’s Garden of Delete. Don’t let the cartoony artwork fool you: this thing is closer to CERN than Anthrocon. Recommended if you enjoyed DiscovererDocumentaires or early Giant Claw.

Nico Niquo – In a Silent Way

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[ Orange Milk Records, 2017 ]

Hey there! You know what? The second full-length by Nico Callaghan a.k.a. Nico Niquo is out and it’s just as lovely as the debut one, except better. How? Probably because it fuses together the two schools of ambient music: one is the more rigid, sequencer-driven one, relying upon clear time signatures and mathematical precision, the other being ethereal, rhythmless tracks that rely purely upon atmosphere. In a Silent Way sounds like R Plus Seven that got its ADHD medication and manages to become slower and more coherent while retaining the relaxed, calming atmosphere. Recommended!

Andrzej Nowak – Cocktail Paint

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[ Dunno Recordings, 2016 ]

Looney Tunes in MIDI: There is a somewhat hazy backstory to this album: the label blurb claims is an archival release by the Polish electronic musician Andrzej Nowak who might actually not be Andrzej Nowak at all. The brief description at the label page states that it’s an archival release of short electronic pieces recorded between 1987 and 1994 for a series of cartoons. Apparently, the soundtrack was scrapped because the producer didn’t like it. However, it’s extremely hard to find any information to confirm this and every attempt to Google musician Andrzej Nowak ends up on Andrzej Nowak the rock musician, who was the founder of the Polish heavy metal band TSA. Whether it’s a genuine archival album or a brand new alter ego mindfuck, the MIDI sounds on Cocktail Paint are deliciously wacky and cheap-sounding, which would make a great early 90’s computer game soundtrack. Strange!

James Ferraro – Human Story 3

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[ Self-released, 2016 ]

The newest album by James Ferraro is somewhat similar to Torn Hawk‘s Union and Return in a way that it also appears to describe the human condition in the 21st century. But while Luke Wyatt’s work seems to be an escapist utopia inspired by 19th century Romanticism, Ferraro is so 21st century it hurts. While Union and Return has a magnificent digital castle on the cover, Human Story 3 offers digital corporate drone wearing an Amazon box on its head. And it only gets more anonymous and dehumanized from here: music videos for the tracks on the album feature computer-generated faceless crowds filling up public spaces and walking in random directions, synthesized female voice recites generative poetry and musings on artificial intelligence and economics (Amnesia Scanner, anyone?), MIDI sequencers pose as a classical orchestra in a series of paradoxically kitschy and emotional passages with corporation-obsessed titles such as “Market Collapse”, “GPS & Cognition”, “Security Broker” or “Plastiglomerate & Co.”. Accept your fate. Embrace the smooth surfaces and location services. The touch screen is warm, just like flesh.