Thursday, September 29, 2005

TG Mauss - Mechanical Eye

.....On his first solo outing Torsten Mauss, previously one half of electro duo Tonetraeger, seems to be pulled in two directions: whether to present a vocal pop album or instrumental electro experiment. Tonally the album is cohesive, with a healthy balance of played strings, sampled instruments, soft electronics and found sounds. Mauss’ vocals are airily thin but, as in “Real,” effectively wed to the delicate layers of plucked bass notes, harpsichord keys and soft synth sounds. Ironically this track is complex and compelling regardless of the vocal, whereas instrumental tracks like “Pacific” meander without destination beyond a point where they’d be heard as interludes. In the post-Postal Service world of electro such a hook-free song feels unfinished. Luckily these missteps are few. Mauss’ taste in sublime sound combinations gently drives the album along. If full-blown pop songs tell stories these pieces are the equivalent of postcards: brief, heartfelt, scenic and atmospheric and with only the most ear catching details provided.


Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Songs of Green Pheasant - S/T

.....If the Nuggets box set were a compendium of near-forgotten 60s and 70s British folk songs, music by Songs of Green Pheasant would fit seamlessly. Despite being recorded in 2002 in a kitchen on a 4 track by Duncan Sumpner, an artist and teacher from Sheffield in England, the songs have a “just-unearthed” quality of breathy distance. The sound is more tapped-in than tacked-on to a tradition of metaphysical song cycles which stretches from madrigal to Garfunkel (and Simon). The more current elements, such as the drum machine rhythm and shimmering drone of “The Wraith of Loving,” are soon assimilated and bathed in the same atmosphere that sustains Sumpner’s echoing vocal harmonies. A subtle psychedelic current supports the acoustic foreground with recorder and hushed electric guitar tones providing elemental space. Sumpner is slated to collaborate next with Adam Davenport of Vibracathedral Orchestra, likely stretching further beyond these traditional boundaries. But these songs are perfect for imagining endless spring fields outside farmhouse windows and star-filled nights out on windy plains. As an introductory musical statement, Songs of Green Pheasant is pure without being purist (or puerile).


Monday, September 26, 2005

Sanso-xtro - Sentimentalist

.....The thing about learning a second language is that your range of expression can become drastically limited from what you’re used to. Verb tense becomes slippery and actions in the present suddenly slide into the past with an omitted accent or extra consonant. Melissa Agate’s first language is drumming and percussion, but on Sentimentalist she attempts to speak through a more processed iteration which uses analogue synthesizers, guitar, ukulele, kalimba, bells and other delicate sound sources. Although she is perhaps not fluent in these new instruments her approximate translations yield striking new expressions that outweigh any more “proper” approach. The opener “the last leaf” is the sound of a slightly tipsy, burping analogue synth backing out of a room of cymbals and snares. Elsewhere, as on “zlumber… talkinmysleep” and “minus_ecki,” she plays her stringed instruments as percussive loops in a double entendre of melody and hollow bodied echoes. The combination of sounds yields music that is neither ambient drifting nor the structured verse/chorus of pop but a synthesis of these… not unlike a recombination of early works by Pan.American and experiments by Steve Roden. It is music that doesn’t tell a whole story, but describes moments in colourful detail and from peculiar points of view across many languages. Very expressive and definitely not limited.