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from, 25 April 2006

Arches of a String : Wolfgang Peter Menzel

by Larry Johnson

One of the most remarkable things about electronic music is that seemly insignificant objects can be used generate astonishing sounds. In this new 69-minute beautiful excursion into minimal acoustics, Wolfgang Peter Menzel use the infinitesimal vibrations and “no sounds” of a length of fishing line connecting two trees as the source material. Subtle and delicate one moment, boisterous and robust in another, a variety of new sounds are coaxed from the fragile noises generated by the randomly vibrating arches of a simple piece of string. Accidental sounds along with deliberate processing interact with one another to give this extended composition a variety of textures and a sense of both spontaneity and structure. Visually, I’m reminded of the works of M.C. Escher who exploited the topological properties of space and toyed with metamorphoses of geometric shapes to create new ones. -LAJ-

from, 22 March 2006

Past Andromeda : Peter Koniuto

by Gurdonark

The rise of the netlabels revolutionized ambient music. Some labels operate in much the same way that traditional labels did, except with a business plan based on internet-only marketing. Others utilize digital downloads in pursuit of sales. The term "netlabel" itself, however, has acquired a secondary meaning, in that a netlabel tends to release its material for free download. A good number of fine ambient labels arose which net-release wonderful material available for free download, including, to name but a couple, Webbed Hand and The use of Creative Commons licenses, which can be structured to give a broad permission to copy the work on a non-commercial basis, places netlabels in the position of seeking to make their impact through recognition rather than through financial renumeration.

The rise of this phenomenon is in part an inevitable outgrowth of the rapid improvement in home recording technology. The distance between what a consumer can do at home and a professional CD still exists, but the chasm is less gaping than in former days. In the field of ambient music, among others, the distance between fan and artist, never entirely remote, has narrowed, as listeners become participants. The ambient music listener base now includes listener participants, a participant audience who better understand the rigors and risks in each pole vault and high jump. The old religion of rock gods and worshipping fans melts in the face of a new egalitarian faith.

Some bewail this evolution of electronic music from a specialist's field to a mass consumption participation field. People worry that a plethora of material drowns out the quality. One sympathizes with the sentiment every time one hears a Casio-esque Moog emulation playing "ambient music" that would not be out of place in a very cheap hand-held video game a decade ago. My own view, though, differs from the "drowning out the quality" view. I believe we are entering a new time in which traditional distribution mechanisms for music, particularly for "niche" genres, are going to disappear. The old construct in which a large (or small) record company signs the artist to a form of financing contract, with a small royalty incentive upon repayment of a disastrously structured loan, will fade. The price-per-unit of compact discs will eventually reduce, particularly as digital downloads make prices of two and three dollars each disc not only possible but economically advantageous for label and artist. I further believe that the more revolutionary concept of donationware music, in which the fan pays the label and artist on a voluntary basis, offers a viable distribution mechanism once people adopt the idea that music distribution can be handled in a new way, consistent with the new technology and Creative Commons ideas arising. I believe in this idea sufficiently strongly to have released my own work (certatinly the work of a listener who creates rather than an "ambient artiste") on, which uses an entirely donationware model for distribution.

The foundation of my faith is established by releases such as Peter Koniuto's Past Andromeda on Past Andromeda is a fifty-nine minute piece which traffics in the intersection where atmospheric space ambient meets systems electro-acoustic music. Mr. Koniuto creates a central melodic drone theme, underlays it with deep and satisfying drones, and then intersperses the piece with samples ranging from piano sections to radio transmission waves. As with the best ambience of this type, the piece repeats its themes with slight variations, creating an effect that is sedate and yet never boring. The term "meditative" is arguably overused in ambient music reviews, but I find that this is ideal background music to soundtrack one's thoughts on an otherwise hectic drive. This is indeed an "ambient" music, because it does not intrude upon one's consciousness in the way that a Motown classic can do, but instead hovers on the edge of one's active attention.

Mr. Koniuto's device is to use the background spaces surrounding his melodic themes to introduce his many small thematic "found samples." In other works, this device proves annoying, as the samples some artists use tend to cloy through their obviousness or tend to have a joke-burdened quality not in keeping with the work. Mr. Koniuto commits neither sin, introducing instead effects and subtle themes that fit well with his main melodic drones. Past Andromeda has its antecedents in 1970s ambient music, from that heady time when the notion of sound as sound had been rediscovered with a tent revival enthusiasm. Yet the work never feels trite or tamed. Instead, this is a subtle, integrated listen—nothing less than the kind of mature, capable work that reminds us why we listen to ambient music.

So long as artists like Peter Koniuto make subtle ambient music for netlabels, this movement will thrive. My own hope, and belief, is that the day will soon arise when we spend our dollars in donations and small-per-unit-sale quantities. The end of the Recording Industry Association of America labels should not be attempted through civil disobedience, but through mass diversion of resources to places like netlabels and net artists. When the day comes that the ambient community has devoted it resources in this more targeted way, then ambient artists rather than corporate artist marketing departments will receive the economic benefit of the work that ambient artists do.

While we wait and work for this halcyon day, however, I commend to you Peter Koniuto's Past Andromeda as a subtle soundtrack for the conceptualization of this velvet revolution.

from, 7 November 2005

Past Andromeda : Peter Koniuto

by Marc Weidenbaum

On Halloween, the Stasisfield netlabel ( released a single, hour-long piece by musician Peter Koniuto titled Past Andromeda (MP3). As the name suggests, it's an exercise in space music: slow blooms of galactic sound that stretch from ear to ear like a blissful smile; sonar blurps that bring to mind how Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry imagined submarines, rather than airplanes, as the Starship Enterprise's most significant predecessor; and occasional flurries of digitally messed-up speech, suggesting the space-enabled psychosis of Stanislaw Lem's novel Solaris. There's also a patiently plucked melody that sounds like the opening from the theme to Deliverance played at quarter speed, and each time it cycles through it grounds the track's otherwise heady stew of aural effluvia. The version of Past Andromeda on Stasisfield is a stereo reduction of an eight-speaker installation project by Koniuto, who first staged it at the University of the Pacific's Conservatory of Music in Stockton, California, back in September 2002 as part of the school's annual Music Beyond Performance series. The music's source materials include electric bass guitar, field recordings, children's toys, glass vases, harmonica, among other household objects. More on Koniuto at the website of his upstate New York studio,

from, 25 February 2005

Prisma : Ernesto Rodriguez

by Dusted Hoffman

A portugál Ernesto Rodrigues és közeli zenésztársai Prisma címu˝ kislemezével nyitotta negyedik évét a Stasisfield nevezetu˝ mp3 netlabel, melynek honlapjáról díjtalanul töltheto˝ le néhány egészen kiváló - és néhány egészen rossz -, lényegében kísérleti indíttatású felvétel-sorozat. Bár a mini album Ernesto Rodrigues neve alatt jött ki, valójában egy családi vállalkozásról van szó, hiszen az ido˝sebb Rodrigues (hegedu˝, mélyhegedu˝) mellett fia, Guilherme Rodrigues (cselló, zsebtrombita), valamint a család barátja, a német Michael Thieke (klarinét, alt klarinét) is játszik a lemezen. Ennek a felállásnak Carlos Santos-szal kibo˝vített változata nem régen jelentetett meg egy Kreis címu˝ albumot a Creative Sources mini-labelnél, amiro˝l - ha minden igaz - hamarosan az oldalán is lehet majd olvasni...

A trióformáció lemezén akusztikus improvizált zene hallható, ami 2004 március 29-én került rögzítésre a lisszaboni Tcha Tcha Tcha Stúdióban. A Prisma két jól elkülönítheto˝ hangkeltési metódussal dolgozik: az egyik a preparált húros hangszereken való szöszmötölés, nyeszetelés, a másik pedig az extrém módon bemikrofonozott fúvósok orkán-szeru˝ "suhogtatása". A hegedu˝k, valamint a cselló jól hallhatóan idegen, oda nem illo˝ tárgyakkal van feldíszítve, ezek neszezése és csörömpölése - nagy hangero˝n hallgatva a kislemezt - tökéletesen kihallható; ezeket az apró, másodpercekig fel-fellvillanó hangocskákat a húros hangszerek vonóval való elnyújtott megszólaltatása, illetve a fúvos hangszerek hosszan kitartott éles sivítása, vagy éppen érdes zúgása ellenpontozza. Bár nyílvánvalóan a (szó szerinti) öntörvényu˝ szabadzene tökéletes mintapéldájával van dolgunk - és mint ilyen, kevés fogást enged arra, hogy bele lehessen kötni -, a három improvizáció mégis mintha csupán egy-egy befejezetlen, végig nem vitt próbálkozás, ám továbbgondolásra kétségtelenül érdemes kezdeményezés lenne. A három rövid felvétel semmiféle ívet nem épít, de egy-egy számon belül sincs "valahonnan-valahová", a 18 perces kislemez mindössze slendrián módon elpotyogtatott és céltalanul kószáló hangokat mutat, amik összességükben lehetnének akár lehengerlo˝ek is, de erro˝l sajnos most itt nincs szó, hiszen a Prisma számomra nem több, mint egy elo˝zetes koncepció és kigondoltság nélküli stílusgyakorlat.

Érdekes és kellemes kislemez a Prisma, de sajnálatosan nem sokkal több ennél. Felemás produkció.

from, 24 August 2004

Andrea Polli: Retina Burn

by Marc Weidenbaum

SUN-KISSED MP3: One of the beautiful things about electronic music that's derived from conceptual art is that it provides its own readymade metaphors. In other words, in the absence of traditional musical form, we have the musician's m.o. to lend sense to something that is otherwise abstract. Case in point, Retina Burn, the new, half-hour long piece by Andrea Polli, available as of last month as a free download from the Stasisfield netlabel. Polli's work ˜ 27-plus minutes of low-level interference and broken whirs ˜ takes as its source "soundwaves generated by the sun." Polli then manipulates this sonic information, transforming it with what she's termed "intuitive ocusonics," or computer-aided musical interfaces that track eye movement. Why does she choose to shape the sound with her eyes, and not with fingers on a keyboard, or on a six-string? Conceptually, Polli's point is self-apparent: by manipulating sound from the sun with her eyes, she's doing what we otherwise must not, which is to look directly at the sun. What's interesting, though, is that the resulting sound art, as heard on the overtly slow Retina Burn, doesn't suggest the scorching, brilliant center of our solar system (although the crackles do bring it to mind) so much as it sounds like data being processed meticulously in the name of science: pristine data sets published for peer evaluation.

from, 17 November2003

Neil Jendon: Live at Buddy in Chicago [Aux-In]

by Marc Weidenbaum

AVANT GUITAR MP3S: On the cover Neil Jendon's new album, Live at Buddy in Chicago, Jendon stands on a stage, the image slightly blurred, as if he's in constant motion, as if he's contorted by rock'n'roll, as if he's more interested in bending his guitar than playing it. From a listen to the album, only the third of those conjectures holds any water. The music is expressly still. Aside from the centrality of the guitar, Jendon's music here has less in common with rock'n'roll than with the sort of ambience more generally associated with synthesizers and tape loops, found sounds and computer equipment. Many musicians experiment with the guitar as an ambient tool, from Greg Davis to Fennesz to Steve Roach to Robert Fripp, but few let the sonic trappings of the instrument — the sound of a strummed chord, a picked string, a discernable riff — take a backseat to resonance. Live at Buddy is over half an hour of rigorously experimental guitar music that will appeal to fans of Glenn Branca's robust "guitar symphonies," but also of Japanese noise, and of laptop composers' elegant, fragile glitch.

The album's three tracks, each over 10 minutes, are wholly distinct from one another. "Part One" traces a path less whisper-to-scream than silence-to-hum, building from quiet (so quiet that it probably makes more sense on headphones than in a live venue) to a psychedelic hymn. "Part Two" summons bracing, invigorating, piercing sounds that, over time, become comfortable, less like static and more like a fuzzy wool blanket. "Part Three" is by far the liveliest of the set, getting downright symphonic at times, in terms of depth of sound; it's also the most varied, with segments of bell tones, pastoral hum, industrial noise, oscillating catharsis, and fuzztone drone. The album was released November 10 on the Stasisfield label's Aux-In sublabel (mission statement: "live music, straight from the soundboard to your digital turntable"), and was recorded live on January 29 of this year. Download all three tracks for free from the album's webpage (here). For more information on Stasisfield and Aux-In, visit

from Kathodik, Decdember 2002

Sawako : 'SIS'

by Luca Confusione

Sawako è un'artista giapponese (vive a Tokyo) molto attiva in rete, il cui lavoro è stato notato anche in Italia nonostante la reperibilità del suo materiale sia molto difficile (ma la rete aiuta, fortunatamente).

Questo lavoro del 2002 è liberamente scaricabile (con tanto di copertina e booklet) dal sito della Stasisfield, etichetta che rende disponibili lavori di difficile collocazione sia in formato mp3 che con uscite in cd-r e cd audio.

"SIS" è lavoro curato e emozionante, a dispetto di qualsiasi preconcetto possiate esservi formati in testa.

In 3 stories la costruzione del pezzo è coerente con il titolo: un drone cupo fa da base e minimi intarsi pianistici e a field-recordings. Sembra di vederla in interno asettico mentre ci dona poche note e l'environment fa il resto.

uta sono gorgoglii che vengono direttamente dalla pancia del mac, interrotti dai pochi secondi di Tanana, samples di oggetti metallici.

N e chiude l'EP con ronzii e buzzing moderatissimi nel volume a lasciar spazio ancora a registrazioni sul campo (sembra un giardino zen dove un solo uccellino è ammesso).
Elettronica per meditazioni coscienti; ci immaginiamo in una zona verde all'interno di Tokio, dove per la magia di qualche nuovo processore audio i suoni dall'esterno arrivano magicamente filtrati e ricontestualizzati secondo l'estro di Sawako.

Piacevole veramente il suo cervello.

Download consigliato per giornate in cui il sole appare leggermente velato.


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