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Efdemin, "Efdemin"

Rubbernecking forum jockeys and slobbering music reviewers alike have all but hailed this record as all but the Second Coming of Techno, with many hastily adding it to their "Best of 2007" lists. For all of its bandwagon hype and post-Detroit sleekness, this self-titled full-length comes off remarkably good but not astonishingly great.

 

Dial

Dispensed in both CD and double LP formats, Phillip Sollman's first album as Efdemin makes frequent, almost casual references to early naughties Force Tracks tech-house as often as more recent Kompakt electronic dance music.  Working capably within a manifestly derivative style, Sollman eagerly inches his way towards grand peaks and windswept valleys on "Lohn & Brot." Tracks like "Back To School" are meant to lift the spirits on the dancefloor, utilizing emotive layered sounds replete with carefully crafted hooks.  It is abundantly clear how much Sollman adores melody; when trying his hand at asceticism, as with the bleak "Stately, Yes," he can hardly resist nearly four minutes in to let rays of sparkling light burst through.  The slowing metamorphosing "Bergwein" adds some of that old school Artificial Intelligence warmth into the mix, while "April Fools" disrupts its own sense of calm with pinprick percussion, militantly rigid stabs, and camera shutter snares.

Founded by a trio of well-regarded producers, Dial rightfully earns considerable respect from anyone following minimal techno and house.  Since 2000, the label has output a fair number of memorable releases on vinyl and compact disc, among these one of my favorite albums of the last few years: Pantha Du Prince's superlative Diamond Daze.  Fans of that record, his recent follow-up, and the rest of Dial's roster will assuredly find plenty to like in this project, as will those who still romanticize tech-house’s past.  Those hoping for a progression worthy of the attention presently being paid to this album, however, will likely find that it's hardly the brilliant masterpiece it's been previously been chalked up as.

 

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Review of the Day

EYVIND KANG, "VIRGINAL CO-ORDINATES
Ipecac
As a violinist, Eyvind Kang has played with the likes of Sun City Girls, Bill Frisell, Secret Chiefs 3, Laurie Anderson and many others. As a composer, Kang has carved out a unique position for himself, releasing a series of studio albums drawing on his concept of the NADE (a concept which I won't attempt to explain here, mostly because I don't understand it). The albums combined elements of disparate ethnic music forms with esoteric spiritual ideas, and sudden, unexpected transitions into fully-formed pop songs or long passages of pastoral ambience. I've liked most of his work that I've heard so far (especially 2000's The Story of Iceland), but it appears that Kang has outdone himself with Virginal Co-ordinates, a beautiful recording of an ambitious live performance staged in Italy last year. Kang composes and conducts a 16 piece ensemble—called the Playground—augmented by himself on violin and several guest musicians, including Mike Patton on voice and electronics, Michael White (former Sun Ra Arkestra violinist) and Tim Young on electric guitar. I suppose the inclusion of Mike Patton is the only reason this album has surfaced on Ipecac Recordings, seeing as it's otherwise entirely different from the label's usual output. It's quite an impressive work, split up into ten movements of varying lengths, each gently joined to the next with gossamer instrumental threads. The title of the work evokes images of untouched glacial expanses, secluded valleys and mountains untouched and unadulterated by the progress of man—Virginal Co-ordinates in which the mind and spirit are free to find connections with nature beyond those limited ideas inculcated in us by the artificial strictures of society. The album artwork is pure white, the color of virginity, with a white cobra in the center, appearing poised to strike. The cobra is a perfect symbol for the current of hidden menace that runs through much of the music. There is a spiritual yearning throughout, but it is often joined by vibrating undercurrents of dread. "I am the Dead" transforms into a full-blow orchestral pop song with echoes of Brian Wilson, but its lyrics presage the death and rebirth rituals of the Bardo Todol. Mike Patton's voice lends an ethereal beauty to certain passages, and Walter Zianetti steals the show with his acoustic guitar solo on "Taksim." Elements of Spanish guitar, Indian raga, tonal Oriental scales, film soundtracks and American pastoral symphonies all weave their way into Kang's work, culminating in the majesty of the title track, a magnificent, shape-shifting wall of orchestral noise in which musical phrases from earlier movements are recycled and juxtaposed to hypnotic effect. At 73 minutes, Virginal Co-ordinates is never boring, which is something that cannot often be said for works of modern composition. In fact, its appeal goes well beyond the usual modern classical crowd, and I imagine it would be enjoyed by anyone interested in the transformative and magical possibilities of music. 

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