Music Reviews

The purpose of this page is to provide added exposure to musicians I respect. The bar is set high. To pass Landschaft quality control, the music must be of a quality that meets or surpasses the standard that would secure them a commercial recording release, and/or that I feel an itch to do a Landschaft mix of. I do not review everything they produce - see the band's own websites for complete chronologies - what I review is what I encounter, when I encounter it.

Formication

website: www.theformicarium.com

website: Formicarium mySpace

Metadata: Formication's tagline is "the dark art of electronica" and that sums it up nicely. The music is meticulously assembled soundscape, transitioning beats and blocks of dark noise - think the big scraping metal sound the alien machines in War of the Worlds make. Jump into the Formication experience by downloading their "The Untitled Wasdale Recordings". "Wasdale" is beat driven sample synthesis (see review below). The obvious comparison is with the more structured end of the Throbbing Gristle sonic spectrum, but time-shifted to the post-millenium, and with a sprinkling of Ministry like metal goth. Formication have stepped up to the next level with the commercial release of "Icons for a New Religion" on Lumberton Trading Company. Formication have a high graphic standard, supporting events and releases with immaculately designed and presented printwork.

Recording review 5 October 2007, "Icons for a new Religion": "War is the terrorism of the rich on the poor and terrorism is the war of the poor on the rich". I start this review with an aphorism, a literary knot. That that follows is a knot of impressions, references, hints. Icons for a New Religion is a BIG sound. Huge sprawling sound-scapes in widescreen, punctuated by machine gun percussive breaks, deeply melancholic. Tonal fundamentalism if you will. A Ballardian wall of sound. 1. Arise or Originate: Rotate, reverberate, melody. A search in the void. Searchlights across an empty sea. Nihilistic exposition across the void to an audience of zero,,,, Formication, in this opening to their audience hold out an olive branch, a white flag, place a cube of cheese on the trap. The bacteria swarms consume, the spider injects it's poison. The audience is anaesthetised; sensate; rendered immobile. The beast stirs; many arms articulate, many legs perambulate. The victim is cocooned, carried to the lair. 2. (this is madness): A postmodern hark-back to Life in the Bush of Ghosts, a catatonoc throwback to the seminal Eno/Byrn masterpiece. A 30 second 4th world sorbet, cleansing the senses for . 3. Nest 4 (a New City): A hunting beast; a sparse thread of a bassline tacks together plucked instruments; interference and electronic mash-up join the fray. The pace quickens for the kill. Heartbeat; adrenaline; and. Panic. 4. In the Kingdom of the Electronic Eye: ". My name is Ozymandias, king of kings look on my works, ye mighty and despair! ." And so into the Kingdom of the Electronic Eye. Chants; a pulsing Taiko backbeat; a Berlin school sequencer express train interwoven, interplaying. Tectonic plates shift. If there is one piece on the album that would support a club mix, this is the one. I'd like to do a mix of this - in the manner of what Satoshi Tomie did for FSOL's Papua New Guinea. 5. Dead Underground: Found sounds drift in and out. Edgy cymbals skitter. Zeit-era T Dream melody, or the melancholic opening to Koyaanisqatsi haunt the soundscape. A plaintive vocal in the far distance. Interference. Out. 6. The Sufferers: "This is tonight and it's raining like a French black and white movie out the fifties" So said Yello; so say Formication: escape across a city in stilletto heels - a trope for threat or paranoia. Pursued in the gloom of an unlit street. Adrenaline kicks in, swarming the notes ever closer. Isolation into a plucked coda. 7. Caesura: Causura: A pause. A melodic interlude in Formications sonic barage. 60 seconds respite. 8. The Void: Distance. A monastery on the edge of the White Sea. 9. Minute: A simple melody stalks this piece, "wait a minute" implores a stranger. For what? We are left hanging. A question without answer. Unsettled. A walk along the Terminal Beach; no start no end - 10. Faces of the Fire (he Frictionless Continuum): A virtuoso kora performance in a reverberant space. Adding to the melody with echo bounceback and a simple bass pulse. Fading into - 11. Faces of Fire (Introspection): - fading from. This is as close as Formication get to a song. An elegy by Dowland for electronica ensemble if you will.

Recording review 07 June 2007, "Pieces for a Condemned Piano": A 23 Skidoo / Chris and Cosey like collection of organic studies taken from recordings of a discarded piano. In Formication's words ".we gathered 13 samples using various field recording techniques. The wooden keys, stripped bare, had swollen in the rain and so playing the instrument in the usual way was out of the question. Instead we forced the music from the strings in other ways." Not a duff moment on this tightly controlled suite of work. The CD is packaged in a super jewel case, the Rolls Royce of packaging, with comprehensive sleeve notes and a photographic insert of the wonderful gilt piano frame. I put the CD on auto-loop and listened on headphones all morning, an experience I recommend. Pure brain food. The CD opens with "On the dying pathway", a short (7 mins) exposition; after dark a primitive machine creeps out of the shadows, finding the condemned piano, discovering primitive disjointed rhythm in the remnant parts. The best kind of sample based music is where you do not know it is sample based music, as exampled here. "The final Stage of Trauma" is distant ambience, insect skittering and a thick soupy reverberance, transitioning into a mournful loop of melody. This is a very well paced and structured chunk of mood music. 8 minutes of thought provoking sonic cotton wool. "Exit" is deep-sea reverberance, drifting through a kelp forest, a compelling little loop that stitches together a very insidious progression - the sort that systems music achieves - where the beginning is different to the end and you can't quite work out how and where the changes happen. Distant bells and seductive metallic chimes underpin the piece. Shoals of fishes swim between the fronds. Surface, take breath of air.

Recording review 28 May 2007, "The Untitled Wasdale Recordings": The album was relased as an edition of 23 in box set presentation - the box, a wooden hand crafted case with hand painted insect artwork and various artwork inserts. It is now available as a free MP3 download from the Audio page of www.theformicarium.com. The artwork and typography (something of a Landschaft obsession) takes as a reference, Victorian book title pages - multiple fonts, creative use of italics and typographic ornament. I have a book pubd 1831 "A New Treatise on the Use of Globes" in my typography references library, that exemplifies this pre-modern design formula. A very nice touch. To the music: The piece - and it is a single unified work rather than a collection, is split into 11 named sections, each transitioning into the next. Quite a challenge to review in any meaningful way, the work starts and concludes with what could be the inner workings of a broken clock. In between, the work moves forward into lolloping great beats, skittery micro rhythms, chime like minimal melodies, feedback-as-instrument, lots of buffer override (that skippy sound you get with a bust CD), finale-ing with a chopped up accoustic guitar melody that, just as you think Formication have secumbed to formal representation, dives off a cliff into a buffer-override cut-up and a locust swarm of scary electronica. An original, satisfying and well structured journey that challenges, but is never self indulgent.

Performance review 13 January 2007; venue The Orange Tree, Nottingham (England): a DJ immediately preceeding the set destroyed the mood and demolished the build up that the two earlier acts had worked so hard to achieve - why did he leave a ghastly sample loop playing for about 15 minutes after he left the stage??? This left Formication with a lot of work to do. Coupled with a PA and room accoustic that could not cope with the sonic complexity of Formication's latest beat driven dark sample synthesis, the performance did not reach out and captivate. The potential for excellence was clearly there - and is I hope reflected in their next studio recording. I had to leave half way through the set so this review is very much qualified by a number of downer factors. I would like to hear this performance again at high volume in an accoustically balanced auditorium and then I would love it.