Reviews of Aarktica, Vlor, Moodring, Remora

Okay here’s the music reviews I am putting up on the website.
There are definite similarities between In Sea and the Vlor album which I reviewed here a week or two back. Similarities and some very pronounced differences, to a point where I feel almost obliged to make a comparison between both albums; they did after all arrive in the same package,  and while both CDs share inspirations and bookmarkings, the contrasting moods and structures differ greatly. If  Six Winged is the sound of a warm summer evening turning ever stranger as dusk falls, In Sea has a colder, more clinical feel to much of its twelve tracks and along with the performers already sub-zero nomenclature, the reverse sleeve of Aarktica’s album shows a wintry and agitated coastal landscape, the notion of the sea as a desert expressed in monochromatic clarity.
In Sea is, for the most part, instrumental. Of its twelve tracks only two, “Hollow Earth Theory” and “Am I Demon?” contain a vocal. The other ten pieces, perhaps exemplified by the title track, are ambient collisions of repetitive instrumentation and combined echoes and harmonics. Aarktica are near-experts at creating soundscapes of this kind, and too experienced to lose either focus or velocity. So the pieces aren’t overlong, Aarktica appreciating that where this type of instrumental post-rock is concerned, less is often more in terms of track length. And no-one can accuse Jon De Rosa, the only credited member of Aarktica, of relying too heavily on a formulaic approach to his music. The coldly austere drift of “A Plague Of Frost” has little in common with the tightly enmeshed guitar histrionics of the album title track, and less again with the rhythmically verging on garage rock pulses of ‘Young Light’. Aarktica deftly avoid repeating themselves throughout.
And the two vocal tracks are as apposite as Jon De Rosa can attempt. “Am I Demon”, a cover of a Glenn Danzig song from 1988, is a purposefully mournful evocation of 21 years of experimentalism, given here a noticeably sub Joy Division-ish treatment to where  I thought it only too easy to envisage Ian Curtis barking out the lyric. De Rosa’s own composition “Hollow Earth Theory” is the album highlight though, tuneful and agreeably uptempo and with an incessant back-effect guitar part running under the vocal, it had me wondering why if Aarktica has more actual songs of similar quality, then don’t we ever get to hear them? Doubtlessly a matter for the follow-up to In Sea, which anyone hearing the fourth track on this release might anticipate with some degree of interest.
~ Jon Gordon, Delusions of Adequacy
Why isn’t Jon DeRosa’s work as Aarktica mentioned in the same breath as Stars of the Lid or Eluvium when discussing ambient/drone music? Ever since losing hearing in his right ear in 1999, DeRosa has succeeded in using the drifting guitar tones of Aarktica to conjure up the underwater experience that hearing music has become for him. While the band has gone in many directions and encompassed many collaborators, it has remained consistent throughout what has been a focus on beautiful, disorienting sound. In Sea sees DeRosa working solo with just guitar and Bilhorn Telescopic Pump Organ and returning largely to the wordless ambience of 2000’s No Solace in Sleep with stunning results.
Here DeRosa only sings twice, on the lovely “Hollow Earth Theory” and the calm cover of Danzig’s “Am I Demon?” that closes the album; the rest of the time, the listener is set adrift in seemingly endless fields and sheets of gentle sound. Despite the small selection of instruments and techniques DeRosa draws on, he proves adept at conveying a wide range of emotions, from the optimism of “Young Light” to the distorted regret of “When We’re Ghosts” to the calm of “LYMZ”.
To really get the subtlety and appeal of Aarktica’s music, you have to dive into In Sea as a whole. In a genre where so much of the music is disposable-but-pleasant wallpaper, DeRosa deserves to stand with the aforementioned, more well-known bands. That an album of echoing, overlapping guitar tones and peaceful organ drones can take you on as compelling a journey as Aarktica does here is something to be cherished. The result is so impressive it’s tempting to say that DeRosa probably won’t top In Sea and the way it perfectly encapsulates what’s great about his music. Even if he never does, this album is the kind of pinnacle to be proud of.
~ Ian Mathers, PopMatters
Rarely has a musical project been as aptly named or titled as Aarktica’s sixth full-length release – the sounds that emerge from In Sea (and yes, the Terry Riley pun is entirely intentional) are long, spacious things extending as far as the stereo field of vision will go, windswept ice floe or endless ocean, with a single figure in the middle distance the only man in view. Jon DeRosa is that man, responsible for every drawn-out note on display, and Aarktica is his vehicle for broadcasting his isolation to the world. Ten years ago, he suffered near-total hearing loss in his right ear, and since then, he’s been translating the attendant effects to tape, moments of clarity interwoven with sounds both muffled and muzzled, aural ghosts drifting through the blurred soundscape, the air full of circumambient tones for the painfully alone. But an album of depressive drones, fortunately, this is not – while the longest tracks, “A Plague of Frost (In the Guise of Diamonds)” and “Corpse Reviver No. 2,” are nearly unbearable in their quiet, sustained intensity, DeRosa has learned to let select slivers of sunlight in when the mood strikes. In fact, large chunks of In Sea, lacking in forward motion as they are, could even be considered pretty as they rise and fall and bob up and down on waves of phase. There’s even a couple of honest-to-godlessness songs here, which brightens things up considerably. That one of them is a cover of Danzig’s “Am I Demon?,” and DeRosa manages to imbue that rather silly piece of mock-metallic morbidity with a certain non-parodic gravitas, means the whole enterprise ends on a curiously hopeful note, a sense of renewed direction that makes it worth catching his drift.
The frosty electronica lounge and ambient music of Aarktica never meant that much to me and ‘In Sea’ is hardly going to overturn this prejudice. Yet Jon DeRosa, or Aarktica, seems to have come to terms with the effects caused by the neural disease which lead to his near deafness. Deafness being the very last one in line of musicians’ aspirations, on ‘In Sea’ DeRosa at least shows how to cope with the handicap.
With climate change rearing its ugly head, ‘In Sea’ gains topical importance and, on top, produces those sounds echoing beforehand the melting and the collapse of icebergs. Marine drone music exemplifies the wrongs and rights of how we tend to treat our great ocean waters. In correspondence, Aarktica deals with this subject in full fluent knowledge. Electronic beats melt, drift off and drift away whilst the sounds lead to great mind-cinema listening.
Imagine the sound of how you would rotate a finger around the rim of a glass. That eerie sound effect aptly captures the unknown depths of ‘In Sea’. The ringing little echoes build the very essence of this album. Featured in prominent fashion are the cycles of bellowing new age electronics. Much more of a pamphlet than an actual album, ‘In Sea’ as a matter of fact finds the right balance between a Big Country type of pathos and Boards of Canada nothingness.
~ Maarten Schiethart, Pennyblack Music
Shoegaze ambient: Jon DeRosa offers vocals (on 3 and 12 only), guitar, bass, and pump organ on these highly relaxing, ambient tracks. My picks are less drone and gaze and offer slightly more structure, but each of these has merit and will suit more than few of our shows. Although he
’s lost hearing in one ear, DeRosa makes lemonade out of lemons, or peace out of chaos.
Byline: Now, where am I going to put this in my best of 2009 list?
Listening to music that sounds like it was recorded underwater is an auditory indulgence. I am a sucker for music that sounds like it is coming in from next door or seeping up from the basement. There is a strange sense of everything being far away and non-centered, like when you are coming out from anesthesia. While I can enjoy this strange experience from time to time through headphones, I couldn’t imagine this being my only auditory connection with the world. For Jon DeRosa, the man behind Aarktica, this is a 24-7 experience. Nerve damage left him completely deaf in his right ear. Seems like a career ending injury, right? Like an ACL tear in basketball. In DeRosa’s case, he translated the warped, distant sounds of hearing everything like he was underwater into a quietly epic, droning masterpiece of layered guitar sounds. DeRosa’s drones, like a less abstract Eluvium, are centered around looped chords and textured guitar effects that build into a quiet crescendo. In the drone landscape, DeRosa’s output is unique. DeRosa builds his icy soundscapes around an almost pop-like song structure, eschewing the temptation to wander aimlessly across a frozen tundra of half-baked musical ideas. This blending of the familiar and unchartable gives way to a bottemless cavern of eerie guitar effects and buzzing drones that float freely beneath the surface. What is amazing about In Sea, (I don’t think I have mentioned what an awesome title that is) is that one expects a aural representation of DeRosa’s braille like interpretation of sound. Instead the fidelity is the exact opposite of underwater music, it is clean, precise, and of course more than just a little fractured and woozy. I was already considering this one of the best post-rock/guitar drone albums of the year before a quick look at the back story cemented it. Well worth dropping everything and listening to it.
~ Tome to the Weather Machine
Following up on the previous Vlor album, A Fire Is Meant for Burning, Six-Winged acts as a similar flag of convenience for Silber labelhead Brian John Mitchell to get a wide variety of fellow travelers to jointly participate in a group effort, halfway between supergroup jam, label sampler, and remix project. The resultant 16-song collection has Mitchell’s guitar and bass parts and occasional vocals as the core for each track, with various collaborators working together or separately to add vocals, beats, other parts in general. Mitchell’s work is fairly straightforward — understandable given that they were meant to be the skeletal beginnings of further work — but they allow the often-brief tracks to flow together quite well, even as each may take distinctly different roads all together. Thus, the Seefeel-like, fall-and-rise loops of “Guided” make for a much different piece than “She Goes Out with Boys,” with its suddenly charging bass shifting into a moody melody and lyric that Mitchell sings, backed by Rollerball/Moodring vocalist Mae Starr. Meanwhile, little could be more significantly different than the near-ambient, lengthy flow of “Tolerate the Wicked,” one of two tracks Aarktica’s Jon DeRosa appears on, the a cappella “Will I See You Again” sung by Annelies Monsere, and the backwoods/garage stomp of “Watch Me Bleed,” featuring backing from Jessica Bailiff, with guest vocals from Michael Wood and Magen McAvenney. It’s a wide variety of sound that still works on one album, and very well at that — especially when showing a sense of humor by calling one of the loveliest instrumental tracks “Maybe You Should Chew on My Fist.”
~ Ned Raggett, All Music Guide
right. this features a buncha people from the silber roster including michael wood & brain mckenzie from the fabulously titled something about vampires and sluts, yr man from aarktica, jessica bailiff (who i love in an almost creepy sexual way), annelies monsere and the fella in charge of silber. among others. and this is why you get a wildly eccentric mix of breathy pop and plinky noise and shoegazerry, ambient bloops and sweaty garage rawk stomp. and this is why you get two tracks to chow down on here.  if i was to say schizophrenic you’d be heading in the right direction. and yet somehow manages to sound like a proper bloody album and not just a pissaround compilation where a buncha folks bash out a buncha stuff they like playing but couldn’t squeeze into their own records. it manages to be aggressive, odd, soothing, brittle, massive, barely there, stupid, clever, loud, quiet and every goddam thing inbetween. not meant in the pejorative when i say this is all over the place. yet cohesive. cross-pollination and collaborative mind-melds. aargh. what the fuck am i dichotomously babbling about? christ even i don’t know. it’s not often you get to write about a record that at various points says earth, sons & daughters, swans, guided by voices, la monte young and cocteau twins. what you do need to know is that this is a wild and exhilarating listen. it’ll drag you up down left right and stroke yr inner thigh gently while occasionally biting yr extremities and whispering exotic erotica into yr inner ear.  oof.
~ cows are just food
Vlor are a Silber Records supergroup comprising a dozen musicians from various bands, the best known of whom is probably Jessica Bailiff. Starting out with guitar and bass lines from team captain Brian John Mitchell, the tracks were all completed by various people from all over the world. Comparisons with This Mortal Coil are inevitable. Indeed, there are plenty of musical similarities – short neo-classical instrumental sections, low key ambient pop and ethereal vocal tracks redolent of the Cocteau Twins at their most mellow.
The major difference between Silber’s supergroup and their 4AD counterpart of two decades ago is that Vlor are even more eclectic. “Tolerate the Wicked”, for example is an eight minute long dark ambient drone piece. “Damage the Land and Sea” is an instrumental based around a deep throbbing bass and scratchy slide guitar that threatens to explode into aural violence, but never quite does. However, the next track “Watch Me Bleed” injects some real aggression into proceedings. It’s a thrashing punk-pop thing that comes across like Sons and Daughters at their most bolshy. Definitely NOT very This Mortal Coil!
Half the tracks are under two and a half minutes, and many of these are little more than instrumental sketches of ideas. But they work as the glue that keeps the album flowing and not sounding like a random grab-bag of tracks. Only “Not the One for Me” grates a little, seemingly no more than an endlessly repetitive fade out whose title is the entire lyrical content.
Six-Winged is a terrific album that flits from style to style, but manages to hang together perfectly. Even the book ending tracks, ostensibly two versions of the same thing, sound nothing like each other. The first a delicate, fragile whisper of a song, the second straying into Galaxie 500 territory. It shows that surprise and variety needn’t be at the expense of consistency and flow.
~ Music Musing & Miscellany
Vlor is an “all-star” project from the Silber label. It is spearheaded by label mogul Brian John Mitchell, who records basic tracks for songs and instrumentals that he sounds out to other artists for completion. So, Six-Winged (the second Vlor album produced in such manner) features collaborations from Jessica Bailiff and members of Aarktica, 6PM, Rollerball, Plumerai, Electric Bird Boise, mwvm, and more. Unsurprisingly, the dominating musical vision is Mitchell’s (the man behind post-apocalyptic lo-fi folk project Remora). The album covers a lot of ground, from slowcore to punk-pop and drone. The instrumentals are quite fine, the songs nicely tortured. A strong indie project, and more consistent than
Vlor’s previous effort A Fire is Meant for Burning.
~ François Couture, Monsieur Delire
Much rather a compilation album this. Dark, brooding and quite esoteric, the Vlor Collective most importantly comprises Brian John Mitchell, Annelies Monsoré and Paolo Messere. Brian John Mitchell stuck around on all recordings as he oversaw this project in the entirety. Who played what remains unrevealed but the question of a general director behind this release makes for a very easy guess.
A host of guest appearances marked the great difference here; listed are twelve contributors and amongst them a few reaching to the ends of their wits. Magen McAvenney, Michael Wood and Brian McKenzie disrupt the Vlor sound on ‘Watch Me Bleed’ with indie rock styled insensitivity – in a way that contrasts the overall moody electronica touch with buzzing, almost rock’n roll like conviction.
A cleverly unbalanced effort this, and therefore one that you’re destined to keep returning to; odd, underachieving and still mesmerizing. ‘Six-Winged’ begs for attention, personified on ‘Will I See You Again’ with Annelies Monsoré in the middle of the attention. Dronetronics might be the term to throw in right here and just now. And oddly enough, pieces fall into the right place on ‘Not The One For Me’.
~ Maarten Schiethart, Pennyblack Music
Vlor began in 1997 when Brian John Mitchell and Russell Halasz recorded guitar in a racquetball court. For this CD, Mitchell is joined by guests such as Jon DeRosa of Aarktica, Jessica Bailiff, Annelies Monsere, Martin Newman of Plumerai, Paolo Messere (and many others). The music is, for the most part, relaxing, reverby guitars (although 16 features an amazing bit of beauty produced by a dulcimer or lute). 8 is the oddball, in a great way, in that it’s the only fast-paced rock song in a sea of calm shoegaze. Just the thing when you have unpleasant houseguests.
Ethereal, ambient, float-y guitar, electronics, effects and pretty sounding voices predominately by Brian John Mitchell. Mitchell gets help from fellow Silber Records band members Aarktica, Remora along with Jessica Baliff, Mae Starr of Rollerball and a bunch of others. Overall, very nice stuff. Dig this if you’re into Low, most stuff on Kranky Records, Cocteau Twins, & Lycia.
((((1)))) Plucked electric & acoustic guitars, layed vocals by Jessica Baliff sounding somewhat similar to Jarboe at her most ethereal.
(((2))) Repetitve piano, vibrating feedback.
(((3)) Way too much repetition. Bass, minimal, disjointed guitar chords, female vocals warbling.
((((4)))) Glistening chords, repeating (in a good way) in a fairly psych direction.
((((5)))) Minimal bass and male & (later) female vocals-from Mae Starr of Rollerball. Very melancholic & compelling.
(((((6))))) Slow, drifting, distant ambience.
(((7))) Dramatic, tense noise vs. bass & guitar minimalism. Odd metered but interesting.
(((((8))))) Loud & rockin’ tune with dual male & female vocals. Not far from the Pixies or even Sebadoh. Well done! (Btw, near the end the girl says “Watch you bleed” NOT “fuck you bleed”)
(((9))) Distant, spindle-ly guitars and sparse piano.
((((10)))) Vibrative ambience.
(((((11))))) Trippy, airy female vocals with focus on every syllable. Pretty short.
(((((12))))) Minimal, cinematic tones & structures flowing in & out.
(((13))) Early-mid 90’s Indie guitar tone & bass. Somewhat flat male vocals with 1 lyric repeating 1000x. Alright already! I heard you the 34th time!
(((14))) Bass & mild guitar fuzz.
((((15)))) A nice blanket of orchestrated ethereal ambient drones.
((((16)))) Clean chords, mandolin, so Americana sounding you pretty much expect someone singing about blue mountains or drunk/jealous ex-lovers.
Vlor Six: il loro Winged sembra un minestrone fatto da mile persone con mille influenze ed infatti è così.
Vlor Six è la versione di Usa for Africa della Silber Records e cioè un megagruppo composto da molti artisti sotto contratto per questa etichetta. Il metodo di composizione utilizzato è quello per corrispondenza: Brian John Mitchell, chitarrista dei Remora (e deus ex machina della Silber Records) ha inviato per posta alcune sue basi ad altri artisti sotto contratto della Siler Records (non manca Jon DeRosa, remember him?) raccogliendone poi in seguito i vari contributi. E’ un disco minestrone con pezzi che spaziano dal Drone al punk, dal pezzo slow core a lontani echi di un brano garage. Sembra il campionario di un agente di commercio specializzato in musica alternativa d’avanguardia. Un’antologia di musica varia, unita dall’unica caratteristica di sembrare composta superficialmente: sembra quasi che sia nata da diversi contributi raccolti per corrispondenza.
Niente di che, a parte “She goes out with boys” pezzo interessante, ma rappresenta il classico Jolly in una mano sfigata.
Di sicuro in mezzo a tutto questo fermento creativo e a questo humus di musica senza alcuna concessione all’easy listening e senza alcuna logica commerciale, qualcosa di estremamente interessante dovrà pur attecchire, mi son detto, guardando le mie occhiaie allo specchio, durante una pausa in bagno dalle lunghe sessioni di ascolto.
~ Black Milk
Featuring members of Rollerball, The Plants and Nudge, the strangely named “Scare of Ferret” comes straight from the proverbial melting pot, a heady mixture of free-form, drifting psych, jazz grooves and plain madness, the sounds of Gong and Sun Ra played by a group of confused tourists in the middle of a magic mushroom festival.
Opening with the 45 seconds hallucination that is “Pole Cat Intro” , the album moves quickly into a tribal ritual as “Rintin Fire” pulses into life, synths and echoed vocals whirling over the beat in a slow motion trance, a blissed out flute adding another layer of  confusion to the swirl. On “#9”, an eastern feel is called-up, the song a wonderful slice of psychedelia that bring vision of a smoky dive, alive with possibilities and bathed in golden light.
After the free festival strangeness of the title track, “Shaker Tab” is another joyous homage to freakiness, the track positively glowing with energy as it journeys to the stars, passing aliens suddenly finding they are feeling far happier than before.
As you move through the album, you discover that there is cohesiveness within the chaos; the songs are obviously by the same band, although the relative normalness of “Colin Wilson” seems a long way from the kraut-rock iciness of “Bulbul Tarang”, this mood again dissipated by the mellow groove of “The Weasel”, a favourite of mine. I guess what they all share is a lysergic sheen, a desire to sound exactly how they want, something that is  achieved with apparent ease.
Sounding like lounge music for the deranged,” Into the Doom” is another outstanding track, clarinet and vocals dancing over Can-like drumming and a glacial electronic pulse that forces me to use the phrase Kraut-Rock for the second time in this review, an obvious but useful reference point. After the brief dancing skeleton animation music of “Ricketts”, the band bow out with “Horse”, a track that could indeed be called proverbial melting pot, with everything that has gone before condensed into 5:23, ending a magnificent disc with chaotic grace and style. Undoubtedly a grower, that top ten, end of year list is beginning to look mighty crowded.
~ Simon Lewis, Terrascope
Primitive and dark, Moodring’s Scared of Ferret occupies a world of slow motion. The songs unfold gradually with slight touches of exoticism. They’re largely instrumental but do feature passages of far-off female vocals, more spoken than sung. The overall effect can be otherworldly.
Begun as a more experimental-sounding duo, Moodring has become more accessible without losing all traces of its form
er self. Take “Horse,” with its tribal, steady beat and muted, harsh electronics. It becomes more traditional as it goes, though, mixing in A Certain Ratio’s rudimentary rhythms, but putting in some slowed-down vocals whose words can’t be readily deciphered (though “drinking their blood” and “black mass” can be made out). “The Weasel” takes a bassline from Joy Division, slows it down, and adds in light, jazzy drum touches. Its background of odd noises and stretched-out, distorted sounds is characteristic of the Moodring modus operandi. So is the echo and the reverb on the apparition-like vocals.
The title cut is driven by shakers and bits of guitar. It’s fleeting and wispy. “Colin Wilson” takes a lesson from reggae and dub, but only sort of. The drums get the occasional extra splash of reverb and the bassline would be more Bob Marley were it to be higher in the mix. The exoticism of “#9″ takes the form of Eastern-sounding flute, as though the band had decided to pick something up from a trip to a Cairo bazaar. It’s got a snake-charmer vibe to go with its disembodied electronics and trance-like chanting. “BulBul Tarang” sounds like a death march, at least until the chaos of cymbals and flute overtake the proceedings.
Moodring doesn’t do things quite the way other bands do them. It isn’t exactly Gothic, or experimental, or ambient, but it has elements of each. The band doesn’t ever want you to get too comfortable. When David Lynch goes looking for a companion spirit to score his next film, he could do worse than tap Moodring for the honors.
~ David Smith, Delusions of Adequacy
I’m a sucker for living room recorded madness that passes as pop to someone with brain damage like me, but probably closer to psyche experimental noise-pop to you “normals” out there: these are songs, they have beats, they have melodies, but they are concocted with treated found objects and simple cheap casio or Arp synthesizers and pretty girl voices (Vonnegut was correct when he wrote in Cats Cradle that there is nothing more beautiful than the voices of young women). I think that Yo La Tengo longs to go back to this recipe, in fact I know they do. So theres your CD review. The rest is up to you: cue up a few seconds or just cue up any highlighted track and let it rip, Brownian Motion style. Let the track inspire what you choose next.
1) brief, amalgam of voice, synth, echoey’ness
2) slow, downtempo with noises swirling, chills a bit toward end
3) slow paced with a vague eastern harmonium sounding instrument, buried fem vocals, chill and cool
4) pretty, chill percussion and almost ambient
5) upbeat, noisey slightly and a tad more pensive
6) this has the narco head sway that I am looking for in lieu of sex
7) starts with a plodding minimal near noise thing but synths and vague melodies join the fray to make for a musical if psychedelic acid flashback
8) Yo La Tengo’ish sexy beat smothered in spaciness that makes me want to wrap myself around a soft body, but I’m a pervert and a sucker for a really good sexy song
9) the most “songlike” of the bunch, with a drumset beat, a clarinet melodie, cool and just plain musical, I like
10) brief, percussive
11) amalgam of minimal sounds culminating in a composition of good layered tones, guitars, musical, avoiding esotericism
A strange record, this. Based on Scared of Ferret’s sinister-looking cover, I was expecting black metal or even noise. What I got, instead, was a free and whimsical experimental rock record, spanning through influences as disparate as jazz, psych, videogame music, and, yes, noise. It’s a rambling, disjointed trip, certainly, but also an inviting and intrepidly original one.
The essential element on Scared of Ferret is, appropriately, mood. The tribal, Diamanda Galas-inspired sinister majesty of “Rintin Fire” articulates Moodring’s M.O. succinctly – although the band’s formula changes from track to track (here it is haunting female vocals, a hypnotic rhythm, and amorphous gasps of feedback), the consistent approach is to craft entrancing musical soundscapes whose form is secondary to the overall atmosphere evoked. Burned-out psych groove “Colin Wilson,” which elicits memories of Ash Ra Tempel in its acid-drenched mesmerism, is among the record’s best efforts at conjuring up pure, sweltering feeling. Equally sublime “Into the Doom” takes an altogether different approach, matching an almost 8-bit synth bit with clarinet swooning and Mae Starr’s unmistakeable crooning. It’s an inspired, even awesome track – one of several on Scared of Ferret, which, disjointed as it may be, teems with indescribable wonder.
~ Matt Shimmer, indieville
Hailing from Portland Moodring is band that saw the light of day in 2005. It all started as a side-project of Rollerball. Mae Starr and Monte Trent Allen released 6 releases from 2005 till 2007 (!). Joined in 2007 by Jesse Stevens this collective finally signed on to Silber Records to launch this new album. “Scared Of Ferret” walks on different grounds, but always remains experimental. I guess it’s not a coincidence they’ve been defined as experimental lounge music. That’s not totally relevant to me, but I can understand the description. The sound comes often quite close to some psychedelic fields while a few new-wave influences aren’t far behind. “Colin Wilson” is remarkable piece in the genre. The way of singing is also quite particular. It’s a kind of sterile, lazy voice. A kind of mystic net hangs over a few songs, but especially the very efficient “#9” is worthy of examination. I hear some vague Dead Can Dance reminiscences and that’s more than a simple reference. “Rintin Fire” is another song in a similar style. A different kind of mystic input appears on “Into The Doom”. The flute play is remarkable and absolutely well crafted. Moodring sounds really special and I sometimes get the impression to hear new-wave music during a LSD-trip. It might sound a bit weird, but this band is really able to bring you into a higher dimension� and this by the simple listening of their sound! This is one of the best releases I’ve heard on Silber Records.
~ Side-Line
Moodring started a side project to Rollerball, an outfit that already pleased me with their contribution to a Silber Records compilation. At the time I tagged Rollerball as slightly jazzy and Moodring continues in that trend, albeit it a bit more psychedelic. Scared Of Ferret seems to be their first proper album, after a previous untitled CDr.
After a short intro and the slow “Rintin Fire” the album serves you the hypnotising “#9″ on which Mae Starr showcases her voice. Abrasive drumwork, a clarinet and other odd sounds complete the whole and make it into something to which you can only nod your head. Songs like “Shaker Tab” and “Into The Doom” are rhythmically similarly excellent and near-addictive. In between these you’ll find spacey songs like “Colin Wilson” or “Bulbul Tarang”, the latter building to a fantastic climax. There are also several short experimental tracks in between which feel a bit like fillers.
Scared Of Ferret is, simply put, the shit. Laidback, jazzy and slightly psychedelic music with some excellent vocals. Sometimes it dwells a bit on experimental terrain, but when the band get their act together, there is no stopping them. Recommended.
~ IkEcht
Scared of Ferret is an album laced with the gentle subconscious sounds of alienation. Always low key, haunting vocal melodies drift in and out over a dense layer of electronic sounds and instrumentation.
‘Rintin Fire’ is the epitome of this, with a cold brooding sound driven by a simple echoing drum beat. The track doesn’t really go anywhere, but the atmosphere is such that it does manage to retain interest, almost despite itself.
At its best the music can be hypnotic, with percussive rhythms interrupted by the occasional gen
tle crescendos in the sound. ‘#9′ evokes Kraftwerk with its sustained electronic notes, and the layered synths of ‘Bulbul Tarang’ build to a pleasing conclusion. Ultimately, though, there isn’t really enough there to sustain interest. Too many of the pieces simply meander aimlessly, allowing the atmosphere the band so clearly want to create to turn stagnant. The vaguely unsettling vocals soon lose their lustre of mystery, and by the end of the album have become grating and uninterested. What begins with intriguing poise, ends with as an irritation.
Scared of Ferret is an alienating album. That, in itself, isn’t a bad thing. The problem is that it doesn’t feel alienating because of deliberate decisions by the band, rather, it feels alienating because the band sound apathetic and aloof, and seem to run out of ideas a little. Neither immediate enough to bring the listener on side, nor challenging enough to push any boundaries, the album ends up in an unhappy middle ground.
~ Richard Wheelhouse, Sea of Tranquility
Magma sonico
Album come questo che ci accingiamo a proporvi sono una manna per chi, come il sottoscritto, si trova ad ascoltare tonnellate di dischi per la gran parte allineati con i canoni di un’estetica musicale spesso non condivisibile. Infatti il debutto dei Moodring sulla Silber Records é un’opera di non facile assimilazione ma che alla lunga premia la pazienza dell’ascoltatore.
Scared of Ferret é una collezione di undici brani di difficile catalogazione fluttuanti tra l’ambient ed il free jazz senza disdegnare fascinazioni sperimentali. Insomma un avvolgente tappeto sonoro dove la ritmica riesce a garantire sufficiente variazione da rendere il prodotto finale appetibile anche ai novizi dei generi citati. Tracce come Into the Doom si lasciano apprezzare grazie ad un ottimo beat di fondo intorno a cui voce e strumenti gravitano con eleganza, cesellando cinque estatici minuti di lounge. In Colin Wilson il cantato di Mae Starr rinvigorisce con gusto le stanche geometrie strumentali, mentre in #9 divagazioni zingaresche aggiungono ulteriore valore ad un lavoro che non deluderá le aspettative degli aficionado delle sfumature piú alternative del mercato musicale.
~ Alessandro Bonetti, Kronic
E’ così quando ho sentito i Moodring ho esclamato “Bingo!”. Il loro album Scared of Ferret è una summa di furia creativa priva di reti e di schemi che conduce a uno stile e una sonorità originale e assolutamente spiazzante dove convivono riferimenti diversi, provenienti dal mondo della EtnoMusic (per alcuni ritmi e l’utilizzo delle percussioni ossessive) e da quello della musica elettronica, senza dimenticarsi di inserire dei fraseggi quasi-Jazz.
Datemi pure del pazzo, ma a me ricordano tantissimo un incontro tra i Morphine e John Zorn.
Il vero miracolo di questo gruppo è che riesce a compiere questa contaminazione estrema tra generi, rimanendo però nell’alveo sicuro del Rock. La sensazione finale, il retrogusto di questa opera, infatti, è quella di un album rock, l’ultimo avamposto di una colonia Rock nella lontana galassia della musica alternativa.
Forse proprio per questo Scared of Ferret può piacere e convincere. Fate però attenzione: occorre pazienza per poter assimilare i Moodring, non basta di certo un ascolto distratto perché non è il tipo di musica da metter in auto con gli amici mentre si va per locali.
Tra i brani più efficaci “Into the Doom” (qui l’assonanza con i Morphine è davvero evidente), “Shaker Tabs” un gulash tribal-elettronico (mi ricorda un pezzo Taarab, un tipo di musica suonata in Tanzania nei locali sulla costa vicino a Zanzibar: se non mi credete cercate negli autogrill negli scatoloni zozzi con i cd a tre euro alla rinfusa e se – come me – avrete fortuna nel trovare una compilation di Taarab, ascoltatela e mi darete di sicuro ragione) e “Colin Wilson” ipnotica e Janesaddictioneggiante.
~ Black Milk
Dopo una raffica di CD-R pubblicati dalla Nillacat tra il 2005 e il 2007, il progetto parallelo di Mae Starr e Monte Trent Allen – rispettivamente voce e basso dei Rollerball – debutta su Silber in formazione allargata con Jesse Stevens dei Plants e Michael Braun Hamilton dei Nudge. “Scared Of Ferret” è “più proto-qualcosa che post-qualcosa”, secondo una frase della press release che mi sembra calzante: “Rintin Fire“ e “Bulbul Tarang” spalancano le porte su un “futuro preistorico” dove si aggirano i fantasmi di Can e This Heat, nel buco nero di “Colin Wilson” il suono dei Bowery Electric di “Beat” si fonde alla matrice black dei primi Killing Joke, “Shaker Tab” e “#9” profumano di P.I.L. e “Flowers Of Romance”, di souk e medioriente. Inclassificabile e alieno (e consigliato) al pari dei dischi più ispirati dei Rollerball.
~ Raffaele Zappalà, Rockerilla
Ever since Robert Fripp plugged his guitar into Brian Eno’s discrete music looping machines, guitarists have been exploring the possibilities of performing solo but making an awful lot of noise. Fripp has improved Eno’s original setup to create massive, epic soundscapes, abstract and symphonic all at once, a practice he has maintained along with his various group efforts to the present day. Manuel Göttsching pioneered another track, combining single lines and motoric rhythms to create deep trancelike music, piling up harmonies for an endless groove. More than a quarter century on, guitar loops are far from exhausted. And so we find Remora combining Göttsching’s harmonic lines with Fripp’s soundscapes, adding a healthy dose of neo-Appalachian primitivism with an homage to an extremely diverse set of pop, soul, and punk, to arrive at his latest release, Derivative.
With tongue firmly planted in cheek, Remora’s album title refers to a pattern he uses for each track — the opening loop is lifted from somebody else’s song. The press material cites artists as diverse as Joy Division, Blue Öyster Cult, and Pere Ubu, but in general one would have to be a pretty astute listener to recognize specific sources, happily provided on the back cover. Remora performs entirely on guitar, with many of the tracks sounding similar to his earlier release Ambient Drones. With ample use of distortion and fuzz boxes, Remora leans toward a wall-of-sound approach, but tethered to the harmonic underpinnings of the original material. The opening track, Every Prince, based on a descending four-bar setup nominally based on the opening lick of a Hefner song but familiar to every guitarist, layers shimmering brilliant harmonies, retaining a nostalgic flavor as the original loop colors the entire track. Some of the songs are fairly short, such as Death Planes, which presents a brief, wistful fragment superimposed with a sustained melodic loop. The longer tracks like What Did You See There?, based on Joy Division’s Wilderness, slows the original material and splinters it, leaving the original lick submerged as his new harmonies spin out noisy implications into a continually developing commentary.
For all of its insider references, Derivative is a guitar ambient album with a more aggressive edge than other drone guitar groups like Stars of the Lid or Mirror. The pace is generally slower than the models from which his pieces are derived, with only a couple of tracks pulsing faster than a quarter note. Remora retains enough skronk to remove any artificial polish and give the work the immediacy of a laid-back live performance in his living room, but enough melodicism to prevent the work from becoming a noise fest.
~ Caleb Deupree, Further Noise
Our old friend Brian John Mitchell is obviously a very busy man, as well as running the excellent Silber Records, he finds time to draw wonderful cartoons and record music in several different guises. Under the name Remora he produces swirling guitar drones which, on this disc, use riffs from other (favourite) songs as their inspiration. This explains th
e title of the album, although, unless you are very familiar with the song used, it is very hard to spot the riff in question, which makes the list inside the cover very useful indeed.
Opening with “Every Prince” ( “I Stole a Bride” – Hefner), the listener is immediately plunged  into a sea of swirling possibilities, the distorted and heavily treated guitar sounds creating a rich and ever-swelling drone that is deeply rewarding. On “Highway Run” the sounds of Journey (“Faithfully”) are recognisable, at least briefly, as the riff is swallowed by a destructive wall of noise that crackles and rumbles with bad intent. As you may noticed, the titles given to the tracks are lifted from the lyrics of the song they take inspiration from, hence “Misdirection” being sparked into life by “Final Solution” (Pere Ubu), the resulting sound as heavy as a meteorite heading straight for your planet, delicious and menacing in equal measure.
Lighter in touch “Death Planes” (a Dylan song) is an atmospheric drone that creeps under your skin like a virus, absorbing and possibly addictive, whilst “What Did You See There” (Joy Division), uses its seven and a half minutes to slowly creep into your life, a pulsing, almost electronic feel giving the piece a malevolent and lonely air. Sounding almost like a conventional rock song, at least during its opening sequence, “All Our Times Have Come” (Blue Oyster Cult, you know which one!), slowly morphs into a floating drone, clouds drifting over mountains, a time to relax. This pattern is repeated on the wonderful “Into the Light” (Joe Jackson), a piece that has a delicate heart, one that is slowly buried by a glorious guitar sound, distorted and oh so loud, threatening to destroy all the furniture in the house, a song that should be played on a mountaintop, blasted across the valley floor. Finally “Love Corrupt” (Warrior Soul), has a spring in its step, ending the album with a jaunty grin, drone with a funk sheen, returning you to the normal world with a huge grin on your face.
The more I play this album the more I like it, the different textures that reveal themselves each time, dependant on your mood, listening circumstances or drunkenness, mean it stays fresh and vital, something that means it will stay on the top of the pile for a long time.
~ Simon Lewis, Terrascope
Being a pretty marginal fan of both metal and hip hop, I nevertheless get pretty giddy when I hear stuff by Girl Talk and Birchville Cat Motel. When my brother puts on Girl Talk in the car we begin a tag-team dissection of cultural/musical references. He is all over the hip-hop tracks like, “this is the Ying-Yang Twins, duh” and I’ve got the “Dude! That is The Band! or Yo! He is sampling Rainbow on this track!”. I also get chills up my spine when I hear Birchville Cat Motel’s thirty minute long dismantle of a single Iron Maiden riff on “Drawn Towards Chanting Chords”. Not that I have any past with Iron Maiden, I don’t think I have ever listened to a full album, BCM’s meditation on that riff is just so heavy and beautiful it makes me want to do something with my life. So when I read that ambient/drone guitar pioneer Brian John Mitchell’s project Remora would be releasing Derivative, which would follow suit in crafting guitar drones around cherished pop hooks I knew I had something amazing on my hands. Creating solo guitar drones in the style of a noisier Aidan Baker solo project, Remora tackles musical passages by Bob Dylan, Journey, Pere Ubu, Warrior Soul and Hefner. Not that you would be able to pick any of these songs out by any sort of compositional familiarity, not by a long shot. I still can’t really figure them out. But with or without this knowledge going into this album, Derivative is a drone masterpiece. I wouldn’t ever call drone piece catchy per say, but the album opener “Every Prince” has a gorgeous guitar upswell that nearly takes my breath away every time. If anything comes close to a drone single, this is it. A type of shoegazy beauty that defies categorization. Layer upon layer upon layer of hypnotic, swirling guitar parts stretch any pop tendencies into a meditative sea of clairvoyant noise. I know I am not using clairvoyant in the right sense of the word but it felt nice to write. Derivative is a stunnigly gorgeous album and stands on its own regardless of maybe, just maybe being able to pick out a Pere Ubu bass line. But Warrior Soul, I’ve never heard them before. Remora just made me a huge fan. Serious.
~ Ryan Hall, Tome to the Weather Machine
In music, as in life, hard work is not necessarily a bad thing. Derivate is not always an easy album to listen to. Featuring slow building sounds, often drenched with feedback, interspersed with occasionally jarring rhythms, and totally lacking in vocal hooks. Said by creator Brian John Mitchell to be based on chart hits, Remora’s focus is resolutely not on selling millions of singles.
Yet despite the dense and leaden tone, the album has an oblique appeal. The organ-esq tones of ‘every prince’ that drip with atmosphere could never be called ethereal, but they do possess a solemn majesty. The doomy paranoia of ‘what did you see there?’ and ‘all of our times have come’ create a near hypnotic web, ever if the pairing becomes a little too much towards the end. The wavering unease of ‘into the light’ is such that the listener barely notices that they’ve been listening to what amounts to not much more than eight minutes of low-level noises. The pieces have a powerful resonance that goes beyond the sum of the sounds heard.
Let us be clear, this is not necessarily an album that you might want to play repeatedly. Getting the most out of its subtle atmospheres requires an effort on behalf of the listener that is not always enjoyable, at least not in the traditional sense of the word. But it does feel like an album with something to say, despite the lack of words. Time spent on it is certainly not time wasted, and is ultimately rewarded.
~ Richard Wheelhouse, Sea of Tranquility
Con i Remora e il loro album Derivative sono invece entrato nella terra del drone, musica nata da una costola del Doom Metal, e che rappresenta un genere che spesso confina e sconfina nel Post Rock menzionato nella premessa.
A farla da padrone qui è la lentezza e il ronzio del  bordone ovvero quell’effetto battente che viene generato dall’ossessiva ripetizione di un unico accordo o di una nota per quasi tutto il pezzo.
Quindi non aspettatevi gran dinamismo: questo è un genere di musica che potete mettere sul piatto (si vabbè) e continuare a fare dell’altro. Potreste anche restare colpiti da qualche passo, ma se non gli prestate attenzione dopo un po’ non vi accorgerete nemmeno di averlo messo su. E non è nemmeno detto che la cosa possa essere negativa.
C’è una musica adatta per ogni particolare momento della nostra vita, un po’ come il vino che accompagna il cibo. Ora che ci penso non sarebbe male fare una bella selezione di accostamenti.
Un album del genere va benissimo come colonna sonora di qualche mattina fredda, ma assolata, con il fumo che ti esce dalla bocca mentre il pendolone si rattrappisce e chiede un po’ di ospitalità allo scroto e senti le orecchie vibrare sotto gli impulsi proveniente dagli auricolari bianchi.
~ Black Milk
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