Viewing entries in
Experimental

Air – 10 000 Hz Legend (Album Review)

Comment

Air – 10 000 Hz Legend (Album Review)

I remain, as I was in 2017, naïve about Air. What I do know, however, is that Air is a musical duo that is unlike any other I’ve ever encountered. While I’m curious to know more, I’m not sure I really want to know the individuals behind the music, for if I look behind the curtain will the magic that is Air, dissipate?

Perhaps I’m being a little melodramatic, but long-time readers will likely note that I tend to avoid discussing the artists directly and focus on their creative output instead. There are a number of reasons for this. Perhaps if I knew more about their personal lives, such knowledge would deter me from appreciating their art. Similarly, if I know the artist’s meaning behind a song, can I then make it my own? I think there is a case-by-case argument to be made here that would provide validation to that thought process. Most importantly, however, I don’t know why I love music, I just do. Subjective Sounds allows me to explore the reasons why, but I’m also terrified of knowing the answer for when you know why you love something you can subsequently fall out of love with it. Hence, naivety is a blessing, rather than a curse, and with that in mind let’s allow our minds to explore the sonic wonderland provided by Air on their second album 10 000 Hz Legend.

Electronic Performer is a perfect song to commence the album with. The overall styling can be heard throughout the entire album, so it sets the listener up perfectly for what they’re about to experience. Yes, there are shifting segments in the song that may seem out-of-place once you have settled into a groove, but it isn’t disjointed enough that it feels like another, completely unique, song. 

How Does It Make You Feel? is a fantastic song. I adore that musicality as it is deep and moody. The spoken vocal overlay can be a little distracting, but Pink Floyd fans will appreciate the linkage between How Does It Make You Feel? and Keep Talking. While Pink Floyd acknowledged using samples of Stephen Hawking’s electronic voice, there is no detail in the digital liner notes relating to this aspect of the song. If anyone knows if they used samples or computer-generated sampling, I’d love to know as even a Google search yielded no specific information and the lack of knowledge has subsequently left me intrigued. 

Radio Number 1 gets the body moving to a beat that is welcome after the mellower tone of How Does It Make You Feel?. It’s a great song and while I may be critical of the vocal repetition, I find it thoroughly enjoyable. Yes, even the dramatic vocal shift throughout the second half of the song. Radio Number 1 is a little left-of-the-centre but perfectly suited to the type of music Air creates. 

The Vagabond is exceptional, and Beck truly takes this song to another level, not only with his written and sung vocals but with that harmonica that is amongst the greatest I’ve ever heard that little instrument played. If you enjoy this song, you should check out Beck’s 2002 Sea Change, as it’s almost an evolution from The Vagabond, albeit it with a more sombre tone. 

Radian reaches you internally. It’s a weird sensation when you feel the music infiltrating your body, rather than your ears and consciousness. Yes, it is the low tone that vibrates at a frequency that gives the body this response, one that is akin to goose bumps, but one that is thoroughly enjoyable. Seriously, sometimes words can’t describe the feeling, but I suggest turning the volume up because the first half of the song will affect you in a way that is near indescribable before morphing into a song that will encapsulate you in the soundstage and allow you to unwind following that internal body sensation. No, I’m not nuts, dear reader, this music is just that good!

Lucky And Unhappy isn’t a bad song, but it isn’t great either. A solid B-side and one which I feel could have been better with more focus on the vocal as the backing musicality becomes too repetitive. That said, there are some atmospheric elements in the soundstage, around the middle of the song, that builds throughout the second half and makes me wonder if this song shouldn’t have been an instrumental track. I guess I feel that I’m listening to two different songs here, both wonderful in their own right, but maybe not perfectly suited together. 

Sex Born Poison is exceptional! The musicality and vocal are initially presented so low, in a muted state, that it is spectacular. The shift in styling builds the soundstage dramatically and fills the room with sound whereby the speakers disappear, and you are taken on a sonic journey that paints an audible picture before returning you to the muted state. It is astonishingly good. 

People In The City is another fantastic song. I hope you’ve turned up the volume, it will help you enjoy this track thoroughly. When listening to this song I can’t help but wonder what Grace Jones could do with this song; obviously with a more vigorous rhythm. Nevertheless, People In The City is perfect just the way it is and is one of the best songs on the album. 

Wonder Milky Bitch has a killer twang and eerie soundstage that makes you sit up and take notice. Like all music, we too often listen to it in the background. May I suggest you buck the trend with Wonder Milky Bitch and the entire 10 000 Hz Legend album. You won’t regret it as this is one album that demands the listener’s attention as too much will be lost if you fail to focus.  

Don’t Be Light is a song that has elements I love and loathe. The introduction isn’t to my liking, but it then morphs into a style that I appreciate, followed again by a style that just doesn’t work. It is most certainly on the experimental side and while I’ve listened to the song numerous times, I still find that I’m not connecting with it in a manner that I would like. It’s far from a bad recording, but subjectively isn’t suited to me. How about you, dear reader, have you found a connection with Don’t Be Light?

Caramel Prisoner is the perfect song to close the album on as it’s reflective while also being inspirational. It certainly encourages me to listen to 10 000 Hz Legend again and stay within Air’s catalogue of music. 

Overall, 10 000 Hz Legend is a magical record that draws you in from the moment it commences. The soundstage, mix, and mastering are extraordinary and in my subjective opinion, Air is the modern-day equivalent of a Pink Floyd, a David Bowie, or a Brian Eno; experimenting with sound and making sometimes nonsensical elements meld together beautifully. Yes, there are other modern peers, specifically Beck, but he appears on 10 000 Hz Legend lyrically and vocally on The Vagabond and in a vocal capacity on Don’t Be Light, hence that comparison is rather evident. Nevertheless, if you enjoy the aforementioned artists or are interested in the genres of Space Rock, Experimental Music, Progressive Rock, or Electronic Music, you’re going to love 10 000 Hz Legend

For this review, I listened to both the TIDAL Hi-Fi (CD-quality) and Apple Music streams. Both present the album superbly with TIDAL having a slightly greater depth and separation between elements. That said, if you’re not comparing the streams side-by-side, you’d be thoroughly happy with either offering. Although, I do feel the vinyl release would trump all others as the analogue nature of the format would further enhance the sonic prowess of 10 000 Hz Legend. Plus, that stunning artwork really demands a larger canvas. 

10 000 Hz Legend is available on VinylCD, the TIDAL Store (16/44.1kHz FLAC), and iTunes.

If you prefer streaming, 10 000 Hz Legend is available on TIDAL Hi-Fi and Apple Music.  

Click here to read other Air reviews by Subjective Sounds.

Comment

David Bowie – 1. Outside (Album Review)

2 Comments

David Bowie – 1. Outside (Album Review)

David Bowie has always been an enigma to me. A brilliant, but arguably eccentric, sonic experimentalist. Some of his work I hate, some of it not so much, then there are releases like 1. Outside that make me think about his brilliance, ignoring all my ignorant misconceptions. Much like Shakespeare is dissected still to this day, Bowie's music will not only live on but will surely be studied, for context, by future generations.

The self-portrait cover art of 1. Outside is stunning and deserves to be held on vinyl as one enjoys this lengthy but sonically rewarding album. At present, I have to settle for the CD-quality TIDAL Hi-Fi edition and its counterpart streamed from Apple Music. While both are largely indistinguishable from each other, the atmospheric brilliance of Bowie, combined with Brian Eno’s talent, really shines on the lossless stream with a greater three-dimensional soundstage.

Leon Take Us Outside is an interesting musical and spoken word introduction that flows seamlessly into Outside, making me wonder why it’s a separate track at all.

Outside is an incredibly detailed track that is masterfully composed. The rhythm will connect with your soul, causing involuntary body movements. No, this isn't a song you'll likely sing-along to, but it is thoroughly enjoyable and is a fantastic way to commence the album.

The Hearts Filthy Lesson is a fantastic song. While there is a radio edit, available on the exceptional career perspective, Nothing Has Changed, I find myself drawn to the full length original as it is a more substantial version of the song.

A Small Plot Of Land has a near jazz-fusion introduction that I thoroughly enjoy. Although, A Small Plot Of Land loses its lustre for me when Bowie joins the mix as I don't feel his vocals on this track are a good mix with the musical style. However, A Small Plot Of Land would be sensational as a purely instrumental track.

(Segue) – Baby Grace [A Horrid Cassette] is musically interesting. I'm still not sold on the spoken word segue’s throughout, but this one grows on you.

Hallo Spaceboy is EPIC! You'll want to turn the volume up on this track. The Pet Shop Boys remix is featured on Nothing Has Changed, but to be completely frank, I hate it! It adds nothing to the original and makes the song sound weak. It’s amazing that the remix made the cut on Bowie's career perspective release as I believe the original release is incomparable and one of Bowie's greatest recordings.

The Motel is musically beautiful, although it takes close to half the duration of the song before coming into its own. Subsequently, I feel the introduction was a little too drawn out and the song could have evolved faster had the composition been reconsidered. Of course, my subjective opinion is rather irrelevant as it is a piece of Bowie’s sonic artwork and subsequently is created with his vision in mind.

I Have Not Been To Oxford Town has a sensational rhythmic undertone and Bowie's vocal delivery is perfectly suited to the musicality.

No Control is a solid, albeit a little disjointed, song with regards to the shifts in lyrical delivery. That said, I do find No Control to be rather compelling.

(Segue) – Algeria Touchshriek doesn't sonically work well with the album, but as a segue, one can forgive this aspect as the concept album must, by definition, tell a story that, at times, requires segueing.

The Voyeur Of Utter Destruction (As Beauty) is, from my perspective, a garbled mess.

(Segue) – Ramona A. Stone / I Am With Name doesn't add much to the album. It is more of a distraction than a beneficial addition. Of course, I’m less interested in the underlying story arc than I am the musicality of the album.

Wishful Beginnings, while an interesting composition, fails to excite.

We Prick You sounds more like an 80s tune than one composed in the 90s. It isn't bad, but it's a B-side.

(Segue) – Nathan Adler, Pt. 1 is, as many of these segues are, a distractive element to an otherwise free-flowing album.

I'm Deranged is meh!

Thru' These Architects Eyes is a B-side at best and one can't help but wonder, by this stage, when this album will end as there is considerable self-indulgent filler throughout.

(Segue) – Nathan Adler, Pt. 2 makes me question if any of these segues were really necessary. I'm honestly not sure they were.

Strangers When We Meet, as heard on 1. Outside is a re-recording of the song which was first released on Bowie's The Buddha Of Suburbia. I much prefer this re-recording as it is more aligned with Bowie’s vocal delivery and overall style. It’s also the perfect song to conclude 1. Outside on and encourages me to listen to the album again and stay within Bowie's catalogue.

Despite a few songs failing to impress, 1. Outside is a solid album from start to finish. Although, I don't feel I’m missing out by only having it in my streaming library and while I maintain an interest in holding the album artwork, the album itself, much like John Lennon and Yoko Ono's Double Fantasy, is a little too disjointed for me to appreciate on vinyl. Nevertheless, there are some exceptional Bowie songs to be heard here. Thankfully, a few of them are on my regularly spun Nothing Has Changed career perspective release.

1. Outside is available on Vinyl, CD, the TIDAL Store (16/44.1kHz FLAC), and iTunes.

If you prefer streaming, 1. Outside is available on TIDAL Hi-Fi and Apple Music.

2 Comments

Alice Cooper – DaDa (Album Review)

2 Comments

Alice Cooper – DaDa (Album Review)

Alice Cooper may have no recollection of writing and recording DaDa, but I personally consider it one of his greatest achievements.

While it pleases me to know Cooper emerged from this era sober, one can't help but consider just how much his alcohol addiction influenced this opus. While I don't condone substance abuse in the name of art, and I’m a teetotaller, one can't deny that the music we have in our culture today would likely not exist should experimentation with mind-altering substances have not occurred. That said, not all of Cooper's intoxicated albums are as special as DaDa. There is something mystical here that truly defies explanation, so much so that Cooper has previously suggested that he has no idea as to the meaning of the album, only declaring that it’s the most frightening album he has ever made. From my perspective, it’s a sonic wonderland and not foreboding at all.

This review is based on the 2018 vinyl reissue from Warner Music. Specific mastering details are omitted, but let me assure you this is one album you simply have to hear to believe just how good it is. Most modern reissues are pressed from high-resolution digital files, but it sounds as though this pressing was sourced from the analogue master tape. It’s incredibly warm with that familiar analogue sound while being totally absent of the sterile and cold reproduction that is often associated with CD and digital music reproduction. The CD release I have (cat: 7599-23969-2) was never bad, but this vinyl pressing is significantly better. Plus, that orange swirl vinyl, which looks more like a splattering, looks really cool and is a value-added proposition for this collector.

Having owned the CD for a number of years, this was one album that I desperately wanted on vinyl. The exquisite cover art simply demands a larger canvas and while the CD-sized artwork still looked excellent, it just isn’t the same. The liner notes on the rear cover pay homage to the original pressings, as does that Warner Bros. Records label. I don't know about you, but all these elements matter to me. It just makes the tactile experience all the more rewarding. Nevertheless, it is ultimately all about the music.

Side One

DaDa is a Bob Ezrin masterpiece. Yes, Ezrin alone wrote this lead song and as the producer and engineer, the entire album certainly has his sonic fingerprint. Ezrin and Cooper are akin to Elton John and Bernie Taupin or Meat Loaf and Jim Steinman; an incredible collaborative team! Largely instrumental, with near incoherent spoken words, DaDa sets a sombre tone that is eerie, yet riveting to listen to. In some respects, this lead-in song is as spectacular as Funeral For A Friend / Love Lies Bleeding from Elton John’s Goodbye Yellow Brick Road. Hence, I’d have to say that DaDa is one of the greatest lead-in songs of any album ever recorded.

Enough's Enough changes the tempo quite significantly, but despite this change, it does not sound so different that one may think they were listening to a different album. Enough's Enough is classic rock with a pop-influence. The rhythm is toe-tapping and head-bopping heaven. Dick Wagner's guitar presentation here and throughout the album shines. Enough’s Enough is simply a fantastic song and I find it perplexing that Cooper has never performed this, or any other song from DaDa live. What a waste!

Former Lee Warmer is epic! The musicality is beautiful, as is Cooper's vocals. Such a relaxing song. I could listen to Former Lee Warmer on repeat for hours.

No Man's Land picks up the pace again. While there isn't a bad song on the album, No Man's Land comes close. I say that partially because, as an earworm, it has the tendency to play like a broken record. It’s catchy and a little campy, but it does fit DaDa perfectly.

Dyslexia starts a little slowly, but by the time the first chorus kicks in, the song begins to grow on you. It’s an interesting composition, but to be quite frank, I'm not sure if I like Dyslexia or not. Yet, I can't imagine this opus without it.

Side Two

Scarlet And Sheba is one of Cooper's greatest songs. Absolutely sensational rock and roll and I love the eclectic musical overture that introduces the song. You'll find yourself singing along, as I do. The shifting style between chorus and verse is sensational. The team of Cooper, Wagner, and Ezrin hit the ball out of the park on this song, and quite frankly the entire album. Alice Cooper doesn't get much better than this! If only he would play it live, it would become a fan favourite as it flows seamlessly into I Love America and would seem like a no-brainer when touring stateside.

I Love America is campy 101 and brings a snigger to this non-American. Who knows, perhaps my American friends also find some humor in this song. It isn't bad, quite enjoyable actually, but it is unlikely to ever become an anthem. It’s no Lost In America or Born In The USA, but I still love it!

Fresh Blood is seriously groovy with a rock/jazz feel that is most certainly locked into the 80s sound. They don't make music like this anymore and that's okay as the nostalgic element is extremely satisfying. Nevertheless, it also has a dance/disco feel to it, not unlike many of the songs found on Elton John's excellent Victim Of Love.

Pass The Gun Around takes a while to get going. So long, in fact, that upon the first couple of listens you may think DaDa has come to an end. It’s likely done to separate the varied styles between this song and Fresh Blood. Nevertheless, once the song starts, you’ll be met with an astounding song that simply blows my mind every time I hear it. It is psychotic, yet relatable. The only other song I can think of that has such an effect on my psyche is the Guns N' Roses song Coma. The haunting chorus and overall musicality is magical as it connects with the pleasure centres of the brain. Yes, the song is slightly disturbing, and perhaps it takes a slightly disturbed mind to enjoy it, but it is sensationally hypnotic and makes me want to listen to this entire masterpiece again and again. Although, that inferred bullet shot always shocks me, despite knowing it’s coming. I think that is part of the appeal of the song as it not only brings ultimate meaning to the song but breaks the hypnotic hold it has on you.

While I’ve always been captivated by Alice Cooper and consider his body of work to be amongst some of the very best in recorded music history, DaDa is exceptional. It’s an album I can't live without and I dare say people will be dissecting this record forever, trying to figure out exactly what it’s about and what was going through Cooper’s head at the time. Well, I say good luck to them as Cooper, himself, has no idea. I'm equally naïve, so if you’re reading this via The Wayback Machine, I don’t have the answer either. I just know I love DaDa and if I could only have one Alice Cooper album, it would most likely be this one.

DaDa is available on Vinyl, CD, the TIDAL Store (16/44.1kHz FLAC), and iTunes.

If you prefer streaming, DaDa is also available on TIDAL Hi-Fi, Spotify, and Apple Music.

Click here to read other Alice Cooper reviews by Subjective Sounds.

2 Comments

Chris Abrahams – Thrown (Album Review)

Comment

Chris Abrahams – Thrown (Album Review)

Music as a form of art is something that I feel is often overlooked. This is certainly the case in the modern era as music is always on, but seldom appreciated without distraction. It isn't until you come across a composition, such as Chris Abrahams' Thrown, that your belief of what music is, what it can be, and how it can be subjectively interpreted is challenged. It is only then that you truly begin to appreciate music as a form of performance art.

It would be fair to say that Thrown is not an album that I would actively seek out. Nor is it one that I would generally add to my collection. However, it is unique and I experience a very subjective series of emotional responses as I listen to the album. To be completely honest, I find much of the album to be unsettling, yet a concise description as to why escapes me. Therefore, dear reader, I implore you to join me on this incredibly unique experience as we traverse the album known simply as Thrown.

Upon first listen, you would be forgiven for wondering if Thrown is not merely the work of a slightly deranged individual. Well, that couldn't be further from the truth as Abrahams is a highly sought after pianist within the Australian music scene. While he is best known as a jazz pianist and session musician, his solo projects are largely experimental. While experimenting with sound is hardly revolutionary, the style applied throughout Thrown literally throws me as the composition is unlike anything I have heard before. It is, for lack of better terms, simultaneously beautiful and haunting.

Perhaps I shouldn't be so surprised with the direction Abrahams took on Thrown as he is one-third of the experimental jazz trio, The Necks. If you find Thrown to be a little too confronting then you would likely appreciate the slightly less intimidating experimentation that can be heard on The Necks’ song Transparent Roads. As I listen to both recordings, in conjunction with each other, certain musical elements link the two, but it is clear that Transparent Roads would appeal to a more mainstream audience.

Beyond this comparison in style, the artwork is most certainly relatable to the music presented on the album. I’m not sure if one would look at this artwork and be compelled to buy it, sound unheard, but the absent and lost feeling that you get when you look at the artwork, definitely mimics the musical style in visual form. 

Bellicose starts with what can only be described as recorder hell. The pitch, while perfect in intent, is traumatising for the mind as there is no escape from this somewhat daunting and very disturbing soundstage. Interestingly, it is compelling and recorded so well that I don't feel the need to tear my headphones from my ears and throw them across the room. To me, this song is the epitome of subjective interpretation and I dare say each listener will have their own subjective response when listening to Bellicose.

Can Of Faces almost seamlessly continues, but it is very different to Bellicose and is sonically compelling. Approximately midway through the song, a sound that is akin to wind comes bellowing through your headphones, yet it is relaxing and peaceful despite the sound being felt in your middle ear. This song is, certainly in the second half, absolutely gorgeous and simply must be heard to be believed. There really isn't an adjective in the English language that can adequately describe the experience of listening to Can Of Faces.

Horsenel returns the listener to the eerie wind instrument that previously plagued the senses in Bellicose. Thinking for a moment about film scores, I can say with certainty that Horsenel would perfectly suit a film like The Blair Witch Project. It is unrelenting in its eeriness, yet I feel strangely compelled to continue listening. Could this be a sign of my slightly mad psyche or the sign that I’m listening to an artistic masterpiece?

Remembrancer has undertones of madness as the piano is frantically played in a repetitious manner. Despite that, it is strangely comforting. I have to be honest when I say that I feel Thrown is my most subjective review to date. I’m sure some of you will detest Remembrancer, and the entire album, but I’m subjectively not feeling disdain towards this piece of art. As it is so subjective, I would love to read your thoughts. Do you find yourself enamoured with Abrahams experimentation, or not? One aspect of Remembrancer that I appreciate is the analogue television static sound effect. There is probably a technical term for it, but I’m sure many of you would recall the snow on the screen, and the associated noise, when there was no signal. Regardless, it closes out the song and repetitious music beautifully.

Coins In Vinegar is perhaps the least compelling song on the album. It never truly captured my mind and I find it to be too similar in style to the preceding tracks.

Hung Door is quite erratic and downright creepy. You have definitely happened across the haunted house in the woods with this track.

Them Hitting is the sonic equivalent of a human dog whistle, albeit with additional musical elements. Surprisingly, it isn't off-putting and I even appreciate the Morse code-styled element throughout the song.

Car Park Land literally increases my breathing and pulse rates every time I hear it. Yet, I'm at a loss to explain this reaction. Can music really have this much of an impact on the human mind? I believe so, otherwise we would cease to have likes and dislikes regarding specific artists, albums, and musical styles. The wind chimes in this song assist with the feeling of solitude and while many find wind chimes to be relaxing, I generally find them to be one of the most annoying instruments in existence. However, in another strange dichotomy, I don't feel that way about them as I listen to this track.

Nocturne, as the final track on the album, presents a repetitiously mismatched compilation of interweaving sounds. It is captivating enough to have me play the album again, yet I find myself compelled to sit in silence and ponder my subjective interpretation of the entire album.

The question that must logically be asked is if this album can really be classed as music, or is it merely a culmination of sounds, resulting in noise? While I have expressed my own subjective thoughts, I can't help but wonder if an album such as this can exist simultaneously as music and noise.

Overall, I find Thrown to be devilishly enticing. Everything I know about myself tells me that I shouldn't like this album, yet I appreciate and respect the experimentation and subjective journey it has taken me on. While I have more questions than answers, regarding my interpretation of Thrown, one certainty is that Thrown will remain in my streaming music library, to be listened to again and again.

Thrown is available for purchase on CD, the TIDAL Store and iTunes. For those of you who prefer streaming, it is also available on TIDAL Hi-Fi, Spotify, and Apple Music.

This review was based on listening to the 2005 edition that is available on TIDAL Hi-Fi. It is important to note that while TIDAL Hi-Fi presents albums in CD-quality sound at 1,411kbps, Thrown is only presented as a 320kbps stream as TIDAL has not been given higher quality files from the artist. However, that is of little concern as the album remains sonically impressive. While I have referenced listening to this album on headphones, I have also heard it several times on speakers and can confirm that the sonic nuances remain transparent, regardless of playback method. This is, in part, because the album been beautifully recorded and mastered with kid gloves, thereby ensuring the experience takes your senses to a completely new level that will not easily be forgotten.

Comment