SLSFTI is the one man experimental recording project of Spencer Lebute. ‘Dzeja for Leela’ is a collection of short songs comprised of spoken word poetry and sound collages. According to the bandcamp page the music on this release reflects a conversation with one of Spencer’s friend’s Leela.
The combination of noise music and poetry sounds like a neat idea, something that really made me look forward to listening to this album but as it turns out this is unfortunatly not the case. The production quality is possibly ‘Dzeja for Leela’s’ biggest ditractor. The sounds are so saturated and at times Spencer’s voice sounds like it is either covered in some distortion effect or that it is constantly peaking. Although we are talking about noise here, an experimental style of music that relies heavily on atonality and cacophany these aspects of the music are not influencing it positivly but are instead retracting from the poetry. The track ‘Representation of a Past Imperative’ is the best example of this with these eclectic piano noodlings that are looped throughout the track which becomes a distraction and a headache while Spencer incessantly spouts out a slew of nearly incoherent words masked in grainy digital distortion.
Many of the songs on this EP feel like they were rushed and slapped together. The sounds and noises are far too distracting and they end up fragmenting and forcing the listener away from the focus of the music which should be the poetry. Many times, musicians can get away with burying the vocals underneath sounds, whether that be distortion or walls of reverb, especially so in the case of shoegaze acts but at that point the vocals are already unintelligible enough in the case that they are used as another instruments or a textural element within the music and with that they serve their purpose. Because the focus of this music is on its poetry, words, and what they mean it confuses me as to why these words would be surrounded with such distracting compositions when the intention of poetry is reflected in the listener’s interpretation of these words.
Mhva is a musician from Oslo, Norway who’s glitchy drone / noise soundscapes have garnered some positive response within the soundcloud community and within soundcloud threads on /mu/ which isn’t hard to understand where this following comes from once you listen to his work. Warmer / Colder is a double album consisting of two separate EP’s. Since these two EP’s are made to be played as a whole I decided to review them as an entire album instead of reviewing them both separately which does not necessarily mean that they cannot be enjoy apart from each other.
Warmer / Colder is full of dark mysterious soundscapes and collages of noise in the repetitive fashion of drone. Like most drone recordings the tracks on this album are quite lengthy and change very little sonically, fortunately there are elements of noise, glitch, and even some traditional piano playing that are present throughout these two EPs which do well to prevent the content from getting boring for listeners who may be new to or impatient with the genre while allowing the songs to remain at a glacial pace for familiar listeners. There are many moments of subtle change throughout these two releases; tiny shifts in sound, quiet background noises, drones within drones, and silent tectonic movements that all come together to create a collage of sorts which is one of the fascinating aspects of drone. It is this ability to create the illusion of doing more with less and when you begin to pick up on these acute changes it is at that point that what you are hearing becomes more than just repetitious raw noise and transforms into an actual experience.
I found myself immediately in a state of calmness with the first track which features some simple drones with a bit of foreground noise that becomes progressively more apparent throughout the music, a formula that is explored throughout the album. ‘Pretty Late’ is made up of lumbering melancholic piano chords that are fittingly pieced together with unintelligible spliced samples that act as a musical and textural background element throughout the track. The samples, although minor, give the track a feeling of sadness, not in such a way that it is depressing but in a weird beautiful kind of way making this track to be amongst mhva’s more musical and accessible. This isn’t the only song to feature remnants of traditional sounding instrumentation; “The Punctum” a track on Warmer features some similar piano chords that play amongst a sea of colorful sounds that come into and out of the track.
Mhva creates some interesting experimental compositions that are familiar enough for fans of this style of music to remain interested while being different enough in it’s own right to achieve his own niche within the genre but the music does lack structure and content in which there are moments where I found myself growing bored or impatient with the progression on some of the songs, particularly on a few of the longer tracks such as ‘Beetle’ and ‘Enginery’. I am well aware that this type of music rides on a lack of content but in the context of what mhva has created, what is here is not sparse enough to be interesting in an ultra-minimal way nor is it dense enough to be something I would come back to often, especially when taking into account that the album spans two lengthy EPs. The combination of all these sounds creates some great textures but there is a point where these good ideas fail to become something musical and simply remain ideas, in this case a collection of interesting sounds.
Warmer / Colder is an example of what could have been a truly unique and powerful piece of music that barely falls short of its own expectations. Regardless, I cannot stress enough that with all forms of experimental music the listener themselves are often required to do some of the work as well in order to appreciate what one is being exposed to so with that said, I think this can be something great if the listener is willing to dig deep enough and remain patient in doing so.
Josh Preston is a dark ambient / noise musician from Sydney, Australia whose music is self described as ‘The sound of trade, exchange, interrelation and operability’. ‘Exchanges 1 – 4′ is a collection of various haunting stark recordings arranged in a four song EP.
‘Exchanges 1-4’ is exactly what the title suggests, it is a haunting study of the sound of currency being withdrawn and deposited, things being shifted, moved from one place to another, displaced, replaced, exchanged in a number of ways, both related and unrelated. The entirety of this EP’s sound is the result of a collection of sounds arranged, collaged together to create an entirely new composition all while maintaining attached to the original source material. Eerie oscillating tones create an otherworldly soundscape while static forebodingly lingers beneath in a world that is at first glance alien to ours but given multiple listens is very much like our own. Much of the source material seems to be comprised of what sounds like doors and metal cabinets being opened and closed, the rattling of a fingers meeting the keys on a keyboard, people commuting; all reverberated, stepped and repeated, crackling, and decaying into a cluster-fuck of unsettlingly hollow sounds. It is the embodiment of a generation controlled by economical statistics, consumerism, and the exchange of items.
I found myself enjoying the overall concept of this release, that being the overarching theme of the exchanges that much of the sound on this release is derived from. The whole idea of a musician using sounds and arranging samples and recordings over the preferred method of vocals to create a statement is a good idea, it has worked before but like Kolumbus’ debut ‘Fleeting Hope For False Optimists‘, a musician who employed a similar technique, I found myself wanting something a bit more solid. At times the music felt sparse, I couldn’t help but feel that much of it was overshadowed by a good idea that was poorly executed.
In short, the music on this EP is constantly changing all while managing to remain the same and like my description, the listener may at first fail to gain some grasp on what they are hearing but after repeated listens everything comes together including my inane description, to create something that is more of a statement or a reaction toward the busy economic world we live in today. There is undoubtably a good concept hidden beneath the mess of incoherent sounds and noises that make up this release and while ‘Exchanges 1 – 4’ gets some points for its originality, its vague concept, and its daring musical traits it fails in the aspect of providing enough substance or musical progression to keep most entertained, myself included.