Album Review: Dr. m.o.m. – Thank You

Label: Trippin’ the Rift
Catalog No: TTRR013

My Own Mind. That’s what the “m.o.m.” stands for. Doctor My Own Mind. The alias of Otari Kakanov, music brain surgeon and pretty handy with scissors. He has cut and assembled a plethora sound pieces from old records and films, pasting together a smoky cast-down atmosphere to dwell in. Influenced by the work of early abstract hip-hop artists, Dr. m.o.m. has gone a level deeper, descending into more somber territory and creating dense textures that knock down walls.

Thank You is a story that takes us through despair and joy. An excursion down a twisted road of unfortunate circumstance that comes to a dead end at rock bottom. Then the assistance of a friend turns everything around and happiness is restored. For that you must tell them thank you. What began as a fun jaunt with ethereal effects and bouncing grooves quickly morphed into a morose chaos soon to be supplanted by a gloomy melancholic pain. Emotive orchestral tones twist around the morose strikes of the piano. Sliding further down until the end of the road unfolds and presents a dimly lit room clouded by smoky vapor. A half empty bottle of whiskey, ashtray overflowing with cigarette butts. Eyes glassed over, faint objects mere blurs of light dancing to the sedate drumbeat and mournful piano.

Through some unexplained karmic portal comes the aid of a familiar comfort. An old friend that is held close to the heart materializes and begins the painstaking process of helping repair the damage from the abuses of life. An astral uplifting begins. Ambient swirls cut through smoke and disperses it, banishing it to another dimension. The drums take over and fill the room with an energetic pulse, commanding the senses into action. The mind has cleared. The room falls away to a bustling city, lighting the sky up with a palette of various colors. Everything has an angelic glow to it, a positive radiance and it would not have been possible without the inspiring guidance of an old friend.

Thank You combines jazz elements and hip hop beats with record scratching and the occasional ambient echo. Borrowing from a varied selection of genres makes it an eccentric familiarity. It’s something we have all heard before but not in this way. All the sounds compliment each other to represent every emotion felt in the whirlwind tale it tells. The moral of the story is to, of course, say Thank You to those you are grateful for. Give thanks to the ones who are always there for you.

Rating: 4 Stars
Standout Track: Reign Over Me


Album Review: Somnambuliya – Sleep Deprivation

Label: Trippin’ the Rift

From deep within the dense forests of Russia a subtle frenetic beat begins to pound. Augmented by a wave of dreamy harmonies, a deep and sullen voice croons in its native language. The piano hums a somber melody as the snow lazily drifts down from the sky. Lack of sleep has taken over and a waking dream assaults your senses. A new world appears and there is no way of knowing if it is a tangible presence or merely a tricky phantasm sent here to fool your perception. In this state of conscious hibernation the music has complete control over you, making you see whatever it wants you to.

The piano cuts into you like an icy wind. Taps and clicks accompany the wind and stutter out a lazy and comfortable pattern. You wrap around the slowly winding curves of the beat and let it take you. It sails across a desolate winter, drifting smoothly past snow drifts and icicle-draped evergreens. It is all so beautiful yet melancholy. The soft singing hypnotizes your sleep impoverished mind, massaging your synapses and reviving weakened cells.

You can’t understand what is being said but this ignorance has an added aesthetic benefit. The Russian lyrics have a disorienting effect in this dismantled state. The emotive inflections are understood but not the actual words; all meaning absorbed in a deep cavern somewhere inside your head. Somnambuliya’s dark textures are a morose experience that fuel your emotions with deep disconsolate moods. It’s all laid out on a waving tapestry that plays beautifully sincere music. Together they can be ridden to the edge of consciousness, the music guiding you towards sleep.

Rating: 4 Stars
Standout Track: Winter Song

Review: J. Dujardin – Lessons in Failure

The simplistic vibrations of a piano always seem to reflect our deepest and most personal emotions. They can make us laugh, cry and explode in a fit of rage. What J. Dujardin has presented us with on Lessons in Failure is a sad reflection of our lives and mistakes expressing them through one of the most versatile instruments ever conceived: the piano.

These 13 tracks are nothing but a somber piano echoing against quiet ambient soundscapes in the background. The morose feelings glide across a desolate plain and reach your ears with a heartbreaking certainty, forcing you to examine your place in the world and the choices you have made. There are glimmers of hope throughout these songs, teaching you that we must never regret our decisions and always forge on toward better things. As we, the human race, continues to strive we will continue to answer our greatest questions and come closer to being united with the spirits of nature. J. Dujardin paints a landscape for our souls to traverse wherein we will discover ancient keys to our escape from these earthly bodies.

These simple expressions are a lesson in the age old practice of “Less is more”. In order to transcend the world into a more heavenly place in the cosmos we must keep things simple. These days everything is so complex and intricate that no one takes the time to stop and look at the big picture anymore. We just seem to struggle through more and more complications. These complications always lead to failure and displacement. Lessons in Failure takes our defeats and lays them in front of us, revealing the faults and ways to solve them.

This release is something to take in on a personal level. Listen to it alone and let all of its insight absorb inside your soul. You will feel the presence of the spirits from other dimensions that watch over and protect you. You may be overwhelmed by sadness but at the same time the warmth of a fire will ignite inside you, clearing your senses. That great urge to keep going will never leave you and will always pull you through.

Rating: 4 stars
Standout Track: I Will Stand Next to You

Review: If This Is a Man – Random Acts of Kindness Have Saved Lives

A somber reel of psychedelic guitar strings is cast into the pond of the soul. Tiny ripples break the surface and cascade outward, sending a solemn vibration to the senses. The sound waves lure positive organisms to the air and repel all negativity, creating a submerged cocoon of safety.

If This Is a Man are giving new definition to the word slowcore. They learned from the masters like Low and Red House Painters and added shoegaze influences to send us down a swirling vortex of beautiful sound. Subtle echos and kaleidoscopic guitar manipulations flutter about the brain, breaking the emotional dams we have built for ourselves. The vocals are soothing and consolatory but at times they become obtrusive and too present. When this happens a barrier is put between the mind and the music and you do not get the full experience.

Random Acts of Kindness Have Saved Lives
. The title is very fitting. This album is a bandage for the broken heart, a blanket for a frozen body. Listen to this when your soul is ready to scream and give up and somewhere among the guitar strums and piano strikes you will find the strength to keep going.

Standout Track: Nostalgic
Rating: 4 stars

Review: Uitgezonderd – Stervend Stil Leven

Label: Webbed Hand
Catalog No: wh178

A simple piano can play beautifully amongst a dark backdrop. It can pierce through ominous drones and soothe your heart’s anguish. It provides an escape, an emergency exit out the back where you can leave the terrors of today’s world behind and find something much more expedient. Hope may seem superfluous these days but those of us who know better still cling to that raft in this tumultuous sea, waiting to see what lies beyond the next tidal wave.

Belgium’s Uitgezonderd has presented us with nine tracks of sublime melancholia meant to inspire each of us to find happiness. The title Stervend Stil Leven is Dutch for Die Quiet Life. As creatures of nature, we are more than just entities of built up carbon suffering from a series of chance events. Our purpose of existing is to make the world a wonderful haven for our chromosomal brothers and sisters. We were not put on this planet to own vast quantities of land or money. The concept of ownership does not exist in our hearts. Everything laid before us on this sphere of cooling rock is here for all to enjoy.

In order to make seismic changes in our current backwards societies, we need to lead more exciting lives. We must do more astonishing things so that we all can thrive and reap the benefits that nature has given to us. There is too much overindulgence by a select few and it is costing a hefty price. The modern thought of privilege is very skewed. Everyone alive today has been privileged with a chance to live. We need to utilize those privileges and live our lives to their fullest possible extent. Only then will our souls be satisfied.

Simple piano compositions are layered with basic rhythms. The mantra of less is more is fully demonstrated here. Uitgezonderd created a portal for our minds to regroup in order to understand why we suffer and how we can turn our quiet lives around and make the world smile with exalted delight.

Standout track: Rugosa
Rating: 5 stars

Review: Deaf Center – Owl Splinters

Label: Type
Catalog No: TYPE080

The musical journey of Deaf Center is very dark and beautiful. This intricate contrast is nothing new in the world of Ambient music, or Modern Classical for that matter. Not every artist has to do something new and radical in order to be good. What makes Deaf Center unique is the fine balance between Dark Ambient soundscapes that infiltrate your psyche with despair and breathtaking acoustic compositions.

When these two mix and sometimes switch places, swells from the ocean rise and rain down upon the lost souls on this puny sphere floating aimlessly in a blank void. Owl Splinters is a good expression of the variations found in this life. From a range of emotions and feelings, to vast spectrums of light and color, what we experience on this plane of existence is awe-inspiring. The most amazing thing is we have only explored the tip of the iceberg. There is still so much to encounter. The yin and yang of life come together in full force in this release.

Standout Track: The Day I Would Never Have
Rating: 4.5 stars

Review: Three Kinds of Water – Three Kinds of Water EP

Label: Trippin’ the Rift
Catalog No: N/A

This quaint EP is a wonderful revival of old school downtempo. Back in the day this was the ultimate chill music. It’s nice to know that this spirit continues to thrive and people can still find some amazing mood music.

This release is exquisite, a wonderful combination of aquatic beats, classic piano and sampling. The music transcends genres, incorporating every corner of the globe. It is a fantastic voyage guided by classic trip-hop style beats. The songs flow by forcing you to groove to them. The movements are inescapable. A whole club of dancers slows down to a relaxed speed, the rhythm in tune to flashes of time darting across your eyes. The end message the songs leave behind is to always feel good. Take life one beat at a time.

Standout track: Festival Spirit
Rating: 4.5 stars

Review: BGUDNA – Attended Only by Birds EP

Label: None
Catalog No: N/A

Iceland has always been known for forward-thinking music and BGUDNA is no exception. Hailing from the haven of fire and ice, BGUDNA (AKA Björgvin Guðnason) creates dreamy and harrowing soundscapes using only one tool – his piano. The 8 songs on this EP are not ordinary classical compositions. They exude much more raw emotions ranging from joy to sorrow. The atmosphere created is beautiful, confusing and savage. Guðnason has displayed a wonderful interpretation of the perplexing intricacies of life. He uses the piano to pour out all of his fears, insecurities and elations. The music produced is a misguided and unorganized outpouring of atmospheric tones. You get swept up by its chaos and travel the ups and downs and are left with a reflection of your own life. Attended Only by Birds is one of the most discouraging yet identifiable releases to have come out in a long while.

Standout track: With You There, Everyday
Rating: 4 stars