Music Reviews

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

Artist: Mark Tamea

artist website: www.tamea.org

artist website: www.virb.com/marktamea

Mark Tamea is an English composer living and working in The Netherlands. To quote Mark's own website, he is ... "active primarily with electro acoustics and field recordings, his recent output exploits atmosphere and juxtaposition to investigate what he imagines are the hidden parallels between the discernible and the esoteric..." He cites as influences Joseph Beuys, Marcel DuChamp and Marc Rothko", all artists who challenged boundaries. Tamea, strives and succeeds in this objective, and each successive release builds upon the last. His work, sound sculpture (music is rather a limiting descriptor that I have to use for convenience for reviews) achieves a rare success, the messa alta, the high plateaux, that this reviewer can say with absolute confidence is fine art.

Album review: Metonymy, 25 January 2010

Distribution: http://store.atmoworks.com/

Metonymy at www.tamea.org

A work of millenial eclecticism this piece. A bejeweled crown; coat of many colours; a patchwork quilt.

Jean Luc Godard said a film should have a beginning, a middle and an end - but not necessarily in that order". So we have a parallel with Metonymy. Sliced and diced, then assembled, as would a blind man a jigsaw puzzle - but as with the sensibility of the blind, all assembled to a different set of rules, as Jorge Louis Borges said "poets, like the blind, can see in the dark". So to Mark Tamea - how does he know his Burroughsian cut up will hold together as a creative entity. Mark has labored for a year on this epic work, driving himself hard, stepping back examining, discarding, retaining, edging forwards to a conclusion in part pushed by him, but in part pulled along by the emerging work. Listening to this work is a similar process of inertia - once the sonic space starts to evolve, and the listener can interpret the delicate syntax, the process of anticipation pulls it along, keeps it moving. Another analogy - an Alexander Calder mobile. A branching system of freely rotating counterbalances, each independent of the next, yet maintaining an internal equilibrium. The musical equivalent to this balancing act, this pivot point is key, a far subtler concept than mere scale - and here we have a textural, timbral representation of that concept. Each building block is in perfect poise with it's neighbour, positioning and repositioning the balance as the sonic weight shifts.

If there is a comparison - and the work of the critic is to deconstruct and find the work's position in the musical taxonomy, then it is PTV's seminal "Dreams Less Sweet". Found sounds, snippets of achingly beautiful classical music, edgy juxtapositions. All are found here, and in a far richer weave than DLS. Tamea's production values, his signature, as defined as that of a Renaissance sculptor make this a work of crafted precision. Cold, isolating, without sentimentality, all qualities shared with Bach. Two intellectual's works to ponder and wonder at.

Album review: Tessellation, 17 September 2008

Distribution: http://store.atmoworks.com/

Distribution: http://www.hypnos.com/

Overview: Another reviewer has beaten me to the line in declaring this album as Modern Classical, and I would agree wholeheartedly with that assertion. It would play in any art space and would support performance. There is the air and space, the drama and the fluidity that translate to human movement. I feel there is a career for Tamea in this segment of the world of music.

The call and response of the sonic elements defines the maturity of this work. While there is no rhythm in the literal four on the floor sense, there is a pulse that transports the dialogue from beginning to end.

This album achieves a rare success - it is interesting and it is challenging. It has the mystery of the Mona Lisa smile. It moulds itself around the mood of the listener transporting that experience to a more vivid place. A catalyst of the soul. The snippets of classical instrumentation are pinpricks of light glimpsed through a felt curtain. The Rothko analogy is there waiting for the listener to recognise.

Also evident is the Tessallation metaphor, subtle and cliché-free. The work is a geometric patchwork of sonic components, each in balance with it's neighbour. There is a sonic tension that has the senses primed in expectation. Music is a contract of rules and conventions. And in any work of semi-abstraction, the listener's reception is primed to receive the information bound by those rules. Here, the rules are obeyed, but pushed up to the limit, challenging the listener to fill in the gaps and make something, the sum of the parts greater than the whole, a gestalt, in the same way detailed scrutiny of a painting by DeKooning pulls shapes out of a tangle of brush-stoke expressions. That is what I like about this work; it's success, an expression of poise and balance.

Tamea, a designer by profession has crafted a remarkable cover for this work, in the limited edition of the CD - an origami lotus-flower that opens to present the disk. The artwork, an ambiguous photograph that splashes light against a dark background in the Old Testament apocalyptic manner supports the music appositely, marking a stage in the path from hand to eye to ear that is the act of playing the music.

Landschaft unreservedly recommends this release.

Album review: Buried Traktora, 21 September 2007

Overview: Another highly acomplished work from the world of Mark Tamea - a bodacious Tetsuo of an album; intelligent, stark electronica with overlayers of field and found recordings. This is a challenging listen - and that I mean in the positive sense - 5 listens in and you are able to grapple with it in the full sense. The meanings I derived from the experience are my own and like all good art, will of course be different for each listener. For me this album represents a journey through a space populated by clockwork machines, insects made of metal, ethereal comminicating entities. Concept album it is not I hasten to add, but rather, a journey through a landscape. This album achieves a rare success - extremity with meaning. This stream of conciousness review flowed straight from the Landschaft pen - here it is warts and all!

1. Switched and 2. Behind Orderly digits: Are one piece - Tamea's familiar diptych firmat - one piece eveloving into the second. A-rhythmic abstractions progress into form and a haunting viola floats into the dreamscape; exits stage left. This other-place technique is one the Landschaft approves of - walking through an Italian Gormenghast of a walled city, one hears music practice through an open window drifting by on the wind.

3. Odium: Mash up buffer override and found sounds ground the listener to earth. Rain washes a concrete metropolis, machine swarms enter dialogue. A simple sequence transitions in, in juxtaposition to the harshness technopolis of a backdrop, this simple theme is made the more poignant fading to close.

4. Legolum (AEF mix): A brooding insect conversation in a purple sunset from a novel by Brian Aldiss. Metalic chatter across a marsh-scape by Tanguy. A booming auto-bittern joins the dialogue. Or a conversation between satelites.

5. What we know. Triplicate: Emerging from the metal, a birdsong field recording and esoteric percussion - gongs, triangles move the mood into a more organic space; a rainforst before the nano-machine grey goo arrives and the night of the machines closes in.

6. Bardo Proviso for CP: Take Kraftwerk's Radio activity - and shred - do a William Burroughs cut up. Chuck the lot into a primaeval soup and give it a good stir. Add a shake of subterranea before the auto-insects swarm in. Is it coincidence this is track 6 - there being six Bardo states, intermediates states between birth and rebirth; a spiritual fork in the road where karmic influences can send you up or down the path to regeneration??????????

7. Witch become child: Check in at the intercontinental lounge. An ear placed to a wall listening to the footfalls from the underpass, danger lurks in the shadows. A Neil Gaiman other world existing beneith the surface beckons the unwary, hypnotised by a chamber ensemble drifting across the ether; a siren call pulling the victim into the funnel-web. Or realisation that engages one's being in resonance with insight: epiphany. Or beware of false prophets.

8. Legolium (EQ RA mix): Journey's end. Clockwork machines hold dialogue in the sump of a someplace Victorian pump works. The last gasp, buried in the mud and grease of ages. A Neo-Gothic resonance from a locked away cellar.

Album review: Energy Does Matter, 25 September 2007

Overview: As a collection, all of the pieces are in the right order: build, plateaux, breakdown. Energy Does Matter is a holistic work. Some of the pieces build tension, some loosen you up. Produced initially in 1999, it is still a potent, relevant work and benefits from a recent re-master (we all get better over the years at compression/limiting and relative volumes). What I like about this album is there are no musical cliches. None: a cheese free listening experience. Placing the album I would call this a dance-influenced electronica or left-field techno. I am a VERY picky critic and know what's good and what's not - this is good!

1. Caapi and 2. Lutea Pixeluna: Starts off with some nice radio noise and a gutsy swoopy bass, taking us into a held note, building suspense, then seamlessly into a big melodic tension build-up and on to a closely sequenced metalic percussion. Transitions, working down into bubbling a-tonal fade out. Caapi and Lutea Pixeluna are essentially one piece in two parts and work very well as an intro to the album. A complex interesting and acomplished trope whetting our appetite for the goodies to come.

3. Muricata: A separate entity from the preceding. Lots of stereo ping pong. Synth work reminding me of Travelogue-era Human League, (when HL were respected cutting edge innovators). The melody transitions work very well here - some big chunky analogue bass in the background underpins this mature considered piece. Ends with some complex electronic noodling metalic stuff. Takes the adrenaline count a notch up.

4. Bugliner and 5. Arcman Out: The highpoint in this suite. A big chug a lug dark acid-house workout. A simple evolving drum pattern and a VERY infectious 303 bassline that grabs you by the throat. The builds in this piece really hit the spot. I'd love to hear this on a club sound system. If I win the lottery and get my basement disco - this is the first thing on the decks! A simple dark tune underpins all of the energy bursting out of this masterpiece. A nice morse code tune kicks in around the 4 minute point and some swooshy stuff keeps the interest and the tension building right to the end. That 303 keeps on piling it on right to the end with the drops and builds comprising simple riffs and repitition. A brave breakdown about the 6 minute point introduces a new pace - and we know that 303 is going to kick in soon and the anticipation builds. This review typed in real time, head nodding, foot tapping...7:34 and waiting. chugga chugga, chugga - BLAM into Arcman Out - FASTER ~~~ a 303 driven flat out steam locomotive. Truly wonderful drum patterns weave in and out of the basseline and a big build takes this one to the limit. Decomposes nicely down to conclusion. I'm a greedy fellow and would have liked this pair to have been 30 mins long.

6. Styloptera: A bit of a Yellow Magic Orchestra / Human League soundclash. A good compliment to the manifestly up-beat Bugliner/Arcman dyptich. Some complex stuff going on here from this very acomplished musician. Mark effortlessly breaks the pace back down - takes us smoothly back to the ground floor and deposites us gently on the pavement ready for the next percussive ride .

7. Indent Seas: Looser in structure - early Detroit techno in it's feel, the 909 snare and hi-hat combo boshes along at a merry lick, with some simple melody sketch over the beats. Sparse and effective.

8. Eternal | Bits: 808 rimshots rat a tat tat under this big chunky end-tro, nicely rounding the collection off. Listen hard and there is a hint of Autobahn white noise electro-percussion tapping along under the beats.