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Experimental: Feu Follet & Miina Virtanen, Pedaltone, I Mute Hummings Collection, Bernhard Wagner

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FEU FOLLET & MIINA VIRTANEN: The Iclicle Lectures, Vol. 1 (CD on Ex Ovo)

This release from 2006 offers 42 minutes of piano music.

The first of this release's two tracks features Virtanen alone. Ambient flute provides an airy intro to her piano performance. The melody remains interesting as it gradually swells in density to an emotional culmination.

The second track is much longer at 34 minutes. While composed by both Virtanen and Tobias Fischer (aka Feu Follet), the performance belongs exclusively to Fischer. Again, piano is the primary instrument. The tune begins with classical hesitancy, building in complexity and density until an electronic fog seethes behind the emphatic piano notes. Eventually, that fog moves to immerse the piano and each coexist in sonic equality, lending a haunting eeriness to the tune. By the end, the textural cloud overwhelms the stage and consumes the mix with its crystalline pitch.

Both compositions are basically classical in nature, unburdened by any pretentious modernism or experimentation. The melodies are soft and tenuous, never resorting to overbearing crashes or false drama. Light and airy, this music displays an endearing quality.

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PEDALTONE: Pedaltone (CD on Burning Shed)

This release from 2005 offers 58 minutes of treated guitar music.

Pedaltone is: Michael Bearpark and Bernhard Wagner.

The instrumentation here is guitars, effects, and loops, which bestows this music with a lush otherworldly feeling. Tonalities are generated and tweaked, then cycled until the result is a lavishly elongated resonance that glistens and sparkles. This luster is then applied to melodic structure, creating a shimmering ambience charged with a subtle vitality. These drones spill out in overlapping manner, blending into a gaseous environment of engaging pulsations which pursue a dreamlike harmonic presence.

There are numerous instances in which the output adopts a harsher sensibility, but the result remains understated and gentle. Mutated guitar notes become superimposed on each other in a fashion that generates a liquid flow of eerie sounds. This golden morass is embellished by traditional guitar sounds which surface, squeal, then submerge again, leaving the soundscape somehow denser in their wake.

At no time is this mixture of conventional guitar chords and drastically mutated sounds forced or awkward. The fusion is perfectly crafted so as to create a unique sonic medium. Twinkling notes coexist with pensive drones, each state thriving and enhancing the other.

There are even passages wherein the chords exhibit an almost rock quality, but this hazy familiarity is suitably laminated by a novel fuzziness that is alluringly attractive.

The compositions are generally ambient in nature, flowing harmonic structure punctuated by muted sounds that would be jarring in any other instance. This music possesses a charming density that will defy meditation while inducing introspection.

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VARIOUS ARTISTS: I, Mute Hummings (CD on Ex Ovo)

This release from 2006 offers 76 minutes of atmospheric drones.

Featured on this disc are tracks by:

Keith Berry: An interstellar medium is evoked with ethereal tonalities punctuated by environmental samples.

Fear Falls Burning: Guitar and subsequent treatments generate haunting textures tinged with uneasy expectation.

Droaement: Abstract collage of crackling sounds amidst a temperate drone.

Troum: Eerie ambience seething with deadly portents.

Jeffrey Roden: Experimentation with a solo bass and a host of effects produces organic tension.

Paul Bradley: A cascade of drones provides an excursion beyond introspection.

Steve Jolliffe: An intro of dreamy flute strains leads to a stretch of stark electronics.

Column One: Machinery grates and squeals, achieving a high annoyance quotient.

Richard Lainhart: Melodic electronics build to an intense crescendo.

Overall, a strange mixture of noise and drama that ends up being rather satisfying in the striking contrasts presented.

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BERNHARD WAGNER: The Fourth Night (CD on Suisa)

This release from 2005 offers 48 minutes of ambient guitar music.

In his contribution to Pedaltone (see above review), Wagner's music is abstract and instrumental. On this solo release, his guitarwork is more pronounced and recognizable a guitar, resulting in quite a different sonic excursion.

Ethereal tones drift on highblown winds. Meanwhile, more traditional guitar performances punctuate this textural foundation with vibrating chords that slide into shimmering sustains of astral character. The contrast and mixture of lazy guitar riffs and misty tonalities produces tuneage of a highly mesmerizing nature. These aspects coexist with ease, embellishing each other with gentle waves as chords melt into textures that hang like a moisture-heavy fog.

Melodic in character, this music remains pleasantly sedate despite the presence of some piercing moments. The compositions pursue a somnambulant quality, fostering a relaxation tinged with subliminal vibrancy.

Dreamy vocals evoke a twilight sensibility in one track. The almost whispered lyrics waft with airy demeanor amid the pulsating effects.

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