MAKARAS PEN: Makaras Pen (CD on Projekt)
This release from 2010 offers 51 minutes of shoegaze rock music.
Marakas Pen is: Emma Willis (on vocals), Doug White (from Tearwave) (on guitar), Dennis Caswell (on drums), Val Hill (on bass), and Jon Nemi (on guitar). They are joined on one track by Jeff Kandefer.
Willis' ethereal voice is the keynote lynchpin of this music. Her delicate crooning conveys an otherworldly cadence that is tremendously provocative and mesmerizing. Simultaneously silky and forceful, her vocals caress the ears with a resolute authority that is perfectly matched by the sparkling instrumentation surrounding it.
The guitar is crisp and sinuous, delivering fluid chords that slither through the mix with subtle puissance. Each note spills like a sparkling waterfall, drenching the listener with near-narcotic euphoria. Riffs cascade like expansive and inescapable waves. The notes seem to blur together once they hit the air, creating a shimmering effect that promises to last forever.
The bass is particularly compelling, establishing a subterranean growl that transcends conventional foundations with its cunning presence. This hidden rumble reaches into the audience's cellular structure, altering DNA with each thump.
The percussion is stalwart and enjoining. The beats often possess a fuzzy edge that is quite engaging. Urgent rhythms thunder away, yet are relegated to a vantage deep within the mix.
These compositions exhibit a remarkably contrasting dose of flash and darkness. Searing dazzles pierce a delectable gloom, banishing anxiety while allowing an attractive murkiness to linger. The lyrics explore a similar void, communicating sentiments trapped between loss and gain, languishing in a realm where regret is equidistant to pleasure.
MASK: Technopia (CD on Repertoire Records)
This release from 2009 offers 63 minutes of exotic rock music.
Mask is: Marvin Ayres (on cello, violin, viola, piano, keyboards, programming, and voice), Sonja Kristina (on vocals and guitar), Ben Weisner (on percussion, drums, and programming), Kirby Gregory (on guitar on three tracks), and Steve Byrd (on oud, acoustic guitar, balalaika, and bouzouki on one track).
Kristina's enchanted voice has an earthy, haunting quality that captivates and then delivers a maximum punch. Her voice is compelling but comfortable.
There's several people playing guitars here, and each one contributes a different sound to the music. The most predominant one growls with an edge of controlled feedback. The others express more conventional guitarsy resonance.
The percussion is sharp and snappy. Some e-perc carries a subtly vibrating touch to the beats.
Classical strings (violin, viola, and cello) bestow the music with an ethereal character that is bewitching.
A bevy of sinuous electronics provide a unifying medium. More conventional keyboards contribute sultry riffs that sweep through the mix with liquid properties. The use of straight piano in some tracks creates a moody cafe mood.
There's a very dreamy version of Bowie's "Sound and Vision." The song is alluringly transformed by female vocals.
The album's last track is a wonderfully uncanny piece with pristine texturals seasoned by Kristina's delicate voiceÉmade all the more tantalizing by its 9 minute duration.
These compositions are a curious blend of rock, techno, and classical, with a progressive flavor lurking at the periphery. The result is a glimpse at a conglomerate modern/antediluvian world as seen from a steel tower that looms to stratospheric heights. Kristina makes a memorable futuristic diva with Ayres perched at her side as a technological wizard.
VOID GENERATOR: Phantom Hell and Soar Angelic (CD on Phonosphera Records)
This release from 2010 offers 70 minutes of gritty space rock.
Void Generator is: Gianmarco Iantaffi (on guitar and vocals), Sonia Caporossi (on bass), Cristiano Lodi (on synth), Marco Ricci (on drums), and Bob the Rich (on accumulator).
Basically, this is hard-edged rock with a garage sensibility that has its eyes on outer space and other speculative subjects. The difference comes in the extreme length of the tracks. Where most bands would compress this music into 3-4 minutes, this band has pushed the envelope with 13-23 minute epics. This extension finds the band indulging in long passages that would be called solos if the other instruments weren't joining in. The result is surprisingly rewarding.
In the first track, the guitar snarls with a fierceness that takes a garage sound and flings it into the stratosphere. The chords are gritty and raucous. Straight-ahead notes are given a bestial growl and delivered in a grinding fashion. The drums pound out steadfast rhythms with a tight determination. The bass provides guttural undercurrent of rumble. The electronics posses a squealing demeanor in which certain chords are maintained for extreme durations, establishing wavering stretches of teeth-grinding drones. The vocals are harsh, delivered in a rather traditional mode.
In the next piece, the guitar is played with a lighter hand, delivering restrained riffs. Here, the bass is allowed to thump along unaccompanied for a while, creating a terse expectancy. The drums are more sedate, but the rhythms more complex. The vocals adopt a forlorn character, crooning from deep in the mix. The piece ends with a gentle keyboard passage.
An extended languid bassline ushers in the third track with liquid growling. Then things explode with aggressive guitar, hard drums, and arena rock vocals. A break ensues for a synthi solo that is almost spooky in its delicate definition. Then the grinding rock-out session returnsÉonly to be supplanted again by another eerie stretch, this time provided by nimble-fingered guitar. A feedback infiltrated electronic outburst finishes things up.
The last piece is the longest. It begins with a barely-audible stretch of faint notes--only to erupt with grinding guitar and scrambling electronics and hesitant percussion. This goes on for quite a while, achieving quite ecstatic guitar pinnacles. Vocals eventually emerge but never really manage to overcome the miasmic intensity. It's a tender keyboard passage that ultimately succeeds in conquering the flow, eventually relinquishing the spotlight to the bass for a somber finale.
An interesting release that defies easy codification, but is sure to delight if you're looking for unconventional rock.
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