various artists (IDIL 2024)

Album Title: 
Unexplained Sounds IDIL 2024 Music Award
Release Date: 
Thursday, January 25, 2024
Review Type: 

Raffaele Pezzella, musician, master, label owner and so much more, came with the idea to have a kind of ‘contest’, an award in order to go even further with the promotion of the scene. This ‘election’ must be seen as a dedication to the underestimated worlds of sonic satisfaction, where / when ‘darkness’ and ‘innovation’ meet. Ambient, Experimental, Electroacoustic, Drone; within these genres, and all related scenes, do float so many excellent artists; so, why not having a kind of ‘battle’, eventually giving them the opportunity to have their fame been ‘grown’ towards bigger proportions.

Projects could submiss a track, though under certain conditions: it must be new, created especially for this contest, and it must not last longer than eight minutes. Twenty-six international acts eventually collaborated. Raffaele sort of choose a selection of amateurs / connoisseurs of the genre(s) as ‘jury’, coming from different angles and different countries (to avoid narrow-minded chauvinism), who ultimately made their personal (objective / subjective) score. Anyway, the winners were blessed with different prizes, going from a modest financial injection over full specials in the (famous) Eighth Tower Magazine (also curated by Mister Pezzella). Yet more important: all of them would make it to the promotional compilation as well; and that’s exactly what this review will deal with: In Darkness Is Light!

I think all of them deserve(d) to win, yet then again I did (and I still do) have some amongst them that I prefer above others; I’m only human after all (really, I am). The eventual score is a correct one (i.e. that we were a diverse group of jury-members), even-though my personal favorite didn’t win (and now I do have to add a sad smiley???). No, it’s a kind of democratically created result, and therefor undeniably indisputable. But once more: all of them are winners! Some of them I did know, and which I did follow, for at least a while (and some have been reviewed too in the past); some others I was not that trusted with, and there are even some acts I just knew by name, or even not (yet). So, it was exciting for me as well to ‘dissect’ this selection…

The Unexplained Sounds IDIL 2024 Music Award compilation -I refer to this compilation- is a digital-only collection (but who knows; there might be a physical edition too in the future???), including all twenty-six compositions from as many projects that contributed. I will give a description about all of them: about each artists (just a very small introduction; you will find out more about each of them in case of interest, won’t you) and (especially, because this review deals with a collection of Aural Art efforts) about his / her (previously unreleased) track that was created solely for this competition, brief yet concise. Just remember that the support and promotion are the core of IDIL. For this review, I will describe them in descending order, based on the ranking, as they do appear on the digital compilation (which is not always complementary to my personal rating, for what it’s worth; as said before: praise to all!).

PS: the few fragments that are written in Italics-style (cursive) and at the same time written in between accents (like: ‘abc’) are taken from the bio or another source; so, these are actually stolen quotes, abstracted by undersigned, mercilessly deprived from the original author or so (gigantic laughing smiley included); to avoid prosecution, I’d rather mention this in advance, haha…

  • Richard Bégin, Mouvements Cycloniques Des Régions Temperées (06 :24): ‘The future is not what it used to be’… This Canadian musician is also professor / investigator in visual and aural matter(s), combining electronic instrumentation and field-recorded sources to explore ‘memory, loss and fragmentation’, as well as ‘disaster as a medium of perception’.

This specific piece finds inspiration in the idea of sheltering, or is it hiding, at huge shop centers, giving a false comfort, like a safe place for refuge and shelter. The permanently reappearing melodic base-line and the loops at the background are surely referring to that idea of outwardly intimacy. But there is a deeper, abyssal-like and hidden message beneath that surface. An almost sanctified and modest collection of layers at the background reveal much more than comfort and trust; somehow a certain element of disturbance floats around. In a mesmerizing sense – even emotional in nature – the interplay of different synth-lines and additional sound-sources works mesmerizing, even intoxicating.

  • Ignoto Militi, Il Nemico Sotto Di Noi (06:03): as the moniker (and the song-title) sort of defines, this Italian act focuses on the tragic period of the Great War (was it actually so ‘great’?), and all wars that divided, destroyed, desecrated, and deformed the European continent.

This reeks of a ‘martial’ introduction, yet that is exactly what Ignoto Militi stand for. This material seems to evaporate out of an ancient, mysterious dungeon, with vague waves of metallic origin at the background, guided by militant beat-patterns. At almost half of the piece, things turn more belligerent, with martial drum-patterns and ultimately obscure, burdensome keyboard-melodies. It is not about excitement; it’s all about the severe, grievous authority of the underlying concept. [[[PS: this was my Number One]]]

  • The Black Monolith, Creating The Door (07:41): this Greek act ‘is a conduit for the forces that lie beyond the veil of existence’. Cosmic energy and earthly existence dwell individually yet coherently though dimensions of Space and Time. This said…

Gloomy waves of sonoric disharmony, drenched in a post-apocalyptic nebula, somehow nuclear and therefor asphyxiating, overcast and obfuscate the last rays of light. This droning document of grim, pallid ambience, smoothly yet somehow violently penetrated by surreptitious beats and secretive drone-surges that escape from the void, eliminates every lasting inch of salubricity and salacity. …such uncanny, dusky piece-of-art…

[[[PS: this was my (partly-divided) Number Three]]]

  • Mombi Yuleman, Burning Down The Outpost (06:15): I guess this artists from North Carolina, U.S.A., does not need any introduction anymore. Active as Ambient musician for more than a decade and a half, he sort of created his own, characteristic sound.

His contribution once again shows a varied and adventurous approach, with a well-structured seemingly mishmash of spacy loops, ambient lines, mystic melodies, archaic drones, and distant percussions. It combines a psychedelic vision with a post-realistic view on transcendental mysticism, almost sacred in nature, strongly secretive in execution.

  • The Khronos Deathcult, BAT V.24 (05:24): this act once started as a solo-outfit, yet in the meantime it did turn into a duo. As a two-piece, both members involved (Venom O.D. and Larka) deepen the abyssal infinities with a typifying obscurity.

This monolithic piece surely bewitches, because of the combination of somewhat psychotropic-naturalistic effects at the one hand, and the doomy, repetitive, even semi-jazzy elements at the other. Repetitive loops, forest-like and flute-alike sounds, dim and eerie voices, astral propensities, both rhythmal and dysrhythmic beats; the result is as claustrophobic as it is capricious.

  • Hans Castrup, Plexyphoresis (07:53): this German human being is a multi-disciplinary artist, active in different artistic angles, as poet and lyricist, photographer, painter, designer, video-director, musician and so much more…

‘Plexyphoresis’ (not exactly written correctly) or ‘plasma pheresis (aka ‘PLEX’)’ is a medical terminology for extracorporeal treatment of blood-plasma (therapeutic manipulation of blood cells outside the body). Hans sort of ‘translates’ this procedure via aural manipulation to define the physical, the spiritual and the machinal existence in order to ‘experience the process of their own dimensions of perception’. A rumbling drone, an amount of confusing loops, reverberating waves of sound, metallic structures and a whole scala of field-recorded additions; this whole amalgam confuses, deludes, beguiles in a manifestly treacherous way. And the subtle trumpet addition (sampled from James Hill) adds an idea of hope; hope being a fine counterpart of / to despair, pain, or fear…

  • Virus2020, Insomnia (04:50): a solo-outfit from Rami Harrabi, a musician from Tunisian soil, who recently joined forces with the USG-family. His works are characterized by the use of traditional instruments from the Arab culture (Northern Africa and the Middle-East).

The spine of Insomnia is built around an acoustic string -monotonal in execution-, joined by oriental sounds (and then I do refer to the traditional instruments, like flutes and other string-laden material), field recordings and samples, exhaling an African-occidental breath. The main structure might seem quite monotone, yet the underlying texture exposes an intensity that trespasses any repetitive or soporific tune.

  • Philippe Neau, Daughter Of Suun (For Hortensia): Frenchman Philippe Neau too is a multi-disciplinary artist, working in both visual and aural artistry. Imagination is his trademark, with the ‘mental landscape’ as guideline.

Well, that psychic state-of-mind, surely gets ‘translated’ through the multiple sound-injections. Eerie synth-lines, eclectic samples, astral-like soundwaves, distant beats and voices, eldritch noises, glitching collages-of-sonority, and so on; it’s a surreal, abstract and psychoid execution, or expression, of mental-aural-psychic exploration, teasing the listeners’ fantasy and imagination.

  • JS-Horseman, The Setting Sun (07:56): full name: Jeremy Santiago Horseman; another creative brain, active in several artistic areas; nowadays especially involved as / with LumiPhon Studios (Pennsylvania). Oh yes, ‘what will tomorrow bring?

It starts quite chill and cold, with a repetitive, somewhat palpitating effect. Yet after a while, doomy drone-waves float inside, darkening the passages of minimal yet, at the very same time, copious undulations of synthetic phantasm. A mixture of glitching effects and ambiental drones results into some hallucinatory soundscape (PS: mind the last seconds, that semi-orchestral elegy of bombastic majesty).

  • Henrik Meierkord, Mörk (03:06): with the (beautiful) cello as main instrument, Swede Henrik Meierkord is able to put ‘pause, vacuum of time, the unconscious, consciousness, dream, meditation, a way of avoiding direct thoughts and reality’ as main themes into his classically-skilled Music.

Once again, this artist captivates by an overwhelming, emotional expression, brought by cello and keyboards alone. Many layers of synth-play, guided by a leading cello melody, created through sensitive, personal, intimate, transcendental states of mind, are the solid core of this extremely short yet absolutely beautiful aesthetic creation.

  • mōshonsensu, Darkness Entails (07:55): this is a project by UK-born Daryl Robinson, and the name is Japanese for ‘sense of motion’. The unknown, the unheard, the unexplored; these themes reflect through this artist’s sonic art.

For this contest, Daryl aka mōshonsensu wrote a bizarre story of the relation in between an elk and plankton (seriously!) to procreate an idea of the ‘light-at-the-end’ concept. At first, it might sound like a bizarre collection of psychotropic, psychedelic and kosmische elements; actually, I guess that’s a fitting description. Yet then again, it goes further, beyond these ‘limiting’ elements, for this piece explores possible realities that exceed the capacities of man’s brain. Anyway, it’s purest psychedelica with an Old School vibe, clothed in a modernistic costume.

  • Oubys, Synaptic Dream (07:45): hailing from Belgium, Oubys was born to produce ‘sounds that physically affect your synapses [] merging sequences with synaptic patterns’, and transporting its audience ‘to the furthest regions of the micro and the macrocosmos’.

This contribution is like a long-stretched, repetitive loop-drone, a repetitive wave that comes, growing convincingly, and fading away repetitively. The permanent yet subtle injection of astral-like effects and cosmic tunes at the one hand (including some sci-fi-like details), and quite darkened soundwaves at the other, works enormously intoxicating.

  • Insectarium, Ghosts Of War (07:56): the sympathetic Joel Hinkle offers us Ghosts Of War by his main outfit Insectarium, an incredibly productive outfit that is closely related to the permanently growing Slithering Black community.

The theme of ‘war’ is based on the events in both Ukraine (initially) and the Gaza area. Yet then again, Ghosts Of War will focus on the suffering of humans rather than the political (read: victorious and / or condemning opinions that dominate our newscasts, radio broadcasts, newspapers and social media. The ghosts of war, in this case, ‘are the pain and suffering which continues to future generations’). From aural point of view, this song brings a distorted and malformed, yet still melodious and atmospheric harmonious symphony, with hallucinatory synth-lines, ghostly glitches, archaic disturbances and mesmeric atmospheres. The militant drones towards the end fortify the essence of this track’s concept, i.e. the aforementioned (stupidity of) war.

[[[PS: this was my (partly-divided) Number Three]]]

  • Chelidon Frame, Rise Of The Sandworm (07:53): creating so called Asynchronous Drone Orchestral Music, Chelidon Frame is an extremely productive project from Milano, Italy (and the most active outfit by the guy behind it), playing with sounds and field recordings, and the manipulation of instruments and noises.

At first, long-stretched, somewhat manipulative and dreamy dronewaves seem to levitate along, eventually / actually quite rich in presence, for many different, yet coherent, layers somehow float in a captivating symbiosis, on and forth. After a while, a certain monotone sequence sort of levitates further, tranquil yet somehow impendent, evolving into a modestly-bountiful monument of mystic / mysterious dark-ambiental grotesquery.

[[[PS: this was my Number Two]]]

  • Kelados, Cold Waste (06:16): Matus Fabian aka Kelados hails from Slovakia. His project’s moniker comes from an ancient Greek definition for chaos noise or disastrous cacophonies, created by the devastating powers of nature, or by the intolerant sounds of battlefield-scenes. This project too is not a stranger anymore to the USG-community.

Despite the ‘chaotic’ content, Cold Waste is a tranquil, even esoteric piece, ultimately hypnotic and dreamy in nature. Cold undulations wave forth and back, minimalistically supported by eerie waves of Arctic origin. Cold Waste is a bleak piece for sure, especially, when focusing on the semi-lethargic tempo and the frigid execution (while still maintaining a certain heath for sure). Waving forth and back again, this track refers indeed to progression, chaos, and rebirth after all. …the darkest side of Ambient…

  • Rapoon, The Granualarisation Of Western Civilization (07:29): I was surprised to see Rapoon being part of this IDIL event (but hey, you won’t hear me complaining), for he might be a well-respected artist for more than four decades in the meantime. Many will surely recognize the name Rapoon, but Robin Storey, the guy behind this act, used to be part of the (legendary) :zoviet*france: line-up too.

This piece brings adventure, excitement, exploration and ebullience at the very same time. Industrial outbursts, droning ambience and psychoid noises get sort of mingled into one steady, yet manifestly frenzy, story-telling. Despite a certain repetitive base, the whole concept permanently revolves, grows, expands, turning old-styled elements into, or towards, a fair amount of mechanoid and, in a hidden sense, neo-folkloristic investigation.

  • Taphephobia, Let The Darkness In (04:33): one of the projects I was really looking forward to,  when listening to this collection of compositions for the first time (and the second, and the third, and…), is Norway-based solo-outfit Taphephobia, run by Ketil Søraker. This year, this act will celebrate its tenth anniversary, by the way.

Veiled in a gloomy haze, Let The Darkness In floats distantly towards an immense universe, where dream and abandonment seem to collide, and at the same time, seem to amalgamate too. Long-stretched string-waves, quite monotone yet ultimately rich in texture, carry this nebulous soundscape above imagination and illusion.

[[[PS: this was my (partly-divided) Number Three]]]

  • Les Antonymes, Au Ralenti (07:50): this very young Belgian project is an impro-based outlet by Antonin De Bemels. Their characteristics are: unpredictability and improvisation, for each performance differs from any former, when playing live. Yet the studio-efforts too are characterized by out-of-the-box-thinking and outsider-creativity.

This act’s contribution brings a gallimaufry of electroacoustics and effects, created by acoustic strings (violincello, viola etc.) and fx / groovebox, enriched by processed field recordings and frenzy percussion and drum (programming). The ‘song’ (haha, what a lapsus) defines sonic expansion, for it develops and dilates the permanently. New effects continuously join the dusty experience; initially starting with just some string-and-percussion play, extending to some overwhelming and overpowering interplay of organic yet electronified sounds.

  • Gina Lo, RDC (09:09): like the former artist, Gina Lo too uses improvisation and out-of-the-box performing as trademark within her enthusiastic creative process of development, going for both sound installations and live performances. The equilibrium in between the ‘human’ aspect and its opposites, as well as the contrast of nature versus abstraction, are main themes to define that highly experimental core.

First this: disqualified for the track’s length, haha… Her contribution has a modestly engulfing drone as spine; an electroacoustic soundwave that secretly intoxicates. It gets penetrated by spacy injections (with a cosmic-psychotropic derivation) and, more important, many sounds of natural origin, like tropical birds. That surely has to do with this artist’s youth. That combination is quite interesting, for the balance of earthly and artificial aspects go like hand-in-hand.

  • Jimmy Peggie, Crossing The Perilous Line (05:58): finding inspiration within the minimalism of sound frequencies, Jimmie Peggie is ‘an exploration of space, time and location’, knowing that ‘the universe in which we live is influenced by change, order and randomness’. It’s like unpredictable Transmission Music from American soil…

The track on this sampler is based, dixit the artist, by ‘The Dark Is The Source Of Light’, a book written by some Raquel Rabinovich (who was actually a painter) about the dark nature behind living flesh and dead objects, if I am not mistaken. In essence, Crossing The Perilous Line can be considered a minimalistic machine-driven dronework with a raw timbre and a weird yet effective hypnotic bias. It appears to be quite singular at first, yet deep inside, or behind, the whole package, lies a fruitful configuration of noise-laden additions.

  • Sokushinbutsu Project, RadaComense (08:01): this Italian duo, Massimo Mascheroni and Enrico Ponzoni, have named themselves after an ancient Buddhist ritual, elaborated in Japan, that focused on ascetism, deprivation and contemplation. This specific collaboration was started in 2020, and some live performances took place with a traditional butoh theater dance performance. And purely FYI: both members have recently been joined by a third colleague.

Anyway, this track turns out to be an extremely bizarre soundplay, industrialized and arhythmic in essence, mind-twisting and even claustrophobic as result. A repeating ‘melody’ forms the basement, though it comes and goes; and so are several mechanical, even pseudo-alchemical (whatever) sounds and noises. The whole works disturbing and discomfortable, yet somehow inceptive and pungent too, at the very same time. Towards the very end, thing unfold into harsher territories, carefully touching the border with the Noise-scene.

  • vÄâristymä, Hullunarkku (04:28): for more than three decades, this Finnish duo investigates through analogue experimentation, lacking synchronicity or structure. The two brothers (Janne Liimatainen and Jarko Hedenius) started with the malformation of computers as source for their sonic de(con)structions, step by step evolving into sections of experimental sonic exploration.

Created by analog synths, this eccentric piece is a mixture of spectral sound-effects, bleeps, loops, astral noises, digital manipulations and the likes. It sort of leads towards almost pixilated consequences and inevitable enslavement. Somehow it works, yet it’s an abstract and hard-to-digest pass-through for sure.

  • [owt kri], Encephala (07:24): like the former project, this one too comes from Helsinki, capital of the Land of a Thousand Lakes, yet it’s not a duo but a solo-outfit by Kenneth Kovasin. Throughout almost two decades ([owt kri] was formed in 2005 or so, even-though it took a long time before the first album was released), this act gained a well-deserved underground-status. Once again, the balance of flesh and mind have been a permanent subject within the sonic expression that defines this material.

Somehow a mind-twister, yet Encephala exhales an oppressive, even suffocative, air that enraptures in an almost masochistic way. The whole gets covered in a mostly obscure, haunting, ghastly atmosphere, captivating and grim at the very same time. This piece of Horror Ambient mesmerizes because of the gloomy soundwaves and the continuous input of many dreadful additions. Don’t forget to breathe while listening to this elegy…

  • idtf, Flow (07:59): this project by Iranian artist Behnoud joined the contest at the very end of the submission period, yet I was glad, for I can appreciate several contributions from this specific act (Behnoud has other going on, such as Thecimal or Force Ignore) on different compilations.

At first, Flow stands for desolation, abandonment, isolationism and doom, for this tracks offers a purest atmosphere of despair. There’s so much emotion, initially created by many layers of monotonous yet profuse and enigmatic synth-artistry. It is a demonstration for the ease of being able to be fair and somber at the very same time. Towards the end, as from 2/3rd from this mysterious work, things suddenly change, evolving into, or better: towards, a mostly energetic majesty. It’s a huge contrast with the intimate first part of Flow, yet it works amazingly organic and coherent. That last chapter comes with dynamic and multiple keyboard-lines and vigorous drum-patterns, turning the whole into heroic, victorious proportions.

  • Loo(p)cy, Primitive Sonic Point (03:44): apparently, this young Italia-born lady once started as singer and guitarist within the Blues and Rock scene. She came into Electronic Music only six years ago, but her past experiences do enrich her creativity within this specific project.

Her exhibit is based, essentially, on several majestic and sophisticated layers of guitar-based drones (or droning guitars, if you want to). The multiple six-string coatings cause hypnosis and awe, mystery and even seizure. In a captious, even preternatural way, basses, synths and other subtle sound-effects are created to support this mysterious and mesmeric effort.

  • Mahakit Mahaniranon, Machine Of Destruction (05:24): probably the most outsider-thinking artist out of these twenty-six acts must be Mahakit Mahaniranon, hailing from Thailand. His multi-faced approach is not that easy to digest, but his improvisational creativity trespass all borders of normality. He is not bound onto one specific style or another, and is not afraid to add traditional Thai elements into his weird mixture of digital manipulation and cacophonous non-music.

This sonic machinery consists of frenzy beats and semi-raped cymbals, 8-bit like additions, funky and jazzy elements, details from Psybient, Krautrock, Psychedelica and Space Music, frenzy game-loops, and noisy improvisations whatsoever. It sounds insane and phrenetic, but somehow sagacious too.

…looking forward being part of the next challenge once again… Respect to the organization (all together: ‘thank you, Raffaele !!!’) and all collaborators (I mean, the projects involved, the fellow jury-members, and everyone who gave / gives this event any additional injection of endorsement whatsoever)…

Support those acts, support the label(s), support the scene!