SOVA STROJ - Nebula/Nox / Stills

Sova Stroj - Nebula/Nox

3 songs
39:56 minutes
/

Sova Stroj - Stills

5 songs
21:18 minutes
/
Testtoon

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In early 2016, Michel Flammant released his first solo album Silent Earth under the name Sova Stroj. His musical development saw him starting out in a garage rock band (John McAsskill) to ever more minimalist acts, first Minipli and then Plankton Waves. Sova Stroj is thus the culmination of stripped down music, with only analogue synthesizers creating moods and sounds. Last yearís Refugium continued in the vein of its predecessor, and now Michel is back with the last part of the trilogy. Nebula/Nox, unlike the previous two albums, is not released on vinyl, but on cassette tape and of course as a digital download. But that is not the only thing that distinguishes it.

In fact, Nebula/Nox is even more minimalist than anything the artist did before. The A-side consists of the two ten-minute tracks Mare Tranquillitatis and Penumbra, both actually just ongoing drones with microvariations at the low and higher notes. The two drones happen at different registers, but apart from that, they are just that: ten minutes of blissful monotony, best enjoyed in a dark room or even better, in a sensory deprivation tank. The B-side contains the twenty-minute track Terra Incognita, and while definitely more is happening here, it is still partly a very unusual piece of music. Its first half consists of wind chimes that sound like they got a lot of reverb and echo effects, to give you the impression as if you were walking through a magic fairy tale forest. About halfway into the piece, strange noises like thunder from far away is finding its way inside, just to be joined soon after by a slowly meandering dark synth line and a slow, throbbing rhythm, with an undulating melody above it all, making it all sound like the excellent stuff Tangerine Dream did in the early Seventies (Zeit, Atem, Phaedra).

I donít really feel like giving a rating because only the last eight minutes of the album are actual music, with the remaining sounds probably working better in a therapeutic context, but like always, it is an interesting listening experience, although I hope that Sova Stroj will continue in that subtle dark ambient way.

If thatís not enough Sova Stroj for you, you can also grab Stills, a five track collaborative EP with Michaela Knizova. What he have here are five shorter tracks based on improvisations where the artists set themselves a mood and later cut it down to its barest essentials. The opener The Heart Of Birds is on the one hand a timid pseudo-melody overpowered by bird-like synthetic tweeps and blips, maybe too many high notes for my ears. Bodies In Orbit is a very gloomy track full of slow pulsating basses, sounding more like a slowed down pulsar than actual orbit motions. From Dust juxtaposes two jarring notes that really donít work well together, thus creating a strange sound effect that sounds like a soundtrack for an experimental Soviet science fiction movie. Breathing Flesh has more a metallic than an organic feeling. And finally we have the three minute short Alioth, a strange rhythmic mix of deep and higher notes, feeling like a march of demented robots, and also my favourite track on the EP.

I do prefer Nebula/Nox, as its longer track give you more space for contemplation, although the shorter Stills gives you interesting snapshots of the work between two demented artists. Friends of experimental sounds should dive in, while those more in need of generic pop and rock music should definitely steer clear of both of the cassette tapes.

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