Reviews

AGIM: Interview 2017

Read it at the: Australian Gothic Industrial Music website


Alternate Parallel Reality: Minorarc CD Review – 2010

Background: Sean Cooper has a very diverse musical background and has spent many years producing, supporting, reviewing and releasing music. From the long-ago days of major Australian band Tainted Violets, through to operating the independent label Zeitgeist Records, and his current project Alternate Parallel Reality, he is well known amongst the underground music community for his honesty, analysis and ability to write… long, in-depth and powerful rants about music, the industry, and above all his love of the sonic artform. We thank Sean deeply for taking the time to review the first Minorarc album, and thank him for his eternal support of so many musicians choosing to self-release over the years.

Review: Sometimes an artist just has to look at their body of work and ask themselves if they’re using the best tools for the job, in terms of expressing their message. Sometimes that means a radical and extreme reinvention. Like Rimbaud, who left behind a prestigious and respected career as the most talented and promising poet of his day to become a pirate and gun runner (“this is my poetry now!”), Ivan Bullock has shed his skin and assumed an extreme new form. He decided he’d taken his former project Mystral Tide, known for it’s lush grandiose Gothic introspection, and assumed the identity of Minorarc… which is darker and considerably more menacing. The beauty has become the beast.

That’s not to say that Ivan’s turned his back on what he does best. You’ll still hear the expansive piano, the ethereal pads, syncopated percussion and elegant use of fade-in and fade-out. Tracks are still gothic in tone, operatic in structure and monumental in scope.

It’s mostly the attitude that’s changed. Where Mystral Tide lamented the human condition, Minorarc willingly embraces it. Where Mystral Tide was an archeological project, looking back and deeper for meaning, Minorarc braces itself and casts it’s hungry gaze to the future. Where Mystral Tide stared into the abyss, Minorarc jumps right in…

And what we end up with is an ambitious and impressive debut album that’s one of the deepest and most interesting I’ve heard all year. Featuring by Ben from Cassandra’s Myth and Brett from Sarcophony, we have a long-player that ranges from the classically ambient to the menacingly metallic – with touches of futuristic electronica and even the occasional hint of rap – though we’re not talking about anything gangsta…. recall the kind of vocals Love And Rockets employed on ”**** (Jungle Law)” or the vocal styles of some early Sister Machine gun tracks, and you’ll get the picture. Trust me, it fits perfectly.

To this Mystral Tide fan, it feels more like a natural progression than a complete makeover. When I first heard preview snippets of the new material, I thought about the difference between Carl Mcoy’s Fields Of The Nephilim and his much-harder Nefilim line-up. In fact, I thought a lot of the guitars, bass and vocals recalled and reflected this sound (though Mystral/Minorarc has a very different aesthetic, philosophy and dimensions given by pianos and classical influences that mark out Ivan’s work as unique). I know the last few discs have been mostly ambient, but if you’ve seen Ivan crank up the amplifier and jam along to Strapping Young Lad, you’ll know that the gothic ambience and atmospheres conceal a heart of metal.

Truthfully, and Ivan might not like me for saying this, I feel that the Minorarc album is everything I wanted the last two MT albums to be, and more. Mystral Tide releases are consistently good and I would recommend anyone with good taste in music to get themselves at least one or two in their CD collection… but while I feel that each release was improving, they weren’t evolving like I wanted them to. I yearned for the daring next step, the next chapter, the new insights and newer techniques. I didn’t want MT doing the same thing only better – I wanted signifiers of growth. I wanted a brave new vision. With Minorarc, I got my wish, with interest.

I won’t do a track-by-track review, because I loathe that reviewing style (which never fails to ruin the album for me, and reminds of people who evaluate a movie for you by telling you everything that happens in it. Not only do you get their second-hand surface-level insight, but they’ve also managed to rob you of the discovery and the secrets). What I’ll tell you is that we have an extremely ambitious and daring debut album that stands alone stylistically with all the gothic grandiosity you’ve loved before, but effortlessly fuses a harder edge (both attitudinally and sonically) and futuristic electronics to come up with a listening experience that you’d expect from darkwave legends at the peaks of their careers.

It’s sounds great too. It’s polished, with all the production skills Ivan’s refined over the years. It’s quite an accomplishment to make a new musical identity and give it both cred and a unique voice while still making it sound like an experienced established act that’s well and truly found it’s voice and mastered it’s craft. Minorarc is an embodiment of this principle, though.

Even though I’m reminded of classic recordings by Nefilim, Sex Gang Children, Velvet Acid Christ, nobody sounds quite like Minorarc. Nobody’s doing what Ivan and his cohorts are doing here. And somehow this brave new voice has produced a debut album that sounds like the peak of a career. I don’t think I’m being hyperbolic in the least when I say that the Minorarc album is a future classic that all goth, darkwave and industrial fans will want to have in their CD collections.

Did I mention that it comes with remixes that rock? I’m not just saying that because my own remix of In Prime is on there (and, IMHO, the best remix work I’ve ever done), but extremely good mixes from Milkrun and Nigel Moore appear to make this a very worthy release indeed.

If I sound like I’m excited by this album, you’d be very right. One of my favourite artists (and good friend) has made something that’s impressed the hell out of me. And considering the high expectations I’ve learned to have for his work, that’s quite something. I’m spending a lot of time listening to the Minorarc album, and I think you should too.


New Empire Online: Whirlpool of Souls CD Review – 2002

An album made in Australia, recorded with minimal equipment in Tokyo featuring danceable EBM and almost classic, melancholic arrangements done with piano and guitarsounds is something special I’d say and so it is my task to bring this unknown “Dark Wave & EBM” act from Tokyo to the light. The musician is not Japanese – Ivan Bullock doesn’t even sound like it. A very intensive track is “Sinner” with the hectic piano and the soundtrack-like, epic synthy-layers. Only a very soft rhythm in the background makes up a fragile skeleton for the oppressing, powerful music.

Followed by the breathtaking Isolation. It’s a sad fact that the production of the album is a little bit too silent, because especially this track lives of the driving beat. Almost Jungle-like technoid beats combined with an enormous bombastic sound of synthetic strings and again a piano. The dark speech-sample is a perfect addition and makes the whole track really a killer.

A very wild and loud track is called “Perseverant”. Bombastic sounds like choirs and the pressure of a galloping beat combined with samples of horses and only whispered voices make it my favourite on the album.

A silent, melancholic track is “Creation” with some rattling and whiling sounds, string-arrangements and a sadly dripping piano.

Finally the album holds two rare and unreleased tracks (well, I guess if you consider the level of reputation of this project, all tracks are rare) as add-on. The whole music appears instrumental. No disturbing vocals here. If there are vocals in the tracks they are hidden between the sound. Like distant whispers, used like an additional instrument and not to shout some meaning into the world.

Wow, this album is good! It is really a joy to listen to the complex, atmospheric and catchy sounds of Mystral Tide. How the different real instruments are mixed with the electronic part of the music is unique and the whole sound appears homogenous and perfectly balanced. The sound is warm, dark, almost “European” and maybe you can find the influences of a megapolis like Tokyo in the technologically interpreted melancholy of the music.

A sad, brilliant masterpiece. And don’t wonder: the CD has 16 tracks but there are only 15 songs. Track 14 is 29 seconds of silence so it doesn’t count. Coolness: 10/10 Rating: 5/6


Goth Nation: Whirlpool of Souls CD Review – May 2003

This is a very interesting disc from Canberra’s (previously, Tokyo’s) Mystral Tide, a band featured on the “Dissonant Structures” DCD compilation of last year. This disc might be a year old (at the time of writing) but is well worth tracking down.

The CD is largely instrumental and each track is unique with a common thread running throughout. What little vocals exist are unusually low in the mix, and are distorted and delayed, sounding very similar to the vocal treatments used sometimes by Velvet Acid Christ. Musically, most tracks seem to be based around a simple but repetitive monolithic bass sound with classically influenced piano forming a central feature. This is the main element which differentiates between this CD and a lot of EBM because while it is grounded in EBM, the piano gives the music a dramatic, orchestral feel.

The best track on the album is “Force”, starting off with a creepy synth line before a dense bass is lowered into the mix. There doesn’t seem to be any percussion whatsoever in this track, which kind of reminds me of the theme music for the “Halloween” films. Listen to this track in a darkened room. This CD is definitely worth hearing.


The Drum Media: Whirlpool of Souls CD Review – May 2003

There’s something intrinsically dramatic & dark about this long player from ex-Tokyo producer Ivan Bullock, now facing a significantly lower skyline in hometown Canberra. Released without a great deal of fuss sometime ago on domestic label Zeitgeist, it’s available afresh, supported by his ability to do live shows locally.

There are elements of trance, industrial, ambient & even gothic amongst the surging grandeur of the string soaked, piano riveted, melodically anthemic electronics. Describing this first album journey as taking an “industrial/classical” route, Bullock also advises that in the year or so since it’s initial release overseas, the Mystral Tide sound has shifted as it scans the horizon for its future.

It’s this ‘Medieval facing the technology future’ image which illustrates so well the stirring chordal shifts & mythically tenebrous mood that spans the 15 tracks herein, where shadowy, dialogue invaded intros allow lurking electronics to eventually swell & charge from the misty backdrops. As a listener it’s quite easy to concoct widescreen darkworld fantasies unfolding to the synthesised & orchestrated rhapsodies.


21st Century Goth: Project Review by Mick Mercer in – 2002

Ambient and medieval inspired Gothic/Darkwave/Industrial solo project based in Japan. Nice site in English, with Japanese and German versions planned. Bleak imagery really doesn’t work on cheery approaches, which leaves the bio/news a touch neutered. Ivan Bullock’s solo Darkwave rumblings will impress.


Metropolis Tokyo Magazine: – February 2002

The latest entrant to Tokyo’s growing ranks of one-man production units working in tiny, six-tatami-mat recording studios is Mystral Tide, aka Australian expat Ivan Bullock.

A Tokyo resident of three years, Bullock seems to have spent most of his time at home with his keyboards, effects and mixers, if his debut album is anything to go by. A decidedly moody work influenced by industrial-oriented dance music, Whirlpool of Souls is a carefully constructed album that shows the results of Bullock’s years of classical study of the violin and piano.

The album kicks off with the ambient atmospherics of “Abandoned,” before continuing through 13 dark yet danceable tracks with names like “Sinner” and “Creation” that indicate the artists spiritual concerns.


Windows 100% Tokyo Magazine – MP3 Feature 2001

The MP3 of “Altercated” track “Forged”, was requested and included on the CD-ROM accompanying this issue of Japanese PC and technology magazine, Windows 100%.