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15 Levels Of Magnification , 7/10
Small Fish With Spine , 6/10
Mr Brubaker's Strawberry Alarm Clock , 6.5/10
La Prochaine Fois , 7/10

Englishwoman Riz Maslen is one of the few female electronic dance musicians in the post-techno era. She began recording under the moniker Small Fish With Spine, whose two EPs were collected on Ultimate Sushi (Oxygen Music Works, 1996) and then followed by the full-length Small Fish With Spine (R&S, 1997).

Maslen then switched to Neotropic for 15 Levels Of Magnification (Ntone, 1996), that introduced her dreamy, deconstructed version of trip-hop and drum'n'bass (La Centinela).

An even subtler psychedelic blend of jazz and hip hop, Neotropic's follow-up, Mr Brubaker's Strawberry Alarm Clock (Ntone, 1998), opted for more tension and less structure. The eleven-minute fantasia Mr Brubaker's Strawberry Alarm Clock opens with musique concrete and then indulged in a mixture of skipping polyrhythms and psychedelic vocals. You're Grinding Me Down is a similar beast, a locomotive of rhythm that encompasses avantgarde music as well as dance music. Several layers of android rhythms propel Improved Industrial Dwellings. The overall atmosphere is extra-terrestrial. One has the feeling of stability constantly on the verge of instability.
Many of Maslen's songs are still meditations on the music of the past. Ultra Freaky Orange is the cacophonous hip-hop-ization of a soul rave-up in the style of the 1960s. Vacetious Blooms is recasts 1960s' film music into a Caribbean sarabande. Apple Sauce reinvents a madrigal as an accessory to cascading tribal drums and dissonant piano notes. Saucer Song builds a symphonic sound out of stereotypes of sci-fi soundtracks.
Most of the album is tense and intense. The tempo of Under Violent Objects is more relaxed but the ambience is made more ominous by stark strings-like fluctuations and organic dissonances. Unfortunately, Maslen does not follow up on this haunting idea.

The album was to mark the end of a phase.

Her art had become pure abstraction and mostly collage on the mostly instrumental La Prochaine Fois (Ntone, 2001), where songs floated weightless in haunting soundscapes, gathering sounds as they go (found voices, ethereal vocals, jazz flutes, melancholy pianos, classical strings, shoegazing guitars). The Man Who Catches Clouds sounds like one of Anthony Braxton's minimalist improvisation played in a studio where are musicians are recording. The effect is often disorienting. Sunflower Girl sounds like Japanese folk music crossed with harmonica-driven country music. Rote is pure terror made of floating electronics and vocal fragments, but Micro-Cosmic is pure psychedelic trance.
But often the result is much simpler and gentler. The flute-based theme of Closer to the Sun) and the harp-based theme of Je Suis evoke atmospheric soundtrack music. She imitatas Brian Eno's ambient vignettes in Train to Katoomba, and cheap exotic synth-pop in Still.
Elegant and otherworldly, Maslen also tries her hand at classical music: the gentle operatic madrigal Cornershop Candy, the aria for strings In Reverse Order.
Except for the (rather anemic) closer Memories, there is no beat, no groove, no dancing.
The album came with a bonus disc that is a cd-rom movie.

Maslen crafted a much more relaxed soundscape on White Rabbits (Mush, 2004), with atmospheric tracks such as Feeling Remote.

(Translation by/ Tradotto da Paolo Latini)

Inglese, Riz Maslen è una delle poche musiciste di musica dance elettronica nell'era post-techno. Ha iniziato registrando sotto il moniker Small Fish With Spine, e realizzando due EP, ora raccolti su Ultimate Sushi (Oxygen Music Works, 1996) e l'album Small Fish With Spine (R&S, 1997).

Riz Maslen ha quindi cambiato alias in Neotropic per il suo lavoro maggiore, 15 Levels Of Magnification (Ntone, 1996), che introdusse la sua versione onirica e decostruita del trip-hop e drum'n'bass (La Centinela), e per Mr Brubaker's Strawberry Alarm Clock (Ntone, 1998), un impasto di jazz e hip hop ancor più sottilmente psichedelico.

La sua arte diviene pura astrazione collagistica in La Prochaine Fois (Ntone, 2001), dove le canzoni fluttuano senza peso tra spettrali trame sonore, accumulando suoni come possono (found voices, voci eteree, flauti jazz, pianoforti malinconici, archi classici, chitarre shoegazing). Ogni pezzo è imbevuto di una qualità cinematica, reminiscente delle colonne sonore di Ennio Morricone (The Man Who Catches Clouds), Badalamenti (Je Suis) e Michael Nyman (In Reverse Order). Elegante e soprannaturale. La Maslen sta a Bjork come Nick Drake sta a Elton John: la cosa vera di vero valore. Al disco è allegato un bonus disc che è un cd-rom movie.

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