Music Reviews

Dec 12 2019
Artist: VV.AA.
Title: Territories vol. 2
Format: 12" vinyl + Download
Label: Polaar
This is a six-pack of remixes (well, five remixes and one VIP version) of Polaar artists collaborating. It’s instrumental techno and electronica, broadly, with healthy doses of organic-sounding and sometimes tribal percussion generally placed at the core- but while it’s officially dance music, this is smart stuff. I don’t know of anyone who still uses the term IDM but if they did, this release would put the ‘intelligent’ into it- as exemplified by the sometimes 12/8 rhythms and regular mood changes of the opener, Flore’s remix of Only Now’s “Dirt”.

Keito’s take on Tim Karbon’s “Aziz Lumiere” is heavy and pounding, and deceptively simple at times, but it gets under your skin, before the remix circle completes with Only Now’s rework of Keito’s “Bougainvillea” offering up a fast, subbass-driven manic grime swagger that feels like it’s successfully juggling three tempos at once.

Nasty J “Réalité Alternativ” Tim Karbon Remix is a lighter recipe, still grumbling complex rhythm patterns but putting much more emphasis on almost-romantic synth pad chord patterns. SNKLS’s “Isandula VIP” is liquid drum-and-bass territory rhythms but painted with glitchy electronica sounds, yet more lusciously pure subbass work, and some very brooding atmospherics in the breakdown, before the Prettybwoy remix of “SkyBurial” by Mars89 ends on a brighter note, again returning to the warm synth pads and a rather strange percussive sound that seems to be somewhere between a parrot and a seagull- but not in a bad way, amazingly.

This is the kind of dance music you would rather sit down and appreciate the details of, rather than waste time flapping your arms round to it. Rich, deep and complex, this stuff just oozes quality.

Bit-Tuner: Passage / Irisia

 Posted by Stuart Bruce (@)   Electronics / EBM / Electronica
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Dec 11 2019
Artist: Bit-Tuner
Title: Passage / Irisia
Format: Download Only (MP3 + Lossless)
Label: -OUS
At two tracks and almost seven minutes, Bit-Tuner’s “Passage / Irisia” single passed under my radar when it was released in November, but it came around again and has piqued my interest as a sampler for Bit-Tuner’s forthcoming seventh album, out in January.

The main track passage is a cinematic bit of electronica built from expressive analogue synths and pads, mostly walking a steady and slow four-note rhythm that somehow feels more like an ending than a beginning, Found sounds such as industrial drills that have been softened and bathed in reverb to take the harsh edges away. The melodic pattern remains the same but different-sounding instrumentation gradually wanders into and out of aubibility, which is where the progression comes from- sometimes bell sounds, sometimes guitar-like noise, the change happens under your nose. Got some broody sci-fi end credits that need emoting over? Check this out.

B-side “Irisia” is only two minutes long and fades right in the middle of a change- a blatant and almost cheeky tease for the album I think. The melodic approach is not dissimilar but there’s a much greater rumbling bass here, a sinister tectonic grumbling that feels like a dramatic opener, making the two-track digital release feel slightly back-to-front.

I may be a tease but it’s certainly notable enough to put January’s album release onto my ‘items to check out’ list.

Anma: Batch 0012

 Posted by Stuart Bruce (@)   Electronics / EBM / Electronica
Techno / Trance / Goa / Drum'n'Bass / Jungle / Tribal / Trip-Hop
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Dec 10 2019
Artist: Anma
Title: Batch 0012
Format: 12" vinyl + Download
Label: SM-LL
The bold branding- if you can call it branding- of the SM-LL label is getting progressively more homogeneous as it evolves. Already establishing a rule where all the artwork is plain black (yes that’s not a technical error in the thumbnail above), and with releases that are numbered rather than named, their press releases now consist solely of alphabetised hashtags. They’ve also announced that from next year, they will no longer even be including artist names on their releases- the entire thing will be anonymous, unless an artist breaks ranks and takes credit for any of it.

At times it feels like this affords the artists freedom, to experiment or express sonics without any word association or accompanying imagery. At other times it feels like a disservice, robbing each release from grabbing your attention or drawing you in with its own identity.

So in the third paragraph I finally get to talk about the music. This is a series of eight (or just six if you buy the vinyl) out-of-sequence-numbered layered sets of analogue oscillation and arpeggiation meanders. Bubbly bleeps and off-count repeating patterns are the order of the day. Around this, higher pitched atmospherics and electronic glitter provide a gentle, less-is-more approach to decoration. Curt sub-bass thrubs and throbs sometimes gently imitate techno kicks without ever pushing into that genre. It’s rough-hewn at times, littered with clicks, but this seems to add to the warmth.

“Harm Osc 5” is an example of one of the steadier tracks, a gentle walking pace number whose flatness is its virtue, while “Harm Osc 6” is an example of one of the more off-kilter, time-unpredictable arrangements that keeps things firmly cerebral rather than foot-tapping.

Favourites for me included the slightly more uptempo alt-techno of “Harm Osc 8”, and the gloriously awkward “Harm Osc 9” with its counting-challenge pulsing and tinnitus squeal. The soft, theremin-like melodic expression that crops up in final track “Harm Osc 2” is a curious sonic salve and an endearing way to wrap up.

This is a form of analogue proto-techno that goes simple and goes deep, very deep indeed. But if you’re prepared for a deep dive into a thinking person’s bass noise, turn this up loud.

Dibu-Z: Junk DNA

 Posted by Maurizio Pustianaz (@)   Electronics / EBM / Electronica
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Dec 08 2019
Artist: Dibu-Z
Title: Junk DNA
Format: CD
Label: Dominance Electricity
Rated: *****
Active since the early '00s, Christian Odlozinski released different 12"s and EPs as Dibu-Z for labels such as Mutter, Klangnet, Antikonsum, Klangnet, Robodisco and Heraldic.SPb. "Junk DNA" is his first album and Dominance Electricity is proudly releasing it on CD and 2 LPs. This isn't the first time that the label is releasing Dibu-Z's music, as his track "Remote View" has been included in the "Global Surveyor Phase 4" compilation the last year. "Junk DNA" is a multifaceted album where Christian is mixing different electronic styles successfully: if the opening "Where It All Ends" has classic electronic music references of the likes of Vangelis' "Blade Runner" soundtrack (like the closing arpeggios of the closing "The Future In Your Eyes"), "Breakaway Civilization" steers the wheel mixing space ambiance with acid TB-303 sequences and TR-808 beats (thing that also Cignol experimented lately). "Metamaterial" and "Gnarly" change the game again by bringing in electro melodies and i.d.m. intuitions with sound manipulations. The twelve tracks of the album have no vocals and succeed into giving to the electro lovers good music with robotic rhythm patterns, paranoid atmospheres and nice tiny melodies. It not easy to sum up the last twenty years of electronic music but Dibu-Z somehow did it. Prepare yourself to check a sort of Drexciya on acid or a sort of black hole that sucked in hours of good music and now it's ready to puke it out! A special note to the cover made by the American 3D graphic artist Beeple. Check it here
Dec 06 2019
Artist: Speaker Music
Title: of desire, longing
Format: 12" vinyl + Download
Label: Planet Mu
DeForrest Brown Jr.’s first release on Planet Mu is a slightly unusual one for the label. This is electronica, but perhaps only on a technicality. It’s a deliberate exercise in “time-based release”, essentially time-stretching, with two 23-minute parts of the same single work spreading out to fill an LP. Solo jazz sounds- saxophone predominantly, and others, it’s hard to tell- are pulled, padded, stuttered and morphed into unplayably long notes, which are then blended into what sounds like quiet city street found sound- rustling, distant drone, wind, traffic (but not a lot of it), and general hubbub.

This in turn is then delayed echoed and processed to add an extra layer of abstraction. Some of this stereo delay forms patterns, seemingly accidentally, which occasionally border on rhythm but only become actually rhythmic in the second part “without excess”. The second part also dips the outdoors atmospheres down in favour of metallically-treated choral noises and a selection of other oddness.

The result is like listening to a busker on a far-away street corner whilst under some sort of chemical mental influence, then in the second part, wandering into a church during choir practice then youth group. It’s an unorthodox experience, and I’ve got to say, not an experience that will always be welcome- but as a soundscaping exercise, it certainly has the dual virtues of being thought-provokingly emotive, and also distinctive and unique. The artist’s strong association with counter-culture and apparent animosity to modern streaming culture doesn’t shine through sonically as much as it does in the associated press release, but it’s a rich and interesting listen nonetheless.

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