Music Reviews

Mr. Mitch: Devout

 Posted by Stuart Bruce (@)   Electronics / EBM / Electronica
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Apr 20 2017
Artist: Mr. Mitch
Title: Devout
Format: CD + Vinyl
Label: Planet Mu Records
Firmly at home on Planet Mu, “Devout” is a polished bit of electronica, bordering on dream-pop but with a sometimes grimy side. Rap tracks like “Priority”, which starts out sounding like any other vanity rap but develops into something much more introspective. In fact the whole release is tinged with a melancholy reflection and a deep honesty about relationships and parenthood. While it’s not a concept album, there’s a strong theme of devotion and longevity.

“Fate” is a lush ballad with lovely Denai Moore vocals, arguably lacking the strong hook that would make it truly powerful. The flanged Asian-sounding synth sounds of “My Life” (featuring Miles Mitchell’s own voice) are a quirky highlight, as is the faintly moombahton-grooved ballad “Our Love”. The instrumentals are strong too, with a playful levity in pieces like “Black Tides” robotic whirr patterns (and a bassline that sounds like it’s about to turn into Fleetwood Mac). “Honor Oak” treads a fine line close to sounding a little silly, like a kind of electro-lullaby, as though some of these tracks are as much for the child as for the parent.

“Devout” is a succinct and deeply heartfelt emotional bit of electronica with an unquestionable sincerity. At times it is a little lethargic, but if you’re looking for romantic and vulnerable electronica that really works, you’ll find it here.

Second Woman: S/W

 Posted by Stuart Bruce (@)   Electronics / EBM / Electronica
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Apr 19 2017
Artist: Second Woman
Title: S/W
Format: LP + Download
Label: Spectrum Spools
Josh Eustis of Telefon Tel Aviv and Turk Dietrich of Belong describe this, their second album, as “future music”. It’s supremely digital and synthetic- playful adjustments of oscillations and time signatures with an aesthetic wholly removed from any organic roots, as emphasised by the fact that all the track titles are simply combinations of forward-slashes and backslashes and nothing else.

It’s very simple and sparse for the most part- rolling, glitching, light and almost bubbling digital retriggers with a delicate touch forming their own rhythm in a mostly bass-and-kick-free environment. The net result is also a release that’s somewhat cold and a little bit alienating, an exercise in complex programming- I presume S/W stands for SoftWare as well as Second Woman and probably other things too.

It’s only on the second track that bold, vaguely Leftfield-esque large and echoing synth chords arrive, followed by hollow and distant chords. Each track feels like a natural evolution of the last- by the fourth track, relatively more conventional drum programming has arrived, and so on. The ‘lightweight Leftfield’ vibe is particularly in evidence on track 6, “////\\”. Slightly more familiar electro-glitch structures form the basis of the eighth track, before the ninth and final track wraps things up nicely, an epilogue paralleling the opening prologue.

It’s rare to find an electronic album that works so well as individual slices, yet is so coherent for listening to in one go.

Reliq: Life Prismic

 Posted by Stuart Bruce (@)   Electronics / EBM / Electronica
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Apr 18 2017
Artist: Reliq
Title: Life Prismic
Format: CD + Download
Label: Noble (@)
Reliq’s third album is a bright and energetic collection of zippy, pop-glitch instrumentals with a diverse range of rhythms and samples. Skipping joyfully between Latin and European rhythms, between regular and complex times, chucking in single female vocal ahhhh lines, ethnic samples, a handful of synthwave stabs and every kind of percussion you can think of, it’s brimming with energy and a party feeling- albeit one of the more unusual parties you might ever have been invited to.

The frantic pace of tracks like “Ceramic Samba” is relentless to the point of almost being fatiguing. “Morocco Drive” starts off disguised as a ballad before the drum’n’bass rhythm kicks in. Every track is over five minutes long. Thankfully many of them have enough internal adjustment and surprise up their sleeves to keep them interesting- several, such as “Laputan”, have complete tempo changes, while “Vast Air” is an impressive feat of juggling multiple tempos simultaneously without ever sounding out-of-time.

It’s not a fashionable comparison, at all, but pieces like the extremely radio-friendly “Rain No More” with its sampled ethnic chants and downright funky bassline sound to me like what the first Deep Forest albums would sound like if they’d been produced today and released on a label like Planet Mu. In a good way, absolutely. That and the slightly folksy “Angel Costs” are the most accessible tracks, and good entry points.

The musical prowess behind this blending and sampling shouldn’t be understated, as it’s clearly audible on tracks like “Antic Stepper” and the multifaceted “Voynich Soundscript”. This playful confidence exudes through tracks like “Miyako”.

“Life Prismic” sounds like what you’d get if somebody sampled every release that had been reviewed on ChainDLK in the last year, pitched it all up an octave, threw it all into a pot and tried to make a Matthew Herbert-style pop album out of it. It shouldn’t work, but it definitely does.
Apr 04 2017
Artist: Aidan Casserly & Friends
Title: Spoken
Format: Download Only (MP3 + Lossless)
Label: House Of Analogue
Rated: *****
The new album by Aidan Casserly, who among the other hundred of things he does reformed his first band Empire State Human, is a particular and touchy one. "Spoken" has been released as Aidan Casserly & Friends as the fifteen tracks are spoken word performances with background music played by Aidan. For a little bit more than half hour this album will capture your attention totally. Each track has a different guest that give his voice and his interpretation to the lyrics reading them with transport and passion. Most of the tracks are piano driven ones but we have also some with a "creepy" atmosphere like the opening "Amaze Me" (with ambient synth lines), "Incubus II" (it sounds like an horror soundtrack with kettledrums, piano, synth lines and it's read by Attrition's Martin Bowes) or "We Are The Light" (this is probably the most experimental of the lot, thanks to a minimal approach to guitar distorted sounds and filtered vocals). You can check the whole album at the House Of Analogue soundcloud page at, it's worth it!

Wolf & 111X: Final Star

 Posted by Stuart Bruce (@)   Electronics / EBM / Electronica
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Apr 03 2017
Artist: Wolf & 111X
Title: Final Star
Format: Download Only (MP3 + Lossless)
Label: Infinite Machine
Wolf’s second release on his own Infinite Machine label is a thumper, consisting of two original tracks and two remixes.

The title track is generated by taking the ingredients commonly used in cinema trailers for sci-fi and action movies- gut punching brassy bass notes and super-thick single kick drums at the bottom, alien-sounding tension strings and sharp effects at the top- and reworking them into a post-dubstep thumper. The ‘Zimmer horn’ is used liberally and despite the relatively slow pace, it’s a relentless exercise in non-subtlety.

Second track “Wounded Alien” has the same sonic core but is a little more cleverly structured, with a hint of large-scale industry and a sense of heightening tension. While the opening track takes soundtrack soundscapes to extremes, the second track could potentially have been an actual soundtrack- with a little more ebb and flow this could have been the score for a superhero fighting robots in a giant warehouse- that’s the universe we’re in with this.

Astrosuka’s remix of “Wounded Alien” takes the track into deep space, thinning out and glitching up the percussive elements and bringing the softer plaintive top synth lines forward, with W3C’s elongated take on the same track gives things a more methodical feel, with a heartbeat-like kick drum and very slowly building, tribal-meets-industrial drumming.

It’s a thick sci-fi-meets-slow-techno package that will appeal to people who love cinema trailers for the sheer thrill of the subbass and who aren’t too fussed what the film is actually about.

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