Music Reviews



Bit-Tuner: Arabian Nights

 Posted by Stuart Bruce (@)   Electronics / EBM / Electronica
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Sep 07 2018
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Artist: Bit-Tuner
Title: Arabian Nights
Format: Tape
Label: -OUS
“Arabian Nights” is a 40-minute live set in which Bit-Tuner layers up tapes of field recordings and other sounds sourced in Cairo over a collection of curt, jittery, slightly lo-fi electronic beats that gradually shift in speed, pitch and arrangement in complex ways that evolve without ever jumping.

The sections are numbered 1 to 5 rather than named, and they flow together but also have their own distinctive elements. “AN 1” is split into two parts and provides the most cinematic section of the release, with the most internal variation, before “AN 2” gets a bit grimier. “AN 3” has a notably steadier groove and uses car horn noises to strangely captivating effect, generating an atmosphere that’s simultaneously gritty realism and alienation. “AN 4” has something of a hip-hop swagger in its groove and leaves the atmospherics behind before “AN 5” ends slightly quirkily with synth pulses and a softer melodic element.

It’s a quite distinctive arrangements of sounds that stands out for its quite bold simplicity. Intriguing, thoughtful environmental electronica.

Oliver Coates: Shelley's On Zenn-La

 Posted by Stuart Bruce (@)   Electronics / EBM / Electronica
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Sep 05 2018
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Artist: Oliver Coates
Title: Shelley's On Zenn-La
Format: 12" vinyl + CD
Label: RVNG Intl.
Oliver Coates, who recently toured supporting Thom Yorke, has come up with a rather quirky concept to wrap this relatively short album. The title pays tribute to a genuine Stoke-On-Trent nightclub of the late 80’s and early 90’s (where acts like The Prodigy played), but reimagines it relocated onto the fictional planet of Zenn-La. It’s certainly original.

Sonically though, the tribute is from a subtly different era, and to my ear certainly seems more late 90’s. The soft, melodic, stepping electronica is reminiscent of Ultramarine or µ-Ziq, Aphex Twin in his mellower moods, or at times early Mr Scruff without the sense of humour. There’s almost no low-end kick or bass throughout, this is expression through synth melodies and high-end percussion only. At a time when we’re up to our ears in synthwave and 80’s retro, this feels like it’s staking a claim for reviving a less revisited sound.

There’s a stepping, uptempo-trip-hop flavour to tracks like “A Church” (featuring quite freeform vocal offerings from chrysanthemum bear) that’s quite endearing, and the off-kilter glitchiness and deceptive simplicity of “Cello Renoise” is a highlight. “Charlev”, with its steadier but still super-soft 4/4 kick, does touch on the 80’s but the meandering, jazzy, flutey synth lead line owes more to Planet Mu than classic synthpop. Final and longest piece “Perfect Apple With Silver Mark” is its own self-contained world of entrancing atmospherics and sun-bleached dream-techno, with an oddly abrupt end.

Though it claims to be channelling memories of raves and nightclubs, this is a lightweight, sweet, Sunday-afternoon-home-listening kind of electronica, and as such it’s quite rewarding and it’s got enough unusual ideas packed into 38 minutes to keep giving good value. A quaint anomaly.

Ital Tek: Bodied

 Posted by Stuart Bruce (@)   Electronics / EBM / Electronica
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Sep 04 2018
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Artist: Ital Tek
Title: Bodied
Format: 12" vinyl + CD
Label: Planet Mu
Ital Tek has been putting out releases on Planet Mu for over a decade, this being the sixth full album, and the cerebral, glitchy electronica sound has certainly evolved over time, but “Bodied” is probably the biggest single-step change yet. He’s left dance music well behind in favour of rich cinematic sound design and centres almost wholly around acoustic elements, vocal pads and choral ‘ahhhh’ sounds, underpinned by rumbling bass notes that have a decidedly tense aspect.

Though the press release describes this work as embracing the creative freedom Ital Tek felt after finishing a bunch of video game work, the throbbing undertone of “Become Real” playing against the warm orchestral top end gives proceedings a decidedly game-soundtrack flavour, with the beautiful final track “The Circle Is Complete” sounding like an epic sci-fi overture to gameplay. Tracks like “Cipher” perhaps exhibit signs of that ‘underscore’ mentality which seems to value consistency over progression- but that’s no criticism when the consistent mood in question is so intriguingly put together.

Highlights include the heartrate-twisting and sinister “Lithic”, and the strangely Jean-Michel Jarre-like “Blood Rain”. “Vanta” is reminiscent of some of the best soundtrack work from Hybrid or UNKLE, employing a synth-guitar lead line that also sits to good effect on top of “Hymnal”.

Planet Mu output gets a lot of praise, with good reason, and here’s another prime example. Supremely high quality, thoughtful IDM / electronica / whatever you want to call it that’s a really satisfying listen.

Andreas Lutz: Binary Supremacy

 Posted by Stuart Bruce (@)   Electronics / EBM / Electronica
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Aug 31 2018
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Artist: Andreas Lutz
Title: Binary Supremacy
Format: Download Only (MP3 + Lossless)
Label: Kasuga Records
Although framed in thoroughly artistic terms of abstract aesthetics and exhibitions instead of performances, “Binary Supremacy” as an audio product fits quite nicely into the category of downtempo electronica and soundscaping. A thoroughly artificial collection of treated noises, clicks, glitches and synth pads over sparse and regular breakbeat kick drum patterns, this is minimal techno put through the wash, cleaned and tumble dried into art.

After the initial overture of “Nulled Fields”, the kick sounds become urgent for “Restructuring”. Some tracks segue into one another, so the cut-up lo-fi vocal samples of “Analog Read” creep up on you, as does the rumbling synth-bass that provides that track’s main focus.

Rather Kraftwerk-esque speak-and-spell lyrics on “Super Constructor” are the closest this short album gets to a vocalised message, instead generally settling for abstract atmospheres and gentle melodic elements that roll calmly over the lightweight beats. Kraftwerk pop to mind again in “Transmission Heap”’s sharper, curt beat patterns.

Despite seemingly not being at home either in an art space or on a dancefloor, it’s a fresh-sounding bit of very cerebral electronica with a nice character.

R.A.N.: Şeb-i Yelda

 Posted by Stuart Bruce (@)   Electronics / EBM / Electronica
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Aug 30 2018
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Artist: R.A.N.
Title: Şeb-i Yelda
Format: 12" vinyl + Download
Label: Karlrecords
R.A.N.’s new E.P. of dark electronica and ambience is a sinister affair, full of rumbling tones and a sense of threat. At times this is techno at its very darkest and introspective, taking some of the same sonic elements but pulling it into something completely dancefloor-unfriendly and introspective that sounds like the channeling of frustration into a new-found purpose.

You have to wait almost four minutes into the title track before a rhythm appears, a circa-115bpm sub-kick and delay with purposeful hi-hat action that feels like it’s building to something that never quite arrives, before almost literally running out of steam as it slows and devolves into gaseous noises. “Sabah” has a not dissimilar make-up but starts with more purpose, crisp lo-bit snares kicking in from the off for a very industrial-sounding affair that can’t help but sound like a racing steam train at times, built around a mesmeric droning tambur noise that gives a little bit of welcome organic character.

The two shorter tracks are not techno at all. “Ay” is quite anachronistic, a soft piano ballad instrumental with ambience, while final track “Kul” is a stripped-back and deep, reverential, synth-vocal-esque drone that eventually opens, briefly, into a cavernous ambience.

It’s a rich E.P. that certainly inspires interest in R.A.N.’s other releases and if you like your electronica dark, deep and brooding, this is worth your attention.


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