Music Reviews

Bonaventure: Mentor

 Posted by Stuart Bruce (@)   Electronics / EBM / Electronica
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Nov 08 2018
Artist: Bonaventure
Title: Mentor
Format: Download Only (MP3 + Lossless)
Label: Planet Mu
Soroya Lutangu’s first EP on Planet Mu is a strong introduction. Across six tracks, the Swiss/Congolese producer blends rhythms and samples from across cultures, generally setting patterns out onto relatively straightforward 4/4 electronica beds but layering them up with more complex patterns and unusual melodic loops that make it one of those rare releases that will work an open-minded dancefloor but still play perfectly for home listening.

After the bold, quite action-movie-ish drama and gutpunchers of opener “Physarum”, “Mentor” is one of the thumpers and a really positive drive to it, while “Nemesis” is an example of the more broken-beat and unpredictable approach that I’d stereotypically label as more ‘Planet Mu-esque’

“Colony” is thoroughly atmospheric chin-stroking grime while “Impetus” has hints of both trap and techno as well, but always maintaining a breadth and character that make it sound not quite like anything else. Final track “Both” is notable for its looped poetry from Hannah Black, an attention-grabbing brooding track that’s a highlight that could’ve been the opener.

With only one track reaching the four-minute mark, it does perhaps feel more like a sampler or a calling card than a fully formed half-album, leaving you wanting more and wishing that some tracks had been explored in more depth- but what a calling card it is, here’s hoping there’s more to come.

Satoshi Takeishi: Fragments

 Posted by Stuart Bruce (@)   Electronics / EBM / Electronica
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Oct 24 2018
Artist: Satoshi Takeishi
Title: Fragments
Format: Download Only (MP3 + Lossless)
Label: Clang
There’s an earnest sonic revelry about the final piece of Takeishi’s triptych that started with 2016’s “Dew Drops” followed by 2017’s “Premonition”. Taking an eclectic selection of mostly childish acoustic instruments as a source- broken autoharps and toy pianos, thumb pianos, “African Marimba from Gift Shop” (delightfully honest), and sampling and processing them into abstract electronic shapes that have an improvised impulsiveness and energy gives us a 10-track , 43-minute work of quite purist electronica.

The high glockenspiel and bell tones are dominant, forming it into a sort of twisted lullaby arrangement most notable on pieces like “If I see you again”. In amongst that there are deeper more brooding moments, like the fairly sinister “Unfolding”, and pieces with more of a percussive punch like “Fragment I”, but in broad terms it says on a fairly consistent sonic palette throughout.

It’s an enjoyably textured work with an attitude which might lend itself to live performance perhaps a little better than studio recording. The fragile acoustic textures and harsh edges won’t be to everyone’s taste but it’s certainly got its own gritty beauty.

Arca: Forces

 Posted by Stuart Bruce (@)   Electronics / EBM / Electronica
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Oct 17 2018
Artist: Arca
Title: Forces
Format: CD & Vinyl
Label: Ici d’ailleurs/Mind Travels
Joan Cambon and Sylvian Chauveau’s long-standing collaboration has reached its fifth album. An intimate and at times quite minimalist collection of small synth sounds, complex rhythm programming, melodic pads and atmospherics, this is rich cultured electronica with a heartfelt tone.

There are some perkier tracks, like “Paul Favre-Miville” and the very well-formed “Bayan Hout” that have an almost playful energy that at times slightly undermines the album’s very earnest themes of conflict and displacement. These are muddled in with more atmospheric and earnest pieces like “Ossama Mohammed”.

“Anonymous Nigerian Refugee” is a rare vocal track, sampling the titular figure talking under clear duress about his predicament in the album’s only overtly political moment, which ends up also being a highlight.

It’s a pleasant and well-cooked sonic meal with some lovely textures in it, and while I don’t expect it to top too many people’s ‘best of the year’ lists on account of a fairly muted and modest character, it is an example of balanced and premium electronica done very well.

Peter Kirn: Pink Cloud Syndrome

 Posted by Stuart Bruce (@)   Electronics / EBM / Electronica
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Oct 10 2018
Artist: Peter Kirn
Title: Pink Cloud Syndrome
Format: Download Only (MP3 + Lossless)
Label: Detroit Underground
I was a big appreciator of Kirn’s “Bellona USA” album from November last year, so was happy to hear that another album was available already. “Pink Cloud Syndrome” doesn’t disappoint, continuing in a relatively similar vein with tracks that manage to combine Jean-Michel Jarre or Tangerine Dream-esque long synth soundscapes and a retro synthwave-ish aesthetic with some newer and poppier, sometimes Ricardo Autobahn-esque melodic moments.

Dropping the fictional city concept of the previous album, this time we get four tracks that are longer and more immersive, with a hint of the epic prog rock instrumental storytelling about them, most notably in the first part.

Part 2, with its heavier kick, perky synth stabs, plaintive vocal ahhh noises and claps, has shades of Propaganda in parts and is decidedly more 80’s-esque, while part 3’s more paired-back approach has more in common with current thoughtful home-listening atmospheric techno. Part 4 begins punchily before settling a little, but maintaining a tense and quite sci-fi pulsing attitude which only disappoints with its slightly lacklustre ending.

It perhaps never reaches any truly euphoric heights and at times could arguably be described as wallpapery, but nevertheless it’s a rich, confident and boldly produced synth-music vision that’s absolutely worth exploring.
Artist: Håvard Volden
Title: Space Happy
Format: CD & Vinyl
Label: Sofa
‘Electricity’ is the broad theme here, with the layering up of different electric and electronic sound sources into eleven rather miscellaneous but generally dark works of noise and experimentation which seems to take on a variety of influences ranging from 60’s radiophonics to 80’s industrial proto-techno to 90’s-era more ‘mainstream’ ambient approaches.

Many of the pieces are little more than sonic vignettes, like the endearingly quirky “V”, but there are some slightly longer works to get your teeth into. “II” has an acid-techno-ish pulse that runs around it and grounds it. “IV” is particularly unusual, initially throwback-minded piece that evokes strong memories of black-and-white sci-fi but which then throws in some freeform electric guitar strumming and then some odd spoken-word poetry to muddle things up somewhat. “VI” is a broader journey into where feedback and distortion meet ambience, and is the track most fitting of the album’s title.

Generally it’s got quite a raw sound that’s quite playful and somehow feels quite authentic, as though faithfully retreating the steps of pioneers half a century ago exploring electric weird sounds for the very first time. Not just a nostalgia piece, it does work in its own right, albeit in a slightly incoherent fashion, and fans of early electric oddness will appreciate this as more than a homage and a worthwhile listen in its own right.

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