Music Reviews

Suumhow: Secuund

 Posted by Ibrahim Khider (@)   Electronics / EBM / Electronica
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Nov 23 2019
Artist: Suumhow
Title: Secuund
Format: CD & Vinyl
Label: n5MD (@)
A lovely listen from first to last track, with different, rhythmic IDM styles and textures with an abundance of warm emotion, exuberance and often a sense of uplifting joy. On Secuund, One cannot help but be reminded of the likes of the Arovane/Phonem collaborations for the angular beats and atmospherics, Autechre for the antiseptic, industrial-grade beats melded with bit-rot decaying, glitch-filled ones, or the whimsical, longing-filled melodies and downtempo beats of Tycho. While these perceived influences evidenced in shared textural palettes exist, Suumhow’s approach to melody stands on its own. “Muuscl” opens the album halting, stuttering, glitch-ridden and discombobulated, but this picks up speed and dexterity mid way through into playful melodic robotic breaks-dance track. “Till'inf” has the sharp, mechanical beats and intricate programming of Phonem and the airy atmospheric melody of Arovane, but with a certain kind of assertiveness. “West Bend” is the Tycho like melodic intermission, dreamy, somewhat whimsical and sweet as is “Bora Bora” with its slightly melancholic melody and comparatively simpler stripped-down beats and kind of wistful melody. “Cabin” among favoured tracks draws near with the momentum of an approaching storm, stuttering IDM breaks kick-in about a minute into the song and counter melodies join in about mid way through with an engaging point, counter point that culminates into a manic, blurpy video game bonus round crescendo. “56” has an early Autechre feel for the industrial grade beats, plucky melodies, and glitchy robotics, set to a nice, subdued, near melancholic melody. “Vapor” is another favoured track where less influence is heard and Suumhow’s own quality surfaces with its slightly faded melody and that catchy, slightly distorted bassline interplay into the crown jewel track. Starts with the glitchy-click of a skipping CD before a lovely, strong, pleasant emotionally rousing melody, assertive beats deliver a strong finish to a strong album. What makes Suumhow stand-out is their craft of melody, while the beats and textures are mere vehicles to instill their own slightly nostalgic mood recalling vestiges of past pop, tantalizingly close to recollection but never realized. Instead, the magic is in how Secuund dwells in the spaces greater than the sum of its parts.

VV.AA.: HyperSwim

 Posted by Stuart Bruce (@)   Electronics / EBM / Electronica
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Nov 22 2019
Artist: VV.AA.
Title: HyperSwim
Format: Download Only (MP3 + Lossless)
Label: Hyperdub
This unexpected and rich compilation dropped into my inbox at quite short notice- and what a pleasant surprise. Nineteen completely brand-new tracks from Hyperdub-related artists, this is a digital-only release in collaboration with US network Adult Swim (hence the name), who get first dibs on streaming the release, before it gets a wider digital release later.

So here is new material from some big names- Kode9, Proc Fiscal, Ikonika, and Burial of course (in advance of Burial’s “Tunes 2011 to 2019” releasing next month, which- spoiler alert- is brilliant).

In keeping with the Hyperdub style, there’s both breadth and consistency in the sound. Classificaton-wise, it’s all electronica, and there’s a crispness and glitchiness that unites many of the tracks, along with steady stepping grooves. Tracks like Ikonika’s “Primer” perhaps sum it up best. But there’s also variety, a good bucketload of it, to keep things interesting- Proc Fiskal’s weirdly hypnotic “Devilish River”, or Laurel Halo’s bubbly and unpredictable “Crush”. Hyperdub’s open-minded international approach shines through.

People expecting 2007-era dubstep from the Burial track will be a bit surprised, as while there are shades of it in the vocal echo, “Old Tape” is much closer to synthwave, almost sounding like Tangerine Dream in the synths.

Other highlights include the sparse, electro-African “Baka” from Scratch DVA, and Kode9’s dramatic and string driven “Cell3”, and the thrumping techno of Lee Gamble’s “Chain”.

The more grime-electronica tilt of Hyperdub’s style is represented well in tracks like Okzharp & Manthe Ribane’s “In Your Own Time”. In a release dominated by instrumentals, or tracks that use short vocal samples as mantras like DJ Haram’s lightly filthy “Get It”, there’s a ‘vocal section’ of sorts that starts with DJ Taye’s “Inferno” which has an actual multi-verse rap. Speaking personally there are some grime tracks (generally, not just on this compilation) that I’d much rather hear as instrumentals, and there are shades of that here.

Most of the tracks are around three minutes long and it’s true that some of them could be leftovers or residual work, what ‘normal’ bands might call B-side material, but there’s nothing here that sounds like filler- not even mildly. If this were a solo artist album I’d be praising it as one of the albums of the year. Kudos to Adult Swim for presumably doing something positive to get behind a release like this. A great compilation from an electronica label that never seems to drop the ball.

Vivien Le Fay: Ecolalia

 Posted by Stuart Bruce (@)   Electronics / EBM / Electronica
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Nov 20 2019
Artist: Vivien Le Fay
Title: Ecolalia
Format: 12" vinyl + Download
Label: Boring Machines
Vivien Le Fay brings a diverse toolkit of experience to her debut album, citing sociology, guitar technician work for noise bands, and working on local radio as influence. The result is very focussed though, lands firmly in the realm of electronica- a brooding and dark layering of atmospherics, soundscaping, pulsing arpeggiators that feel analogue and warm, and sometimes melancholic vocal affirmations.

It has a strong feeling of soundtrack about it, particularly on tracks like the tense and driving, slightly synthwave-ish “Ex Self”. Opening track “Eve” and final track “Elim” are the only tracks to feature a real vocal, the former more melancholic in a faintly diva-ish way, and the latter a disturbing exercise in shapeless gothic heavy breathing, although the title track adopts the old ‘speak-and-spell’ approach, expressing aggressive eco-poetry through text-to-speech.

The steady patterns of “Each Point” or the workmanlike throbs of the title track both feel like they’re calling out for some sympathetic techno remixes- very little work would need to be done to bring this to the attention of a more dancefloor-minded genre- whereas pieces like the strangely synth-ethnic “Ecchymosis” are more ‘out there’, bordering on sci-fi-ambient for several minutes before a chatty, almost bouncy synth rhythm pops up.

It’s entirely a solo work apart from Sergio Albano’s contribution of aluminium guitar on half the tracks- most notably for its rotating-note pluck pattern on “Elim” that brings something quite old-fashioned and almost John Barry-like to proceedings, like the darkest and weirdest James Bond scene you’ve never seen.

It’s rich and expressive dark electronica that maintains the very high quality threshold of the Boring Machines label.
Artist: Ken Ganfield x Kurt Liedwart x Petr Vrba
Title: Something Wrong There
Format: CD
Label: Mikroton (@)
Rated: *****
What can you expect by an album title "Something Wrong There", consisting of two tracks titled "Unbearable" and "Nauseating", lasting more than 20 minutes each? One of the most logical answer could compile a list of side effects, related to intoxication or nervous breakdown. Well, some granola-heads could argue that it's better to avoid it, but besides a certain humour and a clear self awareness, the aesthetical choices by Kan Ganfield (synthesizers, electronics), Kurt Liedwart (synthesizers, cracked homemade and everyday electronics) and Petr Vrba (synthesizers and electronics) seems to assemble slices of electronics, fragmented crumbs of synthetic sounds and noises from dead radio transmissions into pulps of electric turmoils, that sound like feeding themselves. The ghost of ambient and cosmic music get violently pushed to the borders of something that could vaguely resemble an improvisational set, but where there's a willful sonic strategy, that could vanish the sometimes disliked label of 'improv'. Recorded in the August 2017 in Punctum, a cultural centre in the vibrant district of Zizkov in Prague, this turgid declension of electronics is often piercing and ferocious (in spite of occasional spray of flat pads and reassuring entities - vaguely resembling deformed pop melodies - in the middle of maelstrom) that you can surmise that the real purpose of this trio was to create a stress test for nerves and stomach for true, but I'm pretty sure both the testers/makers and the tested eardrums/audience enjoyed such a session.

Proem: Until Here For Years

 Posted by Ibrahim Khider (@)   Electronics / EBM / Electronica
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Nov 15 2019
Artist: Proem
Title: Until Here For Years
Format: CD & Vinyl
Label: n5MD
Latest from long time IDM-ster Richard Bailey aka Proem delivers us his meticulous brand of robo-beat-glitch constructions since 1999, meaning he really is Until Here for Years. There are a lot of musical ideas and approaches Bailey expresses, track-to-track, but to this listener, Proem hits best when he is on the ambient-atmospheric tip. First track, best track, “Rectangle Snake” with its moody melody and serene atmospherics intertwine into an uplifting slice of listening bliss. The following, “Cuddle Buddy” despite the name, comes off as sinister dub step with faint eerie nymph vocals accompanied by mechanical rhythms and warbly laser synth tones that instill a futurist bent, while “False Hope” has a nice yet somewhat menacing groove, track paused mid way for producer to have a sip of tea and then resume on a more serious-intent. I do like Bailey’s whimsical production approach. “Stick To Music Snowflake” is another slice of ambient atmospheric intermission before “Until Here Robot” where playful melodies mingle with juggernaut beats and manic sugar-rush melodies. “Pine the Bear” however, starts with the sluggish drowsiness of a robot undergoing a boot sequence and system integrity check before getting into a skittering drum n’ bass sequence that fizzles out at the one-and-a-half minute mark, perhaps alternating programs, to then get into strutting beat and melody science with elaborate, ornate rhythm constructions as complex and intricate as a Swiss mechanical marvel. By contrast “Chain Reaction” seems more impishly mischievous with the up-tempo gait-rhythm, understated melody that seems to bolt off. “An Effort Was Made” is stark, sparse notes that warms up with optimism into a nice atmospheric IDM bit. “The Sad Underneath” bodes darker, plucky guitar-note IDM, swaggering deftly crafted martial arts cool IDM. “Kids that Hate Live Things” is a favoured melodic IDM piece here, playful and well-crafted with joy laden overtones, cheerier melodies and a gorgeous balance of beat and melody. “Your Bones Back Together” caps the album with all to brief yet enjoyable vaguely melancholic and whimsical IDM. Until Here for Years, Elaborate, catchy IDM and emotionally evocative, Bailey continues to deliver, giving us the goods that tug at the heart strings and bumps the rump. Gorgeously produced IDM with a broad range of moods and a stream of textures a music filled with percussive consonants, shimmering, atmospheric vowels, that spells out deep and moving emotion.

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