Music Reviews

Surachai: Come, Deathless

 Posted by Tyran Grillo (@)   Electronics / EBM / Electronica
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Feb 03 2019
Artist: Surachai
Title: Come, Deathless
Format: 12" vinyl + Download
Label: self-released
Rated: *****
L.A.-based Surachai elicits contradictions in sound that are nothing short of beautiful in their marriage of assault and assurance. With an aesthetic that rivals AZ-Rotator and HECQ at their most violent, yet with an unusually environmental sensitivity made possible by incorporation of field recordings from Thailand, California, and elsewhere, and all of it nailed into its coffin by participation of drummer Aaron Harris and keyboardist Joey Karam, Surachai ignites the blood of one hybrid organism after another as if it were comprised of flammable liquid. Titles such as “The Shedding Of Useful Skin” and “An Abandoned Throne In The Hall Of Execution” hint at a moribund fantasy epic, unwritten yet resounding with death cries of intense relevance. The latter track, like “Casts Of Broken Timelines” and “Deciphering Whispers From Wind” before it, taps ancient stories to power an electric chair’s swan song of self-destructive desire, while “Leaning Into Pain” and “Articulation Of A Dead Tongue” dance to the beat of a sentient drum. Ambient valleys are rare in this landscape of jagged peaks, but of them “Time Splits Every End” (featuring Sara Kendall’s subcutaneous wash of ghost chants) touches the face of a metaphysical future. In that respect, the music here smacks of social prophecy minus the cultish fanaticism such a metaphor would imply. The result is a lovingly constructed album whose every detail has been incubated until ready to hatch for willing hosts, warm and pulsing with an inchoate taste for vibration.

Fred Und Luna: Im Tiefenrausch

 Posted by Stuart Bruce (@)   Electronics / EBM / Electronica
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Feb 01 2019
Artist: Fred Und Luna
Title: Im Tiefenrausch
Format: LP
Label: Compost Records
According to the press release, “Fred und Luna are two mannequins living in a fashion boutique in Karlsruhe, Germany. They serve as muse for musician, lector, poet and photo/video maker Rainer Buchmüller.” It’s a concept that’s more than a little reminiscent of Kraftwerk, and while there’s certainly a Kraftwerk influence in the music here- spotted in the steady mesmeric light electro beats of “Rutsch Ins Grune” or the plinky-plonk melody of “Polytonikum” for example- musically it seems to owe more to the lighter side of 90’s electronica and chill-out, and which invites comparisons to other artists, usually in a good way.

It’s a collection of six-to-eight minute synth mostly-instrumental works built from steady soft rhythms and long single-note basslines, topped with lush chord pads and delicate, minimalist melodies, it often seems to recall some classic Global Underground tracks, or even the softer side of the Underground Beats series. At its most wistful, such as on track “So Weit Wie Moglich”, there are Tangerine Dream-esque elements as well.

The steady, relaxed travelling rhythms of “Im Element” are an endearing highlight, while the slightly quirky house of “Canacananda” brings to mind Juhl Krøse. The fourth side of the LP wanders into slightly jazzier territory- the super-casual mostly-spoken German vocal on “Nichtmusikalische Stadt Unter Schritten” (as on earlier track “Blues Im Gepack”) reminds me of some Yello, and works well with some forgivably louche keys and an utterly lovely low stepping bassline. The piano on “Dolcefarnientex” is both a feel-good comfort and the album’s most unique-sounding moments and the saxophone on final track “Das Ist Halt So” tells us that the descent into electro-jazz is complete!

While it might not be awash with originality, nor with attention-grabbing dynamism, what you get here is a confident 78 minutes of lush and laidback electronica, perfect for backgrounds, walking, or otherwise steadying the heart rate, and it accomplishes that job very well.

Pedro Vian: s/t

 Posted by Stuart Bruce (@)   Electronics / EBM / Electronica
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Jan 31 2019
Artist: Pedro Vian
Title: s/t
Format: LP
Label: Modern Obscure Music
For his second LP Pedro Vian notes that he does not like “the overproduction of music”, and while that might potentially have been used as an excuse for something undercooked, here the simplicity of the instrumental downtempo electronica, built with a restrained use of layers and only a smattering of effects, is to its credit.

Icy synthetic melodies and pads dominate, while gentle, light-footed and sometimes unusual-sounding electronic beats, like the brooding post-dubstep of “Similar Faces”, are sometimes foregone in favour of more ambient pieces like “Platja”. Other tracks, like “San Morits” or the slightly edgier “Acid Brut”, are a little closer to house and contenders for inclusion in the most mellow and minimal of DJ sets. Some of the shorter tracks serve more like interludes, like the gently discordant “Desmai” which wraps up the first side of the LP nicely.

Highlights include “Seneca”, on which the soft vocals of Laia Nada guest to warming effect, and the strangely named “Tribute to Ligeti”, which doesn’t sound anything like the Gyorgy Ligeti drone I’d justifiably been expected, but instead is a lovely steady rolling house number to close on.

It’s a really nicely moderated and marginally introspective electronica LP with a nice balance of consistency and breadth, and really very pleasant.

Bewider: Full Panorama

 Posted by Stuart Bruce (@)   Electronics / EBM / Electronica
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Jan 29 2019
Artist: Bewider
Title: Full Panorama
Format: CD + Download
Label: Folk Wisdom
Piernicola Di Muro’s work as BeWider on “Full Panorama” is an unashamed and pure album of instrumental synthwave and electronica with as broad and cinematic a scope as the title implies. Built almost entirely from crisp and quite pure sounds mostly from analogue modular synths, from which loops and patterns are set and then gradually twisted, there’s an era-spanning attitude here where some distinctively retro synth flavours are mixed with some more up-to-date production touches.

For the most part it’s very thoughtful stuff, quite brooding at times. Pieces like “No One Ever Became Wicked Suddenly” or the nighttime suspense of “Retina” seem custom-made to soundtrack a broody dystopian sci-fi movie. However in its more poppy moments such as the expansive opening track and the gentle “Latitude” it invites comparison with Jean-Michel Jarre or synthwave names like Power Glove, though never really scaling the same heights of memorable melody that would make it equal to J-M J. In amongst these you also get tracks like the boldly simple proto-techno of “Sartorius”, and the slightly more drone-minded “The Episode”.

With reviewing albums I usually try to wait a while between first and second listens to see if the appreciation of them changes. With this one, as soon as it was finished I clicked play on track 1 again. That’s perhaps as much to do with being in the right mood as the quality of the album itself- which at a push I could describe as a bit wishy-washy- but it’s a sure indicator of a big thumbs up as well.

Belp: Crocodile

 Posted by Stuart Bruce (@)   Electronics / EBM / Electronica
New Music / Downtown / Avantgarde Jazz / New Classical / World
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Jan 25 2019
Artist: Belp
Title: Crocodile
Format: LP
Label: Jahmoni / SVS Records
“Crocodile” is a playful half-hour mini album spanned by ten short ideas that disassemble electronic dance music production elements- in particular hi-hats and snares, which are a focus- and more organic percussive sounds, pulling the rhythms apart and playing with bending and twisting them into something that sounds like it ought to be danceable, yet defies you to be able to do so.

It’s exemplified by “Endless Preparations For A Ceremony”, the conscious tripping-up of rhythmic patterns structured akin to avant garde jazz. The title track takes a similar rhythmic approach but with more use of atmospherics and heavily reverb-drenched vocal sounds to give it a moodier and more well-rounded feel, while “Strand”, despite being the longest track (at over three and a half minutes!) is a more stripped back and minimal affair.

“One And A Half Years Later” is an example of the more denser tracks, taking some spoken-word music documentary narration and layering it over a bendy and squelchy downtempo groove reminiscent of Wagon Christ, while final track “Catch” is a bold and punchy flourish of untraceable some-kind-of-tribal samples.

Overall it’s an unusual collection of exercises in unexpected rhythm programming, but at times it does feel a little bit under-baked, like a collection of incomplete musical sketches- certainly worth a listen though.

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