Music Reviews

Apr 30 2018
Artist: Ben Bertrand
Title: NGC 1999
Format: 12" vinyl + CD
Label: Les Albums Claus
Belgian bass clarinetist Ben Bertrand’s debut album is comprised of 31 minutes of melding some pure clarinet work with electronic processing, looping and drone effects. A mixture of positive and more melancholic melodic meandering drifts over long sustained minimalist tones. Some pitch up-shifting generates some glittery higher tones as well, giving a nice well-rounded balance.

In opener “Orion Molecular Cloud”, the drone layer is processed in such a way that it sounds far more like a didgeridoo than a clarinet- for better or worse, depending on your opinion of didgeridoos. Though it makes claim to reference a variety of ethnic styles, that’s probably about as ethnic as it really gets, frankly sounding quite Western and middle-class otherwise- not intending that as a disservice of course.

There’s a perky jauntiness to “V380 Orionis” that’s quite refreshing, before “Malkauns On Kitt Peak” adopts a more familiar, earnest, chin-stroking modern classical grimness. The two approaches mix together on “Sanctus Hubble”, with its quite bouncy echo-laden staccato rhythm parts meeting the cold-jazz-like clarinet work.

“Post Scriptum to Valentina Terechkova” (the Russian cosmonaut) introduces some whispered vocals over quite a barren and electronic soundscape where the clarinet often feels completely subsumed, as such feeling like the piece that most wholly steps into the album’s space theme.

There’s an assured simplicity to it all that certainly justifies references to Steve Reich. It perhaps falls between two stools somewhat, neither long and truly minimalist enough to reach that feeling of emotional transcendence, but it’s a very appealing and polished- albeit simply too short- bit of work.
Apr 27 2018
Artist: Sonns & Tavish
Title: Trycksaker
Format: 12" vinyl + Download
Label: ESP Institute
These two tracks mark a production debut for established LA DJ’s Alexandre Mouracade and Tavish Graham, and it’s a bold and confident opener. Two slabs of bright, confident, steady instrumental four-to-the-floor with bits of synthwave, bits of electro-house, and some aspects of a more minimal aesthetic, this is music you could dance to, or drive to, or work to, or just sit down and enjoy.

At almost nine minutes the A side “Trycksaker” maybe overstays its welcome just a touch for home listening and bouncier B side “Roguish Days”, with its bassline lifted from the funkier side of acid house, seems more compact and well-formed, but they’re both born from the same sonic pod and they’re both highly polished, if borderline uneventful, bits of mid-set feel-good fodder.

Doon Kanda: Luna

 Posted by Stuart Bruce (@)   Electronics / EBM / Electronica
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Apr 27 2018
Artist: Doon Kanda
Title: Luna
Format: 12" vinyl + Download
Label: Hyperdub
Information is relatively sparse about Doon Kanda’s second Hyperdub release, save for an Instagram link pointing to a wealth (if wealth is the word) of sculptures and CG modelling of globulus and ugly alien body shapes, one of which is seen as this release’s artwork.

Thankfully the music here is not as ugly as the modelling, though it is almost as weird. Purely instrumental, it’s a blend of steady, faintly glitchy downtempo electronica grooves with some decidedly off-kilter and quirky synth melody work which feels a little bit like an exercise in finding the weirdest high-pitched noises available on your synthesizer and then messing about playing melodies with them in a relaxed but not completely unstructured way.

At its best- maybe opener “Bloodlet”- it sounds like early 90’s Tangerine Dream leftovers with a mildly dark twist. “Crinoline” has a faintly baroque feel reminiscent of some lighter tracks from µ-Ziq. “Luna” and final track “Lamina” are quite endearingly poppy, while “Molting” is a notable bit of heavier, almost grimy production.

At 7 short tracks clocking in at under 20 minutes overall, it’s either a long EP or a very mini mini-album depending on how you look at it. It’s a curious release, not as misshapen as the visuals that accompany it but still definitely lopsided, perhaps a bit too much so.

Furtherset: To Alter And Effect

 Posted by Stuart Bruce (@)   Electronics / EBM / Electronica
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Apr 26 2018
Artist: Furtherset
Title: To Alter And Effect
Format: Tape
Label: -OUS
“To Alter And Effect” is a 6-pack mini-album (25 minutes-ish) of amped-up synth instrumentals with the sonic qualities of angry distorted synthwave and the drama-inclined arrangements of sci-fi soundtracks, all teetering on the edge of electronica, or bombastic EBM without the beats.

“This Eternal Vanishing” is a bold way to open, full of dramatic hits and squeaks over panted vocal rhythms, and sets the stall out nicely, before the energy levels drop down a few notches for “The Arc Of Imaginary”, one of the mini-album’s more sedate moments, relatively speaking. “Self Unfinished” lays up rapid arpeggios like a kind of Philip Glass raving with a broken Juno.

The title track is the closest skirting of this release to synthpop territory- you can imagine there being an angst-ridden vocal on here- before “Ask Your Existential Core” returns to the panting and deep rumbling distortion. Final track “Drawing Of Desire And Hate” is a highlight, a thick wash of synth noise which unfolds into a epic sci-fi symphony of synths and pulses that then devolves into bit-crushed percussive hits and noisy drones to finish.

Though packaged more as art music than it actually is (including the obligatory pretentious cassette release), this is rich home-listening synth-electronica and quite strong for it. Synthwave fans looking for something a bit more soundtrack-y, and kick-drum-free, should appreciate it.
Apr 24 2018
Artist: Lybes Dimem
Title: Syncleft Chronem
Format: LP
Label: SVS Records
Lukas Rehm, who describes himself as a visual artist before the word musician, opens up a new alias here. The Lybes Diem project is integrally built to be a synergy between sound and ‘moving image artwork’ (or ‘video’ as plebs like me might call it), designed for installations, spatial sound experiences and “synesthetic shows”.

But ignoring all that, what do you get if you buy the LP or the download? You get eight punchy tracks of loud, often aggressive distorted techno and electronica instrumental built on complex and often slow kick rhythms.

“Tachy” is a noisy, abrasive opener that borders on white noise at times, and while “Horizon2020” allows for sparser breathing sections, the noise is never too far away. “Auto Alternative” offers a dark electronic thrum that probably does sound fantastic live.

The second half of the album settles down somewhat, with “Nascent Tenet” a collection of low faintly industrial drones mixed with long synth pads and odd atmospherics. “Double Bound” uses chord patterns that are odd-sounding but more conventionally structured. “Da-Jiang Innovations” reintroduces noisier elements but over more settled pads, before “Powerset” wraps things up in a predictably dark and industrial rumbling manner.

Either cathartic or unwelcoming depending on whether you can get into the sound or not, “Syncleft Chronem” takes some of the sonic qualities of IDM and reworks them into the world of immersive installations and disorientation. The result is one of those albums that manages to be not particularly likeable at times, yet really tempt you to turn the volume up up up nevertheless.

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