Music Reviews

Mick Sussman: The Rosenberg Algorithmic Music Generator: Selected Works, Vol. 1

 Posted by Stuart Bruce (@)   Electronics / EBM / Electronica
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May 12 2018
Artist: Mick Sussman
Title: The Rosenberg Algorithmic Music Generator: Selected Works, Vol. 1
Format: CD + Download
Label: The Sublunar Society
As a music-loving programmer I love scientific artwork concepts like this- the idea that music can be auto-generated out of rules and patterns ad infinitum and without intervention. Thankfully devoid of the “who needs composers now?” hyperbole that might sometimes be attached, here we get 19 curated outputs from Sussman’s new music generator. Every track seems to have been named by pulling two random words from the dictionary and sticking them together.

All of them are strictly between 3:36 and 3:57, and all of them sound like frantic 1980’s 8-bit arpeggiators set on random settings with short drum machine percussive sounds underneath. Were it not for the polyphony of more than 3 tracks, I’d wonder whether a BBC Micro could have created this.

Does it work? At times yes. Patterns, rather than genuine randomness, is clearly an important part of this generator, and when the patterns align into something that feels comfortable- as it does in “Spherical Sameness”- it’s strangely enticing. “Italicize Mellow” has a curious baroqueness to it.

At other times, not so much. Some of it, like the ironically named “Finitely Kindhearted”, is too frantic and too relentless. Perhaps factoring in more of a sense of peak and dip, of adding and subtracting layers throughout the course of each piece rather than just embarking on nearly-four-minutes of relentless bleeping, might have yielded something more palatable than the barely listenable “Abstention Prance”. “Burble Exponent” has the component parts you might find in some Venetian Snares or Aphex Twin tracks, but help to explain in sonic terms how you really can tell the difference between their work and something truly randomised.

And for a 2018 work, the decidedly lo-fi nature of the musical output (and the accompanying artwork) seems an unnecessary move. A processor as cheap as a Raspberry Pi is capable of generating CD-quality sound through things like VST synthesis, so there’s no technical reason why this couldn’t have all been constructed with the same concept but a more modern sound.

For 365 days up to the release of this album, the label were releasing a single track from the project every day, and one disposable three-minute-work each day is arguably a more fitting use of this output than a ‘proper’ album. Ultimately, it’s one of those releases you might cherry-pick for a couple of the more successful tracks, and while it’s a concept you might enjoy, it’s not a release you’re going to frequently sit down and listen to as a complete 63-minute work.
Artist: Noisebrigade
Title: Selected Resistors
Format: Download Only (MP3 + Lossless)
Label: Der Klang
A compilation of tracks from Maurizio Pustianaz’s Noisebrigade project from 2008 through to 2017, selected resistors is a thorough 76-minute pack of instrumental synthwave and synthpop sounds full of warm analogue synth sounds, pads and bleeps bent into making dark, cinematic and brooding music.

There’s a broad range of grooves spanning electro and a few different shades of techno, from the heavier Warp Records-esque breakbeat thumps of “I Robot” to the dystopian sci-fi drama of “Chemical Experiment”. There’s a consistency in how the pure, almost lullaby-like melodic tones play against

Text-to-speech vocals appear sparingly, such as on “Inside Trader” which has a decidedly Kraftwerk proto-electro flavour. The retro flavours are also prominent on “Hierophant’s Nebula”, which, perhaps due to my own nostalgic make-up, reminds me quite strongly of Keff McCulloch’s incidental Doctor Who music of the late 80’s- a perky and steady underscore at times.

There’s a generous helping of 7 tracks from the “Cathodic Dreams” album, and four completely unreleased tracks, with the rest picked from EP’s and various artist compilation exclusives. Despite the decidedly retro-facing general sonic make-up of it, it’s interesting to hear how the production values definitely evolve over time, with the later tracks sounding richer and pushing things a little further.

A very pleasant pack that will appeal to anyone with a fondness for analogue electro and synthwave.

Yair Etziony: Albion Remixes

 Posted by Stuart Bruce (@)   Electronics / EBM / Electronica
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May 10 2018
Artist: Yair Etziony
Title: Albion Remixes
Format: Download Only (MP3 + Lossless)
Label: False Industries
I reviewed Etziony’s sixth album “Deliverance” a couple of months ago, calling it “an array of drama-laden electronic soundscaping full of dark symphonic chords, echoey rumbles and percussive hits, subbass groans and slow synthetic washes”.

So when a remix package arrived, I assumed it would be of tracks from that most recent album- but in fact, it’s of four tracks from his 2015 album “Avalon” instead. As for why, that’s not seemingly explained, and since that’s an album I’m not familiar with, I can only take the remixes for what they are, not how they compare to what they were before.

The first remixer Fhloston Paradigm is better known as Knig Britt, and his version of “Never Again” is a six-minute, DJ-friendly bit of atmospheric synth house with a stuttering yet steady rhythm that gives a nice bright feeling.

Any suggestion that this is going to be a 4-pack of straightforward clubby house mixes is dispelled by Alec Empire (from Atari Teenage Riot)’s dramatic and raw take on “Imperum Romanum”. Starting with cinematic percussion hits, it builds very slowly, eventually reaching an energetic bit of American-style angry rocky instrumental EDM with a decidedly sci-fi feel.

The Maps and Diagrams remix of “Nightwatcher” has a similarly filmic opening but heads in a very different direction, a lovely acid-tinged bit of ambient-meets-old-school-beatless-trance reminiscent of The Irresistible Force and really rather lovely, before Daniela Orvin’s reversion of the album’s title track is a more modern-sounding take on ambient, full of lush synths, string swells and gentle vocal noises that give a rich velvety if moderately uneventful carpet of smooth noise which, at five minutes long, feels like it could have been explored further.

It’s a nicely diverse four-pack reflecting four different styles, and as such, well suited to open-minded electronica home listeners.

Cuts: Exist 1 + Exist 2

 Posted by Stuart Bruce (@)   Electronics / EBM / Electronica
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May 10 2018
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Artist: Cuts
Title: Exist 1 + Exist 2
Format: CD & Vinyl
Label: Village Green Recordings
Here, Anthony Tombling Jr. releases the soundtrack to his own film “Exist”. As eight tracks, split across two twenty-minute EP’s, it’s essentially a single soundtrack album split (perhaps needlessly) into two parts.

This is work from the most cinematic edges of synthwave- soft, expansive chord pads, occasional slow expressive melodies, thoughtful and breathy female lyrics and ahhhs, with the odd kick of drama or tension creeping in just at the edges. Some tracks feature rumbling percussive elements, like the industrial-ish slow breakbeat of “Body Parts” that spends a long time distant before stepping to the fore for the emotive second section. Final track “Bunsen Burner”, in two versions, has a synth line that makes it feel like a leftover from the Tron Legacy soundtrack that falls just a little short of the widescreen production, but not much.

Detached from the film it was created for, it’s a polished bit of synthwavey electronica that falls a little short in distinctive character but still provides an enjoyable and atmospheric listen.

Proc Fiskal: Insula

 Posted by Stuart Bruce (@)   Electronics / EBM / Electronica
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May 09 2018
Artist: Proc Fiskal
Title: Insula
Format: CD & Vinyl
Label: Hyperdub
Edinburgh-based producer Joe Powers has an energetic take on grime, blending up crisp fast-cut beats, 8-bit sounds, glitchy scratches and ripped-up short MC samples, and longer field recordings and TV and radio samples onto beats mostly well above 140bpm. Then that’s played against soft synth pads and lightweight key melodies that bring the musicality for a series of exercises in contrast.

“Kontinuance” is a prime example of the dual-tempo approach, the manic sample cutting and complex broken-up beat playing nicely against the gentle synth patterns. The kung-fu-meets-8-bit-gaming tones of “Vaudeville” are another strong arrangement. When allowed to breathe in some of the mellower parts, the synths do sound a little weedy at times, though sometimes that plays in the track’s favour, an example being “A Like Ye”, a twisted love song constructed from lo-fi samples..

There’s also a more playful side, with tracks like “2L” and the squidgy-sounding “Dish Washing” coming in quite bouncy, almost jazzy in parts, with shades of old Wagon Christ flavours. Besides some slightly cheeky recordings of Joe’s phone conversations, the longer TV and radio samples seem to be frequently sourced from documentaries and there’s a tendency towards aggressive Scottish accents, often requiring Parental Advisory stickers.

The Peter Hyams movie “2010” is one of my guilty pleasures so any album that starts with a fairly whopping sample from it will always bias me towards it, I should disclose that while I’m here.

It’s a strong package of electronica-meets-grime with some unique flavours, many of them making for very good listening, but maybe with not enough standout tracks to make you want frequent repeat plays.

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