Music Reviews



Craven Faults: Erratics & Unconformities

 Posted by Stuart Bruce (@)   Electronics / EBM / Electronica
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Dec 03 2019
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Artist: Craven Faults
Title: Erratics & Unconformities
Format: CD & Vinyl
Label: The Leaf Label
In the description of the first full Craven Faults album (after a series of EP’s and the excellent recent “Lowfold Reworks” 12”, some of which are bundled in full as bonus tracks on the CD edition of this), we are painted a series of florid atmospheric vignettes, ranging from canals in rural Nottinghamshire to studios in 1967 Manhattan. It’s a disjointed, abstract pitch and a classic case of a press release that gives you very little clue what it’s going to actually sound like.

Luckily though, the music itself is far far more consistent and single-minded. Pulsing warm electronic patterns are the order of the day, taking the analogue modular synth sounds familiar to electronica and stretching and thickening them into broad synthetic textures.

“Vacca Wall” owes more than a little to Tangerine Dream sonically, yet across its seventeen minute span it progresses relatively little even by TD standards, with relentless arpeggiation that seems to adopt the Philip Glass approach to mesmeric repetition- a brave move, but one it certainly succeeds at. Following track “Deipkeir” has such a similar make-up that it rolls into one 25-minute piece. “Cupola Smelt Mill” offers a gently different groove, a soft simple kick pattern and some sawtooth pad wishes making it feel substantially more optimistic.

It’s only in “Slack Sley & Temple”, filling the first side of the second disc in the double LP set, that we hear a small flourish of recorded environmental sound- but rather than being the opener to a new approach, it’s just a brief bookend to another elaborate and quite purist dive into electronica, this time slower, with an almost twangy low pulse note over an extra-rich bass. Slightly more industrial percussive sounds give a little extra grit as it goes along, a broodiness that’s interrupted by the generally chilled “Hangingstones” but restored in slightly funereal final piece “Signal Post”.

It’s one of those releases where lack of breadth or diversity has been adopted into a virtue- 72 minutes of fairly similar-sounding electronica, based on a fairly small set of ingredients, but unrolled with a confidence and steadiness that becomes quite intoxicating as you sink deeper into it. While it didn’t quite live up to the high expectations I had from the remix EP earlier in November, it’s still a rich and quality bit of deep electronica.
Nov 26 2019
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Artist: Flug 8
Title: Space Techno
Format: 12" vinyl + Download
Label: Ransom Note Records
The latest 4-track EP from tech house and techno veteran Flug 8, a.k.a. Daniel Herrmann, is a solid lesson in production quality, a veritable “how to” for electronic producers trying to find balance in their tracks. It’s also a safe pair of hands as an E.P., taking you on a casual, relaxing and spaced-out journey that contains a sum total of exactly zero surprises.

“Spacemodulation” establishes a dreamy walking pace, gentle pulses giving occasional pace to an otherwise floaty deep space atmosphere. Decidedly Kraftwerk-esque synthetic vocals give “Autopilot” an almost kitsch or retro flavour as an initially somewhat gritty and lo-fi opening unfolds into a blissful array of pad sounds.

“Polarprojektion” takes elements of the first two tracks, combining further vocal sounds with a dreamier approach and just a touch more exoticism in the choice of sounds, before “Magnetometer” introduces a squelchy bassline and begins again on a well-executed gradual build.

Even the title of this release is gently prosaic. Although “inspired” is not a word I’d use in association with any of these tracks, nevertheless the relentlessly high standard and endearing sonic appeal really is hard to fault.

Suumhow: Secuund

 Posted by Ibrahim Khider (@)   Electronics / EBM / Electronica
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Nov 23 2019
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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
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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
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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.


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