Music Reviews

Dream Control: Zeitgeber

 Posted by Stuart Bruce (@)   Electronics / EBM / Electronica
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Sep 27 2017
Artist: Dream Control
Title: Zeitgeber
Format: 12" vinyl + Download
Label: Medical Records
This debut collaboration between Zeus B. Held and ex-Tangerine Dream Steve Schroyder is a sharp, super-polished bit of sci-fi synthpop. Across six mostly “extended mix”-length tracks you get the full works of driving pulsing synth basslines, effected vocals, guitar snippets, glitter energy and drama.

Like synthwave it delves into 1980’s era sonics with aplomb, and also pushes one step further and borrows organ sounds and early vocoder tones from the 1970’s prog rock palette, but there’s also a bright and undoubtedly modern aspect to the production that can’t be ignored.

After the glittery upfront disco feel of “Gamma Ray”, things get a little gentler and more progressive with “Time Out”, a track that seems to explore how the DNA of electronic dance music runs through both old and new. “Kant Can Dance” showcases the ‘techno throat singing’ of Kolja Simon and Felix Mönnich as ‘AlienVoices’, regular collaborators here, set to an even more Tangerine Dream-esque setting mainly thanks to the synth harpsichord sounds. When not being heavily effected, the vocal has a hint of Dieter Meier’s warmth and accent about it.

The second half also starts at pace, with the more attitude-laden “To Tomoro” with a lush full-on sci-fi-rocket-launch intro and some NASA-esque vocal samples thrown in for good measure, albeit with a vocal that doesn’t quite cut through enough. “Go Forward” is an oddity, a radio-edit-length sparse number which feels a little too much like an underproduced demo in some ways but which does provide an extra bit of breadth. The final track is the electro-symphony of “Doors Of Perception”, taking somewhat Jean-Michel Jarre-like noises and building a ten minute evolving bit of synth majesty out of it that’s masterfully balanced, a masterclass in electronic music progression.

I’m not going to play it cool, I love this and it puts a smile on my face. Not every track is a classic but it’s an energetic and unabashed electro-disco-synthpop melee with an exemplary production standard, and fans of any aspect of the broad genre will find something to enjoy in it.

Antiquark: Adama

 Posted by Stuart Bruce (@)   Electronics / EBM / Electronica
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Sep 26 2017
Artist: Antiquark
Title: Adama
Format: Download Only (MP3 + Lossless)
Label: self-released
Released six months ago but only sent to me as a promo last week, “Adama” is a release I missed earlier this year, but I’m glad it swung round again and I got a second chance to hear it.

An EP consisting of two original tracks and four remixes, it’s a thick-stirred melting pot of a wide variety of genres. The instrumentation has that ethno-electronica sound of acts like Asian Dub Foundation, but the song structures are more electro-pop, yet the male vocal feels like it’s been lifted from something more rocky and gothic.

After the solid and fairly radio-friendly title track that serves as a good indicator, “Adelita” is a stranger affair, with a darker groove and a strange form of beat-poetry structure including a whole bunch of esoteric choral and spoken-word samples.

In the remix bundle, Getriebe Analogique bring a nicely understated funk to “Medavog” with a lovely bit of bass guitar work and the result is a strong slice of synthpop. Rudy Seery’s take on “La Fine” results ups the Eastern flavours with drone tones that are somewhere between throat singing and didgeridoo over a laidback trip-hoppy rhythm that evolves into something more complex as it progresses.

The final two remixes have a broader scope and feel less coherent within the package. In a jolt of styles, Prosthesis Unit’s version of “Medavog” is a thumping but slightly over-familiar bit of gothic techno-pop with a hint of electro breaks. Milkmud’s long ‘Factory Steel’ mix of “Laika” is an edgier offering, with a heavy rhythmic industrial thump underpinning distorted samples, randomised bleeps and oscillated squeals that works in its own right but lands us a whole world away from where we began.

It’s a bright, poppy collection of tunes that will strongly appeal to fans of Afro Celt Sound System, Dr. Didg and so on, and I make no apology for the deliberate use of 1990’s references in these comparisons as there’s something quite rooted in that era production-wise about this release as well.

Dedekind Cut: The Expanding Domain

 Posted by Stuart Bruce (@)   Electronics / EBM / Electronica
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Sep 19 2017
Artist: Dedekind Cut
Title: The Expanding Domain
Format: 12"
Label: Hallow Ground
Leaving behind his old aliases as a hip-hop producer, Dedekind Cut offers us a concentrated pack of experimental electronica with a cinematic quality and a very off-kilter structure. Broad and slow soundscapes of drone meet glitchy electronic noise.

After a confidently sparse opening with the looping synth pattern of “Cold Bloom”, we get “Lil Puffy Coat” which, despite its jaunty title, is particularly epic in tone, dark and sci-fi. It’s followed joltingly by the hammering rhythm of “Fear In Revese 2” which is a right-on-the-edge bit of raw industrial.

The two final tracks are the longest tracks, and both self-contained progressive pieces in their own right. “The Expanding Domain” has further industrial tones but with a crisp softness and it drifts from pounding to gently melodic and back again, underpinned by an awkward three-four rhythm that never lets you get comfy. Final track “Das Expanded, Untilted Riff” is a mellower affair with a synth melody reminiscent of old-school trance hopping wistfully over an ambient backing that’s 1990’s-esque in the middle and more contemporary and experimental by the end.

Showing the benefit of contributions from six of his friends contributing elements such as modular synths, piano and percussion, the result is a supremely good, diverse, un-pigeonhole-able EP that really ought to make fans of cinematic electronica stand up and pay attention.

Iokoi: Liquefy Reworks

 Posted by Stuart Bruce (@)   Electronics / EBM / Electronica
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Sep 18 2017
Artist: Iokoi
Title: Liquefy Reworks
Format: Download Only (MP3 + Lossless)
Label: -OUS
Two tracks from the downtempo 2016 Iokoi album “Liquefy” get the remix treatment here.

Furtherset offer up a version of “Touchreel” that’s very stripped back, just a gentle light mechanical rhythm with sparkly pads, gated chords and vocal snippets all twinkling on top. It’s an oddly structured affair which, at under five minutes, feels like it’s a broader and darker bit of abstract soundscape design that’s been grafted bonsai-style into a small package.

NHK yx Koyxen (not a typo, and not just me hammering the keyboard)’s take on “Realien” gives things a more conventional light techno flavour, with soft 4 4 beats, a slightly Josh Wink-ish gradually unfolding melodic pattern, and whispered vocal noises. It progresses nicely, with a nice twist on the beat past the 5 minute mark to keep things moving, and it’s DJ friendly so long as the slightly abrupt end is anticipated.

It’s an odd pair of tracks that does feel like unused remix leftovers rather than a particularly coherent 2-track mini-package, leaving the “bold statement” of the original album behind somewhat, but the NHK yx Koyxen remix is certainly worth checking out, if you can get the spelling right on Beatport.

Psycho & Plastic: Planet Seductron

 Posted by Stuart Bruce (@)   Electronics / EBM / Electronica
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Sep 15 2017
Artist: Psycho & Plastic
Title: Planet Seductron
Format: Download Only (MP3 + Lossless)
Label: GiveUsYourGOLD
“Planet Seductron” is a slice of funky mellow electrohouse, centred around a crisp bit of guitar, a fairly languid beat, and theremin-style high synth melodies. It’s around 124bpm with a confident and assured swagger and a bassline that’s borderline lazy. Halfway through, a deep and rich male rap starts looping around as the centrepiece. Lyrically it’s rather cliché but as the peak rather than the core of the track, it works. It’s certainly not the sexiest piece of house I’ve ever heard.

In a two-track package, you get the original plus a long remix from Der Schmeisser, Tietz & Mano Meter (three names, one remix) which brings a bouncier percussion pattern, more energetic bouncy bassline and stretches the transitions and progressions out into a more spaced-out result. Careful sprinklings of small snippets of the vocal and a rich extra rubbery bassline flow around in a way that stays interesting.

A strong track-and-remix package from GiveUsYourGOLD, and a great advert for the forthcoming Psycho & Plastic album due in October.

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