Music Reviews

Romain Iannone: Nocturne Works

 Posted by Stuart Bruce (@)   Electronics / EBM / Electronica
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May 30 2017
Artist: Romain Iannone
Title: Nocturne Works
Format: Tape
Label: Oqko
“Nocturne Works” is a collection of mostly very short twisted lullabies, comprising organ-like synth noodling fed through surprisingly harsh lo-fi filters, on a bed of soft electronic ambience. The press release assertively states that “a particular bound [sic] exists between the cassette tape, the nocturne moon and the seeds of the Ipomoea alba (moonflower)”, but musically there’s nothing here that really backs that up.

There are some very pleasant moments. Longest track “Gibrilla The Woodcutter” is nicely evocative, with reedy chords and nicely counterpointing rhythms allowed to cycle round and evolve. “Lake_03” is also strong- extra time clearly brings out the best in the chord explorations. Some of the shorter tracks, such as “Petite Limace”, sound like unfinished ideas that should have either been explored further or abandoned.

There are some more innovative nuggets in there as well- “Tape Loop” is rather different, more synthwave-like with good use of the central cassette motif. The faintly cheeky “Morricone Samples”, while not sounding like the title implies, has a slightly different character.

But the processing is simply too heavy. The whole thing has been fed through a filter to make it sound more 8-bit than 16-bit and it is far too much, to the extent I had to check whether there was something wrong with the preview files. That one simple act of washing it strips it of any sonic purity and regularly grates. The drunken oscillations of tracks like “FEV_01”, as though designed to imitate tape warble before the album’s even been put onto tape, frankly don’t help either.

If the lo-fi processing and distortion had been edged back and if the pieces had been allowed to breath for more than the under-two-minutes that most of them get, then potentially this could have been a very pretty, if somewhat cliché, mellow soundscapey outing. As it is, it has too much of a half-baked demo quality to it and it somehow fails to justify its own awkwardness.

Christopher Chaplin: Deconstructed (Remix EP)

 Posted by Stuart Bruce (@)   Electronics / EBM / Electronica
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May 26 2017
Artist: Christopher Chaplin
Title: Deconstructed (Remix EP)
Format: Download Only (MP3 + Lossless)
Label: Fabrique Records
This is an EP of reworkings of tracks from Chaplin’s debut solo album “Je Suis Le Ténébreux” released last year. For those who still think ‘remix’ only means dance music, this release should set you straight. Four guest artists take elements from Chaplin’s work and build new environments out of it.

Jama Irmert’s take on “Aelia Laelia” is a multi-stage piece full of dramatic shifts, with all sorts of elements flying in and out- choral notes, distorted guitars, drones and deep electronic bubbles. It’s generally a little more abrasive than the material on Irmert’s own debut “End Of Absence”.

Tim Story brings his ‘electronic chamber music’ aesthetic to the title track from the album, creating something with a slow, slightly jazzy live feel of piano, drums and deep plucked bass, with retriggering electronic glitch-percussive noises and serious sounding radio-like vocal snippets sprinkled very liberally on top.

Peter Zirbs’ take on “Lucius Agatho” consists of long guitar-esque drone tones, melded with a rapid tip-tapping of crisp electronic processing. It evolves smoothly and fairly quickly, fitting into a six minute slot but leaving the impression that it could have easily sustained twice as long.

The remix of “Aelia Laelia” is sadly missing from the promo so I can’t comment on that, but from the first three tracks of the four track EP, it’s a lovely little collaborative package that works well as a sampler both of Chaplin’s and all the remixers’ work.

Loke Rahbek: City Of Women

 Posted by Stuart Bruce (@)   Electronics / EBM / Electronica
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May 25 2017
Artist: Loke Rahbek
Title: City Of Women
Format: 12" vinyl + Download
Label: Editions Mego
Loke Rahbek’s debut solo album is a collection of dark, distorted drones and electronic washes and piano melodies.

The title track is a highlight, taking EDM sounds and remoulding them into something extensive and cinematic not dissimilar to some of BT’s soundtrack work. “A Mess Of Love” is also a mini-epic, beginning sparsely before opening into a triumphant-sounding quasi-orchestral conclusion (and a bizarre single drum hit at the end which frankly sounds like a mistake). Opener “Like A Still Pool” and closer “Take Pleasure In Habits” work well as book-ends, sombre punctuation for what’s between.

However at times it feels a little soundscape-electronica-by-numbers, with pieces like “Fermented” a very familiar arrangement of moody tones and lonely piano notes rather lacking in a distinct character, and “Swimwear” carrying a strong sense of deja vu with it. Like many other debuts, a more adventurous focus might have lifted this album to higher accomplishments, but as it is it’s a rich and interesting listen.

Jlin: Black Origami

 Posted by Stuart Bruce (@)   Electronics / EBM / Electronica
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May 22 2017
Artist: Jlin
Title: Black Origami
Format: CD & Vinyl
Label: Planet Mu Records
“Black Origami” is a heavily Eastern-influenced, heavily percussive album full of short pieces that are predominantly glitchy electronica, but also part tribal breakbeat, part instrumental pop. The rhythm-first approach inspires dancing, but the complexity and constant shifting is generally DJ-unfriendly. The heavily quantized feel to parts of it seem reminiscent of 90’s tracker tunes, with the drum programming a complex mathematical exercise, as though trying to recreate a large percussion ensemble using a computer and pushing the synchronisation and rapid-fire retriggering faster than humans really could go.

“Nyakinua Rise” and “Hatshepsut” are brilliant exercises in measured aggression which you can visualise a martial arts display being set to. The sheer directness of pieces like “Enigma” really demands your attention, with cut-up vocal snippets that sound Bollywood-like as far as it’s possible to tell. Every track bounds with energy, so even sonically milder pieces like “Kyanite” still have some frantic layers- even collaborating with William Basinski on “Holy Child” doesn’t temper it.

Other guest appearances include the brilliant Holly Herndon, whose influence on “1%” brings sinister vocal samples (“you’re all going to die down here”), distortion and a cross-tempo techno flavour which works well. “1%” and the following track “Never Created, Never Destroyed”, a slightly more regular-tempo rap number featuring Dope Saint Jude, are a slightly anachronistic section towards the end of a mostly very consistent album.

This album seems strongly linked to modern stage dance- short, dynamic, shifting complex patterns that would allow dancers to move and express in ways unexpected by the audience. Nevertheless it’s still an enticing and intriguing home listening album even if you’re not planning to choreograph yourself to it.

Spoony Bard: Dweeb

 Posted by Stuart Bruce (@)   Electronics / EBM / Electronica
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May 17 2017
Artist: Spoony Bard
Title: Dweeb
Format: Download Only (MP3 + Lossless)
Label: self-released
“Just playing jazz wasn’t cutting it any more”, said David Nord, so he delved into the L.A. electronic scene and started bringing his jazz guitar experience into a world of glitched, faintly retro synth-electronica. The result is “Dweeb”, an 8-track mini-album of quirky, semi-organic slow-stepping electronica numbers that sound like casual jazz cut up and reworked with technical precision. Some tracks even throw in a little Chromeo-ish funk for good measure.

It’s dynamic, with plenty of surprise changes, such as when the title track segues into the short-lived sort-of-drum-and-bass “Dryout” finale. The rhythms are complex and not always predictable- “Solitary Isle / Words Are Wind” one of those patterns that’s hard to understand yet sounds perfectly natural if you’re not counting it.

It’s instrumental in parts with short vocal snippets, but there are loose-form songs too- “Vibe / Void” and “Much Better” have full-on frustration-driven raps, while “Mantra / Micawber” plays like a verse in search of a chorus.

Things branch out towards the end. “Geno” is a temporary glimpse into a neighbouring universe where this was a more stripped-back drone album, but even at only a little over two minutes, there’s still space for the gentle groove to work its way back in. “Commoner” is another rap track but with a harder-edged beat and acid tones.

At under half an hour it’s a short-but-sweet album of offbeat programming and genre straddling that’s steeped in sincerity and introspection, sombre and at points a little inaccessible. It’s hard to pigeonhole and worth checking out for yourself.

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