Music Reviews

Maleem Mahmoud Ghania with Pharoah Sanders: The Trance Of Seven Colors

 Posted by Stuart Bruce (@)   Techno / Trance / Goa / Drum'n'Bass / Jungle / Tribal / Trip-Hop
New Music / Downtown / Avantgarde Jazz / New Classical / World
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Oct 04 2019
Artist: Maleem Mahmoud Ghania with Pharoah Sanders
Title: The Trance Of Seven Colors
Format: 2 x 12" vinyl
Label: Zehra
This is a re-release of an album first put out on 1994 on Bill Laswell’s Axiom label, and never previously available on vinyl. It’s described as Gnawa trance, heavily percussion led and deliberately repetitive, music tightly tailored to either transcendence or dancing or both.

Laswell went to Morocco and recorded himself collaborating with large family ensembles of musicians, with Laswell contributing his famous tenor saxophone elements. From back in the days when world music still involved adventure and discovery and wasn’t all just immediately available with a Spotify search, there’s an energy in exploration across the nine tracks that has, so far, not dated at all.

The captivating rolling bassline and mantras of opening track of “La Allah Daymin Moulenah” quickly win you over, setting a groove that genuinely has the feel-good funk. This positive vibe also infuses the call-and-response-based “Salat Anbi”, or final track “Mahraba” which ends the release with a smile. In the meantime, other tracks offer up a variety of alternative rhythms and tones, from the more tribal gradual speed-up of “Hamdouchi” with its intimidatingly angry conclusion, to the deep jazz dive and more complex time signatures of longest track “Boulandi Samawi”.

Laswell’s sax work is notably modest at times- this isn’t a Bill Laswell solo album in disguise, not in the least. On tracks like “Bala Moussaka” he doesn’t feel the need to join in at all, and rightly so. However when he does contribute, it’s done in an admirably sympathetic and complimentary way that really works. “Peace In Essaouira” is an exception that proves the rule.

Despite being recorded over twenty years ago on mobile recording equipment, the sound quality is excellent, and almost without exception sounds as though it could have been recorded in an expensive Real World-style studio. Everything sounds close, but not claustrophobic, and it’s nicely balanced in that way.

It’s a welcome re-issue of a really strong album that still sounds fresh twenty-five years on, a must-check-out item for lovers of organic rhythmic trance sounds.

Sinistarr: Everything On Time

 Posted by Vito Camarretta (@)   Techno / Trance / Goa / Drum'n'Bass / Jungle / Tribal / Trip-Hop
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Sep 07 2019
Artist: Sinistarr (@)
Title: Everything On Time
Format: 12"
Label: Defrostatica (@)
Rated: *****
This second appearance of Detroit-based versatile drum'n'bass producer and DJ Sinistarr on Leipzig-based label Defrostatica, whose focus on more experimental side of drum'n'bass scene suits the searching paths that this interesting guy (featuring many awesome outputs on renowned labels such as Metalheadz, Renegade Hardware, C.I.A., Hospital Records, Tectonic and Alphacut), also came on a very limited (70 copies only) 180g vinyl edition, pressed on a plastic that looks like natural marble. Just four tracks, but enjoyable for the ones searching for something slightly different from known dnb sonorities. The opening track "KNS 2019" (featuring Singapore-born DJ and producer Kiat) heavily resembles the first outputs by New Zealand DNB heroes The Upbeats since its menacing intro, even if there are no connections between them and Sinistarr as far as I know - their paths maybe crossed only in the playlist of many djs -. The notes of sci-fi jasmine on the following "Emo", made with Icelandic polyhedral producer Agzilla, can trap some listeners, as well as the naive gracefulness of "Garden", whose blossoming vocals by Morgan Neimans can vaguely resemble the childish falsetto of Allison Shaw, and the narcotized tune of "Torpor" (really amazing the muffled bass defibrillators over the track, as they were intended to revive the track). The original version of KNS comes as a (downloadable if you opt for the vinyl version) bonus as well.

Basic Biology: Melting Patterns

 Posted by Vito Camarretta (@)   Techno / Trance / Goa / Drum'n'Bass / Jungle / Tribal / Trip-Hop
Ambient / Electronica / Ethereal / Dub / Soundscapes / Abstract
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Sep 07 2019
Artist: Basic Biology (@)
Title: Melting Patterns
Format: Download Only (MP3 + Lossless)
Label: Free Love Digi
Rated: *****
Another intelligent shot by Quentin Hiatus' imprint Free Love Digi, which recently deployed the debut album by Basic Biology, the bicephalous creature by Thomas Brinson aka Thomas B (debuting as producer after more than 20 years on decks mixing drum'n'bass) and multi-instrumentalist Matthew Cassidy, propitiated by their common friend GHAST. Speaking in general they seem to liquefy mid-tempo and dubstep in order to forge a more emotional and soulful declension of what is commonly referred as 'liquid' in drum'n'bass jargon. Such a sonic research unveils unexpected pearls during its listening, such as the initial title track "Melting Patterns", one of the five songs where Matthew Cassidy brings his charmingly androgynous over a VT like arpeggio, smelling of Strange Things's Prophet 5-driven OST, the elegant sub dermal tension of "Sleeve" (Cassidy on mic again) or the nicely hopped "Dust" (featuring Megan McKay this time on the microphone... the fastest track of this debut album together with the bleached synth patterns of "Blue"). The stage of electronic mainstream music, when interrupted and glitchy rhythmical patterns were quite popular - the one when musicians like Funckarma, Proem or Funkstorung were riding the wave -, often comes to mind particularly while listening to the last episodes of this album, including the sweet closure of "Subtle", "Non Contempt" or "Let Me Be" (featuring another skilled guest like Blake Brady for vocal parts). Deserving a check.

DJ Lag & Okzharp: Steam Rooms

 Posted by Stuart Bruce (@)   Techno / Trance / Goa / Drum'n'Bass / Jungle / Tribal / Trip-Hop
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Jul 22 2019
Artist: DJ Lag & Okzharp
Title: Steam Rooms
Format: 12" vinyl + Download
Label: Hyperdub
A collaborative EP between Durban’s DJ Lag and London’s Okzharp paces the mutual territory between gqom and Hyperdub’s more familiar bass adventures.

“Now What” has a slightly grime-like sense of threat to it. “Steam One” is the brightest-sounding track, with a simple yet catchy steel drum riff that wants to have fun with the almost-cheesy synth stabs while the broken kick drum pattern underneath oozes a darker attitude. “Nyusa” adopts a similar approach with a more chanted rhythm and the melody shifted onto a sawtoothy keyboard synth. “Sambe” is an exception in that there’s a clear 4/4 kick rhythm underpinning it, that give things a deep house flavour which melds nicely with the African-sounding percussion elements.

It’s a richly flavoured 4-track pack and a collaboration which yields very strong results, and leaves you wanting more.

DJ Haram: Grace

 Posted by Stuart Bruce (@)   Techno / Trance / Goa / Drum'n'Bass / Jungle / Tribal / Trip-Hop
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Jul 15 2019
Artist: DJ Haram
Title: Grace
Format: 12" vinyl + Download
Label: Hyperdub
DJ Haram is a DIY musical producer based in the US, but it’s her Middle Eastern roots that come to the fore extensively on this unusual EP. Using organic flute and exotic percussion sounds, she has crafted 27 minutes of mostly instrumental music that has the structure of modern digital dancehall, and sometimes grime, but from a sound palette that jams brand new with traditional effortlessly. The track “Interlude”, which isn’t really an interlude at all, exemplifies it succinctly.

“Gemini Rising”’s heavy percussion and tense synth bass notes give it a higher tension level than some of the more playful tracks around it. “Body Count”, despite starting with samples of guns being cocked, ends up being one of the mellowest sections, with soft harp-like chords lolling nicely over the complex and gently danceable rhythm.

Mixing things up at the mid point, “Candle Light” has a vocal version, with Moor Mother (who DJ Haram also collaborates with as a duo 700 Bliss) offering up a sympathetic and nicely offbeat rap that rolls over the more grime-like track very smartly. In the unlikely event that the vocal doesn’t tick your boxes, an instrumental is provided.

To wrap up the release there’s a short remix of opening track “No Idol” which builds on a rhythm that’s mostly handdrums and playfully triggered samples of bedsprings that borders on tongue-in-cheek, but which really works, and which would likely get received well by DJ’s skilled enough to work it into sets.

The DIY aesthetic makes some of the synth work sound a little weedy and lo-fi at times, like a demo or a field recording, but that ends up being part of the unique character and charm of a release that’s broadly in a genre where subbass normally runs rampant.

There’s a rich encompassing theme that forms a story behind this release- every track is represented by a character in the artwork, all part of a small mythological world invented by DJ Haram and in which she draws parallels with her real life experience but also draws from religious tales of angels and creatures. It’s an interesting context, for sure, but given the mostly instrumental nature of the release, it’s not an essential or immersive part of it. Musically though it certainly stands up in its own right, a fascinating hybrid of sounds and cultures with an energy and originality that’s nicely infectious.

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