Music Reviews

Bouzidi: Lazy Monday

 Posted by Stuart Bruce (@)   Techno / Trance / Goa / Drum'n'Bass / Jungle / Tribal / Trip-Hop
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Jan 22 2020
Artist: Bouzidi
Title: Lazy Monday
Format: 12" vinyl + Download
Label: Tanzgemeinschaft
“Lazy Monday” befits its title for the most part, with the title track of this digital EP rolling out a steady synth house groove that takes a very relaxed, walking-pace attitude to life with its staccato synths and slow builds. What’s interesting, eventually, is that it manages to get somewhere in the end, bringing in melodic elements that start playing against each other in quite complex and unexpected ways that bring life into a track that starts out feeling like it may have nothing along those lines to offer.

B-side “Eve Master” has a more urgent percussion base, and slightly more freneticism in its high synth line, but the overall structure is again rather smooth and uneventful.

The package is rounded off by Alexis Tyrel’s remix of “Lazy Monday”, which offers up a fairly different vibe with squelchy low effect noises and a really rather loveable and quirky house groove that, for me, makes it the standout of the pack.

It’s a very casual pack of house tracks, with a confidence and a high production standard, but which seem to revel in their own lack of individuality.

Sunil Sharpe: Etaci

 Posted by Stuart Bruce (@)   Techno / Trance / Goa / Drum'n'Bass / Jungle / Tribal / Trip-Hop
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Jan 20 2020
Artist: Sunil Sharpe
Title: Etaci
Format: 12" vinyl + Download
Label: BPitch
This EP from Irish techno producer and DJ Sunil Sharpe is a really natural fit as his first release for the BPitch label, offering up as it does a blend of instrumental techno that’s both reliable and interesting at the same time, in true BPitch style. Each track lays itself out over five minutes, mostly built around single grooves and assured slow shifts in parameters and filters that keep things constantly danceable yet always shifting.

The title track opens with an initially unremarkable techno thump but then starts intriguing with a staccato bassline that’s subtly grooved and offbeat, bringing a real sense of urgency and tension that plays nicely against the occasional “it’s a dream” spoken word interjection.

“Timber” feels retro at times, its ‘ugh’ vocalisations and squeaky acid tones sometimes feeling like techno of twenty years back, but with fresh production- and a really unusual twist of tone halfway through that I suppose it technically a breakdown but which sounds like the DJ has already mixed through to the next track, before bringing back the last one.

“Amun” rolls along thanks to a buzzing and toothy bass, a mostly two-note melody and some curious vocal loops that give an unusual and crisp texture, before final track “Ukkin” brings the sense of urgency back with an alarm-like retriggered stab and rapid claps.

This is techno with its serious face on, earnest and high quality, and while none of the tracks jump out as future classics, it’s a workmanlike and super-reliable, dancefloor-assured 12”.

Fernando Olaya: Iguazú EP

 Posted by Stuart Bruce (@)   Electronics / EBM / Electronica
Techno / Trance / Goa / Drum'n'Bass / Jungle / Tribal / Trip-Hop
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Jan 14 2020
Artist: Fernando Olaya
Title: Iguazú EP
Format: 12" vinyl + Download
Label: Univack
Colombian Fernando Olaya’s first release on the Univack label is a three-pack of rolling progressive house instrumentals with a familiar structure and a very silky quality. Stepping, confident, journeying light house grooves give a sense of steady motion over which are layered gentle, super-soft and mellow chord sequences. It’s an assured formula that doesn’t get stretched very far, but which is executed well.

The title track feels like old-school trance music for long train journeys, spaced out and thoughtful. “Tulum” rolls slightly harder with a slightly robotic arp loop that keeps things under control until the luscious chords start coming in after three minutes, while “Technicolor”, despite its name, is neither cinematic nor dramatic and keeps things pulsing along gently with an approach to melody that strongly recalls the better output of late 90’s trance.

The press release says this is pitched at the dancefloor but I would rather listen to it while staring out the window of a long drive or train ride. Quality material from the dreamier side of dance music.

Oibaf & Wallen: Hela EP

 Posted by Stuart Bruce (@)   Techno / Trance / Goa / Drum'n'Bass / Jungle / Tribal / Trip-Hop
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Dec 20 2019
Artist: Oibaf & Wallen
Title: Hela EP
Format: 12" vinyl + Download
Label: Univack
The “Hela” EP has two original tracks from the Spanish duo, both of which are dreamy pieces of light and melodic instrumental techno which take you on leisurely eight-minute journeys. Gentle touch synth work and dancefloor-steadying beats are all very nicely balanced. Neither track holds any major surprises but as DJ-friendly synth-prog goes, it’s the strong execution of a tried and tested formula that leaves you with a smile on your face.

They’re quite similar as track pairs go. “Balder” has a shade more determination, while “Hela” is a touch more sorrowful initially with its more drawn-out minor synth pads, which feel like they become more optimistic as the sound opens up- a track just as (or maybe more) suited to long motorway driving as to dancefloors.

Arude’s remix of “Balder” is notable for inverting the normal process often found when progressive house gets remixed. It’s the groove and percussion stems that remain more intact, keeping the mood quite similar, while an unexpected and quite twangy new melodic layer is introduced. As remixes go, it works well and adds breadth. Similarly, Paul Angelo & Don Argento’s remix of “Hela” adds a bit more melodrama, with synth stabs and some slowly introduced pulses. It’s a bit of a shame that the melodic pads have been twisted and bathed in granular and lo-fi effects here, as the combination of drama and strong melody could’ve been the complete package- it makes me want to try playing both mixes at once just to see if the whole thing feels more complete!

There’s no “wow” or surprise factor built in here, but Univack have offered up a beautiful and dependable pack of melodic and progressive techno that has to be admired.

VV.AA.: Territories vol. 2

 Posted by Stuart Bruce (@)   Electronics / EBM / Electronica
Techno / Trance / Goa / Drum'n'Bass / Jungle / Tribal / Trip-Hop
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Dec 12 2019
Artist: VV.AA.
Title: Territories vol. 2
Format: 12" vinyl + Download
Label: Polaar
This is a six-pack of remixes (well, five remixes and one VIP version) of Polaar artists collaborating. It’s instrumental techno and electronica, broadly, with healthy doses of organic-sounding and sometimes tribal percussion generally placed at the core- but while it’s officially dance music, this is smart stuff. I don’t know of anyone who still uses the term IDM but if they did, this release would put the ‘intelligent’ into it- as exemplified by the sometimes 12/8 rhythms and regular mood changes of the opener, Flore’s remix of Only Now’s “Dirt”.

Keito’s take on Tim Karbon’s “Aziz Lumiere” is heavy and pounding, and deceptively simple at times, but it gets under your skin, before the remix circle completes with Only Now’s rework of Keito’s “Bougainvillea” offering up a fast, subbass-driven manic grime swagger that feels like it’s successfully juggling three tempos at once.

Nasty J “Réalité Alternativ” Tim Karbon Remix is a lighter recipe, still grumbling complex rhythm patterns but putting much more emphasis on almost-romantic synth pad chord patterns. SNKLS’s “Isandula VIP” is liquid drum-and-bass territory rhythms but painted with glitchy electronica sounds, yet more lusciously pure subbass work, and some very brooding atmospherics in the breakdown, before the Prettybwoy remix of “SkyBurial” by Mars89 ends on a brighter note, again returning to the warm synth pads and a rather strange percussive sound that seems to be somewhere between a parrot and a seagull- but not in a bad way, amazingly.

This is the kind of dance music you would rather sit down and appreciate the details of, rather than waste time flapping your arms round to it. Rich, deep and complex, this stuff just oozes quality.

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