Music Reviews



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
cover
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.

Anma: Batch 0012

 Posted by Stuart Bruce (@)   Electronics / EBM / Electronica
Techno / Trance / Goa / Drum'n'Bass / Jungle / Tribal / Trip-Hop
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Dec 10 2019
cover
Artist: Anma
Title: Batch 0012
Format: 12" vinyl + Download
Label: SM-LL
The bold branding- if you can call it branding- of the SM-LL label is getting progressively more homogeneous as it evolves. Already establishing a rule where all the artwork is plain black (yes that’s not a technical error in the thumbnail above), and with releases that are numbered rather than named, their press releases now consist solely of alphabetised hashtags. They’ve also announced that from next year, they will no longer even be including artist names on their releases- the entire thing will be anonymous, unless an artist breaks ranks and takes credit for any of it.

At times it feels like this affords the artists freedom, to experiment or express sonics without any word association or accompanying imagery. At other times it feels like a disservice, robbing each release from grabbing your attention or drawing you in with its own identity.

So in the third paragraph I finally get to talk about the music. This is a series of eight (or just six if you buy the vinyl) out-of-sequence-numbered layered sets of analogue oscillation and arpeggiation meanders. Bubbly bleeps and off-count repeating patterns are the order of the day. Around this, higher pitched atmospherics and electronic glitter provide a gentle, less-is-more approach to decoration. Curt sub-bass thrubs and throbs sometimes gently imitate techno kicks without ever pushing into that genre. It’s rough-hewn at times, littered with clicks, but this seems to add to the warmth.

“Harm Osc 5” is an example of one of the steadier tracks, a gentle walking pace number whose flatness is its virtue, while “Harm Osc 6” is an example of one of the more off-kilter, time-unpredictable arrangements that keeps things firmly cerebral rather than foot-tapping.

Favourites for me included the slightly more uptempo alt-techno of “Harm Osc 8”, and the gloriously awkward “Harm Osc 9” with its counting-challenge pulsing and tinnitus squeal. The soft, theremin-like melodic expression that crops up in final track “Harm Osc 2” is a curious sonic salve and an endearing way to wrap up.

This is a form of analogue proto-techno that goes simple and goes deep, very deep indeed. But if you’re prepared for a deep dive into a thinking person’s bass noise, turn this up loud.

Venetian Snares: Greg Hates Car Culture (20th Anniversary Edition)

 Posted by Stuart Bruce (@)   Electronics / EBM / Electronica
Techno / Trance / Goa / Drum'n'Bass / Jungle / Tribal / Trip-Hop
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Dec 05 2019
cover
Artist: Venetian Snares
Title: Greg Hates Car Culture (20th Anniversary Edition)
Format: 2 x 12" vinyl
Label: Timesig
This is an expanded 20th anniversary re-issue of the first ever Venetian Snares vinyl release. Predominantly it’s the frantic and complex affront of snares and subbass thumps that will be happily familiar to Aaron Funk fans, and will bring as much joy as a brand new Venetian Snares album to those that haven’t heard it before.

Not to say that Venetian Snares has really mellowed as a brand, but there’s something especially raw and angry at play here. The “Stranger In The Ass” track, unsurprisingly, seems to bubble under with fury that’s being pumped wholesale into the drum programming. “Point Blank” makes everything Aphex Twin has ever done sound like a pop ballad. “Boiled Angel”, with its gentle experimental bubbling noises that get completely trampled by kicks, is the happy hardcore it’s OK to like.

This certainly isn’t all just rage and drums though. Opening track “Personal Discourse” is beautifully layered, while the squelchy near-funk bass of “Aqap” is a smile-inducing dancefloor destroyer that stretches its ambitions beyond the four-minute-limit of most of the tracks into something with more progression and internal evolution.

This release was all brand-new to me but even die-hard fans get to hear rare old tracks. Though apparently Funk transitioned from Amiga to PC during this period, there’s no distinct characteristic change in the sound. “Milk” is genuinely daft, sampling wholesale a stand-up routine about being over-exposed to milk (whilst leaving out the punchline). “Eating America With Pointed Dentures” uses horror movie screaming as a top-layer over a surprisingly simple yet relentless kick pattern, while “Punk Kids” has a more 8-bit approach and takes you into some unplayably hard old Amiga game.

It’s a sonic joy, as well as an interesting insight into the early days of Venetian Snares- a distinctive musical output that, on this evidence, seems to have been born fully formed and ready to fight your ears.

Simpatiek: Auwey EP

 Posted by Stuart Bruce (@)   Techno / Trance / Goa / Drum'n'Bass / Jungle / Tribal / Trip-Hop
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Nov 28 2019
cover
Artist: Simpatiek
Title: Auwey EP
Format: Download Only (MP3 + Lossless)
Label: Tanzgemeinschaft
German act Simpatiek’s second release on the Tanzgemeinschaft label is a solid slab of upbeat techno that wins you over from the off.

“Auwey” is a positive, driving track that has a little bit of everything- bright piano chords (used sparingly), ethnic song samples that feel like a Deep Forest throwback but in a good way, bouncy synth arpeggios and a really endearing bassline. It doesn’t try to take on too much, plotting a steady and DJ-friendly course perfect for a mid-set smile.

BinaryFunction offer up a remix of “Auwey” that really seems to reflect the remixer’s Manchester roots, feeling like a modern techno update of that early 808 State and Hacienda sound that’s now evolved into timelessness. It’s a darker turn, stripping away a little of the positivity and making the chanting a little more aggressive, for some serious acid dancefloor business.

“Dawn” is a simpler affair, the same essential groove but pushed along by a strong, show-carrying bassline and a slowly appearing plinky melodic synth pattern that feels laidback wthout being lazy.

I’m still not convinced that two tracks and a remix qualifies as an “EP” but that’s just pedantry about the naming, since if trying to find fault with the tracks, it’s difficult to fault them. They’re workmanlike rather than genius, yes, but what a great job they do.

Ezekiel Honig: Object Music EP

 Posted by Stuart Bruce (@)   Techno / Trance / Goa / Drum'n'Bass / Jungle / Tribal / Trip-Hop
Ambient / Electronica / Ethereal / Dub / Soundscapes / Abstract
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Nov 27 2019
cover
Artist: Ezekiel Honig
Title: Object Music EP
Format: Download Only (MP3 + Lossless)
Label: Anticipate Recordings
“Object Music” is a collection of four short numbered pieces where field recordings and found sounds, mostly small and homely and everyday-sounding, have been laid up and looped to form organic breakbeat rhythms and groove patterns that feel introspective and trip-hoppy in nature.

Parts 1 and 2 are the most upbeat and brightest, and they knit together. Part 1 particularly feels like the dancing of a beached wooden rowing boat, while Part 2 is more workmanlike, feeling like a hybrid of light craft industry and playful fun.

In part 3, a simple on-the-beat chord sequence adds a straightforward expression of melancholy that brings a certain sadness to the nostalgia. Part 4 feels muffled and womb-like, the rhythm becoming distant, the closer bubbling and wooden squeaking sounds feeling confusing yet warm.

At only fourteen minutes long it’s a nicely understated little EP which keeps its ambition simple but packs in quite a lot of charm. It’s a solid release from an established electro-acoustic composer. Apparently it also forms the sonic part of an audiovisual presentation as well, but I’m commenting only on the audio here.


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