Music Reviews



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Artist: Simon Grab
Title: Posthuman Species
Format: 12" vinyl + Download
Label: -OUS
Recently-prolific Swiss sound artist Simon Grab’s “Posthuman Species” is a dark, aggressive, but also detailed electronica work, based around a no-input mixing setup of LFO’s, filters, analogue effects and feedback. Most pieces are underpinned by a steady kick pattern which arguably makes it techno, but the raw and unpredictable layers of noise going on above make it something much more. Each piece is relatively sparse, normally bringing just one or two sounds to the fore and never attempting a full-on wall of noise.

Highlights include the slightly T Raumschmiere-esque “Metanoia”. “Transformation” revels in a saw-like drone noise, bending and pitching it playfully before dropping into an obtuse sci-fi-like soundscape, before “New Horizons” offers a gutpunching stab rhythm with truly high stress levels. Mellower and moodier moments are brought by tracks like the low-heartbeat-dictating “Altered Sleep”.

Most of the pieces are succinct, generally between two and four minutes, exploring one arrangement of sounds to a natural level without ever getting tired. Final track “Posthuman Wonderland” is the exception, a nicely drawn out, flowing and gradually evolving series of pulsed drones and pads that’s an impressive exercise in slow change.

It’s refreshing to hear such a good balancing act that takes distortion and energy and some apparent frustrations and tempers them with details and atmospherics into something that’s engaging rather than affronting. It’s truly dark but very high quality electronica.
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Artist: Gareth Davis & Scanner
Title: Footfalls
Format: 12" vinyl + Download
Label: Miasmah Recordings
“Footfalls” represents a fascinating first collaboration between the atmospheric contemporary electronics of Scanner (Robin Rimbaud) and the experimental free clarinet work of Gareth Davis.

It’s split into two twenty-minute pieces, classic LP style. “Towards The Door” languishes in waves of sonic ambience for quite some time before gradually introducing more pulsed and occasionally glitched synth elements, giving a sense of slow waking- but without any peak, a point is reached where these elements begin to wane, bringing us back to the warm luxuriant drone arrangement.

“Smokefall” is a slightly darker and busier piece, but only marginally. Steady, crisp and breathy snippets of high noise create a flitting rhythm, while throbbing effects added to the clarinet make it sound more like a didgeridoo at first. Underneath, a slightly rougher texture with guitar-like and wind-like tones, against which the purity of the clarinet sound is sparingly used for contrast and emphasis.

It’s an extremely natural match for the duo, blurring the lines of each sonic contribution and making it sound as though the duo have been working together for years. But it’s also built in a way that plays safe, relying on the alluring resonances of clarinet and drone to offer up something that comes from a position of comfort rather than challenge. The rich experimental texturing oozes confidence, quality and comfort, like a good sonic blanket, but with just enough detailing to keep the more attentive listener satisfied.
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Artist: Craven Faults
Title: Lowfold Reworks
Format: 12" vinyl + Download
Label: Lowfold Works
In anticipation of the new Craven Faults EP releasing later in November, “Lowfold Reworks” is a pack of three new mixes of tracks from the Yorkshire-based producer’s previous EP’s. While Craven Faults’ electronica is more spaced out, dipping into ambient and broad, understandably these three remixes have their sights set a little more towards the dancefloor- but still manage to retain that trippy and atmospheric tone.

Pye Corner Audio’s version of “Intakes” is a solid if slightly unremarkable bit of progressive spaced-out synth-house with a lovely bright tone. Don’t DJ’s take on “Foddergang” is much more low-end centric, especially in its powerful subbass opener, before it opens up into Tangerine Dream-esque melodic patterns fuelled by a fairly aggressive metallic percussive rhythm.

The President Bongo rework of “Eller Ghyll” is an indulgent 14-minute journey that has certain throwbacks to old 90’s progressive house in its structure, but with a crisp, fresh and almost polite modern production quality. There’s nice use of 3-note patterns performing an audio moiré pattern over the 4 beat underneath, a reliable trick for putting the intelligent and cerebral qualities into your body moving music. Maintaining interest over 14 minutes without major musical shifts is a challenging feat and it’s managed very strongly here, but in a competent rather than revolutionary fashion.

It’s a reliable and high-quality pack of remixes that recommends all three remixers, as well as boding well for the forthcoming new original material.
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Artist: Haythem Mahbouli
Title: Catching Moments in Time
Format: CD
Label: Schole (@)
Rated: *****
“I don’t want to predefine my genre or have an instrument-centered composition (e.g. piano). I see music as a mix of sounds that create emotions. Emotions can emerge in any music form. I picture music as images; each of them is associated with an emotion. This album (Catching Moments In Time), is a journey throughout experiences I lived and tried to translate. My goal is for the listener to adapt it to their own, mix it with their emotions and create their own images”. By these words, the Tunisian composer Haythem Mahbouli introduces his brilliant release landed on the Japanese label Schole and feeding the expectations following such an introduction since the symphonic breezes of the opening "Catching The First Moment", whose piano and string driven grandeur mirrors the one of the closing "Catching The Last Moment", opening and closing brackets detaching the musical padded bubble of the aural experience he offered. Two big names of contemporary music scene sustained the emotional flight by this guy, who reprised his compositional work after a hiatus following his settlement in Montreal after the Tunisian Revolution in 2011 and the start of a job as sound designer for gaming industry: the name that most of our readers would recognize is the one by Taylor Deupree, who cared the mastering of the album, while the name that you wouldn't maybe expect, even if it makes sense considering the strong component of classical music into the recipe by Haythem is the one of City of Prague Philarmonic Orchestra, playing strings all over the album. In between the two brackets, many layered emotional sounds flood over listeners' eardrums and souls and the way such a flood gets organized through frequent crescendo, overlapping symphonies and the implant of spooky operatic parts could break the emotional banks of many of them. Some voiceovers have been embedded in some ascensional movements of this album, recorded as if they were transmissions from outer space and quoting lines by American poet Robert Lee Frost, such as the one from Birches: "I'd like to get away from earth awhile / And then come back to it and begin over". They sound consistent with the mood of the album - sometimes getting closer to the cinematic style well expressed by Jóhann Jóhannsson or Hildur Guðnadóttir, particularly in tracks like "Passage" or "Transition" -, whose general dynamics seems to activate different emotional or mnemonic areas before cathartic explosion, partially emulating techniques normally belonging to soundtracks. Awesome output!
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Artist: Timmo
Title: Starlight
Format: CD & Vinyl
Label: Terminal M
Despite being on the scene for over a decade, with a strong track record of 12”s and EP’s to his name, this is Bulgarian techno artist Timmo’s first full album. For the most part though, it doesn’t have that “ambitious artist” approach you sometimes get, where artists use the ‘album’ label as an opportunity to experiment in genres, tempos and styles that they’re not already known for, with variable results. Inside Timmo sticks to what he knows and afters up 10 tracks (plus an intro) of reliable, steady, spacious techno. Each slab is around the six- to seven-minute mark, it’s generally all DJ friendly, and it sticks to what it knows best. It’s exemplified by tracks like “Solar”, with its ambitious synth-symphonic melody and long breakdown bookended by chunky, high quality but bread-and-butter 4/4 beats rolling under dark electro noises.

“New Beginning” makes deft use of some acid 303 sounds to give it a bit of a squelchier character that plays nicely against some epic but muted orchestral-hit-style noises, while “Belle Epoque” surprises you slightly with a “Kernkraft 400”-throwback melody drop that, if given a cheesier treatment, has the potential to be a crossover hit. “Sonic Voyage” takes its melody in a trancier, more hands-in-the-air direction, and final track “Interspace” recalls an earlier 90’s mode of trance in a way, while tracks like the chant-driven “Spacefreaks” harden things up a bit.

In an hour of melodic techno, there are some tracks which fail to leave a big impact. The title track, surprisingly, ends up being one of the more forgettable numbers, while “Rhythm X” with its “I feel the rhythm” mantra and Hardfloor-ish 303’s does sound a little bit corny and dated. But there’s certainly nothing bad on here, for sure.

Melodic techno feels like it hasn’t progressed much, sonically, in the last couple of decades here, and while the production here is top quality, it doesn’t challenge that notion too hard. Nevertheless it’s still a really solid and enjoyable techno hour, great for dancing, working, walking, and more.
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