Music Reviews



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Artist: Whitesquare
Title: In Light
Format: 12" vinyl + Download
Label: Tropical Animals
The team behind Italian club nights Tropical Animals have branched out into their own record label, with this 3-track deep house package from fellow countryman Whitesquare as its debut.

“Limitation” chugs on nicely, a gradually unfolding set of soft beats, plenty of high-end synth pads and arpeggios and a squelchy, classic-sounding acid bass note. The simplicity of it cuts deep, it’s uneventful smooth and pleasant.

“Velvet Room” is a bit brighter, with some meandering synth keys that feel improvised over the top, giving a slightly jazzy touch that replaces the acid. A slightly thicker deep house groove rolls calmly underneath.

“Pressing Points” has a slightly more pulsing synth groove to it, and a catchy and melodic bassline that is the package’s most ‘pop’ moment, but even with that and some soft tribal-like percussive hits don’t raise the energy level too high.

It’s a really smooth, effortless 3-tracker of gentle beats perfect for relaxed sunny days. It lacks the unique selling point or novelty that would propel it any great distance, but if you’re looking for deep house that’s mellow and warm, put this on your radar.
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Artist: Colossio
Title: Moto
Format: 12" vinyl + Download
Label: Calypso Records
Fernando Luna here uses his established alias Colossio to put out a pack of 4 tracks (3 on the vinyl) and 2 remixes (one of them digital-only) that have a stylish and fresh take on rolling house grooves, keeping the tempo firmly measured but with smart doses of attitude and invention that keep thing really interesting.

“Moto” has a straight, arguably ordinary house groove but some subtly muted rock guitar chord snippets and the sound of revving motorbike that has been twisted and filtered to become both a riser and a form of melody in its own right are a really nice touch. The Man Power remix is a really strong reworking, levering in just a hint of glam rock groove to the rhythm pattern and making the top end effects harsher and more expressive, while the Jonathan Kusuma remix brightens it up, putting more emphasis on the melodic parts and vocal pads and making it quite breezy with some happy clapping.

The other tracks are along similar lines but arguably a little less distinctive. “Fe” has a slightly more road-movie atmosphere, deep and pensive, though the odd duck-like vocal percussive noise is not like any road movie I remember- and the sinister (Mexican?) voices in the breakdown are seriously dark. “Ansia” makes strong use of a bit of sinister-sounding psychedelic guitar noodling, with a nice build to gunfire-snares that rolls well. “Paranoia”, the digital exclusive, is a touch more overtly synthwave in its sounds, again with just a hint of rock power pushing the beat.

There’s a lovely, walking-beat flavour to this 41-minute pack that’s gentle and quite endearing.
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Artist: SixTurnsNine
Title: Spinning Numbers
Format: CD EP
Label: Echozone (@)
Rated: *****
SixTurnsNine is Philip Akot (strings); Lutz Bauer (keys/programming/electronics); and Anja Trodler (vocals) formed in 2015 in Dusseldorf. The genre is trip hop/electronica with an experimental edge. I believe the 'Spinning Numbers' EP is their debut release with only six tracks (and one of them a remix of one other track) clocking in at a little less than a half-hour. The musical ambiance of 'Spinning Numbers' is minimal and stark. Even though Portishead sometimes delivered some fairly stark trip hop, this is way more extreme than anything they ever did. The music is eerie almost to the point of being creepy. Trodler's voice, while melodic is cold with a touch of caterwaul to it. Mournful. Nothing moves quickly in SixTurnsNine's world. It's a slow, almost oozing sort of sludge that just flows over you suffocating any kind of joy or good feeling you might have had previously. While everything on 'Spinning Numbers' is haunting (or haunted), "Threat in the Neck" is particularly unnerving, perhaps because it's just so close to the edge of normal, with a beat to boot. It even gets a remix by Spherical Disrupted, which is kind of puts a completely different spin on it. I think this is the kind of music Jarboe would really like; it's just so twisted I have to recommend it.
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Artist: Analogue-X (@)
Title: Course Of Life
Format: CD
Label: RMP Records/Echozone (@)
Rated: *****
Analogue-X is an electropop band from Germany consisting of Rene Mussbach (vocals); Susie NLG (background vocals); ALexis Voice (synths, programming), and Clarke Gahan (synths and drum machines). Clarke Gahan?? Seriously? Isn't that a bit too Depeche Modey? Whatever. (Rene is a guy by the way.) Okay, so maybe musically I've given a bit away. Not that Analogue-X are Depeche Mode clones or anything, but what synthesizer band doesn't owe a little something to them. 'Course Of Life' is the band's debut album, after 2017's 'Rising in the Dark (The Remixes)' in which the band got a bunch of artists to remix one of their songs. Some of the remixers were Paralyzed RMX, Cyborgdrive, Jeff Appleton, Erwin Pempelfort, etc., etc. As much as I'm no fan of remixes, someone in the business once told me "if you want your music to get noticed fast, get some top-notch remixers to have a go at your songs. Apparently Analogue-X put this plan into effect before they even had put out their first album! (They've also released a remix album of 'Course of Life' but let's not get ahead of ourselves here.) So, what have we got to work with. First I can say that the synth programming and performance is very strong. Most everything works for the dancefloor too so the rhythm is potent too. Where we run into a little problem is in the vocal department. Rene's vocals are fine in a sense, melodic and pleasant enough, but not particularly strong or memorable. Susie's backup vocals, where present are fine too, occasionally bolstering the melody. The music is fairly melodic as well, and there are hooks a-plenty, just not particularly strong ones. I think the problem here is one of too much nuance, and not enough devotion to those big, obvious, infectious killer hooks. Right from the get-go on the opening track "Another Time," they put forth a good (chorus) hook but try and say too much in it. Second track- "Dark Shadow" (very reminiscent of Camouflage) has a lot of potential but the title of the song is reduced to a mere background afterthought. Too bad as it's one of the best tracks on the album. Don't get me wrong, as these songs aren't bad, they just lack some pizzazz, that certain quality that puts some artists on the top of the heap. Like Depeche Mode. Like Covenant. A strong, charismatic vocalist might have been able charge this material, but a merely good one doesn't flip the switch. There are still more good songs on the album, such as "Rising in the Dark," and "Never Alone," but as we keep chugging along, the songs begin to sound similar, mainly due to the vocals. Another part of the problem might be the lyrical content, which is largely from that Depeche Mode/Duran Duran school of romanticism, and tends to get bogged down in affairs of the heart. I think if the band headed in a bit colder, more austere direction they might hit upon that elusive magic bullet. But hey, that's just my own personal opinion. 'Course of Life' is a competent album, just not exceptional.
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Artist: Frode Haltli
Title: Avant Folk
Format: CD & Vinyl
Label: Hubro
Composed by Norwegian accordion player Frode Haltli, “Avant Folk” is a sombre 5-part, dectet ensemble performance that sets out to deliberately span genres- it’s got the instrumental qualities of music that fits under the broad umbrella of folk, both familiar Western European aspects and some more Eastern and African tones in the rhythms and melodies. But in Venn diagram terms it also falls comfortably within the circle of jazz, particularly avantgarde and atmospheric, improvised-sounding and freeform.

“Hug” opens with a feelgood, almost Celtic-folk-dance-like arrangement that, over the course of seven minutes, dips into darker, more chin-stroking territory.

“Trio” and “Gratar'n” are both more sombre, properly melancholic affairs driven by plaintive, meandering violin work, inbetween which “Kingo” is a work in several parts that feels like it has an undisclosed story-telling element, soundtracking a relatively jovial journeyman fairy tale the details of which are undisclosed.

Final piece “Nied” gives things a more jovial twist thanks to the ambling accordion work and gentle guitar playing, and slow tempo variations that give proceedings an almost drunken flavour.

Save for the light touches at each end, it’s a very sincere work, highbrow and in parts quite low energy, often frosty in a manner fitting to the artwork. As such it’s a piece of avantgarde crossover that’s more accomplished than it is accessible, and is more likely to be appreciated than it is to be liked.
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