Music Reviews



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Artist: VV.AA.
Title: Babylon is Ours - the USA in Dub
Format: CD
Label: Select Cuts (division of Echo Beach) (@)
Distributor: Caroline
Get ready for some groovy and chillin' dub action with shades of green, yellow and red, if you know what I mean. This "all-exclusive collection of American dub flavors" bears the colors of a winner and comes to you directly from the streets of the most involved cities of the nation (including New York City, pictured in the cover in a quasi "Independence Day" scenario with a huge speaker hovering over the island and drawing a huge shadow over part of it, as well as in the booklet and in-lay card with Lady Liberty). Released by German Echo Beach's new sub label Select Cuts and compiled by XLR8R magazine journalist Ron Nachmann and by San Francisco's "Dub Mission" club night masterminds Dj Seb and Sep Ghadishah, "Babylon is Ours - the USA in Dub" is available on CD and 12" and collects some of the finest dub music with an American signature.
Organic Grooves founders Dj Sasha Crnobrnja (aka Cosmic Rocker, from Switzerland) and guitarist Zeb (from Italy) open the celebration with heavily electronic-enriched low-sub-bass-driven dub (the kind of dub I like the most!); Phase Selector definitely hoist the Jamy flag; Santa Cruz Dub Congress keep it up there with their spacey roots dancehall; Avatars of Dub initially go for the trumpets but really only get interesting when they later add the drum'n'bass ingredient to their recipe; Cuban turntablist virtuoso Tino (aka Tino Corp, featuring Jack Dangers and Ben Stokes) has a big bass line and adds long delayed samples of every kind; Mark Pistel (also founding member of the great political band Consolidated - definitely check them out! - and Meat Beat Manifesto collaborator) mostly comes from the electronic scene but definitely proves here (if his two records "Electronic Dub Collective" weren't proof enough) that he's got what it takes to be successful with dub too; right from here in NYC comes Zeb (whom I met and worked with in the past...), a great eclectic experimental guitarist like few others in the scene (with backgrounds including the UK Brixton's scene and collaborations with Future Sound of London and The Scientist among others), who samples his own guitar playing to play live on top of it and presents a great track; Eastern Dub Tactik (one of the few good things to come out from curch ;-)) works out a theme reminiscent of an Eurhythmics hit and introduces great Asian tabla playing into his spiritual mix giving it that wider geographical reach (even though you won't hear much of the "world hip-hop" he was envisioning earlier in the days); the Ben Wa Oakland duo go more minimal than the others and add some UK-ish ambient-like textures that our readers will sure appreciate; Sub Oslo (I don't know if they are from Oslo) are a full blown performance group who go even deeper with their sub-bass' frequencies (hence the name I guess) and keep their guitar player busy ad-libing; Otaku (I do know they are not the ones from Italy - but they probably choose the same name for the same political reasons: i.e. Japan's hacker/cultural jammers movement) go for a trip/hip-hop-like beat with very interesting elements usually extraneous to the dub/reggae scene, such as distortion, arpeggiators, very short delays and cut-off frequency sweeping; the other all-live act of this record who also ends the party is Systemwide, who jam with Brooklynite Dr. Israel and Oaklander Dj Collage in what seems to be the only piece with actual vocal parts on this compilation while carrying on their «genre dissolving» modern tradition/traditional modern style. Nice booklet with extensive notes. Great buy for those into the dub scene, but you'll have to wait until the end of April when the album will be in stores!
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Artist: Ernesto Diaz-Infante (@)
Title: s/t
Format: CD
Label: Pax recordings (@)
Distributor: Verge Music
I usually don't like to copy the description given by the artist/label/promoter, but in this case it's almost a must, not only because it is a correct and fair as opposed to an artsy-fartsy, exaggerated and hyped description, but also because the description is at least as creative as the music itself: «experimental, lowercase improv, noise, electronic, out-rock, 21st century compositions, sonic art, found sounds, gritty-clicky scratches, tense filmic passages, unnerving silence, avant folk-like outsider songs, audio errata»! ;-) Ernesto Diaz-Infante, California-born San Fran resident and very active in the local as well as the international experimental music scene (awarded residencies at Nice's, France, Centre International de Recherche Musicale and Villa Arson and at the Millay Colony for Arts, Centrum, Villa Montalvo, the New York Mills Arts Retreat, the Ucross Foundation and the Dorland Mountain Arts Colony) is one of those trained experimenting and challenging music freaks/scientists with cultural and academic background including degrees at the Santa Barbara University College of Creative Studies and the Institute of the Arts. Reading all of this on his bio, came as no surprise to me after listening to his record for a couple of times. The music he proposes is fragmented and radical but is wrapped by a certain intellectual veil. Over 15 CDs populate his discography, sporting various collaborations and contributions, but this self-titled CD is his 5th solo work and I read that it is his most diverse yet. Inspired by, presumingly, the musique concrete school as well as by the uncompromising Mittle-European experimental scene of labels such as Staalplaat and by the noise-collage movement that has been steadily growing in North-America and Canada, Ernesto Diaz-Infante picks his brains to shape the record in a uniquely eclectic way. His instrumentation includes an array of found sounds, field recordings, string instruments, percussive instruments, electronic and electric instruments and, as outcast as it may seem, a quite heavy use of vocals. If experimental music isn't your cup of tea stay away from this 'cause you might get bored or nervous easily but if you don't mind to be challenged and if you can take the heat dive into a world of new sonic concepts and gentle cross-breeding audio mutations. Just be open-minded when you do.
Mar 20 2003
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Artist: Dither
Title: Summit
Format: CD
Label: M-Tronic (@)
Lately the french have all my support and love either way, so I can only warmly welcome an all French product! Paris-based label M-Tronic confirms their firm grip on new and more melodic ambient electro-experimental music with French one man band Dither's (aka Mart Titolo) fifth album "Summit". A departure from his last year's critically acclaimed "Urei" and a revelation of new uncharted musical territories that embrace a certain type of IDM attitude and welcome contamination of more dance-friendly and accessible structures. It all is spiced up with a touch of thoughtful experimental sonics and loungey substance. The album is thick and cold and preserves its ties with the true origins by dynamically and occasionally breaking them with overall restyling and changeful antithesis. His (and your) idiosyncratic re-action to the music making process and the strong imagery provoking synaesthesia have a dreadful impact on the unprepared individual and an utterly enveloping one on the challenging and challengeable soul. I recommend you give it a try whether you previously knew, appreciated or disliked Dither's production.All songs are named after their length in minutes and seconds and the CD comes in a Staalplaat-Brombron-series-look-alike wine red colored cardboard folding package. Nice.
Mar 20 2003
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Artist: Displacer (@)
Title: Moon_Phase
Format: CD
Label: M-Tronic (@)
M-Tronic is know for the quality of their releases and with Mlada Fronta and Mimetic it accustomed us to a certain signature sound made of great electro-industrial music. That signature can be found in this record as well but along with a new element and powerful that I had never before heard in a M-Tronic release and that I warmly welcome as a great addition to the roster of sonorities the label deals with. Basically there is a whole lotta more ambient to it, pumping with a definite UK heartbeat. If you like Warp stuff in the vein of great artists such as Autechre or Aphex Twin you'll be very pleased with this, I know I am, and it won't come as no surprise to know that Mute actually licensed one of their titles. Therefore expect dense atmospheres made of harsh ambient-electro rhythmical patterns, layers of dark-industrial soundscapes, fast pace sequences of hi tech sounds, fast and slow beats. It's a real shame that my CD was fucked half way through and I couldn't really enjoy it all because it is a stunning work."Moon_Phase" was mastered (and in part even re-mixed) by Mike Wells (Gridlock) in San Fran and also contains remixes of Beefcake and Polish Ch District.Displacer is yet another Canadian project (these Canadians!!! ...not only do they have politicians who are not afraid to speak up, which is great, but they also have plenty of electronic musicians, mostly in the cities of Montreal and Toronto, where this guy's from), by young web-designer, visual artist and musician Mike Morton. Definitely keep an eye on him because his first steps in the musical world sure are very promising.
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Artist: VEHEMENCE 6.2 (@)
Title: Skleros (fourth edition)
Format: CD
Label: Self Released
Vehemence 6.2 is a particular project. If you visit their website you won't find news about the guy behind that name, maybe the music is the most important thing. Words are useless and listening to SKLEROS 4th edition you can feel different sensations. Most of the tracks are short and by the way they are composed you don't have time to understand them and at the same time you're fashinated by them all. It's like is a living sequence that grows constantly and changes every minute. Here industrial music meets experimentation alternating noises, hisses, piano, slowed samples and various rhythms. All the tracks play with rough sounds being capable of finding their warmth. Another peculiar thing is that tracks from eighteen to sixty six are composed by ten seconds of silence, tracks sixty six is a minute and half obscure track and angain, silence, until the last track numbered eighty three. While listening to this "empty" tracks, you'll release that silence ins't meaningless. Vehemence 6.2 is the personal project of Kevin Schlueter a guy coming from O' Fallon, Mo, USA I haven't got any other news about him, I only know that he formed his own label called Leukos Industries and if you are curious enough to listen his music, he's sending out his CD for free. Write him to know how. P.s. Kevin also sent me a demo with five new tracks and I assure you that if you love any type of dark sound, he's the man for you. The tracks are different from his previous ones, there's a different approach to sound or maybe he used only different sounds and rhythms but the result is always good... :)
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