Music Reviews



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Artist: Eva 00
Title: It's All About The Attitude
Format: 12" vinyl + Download
Label: Tropical Animals
Given the title, track names like “Panthers” and “I Don’t Care, I Don’t Care, I Don’t Care”, and the skeleton on the artwork, you might understandably assume that French producer Eva 00’s first EP for Tropical Animals is a bleak and gritty affair, infused with anger and rumbling tones- but in fact it’s nothing of the sort. Instead, it’s a 5-pack of bright and bouncy instrumental house tracks, full of light beats, cosy-sounding slow chords, and with a warm fuzzy and sometimes Balearic vibe.

Opening track “Panthers”, with its gentle The Beloved-esque patterns, running water effects and French conversation-sampling breakdown, is perhaps the simplest track on offer here, and the most open throwback to that pre-sellout Ibiza beach house sound.

Other tracks work out from a similar underlying tone but wander off in different directions. The slightly breakbeat kick of “VR Instrumental”, which brings the subbass very much to the fore, sounds more ‘now’, while “I Don’t Care, I Don’t Care, I Don’t Care” brings to mind the jazzier side of 90’s US house, with some treatments of the standalone vocal sample reminiscent of MK remixes.

“It’s All About The Attitude” is a deeper, and at times slightly muddy-sounding, house affair with a smooth approach, and final track “OK I’m A Thug, But A Thug Needs Love” is along pretty much the same lines but with a more positive EQ and more emphasis on a nicely moderated vocal sample that feels like it’s been borrowed heavily from hip-hop, but washed heavily before use.

It’s not strong on unique character or distinct memorable elements (again, despite the perhaps misleading title and artwork), but if you like your house chilled but not over-simplified, this is worth a listen.
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Artist: Sverre Knut Johansen & Robert Rich (@)
Title: Precambrian
Format: CD + Download
Label: Spotted Peccary Music (@)
Rated: *****
'Precambrian,' the latest album by Norwegian electronic music composer Sverre Knut Johansen, in collaboration with iconic American ambient drone artist Robert Rich, focuses on the prehistoric development of planet earth, going all the way back to the Hadean Eon (4.6 billion years ago). In case you need an earth science refresher on the prehistoric periods, one is provided for you on the inside of the 6-panel slipcase the CD comes in. The intention on 'Precambrian' is to take the listener on a journey through the following epochs - Hadean Eon, Archean Eon, Proterozoic Era, Paleozoic Era, Mesozoic Era, Cenozoic Era, then the (modern) Anthropocene, and finally, summing up in Precambrian. This is all quite impressionistic, since there are no actual accounts of what life was like during most of these periods. In a sense, this is more of a fantasia than an actual aural presentation of what these prehistoric times might sound like, which would probably be pretty boring for the most part. Beginning with a rush of white noise, then eerie drones, the earth's initial existence is shrouded in mystery. Weird whistling oscillations and heavy space ambience harken to an unsettled time on earth's cooling crust. Eventually, life bubbles up slowly and a less tumultuous environment emerges, with a bass sequence (eventually embellished with other synth elaborations) to represent the pattern of microbial life being formed. As life evolves the ambience becomes more complex and less alien. Johansen provides most of the atmospheres, ambiences and synth work, while Rich contributes piano, Haken Continuum (a most expressive keyboard instrument that goes well beyond any standard synth controller) and gliss guitar. David Helpling also contributes guitar textures on a couple of tracks. These elements add a certain humanistic factor, even in the pre-human eras. Some (ambient purists) may be put off by the musicality that evolves out of some of the pieces, but there are no memorable tunes to hum, or toe-tapping rhythms. Much of this is likely for dramatic effect, as if you were watching a movie. Still, even with pterodactyl cries and strange bird chirps there is enough ambient atmosphere to please most who enjoy these kind of soundscapes. It isn't until the next to last track, "Anthropocene," where humans enter the picture and impact earth's geological and ecosystems that things get really intense, ominous and scary. (As well it should, considering what we're facing today with the environment.) There's also a bit of sadness to it as well. The summation in the title track (also the longest on the album by a few seconds) is the most orchestrated and dramatic piece on the album, giving the impression that it's better to go out with a bang rather than a whimper. A tremendous amount of effort has been put into this, not only musically, but also in the visual art and text of the 6-panel slipcase and 20 page booklet. It may not trip the trigger of every ambient music enthusiast out there, but should be lauded for its grandeur and the ambitious attempt to stuff the billions of years of earth’s eco-history into a little more than an hour’s worth of music.
Jul 08 2019
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Artist: Low Tape
Title: Reality Zone
Format: 12" vinyl + Download
Label: Nerang Recordings
Russian producer Low Tape’s first EP for Nerang Recordings is a six-pack of thick driving electro with a strong sense of purpose. The thick kick-driven beats (sometimes breakbeats), acid 303 patterns that slowly twist and turn, and indulgent and quite cheery synth melodic notes and chords owe more than a little debt to the 1990’s, in a good way.

It’s most noticeable on opening track “Funky Detune” (which incidentally is one of the best tracks here), and the very endearing Trance Europe Express-esque “East Dancer”. There is more to this release than nostalgic dancefloor retro- but just a little- as evidenced in moody final track “Autumnesia” which plays the slow chords against perky synths and positive-sounding 808-esque hihats to strong effect.

Some of the tracks are a little nothingy unfortunately. “Paradise” revolves around a synth-choir chord pattern that wishes it was a Balearic classic, but ultimately isn’t. “Electro Foreva” has a slightly corny spoken voiceover that seems to throw it back an extra decade to Chicago house, especially coupled with some more breakdancey rhythm elements, but it skirts too close to the edge of cheese.

For once this is a release where the mixing is worth commenting on, as it’s in either the mixing or the mastering that the full 90’s vibe is reinforced, with a very bright top-end that almost hints at the old C90 effect, before clubbers and DJ’s became fully equipped for and obsessed with subbass, of which there seems to be very little here.

An enjoyable EP, for sure, full of sounds that take me back and make me grateful that the 90’s seems to be back in fashion, insofar as anything’s in fashion nowadays. However a few too many uninspired musical exercises and not enough fresh killer ideas stop this release from really shining.
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Artist: Empire State Human
Title: Housemuzik
Format: CD
Label: ScentAir Records
Rated: *****
Two years after their latest album "Romo", Empire State Human, that nowadays means Aidan Casserly, a new album titled "Housemuzik" is out always on ScentAir Records. After the positive feedback after the release of "Romo", Aidan started to work at a new chapter for Empire State Human. He said: "I looked into the art world especially, for its starting point (the term Housemuzik, I came across on a London underground advertising poster a number of years ago. Relating to an exhibition at the V&A). I've always been lead by art, and by that, I mean every art form. - I was reminded of F. Scott Fitzgerald, when he said: "An artist is someone who can hold two opposing viewpoints and still function". Musically after listening to this new album which has ten new tracks, I thought about Aidan as a singer as a mix of Marc Almond and Billy MacKenzie... you know, he has that particular voice that it makes me think of drama and burlesque. All the tracks of the album are good ones, I think you know the common way of saying "all killers, no fillers", well here we have different good ones and some others which are really good ones. This album could be perfect for the early Pet Shop Boys fans as it has catchy melodies, a bit of dance attitude and nice arrangements with sax inserts (like on "Watson The Needle" and the following "B For Baby"), electric and acoustic guitars (on the closing "This Is the City") which fits in good way with the electronic abundance of the album. There are also a couple of instrumentals ("House On The Ocean Drive" and "B For Baby") which recalls me the ones Human League had on the album "Secrets". The thing that I appreciated the most is the sudden change of atmosphere on tracks like "Watson The Needle" (you know that in the Conan Doyle books Holmes was a drug addicted, don't you?) or "My Black Friday" (we pass from a dramatic moment to a dancey one with a nice playful lead synth melody). Aidan nailed it and I hope that this album will get the attention it deserves!
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Artist: Hüma Utku
Title: Gnosis
Format: 12" vinyl + Download
Label: Karlrecords
After putting out releases under the alias R.A.N., Hüma Utku has now come forward with a full album in her own name. Sonically the approach is still the same, in principle- taking the sonic palette of techno and stretching it into darker environments, with thicker rumbling atmospherics and low drones. And that’s absolutely fine, because it works very well indeed.

For most of opener “Vulnerary” and the first part of “Black Water Red”, we get only low gutpunching bass noises and scratchy atmospherics. It’s only part-way through the second track that more elements begin to emerge and a broader techno-scope is revealed, with muted chanting samples and tribal percussion sounds.

There’s a ‘passing the baton’ feel where each track seems to take elements from the previous track and bring something new- the third track temporarily keeps the chanting elements and adds a more upbeat delay-driven rhythmic pulse, as though the first 20 minutes of this release are all an epic build-up to something- though no punch-through or big reveal ever arrives.

“All The Universe Conspires” brings with it vocal pads that up the emotive level. “A Gift From The Dark Ages” brings with it extremely slow bell-like sustained notes that are so slow in developing and transitioning that you find yourself skipping back through the track to check whether the melody really is changing or whether you’re going slightly mad- some slightly screechy EDM tweaks to bring things back in line at the end. Final track “All-one” almost entirely ditches the rhythm in favour of crisp impulsive muted bursts of white noise that feel like a natural deconstruction of the elements, as a conclusion of sorts.

It’s 41 minutes of thickly textured techno and deep dark electronica, frequently arhythmic and broody but not overtly sinister. It makes excellent use of a fairly minimal approach at times, resulting in something that’s captivating in its detail, and not built for casual or incidental listening. If you’re willing to don the headphones, dip the lights and close your eyes for 40 minutes though, it’s a deep sonic journey worth your full attention.
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