Music Reviews



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Artist: Annabel (lee)
Title: The Cleansing
Format: 12"
Label: Youngbloods
After debuting on Ninja Tune two years ago, Richard and Sheila Ellis move to Youngbloods for this album “The Cleansing”, an eight-track, 36-minute album which, despite its short length, has two relatively distinctive halves. A fusion of jazz, ambient, and mellow folkish ballads, but with subtle production touches like repeating vocal sections more akin to dub, the first half is distinctly mellow while the second half ups the melodrama somewhat.

After the rich poetry and loose form of opener “Acquiesence”, it’s from “Move With Me” onwards that we meet the band’s main structure- soft acoustic guitar patterns with slightly bluesy female vocals lilting in and out. The purity and breadth of the vocal tone is the major selling point, with the long notes on “Paris, Room 14” an impressive feat of control. Often it’s the tone of the sound, rather than the lyrics, that really attract the listener’s attention.

From the opening piano of “The Cleansing” the extra tension is audible in the second half, but it’s never in your face. The sometimes multi-tracked vocal is cleverly done to add just a hint of alienation. “Far” is a good entry point to the album, on one level fairly conventional pop music but underpinned by odd theremin-like noises that give it a distinctive edge. The almost drunken strings and vinyl-style crackling on “See Her” coupled with a strongly Billie Holiday-esque vocal make it feel like a retro 1960’s dream gone wonky- a vibe which flows into the final piece “Autumn Requiem” that evokes feelings of melancholy in open woodland.

Overall it’s a silky and luxuriant bit of downtempo, spaced-out jazz-pop, not as soporific as its opening suggests, quite engrossing and musically very accomplished and confident.

For extra promotion, the track “Far” is also being released as a digital single on the same date, featuring the album version of “Far” bundled with a studio-quality live version of album track “Paris, Room 14” that proves that Sheila can certainly cut it live vocally as well.
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Artist: Philip Jeck
Title: Iklectik
Format: CD + Download
Label: Touch # Tone
The cryptic press release for “Iklectik” details Philip Jeck having been “creating sound with record-players since the early 80’s”, yet fails to explain the instrumentation or sourcing that would give you even half an indication of what a 45-minute, single-track live performance, recorded live at and named after the Iklectik art space in London, would actually sound like.

So, what it sounds like initially is a steady, soft, mellow drone affair with willowy pad sounds ebbing slowly, and gentle plucked synthetic notes dancing modestly over the top. At it progresses, slightly more metallic and at times more animalistic and vocal tones arrive to add a sinister shade, but it never veers towards any true discordance. Seemingly random pizzicato string notes later give it a sense of both progression and pace which evolves into a subtly more symphonic arrangement in the middle. The final third of the piece becomes hollower, returning to drone but with a greater emphasis on bass sound which at times sound faintly dubby before flattening into another drone element. A spoken word eulogy in the final three minutes is an odd addition, coming after a soporific section as though intended to speak into your dreams.

Occasional audience coughs are the only recognition of it as a live performance and the involvement (or otherwise) of record players is left undetectable, there’s nothing sonically that would determine that this wasn’t a laptop performance or a studio creation.

It’s an intriguing and very carefully evolving work which takes you in some interesting, if not especially challenging, directions. Very smart.
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Artist: Stephanos Vassiliadis
Title: En Pyri / Bacchae
Format: 12" vinyl + Download
Label: Holotype Editions
“En Pyri” and “Bacchae” are a pair of 1970’s electroacoustic experimental recordings, dusted down and remastered a decade after Vassiliadis’s death with the support and facilitation of his family.

The first, “En Pyri” (‘in fire’), from 1973 or 1976 depending on what you read, is an unreleased version of a composition previously released in other forms. It invokes the memory of a car crash which claimed the life of Vassiliadis’ first wife, among others, and it’s a violent and harsh anguish-ridden piece where drones turn into screams. Periods of awkward calm precede slowly mounting cacophonies of squeals and harsh brass and bass wails. It’s a piece of sheer catharsis that’s both attention-grabbing and alienating.

The second and longer piece “Bacchae” from 1974 is a more sedate piece, originally conceived and only ever performed live as part of a theatrical performance at the University of California. Adopting more of the ethnic Greek traditional music and organic natural drumming rhythms as a layer that wanders in and out among the other elements, there’s a strong sense of proto-ambience here- a relatively classical form which acknowledges the melting pots of prog rock and electronic avantgarde of the time and which also seems to predict future chillout and Eno sounds, especially in the slightly dreamier, more sci-fi second half.

The two pieces manage to be both of their time, and slightly ahead of it, and are a real indicator that Stephanos Vassiliadis’ work deserves more retrospective attention.
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Artist: Dedekind Cut
Title: The Expanding Domain
Format: 12"
Label: Hallow Ground
Leaving behind his old aliases as a hip-hop producer, Dedekind Cut offers us a concentrated pack of experimental electronica with a cinematic quality and a very off-kilter structure. Broad and slow soundscapes of drone meet glitchy electronic noise.

After a confidently sparse opening with the looping synth pattern of “Cold Bloom”, we get “Lil Puffy Coat” which, despite its jaunty title, is particularly epic in tone, dark and sci-fi. It’s followed joltingly by the hammering rhythm of “Fear In Revese 2” which is a right-on-the-edge bit of raw industrial.

The two final tracks are the longest tracks, and both self-contained progressive pieces in their own right. “The Expanding Domain” has further industrial tones but with a crisp softness and it drifts from pounding to gently melodic and back again, underpinned by an awkward three-four rhythm that never lets you get comfy. Final track “Das Expanded, Untilted Riff” is a mellower affair with a synth melody reminiscent of old-school trance hopping wistfully over an ambient backing that’s 1990’s-esque in the middle and more contemporary and experimental by the end.

Showing the benefit of contributions from six of his friends contributing elements such as modular synths, piano and percussion, the result is a supremely good, diverse, un-pigeonhole-able EP that really ought to make fans of cinematic electronica stand up and pay attention.
Sep 18 2017
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Artist: Iokoi
Title: Liquefy Reworks
Format: Download Only (MP3 + Lossless)
Label: -OUS
Two tracks from the downtempo 2016 Iokoi album “Liquefy” get the remix treatment here.

Furtherset offer up a version of “Touchreel” that’s very stripped back, just a gentle light mechanical rhythm with sparkly pads, gated chords and vocal snippets all twinkling on top. It’s an oddly structured affair which, at under five minutes, feels like it’s a broader and darker bit of abstract soundscape design that’s been grafted bonsai-style into a small package.

NHK yx Koyxen (not a typo, and not just me hammering the keyboard)’s take on “Realien” gives things a more conventional light techno flavour, with soft 4 4 beats, a slightly Josh Wink-ish gradually unfolding melodic pattern, and whispered vocal noises. It progresses nicely, with a nice twist on the beat past the 5 minute mark to keep things moving, and it’s DJ friendly so long as the slightly abrupt end is anticipated.

It’s an odd pair of tracks that does feel like unused remix leftovers rather than a particularly coherent 2-track mini-package, leaving the “bold statement” of the original album behind somewhat, but the NHK yx Koyxen remix is certainly worth checking out, if you can get the spelling right on Beatport.
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