Music Reviews



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Artist: VV.AA.
Title: Delineation- A Collection Of Reinterpretations & Remixes
Format: Tape
Label: Midira Records
“Delineation” is a four-cassette box set containing just under two hours of reworks of Midira Records tracks from N, Ninemiles, Caudal, Piiptsjilling and others, reworked by 13 different artists who are allowed to cut fairly loose and put their own spin on things. The reworkings are so broad that it plays more like a compilation of original label tunes than a remix album, and in some parts it’s so consistent that it feels more like an indulgent artist album.

The opening two tracks, remixes from Nadja and Aidan Baker, are both lengthy slices of slow sinister drone with supremely slow (circa 50bpm) rock drumming echoing away underneath. They’re both reworks of N tracks, which comprise almost half the collection and which generally follow the same pattern- languid drone with heavily effected guitar ambling over dark, almost zombie-walk rhythms. The trumpet playing on the Zenjungle remix, initially purist and then gradually and subtly glitched, helps that one stand out with a unique character, while the Andrea Belfi remix revolves around a plucky semi-synthetic sound that’s more than a little bit Twin Peaks.

The non-N tracks are mostly pushed to the second half of the set, and add a moderate amount of extra scope without being radically different. Aidan Baker’s “Consciousness Bridge” reshaped by Architeuthis Rex shifts things somewhat, with a sorrowful and hard-to-decipher, slightly folky female vocal and more ethnic percussive sounds providing a different kind of energy underneath the two-chord drone. Ninemiles’ remix of Piiptsjilling’s “Kobbeswerk” ups the electrical sparking and industrial flavours, and a Birken remix places subtle, deep-underwater thump patterns underneath the wash. A Tissika remix of another Piiptsjilling track and the appropriately-named ‘Desolation’ version by Dirk Serries of another N track wrap things up with a couple of longer and more barren soundscapes as proceedings tail away, fading carefully into silence.

The extensive duration of most of these tracks (averaging 9 minutes each) is perhaps inspired by the tape format, with most of the tracks allowed to fill most or all of a 15-minute side of a tape, yet I don’t quite see that this release lends itself to the tape format. Periods of silence at the end of each side, and having to turn the cassette over after almost every track, makes it feel like the worst limitations of the format have been exposed. Luckily each box set comes with a download code, so in practice I’m sure most listeners will enjoy the continuous two-hour listening experience, and the cassette box will be an unusual little bookend or paperweight.
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Artist: Sontag Shogun
Title: Patterns For Resonant Space
Format: 12"
Label: Youngbloods
“Patterns For Resonant Space” is a relatively familiar-sound combination of reverberant and sparse piano playing, combined with electronic glitches and found sound elements to create a soundscape that’s melancholic and just a little bit spiky. There are ten generally very short slices of cinematic bleakness with a broad but not particularly revolutionary palette. Crisp digital processing counterpoints against pure grand piano tones in a well-tried and reliable formula.

Each piece has both a number (independent of the track number) and a name, as if to try and double-up the distinction between tracks that most comprise the same ingredients, which isn’t wholly necessary as they do already contain a reasonable variety of character, normally created by having one element that’s unique to each track. For example, “Barricade Bleu” adds some more watery noises. “Patient Elegy For Bernr’d Hoffman” adds some vocal ahhhhs reminiscent of M83 or Sigur Ros. “Music Box”, unsurprisingly, adds the distorted and twisted sound of a music box. “Windmill” leaves the piano aside in favour of forming loose looping patterns in the percussive sounds. The bizarrely named “Chopsticks, Motor, Lecture” adds relatively unchopped samples of what sounds like a school science lecture, then “£20,000” adds some quirky vinyl scratches, and so on.

The final and lengthiest piece “Leaves Like Photographs” is the only track allowed to evolve at greater length, existing in several stages and acting like a flavour of what may have been allowed to develop if some of the ideas in the other tracks had been allowed to play out for longer in more sparse and indulgent frameworks.

Fans of listening to immersive, reverb-heavy cold atmospheres who like wearing headphones lying down in dark rooms will really get into this and find 31 minutes too short. For a less focussed listening experience, it washes away into nothingness a little.
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Artist: thisquietarmy
Title: Democracy of Dust
Format: 12" vinyl + Download
Label: Midira Records
“Democracy Of Dust” is a fairly brief collection of bass-heavy drones and shoegaze blending long drawn-out distorted guitar tones with synthetic noises and heavy effects.

There’s a strong formula here- all three of the opening tracks begin with dark and heavy synthetic bass patterns defining the percussionless rhythm. This is then gradually unfolded as more and more layers of drones and effects washes gradually fade in until the scale has been notched up to ‘epic drone’. The strongest of these is the opener “Welcome To Mendacity”.

Things get more diverse in the second half. “The Harbinger” is a stand-out track, taking industrial process noises and filtering them into a kind of profoundly slow techno, where the temptation to fade in dozens of drone layers is resisted in favour of a more open and ambient guitar strumming. The final two tracks “A World Without Power” and “Nobody’s Free Until Everyone’s Free” both adopt a slightly more arpeggio-heavy synthwave approach, with a slightly more sci-fi cinematic result.

This is a release that will appeal to fans of M83 or Sigur Ros and who are willing to take things into slightly darker and more sinister electronic territory. It’s a rich and full-on work but it perhaps lacks the diversity and variety of inspiration that would have made it really shine.
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Artist: Martin Jenkins
Title: Dance Cave EP
Format: Download Only (MP3 + Lossless)
Label: Medical Records
Some techno tracks are so deceptively simple that when you first start listening to them they feel very “instrumental techno by numbers”, just the standard formula of house beat, simple one-note bassline and faintly tribal percussion that slowly layers up, drops elements out to introduce some gentle chord pads exactly when you’re expecting them, and then gradually strips itself away to a predictable close. The four tracks on “Dance Cave EP” are like this.

But it would be doing them a disservice to slate them as predictable (even though they are) because that’s exactly what they’re designed to be. Steady, calming, slowly shifting but never challenging, these tracks do exactly what they set out to do. Under pseudonyms like Pye Corner Audio, Martin Jenkins has done some pretty esoteric stuff, but this is deliberately straight-faced, line-toeing classically structured techno- no more, no less.

The title track is sonically reminiscent of early 90’s trance, while “Horror Hole” is just a tad darker and more pounding. “Sub Space” has just a touch more urgency in its looping pattern. Final track “Your Love Is Crawling All Over Me” is just a touch more melodically ambitious, heading (very slightly) in a direction that feels like it would lend itself to a wistful vocal that isn’t there.

Nothing on here is a classic by any stretch of the imagination but if you’re collecting solid, reliable, middle-of-a-techno-set-friendly rhythms on vinyl, this is an easy one.
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Artist: Liam J Hennessy
Title: Held
Format: 12" vinyl + Download
Label: Sound In Silence
Liam J Hennessy’s debut, a mini-album based on the concept of writing a song every month throughout 2016. “Held” represents the first six results, January through to June, a 21-minute six-track collection of gently atmospheric soundtrack-style instrumental pieces featuring gentle guitar melodies, soft synthetic drones and chords, and lightweight beats structured out of field recordings.

“Beacons” is a highlight, a slowly evolving and measured layering of elements with piano and a last-minute slightly militaristic snare drum that sonically veers a little close to Coldplay without getting too close. Final track “Viewpoint” is also strong, infusing the guitar patterns with a strong and not too cliché emotiveness.

There’s a certain sketch-like feeling to this release. Several of the tracks feel shorter than their atmosphere would have warranted. Opener “Frozen Lights” feels like an unfinished idea, especially when it stops (“Viewpoint” also has an over-abrupt tail). “Over The Bay” has the flavour of an instrumental that’s waiting for a vocal to be added.

Gentle, relaxing, inoffensive, cinematic and smooth, “Held” is a polished bit of downtempo melancholy which perhaps falls a little short of being a fully coherent work but is certainly a deeply pleasant aural wash.
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