Music Reviews



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Artist: Robert Crouch
Title: Sublunar
Format: CD + Download
Label: Touch Tone
“Sublunar” has its origins in a collaborative live performance mixing sound, technology and movement, but the original sonic material has been reworked and repurposed into something which is ultimately much more static. The result is a collection of drones, found hums and atmospheres that almost extol the virtues of non-movement.

Opening track “Descension” is warm, with a reassuringly cosy hum. The breathing patterns continue into second track “Brick By Brick” but the tone becomes coldier, emptier, more windswept.

The misleadingly titled “Listen to the sound of the earth turning” is even more lightweight, a repeated single robotic note triggering in an evolving rhythm, an exercise in how a sound might be alarming and soporific at the same time. Halfway through, the repeating note fades and warmer hum-chords similar to the opening track return. To complete the arrangement, “Coda (Sailing Stones)” blows cold again, with sporadic noises like water droplets falling in an underground cave, and the slow arrival of a faintly synth-organ-like melodic loop as a crescendo of sorts.

Despite its complex and multidisciplinary origins, “Sublunar” as an audio product is stark and simple. It’s so mellow that it could easily find itself on a sleep playlist, and might serve well as an environmental setting, but it lacks distinctive features or ideas that would make it shine in its own right.
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Artist: Trophies
Title: A Family Of Three (Band Photo)
Format: 12" vinyl + Download
Label: Unsounds
Three-piece Trophies (voice, fretless guitar and drums) offer up a tightly woven collection of six pieces that blend avantgarde jazz stylings and beat poetry with drones and a range of grungy and bubbly post effects ranging from the classic and psychadelic to the more modern and electronic-sounding.

Opener “Curiosity” has a bit of everything, an eight-minute opus in four distinct parts. The indulgently bluesy, guttural vocal of “Arirang” is one of those love-it-or-hate-it elements- to me, the jaunty energy of the following track “Small Process” comes as a welcome relief.

The second half of the short LP is also somewhat lighter, with the high vocal of “Desidare” coming across as almost poppy. “Problem” (where- spoilers- apparently the biggest problem is Italy, so they say) takes short vocal samples and loops them unequally so that they fall out of sync in stereo, a well-established trick but still quite fun. Final track “Water” is an oddity in a different way, slightly more proto-techno and bordering on sinister.

Considering the relatively conventional musical set-up, this is a diverse and undoubtedly virtuoso set of musical ideas, though at times it does feel like the envelope could have been pushed just a little further.
May 17 2017
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Artist: Spoony Bard
Title: Dweeb
Format: Download Only (MP3 + Lossless)
Label: self-released
“Just playing jazz wasn’t cutting it any more”, said David Nord, so he delved into the L.A. electronic scene and started bringing his jazz guitar experience into a world of glitched, faintly retro synth-electronica. The result is “Dweeb”, an 8-track mini-album of quirky, semi-organic slow-stepping electronica numbers that sound like casual jazz cut up and reworked with technical precision. Some tracks even throw in a little Chromeo-ish funk for good measure.

It’s dynamic, with plenty of surprise changes, such as when the title track segues into the short-lived sort-of-drum-and-bass “Dryout” finale. The rhythms are complex and not always predictable- “Solitary Isle / Words Are Wind” one of those patterns that’s hard to understand yet sounds perfectly natural if you’re not counting it.

It’s instrumental in parts with short vocal snippets, but there are loose-form songs too- “Vibe / Void” and “Much Better” have full-on frustration-driven raps, while “Mantra / Micawber” plays like a verse in search of a chorus.

Things branch out towards the end. “Geno” is a temporary glimpse into a neighbouring universe where this was a more stripped-back drone album, but even at only a little over two minutes, there’s still space for the gentle groove to work its way back in. “Commoner” is another rap track but with a harder-edged beat and acid tones.

At under half an hour it’s a short-but-sweet album of offbeat programming and genre straddling that’s steeped in sincerity and introspection, sombre and at points a little inaccessible. It’s hard to pigeonhole and worth checking out for yourself.
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Artist: Kratos Himself
Title: Remixed
Format: Download Only (MP3 + Lossless)
Label: Youngbloods
Kratos Himself gets the remix treatment from ten different remixers, all of them clearly carefully chosen to contribute a sympathetic and distinctive rework into a collection that stands up as equal to the sum of its parts. Each remixer tackles a different track from one of Kratos Himself’s previous two albums, so there’s no duplication and regularly re-appearing elements like you sometimes find on remix albums.

Generally this is downtempo, gently glitchy electronica with casual, almost lazy stepping grooves. Obtuse percussive samples loop over jazzy basslines. The original Rhodes chords are flipped and re-fried in a variety of ways but still form the backbone of a consistent set of tracks.

The vocal tracks are generally the strongest. “Tomorrow’s Sun” reworked by Sam A La Bamalot has a fresh-sounding broken-up trip-hop vibe. Foamek’s slightly conventional downtempo house remix of “Heartless” and Crookram’s “It’s Love” could both open doors to dozens of chillout and lounge compilations.

8-bit stylings make a few appearances, such as on Vorace’s take on “Like Me” where chiptune sounds meet hip-hop nodding swagger. “See What Eyes See” remixed by Jeen Bassa takes that swagger and mellows it out with smooth chords and muted scratches. Also notable is Fishball’s appropriately underwater take on “Float”.

It’s a very consistent and coherent remix album that works as a 47-minute listening album in its own right. While some of the tracks do end up a touch on the ordinary side, the overall result is a very fluid and rich collection of complimentary sounds, the output of a clearly carefully curated compilation.
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Artist: I-LP-O In Dub
Title: Capital Dub, Chapter 1
Format: 12" vinyl + Download
Label: Editions Mego
Treading the line where dub effects meet soundscaping, Pan Sonic member Ipso VÄisÄnen’s second solo outing as I-LP-O In Dub is a short collection of rumbling bass tones, clicking and delaying hi-hats, sinister noises and sonic pessimism. Instrumental, but themed for the sinister underbelly of capitalism, it’s sombre and sometimes difficult to follow,

Tracks like “Divided Instruments Complexity” delve deeper into pure electronic wallowing, leaving behind the dub origins and becoming a form of electronic musique concrète of oscillators and glitches, while “Parecon” is a deep exploration of pared-down subbass sine waves having their shapes evolved. On the other hand pieces like “Dark Money Dub” and final track “Fear Of Heaping Capital” have a more recognisable stepping groove which feel like a natural empty point for Mad Professor appreciators looking for something even deeper.

It’s a really neat, well-formed package, just under 40 minutes of deep electronica that manages to shine and fill you with a sense of future dread simultaneously.
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