Music Reviews



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Artist: Paulor
Title: Spaceship
Format: 2 x 12" vinyl
Label: Life And Death
Mexican artist Paulor’s first release on Life And Death is built from two steady floor-friendly house tracks that take the underlying vibe of late 70’s and early 80’s synthy-electro-disco, and gently fuse it with more contemporary-sounding techno and acid sounds.

The title track is instrumental save for the robot-effected “spaceship” phrase repeated at the start of most sections. “Planet Gold” is the more relaxed of the two, with a more gradual progressive outlook and some sparkly arpeggios.

After that there’s a generous helping of big-name remixes of the title track, all of which hit the mark with confidence. Vitalic’s remix tweaks some of the noises and elements, making it a clappier house affair, but keeps the underlying disco attitude very much the same. Fango’s ‘The Suppa Robot Dancer’ remix is a highlight, upping the old-school electro element by a high factor and reveling in breakdance territory, bringing the squelchy bass to the fore.

JD Twitch’s mix focuses on spacey synths, adding more complex percussion and an extra NASA sample and tweaking the core bass groove into something a bit more nasty, or at least sinister. Superpitcher’s remix has two versions, with ‘space trip’ reminiscent of old indulgent 90’s progressive house journeys, eleven minutes of gradual shifting and synth-immersion that studiously avoids any great sense of urgency before devolving into near-ambient territory at the end, and ‘space strip’ which, instead of the dub version you might be expecting, is more like a “part 2” that starts in the hollow synth ambiences that the version mix left us with, and explores them more indulgently, and perhaps less effectively, for a six minute bonus.

Don’t let the frankly bizarre choice of cover artwork put you off, this is a really solid pack of long journeying house tunes, with a nice variety of remixes that keeps things consistent but not too narrow. If you like your instrumental house very sci-fi and laidback, you’ll enjoy this pack a lot.
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Artist: Jörg Piringer
Title: Darkvoice
Format: CD + Download
Label: Transacoustic Research
Jörg Piringer (of The Vegetable Orchestra)’s “darkvoice” album is pitched as a dark commentary on modern communication surveillance and the act of obfuscating vocal sounds beyond the boundaries of comprehension- all quite sinister and sombre.

The audio that comes out of it, however, seems almost bright by comparison. Though it’s made entirely from digitally manipulated vocal sounds (and “sinister typography”, though I’m unclear what that means), it has a sonic palette that’s electronica bordering on dark slow techno. Steady and crisp rhythm patterns, sometimes industrial-ish but never particularly bass-heavy, are a structural skeleton for low hummed bass, thin higher-end melodic chords, and spontaneously squelchy and glitchy percussive impulses.

Tracks like “peed” and the broody “dig” make the vocal sourcing more self-evident, centring around single vocal sounds that are played with but still identifiable as human, while tracks like “p a” devolve the sound beyond that point of recognition.

It isn’t all happiness and light- tracks like “bbbbb” or the extra-glitchy “raacc” have a decidedly raw edge to them- but it’s offset by pieces like “el sys” which, with its meandering bouncy melody, recalls the fun side of early synthesizer experimentation. Final piece “hoit”, after a tense intro, is almost playful by the end.

Other highlights include the odd three-step of “d-singe”, and the almost dancefloor-friendly groove of “teew”.

Overall, conceptually angsty it might well be, but the reality of it is a dark but detailed foot-tapper from the interesting edges of experimental techno. It’s got a unique character that’s worth sampling.
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Artist: Distant Animals
Title: Weaves
Format: 12" vinyl + Download
Label: Hallow Ground
This is the second release on the Hallow Ground label from the unidentified artist using the Distant Animals alias (unless I’m mistaken about it being an alias, and Mr. & Mrs. Animals’ urge to name their daughter “Distant” raised no eyebrows at the registration office). While the first release was a more purist and simple drone, this is a more complex affair built from a variety of elements drawn from the sonic palettes of electronica and avant garde classical. There are low synthetic bass tones, string strums, tuned wooden and metallic block hits and bell tones, and found sounds disassembled at a granular level.

The arrangement of these is based on a written word text that has been used as a trigger- though details of the process, the transposition, or even the identity of the source text, is not provided, so the extent of Distant Animals’ compositional influence is hard to judge. Across two numbered parts and a total of 33 minutes there are ebbs and flows, louder and more dramatic sections contrasted with more peaceful times, but it does certainly feel like there is a helping of randomness, or at least arbitrariness, at play here. This is audible both in the rhythm, or sometimes the lack of it- an impulsive and reactionary percussive approach makes this a sound which never sits still- and also in the melodic treatment, with several pitched elements which repeat or shift notes with a similar, seemingly anti-pattern mentality. That being said, there’s also a progression- a devolution of sorts, with noisier sounds, heavy wind and distorted vocalisations (possibly religious ceremonial chanting, it’s hard to tell), gradually creeping in more and more towards the finale to give a defined structure and defy any notion that the whole work has been truly randomised.

The result is a relatively sparse, disorientating alien environment. It’s a little bit sci-fi, and just a little bit tense, as though you are lost in an unfamiliar metal forest and there are industrial creatures flitting past nearby- but where, for the most part, you are being left alone and where loneliness not tension may be your overriding emotion.

It’s a dark and brooding bit of experimental work, grumbling and sinister, but it’s a work you may appreciate cerebrally more than actually enjoy.
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Artist: Celer
Title: Xièxie
Format: CD & Vinyl
Label: Two Acorns
This release has been out for a few months digitally already, but has a physical release date of June 7th, giving a good opportunity to look at it again.

When it comes to truly ambient works that relax and comfort, Celer- for a decade now the solo project of Will Long- has been on top of the game for a long time. We’re big fans of his work in our household- though we would probably have to promptly admit to being familiar only with the first half of works like “M1” and “Here, for now” as we use them as night-time relaxation music so consistently that we have probably now programmed ourselves in a Pavlovian fashion to fall asleep when we hear them. They are warm, lush drones that are well suited to the purpose, and while the sparseness of some of them also suggests more thoughtful, broad or lonely moods, there’s always a thread of positivity in there that can be hung on to.

And so it is with “Xièxie”. The introduction of some found sound elements, recorded around Shanghai in 2017, leads to titles which might suggest busy chaotic atmospheres- “Maglev at 303 km/h”, “Shanghai red line, metro karaoke” or the rather ambitiously monickered “From the doorway of the beef noodle shop, shoes on the street in the rain, outside the karate school”- but there is no chaos here. These elements are blended gently- and very, very lightly- into familiar long drone tones. It generally is not long before the real-world atmospherics fade away and you are drawn into long, purely synthetic drone worlds that you can lose yourself in entirely.

The twenty-one minute piece “For the entirety” is an example of Celer at his most symphonic, which is an almost absurd overstatement given how understated it is musically- but with three notes in a slow repeating cycle that changes gradually in tone and pace (without ever approaching standard musical speeds), this feels like what modern classical music has rightly and naturally evolved into. Similarly there’s a sombre and peaceful beauty to final track “Our dream to be strangers”, though I suspect I’ll try to listen to that again in the future and be asleep well before I reach that point.

Besides the 90-minute work, as a digital bonus you get two “Uncut” tracks in which the tracks are segued together without track breaks; however I may be missing something here as the transitions are mild at best, often still drops to silence, so I’m not entirely sure what this adds. Also if it’s ‘uncut’, why is it two tracks instead of one?... It’s a mystery to me and I’d welcome some clarification. But as an excuse for listening to the whole work twice in a row, it’s a bonus (albeit a confusing bonus) rather than a problem.

It’s by no means groundbreaking when compared to Celer’s previous work, but for its purpose- insofar as I see it- that is *precisely* what we want.
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Artist: MIS+RESS (@)
Title: Dispellers
Format: CD + Download
Label: Sound In Silence Records (@)
Rated: *****
MIS+RESS is the ambient solo project of Brian Wenckebach, based in New Jersey, and he is also 1/2 of the electronica/shoegaze duo Elika, experimental/electronica duo Thee Koukouvaya, and lately as a member of Measured, a new collaboration project along with Evagelia Maravelias, the other 1/2 of Elika, and electronic producer and latter-day Tangerine Dream member Ulrich Schnauss. Prior to 'Dispellers' MIS+RESS has released an album and an EP. What Brian does with this project involves mostly effected electronically processed delayed guitar loops, but not so much you can't detect the guitar. In fact, the guitar base is usually quite evident. While these pieces aren’t necessarily what I'd call ambient, there is a certain ambience to them. On the one-sheet, Sound in Silence compares MIS+RESS to Michael Brook, Daniel Lanois, Durutti Column, and July Skies, something that I'd agree with but not in every aspect. There is a gentle and genial melodicism running throughout the eight tracks on 'Dispellers.' You have to love titles such as "Highly Functioning Sleepwalker" and "She Trembles As She Paints," which are somewhat evocative of the music they represent. While not as intense as say, the Fripp & Eno collaborations, the album isn't far off the mark from that kind of thing in places. Still, there is a rudimentary experimental quality about much of the material on ‘Dispellers’ that sounds as if Wenckebach was more interested in amusing himself than in developing thoughtful compositions for a sophisticated audience. That this album is under 30 minutes in time may make it a pleasurable breezy affair, but some may want more bang for the buck. Limited to 200 numbered copies in a custom handmade cardstock envelope.
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