Music Reviews

Artist: Klute
Title: Read Between The Lines
Format: 3 x 12" vinyl
Label: Commercial Suicide (@)
Rated: *****
There are many evergreen producers in the international drum'n'bass scene that manages to resist to the seasonality of fashion victims and more or less force-fed trends, and Tom Withers, better known as Klute, undoubtedly belongs to this elitarian and fully appreciated circle of sonic wizards. Klute manages to surprise listeners without altering his style, but he rather upgraded it. How? First of all by means of a wise and absolutely well-balanced dosage of many different stylistic hints in a shake that keeps on tasting like a Klute tune: the touch of jazz and ambient he injected in the crackling "Crimson", the soul-ambient breezes (fueled by the delicate vocals by Linden Reeves aka Stamina MC) he framed into a gorgeous percussive break in "Lose My Way", those way of warming low frequencies up by grasping them into flowing tunes, uplifting sonorities and emotional framework (another master in this art that can pair Klute is maybe Seba) in tracks like "Angel Makers", the sci-fi-clipped tunes of "The Dreams" or "Earth Spits Out The Living", the electro-break of "Accept Our Power" or "Clappy" (sounding like a group of alien making a party after sampling the opening of Santa Esmeralda's "Don't Let Me Be Misunderstood") are just some examples of his unabated creative flair. Titles like "You Won't Like it" for one of the best tunes of the album shows Klute's unchanged irony as well. In a manner of sybilline speaking, I could say that stars are dying. Some others are imploding. But there are stars which keep on shining.
Artist: Pękala | Kordylasińska | Pękala
Title: Werke für Schlagzeug und elektroakustische Geräte
Format: 12" vinyl + Download
Label: Gagarin Records
This album, translating as “Works for Percussion and Electro-Acoustic Devices”, comprises six pieces- one original, and five reworks of pieces by Frank Zappa, Thymme Jones, Steve Reich, and two parts by Felix Kubin.

All of this is transposed into the sonic framework of percussionist duo Milosz Pkala and Magda Kordylasiska. (Why Pkala gets two mentions in the artist name is not made clear.) This is a small, tightly recorded blend of sounds mixing traditional percussion instruments like marimbas and vibraphones with short-waveform found sounds and extremely short digital noises, with the latter tailing off substantially in the second half. While the fashion nowadays seems to be liberal use of reverb and recording in the largest open space you can find, there’s a very close and intimate tone to this studio recording, and that works in its favour.

“Renaissance Gameboy” has a very quirky electronic production that’s got a slapstick sense of humour and a strong love of 8-bit chiptune-style noises. It’s nigh-on daft but loveable, blurring or completely ignoring any line between bedroom programmer’s novelty chiptune and ‘proper’ avantgarde art-music. Fans of the sillier side of Planet Mu or Venetian Snares should lap this up.

The interpretation of Zappa’s challenging “Black Page #1”, complex rhythm patterns played on everyday objects underpinned by the steady sound of a dripping tap, is impressive to the extent that I can’t fathom how any of it would have been performed live. Originally a drum solo, this is a frantic collection of found sounds.

Thymme Jones’ “Smells Like Victory” is a substantial gearshift. This is a percussionist duo’s album, yet for over four of these eight minutes, the percussion is gone, tangibly at least, replaced by a windy, ominous drone, and heavily processed tones that may once have been cymbals, washing like waves. Rather abruptly it jumps into a much more understandable marimba-led piece that, if I’m being honest, reminds me of school A-level music composition. Things are suddenly much more traditional, and the end of this track almost serves as a prelude into the Reich piece.

Steve Reich’s “Vermont Counterpoint” re-arranged for vibraphones and glockenspiels (with the electronics seemingly given a day off) is as mesmerically repetitive and hypnotic as you would expect. The super-long sustain of the vibrating metal builds and builds into a wall of pure complimentary tones, like the finest music box, scaled up- even more so once there’s a notable upping of tempo before the six minute mark. It’s a sound you’ll have heard before, but it’s still deeply pretty.

The self-penned “Modular #1” takes a fast-repeating glitchy tone generated by a modular synthesizer, which frankly sounds like a tiny robot with a broken motor, and uses it as a bed for a percussive duet that gradually gets more busy, until before long the base note is inaudible and we are back in ‘classic percussion solo’ territory to the end.

The CD includes a bonus track not included in this promo, without which at 36 minutes this is a succinct little package but still diverse. The first half goes to show that an album can be avantgarde and still raise a smile, while the second half has the looping-pattern form of percussive pieces that fit the label ‘traditional’ better than the label ‘experimental’, serious percussionists with their straight faces on. As a package it certainly works though.
Mar 02 2017
Artist: Wealth
Title: Primer
Format: 12" vinyl + Download
Label: Ventil Records
“Primer” is a short collection of dark, twisted post-techno soundscaping. Muffled and broken rhythms underpin dark synthetic drones and cathedral-esque tones, with subtly de-tuned, thoroughly modern, stark digital synths squealing and procrastinating over the top. It’s a somewhat familiar sonic set-up, but done with measure and restraint and a good sense of space.

Tracks like “Floor”, with its simple 4-note bass pattern and live-tinged percussion, and closer “Lethe” with its slow and clean melancholy chords, are deceptively simple, with delicate arrangements that skirt around minimalism without ever really being it, an impressive tightrope-walking production act.

Longest track “Plate LXXVI (Diagram For Lilies)” is the most progressive self-contained piece, initially ‘the ballad’ of sorts, soporific electric piano loops gradually making way for a light industrial rhythm.

On the brief “Queen Of The Night”, guest santur player Stefan Fraunberger brings both organic and ethnic flavours and widens the scope of Wealth’s sound, an avenue I’d hope they’d continue to explore on future releases. The more playful stepping of “Snares” is also a highlight.

Wealth’s moody, insular un-techno is a relatively well-tried recipe now, but “Primer” has enough quality in its production to make Wealth one to watch in the future.
Artist: IKB
Title: Dracaena Draco
Format: 2 x CD (double CD)
Label: Creative Sources (@)
Rated: *****
I finally managed to listen to the missing item of a sort of trilogy/tetralogy that IKB Ensemble, a copious ensemble of improvisers grouped by Ernesto Rodrigues, performed between 2012 and 2014. This one, named after the so-called dragon-tree (many of you maybe saw them in the Canary Islands), includes two sessions held in the same place - St.George's Church in Lisbon, the only Anglican one in the Portuguese capital city - in two different moments. Each CD includes the recording of those improv sessions - the first occurring on 13th October 2012, the second on 9th November 2014 -, performed by slightly different musicians. As for the releases I already introduced signed by IKB ("Monochrome Bleu Sans Titre" and "Rhinoceros"), it's better to highlight the fact that the number of involved musicians could be a somehow misleading piece of information, as their sound is other than a bulky instrumental condensate. The line-up somehow affects the sound of each session, as you'll notice the one recorded in 2014 tend to be more electroacoustic (featuring in details and in no particular order: Maria Radich's voice, Armando Pereira on accordion, Paulo Curado on flute, Eduardo Chagas on trombone, Yaw Tembe on trumpet, Nuno Torres on alto saxophone, Guilherme Rodrigues on cello, Bruno Parrinha on alto clarinet, Rodrigo Pinheiro on organ, Ernesto Rodrigues on viola, Miguel Mira on double bass, Jose Oliveira on acoustic guitar, Nuno Morao on percussions, Gil Goncalves on tuba and flugabone, Carlos Santos manoeuvring a computer, Abdul Moimeme on electric guitar, Marian Yanchyk on violin and Joao Silva on a Feng Gong and Tibetan bells), while the blend of piercing pure radio frequencies and the dizzying dissonances of the session recorded in 2012 has a more "electronic" approach (there were more or less the same musicians involved in that session, but there were also Paulo Raposo on radio-driven electronics, Christian Wolfarth on cymbals, a wider set of percussions and percussionists, Pedro Sousa on tenor and baritone saxophones, Ricardo Guerreiro siding Carlos Santos on computers and Eduardo Rodrigues performed on harp instead of viola). There could be some analogy with the mentioned tree: both the session seems to proceed very slowly (just like the growth of a Dracaena Draco or only drago -!-), the instrumental elements appears to group in a seemingly nervous tangle (close to the intricate web of lower branches of that tree) and the general atmosphere of the sessions evokes something in between mysterious and sinister (many alchemists and magicians looked for that tree, whose red sticky resin was so red and dense that was apparently referred as "the blood of a dragon"!).
Artist: Andi Otto
Title: Via Remixes
Format: Download Only (MP3 + Lossless)
Label: Pingipung
Distributor: Believe Digital
Only a couple of weeks after heaping praise on Andi Otto’s “Via” album, I was very happy to see it rapidly followed up by a 10-track remix package that takes five tracks from the culturally diverse, top-notch ethno-electronica-but-in-a-good-way album and spins them off in a variety of directions with a broad and not too cliché international flavour. That said, the overriding tone of this release is slow, crisp, mellowed-out, thin house beats in the approximate 100bpm region, overlaid with light sprinklings of clean digital tones and organic and unusual instrumentation. None of the remixes tread very far from this template.

The Brazilian Peter Power slows down “Bangalore Whispers”, maintaining the complex rhythms and deft electronic blend that the original album had, and setting the stall firmly out to demonstrate that “Via Remixes” is far more than just ten monotonous kick drums. The Ground Ground mix (or possibly the DJ Ground remix, due to labelling confusion) of the title track is similarly light-footed, a soft kick bed under bells and plucks that is almost stereotypical Japanese noises at times, yet mellow and extremely listenable. Similarly, Sundrenched, from California, goes a step further than your average remixer and adds sliding guitar notes that are pure Americana. Thankfully that’s about as far as the geographical stereotyping goes, but it’s never problematic.

Kirrin Island strip back “Kyoto Pebbles” into a rather bouncy stepping house number, before Otto himself reworks “Bangalore Whispers” by concentrating on the cut-up MD Pallavi vocal and playing around with it as a logical extension of the original album version.

Things pick up a little in the second half. Both Paradise Hippies’ tackling of “Gianna Anna” and the Akizzbeatzz take on “Via” raise the club tempo just a little, adding a repeating-note baseline, hints of very slight tension build, and slightly more upbeat grooves with plenty of dub delay. Akizzbeatzz’s vocal looping is particularly mesmeric.

The final block of mixes take things into more droney, glitchy territory, but initially without losing the rhythms. Lorin Strohm rearranges “Bangalore Whispers” into something more distorted and broken yet still somehow funky. Bug Lover’s “Kyoto Pebbles” is the percussion-less exception to the rule, but still rooted in patterned loops of highly twisted saxophone samples to good atmospheric effect, before the Et Kin remix of “Dharti Cash Puke” is a fitting wrap-up, bringing the soft kicks and synth bass back, adjusting the silliest track from the original album into something that’s still a little quirky but with tense rolling strings tempering it.

As a remix album it’s extremely coherent, faithful but imaginative. It doesn’t quite scale the heights of the album itself but it’s a commendable companion piece. At the time of writing this remix album is a name-your-price release on Bandcamp, though that won’t last long; snap it up while you can, and be sure to consider typing a number other than ‘0’ and supporting some high-quality, deeply thoughtful tunes with a truly international flavour.
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