Music Reviews



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Artist: Jeroen Search
Title: Z
Format: 2 x 12" vinyl
Label: Figure SPC (@)
Rated: *****
Techno and technival lovers should know both the name of Dutch DJ and producer Jeroen Search (one of the aliases of Jeroen Schrijvershof, named after his imprint Search) and the one of Levent 'Len' Faki, his German/Turkish mentor on this occasion, well-known Berlin-based DJ and producer, artistically grew in Bergheim. The first opened and recently closed the series Figure SPC, titled by each single letter of the alphabet, a subsidiary project of the imprint of the latter, after having signed (and sometimes co-signed) other releases/letters. This one, as you can easily guess, is the last chapter of this supposedly special chain. Honestly speaking, I'm not a great fan of this kind of techno. Furthermore, I heard better-forged things, stylistically close to it, but besides features strictly related to its style (most of you know what they and I mean when referring to minimal techno), there are a couple of interesting details. The first one is technical, as Jeroen prefers to make techno tunes by using hardware instead of software programming and most of his live performances and recordings get built on sounds that get edited in one take and in real-time: that's a somehow risky choice that could let you appreciate his output more and fully justifies the fact you wouldn't find so many edited sounds. A comparison against another kind of software-driven or studio-made sounds is, therefore, inappopriate: it's like attempting a comparison between an elaborate meal coming out of the prodigy of some haut cuisine chef and a fast-food cold delivery, but some fast-foods can do more delicious chips than other, and it's what Jeroen does. The second aspect is more conceptual: there are many interesting references to Buddhist spiritual practices in the title of his tracks as well as in some aural clues (such as the recorded speech in "Uphekka", a word referring to the last stage of a spiritual speech to get ready to nirvana, close to the Western concept of ataraxia and apatheia), which got interlaced to other references to physical-mechanical concepts (a sort of distinguishing mark of many techno outputs). Regarding the listenable part of the release, the nicest tracks are the ones where some apparent influences to Kenny Larkin and Jeff Mills are evident, such as on "Compressive Strength", "Tensile Force", "Karuna" or the final "Mudita" (maybe the best one).
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Artist: W3C
Title: State Of Absolute Alienation
Format: Download Only (MP3 + Lossless)
Label: Infinite Machine
“State Of Absolute Alienation” is an EP that sounds like it’s been designed with post-apocalyptic movie trailers or gaming in mind. Packed with gut-punchers, dramatic stabs, suspense-building synth arpeggios, sinister drawn-out bass tones and sub-bass throbs, this is strong-formula, cinematic instrumental EDM. Labels like dubstep or techno can fit it, though not snugly.

After “Ascension”, which is credited as an intro but which is really a creditable bit of super-dark trap in its own right, you get “Xenotrak”, which adopts a clipped guitar sound that is vaguely chiptune-ish, adding to the sense of gaming. As the name suggests, “Bot-o’-War” ups the mechanical rhythms, adding sharper metallic tones, while “Short Circuit” thickens and distorts the low-end glitching in exhilarating fashion. This is a fresh slice of attitude-laden electro-punk, somewhat insular in parts but an excellent way to block out the world. Final track “Invasion” pushes this even further, eschewing higher-end elements in favour of relentless throbbing.

Structurally it falls between two stools at times, trying to follow the structures of techno and a score at the same time leaves it a little bit of neither, but overall it’s an extremely thick, headlong dive into full-on, cutting-edge, big-screen electronica for dark tense imagery.
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Artist: Ujjaya
Title: The Landing Zone (Live)
Format: Download Only (MP3 + Lossless)
Label: Eg0cide
“The Landing Zone” is an extremely mellow mix of super-soft distant drumming, long organic drones, and jungle atmospheres, all layered up with a subtle and sympathetic digital production. Other elements make fleeting cameos, such as noodling guitars on “La Ballade De Taccoli Otenan” or sampled radio reportage on “Jungle Fever”. It’s a very familiar set of ingredients, certainly not breaking new territory, but it’s handled confidently, and the result is mostly warm and sincere.

If the limited PR info is to be believed, and sometimes it isn’t, musician Hery Randraimbololona, the man behind Ujjaya, stayed in seclusion for 15 years until 2011, only coming out of seclusion once a year for a radio show (!). Despite this apparent seclusion Randraimbololona seems to be very in tune with ambient production, and the Westernisation of ethnic tones and instruments into a global soundscape that is at best brilliant multi-culturalism, as worst plagiarism of authenticity. There’s a slight timelessness to this, a sense that this album could’ve been made at any point since the fusion of worldbeat and electronica started getting popular in the early 90’s.

On pieces like “La Ballade De Taccoli Otenan”, there’s an authenticity to the gentle percussion- this is not some Deep Forest-esque sample library cheating- yet despite seemingly not being a sampled loop, there’s a rather stark simplicity to the rhythms being played- no variations, no evolutions, not even any fills, just a determined steadiness. Despite being billed as a “live” album, this gives it more of a studio flavour.

Each track has a distinct-enough lead, I may embarrass myself here but “Tout Est Conscience” employs a more harpsichord-like sound for melodies, while on “Tiruvinamali” it sounds more like a sitar. The track “Eyembilan” is an anomaly, with a thoroughly rock guitar pattern wandering in and threatening to take things into much more prog rock territory; this is the most skippable track.

Final track “Hanuman” is firmly in Future Sound Of London territory.

“The Landing Zone” is, at time of writing, being given away free online, on a site that is seemingly legitimate even though it looks slightly like a dodgy torrent site. So as such there’s no reason not to check out this reasonably familiar-sounding ethno-ambient blend for yourself. I’m perhaps heaping it with too much praise if I describe it as a sort of Asian version of The KLF’s “Chill Out” but in principle that’s not a disservice.
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Artist: Taylor Deupree
Title: Somi
Format: CD + Book
Label: 12K
“Somi” is an interesting exercise in the organic and analogue looping of a collection of extremely mellow, clean musical sounds sourced from an electric piano, a glockenspiel, and a Yahama DX7 synth. Using a handheld tape recorder for loops adds an ambience of electroacoustic sub-hiss and the occasional microtonal tape warp that was an unavoidable irritant in the 1980’s, now rebranded as a desirable sonic wash.

Rather than being looped digitally using a DAW, every repetition is played by hand, adding natural inconsistencies. Different instruments loop with different frequencies, subtly offsetting the phase relationships between each layer. The result is a sort of wildly strung-out music box effect, extremely sedentary plucked tones that arrive sharply but fade in a languid fashion.

The track “Evode” adds a smattering of darker undertones that ebb rather than arrive, but it’s a subtle variation that doesn’t really divert from the overall tone.

The complexity of the underlying analogue production are somewhat forgotten, as the end result is deceptively simple- a pure-toned, faintly romantic, sleep-inducing (in a good way) fifty-one minutes of calm.
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Artist: Agnes Hvizdalek (@)
Title: Index
Format: CD + Download
Label: Nakama Records (@)
Sometimes there can be a perception gap between the concept of a piece of sound art, and the tangible audio that forms the end product. In my opinion, this is such a case. On paper, “Index” is an engaging abstract vocal piece. One forty-seven-minute long track, recorded literally at the bottom of a chimney in a factory, Hvizdalek’s experimental vocal noises meld with the funneled-in external atmospheres of São Paulo, hybridising into something resembling an organic, living and breathing. Conceptually it’s very strong.

In practice somehow it’s less compelling. Hvizdalek’s adapt vocal work is capable of both purity and temper, but somehow, almost inexplicably, manages to avoid being beautiful. Some of the growling tones seem to be a parody of jazz, almost comedic. Sometimes it sounds like piano strings being tightened, at other points like dolphin conversation. Undoubtedly it’s technically extremely impressive but I’m afraid at times it sounds more like a vocal challenge than a performance, and it points it even sounds like gargling, or 1970’s Doctor Who monsters and aliens.

The layering of other elements is too light, a little too subtle, and inhibits a true sense of interaction between voice and surrounding. Much of it is only audible through headphones or in a good acoustic environment.

As a virtuoso piece of solo experimental vocal work, it’s impressive, and the concept behind it watertight, but the net result tends a little too much towards the inaccessible side of abstraction.
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