Music Reviews



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Artist: The Gomb
Title: Breaks (And Amends)
Format: Download Only (MP3 + Lossless)
Label: Chi Recordings (@)
Though branding themselves as “noise-gadget pop”, The Gomb’s 10-track album is not nearly as fun as that description suggests. It’s an earnest, downtempo collection of piano ballads, heavily decorated and embellished by acerbic synths and experimental noises and ambiences. It’s quite consistently bleak and slow in its tone, but there’s also a organic warmth and indulgence to the production that offsets that somewhat.

At times, the sincere nods to 70’s prog rock, whilst remaining ensconced in a digital environment, are reminiscent of later Pepe Deluxe or some Amorphous Androgynous pieces- but with a much lower energy level. “Mental Yoga” opens with strong hints of Yello about it, in a good way, and is certainly a highlight track despite wandering off in unexpected directions towards the end. The close, intimate vocal style heard on tracks like “No One Has Ever” is not dissimilar to Air.

It’s a succinct little package, ten tracks coming in under forty minutes, with tracks like “Your Monster” feeling like single ideas rather than fully-formed songs, and certainly not overstaying their welcomes.

For promotion, The Gomb are giving away a remix of title track “Amends” free on Bandcamp. The “Stomp remix” has a synthwave energy which, if it had been siphoned into the main album, would certainly have lifted it. So, let me know when the remix version of the whole album is out...
Oct 26 2016
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Artist: Distal
Title: Reebok Blood
Format: Download Only (MP3 + Lossless)
Label: Infinite Machine
Claiming to cross the divide “between moody club music and experimental sound design”, I would genuinely love to visit the club where either of these four-minute-long tracks could be dropped without clearing the dancefloor faster than you can say “is it broken?” I really enjoy both of these tracks for home listening, but only the second track “Hostage Blood” is even remotely DJ-friendly, and even then, barely.


“Reebok Blood” has an epic opening, opening into a cathedral of industry which then bites aggressively with percussive bursts for a minute or so, before spontaneously dropping into a light bit of soundtrack-y synthwave, which in turn gets interrupted by a manic synthesized and distorted guitar lead. Structurally it’s almost incoherent, paying no attention to any convention of build or drop.


“Hostage Track” has a slightly more regulated and hip-hop feel to it, boosted by the super-brief rap snippets and the near-militant snare. The sounds of smashing glass and bells become the groove, and it’s a sparse, sudden-change-free alternative to “Reebok Blood”, that feels composed and measured and makes the first track seem messy by comparison.
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Artist: Natalie Beridze
Title: Love Is Winning EP
Format: Download Only (MP3 + Lossless)
Label: Monika Enterprise (@)
Georgian Natalie Beridze offers up a remix EP of tracks reworked from her tenth album “Guliagava”, and on the strength of the remixes, I absolutely must check out the originals.


The Thomas Fehlmann remix of “Those Things” is a thing of beauty. Understated, steady, thoughtful beats underpin a drifting melodic loop and strangely heartwarming source material. The jazzy bassline that introduces itself halfway through is the icing on the cake- or perhaps the icing underneath the cake.

The remix of “For Love” by Natalie’s long-time collaborator Nikakoi is a more upbeat, slightly swaggering lightweight glitch-step number. Donna Maya’s take on “Light Is Winning” is both sexier and more synthpop, bringing the breathiness to the fore, whilst Lightning Jules’ take on the same track is a more eclectic offering, starting out with a genuinely experimental tone before settling into a quirkly 93bpm groove littered with weird vocal-like stabs.

The main four tracks were sent as a promo, and they’re a high-quality and consistent 18-minute remix package. On the strength of these, it’s definitely worth all exploring the additional three remixes of “Light Is Winning”, Bandcamp exclusives from Gray, Ivory Bells and Box Von Düe.
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Artist: Kaschade
Title: Performance (2016)
Format: Download Only (MP3 + Lossless)
Label: self-released
There’s an ‘old school’ feel to the experimentation throughout this work. “Performance” is an apt name for something that feels like it is being created live, a spontaneous collection of percussive and melodic stabs that involves taking jazz instruments like saxophones, prepared pianos and bluesy guitars and pulling them into an airy, empty, abstract space.

Whilst the pacing and the artistic tone is reminiscent of 1960’s Radiophonic Workshop, the sonic layout is modern and polished. It’s a subtle production, letting the instruments speak for themselves with only a few lashings of reverb and delay to make everything feel wider.

“Wax Cellulite” ends with one of the album’s few less relaxing moments, with the pervading melancholia turning into anger and frustration as a sax and a synth sound like they’re having a fight. In the first two-thirds of the album, more often and not though, this is plaintive, non-aggressive stuff- I wouldn’t go as far as “chill out” music might sometimes it’s not far off.

All of the above is solidly thrown out in the final third however, as the time we reach album closer “Golden Balls” that tone is thrown forcefully out of the window in favour of white noise and crescendo of agonised, frustrated wrangling. In a way it’s a disappointingly obvious end to something that was otherwise well-stocked for originality.

Synthesized, purely digital releases with this kind of sonic aesthetic are fairly commonplace nowadays (although not unwelcome!), but to hear an album like this, made with such conviction using so-called “proper” instruments, is refreshing and different. A gentler and more imaginative final third would have cemented it as truly outstanding.

At the time of writing, this 53-minute album is a bargain on Bandcamp. Cryptically the promo version that was sent was labelled “Performance (2016-2017)”, but given that it was released in October 2016, seemingly they dropped the ‘2017’ idea.
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Artist: Arctic Sunrise
Title: When Traces End
Format: CD
Label: Echozone (@)
Rated: *****
Sophomore album for the German duo of Torseten Verlinden (vocals) and Steve Baltes (electronics) who are Arctic Sunrise, following on the heels of last year's 'A Smarter Enemy'. While I liked that album well enough, 'When Traces End' is really a better effort, as experience can be a powerful motivator. What I like most about this album is its vibe; a hard to describe quality, but metaphorically, it squeezes the juice out of the darker aspects of 80's electropop distilling it down to a fine concentrate, then embellishes it with a modern millennial sensibility. Songs are moody and introspective, but not pointlessly angst-ridden as some of the gothier projects of the aforementioned bygone decade. The first couple of tracks have a Cure-ish sound to them musically. I really like the beat and descending staccato eighth-note synth line of second track, "Tell the Truth". The semi-cynical lyrics referring to people who lie to make themselves look good really resonated with me. The ambiguous "Mine Forever" might initially sound like an eulogistic love song to a deceased lover, but delve a little deeper and you can envision a psychopathic murder ballad. The guys create a great wistful atmosphere on "Let It Rain" and a kind of sinister one on "Over Me". Uptempo title track "When Traces End" may not have a dynamic hook, but it has plenty else going for it, vocally, lyrically and instrumentally. The warranted cynicism of "A Lifetime to Disagree" speaks volumes to the plight of so many who have to tow the corporate/party line just to survive, and the (futile) future of someday - "When I am older - a lifetime to disagree - I will be bolder...". "The End of Things" succinctly chronicles a resolute break-up, but in the downtempo "Your Eyes" it appears there is some melancholia for the loss. I would have liked a snappier, less brooding and more positive end to the album, but perhaps that would have been out of character. As is though, there is plenty to enjoy here, and I think the more it's played, the more it will grow on you. I said it before, and I say it again, this is thinking man's synthpop, devoid of the cliched silliness you often find in the genre, and we all could use some good music worth sinking your ears (and $$) into.
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