Music Reviews



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Artist: Ezekiel Honig
Title: Object Music EP
Format: Download Only (MP3 + Lossless)
Label: Anticipate Recordings
“Object Music” is a collection of four short numbered pieces where field recordings and found sounds, mostly small and homely and everyday-sounding, have been laid up and looped to form organic breakbeat rhythms and groove patterns that feel introspective and trip-hoppy in nature.

Parts 1 and 2 are the most upbeat and brightest, and they knit together. Part 1 particularly feels like the dancing of a beached wooden rowing boat, while Part 2 is more workmanlike, feeling like a hybrid of light craft industry and playful fun.

In part 3, a simple on-the-beat chord sequence adds a straightforward expression of melancholy that brings a certain sadness to the nostalgia. Part 4 feels muffled and womb-like, the rhythm becoming distant, the closer bubbling and wooden squeaking sounds feeling confusing yet warm.

At only fourteen minutes long it’s a nicely understated little EP which keeps its ambition simple but packs in quite a lot of charm. It’s a solid release from an established electro-acoustic composer. Apparently it also forms the sonic part of an audiovisual presentation as well, but I’m commenting only on the audio here.
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Artist: Flug 8
Title: Space Techno
Format: 12" vinyl + Download
Label: Ransom Note Records
The latest 4-track EP from tech house and techno veteran Flug 8, a.k.a. Daniel Herrmann, is a solid lesson in production quality, a veritable “how to” for electronic producers trying to find balance in their tracks. It’s also a safe pair of hands as an E.P., taking you on a casual, relaxing and spaced-out journey that contains a sum total of exactly zero surprises.

“Spacemodulation” establishes a dreamy walking pace, gentle pulses giving occasional pace to an otherwise floaty deep space atmosphere. Decidedly Kraftwerk-esque synthetic vocals give “Autopilot” an almost kitsch or retro flavour as an initially somewhat gritty and lo-fi opening unfolds into a blissful array of pad sounds.

“Polarprojektion” takes elements of the first two tracks, combining further vocal sounds with a dreamier approach and just a touch more exoticism in the choice of sounds, before “Magnetometer” introduces a squelchy bassline and begins again on a well-executed gradual build.

Even the title of this release is gently prosaic. Although “inspired” is not a word I’d use in association with any of these tracks, nevertheless the relentlessly high standard and endearing sonic appeal really is hard to fault.
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Artist: Oto Hiax
Title: Two
Format: 12" vinyl + Download
Label: Editions Mego
Mark Clifford and Scott Gordon’s latest offering introduces itself as audio design. It’s a fascinating collection of experiments in layering up acoustic and found sound sources and post-producing and twisting them in a variety of fashions to generate a diverse pack of six compact soundscapes that are mostly attention-grabbing rather than ambient.

Oddly didgeridoo-like noises in opener “Silt” initially suggest a sound that will be more organic and ethnic than what follows, before “Dapple” cuts through with an almost post-dubstep mid-frequency buzzsaw sound that drills into your head, but carefully. “Overcurve” also transplants rave-like noises into bizarre new settings, this time fuelled by relentless loops and a sense of urgency.

The second half settles somewhat. Skittish glitchy sounds play against abruptly stop-starting calm melodic pads in “Scutter”, a meaty ten-minute work that works its way towards the brighter sunrise of “Strain”.

At times this work feels more like a showreel from a duo offering their services for game or soundtrack work, rather than a fully fledged and coherent collection- but that’s my only criticism of what is otherwise an exemplary pack of cutting-edge audio design work. If I were making a dark, sinister and unpredictable horror film, I’d certainly be calling them up.
Nov 23 2019
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Artist: Suumhow
Title: Secuund
Format: CD & Vinyl
Label: n5MD (@)
A lovely listen from first to last track, with different, rhythmic IDM styles and textures with an abundance of warm emotion, exuberance and often a sense of uplifting joy. On Secuund, One cannot help but be reminded of the likes of the Arovane/Phonem collaborations for the angular beats and atmospherics, Autechre for the antiseptic, industrial-grade beats melded with bit-rot decaying, glitch-filled ones, or the whimsical, longing-filled melodies and downtempo beats of Tycho. While these perceived influences evidenced in shared textural palettes exist, Suumhow’s approach to melody stands on its own. “Muuscl” opens the album halting, stuttering, glitch-ridden and discombobulated, but this picks up speed and dexterity mid way through into playful melodic robotic breaks-dance track. “Till'inf” has the sharp, mechanical beats and intricate programming of Phonem and the airy atmospheric melody of Arovane, but with a certain kind of assertiveness. “West Bend” is the Tycho like melodic intermission, dreamy, somewhat whimsical and sweet as is “Bora Bora” with its slightly melancholic melody and comparatively simpler stripped-down beats and kind of wistful melody. “Cabin” among favoured tracks draws near with the momentum of an approaching storm, stuttering IDM breaks kick-in about a minute into the song and counter melodies join in about mid way through with an engaging point, counter point that culminates into a manic, blurpy video game bonus round crescendo. “56” has an early Autechre feel for the industrial grade beats, plucky melodies, and glitchy robotics, set to a nice, subdued, near melancholic melody. “Vapor” is another favoured track where less influence is heard and Suumhow’s own quality surfaces with its slightly faded melody and that catchy, slightly distorted bassline interplay into the crown jewel track. Starts with the glitchy-click of a skipping CD before a lovely, strong, pleasant emotionally rousing melody, assertive beats deliver a strong finish to a strong album. What makes Suumhow stand-out is their craft of melody, while the beats and textures are mere vehicles to instill their own slightly nostalgic mood recalling vestiges of past pop, tantalizingly close to recollection but never realized. Instead, the magic is in how Secuund dwells in the spaces greater than the sum of its parts.
Nov 22 2019
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Artist: VV.AA.
Title: HyperSwim
Format: Download Only (MP3 + Lossless)
Label: Hyperdub
This unexpected and rich compilation dropped into my inbox at quite short notice- and what a pleasant surprise. Nineteen completely brand-new tracks from Hyperdub-related artists, this is a digital-only release in collaboration with US network Adult Swim (hence the name), who get first dibs on streaming the release, before it gets a wider digital release later.

So here is new material from some big names- Kode9, Proc Fiscal, Ikonika, and Burial of course (in advance of Burial’s “Tunes 2011 to 2019” releasing next month, which- spoiler alert- is brilliant).

In keeping with the Hyperdub style, there’s both breadth and consistency in the sound. Classificaton-wise, it’s all electronica, and there’s a crispness and glitchiness that unites many of the tracks, along with steady stepping grooves. Tracks like Ikonika’s “Primer” perhaps sum it up best. But there’s also variety, a good bucketload of it, to keep things interesting- Proc Fiskal’s weirdly hypnotic “Devilish River”, or Laurel Halo’s bubbly and unpredictable “Crush”. Hyperdub’s open-minded international approach shines through.

People expecting 2007-era dubstep from the Burial track will be a bit surprised, as while there are shades of it in the vocal echo, “Old Tape” is much closer to synthwave, almost sounding like Tangerine Dream in the synths.

Other highlights include the sparse, electro-African “Baka” from Scratch DVA, and Kode9’s dramatic and string driven “Cell3”, and the thrumping techno of Lee Gamble’s “Chain”.

The more grime-electronica tilt of Hyperdub’s style is represented well in tracks like Okzharp & Manthe Ribane’s “In Your Own Time”. In a release dominated by instrumentals, or tracks that use short vocal samples as mantras like DJ Haram’s lightly filthy “Get It”, there’s a ‘vocal section’ of sorts that starts with DJ Taye’s “Inferno” which has an actual multi-verse rap. Speaking personally there are some grime tracks (generally, not just on this compilation) that I’d much rather hear as instrumentals, and there are shades of that here.

Most of the tracks are around three minutes long and it’s true that some of them could be leftovers or residual work, what ‘normal’ bands might call B-side material, but there’s nothing here that sounds like filler- not even mildly. If this were a solo artist album I’d be praising it as one of the albums of the year. Kudos to Adult Swim for presumably doing something positive to get behind a release like this. A great compilation from an electronica label that never seems to drop the ball.
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