Music Reviews



Feb 22 2012
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Artist: ECHO
Title: Daydream
Format: Download Only (MP3 + Lossless)
Label: Romance Moderne
Rated: *****
Describing themselves as naive synthpop, Echo signed recently for Romance Moderne for the release of their first E.P. "Daydream". Formed in Barcelona in October 2011 by the Catalan composer Alexandre Portils Torner and French singer Mickaël Valli, Echo will release soon their debut album on Disaro Records. Already available at the main digital outlets and at the bandcamp label page (romancemoderne.bandcamp.com), the release is opened by "Touch Me Not", a track that has an intense syth ambient start just to follow, after about a minute and half, with upbeat drum machine rhythms and monotone vocals which duet with synth bass lines. The main track, "Daydream", is next and it is a minimal synth tune with cool analog sounds and nice vocoder inserts. "The Belladonna Ritual" has a cinematic atmosphere thanks to recitative vocals and synth sweeps and noises. "Fleur Fatal" sounds like a stripped to the bone r'n'r song with childish atmospheres. In balance from Suicide and synthpop, Echo did the right thing by describing themselves naive, as they succeed into keeping an innocent approach by composing melodic lines and rhythms which make them sound simple but not poor.
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Artist: The Micronaut (@)
Title: Friedfisch
Format: CD
Label: Acker Records (@)
Distributor: Kompakt
Rated: *****
If you dwell upon some details of debut release by German guitarist Stefan Streck, also known as Dj Sterngucker, the nice moniker he used for his appearances in German dnb scene, such as the way he titled tracks taken from freshwater inhabitants (daces, rudds, carps, tenches, gudgeons, minnows, crucians, barbels and so on), you could assume Micronaut's creator is a fanatic for aquariums or recreational fishing, but other marks, including that gudgeon (or at least it seems a gudgeon...) while swallows some unidentified fish on the cover artwork, might shake such an assumption, which could appear belittling or close to a reductive shot cut if you begin to discerning a metaphorical language, based on the "big fish eating little fish" vision of such a broken social scene, where economical impasse as well as some political decisions which are hitting welfare policies and competitional mechanism, basis of Capitalism, look like awakening primordial atavistic predatory instincts fostering a battle arena-like vision of society more than a cooperative one. If you try to solve such a dilemma by an auricular analysis of musical clues, ambiguity could remain (and be even increased if you try to find an association between tinches and Bulgarian folk choirs, suggested in the lovely entrancing track "Schleie"!): whereas there are tracks which evoke wondering in deep contemplation of river's or just pound's life through sonic splashes, spurting, darts, soft xylophone's trills, clappy rhythmical stepping and sweetly effected guitar arpeggios (I particularly enjoyed "Grundling", "Hasel" - featuring very nice vocal games - and "Karpfen") there's that feeling of dramatic urgency and underskin tension, that kind of electric defibrillation close to the one applied by Apparat to his songs, amalgamating such a bucolic musical poem with more pensive weighs in mind. Every track has been carefully assembled and performed anyway and the release includes two appetizers for clubbers and djs as well, two dubby/electropop remixes by Ronny Mollenhauer aka Mollono.Bass (I liked more the one of "Barbe" than the treatment he reserved to "Schleie", maybe cause original version of the track was good enough).
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Artist: Celer & Machinefabriek (@)
Title: Maastunnel/Mt. Mitake
Format: 7"
Label: Machinefabriek (@)
Rated: *****
"What'd he look like?"
"I don't know. He didn't lift his head up. He could've been... just anybody."

A disembodied voice, a tape snippet, inquires, on Maastunnel, the A Side to this auspicious pairing of these two giants of drone. 'Maastunnel/Mt. Mitake' came about after Machinefabriek & Celer played a show together in Tokyo in 2010, and was released to coincide with an upcoming European tour, so we will most likely hear more from these combined heads.

Both Machinefabriek & Celer are hyper-prolific, nigh-on legendary in the ambient/drone/field recordings microcosm, so what happens when they get together? That's why i started with that quote, it is a fine example of the egolessness of both artist's work, an almost slavish devotion to the 'sound', the 'work'. Tasteful in the extreme, you can hear the individual spirit of each, the squeaky field recordings that are Machinefabriek's hallmark, the drifting, cloud-like melodies Celer is known for. The overall effect achieved, is a sonic world, an auditory hallucination, with Machinefabriek creating the space for Celer to score, events unfolding, humans interacting with the inanimate.

'Maastunnel' is the more pastoral of the two, which is funny as its named after a tunnel, but its tinkling, splashing water give a sense of the outdoors. 'Mt. Mitake', named after the mountain to the west of Tokyo, is a more sci-fi affair, think Vangelis, think Klaus Schulze - dreamy, futuristic, floating. The pair make for more colorful drones and inner-visions than the monochromatic blur often found in the more industrial cadre of this style.

'Maastunnel/Mt. Mitake' is an exercise in restraint, in good taste. They show respect for one another, the music, and the listener. The whole shebang clocks in at a scant ten-minutes, which means you will spend a lot of time hitting play, or flipping over this little gem. Poring over its intricacies. Makes for pleasant company in the morning, if you want to keep that dreamy vibe going. I'm looking forward to hearing more from these two.
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Artist: VV.AA. (@)
Title: Bass Warriors 2
Format: Download Only (MP3 + Lossless)
Label: Devine Disorder Records (@)
Rated: *****
About 2 and a half years after "Bass Warriors" (DDR 014), the excellent Devine Disorder Records label releases the sequel, a mini compilation of dark electro tracks by some of the finest producers around.
"Bass Warriors 2" gathers in a 5-track EP the talents of Dwellz (label's head honcho), Mike Ash, Rawtary, Zerodouble and Dexterous Numerics. Sound is ranging from the futuristic dystopia of "Amoeba" (fly track by Dwellz) to the tough funk of "Bass Man" (Zerodouble), through the experimental vibes of "Freaky Bitch" (my fav track by Lithuania's finest, Rawtary) and the more straightforward dark electro of "Flying Saucer" and "Dannz" (by the one and only Mike Ash and an extremely talented newcomer in the electrofunk scene, Dexterous Numerics, respectively).
Mastered to perfection by a man (or... machine?!) who needs no introduction, R21, this is a release you just can't miss. It will be available digitally by Sunday, Feb 26, so, all you freaks, save some bucks for a heavy dose of electro dopeness!
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Artist: Burial
Title: Kindred EP
Format: Download Only (MP3 + Lossless)
Label: Hyperdub
Rated: *****
Remixing the city

The Kindred EP is the latest trickle from enigmatic producer Burial, aka William Bevan, the first we've heard since last year's Street Halo. Burial seems intent on focusing on the less-is-more solution to media overload: less publicity, scarce amount of tracks, and as such, his work always seems very well-considered, intentional. It always seems special.

The three tracks that make up Kindred are a late-night headphone journey, calling upon the familiar sonic landmarks of urban dwelling: phone crackle, eavesdropped music, subway rumble, raindrops. Its like he incorporates the environment, as well as the music, making a beautiful Frankenstein's monster of field recording and score; cinematic. The overall effect leaves a rich, ineffable residue: many chalk it up to nostalgia, a faded reminiscence, but it is deeper and weirder than that. Burial conjures WORLDS, but doesn't tell you what they are. He merely creates auditory scenarios, and leaves the listener to be the judge.

Burial's always done his own thing, remaining anonymous for a long time, remaining aloofs from trends and fads. His recorded output is ethereal and mysterious, he merely produces the sounds that he likes to hear, and lets high falutin' journalists like me hash out the end result. The three tracks on Kindred are all rather lengthy, and it makes for a sonic journey, an imaginary cinema. This is music to trip out to, to relax to, to live with. Not to discern and quantify. Its music of the boundaries, of the periphery. I like to imagine Bevan riding the bus, in London at night, listening to the tires on wet pavement, listening to conversations. Kindred is what it sounds like to be a loner, to be drifting through time and space.
His outsider perspective makes Burial's music such a deep, intimate experience. It references techno, is obviously steeped in the tradition, but with the textures and the production, it makes for an emotional, unified whole, that is intelligent, cerebral, emotional, and danceable all at the same time.

I first heard of Dubstep in reference to Burial, and Kode9's Hyperdub label, and became addicted to its post-industrial grime and decay, its bio-mechanical gothic elegance. I became disgusted, and discouraged, when the Americans took it, and reduced it to the formulaic LFO wobble that is the mating cry of Bros the world over. It is refreshing to get back to my roots, to hear a master of his craft, and to watch a producer making innovative, intelligent, heart-felt music. It restores my faith in techno.

Kindred is available for download, from the Hyperdub website, and there's a vinyl release in the pipeline.

Highly recommended
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