Music Reviews



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Artist: kj (@)
Title: ex
Format: CD
Label: Dronarivm (@)
Rated: *****
This album by kj, known also a KJ Rothweiler, a writer and direction, is presented as a journey through the dark side of nostalgia. This musically means that it's along the path of certain minimalism formally based on tape loops or lingering synth lines which can be mesmerizing or boring due to the writing ability of the composer.
This release is opened by "maze", a small introduction based on the repetition and variation of a simple melodic cell, while "caro" exposes the framework of this release which is based in melodic figures which seems to be repeated in loop but are varied when the listener is too cradled. "Ex" juxtaposes a drone which slowly evolves in the background and a melody which is concealed in the sound creases. "Sile" is a drone mainly evolving in dynamics and "thursday" is a slow melody exposed with evocative thick sound masses while "room" uses the same procedure with a more rarefied sound. A sound watercolor for guitar, "you", is obtained by the careful use of delay and "foxes" closes this release with a gentle soundscape brightened by the cello of Aaron Martin which gives an element of metallic angst.
Perhaps it could be seen as nothing more than a derivative release based on known form of minimalism but actually it's a release which plays with what it seems. It's apparently repetitive, apparently static but it's moving as it asks a quite attentive listener to catch the small variation of the music. Recommended for fans of the genre.
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Artist: Fofoulah
Title: Daega Rek
Format: CD & Vinyl
Label: Glitterbeat
London based afro-dub ensemble Fofoulah’s second album is a distinctive blend. It centres around the rhythms and vocals of Gambian sabar dummer Kaw Secka, recorded in the prestigious Real World Studios, which are then taken into the London studio of keyboardist and saxophonist Tom Challenger who manipulates and produces it into a more electronic, more Western-sounding layout that aims for, and often achieves, the best of both worlds. Contributions from Johnny Brierley providing deep bussy basslines and Phil Stevenson in guitar give the whole thing an organic, live or ‘live plus’ feel that certainly acts as an advert for the band’s forthcoming gigs.

The range of moods and tones on display is impressive. For example, “Knicki” adopts an interesting, seemingly more sample-driven and old-school experimental approach, while “Kaddy” has a lovely upbeat, jazzy and very drum-and-bassy vibe that provides one of the album’s most toe-tapping moments, before final track “Kulo” works itself into a slow, dark, stepping techno as a tribute to artist Khadijah Saye who died in the Grenfell disaster.

Tracks like “Seye”, “Ndanane” or “Nijite” could all show grime artists a thing or two about making interesting music within that sphere, and appealing to listeners who wouldn’t normally venture that way, while unusually it’s the title track that provides one of the sparsest and most introspective turns.

There’s a strong tradition in the UK of fusing African and other ‘world’ beats into our sonic spaces without, I’d like to think, too much sense of cultural appropriation. This is another strong example that fits nicely into that history, a strong and very listenable organic meld of cultures and a very pleasant way to spend forty minutes.
Nov 08 2018
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Artist: Bonaventure
Title: Mentor
Format: Download Only (MP3 + Lossless)
Label: Planet Mu
Soroya Lutangu’s first EP on Planet Mu is a strong introduction. Across six tracks, the Swiss/Congolese producer blends rhythms and samples from across cultures, generally setting patterns out onto relatively straightforward 4/4 electronica beds but layering them up with more complex patterns and unusual melodic loops that make it one of those rare releases that will work an open-minded dancefloor but still play perfectly for home listening.

After the bold, quite action-movie-ish drama and gutpunchers of opener “Physarum”, “Mentor” is one of the thumpers and a really positive drive to it, while “Nemesis” is an example of the more broken-beat and unpredictable approach that I’d stereotypically label as more ‘Planet Mu-esque’

“Colony” is thoroughly atmospheric chin-stroking grime while “Impetus” has hints of both trap and techno as well, but always maintaining a breadth and character that make it sound not quite like anything else. Final track “Both” is notable for its looped poetry from Hannah Black, an attention-grabbing brooding track that’s a highlight that could’ve been the opener.

With only one track reaching the four-minute mark, it does perhaps feel more like a sampler or a calling card than a fully formed half-album, leaving you wanting more and wishing that some tracks had been explored in more depth- but what a calling card it is, here’s hoping there’s more to come.
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Artist: Adam Basanta
Title: Intricate Connections Formed Without Touch
Format: Download Only (MP3 + Lossless)
Label: Kasuga Records
“Intricate Connections Formed Without Touch” is a six-track work supposedly built entirely from a single acoustic guitar improvisation, but which has been “cut, sliced, re-arranged and folded-over” with a diverse range of digital processing to bend it firmly into the territory of digital electronica. Where some of the audible reportage-like spoken-word elements, other more vocal noises and some rich pad-like atmospherics come from isn’t disclosed, so people appreciating the purity of the concept may feel a little cheated.

There’s a bit of everything in the processing- reverb, reverse, glitch, bend, stretch, the works, and at times it feels more like a playful experiment with digital audio tools than something with compositional intent. However there are other points where it’s a clear success- “Flora & Fauna” being an example, its gentle icy plucked tones seeding an encapsulating and rather sci-fi environment, and the more frantic stuttering “Joy”, which initially has echoes of BT’s granular synthesis work but ripped out of its EDM context before unfolding into something rather cinematic, is quite compelling as well. Final ‘proper’ track “Extension Out” turns simplicity into a virtue by centring around an intriguing deep pulse and drone that you could happily get lost in.

It’s rounded off (or filled out, perhaps) by a remix of “Flora & Fauna” by Kai Basanta- presumably a relation of Adam’s, though this is also undisclosed. It’s a straightforward ten-minute bit of downtempo thoughtful electronica with some soft organic padded rhythms. It compliments the original track but which doesn’t necessarily meld as a coherent piece of the main album.

It’s a smooth listen, pleasant and full of interesting details but not particularly ground-breaking.

It’s available as an SD card or as a download, but at the time of writing ChainDLK’s format options don’t include SD card as something I can select, hence it being displayed as download-only.
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Artist: Michele Mercure
Title: Beside Herself
Format: 2 x 12" vinyl
Label: RVNG Intl. / Freedom To Spend
“Beside Herself” is a 19-track, 66-minute anthology of material taken from Michele Mercure’s self-produced and distributed cassettes released between 1983 and 1990 from her base in Pennsylvania (until divorcing in 1987, some were released under the name Michelle Musser).

It’s a collection of almost wholly instrumental experimental electronic vignettes, with one foot decidedly in the world of lo-fi 80’s synth pop but the other foot pointed outwards into more esoteric and avantgarde directions.

It’s one of those works that inspires a lot of comparisons to other artists, which is not to take anything away from its originality or the uniqueness of its character. “Beginning” sounds like a mid 80’s Nik Kershaw instrumental, and not in a bad way, while “An Accident Waiting To Happen” with its sampled car noises and sharp noisy percussion has more than a shade of The Art Of Noise about it, albeit with the sound quality of a homespun demo rather than a Trevor Horn-produced master. “De Dunk” is an oddly squelchy bit bit of slow-grooved weirdness that sounds like one of the more out-there moments from the early days of library music.

Thanks to some warm bass guitar work, there’s a decided downtempo funk aspect in parts, the title track for example feeling like it could have soundtracked a night-time stakeout in a big-hair cop show. “Mother” is a nicely quirky bit of synth work with an almost lullaby-like quality to it.

Mercure’s breakthrough material is certainly worthy of some re-appraisal, though the demo-like sound quality and production techniques root it firmly in its original decade. Fans of the edgier and more experimental edges of the early days of the 80’s synth explosion will find a lot of merit in this.
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