Music Reviews

ANN: Certain Colors

 Posted by Stuart Bruce (@)   Electronics / EBM / Electronica
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May 15 2019
Artist: ANN
Title: Certain Colors
Format: CD + Download
Label: Seaside On Postcards
ANN in this instance is an acronym alias, that has been used for almost a decade as the nom de plume of an undisclosed number of anonymous musical experimenters (possibly just one), any number or none of whom may or may not actually be called Ann.

For this release, ANN offer up seven tracks, each one named after a colour, and each with a diverse and distinctive musical make-up. The prominent style, for the purposes of pigeonholing, is dark synthetic atmospherics- long rumbles, echoes and hollow soundscaping with a tendency towards bleakness. It’s offered up in fairly pure fashion on opener “Crimson” and in a scratchier and slightly more sci-fi way on “Grey”.

However it’s also a cousin of minimal techno, with gentle and slightly oblique rhythm patterns underpinning tracks like “Ocre” (‘ochre’?), which relies on the tried and tested technique of pulling a fairly fast and complex rhythm pattern against arhythmic atmospheric noises. Final track “Yellow” takes a similar approach, melding deep lung-like rumbles with seemingly random high-pitched beeps and squeaks. “Purple Hue” is also techno, on a technicality, but with a more laid-back and contrary mood infused into it.

Personally I found “Orange” a bit of a highlight, as it takes its techno and electronica elements and points them in a slightly more playful and retro direction, resulting in something that sounds faintly Radiophonic Workshop-ish. However there’s something just a touch nondescript in some of the sounds and moods here, with tracks like “Vermilion” arguably a little wishy-washy and lacking any kind of distinct selling point, so don’t hunt this out if looking to be challenged or illuminated.

I’m British (for better or worse) and probably the most difficult thing about reviewing this release is remembering to type “Colors” instead of “Colours” in the title. Everything else about it is very easy and enjoyable. Dark yet leisurely deep electronica.

dTHEd: Hyperbeatz, vol. 1

 Posted by Stuart Bruce (@)   Electronics / EBM / Electronica
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May 10 2019
Artist: dTHEd
Title: Hyperbeatz, vol. 1
Format: 12" vinyl + CD
Label: Boring Machines
A sort of correspondence production between Fabio Ricci and two members of Ask The White, “Hyperbeatz vol. 1” pushes a glitchy, stuttery aesthetic of difficult electronica that comprises some very familiar sonic elements but in unpredictable and wantonly awkward arrangements. The result is dynamic, occasionally quite minimalistic but more often heavily layered into an ear massage that’s cathartic and thorough but sometimes uncomfortable.

There are eight unnumbered tracks (at least on the version I got). Track 7 is an absolute highlight- a short piece of layered, slightly Glass-ish counter-playing arpeggios for clarinet-ish sounds over one of the more sedate start-stop-beats, it keeps its discordance in perfect balance and is a lovely nearly-three-minutes that has the potential to cross over and garner broad attention.

Most of the tracks are less accessible, but no less intriguing. Track 1 sets an interesting stall out, initially suggesting elements of Planet Mu or Leaf Label sounds but keeping things just that extra bit weirder and noisier than either. The organ sounds on track 4 are almost tongue-in-cheek initially. Track 8 is a multi-part and unpredictable affair with a penchant for the dramatic and a stomping percussive finale. The stammering of the female vocals on track 3 is hauntingly done, but, as a hobbyist producer myself, there’s something about the stuttering, parallel-and-out-of-sync rhythms of track 5 that do seem to fall on the wrong side of the arbitrary dividing line between art and broken.

An enjoyable 42-minute release full of character, and definitely there to be enjoyed by people who like their electronica on the complex and difficult side, but far more than just noise.

Basic Rhythm: On The Threshold

 Posted by Stuart Bruce (@)   Electronics / EBM / Electronica
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May 10 2019
Artist: Basic Rhythm
Title: On The Threshold
Format: 12" vinyl + Download
Label: Planet Mu
Anthoney Hart, sometimes known as East Man, sticks a different hat on for this new Planet Mu release that is Planet Mu through and through (or ‘thru and thru’ if you prefer). Glitchy, stripped back electronica built from sharp beats and rumbles, laid out with an EQ profile that’s clean and deep and polished.

After a deceptively gentle intro, “St. Fabian Tower” breaks into a rubbery and drunken glitchstep affair sprinkled with laser beats and ravey female vocal wayhay sounds that declares this as an odd release from the off. Some of the tracks that follow, such as “Yeah, I Like It” and the slightly dubby “I Want You”, are slightly more conventional affairs, with the sonic make-up of minimal techno but with complex and unpredictable rhythms and a much deeper and broodier approach to both space and bass.

A recurring motif is the use of what sounds to me like cheesy vocal samples borrowed from a main-room disco vocal sample pack. Phrases like “I want you in my life” and various “woo yeahs” seem corny in isolation, but reframing them and twisting them into this electronica space, giving them a new context is an unusual move, that sort of works- a bit. It’s not a total success though.

Initially, this is a fairly calm release with a fairly sedate sense of satisfaction, that wallows in subbass like a luxuriant spa- but the calmness is not indefinite. “Edge Of Darkness” is notable for (as its title implies) a much toothier, darker and sinister sound that’s got a fair chunk of aggression packed into it, and it rolls into the similarly aggressive punch-drums of “Buss It”.

It’s a Planet Mu release that doesn’t fall far from the tree (if that expression is applicable in this case), a familiar set-up of spacious and highly intelligent electronica with a strong pedigree, and a dash of innovation but no spectacles or surprises.
May 08 2019
Artist: Von Tesla
Title: Ganzfeld
Format: 2 x CD (double CD)
Label: Boring Machines
Italian Von Tesla takes the sonic palette of synth sounds more commonly found in more mainstream electronica and techno, and, by more conventionally musical methods and also via custom software development, breaks them down and disassembles them into structures that go beyond glitchy electronica and into more experimental and even randomised territory. However instead of the aggressive, gritty, “smash the system” attitude that this is sometimes handled with, this is a much much gentler affair- almost passive in its steady, undramatic layout.

Among the more accessible tracks are “Everything” (sorry, “E v e r y t h i n g”), an endearing bit of awkward-beat glitch that twists and warps in a generally cheery manner which is about as unchallenging as glitch gets. Similarly “Out Of The Surface” uses the familiar device of super-soft melodic chords contrasting with fairly frenetic high-pitched clicks and bleeps for a result which ought not to be mellow, but somehow is. “Lighted Room”, by contrast, is darker and sparser and could readily soundtrack the sinister alien landscape part of a game. Grumbling eighteen-minute piece “Echoes Of The End” is the most industrial-sounding moment here, a semi-robotic affair of arpeggiating proto-acid loops, while the slightly more stuttering approach of “Feedforward” is also interesting.

There are tracks which use their duration to draw you in- the thirteen minute “E-e” is a loose assembly of seemingly random and sparse synth melody notes that initially seems gently broken but which, by the end, has begun to feel like a new definition of normal. Something about the washy atmospherics of “Infinity Reveal” and the brooding final track “In The Red” feel like a throwback a couple of decades to earlier days of electronic ambient- the former containing one noise in particular that triggers a Future Sound Of London comparison I just can’t shake.

It’s a release that perhaps could have been gently curated down into a single-CD format; the average track length is nine and a half minutes and that could certainly be accused of self-indulgence or an unwillingness to edit. Brevity issues aside though, it’s a strong and accomplished bit of devolutionary electronica that explores the wiring under the board and comes up with something listenable and distinct.
May 07 2019
Artist: Junkie Flamingos
Title: Lemegeton Party
Format: 12" vinyl + Download
Label: The Helen Scarsdale Agency
This is a debut release from the deceptively light-heartedly named Junkie Flamingos, but the three component members (Luca Sigurtà, Alice Kundalini, and Daniele Delogu) have an established pedigree that’s quite diverse, spanning electronica, death industrial, and folk music, among other things. The result of mixing together these diverse experiences gives us a five track, 35-minute work of “industrial-ambient” that is, in itself, not all that diverse.

Predominantly this is dark-and-low electronica, with a gritty ambient tone. In tracks like “Geotia”, long hollow sci-fi atmospheres pervade like a fog, through which cuts slow, distant-sounding light industrial percussive patterns. Kundalini’s breathy spoken-word vocals are a slow and languid poetry that sits atop, mostly receiving the deference afforded to lead vocals but sometimes melting more quietly into the surrounding sonic environment.

“The Shape Of Man” is worth singling out as both the most successful track and an exemplifier of this hybrid sound that melds the sonic qualities of experimental ambient with slow pulses and vocal repetitions that emerge from the extreme edges of what could be called song-writing.

I’ll be honest, something about this release failed to connect with me after several listens, but it’s hard to put a finger on why. The moderately dense atmospherics and intimate lyricism will mesmerise some listeners, I’m sure, but somehow it felt me feeling detached and cold, and the odd robot-vocoding and click rhythm of “The Language Of Slaves” just feels like a bit of a mis-fire. You can’t win them all.

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