Music Reviews

Artist: Magna Pia
Title: Daiauna
Format: 12" vinyl + Download
Label: Feral Note
Hüseyin Evirgen is still one half of techno duo Cassegrain, but for the last few years has also been putting out solo works as Magna Pia. This release, on German label Feral Note rather than the artist’s own Arcing Seas imprint, is far more art music than techno. Evirgen’s first instrument the piano is brought centre stage, gently and respectfully treated, sometimes drenched in reverb and echo, and surrounded by rumbling percussive noises, long synthetic pads and drones and a handful of electronica’s other trappings.

The result is a 41-minute work with a rich, emotive, cinematic feel. The title track is a scene-setter, tense and nervous, and hints of that mood never really go away. “Dionysys” has a sparing melody underpinned by a steady delayed drum sound that is the closest point to techno on this album’s distant orbit around it. “Sacred Ibis” is more romantic somehow, with a capriccio playing that feels fresh and honest, while “Tocharian Love” comes across as more of a lost love ballad, sad minor piano chords setting in odd, pulled-string-and-earth-tremor environmental oddness. “Inanna” takes a similar approach, with the drone atmosphere becoming some form of distant alien choir under quite a songlike melody.

Final point “And So We Crumble” is a quirky little finale, pitting pure piano notes against processed, detuned and cheap-sounding piano for a bizarre downtempo duelling-banjos affair, while the rumbling underneath grows gradually more displeased.

It’s an unusual combination, pitching ‘proper’ piano against both tonal and atonal sonic curiosities. However over the course of 41 minutes it does end up feeling a little languid and tired, without enough energy or enough diversity in approach that would really elevate it into something special. It’s perhaps unkind to say it’s one of those “if you’ve heard one track, you’ve heard them all” releases but there’s a degree to which that’s true. It’s certainly still worth checking out nevertheless- “Dionysus” is the place to start to get a flavour of it.

Glok: Dissident

 Posted by Stuart Bruce (@)   Electronics / EBM / Electronica
Synth Pop / Electro Pop / Synth-Electronica
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Jul 11 2019
Artist: Glok
Title: Dissident
Format: CD & Vinyl
Label: Bytes
Andy Bell- not the Erasure one, the one from Ride and the one previously a bassist with Oasis- yes, that Oasis- wanted to keep his middle-aged-guitarist status a secret so he could put out some much more synthwave works without prejudice and preconception, so for a couple of years, Glok was a mystery. The veil is now lifted, but given my lack of familiarity with Ride or affinity with Oasis, I find myself able to review it without prejudice anyway.

The nearly-20-minute title track is very much in the latter-day Tangerine Dream mould- a thoroughly digital, slowly changing and progressive bit of synthwave that’s not overtly retro but isn’t old fashioned either, decorated with enough care and detail to keep things balanced between interesting and mesmeric.

The rest of the tracks are less ambitious, but a bit broader in tone. “Kolokol” is sonically in the same ballpark, but with a more subdued structure that brings it closer to mellow belearic techno, but with the drums turned right down and the synth washes brought forward to dominate the track. “Pulsing” channels the 90’s trance vibes of Salt Tank or Union Jack into that format, to very successful effect and with a positive tone that makes it a highlight.

The four four-minute tracks that make up the rest of side B feel more like miscellaneous experiments and unfinished pieces than a coherent album conclusion, but they’re not without their merit. “Weaver” is faintly trip-hoppy, with a nice guitar melody line, but with a slightly flat and forgettable groove that perhaps skirts too close to library music, while “Projected Sounds” is gentle plinking over a Kraftwerk-esque rhythm pattern. The twangy guitar and synth blend in “Cloud Cover” is reminiscent of State Of Grace but without the vocal, and somehow ends up sound tired rather than relaxed, but final piece “Exit Through The Skylight”’s more complex drum patterns and just faintly toothy synth work provides a more interesting flavour to conclude with.

It’s the title track that really shines here, and along with “Pulsing”, the admission price is certainly justified, but it does run out of steam somewhat before the end.

Low Tape: Reality Zone

 Posted by Stuart Bruce (@)   Electronics / EBM / Electronica
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Jul 08 2019
Artist: Low Tape
Title: Reality Zone
Format: 12" vinyl + Download
Label: Nerang Recordings
Russian producer Low Tape’s first EP for Nerang Recordings is a six-pack of thick driving electro with a strong sense of purpose. The thick kick-driven beats (sometimes breakbeats), acid 303 patterns that slowly twist and turn, and indulgent and quite cheery synth melodic notes and chords owe more than a little debt to the 1990’s, in a good way.

It’s most noticeable on opening track “Funky Detune” (which incidentally is one of the best tracks here), and the very endearing Trance Europe Express-esque “East Dancer”. There is more to this release than nostalgic dancefloor retro- but just a little- as evidenced in moody final track “Autumnesia” which plays the slow chords against perky synths and positive-sounding 808-esque hihats to strong effect.

Some of the tracks are a little nothingy unfortunately. “Paradise” revolves around a synth-choir chord pattern that wishes it was a Balearic classic, but ultimately isn’t. “Electro Foreva” has a slightly corny spoken voiceover that seems to throw it back an extra decade to Chicago house, especially coupled with some more breakdancey rhythm elements, but it skirts too close to the edge of cheese.

For once this is a release where the mixing is worth commenting on, as it’s in either the mixing or the mastering that the full 90’s vibe is reinforced, with a very bright top-end that almost hints at the old C90 effect, before clubbers and DJ’s became fully equipped for and obsessed with subbass, of which there seems to be very little here.

An enjoyable EP, for sure, full of sounds that take me back and make me grateful that the 90’s seems to be back in fashion, insofar as anything’s in fashion nowadays. However a few too many uninspired musical exercises and not enough fresh killer ideas stop this release from really shining.
Jul 03 2019
Artist: Adrian Corker
Title: Music For Lock Grooves
Format: 12" vinyl + Download
Label: SN Variations
‘Lock grooves’, in this release’s title, refers to one full rotation of one groove on a record. 1.8 seconds of sound time at 33 revolutions per minute, or 1.33 when at 45rpm. The chassis of this release is looping generated by pressing sounds onto acetate and having them repeat, at these fixed intervals, letting the softness of the acetate add elements of uncertainty and variation, and also letting natural record player crackling noise add texture.

Merged into this process, both before and after the acetate pressing as far as I can tell, are the deftness and most elegantly sparse contributions from a percussionist, a violinist, a pianist and a vocalist. Some of these are subtle offerings, sometimes limited to just one track and so soft as to border on indistinguishable, never veering anywhere close to sounding like a ‘normal band’, like that list of instruments may suggest.

The result is an interesting hybrid of composition with experimentation, building rhythm patterns, ‘grooves’ in a different sense, that have an association with electronica, glitch and the very softest sides of techno, offset against a minimalist ensemble sound of avant garde classical.

There’s an “Inflow” in three parts and an “Outflow” in three parts, with the release coming in under 20 minutes overall- which does seem fairly appropriate for an output which feels like a series of static vignettes (literally stuck in one groove) rather than a work imbued with internal evolution. So it ends up warranting the label “short but sweet”- an intriguing listen with a nicely distinctive recipe.


 Posted by Stuart Bruce (@)   Electronics / EBM / Electronica
New Music / Downtown / Avantgarde Jazz / New Classical / World
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Jul 02 2019
Artist: OTSO
Title: AAVE
Format: Download Only (MP3 + Lossless)
Label: Elli Records
“Aave” (Finnish for ‘ghost’), from Helsinki-based electroacoustic composer Otso LÄhdeoja, has quite a sci-fi concept at its heart- music fictitiously pulled from two different times, 11th July 1952 and 31th October 2022, that has been blended together and counterpointed. Each track is identified only by one of those dates as a timestamp. From the 1952 pieces comes more artificial sound, principally an upright piano, while from the 2022 pieces comes the synthetic elements, pure-sounding and digital melodic notes.

There’s an icy tone to both parts that provides some commonality, but the intertwining of the two elements is mostly driven by the way in which both sources get the same heavy post-production treatment- the original sounds and melodic ideas being heavily glitched, thickly layered and playfully mangled in a way that in some regard recalls early electronic music experimentation, but which is powered by the energy and freedom that modern techniques can so easily be used for musical infusion. The production is skittish, constantly seeming to seek out new settings and effects and never letting itself settle into anything that can begin to sound familiar.

Rhythmic patterns appear in final track “11.07.1952, 06:22” that are slightly reminiscent of a brooding Brandt Brauer Frick or the edges of acoustic techno, but it’s a rare step towards form in what’s otherwise somewhat shapeless. “31.10.2022, 20:46” is the other track I’d note for lesser reasons, because it’s the one where the high-pitched synth melody sounds daftest.

It does appear like this whole release is largely inspired simply by having an old upright piano to play with, and at times this sounds like idle noodling rather than composition. Truthfully the sci-fi or time-jumping element doesn’t feel fully baked. However if you like your glitch electronica to sound frosty, unpredictable and awkward, this will still have an appeal.

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