Music Reviews

Amp: Q Factors (A Mixtape)

 Posted by Stuart Bruce (@)   Electronics / EBM / Electronica
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Nov 26 2017
Artist: Amp
Title: Q Factors (A Mixtape)
Format: CD + Download
Label: Ampbase
Though to the casual observer this would appear to be a diverse 10-track electronica album, the “a mixtape” distinction is here to justify this as a ‘bits and pieces’ collection of remastered and remixed material old and new, but not a ‘real’ album which is still forthcoming. But frankly if it looks like an album, walks like an album, quacks like an album… let’s review it as an album, albeit an album that’s almost absurdly diverse.

The opening “Drowning Mind” is a cacophonous bit of cut-up sample layering which gradually opens up into something that’s a sort of electronica prog rock of warped guitars, oddly time-signatured bassline and drum patterns that start simple and gradually get crazier. This set-up is revisited somewhat in “Waiting Room Blues”.

Tracks like “Hownow” and “Just Get It” use a similar palette with a more laidback and far more jazzy attitude, frittering around on the quirky side of lounge music almost. This is brought into darker territory with “D’Espoir De Mourir” which stays downtempo but adds just a hint of both industry and threat.

A little less appealing to my taste, “Loveflower” ups the guitar content with shades of UNKLE, and feels like a throwback to the 90’s guitar-based-trip-hop bands if I’m being generous (State Of Grace were one of my faves), or like a limp Noel Gallagher instrumental if I’m being harsh. It’s the slightly Delerium-esque vocal that makes this one worth a listen. Again this style comes around again on “Push ‘n Hold”, this time rounded out by a near-ambient intro and spoken-word male vocals that keep things rolling very nicely.

“Lost Love Cries” is particularly notable, taking a liquid drum’n’bass approach, the familiar arrangement of rolling bassline, mellow piano, crisp drums and melancholic female vocal but done to an extremely high standard and definitely a track for fans of soft d&b to check out. Final tracks “When & Where” and “Ombres Sur La Lone” drop firmly into ambient territory with lovely use of female vocal tones, a very comforting wrap-up- hypothetically, let’s say, a very good way to wrap up an album, if this were an album, which apparently it isn’t...

It’s difficult to know where to put this release. The closest comparison I can think of is Future Sound Of London, but that’s because their material (including under aliases) is so diverse as well that it barely qualifies as a comparison. It’s rich and deeply interesting electronica with a massive variety of sounds and influences and if this really is a prelude to an album rather than a ‘real’ album, it bodes extremely well for the material to come.

To highlight the ‘remix album’ status of the release, each track has a remix title, though I’ve only mentioned the central titles above for brevity.


 Posted by Stuart Bruce (@)   Electronics / EBM / Electronica
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Nov 18 2017
Artist: COH
Title: COHGS
Format: 12" vinyl + Download
Label: Editions Mego
COH, more commonly found putting out instrumental releases, here gathers together 8 vocal tracks, some previously released, some unreleased. But rather than showcasing vocalists, these works include mostly quite modest, often spoken-word vocal elements into a soft-edged downtempo electronica of pulses, clicks and pads.

“Sleepwalker” is a particularly engaging oddity, a beatless and spacious arrangement with a lovely sub-bass pulse under Anna Yamada’s long pure notes, then an totally unexpected organ crescendo. “Alcohol”, with Noriko Taguchi, plays like a drunken child’s lullaby and final track, and “Curious Yellow” a sparse, melancholy piano ballad.

The sonic flipside of those tracks is “Love’s Septic Domain”, a darker and distorted affair with screaming and allusions to dirty hospitals, there to ensure you don’t confuse this release for a chillout album.

Don’t expect a pack of eight full-on pop performances, to put it mildly. Little Annie’s “46 Things I Did Today” is a beat poem set to blipping arpeggio patterns. Peter Christopherson’s whispered spoken-word on “Silence Is Golden” is barely intelligible under a bubbling bed of acid-tinged bleeps. Ann Demeulemeester is barely present on the light, piano-centred opening track “Exercise In Colour”.

It’s an interesting collection, diverse in a way that doesn’t necessarily imply incoherence, and should appeal to fans of Susumu Yokota et al.

Mother Of Mars: Seed 2 Sky

 Posted by Stuart Bruce (@)   Electronics / EBM / Electronica
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Nov 16 2017
Artist: Mother Of Mars
Title: Seed 2 Sky
Format: 12"
Label: Ransom Note Records
New York-based duo Vito & Druzzi, formerly (or possibly still currently) members of The Rapture, offer up their debut release under the name Mother Of Mars, and it’s a pair of ten-minute long, slowly evolving and arpeggiating synth-electronica which mixes tones of late-era Tangerine Dream or Jean-Michel Jarre with an extremely gentle house kick and some slightly African-tinged percussion elements.

The track structures are akin to minimal progressive techno but the sawtooth-tinged synth washes build into a sound that couldn’t be described as minimal, reaching an almost prog-rock noodling climax at the end of “Hera In The Valley”. While the first track is quite euphoric, second track “Seed 2 Sky” is subtler, with a little extra tension, though this washes away in favour of soft synth pads gradually, and a slightly vague synth lead line that has further hints of Jarre.

It’s a lush pair of tracks with an exceptional polish, a really exemplary piece of electronica that shows that it’s possible to layer these synth stylings in a way that sounds fresh rather than only an 80’s retro affair. It’s a sign that Mother Of Mars is definitely a name to keep an eye out for, here’s hoping there’ll be an album.

Sourin: Kakyou

 Posted by Tyran Grillo (@)   Electronics / EBM / Electronica
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Nov 09 2017
Artist: Sourin (@)
Title: Kakyou
Format: Download Only (MP3 + Lossless)
Label: self-released
Rated: *****
Sourin is one of many pseudonyms for Tomoya Shiono, a musician, composer, sound/visual artist, and producer based in Japan. Shiono has worked with mainstream artists and labels, but under the Sourin moniker cobbles together a self-produced mélange that sparkles. If pushed to compare, I might describe KAKYOU as an IDM version of Magic Arrows, combining as it does the latter’s lo-fi genius with the former genre’s penchant for digital detail. The result is a flash of pure joy in a time of musical shadows.

Immediately striking are the track names, drawn from the vocabulary of classical Japanese poetry. Whether you know their linguistic meanings, their evocations are abundantly clear in the listening. “Rikka,” for example, denotes the first day of summer, and sets the album on a path so sunlit that your ears will squint. As with all that follows, it weaves samples of voice and guitar with tasteful sequencers behind a clear-and-present drum machine. The rhythms are unrelenting throughout, but become eerily relaxing the more one seeps into them. Even the gentle beginnings of “Hikkyou” (After All) are but a prelude to an onslaught of kicks and cymbals, as Sourin populates the background with a painterly cross-section of signals.

The last three of the KAKYOU’s five tracks are difficult to render succinctly in English. “Kochi” refers to an easterly wind that blows along the Sea of Japan coast in spring and summer. Musically, it feels like its namesake, rushing with an almost video game-like quality over meticulously rendered topographies. “Sayakesa” refers to the brightness of the moon, and here takes that shine to deepest levels, while “Kusaikire” describes the strong smell of grass on a summer day. This one is indeed a vetiver bomb, fragrant and potent, and confirms KAKYOU as a warm body to snuggle up with in the coming winter.

Incidentally, the title of the album itself means “climax.” True to that concept, Sourin’s creations sit atop the precipice of their underlying narrative. Their energetic meditations reveal an organic, artisanal quality that feels handmade and tactile, and speak of a phenomenal touch behind it all. Throw this on with the confidence that no blizzard can make you shiver.

Peter Kirn: Bellona, USA

 Posted by Stuart Bruce (@)   Electronics / EBM / Electronica
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Nov 05 2017
Artist: Peter Kirn
Title: Bellona, USA
Format: Download Only (MP3 + Lossless)
Label: Establishment
The Establishment label’s head honcho Peter Kirn’s second album is a musical interpretation of the fictional city of Bellona, inspired by the post-apocalyptic sci-fi “Dhalgren” by Samuel Delany. Like a soundtrack to a movie that appears to exist only inside Kirn’s head, it’s a collection of moody, slowly evolving instrumental techno and electronica with a variety of tones.

Tracks like “Prism Mirror Lens” are a complex techno made up of lightweight and semi-complex drum programming and long, evolving pads and atmospheres. “This Circle In All”, by comparison, is a harder and more straightforward affair with a touch of acid, while “The Ax” is an earnest exploration of a slightly industrial-sounding polyrhythm stretched out to mesmeric length.

“Stripped Skies” is a brighter affair with a very 90’s flavour and some clever constantly-rising bleep tones. “Vicious Looking Thing” isn’t quite so smart and perhaps represents the point at which the release begins to run out of steam. “Creatures Of Light And Darkness” has a curious, eerie, faintly prog rock intro, but loops around to more 4/4 kick and harsh hi-hats which don’t live up to the promise of that introduction.

“Prelude”, “Interlude” and “Postlude” are a trio of lush and cinematic beatless sonic blanket that could feasibly have been explored further into a dark ambient album in their own right.

This release will be going on tour with an “all new AV show” in 2018, and if the visuals are as rich as the sounds, it should be very interesting to catch- so long as the visuals add extra variety which the sounds do fall just marginally short on.

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