Music Reviews



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Artist: Venetian Snares
Title: Greg Hates Car Culture (20th Anniversary Edition)
Format: 2 x 12" vinyl
Label: Timesig
This is an expanded 20th anniversary re-issue of the first ever Venetian Snares vinyl release. Predominantly it’s the frantic and complex affront of snares and subbass thumps that will be happily familiar to Aaron Funk fans, and will bring as much joy as a brand new Venetian Snares album to those that haven’t heard it before.

Not to say that Venetian Snares has really mellowed as a brand, but there’s something especially raw and angry at play here. The “Stranger In The Ass” track, unsurprisingly, seems to bubble under with fury that’s being pumped wholesale into the drum programming. “Point Blank” makes everything Aphex Twin has ever done sound like a pop ballad. “Boiled Angel”, with its gentle experimental bubbling noises that get completely trampled by kicks, is the happy hardcore it’s OK to like.

This certainly isn’t all just rage and drums though. Opening track “Personal Discourse” is beautifully layered, while the squelchy near-funk bass of “Aqap” is a smile-inducing dancefloor destroyer that stretches its ambitions beyond the four-minute-limit of most of the tracks into something with more progression and internal evolution.

This release was all brand-new to me but even die-hard fans get to hear rare old tracks. Though apparently Funk transitioned from Amiga to PC during this period, there’s no distinct characteristic change in the sound. “Milk” is genuinely daft, sampling wholesale a stand-up routine about being over-exposed to milk (whilst leaving out the punchline). “Eating America With Pointed Dentures” uses horror movie screaming as a top-layer over a surprisingly simple yet relentless kick pattern, while “Punk Kids” has a more 8-bit approach and takes you into some unplayably hard old Amiga game.

It’s a sonic joy, as well as an interesting insight into the early days of Venetian Snares- a distinctive musical output that, on this evidence, seems to have been born fully formed and ready to fight your ears.

Burial: Tunes 2011 to 2019

 Posted by Stuart Bruce (@)   Electronics / EBM / Electronica
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Dec 04 2019
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Artist: Burial
Title: Tunes 2011 to 2019
Format: 2 x CD (double CD)
Label: Hyperdub
Burial’s work is unlikely to need any introduction to most, thanks to the genre-defining, Mercury Music Prize-nominated 2007 album “Untrue”. Since then Burial’s output may no longer be garnering such mainstream crossover attention, but as this extensive two-and-a-half-hour compilation shows, Burial’s output has never let up in terms of either quality, quantity, or willingness to push on further from that initial success. This is ’post-dubstep’, in more ways than one.

The atmospherics are dense and rich, going deeper than “Untrue” into distinctive and immersive, in-depth fictional ambient environments, as heard in opener “State Forest” or the more wistful and somehow alien-ethnic melodic sounds of “Beachfires” that play so plaintively against distant rumbling, crackling that is so mute you can’t tell if it’s bonfires or warfare. The stepping dubstep-light rhythm of “Kindred” and the on-off groove of “Rough Sleeper” also prove very familiar, almost nostalgic even. This much will not come as a sonic surprise to anyone who revisits “Untrue” occasionally but who hasn’t checked out the more recent output- but that’s certainly no bad thing, since there are reasons why that album is still held in such high esteem.

Diversity and experimentation shows itself more as the Burial-compiled compilation unfolds. The odd vocal sample on “Subtemple”, the curiously bright and almost synthwavey top line on “Nightmarket”, or the lovely washes of “Street Halo”, are all the result of an evolution and exploration of the sound. There are no sudden changes or unwanted “experimental Euro jazz moments”- instead there’s a fluid progression that thoroughly works as a deep-dive sonic journey, feeling consistent enough that it could’ve been planned as an album of original material. The more accessible, “Untrue”-like moments come in tracks like “Young Death” and its understated 4/4 deep house rhythm, or the beautifully self-contained, almost ballad-like “NYC”.

That being said, special mention does have to be made of “Hiders”, which sounds like what you’d think it would sound like if Burial was begrudgingly tasked with making a Christmas charity record, with heartstring-tugging 80’s synth-ballad chords and soulful retune-heavy vocals. The sheer positivity exuded in companion track “Come Down To Us”, its gender-politics-infused outro in particular, will be a genuine surprise to those just expecting barren and bleak environments only. Other fleeting surprises include the quirky post-garage loop that wraps up “Claustro” in a unique fashion.

What’s interesting particularly on the second disc is the increasingly indulgent approach to track length, with many tracks running well over the ten minute mark- but generally this is entirely justified, as they are each self-contained journeys that have their own chapters and mini-evolutions in tow. Atmospherics ebb and flow and it feels like story-telling. DJ friendly material, this absolutely isn’t.

The light of dubstep may have burned bright but short, but Burial’s work is unscathed by fashion and shouldn’t be tarnished with any detrimental brush. If like me you haven’t been up to speed with Burial output for the last decade, refresh your memories, and your ears, with this generally excellent, sometimes bordering on incredible, compilation.

Craven Faults: Erratics & Unconformities

 Posted by Stuart Bruce (@)   Electronics / EBM / Electronica
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Dec 03 2019
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Artist: Craven Faults
Title: Erratics & Unconformities
Format: CD & Vinyl
Label: The Leaf Label
In the description of the first full Craven Faults album (after a series of EP’s and the excellent recent “Lowfold Reworks” 12”, some of which are bundled in full as bonus tracks on the CD edition of this), we are painted a series of florid atmospheric vignettes, ranging from canals in rural Nottinghamshire to studios in 1967 Manhattan. It’s a disjointed, abstract pitch and a classic case of a press release that gives you very little clue what it’s going to actually sound like.

Luckily though, the music itself is far far more consistent and single-minded. Pulsing warm electronic patterns are the order of the day, taking the analogue modular synth sounds familiar to electronica and stretching and thickening them into broad synthetic textures.

“Vacca Wall” owes more than a little to Tangerine Dream sonically, yet across its seventeen minute span it progresses relatively little even by TD standards, with relentless arpeggiation that seems to adopt the Philip Glass approach to mesmeric repetition- a brave move, but one it certainly succeeds at. Following track “Deipkeir” has such a similar make-up that it rolls into one 25-minute piece. “Cupola Smelt Mill” offers a gently different groove, a soft simple kick pattern and some sawtooth pad wishes making it feel substantially more optimistic.

It’s only in “Slack Sley & Temple”, filling the first side of the second disc in the double LP set, that we hear a small flourish of recorded environmental sound- but rather than being the opener to a new approach, it’s just a brief bookend to another elaborate and quite purist dive into electronica, this time slower, with an almost twangy low pulse note over an extra-rich bass. Slightly more industrial percussive sounds give a little extra grit as it goes along, a broodiness that’s interrupted by the generally chilled “Hangingstones” but restored in slightly funereal final piece “Signal Post”.

It’s one of those releases where lack of breadth or diversity has been adopted into a virtue- 72 minutes of fairly similar-sounding electronica, based on a fairly small set of ingredients, but unrolled with a confidence and steadiness that becomes quite intoxicating as you sink deeper into it. While it didn’t quite live up to the high expectations I had from the remix EP earlier in November, it’s still a rich and quality bit of deep electronica.
Nov 26 2019
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Artist: Flug 8
Title: Space Techno
Format: 12" vinyl + Download
Label: Ransom Note Records
The latest 4-track EP from tech house and techno veteran Flug 8, a.k.a. Daniel Herrmann, is a solid lesson in production quality, a veritable “how to” for electronic producers trying to find balance in their tracks. It’s also a safe pair of hands as an E.P., taking you on a casual, relaxing and spaced-out journey that contains a sum total of exactly zero surprises.

“Spacemodulation” establishes a dreamy walking pace, gentle pulses giving occasional pace to an otherwise floaty deep space atmosphere. Decidedly Kraftwerk-esque synthetic vocals give “Autopilot” an almost kitsch or retro flavour as an initially somewhat gritty and lo-fi opening unfolds into a blissful array of pad sounds.

“Polarprojektion” takes elements of the first two tracks, combining further vocal sounds with a dreamier approach and just a touch more exoticism in the choice of sounds, before “Magnetometer” introduces a squelchy bassline and begins again on a well-executed gradual build.

Even the title of this release is gently prosaic. Although “inspired” is not a word I’d use in association with any of these tracks, nevertheless the relentlessly high standard and endearing sonic appeal really is hard to fault.

Suumhow: Secuund

 Posted by Ibrahim Khider (@)   Electronics / EBM / Electronica
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Nov 23 2019
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Artist: Suumhow
Title: Secuund
Format: CD & Vinyl
Label: n5MD (@)
A lovely listen from first to last track, with different, rhythmic IDM styles and textures with an abundance of warm emotion, exuberance and often a sense of uplifting joy. On Secuund, One cannot help but be reminded of the likes of the Arovane/Phonem collaborations for the angular beats and atmospherics, Autechre for the antiseptic, industrial-grade beats melded with bit-rot decaying, glitch-filled ones, or the whimsical, longing-filled melodies and downtempo beats of Tycho. While these perceived influences evidenced in shared textural palettes exist, Suumhow’s approach to melody stands on its own. “Muuscl” opens the album halting, stuttering, glitch-ridden and discombobulated, but this picks up speed and dexterity mid way through into playful melodic robotic breaks-dance track. “Till'inf” has the sharp, mechanical beats and intricate programming of Phonem and the airy atmospheric melody of Arovane, but with a certain kind of assertiveness. “West Bend” is the Tycho like melodic intermission, dreamy, somewhat whimsical and sweet as is “Bora Bora” with its slightly melancholic melody and comparatively simpler stripped-down beats and kind of wistful melody. “Cabin” among favoured tracks draws near with the momentum of an approaching storm, stuttering IDM breaks kick-in about a minute into the song and counter melodies join in about mid way through with an engaging point, counter point that culminates into a manic, blurpy video game bonus round crescendo. “56” has an early Autechre feel for the industrial grade beats, plucky melodies, and glitchy robotics, set to a nice, subdued, near melancholic melody. “Vapor” is another favoured track where less influence is heard and Suumhow’s own quality surfaces with its slightly faded melody and that catchy, slightly distorted bassline interplay into the crown jewel track. Starts with the glitchy-click of a skipping CD before a lovely, strong, pleasant emotionally rousing melody, assertive beats deliver a strong finish to a strong album. What makes Suumhow stand-out is their craft of melody, while the beats and textures are mere vehicles to instill their own slightly nostalgic mood recalling vestiges of past pop, tantalizingly close to recollection but never realized. Instead, the magic is in how Secuund dwells in the spaces greater than the sum of its parts.


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