Music Reviews



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Artist: Venetian Snares x Daniel Lanois
Title: Venetian Snares x Daniel Lanois
Format: 12" vinyl + CD
Label: Timesig / Planet Mu
Neither Venetian Snares nor Daniel Lanois should need any introduction, and this first full (albeit short) album collaboration is exactly what you might think the sum of its parts would form. Bringing Lanois’ atmospheres and slow reverberant guitar work alongside Aaron Funk’s hard-and-fast unpredictable rhythms, frequency leaps and sample twisting creates something that manages to be both lush and raw at the same time.

Longest track “United P92” is a highlight- a deep and mesmerising affair with a melodic, Eno-like ambient environment seemingly confining and subduing the glitch-laden beats, which gradually begin to grow in confidence and control in a way that technically ought to be described as aggressive yet manages to actually sound genuinely bright and enthusiastic- might Mr. Snares be mellowing with age?- before proceedings get sparser, with sounds imitating distant explosions and the sense that the sonic honeymoon may be over.

Shorter pieces like “Bernard Revisit P81” sometimes have something of a sparser, old-school electronic experimental flavour, all random synth notes, sinister sci-fi pads and harsh hit noises. I might dare to suggest that “Best P54”, with its hardcore acid elements and deeply melancholic guitar atmos, sounds like two tracks from radically different artists that just happen to be playing at the same time, and yet despite that, it still manages to sound brilliant.

People who know exactly what to expect here will be far from disappointed. It’s a powerful and effective collaboration that brings out the best of both worlds.
May 03 2018
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Artist: DJ Raph
Title: Sacred Groves
Format: CD & Vinyl
Label: Noland
Working partly in Nairobi and partly in Berlin, DJ Raph draws on Kenyan and broader pan-African field recordings (archive material rather than original recordings if I understand correctly) of traditional ethnic music and shapes them into modern electronica arrangements that are on the very mellowest side of bass music. Soft clicky electronic grooves and rolling, rich but lightweight-and-fluffy bass notes hum underneath organic sounds that are from the more celebratory and reverent side of tribal music.

Some of the source sounds are treated in quite dubby ways, often allowed to breathe quite nicely, and when it works (which is most of the time), it really works. Highlights include “Reeds From Chad” and the bizarrely beautiful “Butcher’s Rhythm” that’s far more relaxed than its title suggests. “Ikondera” is notable for its slightly more driving, synthwavey bass sounds that seem to point proceedings in the direction of moombahton.

Mostly it’s a very complimentary fusion of sounds that makes the most of the source rhythms, but it’s not always a perfect match- the odd off-beat in “Earthstep” feels like a pull between the speed variations of the organic drumming and a less tolerant 90bpm-ish kick pattern.

In the 90’s acts like Deep Forest gained popularity followed by disfavour for their cultural appropriation of ethnic music into electronica. More than twenty years on the principle behind this release is not actually all that dissimilar, and while the grooves and flavours may have changed (though some of the samples are vaguely comparable), it still operates in the same field. Thankfully there’s a lot more musical open-mindedness around now, plus DJ Raph’s own heritage should defend this release against any misplaced misappropriation claims.

Final track “Yayaya Twins” wraps things up in a slightly limp fashion, but otherwise it’s gentle African-traditional-music-infused electronica with a gentle warmth, too leisurely to really set your heart racing but a very pleasant, relaxing and slightly-unusual way to spend 37 minutes.
Apr 30 2018
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Artist: Ben Bertrand
Title: NGC 1999
Format: 12" vinyl + CD
Label: Les Albums Claus
Belgian bass clarinetist Ben Bertrand’s debut album is comprised of 31 minutes of melding some pure clarinet work with electronic processing, looping and drone effects. A mixture of positive and more melancholic melodic meandering drifts over long sustained minimalist tones. Some pitch up-shifting generates some glittery higher tones as well, giving a nice well-rounded balance.

In opener “Orion Molecular Cloud”, the drone layer is processed in such a way that it sounds far more like a didgeridoo than a clarinet- for better or worse, depending on your opinion of didgeridoos. Though it makes claim to reference a variety of ethnic styles, that’s probably about as ethnic as it really gets, frankly sounding quite Western and middle-class otherwise- not intending that as a disservice of course.

There’s a perky jauntiness to “V380 Orionis” that’s quite refreshing, before “Malkauns On Kitt Peak” adopts a more familiar, earnest, chin-stroking modern classical grimness. The two approaches mix together on “Sanctus Hubble”, with its quite bouncy echo-laden staccato rhythm parts meeting the cold-jazz-like clarinet work.

“Post Scriptum to Valentina Terechkova” (the Russian cosmonaut) introduces some whispered vocals over quite a barren and electronic soundscape where the clarinet often feels completely subsumed, as such feeling like the piece that most wholly steps into the album’s space theme.

There’s an assured simplicity to it all that certainly justifies references to Steve Reich. It perhaps falls between two stools somewhat, neither long and truly minimalist enough to reach that feeling of emotional transcendence, but it’s a very appealing and polished- albeit simply too short- bit of work.
Apr 27 2018
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Artist: Sonns & Tavish
Title: Trycksaker
Format: 12" vinyl + Download
Label: ESP Institute
These two tracks mark a production debut for established LA DJ’s Alexandre Mouracade and Tavish Graham, and it’s a bold and confident opener. Two slabs of bright, confident, steady instrumental four-to-the-floor with bits of synthwave, bits of electro-house, and some aspects of a more minimal aesthetic, this is music you could dance to, or drive to, or work to, or just sit down and enjoy.

At almost nine minutes the A side “Trycksaker” maybe overstays its welcome just a touch for home listening and bouncier B side “Roguish Days”, with its bassline lifted from the funkier side of acid house, seems more compact and well-formed, but they’re both born from the same sonic pod and they’re both highly polished, if borderline uneventful, bits of mid-set feel-good fodder.

Doon Kanda: Luna

 Posted by Stuart Bruce (@)   Electronics / EBM / Electronica
 Edit (10420)
Apr 27 2018
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Artist: Doon Kanda
Title: Luna
Format: 12" vinyl + Download
Label: Hyperdub
Information is relatively sparse about Doon Kanda’s second Hyperdub release, save for an Instagram link pointing to a wealth (if wealth is the word) of sculptures and CG modelling of globulus and ugly alien body shapes, one of which is seen as this release’s artwork.

Thankfully the music here is not as ugly as the modelling, though it is almost as weird. Purely instrumental, it’s a blend of steady, faintly glitchy downtempo electronica grooves with some decidedly off-kilter and quirky synth melody work which feels a little bit like an exercise in finding the weirdest high-pitched noises available on your synthesizer and then messing about playing melodies with them in a relaxed but not completely unstructured way.

At its best- maybe opener “Bloodlet”- it sounds like early 90’s Tangerine Dream leftovers with a mildly dark twist. “Crinoline” has a faintly baroque feel reminiscent of some lighter tracks from µ-Ziq. “Luna” and final track “Lamina” are quite endearingly poppy, while “Molting” is a notable bit of heavier, almost grimy production.

At 7 short tracks clocking in at under 20 minutes overall, it’s either a long EP or a very mini mini-album depending on how you look at it. It’s a curious release, not as misshapen as the visuals that accompany it but still definitely lopsided, perhaps a bit too much so.


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