Music Reviews

Twins: Rather Not

 Posted by Stuart Bruce (@)   Electronics / EBM / Electronica
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Oct 31 2016
Artist: Twins
Title: Rather Not
Format: 12" vinyl + Download
Label: Enfant Terrible (@)
“Rather Not” is a half-hour mini-album of light-industrial techno-pop operating at a brisk walking pace, rather than a driving pace. There are strong influences from 1980’s Depeche Mode, Cabaret Voltaire, early experimental OMD, and some of the other familiar names. This is a path that’s certainly been well trodden before, and unfortunately there’s not much that distinguishes “Rather Not” from the pack- and while OMD and Depeche Mode had an ear for great hooks, sadly that’s not on display here.

The often indiscernible and formless vocals are a distraction and sometimes even an irritant over the semi-clean, steady musical underbelly. Frankly a proper ‘pop’ vocal, or even no vocal at all, would have allowed the tunes to plant themselves firmly on the ground. Instead, there’s a loose, raw feeling to it which I could generously describe is punk, or ungenerously describe as half-baked. The slightly motorik beat of “I’m Not The Same” and the unusually syncopated “Spiraling Down” are both prime examples of an appealing groove spoiled by vocals.

If there were an instrumental version of this album available, I’d be recommending it as a sincere exploration of the early 1980’s electro-synth world.

The Gomb: Breaks (And Amends)

 Posted by Stuart Bruce (@)   Electronics / EBM / Electronica
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Oct 27 2016
Artist: The Gomb
Title: Breaks (And Amends)
Format: Download Only (MP3 + Lossless)
Label: Chi Recordings (@)
Though branding themselves as “noise-gadget pop”, The Gomb’s 10-track album is not nearly as fun as that description suggests. It’s an earnest, downtempo collection of piano ballads, heavily decorated and embellished by acerbic synths and experimental noises and ambiences. It’s quite consistently bleak and slow in its tone, but there’s also a organic warmth and indulgence to the production that offsets that somewhat.

At times, the sincere nods to 70’s prog rock, whilst remaining ensconced in a digital environment, are reminiscent of later Pepe Deluxe or some Amorphous Androgynous pieces- but with a much lower energy level. “Mental Yoga” opens with strong hints of Yello about it, in a good way, and is certainly a highlight track despite wandering off in unexpected directions towards the end. The close, intimate vocal style heard on tracks like “No One Has Ever” is not dissimilar to Air.

It’s a succinct little package, ten tracks coming in under forty minutes, with tracks like “Your Monster” feeling like single ideas rather than fully-formed songs, and certainly not overstaying their welcomes.

For promotion, The Gomb are giving away a remix of title track “Amends” free on Bandcamp. The “Stomp remix” has a synthwave energy which, if it had been siphoned into the main album, would certainly have lifted it. So, let me know when the remix version of the whole album is out...

Distal: Reebok Blood

 Posted by Stuart Bruce (@)   Electronics / EBM / Electronica
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Oct 26 2016
Artist: Distal
Title: Reebok Blood
Format: Download Only (MP3 + Lossless)
Label: Infinite Machine
Claiming to cross the divide “between moody club music and experimental sound design”, I would genuinely love to visit the club where either of these four-minute-long tracks could be dropped without clearing the dancefloor faster than you can say “is it broken?” I really enjoy both of these tracks for home listening, but only the second track “Hostage Blood” is even remotely DJ-friendly, and even then, barely.

“Reebok Blood” has an epic opening, opening into a cathedral of industry which then bites aggressively with percussive bursts for a minute or so, before spontaneously dropping into a light bit of soundtrack-y synthwave, which in turn gets interrupted by a manic synthesized and distorted guitar lead. Structurally it’s almost incoherent, paying no attention to any convention of build or drop.

“Hostage Track” has a slightly more regulated and hip-hop feel to it, boosted by the super-brief rap snippets and the near-militant snare. The sounds of smashing glass and bells become the groove, and it’s a sparse, sudden-change-free alternative to “Reebok Blood”, that feels composed and measured and makes the first track seem messy by comparison.

Natalie Beridze: Love Is Winning EP

 Posted by Stuart Bruce (@)   Electronics / EBM / Electronica
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Oct 25 2016
Artist: Natalie Beridze
Title: Love Is Winning EP
Format: Download Only (MP3 + Lossless)
Label: Monika Enterprise (@)
Georgian Natalie Beridze offers up a remix EP of tracks reworked from her tenth album “Guliagava”, and on the strength of the remixes, I absolutely must check out the originals.

The Thomas Fehlmann remix of “Those Things” is a thing of beauty. Understated, steady, thoughtful beats underpin a drifting melodic loop and strangely heartwarming source material. The jazzy bassline that introduces itself halfway through is the icing on the cake- or perhaps the icing underneath the cake.

The remix of “For Love” by Natalie’s long-time collaborator Nikakoi is a more upbeat, slightly swaggering lightweight glitch-step number. Donna Maya’s take on “Light Is Winning” is both sexier and more synthpop, bringing the breathiness to the fore, whilst Lightning Jules’ take on the same track is a more eclectic offering, starting out with a genuinely experimental tone before settling into a quirkly 93bpm groove littered with weird vocal-like stabs.

The main four tracks were sent as a promo, and they’re a high-quality and consistent 18-minute remix package. On the strength of these, it’s definitely worth all exploring the additional three remixes of “Light Is Winning”, Bandcamp exclusives from Gray, Ivory Bells and Box Von Düe.

Franz Kirmann: Elysian Park

 Posted by Stuart Bruce (@)   Electronics / EBM / Electronica
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Oct 20 2016
Artist: Franz Kirmann
Title: Elysian Park
Format: CD & Vinyl
Label: Denovali (@)
Distributor: Cargo Records
There’s a lot of variety in “Elysian Park” and it shouldn’t be pigeonholed, as a stroll through this park is a stroll across disregarded and meaningless genre boundaries. ‘Drone’, ‘ambient’, ‘downtempo’, ‘glitch’, ‘experimental’, all terms that could be applied in moderation but not to the whole piece.

“Hidden Olympia / Diamorphine Clickstream” has a gentle, measured beat reminiscent of early The Orb tracks and ambient house. However “Hypertrance”, despite the somewhat clichéd 1990’s implications of its name, is a more experimental, arhythmic wall of tuned white noise that builds, stuns and fades with a captivating assuredness. “Lagon” and “Paradiso Beach” are smoother concoction of mellow synthetic strings and quasi-choral noises that would be right at home on one of Kompakt’s “Pop Ambient” compilatioons, while tracks like “Diazepam Dreams” sound like background sound design for a sci-fi alien spaceship. “Killswitch / Darknet” is challenging and awkward glitch in the first half, uplifting and emotive filmic arpeggios in the second half.

It is, frankly, all over the place.

The broad church and surprisingly warm production throughout, richer and more welcoming than the promotional material implies, never feels too ‘arty’ or unpurposeful. However, this self-labelled “sonic junk” can sometimes feel disjointed and it feels more like a collection of fourteen unrelated sonic experiments, rather than a coherent hour-long listening experience.

Beautifully presented vinyl and CD artwork designs, blending minimalist digital architecture into the barren mountains pictured on the front, complete an extremely polished, high-quality, but slightly scattergun package.

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