Music Reviews

Artist: VV.AA.
Title: Karl Marx's 200th !
Format: 2 x CD (double CD)
Label: Karlrecords
“Karl Marx’s 200th” is a charity record with a difference- or rather many differences- marking the 200th year of Marx’s birth (albeit with a release date which misses Marx’s actual birthday by over a month) with a non-ironic anti-capitalist consumer product from which all the proceeds will be donated to charities. To whom the proceeds will be donated is completely undisclosed into the press release- I’m assuming it won’t be the Republicans or the Conservatives.

Musically it’s two hours of a relatively un-mixed bag. Many of the artists have already put out releases reviewed on ChainDLK in their own right and could be said to be part of an established scene, and working within their comfort zones. Artists like Aidan Baker and Porya Hatami offer up unusual recipes of drones and electronic soundscaping, while tracks like AGF’s remix of “Capitalism Crashed” are more electronica-minded affairs with soft kicks, glitches and noise washes.

There are some exceptions to the consistency of the sound. For example, the album is wrapped up by a live acoustic song performance by Warnings. Kammerflimmer Kollektief’s offering is 90 seconds of sonic chaos built from looping guitars and odd percussive hits with a certain, perhaps unintentional, sense of daftness- similarly Gitter’s offering sounds dangerously close to a metal band arsing about. Nickolas Mohanna’s “La semaine sanglante” is enjoyably theatrical in parts, as is Guido Möbius’s angular concoction of tape effects and teeth-grinding industrial and construction site noises.

Schneider TM, normally associated with somewhat mellower electronica, must have been having an angry day creating “Hand In Den Mund” which ends up sounding quite Venetian Snares-like in its brusqueness.

While other tracks like “Kali” use spoken-word vocals, Nicolas Wiese’s “The Revolution Will Have Been Youtubed #2”, revolving around spoken word samples looped and processed in a variety of ways, is the only piece that seems to tackle the themes of Karl Marx’s work in a verbalised and direct, albeit quite heavy-handed, way. All other references to Marx are more oblique- often just in the track titles, or notably in the poetry of Seda Mimarolu’s appropriately-titled “Circuitous”.

Highlights include Jasmine Guffond’s stark juxtaposition of gentle electric guitar patterns against harsh electronic noise in “Niche Service”, Pharoah Chromium’s sinister, gaming-environment-like “Der Zerfall des Systems”, Alexandre Babel’s energetic percussion work “Karlstag” and a crisp, strangely optimistic-sounding glitch-electronica of Mark Weiser’s “Kapital”.

Most of the pieces are kept rather short, so as to pack 28 pieces in, cutting some of the more interesting drone work a little before its prime, with only two pieces breaking the six minute barrier- Yr Lovely Dead Moon’s rather lush 11-minute feminine beat-poetry-driven devolving deep house workout “Kali”, and Caspar Brötzmann’s eight minute Silber-esque guitar drone “Marx Crash”.

Possibly the strangest charity record you’ll ever buy, at two hours long it’s a bumper value pack and if you’re a fan of avant garde electronica and also of the apparently anti-capitalist cause, then you should buy it, unironically.

Sami Baha: Free For All

 Posted by Stuart Bruce (@)   Electronics / EBM / Electronica
 Edit (10488)
Jun 05 2018
Artist: Sami Baha
Title: Free For All
Format: CD & Vinyl
Label: Planet Mu
You can’t sneeze in the UK at the moment without hitting some grime music, it’s absolutely everywhere. A lot of it is turgid, self-aggrandising timewasting music made for rattling the windows of over-pimped Vauxhall Astras that I find profoundly dull. Thankfully though, Planet Mu have developed the ability to separate the wheat from the chaff and release grime albums that are actually worth checking out- Mr. Mitch, East Man- and here’s another one.

At times, it’s pretty conventional- slow rolling beats and plinky melodies underpinning some languid rapping, like on “Discreet” with Dimzy, but it’s atmopsheric enough- and concise enough- to keep it interesting. The Egyptian flavours on “Ahl El M8na” are a slick example of grime fusion, if that’s a thing.

There are quite a few instrumental tracks, and some of the instrumental work is really strong- for example “Glory”, with its slightly baroque tones and breakbeat, sounds a little like label boss μ-Ziq’s own work but paired with modern car-shaking pure subbass notes, while “Limba” with its choral keyboard sounds and pitch sliding is nicely quirky. “Path Riot” is worth paying attention to as well.

It’s not all quite so interesting though. The lazy-styled performance and dynamic-free groove on “When The Sun’s Gone” end up falling a bit flat. Using gun cocking sounds as percussion on the lyrically mundane “Thugs” feels rather done.

At 34 minutes it’s a compact little package of unusual and characterful grime-electronica tracks that passes Planet Mu’s long-established high quality threshold.

DVS NME: Neural Chain

 Posted by Maurizio Pustianaz (@)   Electronics / EBM / Electronica
Techno / Trance / Goa / Drum'n'Bass / Jungle / Tribal / Trip-Hop
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May 31 2018
Artist: DVS NME
Title: Neural Chain
Format: Download Only (MP3 + Lossless)
Label: Ukonx Recordings
Rated: *****
Founded in 2011 in France by the electro producer Stephane Bastien which is also active under the moniker of Deemphasis, Ukonx Recordings, after four years of pause, is back on track with its ninth release. After releasing music by Fleck ESC, Micro Control Unit, Deemphasis itself plus a compilation, for its come back Ukonx Recordings picked up DVS NME. At Chain D.L.K. we already talked about the project of Johan Sebastian Bot and also for him this is a sort of come back, as in the latest four years he focused his efforts mainly on his weekly radio program Dark Science Electro broadcasted on Intergalactic FM. After releasing tracks on some compilations, "Neural Chain“ is his newest EP. Available at the Bandcamp page of the label, the EP is a collaborative project with Meta Complex, Franck Kartell and Deemphasis. The first three tracks born from the collaboration with the aforementioned projects and they all sound mysterious, robotic and inspired. The classic electro influences, which are going from Kratwerk to Detroit electro, are there, but they are really well dosed and you’ll find yourself wanting for more. After an appetiser of three tracks, as dessert, we have "Departure“, an original mid tempo tune composed by Johan alone. This track is a mixture of melancholy, mystery and it has a sort of "suspended in time“ feeling. You can check and purchase this really good EP at this link:

Shy Layers: Midnight Markers

 Posted by Stuart Bruce (@)   Electronics / EBM / Electronica
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May 31 2018
Artist: Shy Layers
Title: Midnight Markers
Format: CD & Vinyl
Label: Beats In Space
Despite being described as “between darkness and light”, light is undoubtedly the victor on this jaunty, laidback and confident genre-defying album that could loosely fit under the umbrella of poppy electronica.

Tracks like “Gateway” are fully fledged pop songs, plucky percussive grooves running under sparky guitar twangs and a variety of boldly sampled instrumentation with a soulful, often heavily-vocoded vocal sitting politely on top. The influences are broad- 70’s funk, 80’s pop with a touch of soul, modern electronica, there are aspects of all of them in there. “Lover’s Code” even has a sound which would have to be described as funky synth sax stabs- but which aren’t nearly as bad as that description might imply.

Other tracks are a little sparser and more lightweight, but still bright and breezy, such as the Rhodes-esque keys-laden instrumental “Test Pattern”, or the radio-friendly open-air vibe of “No Road” on which the vocoding is so thick that the lead vocal becomes almost completely indecipherable and becomes a notes-only, lyricless instrument and letting the backing vocals come to the front in an unusual fashion.

It’s a relaxing and feel-good Friday afternoon sort of an album with a refreshing, almost naive optimism to it, and I hope it does well.
Artist: John Tilbury / Keith Rowe / Kjell Bjørgeengen
Title: Sissel
Format: CD + Download
Label: Sofa
Recorded live in 2016, “Sissel” is a sombre, single 48-minute live performance from the trio who seem to avoid describing the instrumentation they use- to my ears it’s almost exclusively piano and analogue electronics, with hints of found sounds and atmospherics. Soft and very sparse piano notes and simple repetitive chords play both with and against hard-edged raw electric sparking, gritty rumblings and percussive noises. Prolonged periods of emptiness or near-emptiness, particularly towards the end, give rise to phenomenally awkward silences.

Performed a few weeks after one of the artists suffered a great personal loss, there’s undoubtedly a sense of eulogy and space here, with sorrow worn firmly on the sleeve. To the retrospective listener this gives it a decidedly cathartic function. It’s a properly sobering listen, and not altogether enjoyable from an emotional point of view. But it’s remarkably calm, never angry, and that’s why it’s likely to find a place in other people’s hearts as well. But it’s not for the emotionally faint-hearted.

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