Music Reviews

C.A.R.: Pressure Drop EP

 Posted by Stuart Bruce (@)   Electronics / EBM / Electronica
Synth Pop / Electro Pop / Synth-Electronica
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Nov 13 2019
Artist: C.A.R.
Title: Pressure Drop EP
Format: 12" vinyl + Download
Label: Ransom Note Records
Chloé Raunet, as C.A.R., successfully blends elements of experimental punk-pop with electronica. I rated last year’s “Pinned” album. This is the first new material since then, and it’s from the some sonic world, but with perhaps an extra shade of maturity in there as well.

The main track has a steady, slightly U.N.K.L.E.-ish groove that mixes straight brooding rock-ish beats with ultra-epic pads and atmospherics, which the spoken word talk of loneliness matches well.

The Suzanne Kraft remix spins it really nicely, keeping the overall vibe not too dissimilar but shifting it over to a chugging electro pattern that’s steady, workmanlike, but varied enough to keep it all interesting.

Final track “Suture” is classic B-side / album track territory, a chance for something a little more experimental to see the light of day- in this case a grumbling ballad-like number laden with bleeps, effects and some quasi-ethnic melodic sounds. The “stop my heart!” mantra that comes in halfway through is really strong, but this feels like a strong standalone idea that couldn’t find a box to sit in.

It’s a welcome and fairly prompt return from C.A.R. and it bodes well for future releases, for sure.

Anthony Baldino: Twelve Twenty Two

 Posted by Stuart Bruce (@)   Electronics / EBM / Electronica
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Nov 08 2019
Artist: Anthony Baldino
Title: Twelve Twenty Two
Format: 2 x 12" vinyl
Label: MethLab Recordings
Anthony Baldino has been successfully plying his trade as a sound designer for film trailers, with a CV that includes plenty of Avengers-level blockbusters (and according to IMDB a bunch of producer credits too, though that may be crossed wires). He’s now turned his attention to a debut full-length instrumental electronica LP, in which he applies many of the modern, sharp, digital sonic techniques you’ll recognise, but also takes the opportunity to explore longer and more atmospheric scenes, not constraining the drama to the classic 2 minutes 30 trailer limit.

The glitchy granular synthesis in tracks like opener “Fading Quickly Now” or the second half of “Fractal” are extremely reminiscent of Brian Transeau’s soundtrack work, as it’s practically BT’s signature sound. “Artax”, with its brutally cut-up synth pad and rubbery bass tones, sets a gentler vibe, whereas pieces like “Quad Axial” invoke Aphex Twin-ish frantic and obtuse approaches to rhythm programming that result in skittish, playful, hard-to-pin-down grooves. It’s never especially light work, but “Drifting Further” with its quirky bleeps, running into more laidback final track “Beneath The Fall”, do offer a wrap-up that has a hint of brightness that offsets the bleakness to an extent.

The trailer influence is most noticeable on tracks like “Dust”, with its tension-inducing pulsing that feels tailor-made for some post-apocalyptic sci-fi, or “Fractal” with its dark, ominous icy deep cracking tones. At points it does feel a little like a showreel, pitching for soundtrack work- but that’s no bad thing, and as a showreel it’s certainly strong.

This is a release that oozes quality and confidence, from a clearly experienced sound designer. There are times where it feels like it lacks its own distinctive voice or character, and follows the rulebook of the dark glitchy electronic world too closely, but that doesn’t take away from the energy and polish that it’s been infused with. Over the space of 45 minutes it broods nicely and leaves you both gently chastised and impressed.
Nov 05 2019
Artist: Giona Vinti
Title: Orc
Format: Download Only (MP3 + Lossless)
Label: Elli Records
“Orc” is a collection of four numbered tracks, or ‘layers’, each being around ten minutes of dynamic and impulsive live electronics work fusing modular synthesis, sound generators, and a litany of effects ranging from the homemade and handcrafted to the (fairly) big budget, mostly arranged on the fly through a 24 track analogue mixer. The result is four slabs of gloriously expressive chaos that jumps around between differently constructed walls of broken noise, and mostly short-lived breathing spaces between them. Rhythm is foregone, but there’s a serialism to the sonic affrontery that acts as a surrogate structure.

To say that the second part is any calmer than the first would be true, but would imply that the second part is in any way calm, which it certainly isn’t. The analogue squeaks come further to the floor, and the noise and distortion is notched down a touch, but it’s still panicky and skittish. The bubbling low electronics of the third part are the nearest we get to an actual rhythm, while part four is the darkest and most sinister, channeling more than a little sense of a Radiophonic Workshop representation of alien threat as expressed through the medium of late 60’s black-and-white TV.

It’s a fine balancing act to work in such a noise-driven and cacophonous way yet to find a way of emoting and building human expression into it, rather than pure randomness, and for the most part, Giona Vinti pulls off that balance here. The sheer unadulterated rawness and relentless energy level of it won’t be to everyone’s taste, but if you like your electronics acerbic, bordering on sandpaper-like, then this is a deep dive into thick soundwaves that you’ll definitely enjoy.

Simon Grab: Posthuman Species

 Posted by Stuart Bruce (@)   Electronics / EBM / Electronica
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Nov 04 2019
Artist: Simon Grab
Title: Posthuman Species
Format: 12" vinyl + Download
Label: -OUS
Recently-prolific Swiss sound artist Simon Grab’s “Posthuman Species” is a dark, aggressive, but also detailed electronica work, based around a no-input mixing setup of LFO’s, filters, analogue effects and feedback. Most pieces are underpinned by a steady kick pattern which arguably makes it techno, but the raw and unpredictable layers of noise going on above make it something much more. Each piece is relatively sparse, normally bringing just one or two sounds to the fore and never attempting a full-on wall of noise.

Highlights include the slightly T Raumschmiere-esque “Metanoia”. “Transformation” revels in a saw-like drone noise, bending and pitching it playfully before dropping into an obtuse sci-fi-like soundscape, before “New Horizons” offers a gutpunching stab rhythm with truly high stress levels. Mellower and moodier moments are brought by tracks like the low-heartbeat-dictating “Altered Sleep”.

Most of the pieces are succinct, generally between two and four minutes, exploring one arrangement of sounds to a natural level without ever getting tired. Final track “Posthuman Wonderland” is the exception, a nicely drawn out, flowing and gradually evolving series of pulsed drones and pads that’s an impressive exercise in slow change.

It’s refreshing to hear such a good balancing act that takes distortion and energy and some apparent frustrations and tempers them with details and atmospherics into something that’s engaging rather than affronting. It’s truly dark but very high quality electronica.
Nov 01 2019
Artist: Gareth Davis & Scanner
Title: Footfalls
Format: 12" vinyl + Download
Label: Miasmah Recordings
“Footfalls” represents a fascinating first collaboration between the atmospheric contemporary electronics of Scanner (Robin Rimbaud) and the experimental free clarinet work of Gareth Davis.

It’s split into two twenty-minute pieces, classic LP style. “Towards The Door” languishes in waves of sonic ambience for quite some time before gradually introducing more pulsed and occasionally glitched synth elements, giving a sense of slow waking- but without any peak, a point is reached where these elements begin to wane, bringing us back to the warm luxuriant drone arrangement.

“Smokefall” is a slightly darker and busier piece, but only marginally. Steady, crisp and breathy snippets of high noise create a flitting rhythm, while throbbing effects added to the clarinet make it sound more like a didgeridoo at first. Underneath, a slightly rougher texture with guitar-like and wind-like tones, against which the purity of the clarinet sound is sparingly used for contrast and emphasis.

It’s an extremely natural match for the duo, blurring the lines of each sonic contribution and making it sound as though the duo have been working together for years. But it’s also built in a way that plays safe, relying on the alluring resonances of clarinet and drone to offer up something that comes from a position of comfort rather than challenge. The rich experimental texturing oozes confidence, quality and comfort, like a good sonic blanket, but with just enough detailing to keep the more attentive listener satisfied.

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