Music Reviews

Anma: Batch 0012

 Posted by Stuart Bruce (@)   Electronics / EBM / Electronica
Techno / Trance / Goa / Drum'n'Bass / Jungle / Tribal / Trip-Hop
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Dec 10 2019
Artist: Anma
Title: Batch 0012
Format: 12" vinyl + Download
Label: SM-LL
The bold branding- if you can call it branding- of the SM-LL label is getting progressively more homogeneous as it evolves. Already establishing a rule where all the artwork is plain black (yes that’s not a technical error in the thumbnail above), and with releases that are numbered rather than named, their press releases now consist solely of alphabetised hashtags. They’ve also announced that from next year, they will no longer even be including artist names on their releases- the entire thing will be anonymous, unless an artist breaks ranks and takes credit for any of it.

At times it feels like this affords the artists freedom, to experiment or express sonics without any word association or accompanying imagery. At other times it feels like a disservice, robbing each release from grabbing your attention or drawing you in with its own identity.

So in the third paragraph I finally get to talk about the music. This is a series of eight (or just six if you buy the vinyl) out-of-sequence-numbered layered sets of analogue oscillation and arpeggiation meanders. Bubbly bleeps and off-count repeating patterns are the order of the day. Around this, higher pitched atmospherics and electronic glitter provide a gentle, less-is-more approach to decoration. Curt sub-bass thrubs and throbs sometimes gently imitate techno kicks without ever pushing into that genre. It’s rough-hewn at times, littered with clicks, but this seems to add to the warmth.

“Harm Osc 5” is an example of one of the steadier tracks, a gentle walking pace number whose flatness is its virtue, while “Harm Osc 6” is an example of one of the more off-kilter, time-unpredictable arrangements that keeps things firmly cerebral rather than foot-tapping.

Favourites for me included the slightly more uptempo alt-techno of “Harm Osc 8”, and the gloriously awkward “Harm Osc 9” with its counting-challenge pulsing and tinnitus squeal. The soft, theremin-like melodic expression that crops up in final track “Harm Osc 2” is a curious sonic salve and an endearing way to wrap up.

This is a form of analogue proto-techno that goes simple and goes deep, very deep indeed. But if you’re prepared for a deep dive into a thinking person’s bass noise, turn this up loud.

Dibu-Z: Junk DNA

 Posted by Maurizio Pustianaz (@)   Electronics / EBM / Electronica
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Dec 08 2019
Artist: Dibu-Z
Title: Junk DNA
Format: CD
Label: Dominance Electricity
Rated: *****
Active since the early '00s, Christian Odlozinski released different 12"s and EPs as Dibu-Z for labels such as Mutter, Klangnet, Antikonsum, Klangnet, Robodisco and Heraldic.SPb. "Junk DNA" is his first album and Dominance Electricity is proudly releasing it on CD and 2 LPs. This isn't the first time that the label is releasing Dibu-Z's music, as his track "Remote View" has been included in the "Global Surveyor Phase 4" compilation the last year. "Junk DNA" is a multifaceted album where Christian is mixing different electronic styles successfully: if the opening "Where It All Ends" has classic electronic music references of the likes of Vangelis' "Blade Runner" soundtrack (like the closing arpeggios of the closing "The Future In Your Eyes"), "Breakaway Civilization" steers the wheel mixing space ambiance with acid TB-303 sequences and TR-808 beats (thing that also Cignol experimented lately). "Metamaterial" and "Gnarly" change the game again by bringing in electro melodies and i.d.m. intuitions with sound manipulations. The twelve tracks of the album have no vocals and succeed into giving to the electro lovers good music with robotic rhythm patterns, paranoid atmospheres and nice tiny melodies. It not easy to sum up the last twenty years of electronic music but Dibu-Z somehow did it. Prepare yourself to check a sort of Drexciya on acid or a sort of black hole that sucked in hours of good music and now it's ready to puke it out! A special note to the cover made by the American 3D graphic artist Beeple. Check it here
Dec 06 2019
Artist: Speaker Music
Title: of desire, longing
Format: 12" vinyl + Download
Label: Planet Mu
DeForrest Brown Jr.’s first release on Planet Mu is a slightly unusual one for the label. This is electronica, but perhaps only on a technicality. It’s a deliberate exercise in “time-based release”, essentially time-stretching, with two 23-minute parts of the same single work spreading out to fill an LP. Solo jazz sounds- saxophone predominantly, and others, it’s hard to tell- are pulled, padded, stuttered and morphed into unplayably long notes, which are then blended into what sounds like quiet city street found sound- rustling, distant drone, wind, traffic (but not a lot of it), and general hubbub.

This in turn is then delayed echoed and processed to add an extra layer of abstraction. Some of this stereo delay forms patterns, seemingly accidentally, which occasionally border on rhythm but only become actually rhythmic in the second part “without excess”. The second part also dips the outdoors atmospheres down in favour of metallically-treated choral noises and a selection of other oddness.

The result is like listening to a busker on a far-away street corner whilst under some sort of chemical mental influence, then in the second part, wandering into a church during choir practice then youth group. It’s an unorthodox experience, and I’ve got to say, not an experience that will always be welcome- but as a soundscaping exercise, it certainly has the dual virtues of being thought-provokingly emotive, and also distinctive and unique. The artist’s strong association with counter-culture and apparent animosity to modern streaming culture doesn’t shine through sonically as much as it does in the associated press release, but it’s a rich and interesting listen nonetheless.
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
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.

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