Music Reviews



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Artist: Ana Dall'ara-Majek
Title: Nano-Cosmos
Format: CD + Download
Label: Empreintes Digitales
Composed across a period of more than five years, “Nano-Cosmos” is a five-piece cycle of acousmatic pieces dedicated to insects, small arthropods and microorganisms. Fifty-three minutes of arhythmic granular clicks, glitches and sharp biology lab sounds running over long drones, tuned synthetic hums, irregular heartbeat sounds and electric growls, it certainly emphasises how alien the microscopic world is relative to what we would call familiar.

If you’re squeamish, don’t worry- despite being rooted in biology, sonically there’s quite a digital flavour to it, often sounding more sci-fi than organic, particularly in pieces like “Bacillus Chorus” or the expansive synth opening of “Pixel Springtail Promenade”. The biological aspect exhibits itself as much in the unpredictability as in the tones themselves.

“Pixel Springtail Promenade” is a notable highlight, a self-contained 15-minute work in many sections where the synthetic pads evolve into larger more orchestral sounds with a luxuriant quality that emphasises the dichotomy of the insect clicking noises- twisting into weirdness towards the end with a soundscape that to my ear sounds decidedly more like a frog chorus than insects.

Final piece “Xylocopa Ransbecka” is also an opus, accompanied by the hard-to-beat conceptual description: “features a carpenter bee and twenty doors, recorded in Belgium”. After a series of disorientating vignette-style sections, again more orchestral elements appear in the second half, building steadily to an almost conventional crescendo that then devolves into a digital equivalent where the insectoid clicking and glitching multiples exponentially until we approach white noise. It’s a fitting finale, both successful and strange.

Inspired by and sourced from a selection of very specific biological phenomena, this release really does seem to blur the lines between music and science- and the result is a nicely immersive bit of complex soundscaping that you really can get into.

Fauna: Infernum

 Posted by Stuart Bruce (@)   Electronics / EBM / Electronica
Synth Pop / Electro Pop / Synth-Electronica
 Edit (10475)
May 26 2018
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Artist: Fauna
Title: Infernum
Format: 12" vinyl + Download
Label: Ventil Records
“This is my second album and it was recorded under dangerous circumstances”- so begins Rana Farahani’s second full-length, which unfolds into something sonically much more relaxed and casual than the prelude may suggest. This is gentle synth work, mostly very calm, sometimes bordering on slow old-school trance (“Exit”), sometimes wandering more closely to full-on synthpop (“Death Fly”, “Went Home Got Lost”), sometimes more stripped-back and rumbly with glitch and post-dubstep influences but still in perky synthpop soundspace (“Drive-By”, “Holle”), sometimes going deeper into rumblier industrial techno structures (“Unbehagen”) but never really going ‘hard’.

The bitterness is in the lyrics, often sparse and spoken-word affairs infused with a fair amount of cynicism and resentment that plays cleverly against some of the quite optimistic synth sounds running underneath. Apart from the expletive in the chorus, “Lonely At The Top” is a bright, perky, fairly radio-friendly bit of electropop

It’s got a healthy blend of variety and consistency in a compact 34-minute, 10-track dark synthpop album that never really shines extremely bright, but still draws you in with some deceptive complexity and authentic emotion that’s not writ so large as to be discouraging. Interesting stuff.

Paul Handley: Midnight Zone

 Posted by Stuart Bruce (@)   Electronics / EBM / Electronica
 Edit (10465)
May 19 2018
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Artist: Paul Handley
Title: Midnight Zone
Format: Download Only (MP3 + Lossless)
Label: self-released
Paul Handley’s digital-only self-released “Midnight Zone” is a compact 34-minute, 9-track set of instrumental synth and electronica with a bright, sci-fi, soundtracky (or maybe library music-esque) feel to it. Perky beeps and optimistic-sounding chord pads wash over soft drum machine patterns and steady synthbass, creating something with the melody heavily at the forefront.

At its best there are shades of Jean-Michel Jarre in the melodic work, or maybe some of Tangerine Dream’s poppier 80’s material. Highlights include the broad scope of “Lost Horizon” and the nice use of slightly Delerium-esque vocal pads and ahhhs on “A Brighter Day”.

At its worst it’s just a bit forgettable. These sounds have all been done rather a lot before and it can just wash over you and be a bit disengaging. Tracks like “Eclipsed” are a touch nothing-y. At times it sounds like the underscore for some teutonic electropop band who haven’t got around to laying their sinister vocals on yet.

The homemade flavour that’s apparently in the (in my opinion amateurish) artwork is audible as well, but less so- just some hints of ‘soft’ mastering which make some of the punchier tracks, such as the title track, not quite as zingy as they might have been. Thankfully that’s a minor criticism though, it’s still a good sound.

A release worth checking out on Bandcamp for people looking for a bit more instrumental and sci-fi synthwave in their life.
May 18 2018
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Artist: Sex Judas feat. Ricky
Title: Go Down Judas
Format: 2 x 12" vinyl
Label: Optimo Music
Initial impressions of “Go Down Judas” are reminiscent of the Fabulous Furry Freak Brothers- cartoon counter-culture heroes accompanied by stoner, laid-back country Americana sounds and low smoke-infused ramblings. But it quickly transpires that this is all just a front, and what’s behind the curtain is a Norwegian-produced funky vocal house album using the comic branding as a novelty theme rather than being truly immersed in it.

So from the second track “The Sorrows Of Young Walter” onwards, what we’ve got here is steady, circa 110bpm lounge house chock quite full of funk-driven synth bass grooves, wahwah guitar, lovely subtle string arrangements, and occasional husky vocal work.

Other influences are sprinkled on top in moderation as well- gentle African-flavoured percussion and vocal noises on “Sidikis Jam”, some lovely late 80’s-style acid and Chicago house style noises on “Candy Darling”, and what I think might be a cheeky Star Trek sample in the squelchy “Let The Power Go”- all of which is slotted into the jigsaw with great care and skill.

After hints of a darker dronier electronica during the intro track, final track “Moving Glaciers” is an extensive atmospheric outro that wraps things up in slightly unusual fashion.

This is high-production-value house music with an almost stereotypical Nordic attention to atmosphere, quality and detail. While it may not have the hook-driven radio hit that would set your heart alight or get onto mainstream radio, if you like your funky house to be of any the finest premium quality and utterly chilled out, take a look beyond the faintly cheesy comic branding and you’ll find a very enjoyable album here.
May 18 2018
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Artist: Moomin
Title: Yesterday's Tomorrows
Format: LP
Label: Wolf Music
Moomin’s third album is a collection of eight DJ-friendly tracks spread across two slices of vinyl. For the most part it’s laid-back and stripped-back house music, strolling along in the 120bpm region with simple patterns slowly shifting, rising and falling, jazzy laidback keys, soft and straightforward basslines and gentle beats with quite an organic feel to them. Opener “Daysdays” gives you a reasonable flavour of what to expect.

On the second side, “Shibuya Feelings” follows the same patterns but with the introduction of a much heavier kick that makes things feel much more post-sunset, before “Maybe Tomorrow” places more emphasis on crisp, higher-toned drum loops that bring the jazziness back in force.

In the second half, things start getting a bit more varied and take on a decidedly more retro ‘90s feel. On both sides, more jungle and drum & bass-flavoured tracks are paired up with trip-hoppy counterparts. “Move On God” uses some classic jungle drumloops under super-smooth pads for a lush, quite throwback-minded piece, before “949494” is a neat little slightly hip-hop workout. “Into The Woods” is a pretty sparse bit of jungle/drum & bass which lets the simple subbass shine with some very confident production touches, alongside the Rhodes-style chords that provide the sonic bridge between this and the earlier tracks, before “Fruits” rounds things off in a very smooth, quite Groove Armada-ish fashion.

There’s an almost nostalgic feel to this release in parts, but carried thanks to a lot of production polish and a consistent vision of Moomin’s sound. It’s not going to set dancefloors alright or set your heart ablaze, but it’s got a quite plush flavour that feels somehow quite premium- like sticking your bare feet on a super-soft carpet.


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