Music Reviews

LOR: Lunar Orbit Rendezvous

 Posted by Stuart Bruce (@)   Electronics / EBM / Electronica
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Sep 11 2018
Artist: LOR
Title: Lunar Orbit Rendezvous
Format: LP
Label: LOREC
After a few EP’s, Lunar Orbit Rendezvous’ debut album feels like the natural step forward. It’s a combination of synthwave and quite retro analogue electronica noises. There’s an early 90’s trance flavour at times, with synth soundings evolving gradually in waves while steady drum machine beats clap out complex but consistent patterns with a light touch, and some of the tracks have almost Jean-Michel Jarre-esque synth lead melodies to roll along with.

It’s instrumental apart from occasional NASA-style soundbites, making it quite reminiscent of Public Service Broadcasting’s “Race For Space” at times, but with a more modest musical ambition.

There are poppier offerings like “Journey” and the frankly quite cheesy “Command Module”, and the interlude “Dreams Under A Stellar Roof” is a nice bit of low-bitrate sound design. Tracks like “In Approach” go a little deeper into the 70’s style squelchy noise generation and at points come out sounding not totally dissimilar to some of Kraftwerk’s more out-there moments. “Exploration” takes a twist towards being almost sleazy before final track “Return” brings up some surprise gritty techno kicks, by which point you’re so immersed in the retro flavours of this release that it starts to feel like foreshadowing instead of channeling something already well established.

The whole thing feels very much like it’s been done before, drawing heavily, almost exclusively, on existing musical ideas and forms. But it’s done with a measured confidence and a simplicity of purpose that means that it still works, and is really quite endearing and enjoyable as a 54-minute journey into synth-space.

Maschine Brennt: Frisq EP

 Posted by Maurizio Pustianaz (@)   Electronics / EBM / Electronica
Techno / Trance / Goa / Drum'n'Bass / Jungle / Tribal / Trip-Hop
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Sep 10 2018
Artist: Maschine Brennt
Title: Frisq EP
Format: Download Only (MP3 + Lossless)
Label: Ukonx Recordings
Rated: *****
Joacim Thenander is a veteran of the electro scene. In the late ‘80s he was a member of industrial synth band Systema The Affliction and then on early 90's he was a member of the duo Cultivated Bimbo, band that did several albums for Energy Records. At the same time, Maschine Brennt born but during the 90s only few tracks have been written, because Joacim was busy with other more commercial projects. Starting from 2014, Joacim rebooted Maschine Brennt by releasing since now, five digital releases and a CD album for Razgrom Music. The latest release is a digital EP released by Ukonx Recordingsand titled "Frisq". Containing three new tracks and one remix of the main one mad by Deemphasis, project of the label boss Stéphane Bastien. By listening to the tracks it doesn't take much time to understand that Joacim loves Kraftwerk and sometimes by using certain melodic progressions, is like he's paying his personal tribute to history. Saying this it doesn't mean that his music is uninspired, because since the opening main title, he's able to catch immediately the attention, thanks to booming drums, catchy melodies, great synth sounds, etc. This guys for sure knows how to make dance his fans and he's using all the things he learned in all these years of experience in the field. Also "Shoewq" and "V.A.B." are a winner, because the complex rhythm layers which mix electro, i.d.m. and a bit of techno is able to make you focus on this without the use of catchy melodies or refrains. Only few sounds along with the rhythms layers are enough to define a melody to follow. This ins't an easy task when you have to deal with decades of electronic music but I'm pleased that at the end of the EP I want to listen to it again! The EP is closed by the Deemphasis Remix of "Frisq". For this version, Stéphane simplified a bit the rhythm section and created an ambient background as counterpart of the robotic elements. It sounds cool by sounding different and this is also a good result for a remix! Check it here

Bit-Tuner: Arabian Nights

 Posted by Stuart Bruce (@)   Electronics / EBM / Electronica
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Sep 07 2018
Artist: Bit-Tuner
Title: Arabian Nights
Format: Tape
Label: -OUS
“Arabian Nights” is a 40-minute live set in which Bit-Tuner layers up tapes of field recordings and other sounds sourced in Cairo over a collection of curt, jittery, slightly lo-fi electronic beats that gradually shift in speed, pitch and arrangement in complex ways that evolve without ever jumping.

The sections are numbered 1 to 5 rather than named, and they flow together but also have their own distinctive elements. “AN 1” is split into two parts and provides the most cinematic section of the release, with the most internal variation, before “AN 2” gets a bit grimier. “AN 3” has a notably steadier groove and uses car horn noises to strangely captivating effect, generating an atmosphere that’s simultaneously gritty realism and alienation. “AN 4” has something of a hip-hop swagger in its groove and leaves the atmospherics behind before “AN 5” ends slightly quirkily with synth pulses and a softer melodic element.

It’s a quite distinctive arrangements of sounds that stands out for its quite bold simplicity. Intriguing, thoughtful environmental electronica.

Oliver Coates: Shelley's On Zenn-La

 Posted by Stuart Bruce (@)   Electronics / EBM / Electronica
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Sep 05 2018
Artist: Oliver Coates
Title: Shelley's On Zenn-La
Format: 12" vinyl + CD
Label: RVNG Intl.
Oliver Coates, who recently toured supporting Thom Yorke, has come up with a rather quirky concept to wrap this relatively short album. The title pays tribute to a genuine Stoke-On-Trent nightclub of the late 80’s and early 90’s (where acts like The Prodigy played), but reimagines it relocated onto the fictional planet of Zenn-La. It’s certainly original.

Sonically though, the tribute is from a subtly different era, and to my ear certainly seems more late 90’s. The soft, melodic, stepping electronica is reminiscent of Ultramarine or µ-Ziq, Aphex Twin in his mellower moods, or at times early Mr Scruff without the sense of humour. There’s almost no low-end kick or bass throughout, this is expression through synth melodies and high-end percussion only. At a time when we’re up to our ears in synthwave and 80’s retro, this feels like it’s staking a claim for reviving a less revisited sound.

There’s a stepping, uptempo-trip-hop flavour to tracks like “A Church” (featuring quite freeform vocal offerings from chrysanthemum bear) that’s quite endearing, and the off-kilter glitchiness and deceptive simplicity of “Cello Renoise” is a highlight. “Charlev”, with its steadier but still super-soft 4/4 kick, does touch on the 80’s but the meandering, jazzy, flutey synth lead line owes more to Planet Mu than classic synthpop. Final and longest piece “Perfect Apple With Silver Mark” is its own self-contained world of entrancing atmospherics and sun-bleached dream-techno, with an oddly abrupt end.

Though it claims to be channelling memories of raves and nightclubs, this is a lightweight, sweet, Sunday-afternoon-home-listening kind of electronica, and as such it’s quite rewarding and it’s got enough unusual ideas packed into 38 minutes to keep giving good value. A quaint anomaly.

Ital Tek: Bodied

 Posted by Stuart Bruce (@)   Electronics / EBM / Electronica
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Sep 04 2018
Artist: Ital Tek
Title: Bodied
Format: 12" vinyl + CD
Label: Planet Mu
Ital Tek has been putting out releases on Planet Mu for over a decade, this being the sixth full album, and the cerebral, glitchy electronica sound has certainly evolved over time, but “Bodied” is probably the biggest single-step change yet. He’s left dance music well behind in favour of rich cinematic sound design and centres almost wholly around acoustic elements, vocal pads and choral ‘ahhhh’ sounds, underpinned by rumbling bass notes that have a decidedly tense aspect.

Though the press release describes this work as embracing the creative freedom Ital Tek felt after finishing a bunch of video game work, the throbbing undertone of “Become Real” playing against the warm orchestral top end gives proceedings a decidedly game-soundtrack flavour, with the beautiful final track “The Circle Is Complete” sounding like an epic sci-fi overture to gameplay. Tracks like “Cipher” perhaps exhibit signs of that ‘underscore’ mentality which seems to value consistency over progression- but that’s no criticism when the consistent mood in question is so intriguingly put together.

Highlights include the heartrate-twisting and sinister “Lithic”, and the strangely Jean-Michel Jarre-like “Blood Rain”. “Vanta” is reminiscent of some of the best soundtrack work from Hybrid or UNKLE, employing a synth-guitar lead line that also sits to good effect on top of “Hymnal”.

Planet Mu output gets a lot of praise, with good reason, and here’s another prime example. Supremely high quality, thoughtful IDM / electronica / whatever you want to call it that’s a really satisfying listen.

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