Music Reviews

Spoony Bard: Dweeb

 Posted by Stuart Bruce (@)   Electronics / EBM / Electronica
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May 17 2017
Artist: Spoony Bard
Title: Dweeb
Format: Download Only (MP3 + Lossless)
Label: self-released
“Just playing jazz wasn’t cutting it any more”, said David Nord, so he delved into the L.A. electronic scene and started bringing his jazz guitar experience into a world of glitched, faintly retro synth-electronica. The result is “Dweeb”, an 8-track mini-album of quirky, semi-organic slow-stepping electronica numbers that sound like casual jazz cut up and reworked with technical precision. Some tracks even throw in a little Chromeo-ish funk for good measure.

It’s dynamic, with plenty of surprise changes, such as when the title track segues into the short-lived sort-of-drum-and-bass “Dryout” finale. The rhythms are complex and not always predictable- “Solitary Isle / Words Are Wind” one of those patterns that’s hard to understand yet sounds perfectly natural if you’re not counting it.

It’s instrumental in parts with short vocal snippets, but there are loose-form songs too- “Vibe / Void” and “Much Better” have full-on frustration-driven raps, while “Mantra / Micawber” plays like a verse in search of a chorus.

Things branch out towards the end. “Geno” is a temporary glimpse into a neighbouring universe where this was a more stripped-back drone album, but even at only a little over two minutes, there’s still space for the gentle groove to work its way back in. “Commoner” is another rap track but with a harder-edged beat and acid tones.

At under half an hour it’s a short-but-sweet album of offbeat programming and genre straddling that’s steeped in sincerity and introspection, sombre and at points a little inaccessible. It’s hard to pigeonhole and worth checking out for yourself.

I-LP-O In Dub: Capital Dub, Chapter 1

 Posted by Stuart Bruce (@)   Electronics / EBM / Electronica
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May 15 2017
Artist: I-LP-O In Dub
Title: Capital Dub, Chapter 1
Format: 12" vinyl + Download
Label: Editions Mego
Treading the line where dub effects meet soundscaping, Pan Sonic member Ipso VÄisÄnen’s second solo outing as I-LP-O In Dub is a short collection of rumbling bass tones, clicking and delaying hi-hats, sinister noises and sonic pessimism. Instrumental, but themed for the sinister underbelly of capitalism, it’s sombre and sometimes difficult to follow,

Tracks like “Divided Instruments Complexity” delve deeper into pure electronic wallowing, leaving behind the dub origins and becoming a form of electronic musique concrète of oscillators and glitches, while “Parecon” is a deep exploration of pared-down subbass sine waves having their shapes evolved. On the other hand pieces like “Dark Money Dub” and final track “Fear Of Heaping Capital” have a more recognisable stepping groove which feel like a natural empty point for Mad Professor appreciators looking for something even deeper.

It’s a really neat, well-formed package, just under 40 minutes of deep electronica that manages to shine and fill you with a sense of future dread simultaneously.

Proc Fiskal: Highland Mob

 Posted by Stuart Bruce (@)   Electronics / EBM / Electronica
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May 11 2017
Artist: Proc Fiskal
Title: Highland Mob
Format: 12"
Label: Hyperdub
Edinburgh-based Proc Fiskal puts out his first release, the 4-track EP “Highland Mob”, and it’s pretty distinctive.

Lead track “£” is 80bpm or 160bpm depending on how you want to dance to it, blending the swagger of grime with more frantic synth noises and a properly quirky Asian-ish plinky lead melody. Second track “Lamentation” has a similar make-up, slightly more aggressive skittish d&b beats rolling under a bouncing bassline that it’s hard not to nod your head to. The odd sci-fi sample, the sound of a cash register and even some random yodelling flit in and out on top, but sparingly enough that things never get silly.

The daftness does ramp up on the flipside though, “Skulka”’s 155bpm groove looping squeaky robot noises, gaming battle grunts and 80’s-era drum machine hits with gunfire while 8-bit melody and bassline run in parallel, it’s bordering on tongue-in-cheek. Completing the package is “Acidic Hoes”, a somewhat Luke Vibert-y track with squelchy acid noises, a strong and sparse edgy bass note, and a groove yet again bizarrely constructed from drums, coughs and telephone noises.

Pitched as an antidote to the slowing down of grime music, “Highland Mob” is an unusual hybrid, part grime, part d&b, part chiptune, with a sense of humour playing deliberately against the mean-faced grime stereotype. It doesn’t fit a genre pigeonhole- one for the open-minded audiences.

Graeme Truslove: Intuited Architectures

 Posted by Stuart Bruce (@)   Electronics / EBM / Electronica
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May 10 2017
Artist: Graeme Truslove
Title: Intuited Architectures
Format: Download Only (MP3 + Lossless)
Label: Crónica
Graeme Truslove’s sonic mosaics use glitchy, electronic sounds to create gently disquieting ethereal soundscapes full of synthetic bubbles, clicks and pitter-patters. Exploring automation techniques, Truslove generates music that seems to be disassembling and reassembling itself.

The opening “Suite II”, in three parts, is generally quite frantic. Tones and layers shift impatiently, never settling into one arrangement for more than a few seconds. It’s a sometimes unpleasant bath to wallow in, often abrasive, yet at other times pretty.

“Elements” is somewhat simpler and darker, with some John Carpenter-esque elements as low impossibly-sustained piano notes underlie ghostly noises.

“Concrètisations X” is mellower in tone and puts the emphasis back in the micro-cut noises, complex, mechanical and challenging the distinction where one person’s ‘deconstructed’ is another person’s ‘broken’. At the beginning and end there are crunching, biting notes, but the second half certainly returns to the underwater feeling, with waves of slow breathing and muddy, deep rumbles.

Longest piece “Strata” is more audibly dominated by strained and rapid sounds sourced from a guitar- objects being dragged up the strings, guitar bodies being tapped and pulled and so on. The energy of this appears to run out after five minutes so we move to an environment of light industrial drone, one that makes you realise the importance of the space inbetween which is sometimes a little bit overlooked in these arrangements. The manner in which the guitar, and other new elements slowly reintroduce themselves is the most beautifully controlled section of the album, before another drop after fifteen minutes with guitar tones bringing us full circle to a close.

The self-devised digital instruments and processing give “Intuited Architectures” a character that’s unique, yet not a country mile from the well-trodden paths of sonic experimentation of this kind. It’s a little too manic too often for my tastes but it does exude quality and care.

v1984: Pansori

 Posted by Stuart Bruce (@)   Electronics / EBM / Electronica
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May 09 2017
Artist: v1984
Title: Pansori
Format: 12"
Label: Knives
“Pansori” is a 5-track (well, 4-track-and-1-interlude), 14 minute EP that wants to be simultaneously a cinematic sci-fi score and glitchy, alt-clubby electronica. Stepping light yet complex dubsteppy beats underpin coldwave-style synth chords and slow looping melodic bleeps.

The production is polished and bright, if a little un-dynamic in parts, for example in “Too Much”. The energetic use of found sound and short dramatic string samples in “Aria Of Dawn” works well, although the melody that arrives is a little aimless.

The awfully-titled first track “SPfiNAL TAP re-JUVENescence” is a highlight, an impressive prelude that the remaining tracks don’t quite live up to, bookended with the final track “beauty __ IT5INYR-H3D” (yes it’s really called that) which plays beautiful sweet piano melodies against loud and abrupt vocal and explosive sample speed shifts.

Overall v1984’s second EP is very shiny, but there’s a slight feeling of unfinished hit-and-miss experimentation about it.

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