Music Reviews

Tom Hall: Spectra

 Posted by Stuart Bruce (@)   Electronics / EBM / Electronica
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Jun 14 2018
Artist: Tom Hall
Title: Spectra
Format: CD
Label: Elli Records
Describing himself as an audio-visual artist, Tom Hall’s instrumental album “Spectra” sits somewhere between conventional synth-electronica- with hints of symphonic synthwave- and more experimental and drone tones, but with a reverent attitude to tonality and melody that prevents any of the pieces from stepping too extensively into the latter category. Hall openly references a broad set of influences from musique concrete to ‘quasi-pop’ and it’s an interesting melting pot that produces results that, while not revolutionary, certainly have a quality taste.

The release doesn’t retain the energy it begins with when opener “One Fell Swoop” starts, settling down into more atmospheric territory over time, but it’s not without its energetic elements- “Remain”, for example, has strong hints of the rapid-cut granular synthesis heard on BT releases like “This Binary Universe”.

The ‘one track to listen to on Spotify to see if you’ll like the album’ track would probably be “Intersect”, which gives you a strong idea of what’s going on here. The organ drone of “Ebb” could pass as the experimental final track on an EBM album, with some parts sounding like an early Chemical Brothers release with the beats taken off- last track “Last Retreat” reminds me, rightly or wrongly, of a beatless “The Private Psychedelic Reel”. “Flow” runs on similar lines but with some more unusual, ethnic-sounding bowed elements that give it a more distinctive profile.

Working with digital synth sounds commonly found in synthwave and pushing them into slightly more improvised, soundtrack-like and experimental directions, without losing track of their primary associations, “Spectra” is pretty successful without being eye-opening.

David Newlyn: Collected Fictions

 Posted by Stuart Bruce (@)   Electronics / EBM / Electronica
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Jun 13 2018
Artist: David Newlyn
Title: Collected Fictions
Format: 12" vinyl + Download
Label: Sound In Silence
Though he’s described as an ‘ambient producer’, this initially isn’t ambient music. It’s slightly lo-fi downtempo acoustic-cored electronica that takes relatively conventional instrumental set-ups of piano, guitar, bass and drum machine with long waves of synth pads, and stretches them into slow, melancholy numbers built around steady road-movie grooves.

Tracks like “Hymn To Bleachgreen” do open up with sparser, barren-sounding pads, but “Travelling For A Living”, after a slow plaintive electronica intro, brings the soft drums back in and returns itself a steady step in the direction of electronica MOR. Deliberately low-quality production touches on “Ashes” doesn’t wholly disguise the fact it’s just three minutes of meandering solo piano sorrow.

It’s obviously quite heartfelt at times but there was something about “Collected Fictions” that I just failed to warm to. Somehow it just felt that shade too effortless- and not in a good way- and with a diversity that seemed to come from inconsistency rather than real breadth or inspiration.
Artist: VV.AA.
Title: Karl Marx's 200th !
Format: 2 x CD (double CD)
Label: Karlrecords
“Karl Marx’s 200th” is a charity record with a difference- or rather many differences- marking the 200th year of Marx’s birth (albeit with a release date which misses Marx’s actual birthday by over a month) with a non-ironic anti-capitalist consumer product from which all the proceeds will be donated to charities. To whom the proceeds will be donated is completely undisclosed into the press release- I’m assuming it won’t be the Republicans or the Conservatives.

Musically it’s two hours of a relatively un-mixed bag. Many of the artists have already put out releases reviewed on ChainDLK in their own right and could be said to be part of an established scene, and working within their comfort zones. Artists like Aidan Baker and Porya Hatami offer up unusual recipes of drones and electronic soundscaping, while tracks like AGF’s remix of “Capitalism Crashed” are more electronica-minded affairs with soft kicks, glitches and noise washes.

There are some exceptions to the consistency of the sound. For example, the album is wrapped up by a live acoustic song performance by Warnings. Kammerflimmer Kollektief’s offering is 90 seconds of sonic chaos built from looping guitars and odd percussive hits with a certain, perhaps unintentional, sense of daftness- similarly Gitter’s offering sounds dangerously close to a metal band arsing about. Nickolas Mohanna’s “La semaine sanglante” is enjoyably theatrical in parts, as is Guido Möbius’s angular concoction of tape effects and teeth-grinding industrial and construction site noises.

Schneider TM, normally associated with somewhat mellower electronica, must have been having an angry day creating “Hand In Den Mund” which ends up sounding quite Venetian Snares-like in its brusqueness.

While other tracks like “Kali” use spoken-word vocals, Nicolas Wiese’s “The Revolution Will Have Been Youtubed #2”, revolving around spoken word samples looped and processed in a variety of ways, is the only piece that seems to tackle the themes of Karl Marx’s work in a verbalised and direct, albeit quite heavy-handed, way. All other references to Marx are more oblique- often just in the track titles, or notably in the poetry of Seda Mimarolu’s appropriately-titled “Circuitous”.

Highlights include Jasmine Guffond’s stark juxtaposition of gentle electric guitar patterns against harsh electronic noise in “Niche Service”, Pharoah Chromium’s sinister, gaming-environment-like “Der Zerfall des Systems”, Alexandre Babel’s energetic percussion work “Karlstag” and a crisp, strangely optimistic-sounding glitch-electronica of Mark Weiser’s “Kapital”.

Most of the pieces are kept rather short, so as to pack 28 pieces in, cutting some of the more interesting drone work a little before its prime, with only two pieces breaking the six minute barrier- Yr Lovely Dead Moon’s rather lush 11-minute feminine beat-poetry-driven devolving deep house workout “Kali”, and Caspar Brötzmann’s eight minute Silber-esque guitar drone “Marx Crash”.

Possibly the strangest charity record you’ll ever buy, at two hours long it’s a bumper value pack and if you’re a fan of avant garde electronica and also of the apparently anti-capitalist cause, then you should buy it, unironically.

Sami Baha: Free For All

 Posted by Stuart Bruce (@)   Electronics / EBM / Electronica
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Jun 05 2018
Artist: Sami Baha
Title: Free For All
Format: CD & Vinyl
Label: Planet Mu
You can’t sneeze in the UK at the moment without hitting some grime music, it’s absolutely everywhere. A lot of it is turgid, self-aggrandising timewasting music made for rattling the windows of over-pimped Vauxhall Astras that I find profoundly dull. Thankfully though, Planet Mu have developed the ability to separate the wheat from the chaff and release grime albums that are actually worth checking out- Mr. Mitch, East Man- and here’s another one.

At times, it’s pretty conventional- slow rolling beats and plinky melodies underpinning some languid rapping, like on “Discreet” with Dimzy, but it’s atmopsheric enough- and concise enough- to keep it interesting. The Egyptian flavours on “Ahl El M8na” are a slick example of grime fusion, if that’s a thing.

There are quite a few instrumental tracks, and some of the instrumental work is really strong- for example “Glory”, with its slightly baroque tones and breakbeat, sounds a little like label boss μ-Ziq’s own work but paired with modern car-shaking pure subbass notes, while “Limba” with its choral keyboard sounds and pitch sliding is nicely quirky. “Path Riot” is worth paying attention to as well.

It’s not all quite so interesting though. The lazy-styled performance and dynamic-free groove on “When The Sun’s Gone” end up falling a bit flat. Using gun cocking sounds as percussion on the lyrically mundane “Thugs” feels rather done.

At 34 minutes it’s a compact little package of unusual and characterful grime-electronica tracks that passes Planet Mu’s long-established high quality threshold.

DVS NME: Neural Chain

 Posted by Maurizio Pustianaz (@)   Electronics / EBM / Electronica
Techno / Trance / Goa / Drum'n'Bass / Jungle / Tribal / Trip-Hop
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May 31 2018
Artist: DVS NME
Title: Neural Chain
Format: Download Only (MP3 + Lossless)
Label: Ukonx Recordings
Rated: *****
Founded in 2011 in France by the electro producer Stephane Bastien which is also active under the moniker of Deemphasis, Ukonx Recordings, after four years of pause, is back on track with its ninth release. After releasing music by Fleck ESC, Micro Control Unit, Deemphasis itself plus a compilation, for its come back Ukonx Recordings picked up DVS NME. At Chain D.L.K. we already talked about the project of Johan Sebastian Bot and also for him this is a sort of come back, as in the latest four years he focused his efforts mainly on his weekly radio program Dark Science Electro broadcasted on Intergalactic FM. After releasing tracks on some compilations, "Neural Chain“ is his newest EP. Available at the Bandcamp page of the label, the EP is a collaborative project with Meta Complex, Franck Kartell and Deemphasis. The first three tracks born from the collaboration with the aforementioned projects and they all sound mysterious, robotic and inspired. The classic electro influences, which are going from Kratwerk to Detroit electro, are there, but they are really well dosed and you’ll find yourself wanting for more. After an appetiser of three tracks, as dessert, we have "Departure“, an original mid tempo tune composed by Johan alone. This track is a mixture of melancholy, mystery and it has a sort of "suspended in time“ feeling. You can check and purchase this really good EP at this link:

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