Music Reviews

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.

Andreas Lutz: Binary Supremacy

 Posted by Stuart Bruce (@)   Electronics / EBM / Electronica
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Aug 31 2018
Artist: Andreas Lutz
Title: Binary Supremacy
Format: Download Only (MP3 + Lossless)
Label: Kasuga Records
Although framed in thoroughly artistic terms of abstract aesthetics and exhibitions instead of performances, “Binary Supremacy” as an audio product fits quite nicely into the category of downtempo electronica and soundscaping. A thoroughly artificial collection of treated noises, clicks, glitches and synth pads over sparse and regular breakbeat kick drum patterns, this is minimal techno put through the wash, cleaned and tumble dried into art.

After the initial overture of “Nulled Fields”, the kick sounds become urgent for “Restructuring”. Some tracks segue into one another, so the cut-up lo-fi vocal samples of “Analog Read” creep up on you, as does the rumbling synth-bass that provides that track’s main focus.

Rather Kraftwerk-esque speak-and-spell lyrics on “Super Constructor” are the closest this short album gets to a vocalised message, instead generally settling for abstract atmospheres and gentle melodic elements that roll calmly over the lightweight beats. Kraftwerk pop to mind again in “Transmission Heap”’s sharper, curt beat patterns.

Despite seemingly not being at home either in an art space or on a dancefloor, it’s a fresh-sounding bit of very cerebral electronica with a nice character.

R.A.N.: Şeb-i Yelda

 Posted by Stuart Bruce (@)   Electronics / EBM / Electronica
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Aug 30 2018
Artist: R.A.N.
Title: Şeb-i Yelda
Format: 12" vinyl + Download
Label: Karlrecords
R.A.N.’s new E.P. of dark electronica and ambience is a sinister affair, full of rumbling tones and a sense of threat. At times this is techno at its very darkest and introspective, taking some of the same sonic elements but pulling it into something completely dancefloor-unfriendly and introspective that sounds like the channeling of frustration into a new-found purpose.

You have to wait almost four minutes into the title track before a rhythm appears, a circa-115bpm sub-kick and delay with purposeful hi-hat action that feels like it’s building to something that never quite arrives, before almost literally running out of steam as it slows and devolves into gaseous noises. “Sabah” has a not dissimilar make-up but starts with more purpose, crisp lo-bit snares kicking in from the off for a very industrial-sounding affair that can’t help but sound like a racing steam train at times, built around a mesmeric droning tambur noise that gives a little bit of welcome organic character.

The two shorter tracks are not techno at all. “Ay” is quite anachronistic, a soft piano ballad instrumental with ambience, while final track “Kul” is a stripped-back and deep, reverential, synth-vocal-esque drone that eventually opens, briefly, into a cavernous ambience.

It’s a rich E.P. that certainly inspires interest in R.A.N.’s other releases and if you like your electronica dark, deep and brooding, this is worth your attention.

First Aid 4 Souls: Dark Tunnel

 Posted by Steve Mecca   Electronics / EBM / Electronica
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Aug 20 2018
Artist: First Aid 4 Souls (@)
Title: Dark Tunnel
Format: CD + Download
Label: Digital Absynthe/No Labels Interested (@)
Rated: *****
I'm trying to play catch-up with a slew of releases that have sat idle in Mr. Urselli's hopper for some time (Marc's a very busy guy) and this is one of them. Sometimes you need to play detective just to get the basics to prep for a review. In this case it's the label that's the problem- Digital Absynthe/No Labels Interested. There's no website by that name, but the album is being sold (here in the U.S. anyway) on Human Vault's Bandcamp site which seems to serve as the label's website. (I could have just called the album "self-released", but where's the challenge in that?) Turns out Human Vault (from Brooklyn, NY) is the vocalist and lyricist on this album going by the name of Mortum. First Aid 4 Souls is the music project of Istvan Gazdag, from Budapest, Hungary where 'Dark Tunnel' was recorded. If you check Discogs you will find that First Aid 4 Souls has a lengthy discography going back to 2008, but Gazdag's musical history goes back much further than that, to 1992 with the band Vacuum, one of the most significant bands in the Hungarian industrial music scene. So obviously Istvan has a lot of cred it electro-industrial music. 'Dark Tunnel' is a concept album based on Dmitry Glukhovsky's 2005 novel, "Metro 2033". The book is set in the Moscow Metro, where the last survivors hide after a global nuclear holocaust. There communities settled within the underground train stations and developed into independent states over time, and various political factions emerged vying for power and control. You can see that this isn't going to bode well for the inhabitants, as conflicts turning into war eventually rages between them, with the added post-apocalyptic distress of mutation due to nuclear fallout. There's much more to it than that, but if you're really intrigued you should read the book. 'Dark Tunnel' does a good job of capturing the flavor of this dystopian work, and while Mortum's lyrics don't get specific about characters and plot, they are still in keeping with the dystopian tone of the work. You'll need the (enclosed) lyric sheet though as the electronic vocal processing and Mortum's somewhat raspy voice and accent often obscure the words. Unfortunately the lyrics to the first two tracks- "Her Face As An Angel" and title track "Dark Tunnel" are not included, so you'll just have to tough those out. Istvan's dark electro/EBM synthwork and rhythm programming and production is excellent throughout, old school but still never sounding merely two-dimensional. The album does seem to end inconclusively though, without a strong denouement, so perhaps a sequel could be in the FA4S's future? What really makes this album worthy though is its astronomically low price, at least on the label's Bandcamp site. Two bucks for the CD, and download for only $1.00?? It's almost like giving it away!

Blastromen: Cyberia

 Posted by Maurizio Pustianaz (@)   Electronics / EBM / Electronica
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Aug 15 2018
Artist: Blastromen
Title: Cyberia
Format: CD
Label: Dominance Electricity
Rated: *****
Mika Rosenberg and Sami Koskivaara best known as the electro Finnish duo Blastromen, four years after their second album for Dominance Electricity are delivering for the same label their newest one, titled „Cyberia“. Available on CD and double 12“ (black or red plus poster) as well as digital (which contains the bonus track "Into The Void (Video Edit)"), „Cyberia“ contains ten new songs that somehow continue where „Reality Opens“ left. Conceptually the theme is like a story and this is the third chapter. Robots, humans, space travels and such are always the main thing although this time there’s a mysterious thing which involve „Cyberia“ and it’s what that is about. Blastromen write: „They call it awakening. It is now about to be born - the final invention of mankind. Perfect, limitless and able to raise beyond what its creator could ever forsee. It will remain after time has left humans. Cyberia“. So, what Cyberia is? A new city for cyborgs? A way to become a cyborg? That is unclear, but the cover graphic made by The Zonders let us think about something that went wrong. You can see a light coming off from what it seems a divinity. Who the people on the cover are? Some are looking like zombies, some others like experiments. The titles let the mystery opened for you to let your imagination run free. Here they are: Cyberia, Into The Void, Load Reload, Outsider (track that features Acid Hausmeister at the 303), Dream, Unite Arise, Signals, R.U.R, Light Traveler and Eternity. Musically, the album opens with three songs that are classic Blastromen tunes where vocoder, catchy synth melodies and haunting electro breakbeats are the key elements. Luckily, there are also tracks where the formula has been tweaked a bit and on tracks like „Outsider“ (more based on bass lines than on pads), „Dream“ (a short cinematic one with vocoder effected vocals where arpeggios and bass drum are upfront), „Unite Arise“ (another one focused on bass lines, drums and high pitched arpeggios), „Signals“ (these one have also little guitar like solos) and „R.U.R.“ are straight electro and less breakbeat and this is a nice counterpart to the other tracks. „Cyberia“ is an album to check for sure and the new influences are just great. A nice release brought to you again from Dominance Electricity!

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