Music Reviews

Yair Etziony: Albion Remixes

 Posted by Stuart Bruce (@)   Electronics / EBM / Electronica
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May 10 2018
Artist: Yair Etziony
Title: Albion Remixes
Format: Download Only (MP3 + Lossless)
Label: False Industries
I reviewed Etziony’s sixth album “Deliverance” a couple of months ago, calling it “an array of drama-laden electronic soundscaping full of dark symphonic chords, echoey rumbles and percussive hits, subbass groans and slow synthetic washes”.

So when a remix package arrived, I assumed it would be of tracks from that most recent album- but in fact, it’s of four tracks from his 2015 album “Avalon” instead. As for why, that’s not seemingly explained, and since that’s an album I’m not familiar with, I can only take the remixes for what they are, not how they compare to what they were before.

The first remixer Fhloston Paradigm is better known as Knig Britt, and his version of “Never Again” is a six-minute, DJ-friendly bit of atmospheric synth house with a stuttering yet steady rhythm that gives a nice bright feeling.

Any suggestion that this is going to be a 4-pack of straightforward clubby house mixes is dispelled by Alec Empire (from Atari Teenage Riot)’s dramatic and raw take on “Imperum Romanum”. Starting with cinematic percussion hits, it builds very slowly, eventually reaching an energetic bit of American-style angry rocky instrumental EDM with a decidedly sci-fi feel.

The Maps and Diagrams remix of “Nightwatcher” has a similarly filmic opening but heads in a very different direction, a lovely acid-tinged bit of ambient-meets-old-school-beatless-trance reminiscent of The Irresistible Force and really rather lovely, before Daniela Orvin’s reversion of the album’s title track is a more modern-sounding take on ambient, full of lush synths, string swells and gentle vocal noises that give a rich velvety if moderately uneventful carpet of smooth noise which, at five minutes long, feels like it could have been explored further.

It’s a nicely diverse four-pack reflecting four different styles, and as such, well suited to open-minded electronica home listeners.

Cuts: Exist 1 + Exist 2

 Posted by Stuart Bruce (@)   Electronics / EBM / Electronica
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May 10 2018
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Artist: Cuts
Title: Exist 1 + Exist 2
Format: CD & Vinyl
Label: Village Green Recordings
Here, Anthony Tombling Jr. releases the soundtrack to his own film “Exist”. As eight tracks, split across two twenty-minute EP’s, it’s essentially a single soundtrack album split (perhaps needlessly) into two parts.

This is work from the most cinematic edges of synthwave- soft, expansive chord pads, occasional slow expressive melodies, thoughtful and breathy female lyrics and ahhhs, with the odd kick of drama or tension creeping in just at the edges. Some tracks feature rumbling percussive elements, like the industrial-ish slow breakbeat of “Body Parts” that spends a long time distant before stepping to the fore for the emotive second section. Final track “Bunsen Burner”, in two versions, has a synth line that makes it feel like a leftover from the Tron Legacy soundtrack that falls just a little short of the widescreen production, but not much.

Detached from the film it was created for, it’s a polished bit of synthwavey electronica that falls a little short in distinctive character but still provides an enjoyable and atmospheric listen.

Proc Fiskal: Insula

 Posted by Stuart Bruce (@)   Electronics / EBM / Electronica
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May 09 2018
Artist: Proc Fiskal
Title: Insula
Format: CD & Vinyl
Label: Hyperdub
Edinburgh-based producer Joe Powers has an energetic take on grime, blending up crisp fast-cut beats, 8-bit sounds, glitchy scratches and ripped-up short MC samples, and longer field recordings and TV and radio samples onto beats mostly well above 140bpm. Then that’s played against soft synth pads and lightweight key melodies that bring the musicality for a series of exercises in contrast.

“Kontinuance” is a prime example of the dual-tempo approach, the manic sample cutting and complex broken-up beat playing nicely against the gentle synth patterns. The kung-fu-meets-8-bit-gaming tones of “Vaudeville” are another strong arrangement. When allowed to breathe in some of the mellower parts, the synths do sound a little weedy at times, though sometimes that plays in the track’s favour, an example being “A Like Ye”, a twisted love song constructed from lo-fi samples..

There’s also a more playful side, with tracks like “2L” and the squidgy-sounding “Dish Washing” coming in quite bouncy, almost jazzy in parts, with shades of old Wagon Christ flavours. Besides some slightly cheeky recordings of Joe’s phone conversations, the longer TV and radio samples seem to be frequently sourced from documentaries and there’s a tendency towards aggressive Scottish accents, often requiring Parental Advisory stickers.

The Peter Hyams movie “2010” is one of my guilty pleasures so any album that starts with a fairly whopping sample from it will always bias me towards it, I should disclose that while I’m here.

It’s a strong package of electronica-meets-grime with some unique flavours, many of them making for very good listening, but maybe with not enough standout tracks to make you want frequent repeat plays.
Artist: Venetian Snares x Daniel Lanois
Title: Venetian Snares x Daniel Lanois
Format: 12" vinyl + CD
Label: Timesig / Planet Mu
Neither Venetian Snares nor Daniel Lanois should need any introduction, and this first full (albeit short) album collaboration is exactly what you might think the sum of its parts would form. Bringing Lanois’ atmospheres and slow reverberant guitar work alongside Aaron Funk’s hard-and-fast unpredictable rhythms, frequency leaps and sample twisting creates something that manages to be both lush and raw at the same time.

Longest track “United P92” is a highlight- a deep and mesmerising affair with a melodic, Eno-like ambient environment seemingly confining and subduing the glitch-laden beats, which gradually begin to grow in confidence and control in a way that technically ought to be described as aggressive yet manages to actually sound genuinely bright and enthusiastic- might Mr. Snares be mellowing with age?- before proceedings get sparser, with sounds imitating distant explosions and the sense that the sonic honeymoon may be over.

Shorter pieces like “Bernard Revisit P81” sometimes have something of a sparser, old-school electronic experimental flavour, all random synth notes, sinister sci-fi pads and harsh hit noises. I might dare to suggest that “Best P54”, with its hardcore acid elements and deeply melancholic guitar atmos, sounds like two tracks from radically different artists that just happen to be playing at the same time, and yet despite that, it still manages to sound brilliant.

People who know exactly what to expect here will be far from disappointed. It’s a powerful and effective collaboration that brings out the best of both worlds.
May 03 2018
Artist: DJ Raph
Title: Sacred Groves
Format: CD & Vinyl
Label: Noland
Working partly in Nairobi and partly in Berlin, DJ Raph draws on Kenyan and broader pan-African field recordings (archive material rather than original recordings if I understand correctly) of traditional ethnic music and shapes them into modern electronica arrangements that are on the very mellowest side of bass music. Soft clicky electronic grooves and rolling, rich but lightweight-and-fluffy bass notes hum underneath organic sounds that are from the more celebratory and reverent side of tribal music.

Some of the source sounds are treated in quite dubby ways, often allowed to breathe quite nicely, and when it works (which is most of the time), it really works. Highlights include “Reeds From Chad” and the bizarrely beautiful “Butcher’s Rhythm” that’s far more relaxed than its title suggests. “Ikondera” is notable for its slightly more driving, synthwavey bass sounds that seem to point proceedings in the direction of moombahton.

Mostly it’s a very complimentary fusion of sounds that makes the most of the source rhythms, but it’s not always a perfect match- the odd off-beat in “Earthstep” feels like a pull between the speed variations of the organic drumming and a less tolerant 90bpm-ish kick pattern.

In the 90’s acts like Deep Forest gained popularity followed by disfavour for their cultural appropriation of ethnic music into electronica. More than twenty years on the principle behind this release is not actually all that dissimilar, and while the grooves and flavours may have changed (though some of the samples are vaguely comparable), it still operates in the same field. Thankfully there’s a lot more musical open-mindedness around now, plus DJ Raph’s own heritage should defend this release against any misplaced misappropriation claims.

Final track “Yayaya Twins” wraps things up in a slightly limp fashion, but otherwise it’s gentle African-traditional-music-infused electronica with a gentle warmth, too leisurely to really set your heart racing but a very pleasant, relaxing and slightly-unusual way to spend 37 minutes.

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