Music Reviews



Psycho & Plastic: Spacebus

 Posted by Stuart Bruce (@)   Electronics / EBM / Electronica
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Nov 03 2016
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Artist: Psycho & Plastic (@)
Title: Spacebus
Format: Download Only (MP3 + Lossless)
Label: GiveUsYourGOLD (@)
Distributor: Finetunes
The core of “Spacebus” is a simple, infectious, bouncing acid bassline that could pass as Hardfloor. Over it are layered some twinkly synth arpeggios and glitzy effects, plus the rather abstract, mostly-spoken-slightly-sung Hezza Fezza vocal. The radio edit of the track gets straight to the point (and straight to the bassline), but the nine-minute long original mix has the stronger, more progressive structure.

Unfortunately the vocal is the sole weak link here. Perhaps aiming for an airy and spacious feel, instead it feels a little bit improvised and under-cooked, as though it’s been phoned in somewhat. Clips of tracks on Hezza Fezza’s own website briefly show that Ms Fezza is capable of more than what’s on display here.

With the strong acid house vibe of “Spacebus” harking back to the late 1990’s yet nicely fresh at the same time, I expected B-side “Zvezdolet Lokomov” to be a straightforward, house B-side affair, but in fact it’s an utterly different beast- a curious three-minute downtempo soundtrack-esque piece based around slow synth-accordion-like chord progressions, and many layers of sound effects and ambiences. Again the spoken word vocal halfway through is something I could easily have lived without, but it certainly shows that Psycho & Plastic clearly have broad sonic ambitions, which should make their debut album, due 2017, an interesting listen.

Alexis Tyrel: Rebecca Loos

 Posted by Stuart Bruce (@)   Electronics / EBM / Electronica
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Nov 01 2016
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Artist: Alexis Tyrel
Title: Rebecca Loos
Format: Download Only (MP3 + Lossless)
Label: LessIsMore
This is a re-release of a 12” issued in 2006 on the Weave label, with both the original and the Gui Boratto remix both being 2006 vintage (coincidentally the same year I ended up working on a farm with Rebecca Loos herself, but that’s a different story). Only the “New Chapter” mix is newly added to the package, but it is a chance for the two older tracks to get a digital outing, which is welcome. Obviously there’ll be a public demand for the Gui Boratto remix, but the original mix is also worth checking out- a bouncy, sedate house affair with a lot of delicate piano work over a perky lightweight groove and rubbery bassline. The progressions are slow, the general attitude is smooth and rather mesmerising.


The New Chapter remix is smoother and benefits from ten-years-later production values, but it isn’t a complete re-imagining. There’s an extra feeling of floating in space, with the vocal sample more distant. The rubbery bass pattern has been transposed into a bouncy synth and it’s all a little sci-fi, and a little short on progression in parts.


The Gui Boratto remix from 2006 is rather timeless thanks to its simplicity- a super-tidy house groove, and simple gradual layering of twinkling loops, dropping at the two-minute mark to a rich, expertly simple sustained bass notes. The interview sample is used less frequently and only as a fill, which is a sensible move.


This is at least the third outing for “Rebecca Loos”- there was another remix package in 2010 on the Grayarea label, including a Gideon remix and extra variants on the original mix, but none of those appear here.


The track is named after pseudo-celebrity Rebecca Loos because of the short repeated interview sample of Ms Loos describing some of the sordid details of her affair with David Beckham, which at the time of the 2006 release would still have been quite topical. The breathy delivery and sexy but non-explicit sample gives the whole thing a gently soft-porn, “Fifty Shades Of Grey” flavour that has been a mainstay cliché of mainroom trance music for many years. I expected that the LessIsMore label might have been classier than that; it seems like a bit of an obvious PR move rather than a really well-chosen sample from a musical point of view. But despite seeming like a bit of an excuse to re-milk the old Gui Boratto remix for a third time, it’s still worth checking out.

VV.AA.: Okqo - Form_1

 Posted by Stuart Bruce (@)   Electronics / EBM / Electronica
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Nov 01 2016
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Artist: VV.AA.
Title: Okqo - Form_1
Format: Download Only (MP3 + Lossless)
Label: Okqo
Despite being the Oqko label’s first compilation, “Form_1” is one of those collections that’s so well curated and consistent in its sound that you might easily believe that it was one musical artist releasing an album under eleven different monickers. Like-minded individuals have all offered up different recipes from similar ingredients, melting together techno rhythms, glitch techniques, melodies borrowed from ambient, and large doses of experimental electro-punk attitude.


Smog’s “Tesla” is a strong opener, setting off with a heavy tribal electronic beat that gradually makes space for a rich ambience before coming back apace. Rodrigo Sigal’s “Brain In Pulse” is a similar but darker concoction of sub-bass and glitchy flashes of melody.


It’s not all bang bang bang bang of course. Khan Of Finland’s catchily-titled “endlosrille_st012” is a more pondering, downbeat affair, and Astvaldur’s “For Now” is a more melancholic affair with seemingly improvised synth leads. “Tender Tone” by Lvis Mejia is a super-steady slab of measured, near-beatless techno with fleeting romantic violin lines.


There are also some more formless and experimental numbers. Bugaev’s “Raw” is a rich drone layered with glittering microseconds of white noise. José Gallardo’s “Sinfonia para un hombre solo en su casa” is an angry bombast of square waves and thumping steeped in distortions and delays.


The review promo didn’t include a physical product, but only photos of it, and it’s deeply unusual-looking. It’s not even a music product per se, there’s no disc or tape involved. You get one printed transparency for each of the tracks on the compilation, housed in a large anti-static bag. Each track has been represented as a rectangle of black-and-white binary data, with the most prominent musical changes visible as changes in patterns within the rectangle. Printed on transparencies, you can then layer any or all of them against each other to create new patterns. It’s an innovative idea and one I’d have been interested to play with.

Twins: Rather Not

 Posted by Stuart Bruce (@)   Electronics / EBM / Electronica
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Oct 31 2016
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Artist: Twins
Title: Rather Not
Format: 12" vinyl + Download
Label: Enfant Terrible (@)
“Rather Not” is a half-hour mini-album of light-industrial techno-pop operating at a brisk walking pace, rather than a driving pace. There are strong influences from 1980’s Depeche Mode, Cabaret Voltaire, early experimental OMD, and some of the other familiar names. This is a path that’s certainly been well trodden before, and unfortunately there’s not much that distinguishes “Rather Not” from the pack- and while OMD and Depeche Mode had an ear for great hooks, sadly that’s not on display here.

The often indiscernible and formless vocals are a distraction and sometimes even an irritant over the semi-clean, steady musical underbelly. Frankly a proper ‘pop’ vocal, or even no vocal at all, would have allowed the tunes to plant themselves firmly on the ground. Instead, there’s a loose, raw feeling to it which I could generously describe is punk, or ungenerously describe as half-baked. The slightly motorik beat of “I’m Not The Same” and the unusually syncopated “Spiraling Down” are both prime examples of an appealing groove spoiled by vocals.

If there were an instrumental version of this album available, I’d be recommending it as a sincere exploration of the early 1980’s electro-synth world.

The Gomb: Breaks (And Amends)

 Posted by Stuart Bruce (@)   Electronics / EBM / Electronica
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Oct 27 2016
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Artist: The Gomb
Title: Breaks (And Amends)
Format: Download Only (MP3 + Lossless)
Label: Chi Recordings (@)
Though branding themselves as “noise-gadget pop”, The Gomb’s 10-track album is not nearly as fun as that description suggests. It’s an earnest, downtempo collection of piano ballads, heavily decorated and embellished by acerbic synths and experimental noises and ambiences. It’s quite consistently bleak and slow in its tone, but there’s also a organic warmth and indulgence to the production that offsets that somewhat.

At times, the sincere nods to 70’s prog rock, whilst remaining ensconced in a digital environment, are reminiscent of later Pepe Deluxe or some Amorphous Androgynous pieces- but with a much lower energy level. “Mental Yoga” opens with strong hints of Yello about it, in a good way, and is certainly a highlight track despite wandering off in unexpected directions towards the end. The close, intimate vocal style heard on tracks like “No One Has Ever” is not dissimilar to Air.

It’s a succinct little package, ten tracks coming in under forty minutes, with tracks like “Your Monster” feeling like single ideas rather than fully-formed songs, and certainly not overstaying their welcomes.

For promotion, The Gomb are giving away a remix of title track “Amends” free on Bandcamp. The “Stomp remix” has a synthwave energy which, if it had been siphoned into the main album, would certainly have lifted it. So, let me know when the remix version of the whole album is out...


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