Music Reviews

Doon Kanda: Luna

 Posted by Stuart Bruce (@)   Electronics / EBM / Electronica
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Apr 27 2018
Artist: Doon Kanda
Title: Luna
Format: 12" vinyl + Download
Label: Hyperdub
Information is relatively sparse about Doon Kanda’s second Hyperdub release, save for an Instagram link pointing to a wealth (if wealth is the word) of sculptures and CG modelling of globulus and ugly alien body shapes, one of which is seen as this release’s artwork.

Thankfully the music here is not as ugly as the modelling, though it is almost as weird. Purely instrumental, it’s a blend of steady, faintly glitchy downtempo electronica grooves with some decidedly off-kilter and quirky synth melody work which feels a little bit like an exercise in finding the weirdest high-pitched noises available on your synthesizer and then messing about playing melodies with them in a relaxed but not completely unstructured way.

At its best- maybe opener “Bloodlet”- it sounds like early 90’s Tangerine Dream leftovers with a mildly dark twist. “Crinoline” has a faintly baroque feel reminiscent of some lighter tracks from µ-Ziq. “Luna” and final track “Lamina” are quite endearingly poppy, while “Molting” is a notable bit of heavier, almost grimy production.

At 7 short tracks clocking in at under 20 minutes overall, it’s either a long EP or a very mini mini-album depending on how you look at it. It’s a curious release, not as misshapen as the visuals that accompany it but still definitely lopsided, perhaps a bit too much so.

Furtherset: To Alter And Effect

 Posted by Stuart Bruce (@)   Electronics / EBM / Electronica
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Apr 26 2018
Artist: Furtherset
Title: To Alter And Effect
Format: Tape
Label: -OUS
“To Alter And Effect” is a 6-pack mini-album (25 minutes-ish) of amped-up synth instrumentals with the sonic qualities of angry distorted synthwave and the drama-inclined arrangements of sci-fi soundtracks, all teetering on the edge of electronica, or bombastic EBM without the beats.

“This Eternal Vanishing” is a bold way to open, full of dramatic hits and squeaks over panted vocal rhythms, and sets the stall out nicely, before the energy levels drop down a few notches for “The Arc Of Imaginary”, one of the mini-album’s more sedate moments, relatively speaking. “Self Unfinished” lays up rapid arpeggios like a kind of Philip Glass raving with a broken Juno.

The title track is the closest skirting of this release to synthpop territory- you can imagine there being an angst-ridden vocal on here- before “Ask Your Existential Core” returns to the panting and deep rumbling distortion. Final track “Drawing Of Desire And Hate” is a highlight, a thick wash of synth noise which unfolds into a epic sci-fi symphony of synths and pulses that then devolves into bit-crushed percussive hits and noisy drones to finish.

Though packaged more as art music than it actually is (including the obligatory pretentious cassette release), this is rich home-listening synth-electronica and quite strong for it. Synthwave fans looking for something a bit more soundtrack-y, and kick-drum-free, should appreciate it.
Apr 24 2018
Artist: Lybes Dimem
Title: Syncleft Chronem
Format: LP
Label: SVS Records
Lukas Rehm, who describes himself as a visual artist before the word musician, opens up a new alias here. The Lybes Diem project is integrally built to be a synergy between sound and ‘moving image artwork’ (or ‘video’ as plebs like me might call it), designed for installations, spatial sound experiences and “synesthetic shows”.

But ignoring all that, what do you get if you buy the LP or the download? You get eight punchy tracks of loud, often aggressive distorted techno and electronica instrumental built on complex and often slow kick rhythms.

“Tachy” is a noisy, abrasive opener that borders on white noise at times, and while “Horizon2020” allows for sparser breathing sections, the noise is never too far away. “Auto Alternative” offers a dark electronic thrum that probably does sound fantastic live.

The second half of the album settles down somewhat, with “Nascent Tenet” a collection of low faintly industrial drones mixed with long synth pads and odd atmospherics. “Double Bound” uses chord patterns that are odd-sounding but more conventionally structured. “Da-Jiang Innovations” reintroduces noisier elements but over more settled pads, before “Powerset” wraps things up in a predictably dark and industrial rumbling manner.

Either cathartic or unwelcoming depending on whether you can get into the sound or not, “Syncleft Chronem” takes some of the sonic qualities of IDM and reworks them into the world of immersive installations and disorientation. The result is one of those albums that manages to be not particularly likeable at times, yet really tempt you to turn the volume up up up nevertheless.
Artist: Arovane + Porya Hatami
Title: Organism_evolution
Format: Download Only (MP3 + Lossless)
Label: Karlrecords
I reviewed “Organism” last year, and “Organism_evolution” is essentially more of the same. The exchanging-sounds-by-post process continues between Berlin-based Uwe Zahn and Iranian Porya Hatami continues in much the same way, resulting in a collection of 23 short soundscape pieces of electroacoustic noises, organic-sounding burbling and gurgling, gentle clicking, processed found sounds, and soft windy drones, pads and echoes. The alien-womb-like theme of the previous release continues.

There are a lot of short ideas here, many only lasting a minute, at times being reminiscent of Radiophonic Workshop experiments in sound which were regarded more like sound effects than music, evidenced in pieces like “Creature_517”. “Stimuli” is a prime example of a short environmental piece, event-free as a self-contained atmosphere. Longer pieces like “mata_evolve” allow more breathing space and show how exquisite some of this ambient soundscaping can be when allowed to spread and allow the mesmeric properties to come forward.

“Nucleotide” is an anachronistic piece, dismissing the organic components in favour of electronic arcing and feedback that sounds like it could be a single layer from a Cabaret Voltaire track.

If you loved “Organism”, you’ll appreciate the second chapter in the experimental collaboration, although whether it moves anything forward compared to the first installment may be debatable. And if you like the sound of this in principle, dip in at any point in the process- form and order isn’t the order of the day here.

Serph: Aerialist

 Posted by Stuart Bruce (@)   Electronics / EBM / Electronica
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Apr 20 2018
Artist: Serph
Title: Aerialist
Format: CD + Download
Label: Noble
It’s rare at ChainDLK to hear electronica that’s so upbeat and unashamedly optimistic-sounding. It’s 67 minutes of quite poppy mostly-instrumentals broadly categorisable as drum & bass for the most part but with plenty of glitch and other musical influences thrown into the mix. Vocal and orchestral elements are the rich upper layers, with a generally lush and super-soft sound, while the rhythm programming is crisp and often seriously energetic but never aggressive.

It’s a proper genre-spanner that seems to revel in defying expectation. The guitar effects on “Airflow” are almost U2-like in parts, but not in a bad way. Halfway through the mellow and atmospheric layout of “Nightfall” we start getting Burial-ish dubstep beats, then perky, jazzy piano. “Ignition” features some helium-pitched vocal noises, yet played against sincere-sounding acoustic guitar sounds. The trailer-esque gutpuncher distortion very sparsely used on the bass on “Artifakt”’s intro makes way for a bit of proper electrofunk with slap bass, before the bright piano chords of “Weather” and “Popp” sound like they’re only one boyband-style vocal line away from the pop charts.

Thankfully it never comes across as excessive showing off, because it ought to, and it never loses track of the album’s overall positive vibe.

The Tokyo-based Serph also puts music out under the alias Reliq, and as half of N-qia, and in both those cases there’s at least a hint of a darker edge- but here, brightness and enthusiasm is the order of the day. And it’s seriously refreshing.

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