Music Reviews



Ikonika: Distractions

 Posted by Stuart Bruce (@)   Electronics / EBM / Electronica
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Aug 08 2017
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Artist: Ikonika
Title: Distractions
Format: CD & Vinyl
Label: Hyperdub
Taking sounds from synthwave, the attitude and groove of dubstep and grime, and a bright production quality that’s radio-friendly pop, “Distractions” treads its own distinctive path. It’s packed with unusual sharp-cut rhythms, echoey synth arpeggios, and long rolling bass notes, yet it manages to avoid the arrogant swagger that plagues some modern pop.

It’s mostly instrumental, but with a handful of vocal tracks that end up being highlights. “Noblest” features Andrea Galaxy and is just missing a strong chorus hook, otherwise Ikonika would have a pop hit on her hands. Jammz’s somewhat languid rap on “Sacrifice” has a good synergy with the track.

A few too many of the instrumentals sound like they are craving a vocal or a rap on top, as though the space has been left for that missing part to be applied. Tracks like “Manual Decapitation” and the potentially great “Lossy” don’t quite have enough going on otherwise to make them complete somehow. However there are a handful of others, such as the quirky, slightly 80’s-soundtrack titled “435”, that feel more well-rounded.

It’s a well polished and inventive set of tracks with a lot of polish, but “Distractions” maybe needed a couple more out-there ideas or guest vocalists on board to make it stand out.

Sontag Shogun: Patterns For Resonant Space

 Posted by Stuart Bruce (@)   Electronics / EBM / Electronica
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Jul 28 2017
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Artist: Sontag Shogun
Title: Patterns For Resonant Space
Format: 12"
Label: Youngbloods
“Patterns For Resonant Space” is a relatively familiar-sound combination of reverberant and sparse piano playing, combined with electronic glitches and found sound elements to create a soundscape that’s melancholic and just a little bit spiky. There are ten generally very short slices of cinematic bleakness with a broad but not particularly revolutionary palette. Crisp digital processing counterpoints against pure grand piano tones in a well-tried and reliable formula.

Each piece has both a number (independent of the track number) and a name, as if to try and double-up the distinction between tracks that most comprise the same ingredients, which isn’t wholly necessary as they do already contain a reasonable variety of character, normally created by having one element that’s unique to each track. For example, “Barricade Bleu” adds some more watery noises. “Patient Elegy For Bernr’d Hoffman” adds some vocal ahhhhs reminiscent of M83 or Sigur Ros. “Music Box”, unsurprisingly, adds the distorted and twisted sound of a music box. “Windmill” leaves the piano aside in favour of forming loose looping patterns in the percussive sounds. The bizarrely named “Chopsticks, Motor, Lecture” adds relatively unchopped samples of what sounds like a school science lecture, then “£20,000” adds some quirky vinyl scratches, and so on.

The final and lengthiest piece “Leaves Like Photographs” is the only track allowed to evolve at greater length, existing in several stages and acting like a flavour of what may have been allowed to develop if some of the ideas in the other tracks had been allowed to play out for longer in more sparse and indulgent frameworks.

Fans of listening to immersive, reverb-heavy cold atmospheres who like wearing headphones lying down in dark rooms will really get into this and find 31 minutes too short. For a less focussed listening experience, it washes away into nothingness a little.

Doler: House Mantra

 Posted by Stuart Bruce (@)   Electronics / EBM / Electronica
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Jul 19 2017
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Artist: Doler
Title: House Mantra
Format: Download Only (MP3 + Lossless)
Label: Karmic Power Records
“House Mantra” is a natty little house track which loops a simple untraceable ethnic vocal sample with an Eastern flavour over a classic house structure of house piano, warm simple bass notes and 123bpm light beat with claps.

The vocal gives it a unique element but it still lacks the key hook or USP that would really make it stand out, but it’s a well-made bit of warm-up-friendly, inoffensive formula house. The input of other remixers, rather than just an original, instrumental and edit package, might have helped push it into more interesting directions.

Enderie: Tape 1

 Posted by Stuart Bruce (@)   Electronics / EBM / Electronica
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Jul 13 2017
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Artist: Enderie
Title: Tape 1
Format: Tape
Label: A Guide To Saints
Andrew McLellan as Enderie’s debut “Tape 1” is a mini-album comprising six lo-fi, slightly punky analogue electro workouts of raw-edged samples, thickly distorted basslines, and rapid drumming circa 150bpm. Sonically it’s got at least one foot in 1980’s new wave, with a very grungy aesthetic.

After the bright and rather manic opening track “The System Decides” (the only track where vocal samples are really prominent), “Meal” is a calmer and more stripped back affair, looping what might or might not be dinner party ambience over drums for a while before some proto-techno-style synth loops arrive. “Stopped Memory” takes things deeper still, with vocal loops transformed into an industrial rhythm over which squelchy acid analogue sounds walk ominously.

“Attack The Power Of The Hordes” has a more retro gaming feel to it somehow, with a marching militaristic rhythm and more percussive power. “Sore” sticks out like, erm, a sore thumb, with its seriously pushed distortion screeching crisply over a glam-rock style drum thump. Final track “It’s A Feasible Feat To Be Here” is another bit of focussed heavy lo-fi techno.

“Tape 1” is a really solid debut, a very straightfaced bit of analogue-heavy beat work that manages to shine out from its retro-facing approach and technological restrictions, and could be the beginning of great things.

Claude Speeed: Infinity Ultra

 Posted by Stuart Bruce (@)   Electronics / EBM / Electronica
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Jul 13 2017
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Artist: Claude Speeed
Title: Infinity Ultra
Format: 2 x 12" vinyl
Label: Planet Mu Records
“Infinity Ultra” is like a disassembly of rave and electronica, exploring and meshing with its constituent parts and rebuilding it into something that still retains the structure and the sounds, but which has been pulled completely out of clubland and into a different space. The kicks and crashes are all gone, leaving tracks that at times sound like lightweight synthwave, and at other times like stems ripe for remixing rather than complete tracks. However there are also some deeper and edgier pieces to mix it up a bit.

There are fifteen tracks here, someone of them very succinct and with a slightly raw, unpolished edge. Highlights include “Ambien Rave”, the frantic chiptune-esque stylings of “Entering The Zone” and the odd yet powerful looped vocal patterns of final track “DreamDream”.

Kuedo’s guest appearance on “Alternate Histories” gives things a darker flavour, based around a rhythmic deep pulse and spaced-out curt string noises. Other more atmospheric pieces include “Moonchord Supermagic”- surely a calling card for soundtrack work- and the relentless lo-fi gutpunchers of “Super 800 NYC”.

It’s a release that’s very typical of the Planet Mu label, in a good way- it’s electronica, but not like anybody else does. It’s atmospheric, irreverent, and high quality in a weirdly deceptive way.


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