Music Reviews

Sandunes: Does Bombay Dream Of Nola

 Posted by Stuart Bruce (@)   Electronics / EBM / Electronica
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Feb 07 2018
Artist: Sandunes
Title: Does Bombay Dream Of Nola
Format: Download Only (MP3 + Lossless)
Label: Artist Originals
Mumbai-based Sandunes offers up a short 4-track EP of quirky downtempo electronica that blends some Indian flavours into bright, lightly-stepping, glitchy, faintly hip-hoppy electronica.

“Does Bombay Dream Of NOLA” is a strong opener, centring around very short Bollywood-like vocal samples, completely reshaped into new patterns, with warm pad envelopes, Rhodes-like keys and tightly aligned, slightly jazzy percussive elements. “Gold Streets” also has a warm swagger to it, perfect strolling music. The quirky fade-then-return before the end is a particularly interesting touch.

“Nutterfly” is heavily reminiscent of Luke Vibert’s Wagon Christ monicker, with a lovely strutting groove that underpins some bleeps and spoken word snippets that exude a greater sense of fun than perhaps Sandunes actually intended, while final track “The Trust” does manage a more sombre atmosphere with long synth pads and a sombre melody playing well against another steady and toe-tapping lower section.

Clocking in around 13 minutes overall it’s a brief calling card, dipping into a very pleasant and poppy set of arrangements that sets high expectations for future releases. It also comes as an audio-visual package, with every track accompanied by animation.

Shuttle358: Field

 Posted by Stuart Bruce (@)   Electronics / EBM / Electronica
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Feb 05 2018
Artist: Shuttle358
Title: Field
Format: LP
Label: 12k
Initially there’s something joyously perky about Dan Abrams’ album “Field” that the opening spoken-word sample about death doesn’t manage to diminish. Revelling in late 90’s digital sound processing, bleeping and lightweight glitches as though spearheading a revival of an era overshadowed by the amount of 80’s sound revival we’re currently seeing, it channels the old attitudes of Luke Vibert and Richard D James but takes advantage of some more modern and soft-edged production touches to create something very listenable.

But after the playfulness of tracks like “Caudex” there’s also a quality and depth on show that reveals itself as we get a few tracks in. The symphonic multi-stage moodiness of “Edule”, with its softly rolling pads, is particularly rich- “Sea”, following the same formula but with an added note of tension added by repetitive high-pitched notes, is also strong. On “Blue”, the soundscaping veers a little towards over-recognised synth tones but without totally breaking the illusion.

It’s a very well-realised 11-track, 38-minute album with a clearly defined identity. Even at that relatively short running time it perhaps runs out of new ideas before the end, but it’s certainly smooth and accomplished.

Langham Research Centre: Tape Works Vol. 1

 Posted by Stuart Bruce (@)   Electronics / EBM / Electronica
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Feb 04 2018
Artist: Langham Research Centre
Title: Tape Works Vol. 1
Format: LP
Label: Nonclassical
Four-piece Langham Research Centre’s “Tape Works vol. 1” is an unashamed revelling in the classic sounds of 60’s and 70’s electronic experimental music. Analogue oscillating bleeps, tape stops, short detached vocal snippets and groans, classic everyday found sounds like creaking doors and old-fashioned telephone noises run through vari-speed effects and playful percussive sounds abound across 11 fairly quirky, but not actually out-and-out comic, audio fiddlings. They rightly credit the inspiration of Delia Derbyshire and Daphne Oram in an album that sounds like it could’ve been dusted down from a BBC vault unopened since 1971, instead of being a recent set of composition. Many of the tracks even have that soft cassette hiss underpinning them for extra authenticity.

A track title like “LOL” seems anachronistic then, on perhaps the weirdest piece were monkey laughter is looped and layered into something very tripped out. “Sink Speeds” and “Executive Balls” stand out as notably different sonically due to the much heavier use of old documentary narration and car adverts with rough cutting which results in something much more akin to the raw collation of 80’s Negativland releases.

Several of the tracks are much more conventional in their layout though, with “Roadside Picnic”, despite its title, an example of an interesting take on putting spontaneous metal and percussive noises through a mangler to create something dynamic and awkward that you just can’t help but want to follow. The prosaically-named creaky sound of “Doors”, wobble-heavy “Nudge” and longest piece “Quaser Melodics” delve into deeper, sparser territory, with some of the atmospheres allowed to breathe a little further and more consistently.

There’s a definite sense that it was fun to take it seriously when evolving this release. But for the haircuts even the artwork wants in on the retro feel that’s very well realised here. If you’ve played your old Radiophonic Workshop LP’s to death then here’s a sound-alike you’ll definitely appreciate.

Yoshinori Hayashi: Uncountable Set

 Posted by Stuart Bruce (@)   Electronics / EBM / Electronica
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Feb 01 2018
Artist: Yoshinori Hayashi
Title: Uncountable Set
Format: Download Only (MP3 + Lossless)
Label: Disco Halal
Yoshinori Hayashi’s four-track EP is a collection of tracks from the more wigged-out side of trip-hop and casual walking-pace electronica. Over some lovely and complex yet quite organic-feeling drumming and steady basslines, a procession of unexpected layers roll out and combine to create something with a really quite distinctive flavour that seems intent on wanting you to nod your head comfortably yet feel slightly confused at the same time.

Opening track “Palanquin Bearing Monkey” centres around some drunken, tape-warped piano forming the weirdest jazz groove you’ve heard all week, joined by strangely infectious clapping. The real low string sounds on “Stepping On Dewdrops” are a lovely touch, the improvised and super-quirky vocal evocations perhaps just a touch too knowingly weird.

“Pneuma” is a stand-out track that commands attention. The use of gradually building and seemingly arhythmic choral sounds over a steady and seriously funky bassline is one of those inspired arrangements that ought not to work, yet does. Final track “Chember” is the darkest and most experimental offering, again focussing on vocal ahhhs and wails but this time with a deeper and harder-to-follow rhythm that seems to want to run away from the listener.

An early contender for one of 2018’s most standout weird-and-wonderful, sort-of-electronica offerings.

Mother Of Mars: Seed 2 Sky (Remixes)

 Posted by Stuart Bruce (@)   Electronics / EBM / Electronica
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Jan 31 2018
Artist: Mother Of Mars
Title: Seed 2 Sky (Remixes)
Format: Download Only (MP3 + Lossless)
Label: Ransom Note Records
I reviewed Vito & Druzzi’s original “Seed 2 Sky” back in November, then coupled with an A-side “Hera In The Valley”, calling it “exemplary electronica”. Now, Ransom Note Records have followed it up with six remixes to pull the synthy, subtly progressive house with tribal percussion pattern sounds of the original into half a dozen different directions.

The outstanding version here is from C.A.R., who’s used the instrumentation of the original as the basis for writing a brand new song that sounds completely coherent and like it ought to have been the original version all along. A slow, slightly proggy vocal over the steady, faintly Kraftwerk-y original groove with added more dramatic percussion as the song demands, it’s on the edgier side of dream-pop and works exceptionally well- hopefully an indicator that the two parties should collaborate more in future.

Justin Robertson uses his Deadstock 33’s alias and takes the track on a twelve-minute journey of slowly knob-twiddled staccato acid bassline with delay-washed higher elements, slowly layering up more and more percussive patterns and introducing the melodic elements one-by-one to raise the energy level with expert care. By comparison Ess O Ess’s is a very mellow and straightforward house take with rich pads and feel-good synth washes, holding back a slightly more driving bassline until over three minutes in to good effect, but overall somewhat more modest.

Graintable’s remix is a stripped-back breakdown, focussing solely on the synths and pads and completely percussion-free. The liberal use of a tape warp effect is strangely disconcerting and, for me personally, spoils what would otherwise be a very smooth and simple wave of calming synth noise.

Leaf’s remix is another ten-minute adventure, this time with a slightly more indie-electronica vibe reminiscent of DFA. Again it’s heavy in washes and slow builds, but is perhaps the remix that doesn’t sustain its running time quite as well as the others. Finally Malestripper’s version adopts a similar vibe but with a thinner and more electro rhythm and some dramatic, faintly novelty synthwave tom hits and a slightly weirder structure that’s less interested in evolving normally.

It’s a great packages of remixes, and one of those with enough variety and quality in it that it becomes a worthy 51-minute deep house listening album in its own right, which is rare.

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