Music Reviews

Sextile: Albeit Living

 Posted by Stuart Bruce (@)   Electronics / EBM / Electronica
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Jan 18 2018
Artist: Sextile
Title: Albeit Living
Format: CD & Vinyl
Label: Felte
Sextitle are about to embark on a European tour, with a brand of energetic attitude-laden grungy punk-meets-synthwave that would lend itself well to the live-gig-in-a-smoky-room environment. Ten fast and punchy songs, most staying under three minutes, feature Brady Keehn’s reverb-laden, mostly-shouted vocals over a lo-fi arrangement of tight drumming, more freeform guitar clanging and electronic squeaks.

“Ripped” is a highlight, with the acid squeals interjecting between the lyrics to give it an ever-shifting energy. “Situations” has a slightly more laidback swagger that brings the songwriting to the fore in a positive way.

Other tracks, like “Floored”, are a little bit less successful and end up sounding like bedroom demos from mid-80’s Depeche Mode wannabes- certainly not awful but just a little bit too raw to be truly recommendable. Weird mixing decisions on “Das Cat” bring an extra weirdness.

Every track’s a thick ball of energy and attitude and it definitely feels better suited to live performance than a studio album. So definitely try to catch them on their early 2018 tour- though since the album’s 27 minutes long, I hope you get better value from the gig.

Die Tödliche Doris: Sprechpause

 Posted by Stuart Bruce (@)   Electronics / EBM / Electronica
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Jan 13 2018
Artist: Die Tödliche Doris
Title: Sprechpause
Format: LP
Label: Fang Bomb
Digging out the source recordings for the final track of your 1982 debut album and reworking them into a new 15-minute EP for 2018 may seem a very self-indulgent thing to do. Add to that the overriding concept of ‘pause music’ and the fact the second side of the vinyl is completely blank, and it does seem quite conceited. But luckily the 15 minutes of audio has the merit to excuse that, if not justify it.

Heavily processed analogue tape recordings and found sounds are extensively reprocessed through both analogue and digital effects modules into a relatively warm, somewhat fuzzy bit of experimental electronic bathing with emphasis on low tones and fuzz.

Opening track “Sendepause” is a strangely impenetrable array of detuned radio noise and electronic bubbling. The dark sinister sci-fi rumblings of “Payment Pause” are a highlight, with the lo-fi rhythmic proto-techno of “Acht-Jahres-Pause” of definite note as well. “Schweigeminute” sounds like an unearthed bit of 1960’s BBC Radiophonic Workshop off-cut, invoking images of clunky black-and-white robots slowly approaching. Final track “Pausenmusik” is predominantly just a wall of random noise- not actual white noise, something more shaped with occasional ghosts cutting through, but essentially a noise wash to round it off.

It’s audio with a distinctly dated and lo-fi feel as far as electronic experimentation goes, but the middle tracks are certainly worth checking out if you’re in the mood for something analogue and raw on the electronics front.

Ricardo Tobar: Luturgia

 Posted by Stuart Bruce (@)   Electronics / EBM / Electronica
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Dec 14 2017
Artist: Ricardo Tobar
Title: Luturgia
Format: 12" vinyl + Download
Label: ESP Institute
“Liturgia” is an EP of four eight-minute-long, gentle and atmospheric instrumental house music taking some organic-sounding rhythms and blending with quite melancholy slow chord pads and smatterings of electronica bleeps and clicks. Both sides of the 12” pair a clubbier tune with something a little more out-there.

Opener “La Dormida” has a faintly South American percussive flavour and feels steady and determined, whereas “The Lake” is distinctly more glum, with an interesting use of sawtooth-edged, semi-patterned, slow-rising high synth line. “Liturgia” is a more regular, bass-driven steady house track, and then “Star Alliance” wigs out somewhat with a really unusual lead line that sounds like a pitched-up didgeridoo, but, erm, better.

It’s a really strong and immersive EP- or at 36-minutes perhaps I ought to describe it as a mini-album- with a quality imbued with confidence. Definitely one to check out for fans of thoughtful deep house.

Visible Cloaks: Lex

 Posted by Stuart Bruce (@)   Electronics / EBM / Electronica
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Dec 08 2017
Artist: Visible Cloaks
Title: Lex
Format: CD & Vinyl
Label: RVNG Intl.
Following on from their debut album, the Oregon-based duo Visible Cloaks offer up a 6-track mini album of soft, bright, energetic, avantgarde open-minded electronica built up from quirky glitched rhythms, soft pads and ahhhhs, Eastern-influenced percussive tones, spoken word snippets and some very squelchy synth work.

The first five tracks are all odd little sketches, cut-up and unpredictable and seemingly reveling in the defiance of expectations- just when you think you’ve got a handle on what’s happening, there’s an abrupt stop and something else arrives. Nothing’s allowed to breathe for long, which is a shame in parts as some elements, such as the Japanese Tangerine Dream-esque segments of “Keys”, could really have been explored in much more depth. “Frame” has hints of Susumu Yokota, and the title track has a subtly harder edge, it seems from that short piece that Visibles Cloaks at their most aggressive sound like Venetian Snares at his most mellow.

Final track “World”, at fourteen minutes longer than all the other tracks put together, is more coherent- a smooth, gentle bit of soundscaping with more than a slight echo of 1990’s era ambient house and what people called ‘trance’ before that label got attached to the club sound. Think Salt Talk, The Irresistible Force, FFWD, we’re firmly in that world and it’s lovely. Lush piano and harp sounds, water noises, gentle pad underscores, it’s pure loveliness. It’s not completely devoid of the skitty glitches of the first five tracks, but it’s a lot more settled. I could listen to this track extended to two hours, it’s like a familiar aural spa.

Personally I found the ambience of the final track more successful than the abrupt sketching of the first five, but as an electronica mini-album it’s certainly beautiful and attention-deserving. If they’ve done a properly ambient album, sign me up.

Justin Robertson's Deadstock 33s: Cyborg Holiday Snaps

 Posted by Stuart Bruce (@)   Electronics / EBM / Electronica
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Dec 04 2017
Artist: Justin Robertson's Deadstock 33s
Title: Cyborg Holiday Snaps
Format: 7"
Label: Paradise Palms
Under his well-established Deadstock 33’s alias, Justin Robertson offers up “Cyborg Holiday Snaps”. It’s a 4-track release, though with a full-length mix and bluntly cut 7” edit of each, in a way it’s only a 2-track release.

The title track has a driving electro bassline and rhythm with a sense of clockwork confidence, over which some slightly plinky synth notes trace regular patterns- a classic bass for your legs, treble for your arms piece of dance music that seems almost custom-made for breakdancing.

“Numerical Discord Swap” is much quirkier, decorating a steady single-note bassline with looping bleep patterns that morph into a sort of weird digital guitar solo that then reforms itself into rather a catchy, almost Jean-Michel Jarre-esque instrumental lead melody, before a real actual guitar solo of sorts. Being both more off-the-leash and more mellow than the first track works in its favour, strangely.

In a way Robertson seems to be harking back to his Gentleman Thief alias here, producing an interesting blend of house, acid and a sort of post-big-beat electro. It’s as well polished as you’d expect and a couple of lovely grooves (if I can call them that) that won’t rock your world but which just ooze entertainment.

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