Music Reviews



Okzharp and Manthe Ribane: Tell Your Vision

 Posted by Stuart Bruce (@)   Electronics / EBM / Electronica
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Oct 17 2016
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Artist: Okzharp and Manthe Ribane
Title: Tell Your Vision
Format: 12"
Label: Hyperdub
A strong, confident blend of South African dancehall, sparse post-dubstep rhythms, and deeply sincere modern ballad-pop, every track on this four-track EP has an emptiness and simplicity to it that’s striking. What makes this more than just another misery-fest-to-a-dubstep-beat is that there’s a positive, genuinely optimistic energy in it- an enthusiasm that really counterpoints the hollow production. Some of the lyrics are sweet, to the point of saccharine-sweet.

There are so few elements clearly at play that it feels as though it could have been recorded to the deliberate limitations of old 4-track tape- no superfluous elements, not that many overdubs, just a strong and well thought-out collection of percussion, bass and vocals. It’s very disciplined.

“Tell Your Vision” is lacking the killer hooks and diva vocals that would really make it an attention-grabbing and poppy release, but nevertheless it’s a distinctive and understated EP.

Kuedo: Slow Knife

 Posted by Stuart Bruce (@)   Electronics / EBM / Electronica
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Oct 05 2016
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Artist: Kuedo
Title: Slow Knife
Format: CD & Vinyl
Label: Planet Mu
“Slow Knife” is a deeply expert blend of super-mellow filmic house music, a smattering of darker Burial-esque trap and dubstep flavours, and full-on ambience and melodic drones. Kuedo are a perfect fit for the Planet Mu label and this album lives up to the quality standard the label maintains.

The title track has an epic electronic ambience and simple melody to it very reminiscent of Jean-Michel Jarre. “Floating Forest” is not unreminiscent of Deep Forest tracks, and I mean that as a compliment.

The whole work could easily be the soundtrack to a rather melancholic film, particularly in pieces like “Approaching”, extremely evocative of wide plains and loneliness, and “Broken Fox” with its sense of a distant threat. The second half is deliberately broader and darker than the first, stepping firmly into science fiction territories before the final two tracks ground us again with more organic, Earth-like noises.

At forty-six minutes long, this is one of those albums where the only fault you can level at it is that it’s too short.

Oval: Popp

 Posted by Stuart Bruce (@)   Electronics / EBM / Electronica
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Oct 04 2016
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Artist: Oval
Title: Popp
Format: Download Only (MP3 + Lossless)
Label: Uovooo
Distributor: Anost
This is a stupendously busy album, not a second goes by without a stutter, a glitch or a keyframe. The initial volley of “ai” (all the tracks have two-letter names) threatens a relentless assault bordering on Venetian Snares territory, but things settle down fairly quickly, and by the time you reach “ku”, your heartbeat has adapted to running at 60bpm, 120bpm and 240bpm all at the same time and the atmosphere, vibes and mood of the arrangements start to shine through.

“Sa” is the ingredients of a moody, Delerium-esque ballad diced through a musical blender and then tastefully arranged in a nouveau cuisine arrangement. It’s successor “Lo” takes on a more aggressive, driving rhythm and defies you to call this a chill-out glitch album. “My” manages to sound very fresh yet feel like a tribute to Todd Edwards’ remixes at the same time.

Ultimately though, these eleven tracks are very consistent- too consistent. The same patterns, the same tempos, the same ingredients crop up on every track, only the quantities seem to change, and despite only being 43 minutes long in total, you do get left with a slight feeling that the original ideas have been stretched too thinly across this work.

Oh and I can’t stand the cover, which is a hammer in a plastic bag- I assumed it was a razor but had to be corrected- except that from a distance it looks much more like a used condom in a plastic bag. It isn’t. The artwork’s both ugly and a very poor fit for the music.

Krakaur: Krakaur

 Posted by Stuart Bruce (@)   Electronics / EBM / Electronica
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Sep 26 2016
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Artist: Krakaur
Title: Krakaur
Format: Tape
Label: Youngbloods
This is a smooth and confident work, docked in the safe and familiar harbour of moody post-dubstep IDM. Slow, light chords and reverberance are underpinned by ebbing and flowing rhythms that wander both in and out and from minimalism to glitch.

At 32 minutes for the entire work, with some tracks broken into parts and several tracks clocking in under two minutes, there’s a slight sense that this is a collection of incomplete or under-realised sketches and experiments rather than a fully completed album listening experience. I would’ve welcomed a longer journey.

“Neighbor”, featuring rap from ENxVE, is a highlight. The interplay of rhythms works well, with a relatively conventional rhyme form playing in parallel with carefully and unexpectedly placed beats. “Acre II”, with the pained, faintly Robert Fripp-like guitar work on top, is another stand-out, and “Soul II”’s subbass needs to be appreciated on very large speakers or tight headphones.

As well as limited edition cassette, the album will also be available as a pay-what-you-want digital download.

T.e.s.o.: over a neutral landscape

 Posted by Ibrahim Khider (@)   Electronics / EBM / Electronica
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Jul 25 2016
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Artist: T.e.s.o. (@)
Title: over a neutral landscape
Format: CDS (CD Single)
Label: self-released
At once evocative of mid-to-late 90’s era Autechre with nods to Alec Empire and Apex Twin among other artists such as Arovane and Phonem, but countered with more ambient-abstract textural palettes for a dynamic listen. T. E. S. O. are a Milan-Italy based duo Matteo and Jacopo who mostly self-release digital files, cassette tapes, and CD-R’s of their abstract electro-acoustic atmospheric excursions, melded with construction-site-grade beats. However, they also have releases on Fat Cat, who put out music by exemplary artists. Over A Neutral Landscape tends to alternate between darker ambient atmospheric and frenetic IDM from track to track, but when the two styles blend, the result is marvelous. Case in point is the opening track, ‘Jaz’ which is akin to a robot or machine going into system malfunction and circuit overload whereas “Parte Prima” is an eerie bit with creepy audio samples, perhaps culled from a horror film with intermittent aortic beats. However, “Matin” is a standout track and easily my favorite; a melodic piece with intricate beats haunted with the ghosts of Burial-style dubstep and lovely keyboard hooks. That one goes for inspires repeated listens. In the following ‘Catalogue’, we are taken into subterranean passages through winding, dusty tunnels and sustained horror movie soundtrack tension. Still further yet the following “Pgm-Tik...” and “Akrp...” we are in pure abstract malfunctioning IDM beat territory with frenetic robots and unmaintained machines. Occasionally there are moments of melodic overtone as in the following track “Lezione su nastro”, but around this time we are more into Confield-era Autechre. The final track ‘K’, starts off ambient but over the course of nearly the next twenty minutes, gets noisier and gradually dissolves into madness. Over a Neutral Landscape is a CD-R release with handmade packaging, but that in no way diminishes the album, which is excellent. I look forward to listening to more fine material by T.E.S.O. who are clearly a talented duo bringing new things to the IDM genre.


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