Music Reviews

Mana: Creature

 Posted by Stuart Bruce (@)   Electronics / EBM / Electronica
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Oct 07 2017
Artist: Mana
Title: Creature
Format: 12"
Label: Hyperdub
Despite being described as an EP, “Creature” is an 8-track release, and Mana’s first release on Hyperdub is a quirky little bundle of atmospheric electronica with grand ambitions. Sharp-edged synth melodies jump and pitchshift over synthetic choral pads and sparse, crisp broken beats. Sporadic, subbass-laden kicks have hints of dubstep, but opened up into a more cinematic environment. Glitchier moments keep things on edge here and there.

Tracks like “Sei Nove” have a touch of the retro synthwave about them, and “Runningman” has a hint of old skool rave in its stabs. Longest piece “Rabbia” is a darker and more ambient journey through church-organ-esque tones juxtaposed against raw electronic pitched waves. Closing sketch “Consolations” gives the plucked synth tones a more Eastern quality. It all makes for a good collection of tunes that’s got consistent threads, yet variety.

Full of character but perhaps lacking a unique selling point, this is an interesting way for Mana to open up his Hyperdub account.

Shit And Shine: Some People Really Know How To Live

 Posted by Stuart Bruce (@)   Electronics / EBM / Electronica
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Oct 06 2017
Artist: Shit And Shine
Title: Some People Really Know How To Live
Format: 12" vinyl + Download
Label: Editions Mego
The Texas-based Shit and Shine offer up ten succinct slices of messed-up twisty beats with a crisp lo-fi tone, and plenty of glitches and speed ramps mixing up proceedings over some steady grooves that are cousins to something very dancefloor-friendly. Short but broadly techno-structured tracks are the biscuit base for a bunch of experimental tweaks but a playful tone.

“Dish 2 Dish” at times sounds like Josh Wink on helium. “Lil’ Wannabe Gangsta” slows things down with one of those hip-hop samples that glitch artists love to tweak. “South Padre Low Life” sounds akin to an 8-bit racing game chiptune soundtrack where the samples have been corrupted, in a good way. “Raining Horses” turns the sound of a man in pain into a percussive crash.

Yet despite all of this, it’s not quite as thoroughly silly as the title and artwork might have you believe. There are more straight-laced tunes as well, such as “Girl Close Your Eyes” with a bassline that invokes memories of Soul Mekanik. “Notified” is a serious heavy-stepper with a lovely bouncy wubb wubb wubb to it.

It’s a diddy little package of glitchy instrumental house, with a cover that looks like CBBC’s Hacker T Dog character has gone rogue. It was clearly a bunch of fun to put together and there’s plenty of energy in it. It’s perhaps short of a stand-out moment or two that would make this shit really shine, but if you like your house music super-quirky and laden with glitch, check this one out.

Antwood: Sponsored Content

 Posted by Stuart Bruce (@)   Electronics / EBM / Electronica
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Oct 05 2017
Artist: Antwood
Title: Sponsored Content
Format: CD & Vinyl
Label: Planet Mu
Canadian Antwood (not to be confused with Die Antwoord- or is that just me?)‘s second album is a 12-track, 42-minute collection of mostly instrumental ‘cyborg pop’ combining the energy and tight production of EDM and drum and bass with a cinematic and thoughtful aesthetic, and liberal doses of synthwave-style chords and thin melodies. Throughout there’s some bold and bizarre sample choices, built around the album’s concept of subliminal advertising explained in the interlude track “Sublingual”, that fill the whole release with character, a dash of politics and just a hint of tongue-in-cheek humour.

Opener “Disable Ad Blocker” is an epic opening that sets the tone boldly and it’s only one final crescendo and boom short of being the perfect four-minute album starter; “ICU” pulls a similar trick to open the second half. “The New Industry” is an odd dubstep versus hardcore hybrid of rapid gunfire-beats underpinned by a strangely tempered beat, with odd processed crying noises joining in halfway through to make things just a little weirder than they already are.

Things calm down substantially for tracks like “FIJI Water” and “Wait For Yengi”, which still have a rapid underlying data pulse rumbling inside them but which are dominated by purer, warmer chords and sparser moments. “The Hyper Individual” plays with the shock value of sharply interrupting these calmer times with gut-punching kicks.

“I’m Lovin’ I.T.” is an exercise in stop-start and double-speed rhythms with some quite chiptune-y flavours, while “Commodity Fetish Mode” and interlude “Derealization” are more laidback soporific bits of post-dubstep that give the second side of the LP a more sombre average than the first.

“Don’t Go” is a slightly daft self-contained mini-drama that starts with a monologue about teaching future generations to program computers and ends with an evil robot that decides it will wipe out humanity, before final track “Human” throws the kitchen sink into the production values with a frantic, multi-styled and quite enjoyably jazzy but of sharp glitch.

This is a fantastically polished, top-notch bit of cutting-edge electronica with barely an ounce of fat on it- sharp, focussed, dynamic, and sometimes hard to follow. It’s as striking and odd as the artwork suggests and it’s yet another hard-to-fault release from Planet Mu.

STCLVR: Predator

 Posted by Marc Benner (@)   Electronics / EBM / Electronica
Industrial Noise / Power Noise / Harsh Noise
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Aug 24 2017
Artist: STCLVR
Title: Predator
Format: Tape
Label: Chthonic Streams (@)
Rated: *****
This album reminded me of late 90's / early 2000's dark electro bands mixed with some of today's abrasive power electronics projects. The vocals are gritty and the beats are dirty but catchy.

Less polished than a lot of the dark electro bands and I don't mean that as a put-down, it adds something to the tracks and makes them darker than what usually comes out of that genre.

This is a short but sweet release and as always with the Chthonic Streams releases, this one has some beautiful graphic design and packaging.

Dreams Divide: 5 Years

 Posted by Marc Tater (@)   Electronics / EBM / Electronica
Synth Pop / Electro Pop / Synth-Electronica
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Aug 22 2017
Artist: Dreams Divide (@)
Title: 5 Years
Format: Download Only (MP3 only)
Label: Analogue Trash (@)
Distributor: Bandcamp
Rated: *****
This is a compilation release of the British Synth-/Futurepop-duo Dreams Divide, which compiles both previously released albums "Puppet Love" and their rare 2014 album "Tears from the Night Sky". It also marks the beginning of a new chapter in the band history of David Crout and Gemsy Davison, because they're now one of the new kids of the block of the hard-working Manchester-based label Analogue Trash.
Their upcoming new studio album is already in the pipeline for a release in autumn. Asides from re-releasing the bands' earlier discography it is also a clever promotional stunt to give these recordings free to the listeners with a "name-your-price" initiative via Bandcamp. Since both previous albums have been released in quite limited editions by now defunct labels like Glory & Honour and Juggernaut Records, this collection should be an ideal introduction as well as a teaser of their new recordings.
This duo unites musically an energetic mixture of Synthpop-like sensibilities with the drive and dancefloor-compatibility of up-to-date sounding Futurepop results. The tracks itself provide for the most part a high dancefloor-compatibility and should the ideal soundtrack to support their engaging live performances. As for personal favorites I tend to name with the catchier tunes like “Due”, “Wise”, “Tears Form the Night Sky” or “Heaven Comes to Get You”. Nice first overview especially for listeners who haven’t seen and heard of this duo before.

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