Music Reviews

Ekoplekz: Bioprodukt

 Posted by Stuart Bruce (@)   Electronics / EBM / Electronica
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Jun 16 2017
Artist: Ekoplekz
Title: Bioprodukt
Format: 2 x 12" vinyl
Label: Planet Mu Records
Bristol-based Ekoplekz (Nick Edwards) is certainly prolific, with more than a dozen albums under that name since 2010. Perhaps the high rate of output is helped by the confident simplicity of the music, which is simple acid loops and mellow, slow techno-light grooves and bleeps, with occasional snippets of melodic pattern but no vocals.

But that’s not to say it’s half-baked, certainly not- this is disciplined and controlled pattern use to create a pack of ten standalone mesmeric moods. Many of them have at least one foot in the past, with classic 808 clap sounds and modest, analogue-ish subbasses. Sonically, “Consequences” wouldn’t sound out of place on the classic 1994 compilation album “Trance Europe Express 2” (which incidentally is high praise as that’s one of my favourite albums of all time, but that’s another story). Others like “Expedition” only expose their modern origin through slightly glitchier and crisper digital cut tones, the kind of sounds that make Planet Mu the ideal home for this release.

There is breadth here as well though, this isn’t just 10 identical pieces. “Transience” brings a slightly Eastern flavour to the percussion, while “Slipstream” and “Descent” wallow in rich dubby delays and warm lo-fi EQ. “X-Over” is a deeper stripped-back rolling subbass affair that enjoys and justifies its nine minute run.

It’s a remarkably balanced and really enjoyable chilled-out listen, perfect for people who have fond memories for the golden years of 90’s chilled out electronica.

Joanne Pollock: Stranger

 Posted by Stuart Bruce (@)   Electronics / EBM / Electronica
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Jun 15 2017
Artist: Joanne Pollock (@)
Title: Stranger
Format: CD & Vinyl
Label: Timesig
Joanne Pollock, who formerly used the name Poemss, has created a 10-track album of quirky stripped-down alt-pop that sets airy, thoughtful, fairly traditional verse-chorus vocals over a landscape of complex percussion patterns and refined atmospheres. There’s a little of many things in here- it’s slightly Matthew Herbert, slightly London Grammar, slightly Moloko. Vocally it’s slightly Sarah McLachlan, slightly Zoë Johnston, slightly Bjork in the very high register jumps.

Unfortunately it lacks the crossover hit tune that would get mainstream attention, preferring an above-average helping of ballads. “Myself Apart” is perhaps the most accessible piece and would make a good entry point. Tracks like “Melt Myself” and opener “Carnival” wallow a little and feel almost lazy. Even tracks like “You Know I Would Do Anything”, with its more uptempo quickstepping energy, is topped by a languid vocal performance.

It’s surprisingly mellow output from Venetian Snares’ Timesig imprint, but the strength of character is still there and it’s definitely worth a listen- but just a hint more aggression or overt energy might have made the whole work really stand out.

Phonophani: Animal Imagination

 Posted by Stuart Bruce (@)   Electronics / EBM / Electronica
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Jun 09 2017
Artist: Phonophani
Title: Animal Imagination
Format: 2 x 12" vinyl
Label: Hubro Music
“Animal Imagination” is a rough-hewn collection of thinly diced found sounds and electronic sounds blended into an alien and sometimes cacophonous melee of sincere oddness that does a major in experimental and a minor in electronica. The source palette is broad but frequently used ingredients include softened white noise and close-sounding, percussive organic noises, all muddied up with processing that gives the whole thing an unusually intimate, almost smothering feel.

The synth washes and more stable windy drones that are barely audible in opener “Life’s White Machine” get their chance to shine in “Deep Learning”, a deep alt-techno affair with utterly lovely mesmerising subbass tones and odd time signatures that feels like it might belong on a different album. Another piece that sounds faintly out of place is “A Dark, Sharp, Heartless” with its brief foray into more guitar-shoegaze territory.

The twisted yoik-like vocal of Mari Kvien Brunvoll brings an unusual flavour to “Untime Me” (and possibly uncredited to “I Have No Subconscious”?) that make all-too-brief highlights, before the extensive title track takes what sounds like bowed instruments being manhandled and glitches them into chaos with a result that makes you feel like you’re trapped inside a creaky wooden pirate ship that’s somehow ended up in the Tron universe- a feeling that briefly returns on album closer “Sirma, 1997”.

Longest track “End Of All Things III” is the exemplifier of an album that’s thickly layered, complex and at times challenging. It’s a clear labour of love with a lot of energy and a definite shine.

The Knob, The Finger & The It: Astro Camping

 Posted by Stuart Bruce (@)   Electronics / EBM / Electronica
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Jun 02 2017
Artist: The Knob, The Finger & The It
Title: Astro Camping
Format: LP
Label: Makiphon (@)
Hailing from the playful side of lo-fi electronics, the three piece The Knob, The Finger & The It (it’s unclear whether one of them is the Knob) offer up a short album of bouncy homemade grooves featuring steady percussive patterns over which electronic squeaks and oscillations bounce and glide. It’s extremely accessible, poppy stuff, especially on tracks like “Come To Ping As Ra” which has a feel-good vibe that’s a little too rare in more experimental music.

The second side is a little more sombre. The title track is surprisingly the most sincere-sounding piece, a mesmeric loop of light, xylophone-esque percussive clicks with Clangers-like electronic vocalising and slight string strums above. Longest track “When Pluto Was A Planet” is arguably the most indulgent bit, a steady smile-inducing bassline initially keeping things ticking over nicely before it descends into a chaos that’s the album’s moodiest section.

Originally conceived as an outdoor ambient project, this album is a studio production, with the exception of the last track on each side of the vinyl, which are authentic outdoor live recordings. The difference is relatively minor- the deep rumbling soundscape sounds almost as artificial as the other elements, while the other elements are stripped back to give way somewhat.

It’s a very accomplished set of tracks with a sound that manages to be both distinctive and familiar at the same time, a bubbly but not jokey set of electronics that are bordering on the timeless.

Mike Luck: Kama

 Posted by Stuart Bruce (@)   Electronics / EBM / Electronica
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Jun 01 2017
Artist: Mike Luck
Title: Kama
Format: Download Only (MP3 + Lossless)
Label: Basserk (@)
“Karma” is a strong two-track offering from Mike Luck, with large-scale symphonic production brought carefully into an EDM space. Synth chords come in waves over relatively light percussion. “Clash” sounds like the underscore for preparations to battle, with a subtle breakbeat that sounds like it’s itching to break into d&b (and which has caused Beatport to totally mis-report the BPM). “You” is more subdued, again keeping things percussively interesting and allowing bass tones to gradually stretch and distort, with interesting subtle use of vocal samples floating on the edge of audibility.

The only problem with these two tracks is that they’re both too short. At four minutes each, they’ve been bonsaied into a radio-edit structure that doesn’t really do them justice. “Clash” in particular feels like it stops before it’s done. Something this ambitious in its scale ought to be fleshed out to an album, as a 2-track release feels a little too much like a taster promo than a complete work.

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