Music Reviews

Asfast: Peace In Drifts

 Posted by Stuart Bruce (@)   Electronics / EBM / Electronica
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May 02 2017
Artist: Asfast
Title: Peace In Drifts
Format: 12" vinyl + Download
Label: Ventil Records (@)
Much of Leon Leder aka Asfast’s album “Peace In Drifts” sounds like moody dubstep with the main bassline and the kick removed, leaving just the looping dark atmospherics and glitches. This is dark unsettling electronica, with wailing synths, sub-bass thumps and crisp, edgy, slightly languid percussion. Sample the track “Draft” for a fairly clear idea of the agenda here.

The press release compares each of the mostly short pieces to haikus, but this is overstating things; firstly they’re not all that short, 39 minutes across 11 tracks makes them more like radio edits than miniatures, and secondly there’s a bit of a lack of the whole poetic structure and twist that the best haikus have mastered. Many of them are single ideas, single scenes or moods, evolving slightly through switching layers on and off. Only a handful of pieces, such as “Bump Cut” and “Poser”, have a real sense of dramatic change.

The slight swagger of “Drift” starts off surprisingly close to a grime instrumental without the bass- it may be missing the gut-punching but it still has that cockiness and loopy lyricism, before edgy sawtoothed synth sounds fade in to fill the space. “More” with its regular percussive crunch sounds like an intro to a heavy EDM album that doesn’t arrive. Conversely, tracks like “Well” have a more complexion, with ambient, glass-like tones. Final track “Peacepie” is abruptly glitched-up ambient tone that wouldn’t sound out of place on the Leaf or Planet Mu labels.

It’s a very polished collection of tracks, but the succinctness that is extolled as a virtue in the promotional material may actually be a hindrance, curtailing pieces and preventing them from evolving into something with a sustained mesmerising effect.

Mr. Mitch: Devout

 Posted by Stuart Bruce (@)   Electronics / EBM / Electronica
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Apr 20 2017
Artist: Mr. Mitch
Title: Devout
Format: CD & Vinyl
Label: Planet Mu Records
Firmly at home on Planet Mu, “Devout” is a polished bit of electronica, bordering on dream-pop but with a sometimes grimy side. Rap tracks like “Priority”, which starts out sounding like any other vanity rap but develops into something much more introspective. In fact the whole release is tinged with a melancholy reflection and a deep honesty about relationships and parenthood. While it’s not a concept album, there’s a strong theme of devotion and longevity.

“Fate” is a lush ballad with lovely Denai Moore vocals, arguably lacking the strong hook that would make it truly powerful. The flanged Asian-sounding synth sounds of “My Life” (featuring Miles Mitchell’s own voice) are a quirky highlight, as is the faintly moombahton-grooved ballad “Our Love”. The instrumentals are strong too, with a playful levity in pieces like “Black Tides” robotic whirr patterns (and a bassline that sounds like it’s about to turn into Fleetwood Mac). “Honor Oak” treads a fine line close to sounding a little silly, like a kind of electro-lullaby, as though some of these tracks are as much for the child as for the parent.

“Devout” is a succinct and deeply heartfelt emotional bit of electronica with an unquestionable sincerity. At times it is a little lethargic, but if you’re looking for romantic and vulnerable electronica that really works, you’ll find it here.

Second Woman: S/W

 Posted by Stuart Bruce (@)   Electronics / EBM / Electronica
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Apr 19 2017
Artist: Second Woman
Title: S/W
Format: 12" vinyl + Download
Label: Spectrum Spools
Josh Eustis of Telefon Tel Aviv and Turk Dietrich of Belong describe this, their second album, as “future music”. It’s supremely digital and synthetic- playful adjustments of oscillations and time signatures with an aesthetic wholly removed from any organic roots, as emphasised by the fact that all the track titles are simply combinations of forward-slashes and backslashes and nothing else.

It’s very simple and sparse for the most part- rolling, glitching, light and almost bubbling digital retriggers with a delicate touch forming their own rhythm in a mostly bass-and-kick-free environment. The net result is also a release that’s somewhat cold and a little bit alienating, an exercise in complex programming- I presume S/W stands for SoftWare as well as Second Woman and probably other things too.

It’s only on the second track that bold, vaguely Leftfield-esque large and echoing synth chords arrive, followed by hollow and distant chords. Each track feels like a natural evolution of the last- by the fourth track, relatively more conventional drum programming has arrived, and so on. The ‘lightweight Leftfield’ vibe is particularly in evidence on track 6, “////\\”. Slightly more familiar electro-glitch structures form the basis of the eighth track, before the ninth and final track wraps things up nicely, an epilogue paralleling the opening prologue.

It’s rare to find an electronic album that works so well as individual slices, yet is so coherent for listening to in one go.

Reliq: Life Prismic

 Posted by Stuart Bruce (@)   Electronics / EBM / Electronica
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Apr 18 2017
Artist: Reliq
Title: Life Prismic
Format: CD + Download
Label: Noble (@)
Reliq’s third album is a bright and energetic collection of zippy, pop-glitch instrumentals with a diverse range of rhythms and samples. Skipping joyfully between Latin and European rhythms, between regular and complex times, chucking in single female vocal ahhhh lines, ethnic samples, a handful of synthwave stabs and every kind of percussion you can think of, it’s brimming with energy and a party feeling- albeit one of the more unusual parties you might ever have been invited to.

The frantic pace of tracks like “Ceramic Samba” is relentless to the point of almost being fatiguing. “Morocco Drive” starts off disguised as a ballad before the drum’n’bass rhythm kicks in. Every track is over five minutes long. Thankfully many of them have enough internal adjustment and surprise up their sleeves to keep them interesting- several, such as “Laputan”, have complete tempo changes, while “Vast Air” is an impressive feat of juggling multiple tempos simultaneously without ever sounding out-of-time.

It’s not a fashionable comparison, at all, but pieces like the extremely radio-friendly “Rain No More” with its sampled ethnic chants and downright funky bassline sound to me like what the first Deep Forest albums would sound like if they’d been produced today and released on a label like Planet Mu. In a good way, absolutely. That and the slightly folksy “Angel Costs” are the most accessible tracks, and good entry points.

The musical prowess behind this blending and sampling shouldn’t be understated, as it’s clearly audible on tracks like “Antic Stepper” and the multifaceted “Voynich Soundscript”. This playful confidence exudes through tracks like “Miyako”.

“Life Prismic” sounds like what you’d get if somebody sampled every release that had been reviewed on ChainDLK in the last year, pitched it all up an octave, threw it all into a pot and tried to make a Matthew Herbert-style pop album out of it. It shouldn’t work, but it definitely does.
Apr 04 2017
Artist: Aidan Casserly & Friends
Title: Spoken
Format: Download Only (MP3 + Lossless)
Label: House Of Analogue
Rated: *****
The new album by Aidan Casserly, who among the other hundred of things he does reformed his first band Empire State Human, is a particular and touchy one. "Spoken" has been released as Aidan Casserly & Friends as the fifteen tracks are spoken word performances with background music played by Aidan. For a little bit more than half hour this album will capture your attention totally. Each track has a different guest that give his voice and his interpretation to the lyrics reading them with transport and passion. Most of the tracks are piano driven ones but we have also some with a "creepy" atmosphere like the opening "Amaze Me" (with ambient synth lines), "Incubus II" (it sounds like an horror soundtrack with kettledrums, piano, synth lines and it's read by Attrition's Martin Bowes) or "We Are The Light" (this is probably the most experimental of the lot, thanks to a minimal approach to guitar distorted sounds and filtered vocals). You can check the whole album at the House Of Analogue soundcloud page at, it's worth it!

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