Music Reviews

Wolf & 111X: Final Star

 Posted by Stuart Bruce (@)   Electronics / EBM / Electronica
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Apr 03 2017
Artist: Wolf & 111X
Title: Final Star
Format: Download Only (MP3 + Lossless)
Label: Infinite Machine
Wolf’s second release on his own Infinite Machine label is a thumper, consisting of two original tracks and two remixes.

The title track is generated by taking the ingredients commonly used in cinema trailers for sci-fi and action movies- gut punching brassy bass notes and super-thick single kick drums at the bottom, alien-sounding tension strings and sharp effects at the top- and reworking them into a post-dubstep thumper. The ‘Zimmer horn’ is used liberally and despite the relatively slow pace, it’s a relentless exercise in non-subtlety.

Second track “Wounded Alien” has the same sonic core but is a little more cleverly structured, with a hint of large-scale industry and a sense of heightening tension. While the opening track takes soundtrack soundscapes to extremes, the second track could potentially have been an actual soundtrack- with a little more ebb and flow this could have been the score for a superhero fighting robots in a giant warehouse- that’s the universe we’re in with this.

Astrosuka’s remix of “Wounded Alien” takes the track into deep space, thinning out and glitching up the percussive elements and bringing the softer plaintive top synth lines forward, with W3C’s elongated take on the same track gives things a more methodical feel, with a heartbeat-like kick drum and very slowly building, tribal-meets-industrial drumming.

It’s a thick sci-fi-meets-slow-techno package that will appeal to people who love cinema trailers for the sheer thrill of the subbass and who aren’t too fussed what the film is actually about.

Assemblage 23: Endure

 Posted by Vito Camarretta (@)   Electronics / EBM / Electronica
Synth Pop / Electro Pop / Synth-Electronica
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Mar 25 2017
Artist: Assemblage 23
Title: Endure
Format: 2 x CD (double CD)
Label: Metropolis (@)
Rated: *****
The guessed cover artwork for the return (more than four years after the previous album "Bruise") could bee matched to one of those surprising discoveries of frozen ancestors of homo sapiens in the cave of some forgotten mountain. Well, imagine this situation projected in the future: maybe some snooty anthropologist could find the well-preserved corpse of Thom Shear, the lad behind Assemblage 23, together with mysterious objects like a floppy disk, a Korg MS-20 or a Roland SH-101 in the coffin, to classify it in some undefined area of the evolutionary ladder. I wonder how they would label it... maybe futurepopithecus? Most of the ten tracks orbit around that amalgamation of EBM-synth lines, a dense wave imprint and that touch of Balearic house, a somehow baffling mixture of recipes that it's a little bit like an imaginary meal (I would never be so brave) where you eat the raw ovary of a female peacock to show some disputable gastronomical courage and find a strawberry-flavoured chewing gum inside. All kidding aside, despite the retrofuturistic aftertaste and the above-mentioned baffling stylistic choices, there are many easy "danceable" and enjoyable tracks if you miss that kind of EBM, wisely deranged to future-pop sonorities: thumbs up - particularly for the editing - for tracks like "Barren", "Call The Dawn", "Bravery" and "Salt The Earth" as well as for some remixes included on the bonus CD, if you opt for the deluxe edition (particularly the one of "Bravery" by Solitary Experiments and the one of "Salt The Earth" by Angeltheory. Besides any distinctions and stylistic consideration, I think that the way your ear got trained in the 90ies or just your likings will let you think A23's enduring sonorities deserve to get thawed at room temperature or put it back in a place for protective hibernation.

Ludodowwn: Mirror / Bleach

 Posted by Stuart Bruce (@)   Electronics / EBM / Electronica
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Mar 24 2017
Artist: Ludodowwn
Title: Mirror / Bleach
Format: Download Only (MP3 + Lossless)
Label: Ludodowwn
Ludodowwn’s debut EP is not as “grimy” or “twisted” as its accompanying press release and branding would suggest. Branding as “dystopian mesh of Radiohead and Animal Collective”, I’d agree with the latter but not the former.

“Spit & Lead” is the opener, that sets a very bright uptempo tone that isn’t maintained throughout the release. Ludodowwn’s native Australia has a strong track record of electronica-pop (and for the record I’m thinking more SonicAnimation and Infusion than Minogue there) and the opening track suggests the release will be along those lines, with an uncredited female co-vocalist and a well-rounded synthpoppy arrangement. Things get darker and slower later on, but it’s a nice place to start.

“Two One” brings a faintly tribal synthdrum programming to the fore. The vocal is low in the mix and hard to discern but is vaguely Joy Division-ish, seeming almost drunk in parts. Highpitched synth bleeps and FX busy themselves at the top end while the bass notes evolve very slowly.

Title track “Mirror / Bleach” is a track of very distinct halves. Three minutes of moody melodic drone, metallic chord washes and distant voices abruptly jump at the three-minute mark into a short-lived groove (the “Bleach” part?) that seems to have been borrowed from a chillout lounge album and which can quite justifiably and shamelessly be described as ‘funky’. It’s a massive gearshift and it mostly works, but despite being the title track, in the context of the EP the “Bleach” bit, if that’s what it is, is a major anachronism.

“Heads Within Heads” has that glitchy 75bpm rhythm with spurts of rapid-fire hihat fire as though the drum programming is itching to break into drum’n’bass but isn’t allowed. The languid and indiscernible vocal lacks the energy of the underlying music that expertly shifts and adjusts its tone, heading at parts back into the vicinity of synthpop territory.

Things slow down as they wind up, with penultimate track “Polar” a ballad-slow, super-light drum rhythm over which lullaby-like loops repeat. A sharp-edged bass cuts in halfway through and the vocal gets less soporific and more pained, but both settle down again towards the end.

Closer “Escapism” is also quite lethargic, pitch-shifting synths over a slow-stepping beat that again is 70bpm but sounds like it wants to be 140. Again the offkilter approach to vocal tempo gives things a strangely inebriated or carefree tone, which forms interesting parallels with the sombre and sad tones being created.

Overall this is a succinct and natty EP, with a lot of ideas and production values that are very high for a debut. It’s insular but polished downtempo electronica from someone who’s clearly one to look out for in future.

I, Poor Romantic: Cool oh no cool

 Posted by Stuart Bruce (@)   Electronics / EBM / Electronica
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Mar 21 2017
Artist: I, Poor Romantic
Title: Cool oh no cool
Format: Download Only (MP3 + Lossless)
Label: Basserk Records (@)
Dutch duo I, Poor Romantic’s debut release is a pair of rolling-and-stepping moody broken-beat synth tracks, with steady slightly glitched rhythms underpinning deep rubbery basslines and atmospheres. Languid and smooth vocals from Marjolein have that casual “don’t try too hard” half-spoken vibe that’s very popular at the moment, with the long spoken word sections of second track “We Have This Recording” bordering on beat poetry.

These are slightly DJ-unfriendly tracks that fade in and out, thickly arranged and mastered to make them strong walls of emotional synth sound. As home listening tracks, there’s perhaps a slight lack of variation that doesn’t sustain an average of six minutes per track. However if these tracks are an indicator of an album to come, if the album is carefully refined then it could potentially be spectacular.

Wealth: Primer

 Posted by Stuart Bruce (@)   Electronics / EBM / Electronica
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Mar 02 2017
Artist: Wealth
Title: Primer
Format: 12" vinyl + Download
Label: Ventil Records
“Primer” is a short collection of dark, twisted post-techno soundscaping. Muffled and broken rhythms underpin dark synthetic drones and cathedral-esque tones, with subtly de-tuned, thoroughly modern, stark digital synths squealing and procrastinating over the top. It’s a somewhat familiar sonic set-up, but done with measure and restraint and a good sense of space.

Tracks like “Floor”, with its simple 4-note bass pattern and live-tinged percussion, and closer “Lethe” with its slow and clean melancholy chords, are deceptively simple, with delicate arrangements that skirt around minimalism without ever really being it, an impressive tightrope-walking production act.

Longest track “Plate LXXVI (Diagram For Lilies)” is the most progressive self-contained piece, initially ‘the ballad’ of sorts, soporific electric piano loops gradually making way for a light industrial rhythm.

On the brief “Queen Of The Night”, guest santur player Stefan Fraunberger brings both organic and ethnic flavours and widens the scope of Wealth’s sound, an avenue I’d hope they’d continue to explore on future releases. The more playful stepping of “Snares” is also a highlight.

Wealth’s moody, insular un-techno is a relatively well-tried recipe now, but “Primer” has enough quality in its production to make Wealth one to watch in the future.

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