Music Reviews

Franz Kirmann: Madrapour

 Posted by Stuart Bruce (@)   Electronics / EBM / Electronica
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Oct 02 2019
Artist: Franz Kirmann
Title: Madrapour
Format: Tape
Label: Bytes
After getting tied up with soundtrack work alongside his music partner Tom Hodge and other collaborators, Franz Kirmann describes himself as having had writers’ block, unsure which direction to go in for his solo works. He broke out of his computer- and soundbank-centric funk by buying himself a modular system, the Make Noise Shared System, and training himself on it whilst experimenting. “Madrapour” is the result, but rather than sounding like a man experimenting with new instruments, it comes across as confident and assured.

It’s an eleven-pack of gentle instrumental electronica with soft rhythms and a fairly cinematic vision. Acoustic-sounding percussion elements generally keep a steady sense of time, while melodic pads and drones gently roll and fall above. Tenser pulses and grumbles in tracks like “A Vision” contrast with lighter and more laidback tracks like the playful counter-rhythms of “Angled”, or the soft ambient “Battersea” (reminiscent of some of The Orb’s more recent minimal Kompakt offerings, not least because of the Battersea connection). “Rave Ikon”, whilst misleadingly titled, is a strong example of the glitchier elements at play, while “Mysted” is a more lackadaisical bit of melodic meandering.

Highlights include the nicely unfolding and oddly signatured “Salem”, which at different times sounds vaguely trip-hoppy but then strongly Tangerine Dream-esque. “Slow Snow” has gentle shades of synthwave about it. The sporadic and emotive plucked sounds in “Distant” are engagingly expressive.

Coming across as a soundtrack to a non-existent experimental film, this is an interesting series of cinematic soundscaping and noodling that isn’t imbued with a strong sense of direction, yet is pleasantly consistent. Brooding electronica for the win.

VV.AA.: Filigran X

 Posted by Stuart Bruce (@)   Electronics / EBM / Electronica
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Sep 30 2019
Artist: VV.AA.
Title: Filigran X
Format: Download Only (MP3 + Lossless)
Label: Filigran
“X” is a compilation to mark Filigran’s tenth anniversary as a label, offering up twelve new tracks from the label’s artist roster and reasonably well representing the label’s fairly open-minded approach to mostly-instrumental electronica, house, and the lighter side of techno and music for dancing.

4/4 beats are the order of the day, naturally. Diaspora Unit’s groove “Apollo” epitomises the steady groove, a bouncy electro bass running cheerily under bleepy arpeggios in an assured and feel-good manner. Highlights include the bright, filtered deep house of “Composure” from Lionne, which feels reliable and just the right amount of 90’s retro flavour, mainly thanks to the catchy “I wrote to you a Dear John letter” vocal sample that feels like it might get heard on dancefloors a fair bit.

Sonic diversity comes in the form of more curious tracks like “Acid Lee Hooker” from Mara, a truly atmospheric bit of cinematic Americana revolving around endearing guitar which transforms in front of your eyes, the drum sounds gradually structuring and layering up, adding Gene Krupa style more urgent rhythms until it’s almost entirely changed tone. A definite highlight. The quirky clockwork groove and thick vocal pad sounds of Oaks’ “Astera” and a juxtaposition of pulse-driven rhythm and jazzy keys in Philipp Stoya’s “Nastifui” are also notable.

However, some tracks are maybe a little lacking in energy for their own good. Filterwolf’s “Flash” feels like library or underscore music, on the borderline between chilled out and just a little lazy, while Mellowfelx’s “Goias” does at one point start sounding like deep house by numbers. Pixel82’s “Untitled Love” feels a bit flat structurally, but is rescued by some delicious synth and brass stab sounds.

It’s a strong compilation that sets out Filigran’s stall very nicely, and offers up over an hour’s worth of subdued and interesting beats.

Felix Lee: Inna Daze

 Posted by Stuart Bruce (@)   Electronics / EBM / Electronica
Synth Pop / Electro Pop / Synth-Electronica
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Sep 25 2019
Artist: Felix Lee
Title: Inna Daze
Format: CD & Vinyl
Label: Planet Mu
Felix Lee’s debut album treads an interesting line inbetween dark, faintly gothic male-vocalled synthwave and the more cerebral, slow and sub-bass atmospherics more commonly associated with Planet Mu.

It avoids any temptation towards retro sounds, with fresh and sharp production, and complex beat work. In terms of sound space, it often goes big, with tracks like “Void” with its thick chord pads going very dramatic, “Smoke” with its gutbusting subbass and kicks, and a really nice interplay between driving synth urgency and sparse beats on “Still Torn” and the attitude-and-distortion-laden end track “Slow Decay”.

But it also retains a strong sense of introspection, mainly thanks to underplayed vocals, which can be heard in play in tracks like a slightly Infusion-ish “Headless”, or thoroughly pessimistic opener “KOH”. Slightly sparser instrumentals like “Unified” help out with this too.

Most of the tracks are vocal, around half of them with guests, and some connect with the sound better than others. In “Focused”, a distinctly grime-centric rap from Yayoyanoh changes the flavour, reducing the music to a backing pattern, and while there’s nothing wrong with it, it ends up being the least successful part of the album. On the flip side to that, Gaika’s still low-energy but more melodic contribution to “Sangre” is a much better fusion of sounds, and is nicely emotive.

Imiafan: Videnie

 Posted by Maurizio Pustianaz (@)   Electronics / EBM / Electronica
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Sep 21 2019
Artist: Imiafan
Title: Videnie
Format: 12"
Label: Falco Invernale Records
Rated: *****
It's four years since Imiafan released their latest album "Krv iernobielych Fotografií" and that one saw Imi team up with Martin Burlas and Ivan Štrpka. For the new MLP "Videnie", released for the French label Falco Invernale, Imi Végh teamed up with Miki Bernath for the music and, as for the previous record, Ivan Štrpka for the lyrics. The six new tracks are in balance from minimal synth and electro: the opening "Bez Úst, Bez Ozveny" is a mid-tempo track that can be also used on a dancefloor thanks to its hard beats and paced arpeggios. "Stupaj" is a faster one but is less dancey due to the many stops and go. The MLP continues with the dreamy cold wave tracks: "Videnie", "Kto?", "Vakuum" and "Krik Pred Ústami". Here, the suspended in time effect help to create the right ambiance for the Slovakian lyrics of Ivan Štrpka. The lyrics are suggestions and they paint a sort of suburban despair which teams really well with the music. Some excerpts: "Peculiar autumn when people are afraid to open letters, so as not to catch a whiff of death" or "Reflections fade, breath disappears. The subway rustles".

Angelspit: Bang Operative

 Posted by Stuart Bruce (@)   Electronics / EBM / Electronica
Synth Pop / Electro Pop / Synth-Electronica
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Sep 20 2019
Artist: Angelspit
Title: Bang Operative
Format: CD + Download
Label: Black Pill Red Pill
After giving previous album “Black Dog Bite” a glowing review a couple of years ago (comparing it to acts like Blue Stahli and Celldweller), and being impressed with the Angelspit-produced Miss Ballistic album earlier this year as well, Angelspit’s eight album was a welcome arrival, and I’m happy to report it continues in much the same vein as before. It’s thick, angry, sharply produced electro-metal with muscle and vigour, littered with sharp percussive drops, heavy synth basses and distortion, all topped with frustrated anti-media, anti-celebrity, anti-quite-a-lot-of-things lyrics (exemplified in tracks like “No Guillotine, No Crown”).

The vocals are still largely restrained to one-note or narrow melodic ranges, befitting of the genre but this is what holds it back from having a real standout vocal hook that could cross over into radio land. Highlights that come close include “Celebrity Disorder”, or the on-the-nose but strangely satisfying “Jesus Disguise”.

Some tracks wear a slightly more retro and synthwave vibe on their sleeve, like the curiously catchy “Fear Monger” with its slightly Vangelis-esque and sci-fi melody line, the properly 80’s-esque final track “Promise Of Gold”, or the nicely dramatic “Play Rough” with its more understated spoken-word approach. Broadly I think the tracks with an element of drama and change, such as “HexenjÄger” (based on a soundtrack piece Angelspit originally produced for a short film) bring a breadth and are maybe more successful than the relentless wall-of-sound numbers.

It’s thirteen slices of roughly-four-minute-long angry anti-pop that deserves to find a wide audience, not just in the techno-emo area that it’s initially targeting.

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