Music Reviews



Mikkel Meyer: Jolly

 Posted by Edward Trethowan   Electronics / EBM / Electronica
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Jun 01 2014
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Artist: Mikkel Meyer (@)
Title: Jolly
Format: 12"
Label: Rump Recordings (@)
This EP consists largely of bright acid dance productions, with all but the remix utilising consistently similar instrument patches. The music is openly influenced by the untroubled summers of Meyer's youth in the 1980s, in particular the halcyon beach settings depicted in the marketing of the Jolly cola brand (whence the title). However, while it's his chief point of reference Meyer isn't altogether reproducing the music of that era. The overall tone and production are contemporary. The acid bass is controlled and innocuous, but certainly more sophisticated than most of what was being made at the time. Melodic influences also range from outside the 80s, incorporating progressions found in the work of "various new/freak/lo-fi/indie folk artists" (press release). Altogether, the result is a tasteful mixture of styles, with the stated subject matter coming across as increasingly textual.

In fact, the only track that I think directly and unequivocally evokes the 80s/Jolly topic is the Beastie Respond remix. In particular, the bass regresses unapologetically from deft acid to sheer synthetic slap. Further cementing the theme are the likes of canned chanting, sampled police siren and a lush, studied synth bell melody. Though less adventurous, this is the catchiest and most floor-friendly number on offer here. It seems to represent and anchor the original reference point, tapping straight into those Jolly beaches and gaudy nightclubs. We are then in no doubt as to where Meyer has come from and how he has combined this particular influence with others.

The first two Meyer originals ('Oh, Jolly Good', 'John Wayne') are gentle plodders, rather slow for the floor, mainly built around gradually shifting bass envelopes. Both are warm and elegant, particularly the latter. To boot, it has an impressively restrained video, panning close-up across the circuitry and control surfaces of analogue equipment. The two remaining originals ('Rosie', 'Clap Your Hands') bump up the pace and introduce wordless, mostly textural vocals. 'Clap Your Hands' is the more successful of these two, with a low pass on the giddy bass that suggests the haze of intoxication, or approaching exhaustion.

AEC: Sex.Drug.Sequence

 Posted by Marc Tater (@)   Electronics / EBM / Electronica
Synth Pop / Electro Pop / Synth-Electronica
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Jun 01 2014
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Artist: AEC (@)
Title: Sex.Drug.Sequence
Format: CD
Label: Solid.Grey.Sky.Recordings
Distributor: Bandcamp
Rated: *****
Tyler Newman as being the founder of Battery Cage and one half of Informatik doesn't need any more detailed introduction. He and his female partner Stacey P. have lately decided to bring the AEC project back to life after the debut 'Hate Life' back in 2001. Was this debut the step after the Battery Cage-debut 'Product' pretty much influenced by the recent Electro/Industrial sounds as well as internal band- and downtime-problems of Battery Cage in those days, the project regained activity with the addition of Stacy in 2003. Signed and brought to us by Tyler's very own label Solid.Grey.Sky.Recordings label, this new album isn't at least that new as expected. 'Sex.Drug.Sequence' has already collected dust in their store for more than 9 years until both now found the right time and inspiration to release this album out. So this album rather reflects what was up-to-date in 2004 and it is pretty much inspired by the danceable Synth-/Futurepop-sound in those days. But however the things have turned out around this album, it a refreshing and vital sounding one, which has enough attractive spears in the holster to entertain. 'Supernatural' is the ideal opening and stomping tune with heavy Techno-beat works and Tyler's emotional voice ' add some Metal-guitars and this one could find a slot to Battery Cage's 'World Wide Wasteland' album. 'Pain' then introduces Stacey for the first time doing the co-vocals during the chorus. Her talent shines even better through if she provides some solo performances like on 'The Strength Of Steel', 'Still', or the very melancholic sounding 'Final'. 'Manipulate Me' maybe represents the most the intention to produce a Futurepop-related album, although I don't call this a highlight. Brilliant programming skills, catchy melodies and perfectly intonated vocals of the both protagonists can be heard in between 'Still', 'Cold Glass' and 'Move Together'. Here you can hear the best and most representative moments of this highly recommended album. A 'thump-up' also deserves the remix contribution of Epsilon Minus on 'Supernatural', which adds a more relaxing note to the original. This is a perfect-as-can-be sounding album in this specific genre whose compositions provide an always entertaining and diverse sounding listening experience. Some of the songs allow dancefloor-action; while others let you sink deeply into a melancholic mood. It only leaves open one final question: why does this album composed in 2004 sound so much more refreshing, so much more dedicated than any genre-comparable album of the present times? This must belong to the talent of the musicians behind'¦

Leaether Strip: Æscapism

 Posted by Marc Tater (@)   Electronics / EBM / Electronica
Synth Pop / Electro Pop / Synth-Electronica
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Jun 01 2014
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Artist: Leaether Strip (@)
Title: Æscapism
Format: CD
Label: Emmo.biz Records (@)
Distributor: Emmo.biz
Rated: *****
The legend returns for another new studio album: after his demise from the Belgian Alfa Matrix label, Danish Mr Dynamite Claus Larsen has found a new home with the German Emmo.Biz label. His intention to slow down and to stop his activities for a while, well that has at least taken only a few weeks until he felt the need to compose again.
So this new album includes 15 tracks all composed between August 2013 to January 2014 and it reflects newly all facets we have discovered from Claus during his long-year career so far. Be it this danceable, energetic side with tracks like 'Sanctuary', 'Humanity-Equality' or the bashing 'Suicide Summer School', or be it introverted, slowed-down and very personal sounding tunes like 'Hired Man' or 'I'm Not The One', which rather remind on some early 80s Synthpop-/New Wave-tunes. This album also features humorous stuff with 'Strong Boys', which reflects the daily life of the young Anhalt-/Old School-EBM youth ' with a German vocal insert by Rummelsnuff and an evil, sarcastic grin of course. Also worth to mention is the Dark Electro pearl 'Extinction Protocol', a collaborative track with Canadian Decoded Feedback.
As expected, Claus remains faithful in his style with his known sound-dimension and his synth programming skills. It's unfair to compare his latest works always and ever with his classic recordings like the 'Solitary Confinement'-album, because some of the here featured tracks are throughout able to rival with like 'Adrenaline Rush' and/or 'Strap Me Down'. An album like 'Solitary Confinement' cannot be written day by day and this has to be accepted by all criticism around. I think that Claus has his very own kind to express himself, but nowadays in a wider musically spectrum. He now touches all styles between Synthpop to EBM to Electro-Rock but still with his very own sense of 80s-nostalgia. Under this point of view you might be pretty much entertained with this new album.
Additionally to this new effort Claus will re-release the album 'Untold Stories' in a new 2CD edition. This album is one of his very melancholic efforts, which he has self-produced and self-released without promotional and distribution help.
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Artist: Dance Of Atoms
Title: Atom & Eve
Format: CD EP
Label: self-released
Rated: *****
Does humor belong in music?
That depends.
If your beats storm, and your synths rage, a little bit of tongue-in-cheek can be permitted.
Dance Of Atoms are an enigmatic duo of producers, known as Atom Man and The Phantom Of Funk, hailing from somewhere in Texas. They play a blend of '80s New Wave and aggressive electro rock, updated with every sub-genre of electronic music of the last 2 decades. They've been compared to everyone from Gary Numan to Depeche Mode to early Lady Gaga, to give you an idea of how many disparate sounds and styles you will find on this short afterburn of an EP.
A good portion of Atom & Eve's 7 tracks are straight-ahead electro club fare, without a hint of pastiche, delivered with adrenalized intensity. The closest style I could compare it to would be electroclash, which is to say epic, trancy club fare delivered with punk rock abandon. Anybody who's lost themselves in the grooves of The Faint, LCD Soundsystem or Fischerspooner will find something to love here.
It is in the songs "The '80s", with its cheeky mention of Swatches and Pee-Wee's Playhouse, and their dismembered cover of Queen's "Another One Bites The Dust" where the band show their satirical side, and why that's not necessarily a bad thing. "Another One Bites The Dust" sounds like it's been riffed on by Devo, before being swallowed by Skrillex chaos and wub-wub dubstep wobble bass. While this sounds like a questionable amalgam, it is in the detailed way it is all spliced together that this band shines, and shows themselves to be serious musicians.
It's in the details where Dance Of Atoms differentiate themselves from the imitators. These are no preset-hackers: there's thousands of synth sounds on this short EP, and each one seems carefully chosen and placed. On top of that, their beats are muscular and fierce, begging to be blasted through powerful PAs. And while they do frequently coast along in a forceful 4/4, they frequently switch up the rhythm to complicated polyrhythms, sometimes reggaeton, sometimes pummeling rhythmic noise. The one thing you can be sure of, you will not get bored listening to Atom & Eve.
My one complaint is that it sounds as if the band mixed and mastered the EP themselves, and things can become a bit overloaded and jarring at times. There's a myriad of elements, and they're all clamoring for attention simultaneously, fritzing out the speakers. When Dance Of Atoms return to the studio to record a full-length, I beseech them to please find some pleasing reverb, and take the edge off of some of these corners.
Atom Man (I'm assuming it's him) proves himself to be a fine front man, with a wide vocal range. Sometimes he delivers a romantic Bernard Sumner croon, before breaking into some Gloria Gaynor pyrotechnics. A lot of people accuse electronic music of being cerebral, detached and unemotional; Atom & Eve should rest their case.
All in all, Atom & Eve is a promising debut from a burgeoning act. They've got mystique. They've got studio acumen. They've got chops. They've got passion, but don't take themselves too seriously. All to the good, I say. They're off to a fine start!
Atom & Eve is only available for streaming via the band's website at http://www.thedanceofatoms.com, getting a physical release, plus the usual digital channels, on July 7th. So get a head start, and drop some of these tracks on your clubbing mixtapes.
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Artist: Mekanik Disorder
Title: Out Of Context
Format: CD
Label: Caustic Records (@)
Distributor: Poponaut
Rated: *****
Nearly 4 years in the making, the Spanish one-man project of Cesar Cruz returns with an all new album again signed to the hard-working Caustic Records label. Already the attached band photos as well as the cover artwork show us the difference. It seems that Cesar has had a time period of consciousness. The debut "Cold & Strong" has shared impressive Industrial-like photos of a huge telescope in black/red color contrasts, while this new one shows a sunny and peaceful landscape with an endless street. Cesar nowadays has belt on an acoustic guitar and the whole scenario looks more relaxed. Also when it comes to detect the changes in his music, Cesar now offers a wider direction and a development. He's still a kid with his roots in the 80s, but nowadays he offers musically more diversity and some unexpected elements. Especially the New Wave-style has gathered more and more meaning in the music dimension of Mekanik Disorder, while Cesar still shares his love for early Synthpop- and EBM-structures on this whole album. This can be pretty much noticed with the title-track, on which he pays respect to some Belgian Wave-heroes like Poesie Noire or The Neon Judgment. Of course the guitar got not shown on his new photos, it got inserted too. Also his known ability to use different languages (Spanish, English, Dutch, and German) for his lyrics has to be named as being advantageous. 'Als Liebe nur ein Spiel war' has surprisingly catchy moments and I tend also to spend applause on 'Deadpoint' with its galloping bass-line sequences, although - and I still need to insist on this - he could produce it a bit tougher. But no matter and despite all further minor things I could mention here, Cesar has produced a quite valuable album with sedating tunes which drift a bit away from the angry and more minimal EBM structures of his debut. It needs a bit time to grow on you plus it maybe won't stand any fight with the Anhalt-EBM troops, it nevertheless offers a portion of diversity which is often a miss at comparable releases.


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