Music Reviews

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.

Loraine James: For You And I

 Posted by Stuart Bruce (@)   Electronics / EBM / Electronica
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Sep 17 2019
Artist: Loraine James
Title: For You And I
Format: CD & Vinyl
Label: Hyperdub
“For You And I” is an intricate and complex glitch-electronica work that credits the multicultural character and musical diversity of London as its starting point. Rhythms ranging from relatively steady grime beats to thoroughly mashed-up, Aphex Twin-level distorted craziness are the core, a steady mix of gutpunching subbass and crisp distortion that always keeps you on your toes. On top sits a variety of decorative elements, odd melodic items, synth notes, short vocal noises and the like, but they always feel somewhat secondary- it’s the beats that are the real meat here.

On tracks like “So Scared”, it’s almost purely a rhythm track for nearly two minutes before breaking into a truly twisted, Venetian Snares-esque broken-jungle affair, while “Sick 9” is a sort of glitchy techno, looping number vocalisations over bubbly bass oddness. “Vowel Consonant” opens as downtempo, almost electro-lounge, but builds up in steps over six minutes, gradually adding more frantic elements until by the time the screaming starts five minutes in, it makes total sense.

There are some mellower moments; the album is quite personal, according to the accompanying press release, but that isn’t a vibe that cuts through all that strongly overall. The exercise in contrasts with which the looped grime-like vocal snippet demanding “step it up bitch” plays against the warm mellow synth chords in opener “Glitch Bitch” is becoming a bit of an old trick in electronica terms, but it’s still powerful. “Sensual”, adding near-kitsch jazzy organ sounds and a tripped-out vocal from Theo about drifting through space, is a really pleasant bit of post-triphop, if post-triphop is a thing; if it wasn’t a thing before, it’s a thing now.

Le3 Black contributes to two tracks and leaves you wanting more; “Dark As Fuck” is (predictably) the album’s darkest point, a true delve into sinister grime, while on “My Future” he only arrives halfway through the track, rolling a more incredulous, weary lyric on power and having seen it all before.

If you like your beats heavy and seriously broken up, expressive and devoid of the usual posturing and over-masculine attitudes, and if you’re looking for something fresh, you should definitely check this out.

Proc Fiskal: Sheekit Doss

 Posted by Stuart Bruce (@)   Electronics / EBM / Electronica
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Sep 16 2019
Artist: Proc Fiskal
Title: Sheekit Doss
Format: 12" vinyl + Download
Label: Hyperdub
In his “Skeekit Doss” EP, Proc Fiskal pays homage to the Edinburgh club night he ran until last year. He describes the club as having an “ethos of genre-defiance”, and being “ecstatic and transcendent”, but also for balance, “fun and stupid”. This is chinstroking yet danceable electronica, generally padding along at a fair tilt with crisp, light, complex beats, rubbery synth bass, and rapid micro-edit vocal and melodic sounds. It’s instrumental, save for the odd sample, some of which are thoroughly Scottish. It’s an upbeat distant cousin of various genres, with shades of grime, dub, old skool rave, drum-and-bass and others creeping in but never dominating.

“Pico” is a highlight, a unique take on micro-house with old jungle breakbeats that would somehow fit, yet sound out of place, in all sorts of genre DJ sets. “4 Minutes” is a form of grime-lite with interesting percussive sounds that feels like it’s calling out for a skilled enough MC to pair up with it. Final track “Prop O Deed” ups the ethnic elements and brings the strongest melody of the set, again perhaps calling out for a vocalist.

It’s a very Hyperdub 24-minute EP- intelligent, knowing and self-aware complex electronica that somehow manages to maintain dancefloor credentials. It’s intriguing how it still works, but it does.

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