Music Reviews

Artist: Jules Verne Theory
Title: Exposure
Format: CD
Label: Ninthwave Records
Rated: *****
Time is out of joint, to quote Hamlet. The prevalence and availability of information and recording technology have made it seem as if we're living in every decade of the last 130 years, simultaneously. Want to spend yr hours surrounded by the 1920s? No problem. Want to pretend yr a quaker farmer from 1890? There's groups and communities for that, as well. What we're left with is a disorienting, but uplifting, atemporality.

The stage is set to finally realize a legitimate steampunk future, as the past rubs leather tweed elbows with the polished chrome future. This can be seen admirably in Exposure, the debut EP from the Jules Verne Theory.

Exposure is like a disco soundtrack for Captain Nemo shimmying on the holodeck of the USS Enterprise, as Italo good-times futurism meets Brad Fiedel Terminator beats, as stories of jetpacks and abandoned cities unfold.

There is great power and potential in this anachronism. We now have the ability to decide what reality tunnel we want to live in. Want optimistic futurist? What about corroded apocalyptica? Whatever makes you happy. We now have the ability to focus on what we like, and be surrounded by it, and hopefully ignoring the things we despise until they go away.

Of course, Jules Verne Theory are aware of the shadow side of this escapism, as the future they are envisioning is not entirely rosy. Like on "She's A Riot", where "every motion above ground is observed", while on "How I Get Things Done", "everybody needs something to distract themselves from getting things done." Like their namesake, Jules Verne Theory use the vernacular of classic sci-fi to critique and comment on the world.

Jules Verne Theory have the proper perspective to provide critique. While this may be their first EP, Richard Slee and Arron Clague have been in the music biz for ages. Slee's worked for the BBC Radiophonic Workshop and done successful remixes for Heaven 17, while Claque is heavily involved with theater on his home of the Isle Of Man. Between them, they've seen dozens of styles and trends come and go. They should be immune from hype, and have the perspective of experience.

This is mostly true. Jules Verne Theory are not interested in fitting in to any trending genres. They're not making trap remixes of 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea or dubstep remixes of La Voyage Dans La Luna (although Air had some success with something like the latter). Instead, they focus on classic electro-tinged synthpop to deliver their anti-gravity dance parties and detached social critique.

One wishes, however, that with the perspective of experience, that Jules Verne Theory had paid more attention to classic mixing and mastering techniques, as Exposure suffers from the loudness wars of 2014. It's hyper-polished, squeaky clean, squeezed and sculpted and compressed to stand out over car commercials and mall crowds. It's not a deal-breaker, but it can get a bit wearing on the ears.

One suspects that Jules Verne Theory's mission is to infiltrate the clubs with their steampunk grooves. Perhaps it is to offer some of that wisdom and perspective, or maybe something as simple as trying to increase awareness of classic sci-fi, both of which are good things. But surely subtlety and confidence are traits found in all eras. And isn't it the job of any good time traveller to try and correct the sins of whatever past or future they are inhabiting? Or bringing those insights back to the present?

I suspect Jules Verne Theory will be successful in their mission, and these sounds will find favor with the rivetheads, robo-jocks, and space cowboys. Here's to hoping, next time, they believe in themselves a bit more, and leave a bit more to the shadows and imagination.
Artist: Gintas K (@)
Title: Nota Demo
Format: CD
Label: Creative Sources (@)
Rated: *****
I was a little surprised to find a release by appreciated Lithuanian electronic producer Gintas Kraptavicius - we interviewed him on the occasion of the release of "Slow" for Baskaru - on the pack of records from Portuguese label Creative Sources, even if this record could be thought as an interesting assay of computer-driven improvisation. Most of the sounds have been squeezed from Bidule, an amazing modular environment by Canadian audio software company Plogue Art et Technologie Inc.: the sonorities are closer to some 60ies electronic music, but in between more or less regular computational sequences, which sometimes sound like having been crumbled, other sonic entities such as bells, spurts, gushes, gurgles and rifts suddenly appear and stain any electronic eddies. You could imagine this release as the workout of a lively kid who plays on a gigantic control panel with a plenty of mysterious knobs, bright buttons and levers or you could imagine it came from the translation of the sonic language of a computer, who got drunk after its liquid cooling system was filled with vodka.

Hunter Complex: Hours

 Posted by Andrea Piran (@)   Synth Pop / Electro Pop / Synth-Electronica
 Edit (8284)
Jun 29 2014
Artist: Hunter Complex
Title: Hours
Format: Download Only (MP3 + Lossless)
Label: Narrominded (@)
Rated: *****
This new release is a digital single from the already reviewed last album from this outfit. As stated in my review, the musical outcome is 'a sort of modern postcard from a distant era' and is something that, perhaps for the nostalgic effect, is really easy listening in the best meaning of the word.
The first track is the second single taken from 'Heat' and is constructed as an almost classic synth pop track from the early '80s with luminous melodic development. The really interesting part is the two remix: the first one, from The No, is focused on the juxtaposition of an hard edge beat over the melodic lines of 'Seriuos Glasse', while the second one, from Drvg Cvltvre, entirely deconstructs 'Highway Hypnosis' taking it in darker and more evocative territories making and interesting use of noises as it doesn't erase the pop allure of the tune.
As almost every single this is a collector's item, however the Drvg Cvltvre remix is something worth a listen and could even acts as a possible line of development for Hunter Complex. Nice
Jun 19 2014
Artist: Yoshio Machida (@)
Title: Music from the SYNTHI
Format: CD
Label: Baskaru (@)
Rated: *****
Classical composers as well as many modern and contemporary musicians which are still devoted to single instruments often titled their composition with the name of the instruments that they play for a specific score and this is what happens with this release by inventive Japanese electronic musician Yoshio Machida, whose "Music From The Synthi", a collection of 13 extracts from a supposedly larger collection of tracks derived from a number of effected samples and loops from the legendary portable synth that Electronic Music Studios launched in the 70ies, which could be regarded as a proper classic composition by following generations of music lovers in a century or two. Such an act of devotion by Yoshio to Synthi, which was born in Putney in 1972 from the combination of the Synthi A, the portable version of notorious VCS3 synthesizer, and the KS keyboard leads listener over a sort of biopsy of this resounding machine and I'm not using the term "biopsy" by chance as you'll have the impression that this sonic dialogue between a man and his beloved synth stand on that somewhat controversial antinomy between organic and mechanical that often features such a kind of synth-driven music, where listeners sometimes could surmise that machine manages to translate complex emotions in a more concise way than any other human medium by means of "glitchey" sets of estranging whistles, bleeps, alien chirping, electric hiss, arrhythmic syncompations and bumps. All those listeners who are more familiar with synths will maybe appreciate the way how Yoshio manages to derive well-done oscillation from a sound machine, whose main imperfection is the difficulty in making oscillations indeed.

Zero-EQ: Fall EP

 Posted by Marc Tater (@)   Electronics / EBM / Electronica
Synth Pop / Electro Pop / Synth-Electronica
 Edit (8269)
Jun 18 2014
Artist: Zero-EQ (@)
Title: Fall EP
Format: CD EP
Label: Space Race Records (@)
Distributor: Bandcamp
Rated: *****
This is an Italian Electropop-trio providing a first EP-release signed to the well-established Space Race Records, a sub-label to Italy's premiere Electro/Industrial resource EK Product. Zero-EQ has been founded in 2003 by Phenix (Andrea) and IO (Gianluca) and they started with an imaginary, unreleased album with the funny title 'Greatest Hits 2003/2004'. Some first tracks could successfully find free slots on some renowned compilations (for example 'Toy Box' / remixed by DJ Crow on 'Dance Family Vol.1', Antibes Music). They also can look back on a full-length album 'Bugged Karma' brought out by the US-based Synthpop No. 1-resource, A Different Drum, under their 'VIP series'. With live performances they started in early 2013 after the official addition of Tyler (Emiliano) as being the third full-time member. Zero-EQ has performed in the most important clubs in Rome and also during live radio shows. Now on return with this new EP, they provide us their colorful and diverse Synth-/ Electropop-outfit on 5 new tracks plus a few remix contributions by some of their label comrades. 'Erase' opens this EP with some nice integrated bass-line sequencer-loops and the clear sounding male vocal performance. Even though they have used some kind of auto-tuning effects on the vocals, which are quite popular in cheesy, Charts-storming Pop-music efforts, this kind here doesn't alter the good impression. Also 'Never Let You In' doesn't fall into musically nervousness and comes along with smooth, but also with edges in their Synthpop music-style. The title track adds more speed and some rawer sounding bass-lines to the mix. This track balances between the smoother and harder styles of Electropop / EBM and so does also 'Negative Changes', which draws some reminiscences to the deep influence of Pop/New Wave-music out of the 80s. 'Inside My Head' may suits perfectly for some live action as this one blends in some guitar works, but actually this one doesn't leave any further impression. Remix works are coming up next by Retrogramme, Public Domain Resource, Lost Area, and Klonavenus. But as usual I for the most part prefer original compositions. None of these contributions can actually rival with the quality of the original compositions, although each of them has some elements worth to check out. As for a whole release it is a quite fair produced EP on which I here and there miss a bit of a higher recognition value. But maybe this impression will change if they decide to bring out an all new full-length album'¦

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