Music Reviews

Moscoman: I Ran

 Posted by Stuart Bruce (@)   Techno / Trance / Goa / Drum'n'Bass / Jungle / Tribal / Trip-Hop
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Mar 19 2018
Artist: Moscoman
Title: I Ran
Format: Download Only (MP3 + Lossless)
Label: Disco Halal
Bearing no resemblance to the Flock Of Seagulls classic, the title “I Ran” is, it seems, more of a play on the country name, as this release on the Disco Halal label revisits their Middle Eastern roots, setting plaintive prayer-like vocal sounds and distinctly Eastern plucked and percussive sounds into the structure of a steady, driving, single-groove house track. The electronica remains steady while the sampled elements gradually lift and build, fall and re-build.

For better or worse- in my opinion better- the original reminds me of the remixes of “Yeke Yeke” by Mory Kante, which had the sense to keep the core song substantially intact and respect it as the club rhythm wraps around it. It’s like a modern Middle Eastern take on that approach, if you like, and it works very well.

The Simple Symmetry remix is a surprisingly different beast, with a very different appeal. Starting off with quite a synthpoppy arrangement, which then introduces a twangy lead guitar melody, it’s a bit more sparing with the use of the Eastern source material and results in a brighter, more home-listening affair that makes for an unusual pairing with the original, yet it works nicely as a package.

People Places & Things: ACID03

 Posted by Stuart Bruce (@)   Techno / Trance / Goa / Drum'n'Bass / Jungle / Tribal / Trip-Hop
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Mar 18 2018
Artist: People Places & Things
Title: ACID03
Format: 12" vinyl + Download
Label: Art For Arts Sake Records
A track used in a recent Adidas ad narrated by Bez from Happy Mondays, “ACID03” revolves around a decidedly retro bit of 303 tweaking unashamedly routed in the world of the Hacienda and warehouse parties. That being said, the slow tempoed kick and more current-sounding long ghostly pad sounds are a slightly modern twist on it that give a real sense of atmosphere and prevent proceedings from getting truly novelty-ravey.

After the original mix fades away in a decidedly DJ-unfriendly manner, the Factory Floor remix keeps things in a pretty similar ballpark, changing the synth washes for something a bit more spacious and swapping basslines for something equally simple, feeling even more languid than the original, certainly closer to the chillout room than the mainroom in old school club terms.

It’s a little bit uneventful in some ways, not quite demanding as much attention as it ought, slightly wallpaper-ish, but it’s always good to hear a classic 303 tone or two. Everybody still needs them.

Émanton: Post Tenebras Lux

 Posted by Stuart Bruce (@)   Techno / Trance / Goa / Drum'n'Bass / Jungle / Tribal / Trip-Hop
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Mar 02 2018
Artist: Émanton
Title: Post Tenebras Lux
Format: Download Only (MP3 + Lossless)
Label: Medical Records
The 4 tracks of “Post Tenebras Lux” have the structure and format of hard, flat techno- 4/4 rhythms, DJ-friendly arrangements, progressive switching in and out of layers, it’s all well-trodden stuff. But what makes this EP so different is the sonic quality, the choice of instrumentation and sounds used, which gives it a decidedly different twist.

“Breathe Outside De Box” [sic] is fascinatingly dark. What ought to be bass is actually sub-bass, what ought to be simple synth pads is distorted and squealing noise. “Circleofliez” has a slightly more recognisable EQ, channeling some more 80’s Cabaret Voltaire-like harsh electro and industrial noises over a deceptively soft kick. This links well with the title track, which is a bit more attitude-laden with its Peter Rauhofer kick, two-note-switch bassline and impetuous acid bleeping. Final track “Room For One Soul” (in a shorter version than the one plugged on XLR8R last year) is more paired down in terms of layers, playing with the counter-rhythms of a bass pattern running a different length to the kick pattern, fading in and out as an infectious experiment.

Argentinian Émanton is a thereminist (among other things) and this is on display with some of the live, organic, improvised feel that can be heard in some of the melodies and spontaneous sounds that ride above the steady 4/4s. That little dash of organic influence, coupled with the truly unusual choice of sound palettes for what would otherwise be very conventional techno, makes this a really distinctive release.
Artist: Samuel Rohrer (@)
Title: Range of Regularity
Format: CD
Label: arjunamusic (@)
Rated: *****
The open-minded attitude by Swiss-born (but Berlin-based) producer and improviser Samuel Rohrer can be easily guessed by the impressive diversity of festivals and their audience, where he performed (CTM Berlin, MoldeJazz in Norway, Nuits Sonores Lyon, Huddersfield Contemporary Music Festival, Vancouver International Festival, Sunwaves Festival in Romania and many more), as well as the variegated bunch of stylistic differences of the artists he works or worked with (Ricardo Villalobos, Nils Petter Molvaer, laurie Anderson, Eivind Aarset, Mark Feldman, Sidsel Endresen, just to name a few of them) and the collaborative projects (the one with Claudio Puntin and Max Loderbauer, AMBIQ, is maybe the most known). Such a grandiloquent CV could let you think that his solo work could be something snooty for an elitarian niche of listeners, but I don't think Samuel turned his nose up by this debut album, even it's something really classy. He forged six amazing movements, whose "regularity" made them easy to chew to listeners who prefer a certain immediacy in music, but this apparent simplicity got refined by intricate webs of overlaps and an impressive diversification of timbres through a wide kit of acoustic and electronic tools (including prepared drums, detuned ziter, found objects, mini synths, Moog-driven bass, cymbals and many percussions). Such a sophistication, that together with a clear stylistic refinement and a sort of functional slit by the author (looking like something in between a sound sculpturist and a live performer) in every single track, is going to delight more demanding listeners as well. The opening "Microcosmism" is a good starter, while the following "Lenina" (the first of the three longest - lasting more than ten minutes - suites) is a first assay of the skills of mirroring the apparent contrast between tradition and modernity of tools (electronic and acoustic) by the style (a sort of accelerated adaptation of traditional afrobeat!), but the first real evidence of Rohrer's rhythmical dexterity is clearer on the third track "Nimbus" (in spite of some rough presets). Samuel turns his sonic textures into a light-tight item on the contemplative 4-minutes lasting parenthesis of "Sunclue" (something good for meditation), before the aural pleasures he forged by the other two long-lasting suites (the obscure dub dim light of "War On Consciousness" - close to some stuff by Jah Wobble - and the awesome interplay between kraut and electronic dub of the final "Uncertain grace"). Check it out together with the outputs of his personal imprint arjunamusic.

East Man: Red White & Zero

 Posted by Stuart Bruce (@)   Techno / Trance / Goa / Drum'n'Bass / Jungle / Tribal / Trip-Hop
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Feb 19 2018
Artist: East Man
Title: Red White & Zero
Format: CD & Vinyl
Label: Planet Mu
East Man calls this blend “Hi Tek”. It’s hard grime, with the uptempo hip-hop grooves and the rapid-fire MC’s, but sonically it’s built out of techno and hardcore sounds- seriously distorted bass gutpunches, heavy and complex drum patterns, and edgy acidic electronica noises. Everything’s turned up to 11 and it just oozes angry attitude.

Although the album’s written introduction, from academic Paul Gilroy, makes big political points about London’s disaffected youth, as is all too usual a few too many of the MC’s resort to basic bragging, threats and talking themselves up rather than hitting anything thought-provoking. The most notable lines come from Darkos Strife. Daftest lyric award has to go to Lyrical Strally for “Pardew, like Alan”, with Kwam’s dropping William Hague references a close second.

Tracks without MC’s, like “Stratford”, instead use spoken-word samples as mantras while bringing the moodier side of the music to the fore. “Drapesing” is a notable interlude, taking long samples from a documentary about urban life over a harsher and more ambient musical setting. The military tone of last track “And What” takes the album out with a bang.

It’s a relentless and raw 38 minute assault from the fresh side of grime, with enough electronica tweaks and twerks to make it a natural fit for Planet Mu. So, it seems grime isn’t utterly sold out to national radio after all.

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