Music Reviews



Maxime Iko: Pray For Us

 Posted by Stuart Bruce (@)   Techno / Trance / Goa / Drum'n'Bass / Jungle / Tribal / Trip-Hop
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Mar 17 2020
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Artist: Maxime Iko
Title: Pray For Us
Format: 12" vinyl + Download
Label: BPitch
With a coronovirus stamping all over European raves and parties, a techno EP entitled “Pray For Us” is either well or badly timed depending on how you look at it, as it ends up carrying even more tension and dancefloor darkness than it intended- and it already carried a lot, with opening track “Dagyde” a relentless thumper of kicks and brooding atmospherics that’s a leap back to the almost naive-sounding tone of techno’s early dark side.

The title track, as A2, is equally unforgiving, a thick kick and short bass pattern that almost never lets up for six minutes, this time with the fairly subtly-handled addition of pitched-down vocals about the apocalypse that (thankfully) sound more like a classic house spoken-word cliché than any kind of fresh statement of the world’s current problems.

The B side has a little more variety. “Telekinesis” is gentler, but only relatively speaking- still a tribal techno workout, but this time a touch more sparse with a nice plinky high synth line, holding back some nice sinister chords as a nice twist for its second half. But it’s final track “Words”, with its extra electro elements and intriguing whispered “unnecessary” vocal chant and strangely mesmerising melodic loop, that ends up stealing the show.

Right now it feels like there will be more people dancing round their living rooms than to clubs on this one, but nevertheless it’s another rich DJ weapon that delivers exactly what you want from BPitch.

Deep Woods: L.O.V.E.

 Posted by Stuart Bruce (@)   Techno / Trance / Goa / Drum'n'Bass / Jungle / Tribal / Trip-Hop
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Mar 12 2020
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Artist: Deep Woods
Title: L.O.V.E.
Format: 12" vinyl + Download
Label: 3Bridge
Greg Cuoco a.k.a. Deep Woods is the boss of the 3Bridge label and on “L.O.V.E.” he lays out a nice template for the reliable, chilled out house styles that it’s defined by. The original mix borders on lounge house, somehow managing to blend funk guitar, disco elements, Rhodes-like keys and junior spoken word samples without managing to sound glib or cheesy, which is quite a feat.

For me it’s the ‘deep mix’ on the B-side though, a rolling tech-house affair with an infectious, somewhat post-breaks bassline and plenty of dub delay on the sparser keys.

Warm, smile-inducing, high-quality, feel-good house.

Timothy Clerkin: Psalm EP

 Posted by Stuart Bruce (@)   Techno / Trance / Goa / Drum'n'Bass / Jungle / Tribal / Trip-Hop
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Mar 06 2020
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Artist: Timothy Clerkin
Title: Psalm EP
Format: 12" vinyl + Download
Label: Insult To Injury
Prepare to party like it’s 1992 again with this four-track 12” of feel-good, optimistic acid techno.

The title track has more than a few shades of 808 State about it, stretching Pacific-ish chords over curt drums and squelchy bass. It’s got a strangely lo-fi vibe about it, with even the digital promo sounding a little like an MP3 rip of old vinyl, just without the crackle and pops. The Balearic-style breakdown works very nicely, albeit a little on the formulaic side.

“Slave Too” ups the energy level substantially, chucking in a classic breakbeat and then *that* rave stab sound. It may have been out of fashion for many years but the sheer joy associated with it deserves to reverse that. It flirts with cheesiness a little with its hoover bassline and sounds left behind from the first albums of The Prodigy and The Chemical Brothers respectively, and I almost begin to expect jungle rap samples to appear, but it keeps it together for a stomping rave workout. Jas Shaw (of Simian Mobile Disco) offers up a remix which keeps the same energy but takes it much, much deeper, taking one of the source sounds and filtering and sweeping it sharply, with a percussion loop reminiscent of Josh Wink tracks but faster and more aggressive.

“Exist Between The Spaces” is the odd track out, a three-minute downtempo number that sounds much more modern. It’s a curious sketch, with an almost poppy melody, and feels like it could be building to something, but it does feel quite out of place given the three tracks it’s sharing vinyl space with.

Even the vinyl has the appearance of a classic white label about it, a plain white sleeve individually ink-stamped with the label discreetly in the corner. A release that feels tailor-made for retrospectively slotting into middle-early-ages techno history.

Tresque: Ereignisse (part.1)

 Posted by Stuart Bruce (@)   Synth Pop / Electro Pop / Synth-Electronica
Techno / Trance / Goa / Drum'n'Bass / Jungle / Tribal / Trip-Hop
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Mar 28 2020
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Artist: Tresque
Title: Ereignisse (part.1)
Format: Download Only (MP3 + Lossless)
Label: -OUS
“Ereignisse” is pitched as ‘a pure and self-contained form of techno’, and that’s true- the four-four adherence and synthetic sound sources are conventional, and mostly quite simple- yet the crucial difference on this three-track EP is that purism and simplicity don’t equate to a lack of originality. Tresque proves here that it’s still possible to infuse these sounds and structures with a bit of unique character.

“Enbas” does that using its rhythm patterns. Melodically it’s little more than a patterned drone, and there’s remarkably little progression in it, but the curious part-backwards, warm-clap groove is what wins you over. With “Innae” the emphasis switches to the rubbery bass note, a single note that bounces its way almost cheekily along spacehopper-style over a very simple rhythm pattern. Final track “Orage” is the warmest and brightest of the three, thanks to shaker sounds and a bright pad sound, and this time it’s the pulsing pad noise that takes its turn in the lead of another track that’s essentially just one five-minute-long groove loop, with just enough progression and evolution to keep things interesting.

Geneva-based Tresque (also known as D’Incise, or Laurent Peter to his family) has pulled off a neat trick here, making something that sounds both simple and fresh at the same time.

VV.AA.: Fragments

 Posted by Stuart Bruce (@)   Synth Pop / Electro Pop / Synth-Electronica
Techno / Trance / Goa / Drum'n'Bass / Jungle / Tribal / Trip-Hop
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Mar 27 2020
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Artist: VV.AA.
Title: Fragments
Format: 12" vinyl + Download
Label: Hivern Discs
“Fragments” is an ambitious compilation from the Hivern label, offering up 28 new and unreleased tracks, some from artists who’ve been with the label since it started in 2008, and others who are new arrivals. Available for a couple of months as a box set of six 12”s, and as staggered individual 12”s, it’s now available to download as well. It’s a generous bundle of over three hours of diverse electronica-and-sometimes-beyond for which the word ‘epic’, a word I would normally try to avoid, does seem really quite applicable.

Much of it skirts on the very edge of dancefloor work, with tracks like Cleveland’s “Via Sole” a gentle bit of low-key techno that skirts closely around labels like ‘progressive’ or ‘minimal’ and ploughs its own furrow instead. Simon Haydo’s “Bending Frameworks” is more purist in its techno structure, bending and squelching light industrial sounds into twisty ever-changing loops, and pairs nicely with the similar approach in C.P.I.’s “Miasma” (despite them being on adjacent 12”s). Inga Mauer’s “It’s Gone”, despite the two-word spoken refrain sounding like the word ‘disco’ instead of ‘it’s gone’, certainly isn’t disco, with a deep techno form that’s nicely executed.

There’s diversity, for sure. Tracks like Walden’s “Guerreros Del Lago” head in the direction of trip-hop, with rich acoustic bass sounds and a tentative, cautious feel that paints complex pictures and puts you on edge in the gentlest of ways. Steve Pepe’s “Tribalone” fuses intriguingly cross-continental percussion with a steel guitar-ish lazy melody for something that’s got a distinctive and inventive character, without ever pushing it too much in your face. Beesmunt Soundsystem’s “Hypno” rolls a more purposeful but still downtempo groove with a journeyman feel, and Velmondo’s “Transubstitution” also takes things slow, pulling a gentle crisp walking beat against glitchy urgent-sounding synths and sirens so your mood doesn’t know which way to turn. Nadia D'Alò’s “Ten-High Straight” stands out thanks to its slightly husky vocal work.

There are quite a few tracks here that throw up fond memories of early 90’s trance and the early days of IDM or whatever you want to call it. It’s a form of synthwave, if you like, but pointed fondly at the memories of Trance Europe Express compilations and dubby albums from System 7 and Global Communication. Benedikt Frey’s “Cali Stroll”, a simple groove taking ‘that PM Dawn beat’ and rolling it into a three minute groove that wouldn’t have sounded out of place on the first Woob album, and the same could also be said for the gentle acid stroll of John Talbot’s “Hivernoid”. Marc Piñol’s “Vil de Not” is old-school acid electro and proud of it, while Samo DJ’s “Waterfall” tackles the more balearic and tropical side of the sound.

Parple’s “El Día Oscuro” stands out a little for being more overtly synthwave-ish, a collection of synth arps that brings early Vince Clarke noises into a long, subdued progressive format, feeling like it’s retro finger is pointing a few years earlier than the tracks around it- although the synths in Cooper Saver’s “Tell” and the synth slapbass in Mioclono’s “Center Of Things” do give it some support in that regard.

The trancey sonic throwbacks are very welcome with me, leaving me quite smitten with details like the soft and simple four-chord pattern in Shame On Us’s “Fingers Crossed”. Overall it’s a mostly relaxed and somewhat heartwarming set of predominantly instrumental tunes that feel like they’ve been dropped in from simpler times. An exceptionally high-quality and well-presented package.


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