Music Reviews

Venetian Snares: Greg Hates Car Culture (20th Anniversary Edition)

 Posted by Stuart Bruce (@)   Electronics / EBM / Electronica
Techno / Trance / Goa / Drum'n'Bass / Jungle / Tribal / Trip-Hop
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Dec 05 2019
Artist: Venetian Snares
Title: Greg Hates Car Culture (20th Anniversary Edition)
Format: 2 x 12" vinyl
Label: Timesig
This is an expanded 20th anniversary re-issue of the first ever Venetian Snares vinyl release. Predominantly it’s the frantic and complex affront of snares and subbass thumps that will be happily familiar to Aaron Funk fans, and will bring as much joy as a brand new Venetian Snares album to those that haven’t heard it before.

Not to say that Venetian Snares has really mellowed as a brand, but there’s something especially raw and angry at play here. The “Stranger In The Ass” track, unsurprisingly, seems to bubble under with fury that’s being pumped wholesale into the drum programming. “Point Blank” makes everything Aphex Twin has ever done sound like a pop ballad. “Boiled Angel”, with its gentle experimental bubbling noises that get completely trampled by kicks, is the happy hardcore it’s OK to like.

This certainly isn’t all just rage and drums though. Opening track “Personal Discourse” is beautifully layered, while the squelchy near-funk bass of “Aqap” is a smile-inducing dancefloor destroyer that stretches its ambitions beyond the four-minute-limit of most of the tracks into something with more progression and internal evolution.

This release was all brand-new to me but even die-hard fans get to hear rare old tracks. Though apparently Funk transitioned from Amiga to PC during this period, there’s no distinct characteristic change in the sound. “Milk” is genuinely daft, sampling wholesale a stand-up routine about being over-exposed to milk (whilst leaving out the punchline). “Eating America With Pointed Dentures” uses horror movie screaming as a top-layer over a surprisingly simple yet relentless kick pattern, while “Punk Kids” has a more 8-bit approach and takes you into some unplayably hard old Amiga game.

It’s a sonic joy, as well as an interesting insight into the early days of Venetian Snares- a distinctive musical output that, on this evidence, seems to have been born fully formed and ready to fight your ears.

Simpatiek: Auwey EP

 Posted by Stuart Bruce (@)   Techno / Trance / Goa / Drum'n'Bass / Jungle / Tribal / Trip-Hop
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Nov 28 2019
Artist: Simpatiek
Title: Auwey EP
Format: Download Only (MP3 + Lossless)
Label: Tanzgemeinschaft
German act Simpatiek’s second release on the Tanzgemeinschaft label is a solid slab of upbeat techno that wins you over from the off.

“Auwey” is a positive, driving track that has a little bit of everything- bright piano chords (used sparingly), ethnic song samples that feel like a Deep Forest throwback but in a good way, bouncy synth arpeggios and a really endearing bassline. It doesn’t try to take on too much, plotting a steady and DJ-friendly course perfect for a mid-set smile.

BinaryFunction offer up a remix of “Auwey” that really seems to reflect the remixer’s Manchester roots, feeling like a modern techno update of that early 808 State and Hacienda sound that’s now evolved into timelessness. It’s a darker turn, stripping away a little of the positivity and making the chanting a little more aggressive, for some serious acid dancefloor business.

“Dawn” is a simpler affair, the same essential groove but pushed along by a strong, show-carrying bassline and a slowly appearing plinky melodic synth pattern that feels laidback wthout being lazy.

I’m still not convinced that two tracks and a remix qualifies as an “EP” but that’s just pedantry about the naming, since if trying to find fault with the tracks, it’s difficult to fault them. They’re workmanlike rather than genius, yes, but what a great job they do.

Ezekiel Honig: Object Music EP

 Posted by Stuart Bruce (@)   Techno / Trance / Goa / Drum'n'Bass / Jungle / Tribal / Trip-Hop
Ambient / Electronica / Ethereal / Dub / Soundscapes / Abstract
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Nov 27 2019
Artist: Ezekiel Honig
Title: Object Music EP
Format: Download Only (MP3 + Lossless)
Label: Anticipate Recordings
“Object Music” is a collection of four short numbered pieces where field recordings and found sounds, mostly small and homely and everyday-sounding, have been laid up and looped to form organic breakbeat rhythms and groove patterns that feel introspective and trip-hoppy in nature.

Parts 1 and 2 are the most upbeat and brightest, and they knit together. Part 1 particularly feels like the dancing of a beached wooden rowing boat, while Part 2 is more workmanlike, feeling like a hybrid of light craft industry and playful fun.

In part 3, a simple on-the-beat chord sequence adds a straightforward expression of melancholy that brings a certain sadness to the nostalgia. Part 4 feels muffled and womb-like, the rhythm becoming distant, the closer bubbling and wooden squeaking sounds feeling confusing yet warm.

At only fourteen minutes long it’s a nicely understated little EP which keeps its ambition simple but packs in quite a lot of charm. It’s a solid release from an established electro-acoustic composer. Apparently it also forms the sonic part of an audiovisual presentation as well, but I’m commenting only on the audio here.

Flug 8: Space Techno

 Posted by Stuart Bruce (@)   Electronics / EBM / Electronica
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Nov 26 2019
Artist: Flug 8
Title: Space Techno
Format: 12" vinyl + Download
Label: Ransom Note Records
The latest 4-track EP from tech house and techno veteran Flug 8, a.k.a. Daniel Herrmann, is a solid lesson in production quality, a veritable “how to” for electronic producers trying to find balance in their tracks. It’s also a safe pair of hands as an E.P., taking you on a casual, relaxing and spaced-out journey that contains a sum total of exactly zero surprises.

“Spacemodulation” establishes a dreamy walking pace, gentle pulses giving occasional pace to an otherwise floaty deep space atmosphere. Decidedly Kraftwerk-esque synthetic vocals give “Autopilot” an almost kitsch or retro flavour as an initially somewhat gritty and lo-fi opening unfolds into a blissful array of pad sounds.

“Polarprojektion” takes elements of the first two tracks, combining further vocal sounds with a dreamier approach and just a touch more exoticism in the choice of sounds, before “Magnetometer” introduces a squelchy bassline and begins again on a well-executed gradual build.

Even the title of this release is gently prosaic. Although “inspired” is not a word I’d use in association with any of these tracks, nevertheless the relentlessly high standard and endearing sonic appeal really is hard to fault.

Still Und Dunkel: Abandoned

 Posted by Stuart Bruce (@)   Techno / Trance / Goa / Drum'n'Bass / Jungle / Tribal / Trip-Hop
Ambient / Electronica / Ethereal / Dub / Soundscapes / Abstract
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Nov 21 2019
Artist: Still Und Dunkel
Title: Abandoned
Format: 2 x 12" vinyl
Label: Hallow Ground
There’s a persistent and broad human fascination with abandoned human-made spaces, presumably tying in psychologically with the appeal of post-apocalyptic stories. I don’t understand why it’s appealing but I’m certainly one of many who are drawn to and fascinated by these images and ideas of failure and decay. Unsurprisingly then it’s a concept that I’ve heard expressed in experimental music several times now. Most typically it’s ripe conceptual material for pure ambient work, or for drone soundscaping.

This Still Und Dunkel release takes an approach that’s slightly different, but not excessively so. Certainly it’s long dark and atmospheric, but there’s a strong cinematic tension and electronic pulsing that crosses drone with the darkest aspects of techno. There’s found sound from abandoned places included in the recipe, but never really foregrounded. It’s slow and deeply moody, but there’s a latent sense of energy underneath it that’s somewhat at odds with the ambient emptiness normally used to portray abandonment in sound.

Opening piece “Lure” is an epic 18 minute work that initially brings bass rumbling and extra tense sounds before gradually settling, of sorts, into a slower-breathing series of dark washes. This sets a tone which is generally maintained throughout the rest of the lengthy work. “Seagull Night” takes the waves idea and brings a crisp, non-abrasive, lo-fi distortion aspect to it, that gradually gets drawn out, time-stretched and stuttered into woodpecker-like rhythms that transform somehow into gunfire- a fascinating experimental success, and a highlight. For pure atmospherics, other notable tracks include “Colossus”, and the strange sense of journeying, possibly commuting, that fills final track “Transient”.

“Hallway”, with its steady ticking, relentless two-note bass pattern and impenetrable spoken-word noise wall is one of the most industrial moments, a near-gothic ear-scrub that’s refreshing and immersive- really strong work, albeit not in any sense evocative of abandonment at all in my opinion. It plays nicely against tracks like “Flicker” which take a similar sonic palette in a more abstract direction.

It might not be as barren or empty as the concept may suggest, but if dark electronic atmospherics are welcome, then take a deep dive into this- it’s certainly worth it. Not every track is a winner- for example “Rise” feels a bit over-familiar, and 78 minutes makes this a release that perhaps overstays its welcome just a little, but there’s plenty to enjoy here, especially with your eyes closed and your ears open.

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