Music Reviews

Gavin Guthrie: The Totality

 Posted by Stuart Bruce (@)   Techno / Trance / Goa / Drum'n'Bass / Jungle / Tribal / Trip-Hop
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Jul 31 2018
Artist: Gavin Guthrie
Title: The Totality
Format: 12" vinyl + Download
Label: Medical Records
Gavin Guthrie’s second album is a pack of ten DJ-friendly house tracks that gleefully play with acid, techno and synthwave elements in a manner that manages to feel both authentic and fun.

Opener “AciDDD-1” shows the enduring appeal of classic-sounding acid house, while “4 For Blood” also employs the acid squelches but with a more driving sawtooth-synth techno set-up that softens into a very-nearly-house-piano-led melodic second half. The title track has shades of Marshall Jefferson-style US house, to the extent where you keep expecting a deep American voice to cut in and start telling you how to move your body, before “Ectoplasmic Beats” has a more European early-pop-techno flavour to it.

In tracks like “Home Furnishings” there are some glitchy touches that expose the release as a modern production but for the most part it’s kept analogue and ‘real’, close enough to keep the purists happy for sure, an hour’s worth of tunes that inspire mentions of everyone from Adamski (the more underground stuff) to Richie Hawtin to Josh Wink. Some tracks stretch their wings a little further, such as the rumbling “The Impending” or more raw percussive-driven “Sound Mind In A Sound Body” which both have elements of 80’s industrial about them as well.

I’ve got a massive fondness for old underground club sounds- maybe just because I’m old- and that’s why I absolutely love this album. There are plenty of people plundering that era for sounds and ideas but it’s rare to hear it done with both the sincerity and the success of this collection.

Marlon Hoffstadt: Human Interpretations Part Two

 Posted by Stuart Bruce (@)   Techno / Trance / Goa / Drum'n'Bass / Jungle / Tribal / Trip-Hop
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Jul 30 2018
Artist: Marlon Hoffstadt
Title: Human Interpretations Part Two
Format: 12" vinyl + Download
Label: Midnight Themes
After describing Hoffstadt’s album “Themes From My Future Self” was ‘short of unique selling points but well-made, smooth mid-set filler’, then the first remix package from it as ‘not one of the most diverse remix packages you’ve ever heard, for sure, but it rolls nicely’, I could fairly expect more of the same from the second remix bundle- and sure enough, there’s no surprises lurking here. But there is 26 minutes’ worth of steady, nicely-produced reworks of instrumental synth-house that happily take you on a steady walk, though not a passionate dance.

You get two versions of “Second Track”, with Eric Maltz’s version a nice combination of light bouncy bassline and jazzy echoing keys, and M Ruffing’s version works a similar mood but with some lightweight drum & bass-ish action.

Between that you get two versions of “Der Merowinger”. The mix by Matteo Luis & DCHM is my favourite of the pack, a combination of energetic rhythm patterns, some decidedly 90’s percussive elements and a well-managed slow evolution of elements in a conventional but entrancing fashion. The Pepe's Electro-Break-A-Rama remix has even more of a retro vibe with its perky Amen break and faintly junglist production touches.

Putting the remix origins aside it’s a nice collection of four light melodic instrumental house tracks, very DJ- and Summer-friendly. Overall, it probably edges it over the first package in terms of appeal, especially if you’re fond of the unabashed old school references in the “Der Merowinger” mixes.

VV.AA.: Perfect Strangers Vol. 1

 Posted by Stuart Bruce (@)   Techno / Trance / Goa / Drum'n'Bass / Jungle / Tribal / Trip-Hop
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Jul 27 2018
Artist: VV.AA.
Title: Perfect Strangers Vol. 1
Format: 12" vinyl + Download
Label: Disco Halal
The grouping concept behind Disco Halal’s 4-track various artists EP is decidedly vague. Have these artists met? Was there a concerted effort for a uniform release here? Is that the point? It’s hard to tell. On face value it looks like a sampler, showcasing four different artists who’ve all contributed long steady instrumental house and electronica tracks with DJ friendly construction and progressive house tendencies.

Opener “Reflection” from The Organism is a strong number with a slightly synthwavey melody over a very steady foot-moving groove. It partners well with the final track, Mount Kismet’s “Prunes & Dunes”, another rolling synthfest. Both of them are instrumentals with faintly Eastern-sounding melodic patterns that are pleasant, bordering on sweet.

The more overt Eastern music sampled on the Kincaid track has, I’m sure, been sampled elsewhere, and I’ve been trying to put my finger on where I’ve heard it before, to no avail so far. It’s the core port of what’s otherwise a very straightforward tribal house workout, nicely measured but a little uninspired. Soft Metal’s “Mystic Trip To Al-Dzazir” is along similar lines, again built around an Eastern music sample, but with a brighter, poppier bassline and a more feel-good approach that’s somehow more endearing- particularly in the decidedly retro synth breakdown.

A nice package with a pretty consistent flavour, this material won’t blow you away with either power or originality but it’s got a tempered quality to it that’s hard to fault.

Timothy Clerkin: Knife Edge Heart

 Posted by Stuart Bruce (@)   Techno / Trance / Goa / Drum'n'Bass / Jungle / Tribal / Trip-Hop
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Jul 26 2018
Artist: Timothy Clerkin
Title: Knife Edge Heart
Format: 12" vinyl + Download
Label: Ransom Note Records
Formerly half of Eskimo Twins, Timothy Clerkin continues his solo output with a 4-track EP that’s house music, but with a bright pop sensibility. The title track is straight-faced verse-chorus synthpop in a club friendly format, with steady house grooves, a walking-paced bassline, pads and the very welcome vocals of Natalie Reiss. It’s a catchy hook short of super-pop but it’s still a very polished and enjoyable affair.

Reiss also appears on second track “With You”, but this time with only two words to sing (bet you can’t guess from the title what the two words in the lyrics are), a more stripped back affair that sounds a little like a dub version of a full song but which still works in its own right, before the instrumental “Divisive” chugs along, walking a line between techno and synthwave that’s got an endearing feel-good quality to it.

The package is rounded off by a Gabe Gurnsey remix of “Knife Edge Heart” that twists off in an unexpected direction, foregoing most of the vocals in favour of a dubby, delay-heavy, glitch-decorated rolling drum affair that makes a strong companion piece which I’d only fault by suggesting that it runs out of ideas at the end.

Great walking-and-dreaming music for when your head can be in the clouds but your feet have to stay on the floor.

Eric Maltz: Estuaries

 Posted by Stuart Bruce (@)   Techno / Trance / Goa / Drum'n'Bass / Jungle / Tribal / Trip-Hop
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Jul 15 2018
Artist: Eric Maltz
Title: Estuaries
Format: 12" vinyl + Download
Label: Flower Myth
Eric Maltz offers up a 12” four-pack of introspective, melodic techno here. The titular ‘estuary’ is supposed to be symbolic of the convergence of electronic and acoustic elements, but if that’s the case that it’s the electronic music that’s the dominant tide and the acoustic elements (such as some piano on the title track) that contribute to, but are broadly subsumed into, a predominantly digital pack of steady-rhythmed, lightweight techno tunes.

“Mind Stretch” has a particularly enjoyable mellowness, playing the classic trick of counterpointing long slow synth pads against a steady clap-heavy rhythm so your head is in the clouds while you’re tapping your feet. “Low Knee Cutter” is a bit darker and more driven, with building looping synths underpinning a basic but engaging two-note melody pattern in a manner that’s quite Underworld-esque but without the heavy low end.

The title track’s combination of laidback reverb-heavy piano and dubby bassline makes it the most relaxed offering of the bunch, that blend of techno and chill-out that ought not to work, but does, before “Messin Around You” steps it up a little, wandering about in familiar and unremarkable techno territory but adopting its own character thanks to some unusual choices of percussive sounds and effects.

It’s a very high quality 12”, not something that’s going to set your heart alight but really well produced and just a little bit inspiring.

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