Music Reviews

Tom Blip: Rez / Crazy Arps

 Posted by Stuart Bruce (@)   Techno / Trance / Goa / Drum'n'Bass / Jungle / Tribal / Trip-Hop
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Mar 30 2018
Artist: Tom Blip
Title: Rez / Crazy Arps
Format: 12" vinyl + Download
Label: Paradise Palms
Tom Blip offers up a couple of warm slow house music instrumentals, nicely stripped back.

Toddling along at something like 110bpm, both tracks use SH101 acid noises as a jazzy centrepiece, bouncing quite drolly over a crisp steady walking beat, with a few subtle pads (and, unsurprisingly, a few arpeggios in “Crazy Arps”). “Rez” has the slightly squelchy sound of the two but otherwise they’re a solid pair.

It’s mild, feel-good and inoffensive, potentially a little wallpapery and very Spotify-friendly but well baked for what they are.

Bawrut: 4x4

 Posted by Stuart Bruce (@)   Techno / Trance / Goa / Drum'n'Bass / Jungle / Tribal / Trip-Hop
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Mar 27 2018
Artist: Bawrut
Title: 4x4
Format: 12" vinyl + Download
Label: Ransom Note Records
Madrid-based Bawrut offers up a 4-pack of quirky, bouncy techno, where simple one-note synth basslines and 4/4 drum patterns are the DJ-friendly vanilla base for a variety of playful electronic wibbles that dance over the top.

Lead track “Three Sounds”’s bleepy riff borders on novelty but it’s the kind of hook that should keep it coming back for repeat plays. “More Cowbell”, referencing but not sampling the apparently quite litigious Saturday Night Live’s Christopher Walken sketch, predictably adds a cowbell layer to the fairly tribal rhythm pattern, over which a quite synthwavey bassline slowly grows.

“I Hear Voices” takes sampled vocal ooohs of different lengths and plays a catchy melody with them over mellow house groove of long lush pads and the occasional spoken-word sample of somebody who sounds like Björk saying “I hear voices”.

“Ghettoscar” is something of an odd one out, eschewing the usual DJ-friendly building intro in favour of showcasing a folksy sample of African chanting with its own inbuilt rhythm, which is treated quite reverentially and not cut up very much while the drums and acid bassline slowly get added.

A really enjoyable set of four melodic, positive techno tracks with a nice sense of fun.

Kalbata: Yamaha Acid

 Posted by Stuart Bruce (@)   Techno / Trance / Goa / Drum'n'Bass / Jungle / Tribal / Trip-Hop
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Mar 26 2018
Artist: Kalbata
Title: Yamaha Acid
Format: 12" vinyl + Download
Label: Brush & Broom
The press shot for this release puts a TB-303 centre-stage in the image, and this is a solid indicator of what you’ll hear. Here are four acid workout instrumentals, with the bass tones centre stage, slowly tweaking and evolving over steady house beats that drop layers in and out with measured composure and DJ-friendly timing. Cold sparse synth notes and some longer meandering pad sounds decorate the top end.

Think Hardfloor, but with less emphasis on the ‘hard’. There’s a timelessness to it all, or a datedness to it depending on how you look at it. Sonically there’s very little to distinguish the four tracks- “Suzuki” has slightly harder percussion, “Toyota” is a bit less clubby in tone, but there’s very little in it.

The tracks may be named after motorbike manufacturers- or, as I prefer to look at it, three manufacturers of sensible small city cars and one manufacturer of good pianos- but there’s no roaring sounds or racing urgency here- this is all steady foot-tapping fayre.

I’m fond of the classic 303 sound so this release can’t really go wrong, and while it has to be scored as well below average for originality, it’s still a set of lovely warm grooves that will put a smile on your face.

Lojii: Lofeye

 Posted by Stuart Bruce (@)   Techno / Trance / Goa / Drum'n'Bass / Jungle / Tribal / Trip-Hop
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Mar 25 2018
Artist: Lojii
Title: Lofeye
Format: 12" vinyl + Download
Label: Youngbloods
Philadelphia rapper Lojii has worked with a variety of producers for this dark 14-track album conceptually about making the most of limited resources. It’s a sombre, sometimes quite trip-hoppy affair with slow sparse beats and rolling subbass tones running under Lojii’s husky, sometimes quite languid storytelling lines. Lo-fi spoken word samples and a few sometimes jazzy melody patterns complete the setup.

Despite half a dozen different producers, sonically it’s pretty consistent. But the flipside of consistent production and hypnotic, undramatic rapping is that it can also be described as flat, something you can definitely say about parts of this album musically.

“Hoo’dah” has a slightly more old school Tricky swagger. “Six9” is in a waltzy time signature (12/8 I think rather than 6/9, sadly) with a sung female vocal that’s nicely dreamy. The too-short “Run It Down”, the only track produced by Marc Rebillet, is the most intriguing, building rhythms out of processed found sounds and clicks and with both a musical and lyrical harsher edge that really could’ve been worked into something bigger than the two minutes it’s given.

Lyrically, I’ll be honest, I don’t catch all of it- for a rapper’s solo album some of the lyrics are mixed surprisingly low. It’s a blend of downbeat, self-reflective lines about life’s hardships, with a thankfully small helping of the usual swaggery, threatening and bragging self-promotion lyrics to mix it up a little. The fact the promo of this album comes with a complete ‘explicit’ and ‘clean’ version of the whole album implies it might be some swear-drenched rage-fest, but that’s not true- just a liberal but casual over-use of F words and N words that make the explicit version radio-unfriendly without being vigorous enough to cause anyone any offence.

Previously released singles “No Ebola” and “Dutti” are included too and were understandable single selections, standing up as highlights of the pack- slightly. Overall it’s smooth, it’s got a polished production touch to it, but it’s devoid of real standout moments or hooks that would really lift things up.

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.

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