Music Reviews

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
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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.

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.

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