Music Reviews

SIGNAL: The Message is Clear...

 Posted by Marc Urselli   Techno / Trance / Goa / Drum'n'Bass / Jungle / Tribal / Trip-Hop
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Oct 06 2002
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Artist: SIGNAL
Title: The Message is Clear...
Format: CD
Label: VinylHoR
This under-legal-drinking-age duo has an Armenian heritage but is based out in LA, where allegedly they are quite appreciated in the Teknoklub and rave scenes. Since I had never heard of these guys before, I was going through their info sheet, and it looked quite interesting and promising when they were described as Prodigy meet Orbital «holding on to thier rock roots as well as being influenced by hip-hop and the music of their Armenian heritage». "The Message is Clear..." is their second full length album and after listening to it several times to make sure I am not mistaken I would probably say that they must have drastically moved away from the above described sound, if they ever even played that stuff (maybe on their 1999 debut "On the Sonic Forefront"...). This record right here doesn't have any Prodigy or Orbital, if you as me (even though I can hear they tried real hard to emulate Prodigy's vocals and beats in "Let Me In" and in "Trancemission", which actually is a pretty good track); rock and hip-hop influences I couldn't find either (except for a little rapping on "LFO Child" and sporadic ebonic wording samples in "Down From Up"); and as far as Armenian music, I am no expert in the field but I think I would have recognized sounds coming from thousands of miles away... Anyway, it is not my intention to bitch about the description of Signal given by others, my concern is rather that I wasn't too thrilled with this at all. Not that it isn't well performed (their sound palette includes Roland's 909, 606, the Akai MPC milestone, a guitar and some keyboards and brings to the table noteworthy sounds) but their compositions are just a little too commercial for my taste. I am not gonna say it's euro-style (cause that would almost be offensive) but, straight up, it seems like its only aimed at the high dancing masses and doesn't keep an eye on quality. If I was listening and bouncing to this at a rave it would probably sound different and much cooler, but on a CD it sounds like they floating somewhere in the North Atlantic, not very sure whether to sail towards the US (even thought the West Coast would be a better beach for this) or rather let themselves carry by the currents leading to the European shores. Most of their tracks would be a kicker in Ibiza, Berlin, Zurich and places like that... One's for sure: they would have a hell of a blast if they were to perform in Mittle-European raves, I can tell you this much!
In my opinion, the best of Signal is to be heard when they escape the tekkno cliches (you know, the slowly sweeping cut-off filters, the volume increasing 16th snares, the commercial reso-synth hooks and the like) and migrate into moving ambient textures driven by trippy drum'n'bass (like in "Believe", some parts of "It All Starts Here" or "LFO Child" again). The best rave track in my opinion is "A Memory of You", that's a kick! If they only could stay away from the cheap synth lines and the easy-listening (or no-listening-just-bouncing) dancefloor beatz and concentrate their production around what I know they have the potential to do, I'd be far more appreciative. I mean, Prodigy, Orbital, Chicane and many others get the people moving anywhere, but you can listen to their stuff at home and realize that there is a big deal of quality, there is an essence, a soul, there is real music, there is power, and you don't even have to look hard to find it... it's right there in your face (or ears ;-)... With Signal's sound, I feel like it doesn't offer me all of that, unless I strictly dance to it and that's it. Sorry guys, not my cup of tea!

Various Artists / Cass: Spundea Presents Cass

 Posted by TG Mondalf (@)   Techno / Trance / Goa / Drum'n'Bass / Jungle / Tribal / Trip-Hop
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Sep 26 2002
Artist: Various Artists / Cass
Title: Spundea Presents Cass
Format: CD
Label: Mute Liberation Technologies (@)

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Unusual DJ talent Cass continues his legacy of Spundea Presents Cass which features artists from the Spundea Recording label as well as the DJ's own talents of mix and composition. While there are other DJ mix compilations out there this one is unique in a few ways, one of which caught my attention was how Cass mixed his own Future Sound of Pornography, a track which he says is an ex-girlfriend (Miss Kiss) talking dirty to him with a bottle of wine in her hand, spread over tracks three through five creating an unusual mix event. Cass's style seems to be a lean in interests toward deep, progressive and tech-edged house, breakbeat and techno. Cass starts you off with a bit of minimalistic house music by Jeff Sharel then picks up the pace a bit with the Detroit styled track "Restless". This ends sort of dreamily but Cass gets the beats going with some overlaying into Bushwacka!'s "Smashed". This then bleeds into "Panikattack" by Plastikman which frankly I found while this is an excellent track, especially with Cass' additions from Miss Kiss it does not sound very much like what I'm use to Plastikman sounding like. The mixes on all these are so smooth you almost never know when you're going from one to the next where as most DJs 'pop' a track in Cass blends them seemlessly. By the way, the vocals by Miss Kiss are VERY explicit! Only an audiophile could capture something like this so nicely. "Panikattack" gets a bit trancy with some chaotic sounding beats with the Miss Kiss vocals overlayed on top of it. The tempo picks up again but with some nice ambient moods from Nu Mood Orchestra. "Microgroove" keeps somewhat the same tempo but is less ambient and more straightforward dance music. "Found" is driven mostly by it's bassline but is the type of track that I absolutely love to hear in those late night hours on the dancefloor when you get into that solid dance-trance that could go on endlessly. As for house music styles "Ladyshave" by Gus Gus is some great prog-house with traditional smooth house music vocal stylings. Cass brings back Bushwacka! to create a bit more of a pounding rhythm for us and increase the trance. I personally like all the ambient and additional stuff in the background. The main vocal sample reminds me of a 90's techno track by Awesome Three if I remember the name correctly. The bassline on "Because" sounds similar to the one we all know from The Matrix but more subtle. Some of the keyboard work later in the track sounds like something you might expect from Bill Leep of Delerium. "Backwards Retro" is driven by a vocal sample and some heavier keyboard work, a bit of an aside from most of the other tracks. "Please" is the best track on this side with some heavy house and I'm assuming the Marc Almond used here is the musical pieces which sound like his solo works which have that sort of 'musical' feel to it. This is also the most upbeat track and most interesting. Overall I find that this side contains lots of great music but which is too ambient and mellow - though dancey - for my taste for the dancefloor but then again I'm an EBM head. However, since I do like house, trance, and ambient quite a bit this is an excellent CD that runs smoothly and has lots of interesting switches which are masterfully compiled. Disc two begins quite a bit differently that the first with a very experimental electronica sound from Charlie May, half of Spooky. While it does have some ambient portions it continues with some harder beats and a much more upbeat atmosphere. This upbeat tempo continues with Dark Globe's "Mondo Scuro" which has some rather clever breakbeats. This track is much more to my personal tastes. Experimental with an element of chaos but maintianing a solid rhythm. This is followed by house music by Si Brad that has an interestingly experimental electronica sound, almost more like IDM-house with a touch of lounge if that's possible. "Moving With Me" continues the house style taking it a bit 'deep' with a bit of a dub flavor. "Shake It For Me" keeps the rhythm pumping. A very nice bump-n-grind with vocoded vocals, funky. "Be Wiz Me" still maintians the tempo driving us further into funk territory. It's got a very disco bassline. Still not dropping the tempo we move into more experimental techno territory with the hard driving "Locked In, Locked On" by Hairy Butter. This is sort of semi-hard beat trance with some trippy samples and noisy rhythms. "The Search" takes it down just a bit with some bizarre sci-fi sounding interludes so they can pump you back up again. The next one is by the DJ himself, Cass, performing "Mind Rewind" and contians some interestingly experimental interludes especially about three quarters of the way into the track where it practically disolves into synthetic noise and buzz tones with rather odd looping and effects but drops back in with a really nice dancefloor bump. "Spatialize" is by Excession which I understand is Grant Collins who was originally part owner of Fire. Great breakbeats and addictive dance rhythms. This is one of those tracks you can't help but move to and is rather non-genre-specific as far as electronic dance music goes. Awesome track! Next is "All The Freaks" by Cass & Slide which begins with a tripped out vocal sample of the song title and a truly funky bassline that would make Bootsy Collins proud. Disappointingly Cass ends with "The Game" which just doesn't have the power nor energy of the last two tracks but I'm assuming he wanted to break it down for us a bit before ending the release. This last track is some Deep Dish house music by B16. Overall Cass has produced an interesting CD set of some great underground dance sounds which takes you through various moods from the more laid back to the more upbeat. Definitely an interesting listen to say the least and practically a requirement for anyone into the undeground DJ music scene.

Speedy J: Loudboxer+

 Posted by TG Mondalf (@)   Techno / Trance / Goa / Drum'n'Bass / Jungle / Tribal / Trip-Hop
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Sep 26 2002
Artist: Speedy J
Title: Loudboxer+
Format: CD
Label: Mute Liberation Technologies (@)

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This much anticipated follow-up to the 2000 release A Shocking Hobby is a trance heavy Tresor-styled electronica release with Industrial and Noise influences like only Speedy J can mix them. Loudboxer takes you from one track to the next smoothly like a DJ mix disc with no breaks. Lots of hard beats and heavy trance. In fact to be honest at first I began asking when is it going to 'do' something when I listened for the first time only to realize that Speedy J had already created such a trance-heavy mix that I was listening to the most subtle intricacies he had incorporated into the themes. "Inter Zil" is the first track you'll hear any voice on and it is a heavily synthed vocal speaking about these effects of how subtle tones can create mental 'shapes and patterns' and sounds like something from a Plastikman disc but the thought is very much what this album is all about. This track is also the first actual 'break' in the beats and is instantly followed by the heavy pound of "Kreck". One thing is for sure, Speedy J does not follow normal patterns or song structures and creates some highly innovative and original electronica that is mind boggling at times to say the least. As for this album just when you think it is becoming rather repetitious Speedy throws you a 'loop'. His musical form is not about the obvious but about subtleties and the intricate structures they can create on their own without following standard formats or methods. Very subteranean while maintaining an aire of industrial harshness. The live track is rather unusual and displays just how chaotic he can be at times as well. Personally I think this album should come with a warning stating, "Do not drive or operate heavy machinery while listening to this CD".

Covenant: Northern Light

 Posted by KlingKlangBedlam   Techno / Trance / Goa / Drum'n'Bass / Jungle / Tribal / Trip-Hop
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Sep 18 2002
Artist: Covenant
Title: Northern Light
Format: CD
Label: Ka2 Music/Metropolis Records (@)
Distributor: Public Propaganda
You hear it here first,the new Covenant almost a month before it even hits the streets here!Telling from this CD,I think Covenant got tired of the backlash it got from the constant clubplay,and people labeling them as a pop group,or even worse the dreaded "Future Pop" label. It seems they stripped away some of the danciness, and traded it for a more funky direction and more serious lyrics to go with the more minimal mood. There are only two kinds of Covenant fans: ones who've heard them on the dancefloor and those who've actually heard one of their CD's. The prior tend to label them as a dance group,just as they do VNV Nation,and forget their meaning completely. "Monochrome" kicks in with a slow ambient backdrop to set in Covenant's signature dance style slowed down significantly. The vocals style is kinda hip-hoppish a bit,firing rapid fire metaphors back and forth. "Calling all Ships to Port" is the club single,but again very slow and drizzled with more of a melancholy mode reminiscent of VNV Nation a bit. My favorite would have to be "Promethius", which has a nice minimal bass kick and very charismatic singing. "We Want Revolution" is like a trip back to the 70's funk era, with a Covenant tinge! Very interesting, kinda sounds a bit like an anthemic Outkast, a song that brings to my mind roller rinks and discos. Or call me weird, but remember Ci-Lo's "Closet Freak"? Yeah the resemblence is there!So in short this is alot closer to Kraftwerk than their "pop-star with dignity" image of "United States of Mind". You can dance to it, but I think alot of future poppers expecting another "United States...." will be disappointed. Those into their progress of sound and style go ahead and grab it October 8! Rating:9.

KABAL: Alone

 Posted by Eugenio Maggi (@)   Techno / Trance / Goa / Drum'n'Bass / Jungle / Tribal / Trip-Hop
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Sep 15 2002
Artist: KABAL (@)
Title: Alone
Format: CD
Label: AFE Records
Co-released by Amon/Never Known's AFE and Leeza's Moonfear (, Kabal's cd-r is a very interesting work which manages to keep your attention focused despite being very long (13 tracks, 70 minutes). Actually, all tracks - even the apparently more minimal and repetitive ones - show great taste in assembling layers of rhythms and melodies and subtly varying the patterns before they become redundant. Kabal seems to prefer nocturnal, slightly obsessive atmospheres, in a classy electronica/IDM which reminded me of Autechre, Future Sound of London and A034 The Insider, another Milanese musician contiguous to Kabal's genre... while never stepping in paranoid fields, and often taking a breath with more relaxed tracks like "Atrial 222" or "Free Bong - Cyhexatin mix", which even reminded me of Kraftwerk due to its nostalgic synth melodies... Excellent layout based on almost abstract photos of crashed cars and metal rubbish.

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