Music Reviews

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.

Craven Faults: Lowfold Reworks

 Posted by Stuart Bruce (@)   Electronics / EBM / Electronica
Techno / Trance / Goa / Drum'n'Bass / Jungle / Tribal / Trip-Hop
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Oct 31 2019
Artist: Craven Faults
Title: Lowfold Reworks
Format: 12" vinyl + Download
Label: Lowfold Works
In anticipation of the new Craven Faults EP releasing later in November, “Lowfold Reworks” is a pack of three new mixes of tracks from the Yorkshire-based producer’s previous EP’s. While Craven Faults’ electronica is more spaced out, dipping into ambient and broad, understandably these three remixes have their sights set a little more towards the dancefloor- but still manage to retain that trippy and atmospheric tone.

Pye Corner Audio’s version of “Intakes” is a solid if slightly unremarkable bit of progressive spaced-out synth-house with a lovely bright tone. Don’t DJ’s take on “Foddergang” is much more low-end centric, especially in its powerful subbass opener, before it opens up into Tangerine Dream-esque melodic patterns fuelled by a fairly aggressive metallic percussive rhythm.

The President Bongo rework of “Eller Ghyll” is an indulgent 14-minute journey that has certain throwbacks to old 90’s progressive house in its structure, but with a crisp, fresh and almost polite modern production quality. There’s nice use of 3-note patterns performing an audio moiré pattern over the 4 beat underneath, a reliable trick for putting the intelligent and cerebral qualities into your body moving music. Maintaining interest over 14 minutes without major musical shifts is a challenging feat and it’s managed very strongly here, but in a competent rather than revolutionary fashion.

It’s a reliable and high-quality pack of remixes that recommends all three remixers, as well as boding well for the forthcoming new original material.

Timmo: Starlight

 Posted by Stuart Bruce (@)   Techno / Trance / Goa / Drum'n'Bass / Jungle / Tribal / Trip-Hop
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Oct 30 2019
Artist: Timmo
Title: Starlight
Format: CD & Vinyl
Label: Terminal M
Despite being on the scene for over a decade, with a strong track record of 12”s and EP’s to his name, this is Bulgarian techno artist Timmo’s first full album. For the most part though, it doesn’t have that “ambitious artist” approach you sometimes get, where artists use the ‘album’ label as an opportunity to experiment in genres, tempos and styles that they’re not already known for, with variable results. Inside Timmo sticks to what he knows and afters up 10 tracks (plus an intro) of reliable, steady, spacious techno. Each slab is around the six- to seven-minute mark, it’s generally all DJ friendly, and it sticks to what it knows best. It’s exemplified by tracks like “Solar”, with its ambitious synth-symphonic melody and long breakdown bookended by chunky, high quality but bread-and-butter 4/4 beats rolling under dark electro noises.

“New Beginning” makes deft use of some acid 303 sounds to give it a bit of a squelchier character that plays nicely against some epic but muted orchestral-hit-style noises, while “Belle Epoque” surprises you slightly with a “Kernkraft 400”-throwback melody drop that, if given a cheesier treatment, has the potential to be a crossover hit. “Sonic Voyage” takes its melody in a trancier, more hands-in-the-air direction, and final track “Interspace” recalls an earlier 90’s mode of trance in a way, while tracks like the chant-driven “Spacefreaks” harden things up a bit.

In an hour of melodic techno, there are some tracks which fail to leave a big impact. The title track, surprisingly, ends up being one of the more forgettable numbers, while “Rhythm X” with its “I feel the rhythm” mantra and Hardfloor-ish 303’s does sound a little bit corny and dated. But there’s certainly nothing bad on here, for sure.

Melodic techno feels like it hasn’t progressed much, sonically, in the last couple of decades here, and while the production here is top quality, it doesn’t challenge that notion too hard. Nevertheless it’s still a really solid and enjoyable techno hour, great for dancing, working, walking, and more.

Maleem Mahmoud Ghania with Pharoah Sanders: The Trance Of Seven Colors

 Posted by Stuart Bruce (@)   Techno / Trance / Goa / Drum'n'Bass / Jungle / Tribal / Trip-Hop
New Music / Downtown / Avantgarde Jazz / New Classical / World
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Oct 04 2019
Artist: Maleem Mahmoud Ghania with Pharoah Sanders
Title: The Trance Of Seven Colors
Format: 2 x 12" vinyl
Label: Zehra
This is a re-release of an album first put out on 1994 on Bill Laswell’s Axiom label, and never previously available on vinyl. It’s described as Gnawa trance, heavily percussion led and deliberately repetitive, music tightly tailored to either transcendence or dancing or both.

Laswell went to Morocco and recorded himself collaborating with large family ensembles of musicians, with Laswell contributing his famous tenor saxophone elements. From back in the days when world music still involved adventure and discovery and wasn’t all just immediately available with a Spotify search, there’s an energy in exploration across the nine tracks that has, so far, not dated at all.

The captivating rolling bassline and mantras of opening track of “La Allah Daymin Moulenah” quickly win you over, setting a groove that genuinely has the feel-good funk. This positive vibe also infuses the call-and-response-based “Salat Anbi”, or final track “Mahraba” which ends the release with a smile. In the meantime, other tracks offer up a variety of alternative rhythms and tones, from the more tribal gradual speed-up of “Hamdouchi” with its intimidatingly angry conclusion, to the deep jazz dive and more complex time signatures of longest track “Boulandi Samawi”.

Laswell’s sax work is notably modest at times- this isn’t a Bill Laswell solo album in disguise, not in the least. On tracks like “Bala Moussaka” he doesn’t feel the need to join in at all, and rightly so. However when he does contribute, it’s done in an admirably sympathetic and complimentary way that really works. “Peace In Essaouira” is an exception that proves the rule.

Despite being recorded over twenty years ago on mobile recording equipment, the sound quality is excellent, and almost without exception sounds as though it could have been recorded in an expensive Real World-style studio. Everything sounds close, but not claustrophobic, and it’s nicely balanced in that way.

It’s a welcome re-issue of a really strong album that still sounds fresh twenty-five years on, a must-check-out item for lovers of organic rhythmic trance sounds.

Sinistarr: Everything On Time

 Posted by Vito Camarretta (@)   Techno / Trance / Goa / Drum'n'Bass / Jungle / Tribal / Trip-Hop
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Sep 07 2019
Artist: Sinistarr (@)
Title: Everything On Time
Format: 12"
Label: Defrostatica (@)
Rated: *****
This second appearance of Detroit-based versatile drum'n'bass producer and DJ Sinistarr on Leipzig-based label Defrostatica, whose focus on more experimental side of drum'n'bass scene suits the searching paths that this interesting guy (featuring many awesome outputs on renowned labels such as Metalheadz, Renegade Hardware, C.I.A., Hospital Records, Tectonic and Alphacut), also came on a very limited (70 copies only) 180g vinyl edition, pressed on a plastic that looks like natural marble. Just four tracks, but enjoyable for the ones searching for something slightly different from known dnb sonorities. The opening track "KNS 2019" (featuring Singapore-born DJ and producer Kiat) heavily resembles the first outputs by New Zealand DNB heroes The Upbeats since its menacing intro, even if there are no connections between them and Sinistarr as far as I know - their paths maybe crossed only in the playlist of many djs -. The notes of sci-fi jasmine on the following "Emo", made with Icelandic polyhedral producer Agzilla, can trap some listeners, as well as the naive gracefulness of "Garden", whose blossoming vocals by Morgan Neimans can vaguely resemble the childish falsetto of Allison Shaw, and the narcotized tune of "Torpor" (really amazing the muffled bass defibrillators over the track, as they were intended to revive the track). The original version of KNS comes as a (downloadable if you opt for the vinyl version) bonus as well.

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