Music Reviews

Zarkoff & Ikonal: Toxicology EP

 Posted by Stuart Bruce (@)   Techno / Trance / Goa / Drum'n'Bass / Jungle / Tribal / Trip-Hop
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Nov 24 2016
Artist: Zarkoff & Ikonal
Title: Toxicology EP
Format: 12"
Label: Enfant Terrible (@)
Layered, relentless acid bassline patterns rule the roost on this 3-track EP, complimented by Leftfield-style synth washes and steady, uncomplex techno beats that have one foot in a 1990’s warehouse but still don’t sound old.

The first side is two six-minute tracks. “Side Effects” is a straightforward number, a little Hardfloor-ish but without the bounce, while the second track on the A-side “Dose Response” is a more atmospheric track with a really strong chord progression wafting over the rhythms and giving it a much more filmic feel. Extra percussive elements appear as the melody starts unfolding into daylight in the final couple of minutes of a progressive track that oozes quality.

The second side is the 11-minute “Lifetime Exposure”, and while you’d expect a longer journey and maybe greater diversity from a longer track, in practice it’s mainly just longer- there’s a darker tone, slower changes, but essentially the same format as the other two shorter tracks. Maybe it overstays its welcome just a tad compared to the well-formed tracks on the A.

For those who have forgotten, or who are too young to remember, it’s still true that everybody loves a 303, and these tracks are a tasty reminder.

Fade: Xenomorph/Wounded

 Posted by Vito Camarretta (@)   Techno / Trance / Goa / Drum'n'Bass / Jungle / Tribal / Trip-Hop
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Nov 13 2016
Artist: Fade (@)
Title: Xenomorph/Wounded
Format: Download Only (MP3 + Lossless)
Label: Free Love Digi
Rated: *****
Faded label boss, the Ukrainian drum 'n' bass producer Fade, should have some interesting in chemical elements, as one of the two tracks by which he keeps on stuffing Free Love Digi catalog, "Xenomorph," seems to have been inspired by the properties of the quoted noble gas. Colorless, odorless, almost undetectable, but incredibly dense, this gas emits an intense blue light when electrically excited. Similarly to xenon, it's pretty impossible to define the style he explored, but as listener can describe the almost physical features of the track and notice the similarities against xenon: Fade filled the pattern by very dense sonorities, hyper-compressed compression as well as a nebulized pad-synth that could resemble the noble nature of this gas as well as its "invisibility". The second tune 'Wounded' will maybe attract attention of DJs looking for exciting and somehow imaginative headbangers: the first part features a switching between a dark electronic melody and a catchy break, that got gradually infected by distorted synth tones; these two elements got gradually (and wisely) merged till a short, obscure cliff-hanger that prepares the ground for the definitive activation of a drum 'n' bass trigger. Very weird bass-oriented bullets.

Nuage: Prints Of You -The Remixes EP

 Posted by Vito Camarretta (@)   Techno / Trance / Goa / Drum'n'Bass / Jungle / Tribal / Trip-Hop
Ambient / Electronica / Ethereal / Dub / Soundscapes / Abstract
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Nov 09 2016
Artist: Nuage (@)
Title: Prints Of You -The Remixes EP
Format: 12"
Label: Translation Recordings (@)
Rated: *****
It seems that the idea of a remix project related to Prints Of You, a little masterpiece of the liquid side of drum'n'bass by St.Petersburg-born producer Dimitry Kuzmin, better known as Nuage, was already discussed and planned soon after its release together with the hyperactive guys of American imprint Translation Records. Enhancing the original tracks was a pretty hard mission, but the producers involved in the project somehow managed to reach the goal, maybe as they knew each other very well due to the fact Nuage already did remixes for Blu.Mar.Ten and The Levels and gave some of his tunes to Bop's imprint Microfunk. The remix of "Overseas" by Bop is the one that most impressed me: the Russian producer built an amusing pattern by means of noises that sound like hitting pool and table tennis balls over a sneaking bassline and you could have the feeling that his tic-tac-toe game occasionally breaks the vocals of the original tracks into ecstatic syllables. On the other side both Blu.Mar.Ten guys and The Levels tried to highlight the highly emotional hook and the melodic aspect of Nuage original inputs, but while Blu Mar Ten kept higher bpm on their revamping of "Colors" - clearly influenced by the typical sonorities of the artists belonging to Hospital Records super team -, The Levels offered an assay of the so-called Future Soul Music for the remix of "Shining" (featuring an excellent vocal performance by Veronique J), the style that gave them some notoriety in the scene. The release includes a remix of "Waterfalls" by Nuage himself, who reshuffled the original track by a delicate tribal tapping of claves and a sort of clipped typewriting-like hit in a pool of crispy natural sounds.

Exposure: Delicate Lives ft.Sula Mae/Sacrifice

 Posted by Vito Camarretta (@)   Techno / Trance / Goa / Drum'n'Bass / Jungle / Tribal / Trip-Hop
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Oct 15 2016
Artist: Exposure
Title: Delicate Lives ft.Sula Mae/Sacrifice
Format: 12"
Label: A R Records (@)
Rated: *****
A new incendiary sparkle recently joined the ring of fire of the drum'n'bass scene. The firestarter is Bristol-based drum and bass producer Exposure, who dropped a couple of exquisite tunes to ignite his imprint A R Records (the awesome launching party occurred some days ago - 3rd October - at Coroner's Court in Bristol) and sign an impressive debut. I'm not sure if the sound he explored is aimed to define the one that A R Records is going to spread throughout its imprint as the label was launched as a "Drum and Bass and Jungle label", but the setting itself should feed such a supposedly wide stylistic range: all bass-driven music lovers know that, besides authentic gems of dub and having been the nest of trip-hop, Bristol saw the rising of d'n'b legends such as Krust, Dj Die, Roni Size and keeps on getting wisefully shaken by other great masters of the genre such as DLR, Dj Mako, Total Science, Break or S.P.Y.. The tune on B-side, "Sacrifice", is my favourite one as it shows the focus on detail that Exposure forged during intensive sound modelling sessions in studio, sometimes requiring huge amount of time, a worthy "Sacrifice" in his admission departing from an orchestral sample and getting more and more frenzy and corrosive, but I'm pretty sure that the tune on A side - "Delicate Lives" - has all the features that are going to find the way to dnb lovers' heart by a fantastic vocal tune, featured by the talented folk singer Sula Mae, and a perfect balance between jumped-up beats, gentle harmonies, and nervous sonorities. Big ups for this Bristolian guy!

N.M.O.: Nordic Mediterranean Organization / Numerous Miscommunications Occur

 Posted by Stuart Bruce (@)   Techno / Trance / Goa / Drum'n'Bass / Jungle / Tribal / Trip-Hop
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Oct 11 2016
Artist: N.M.O.
Title: Nordic Mediterranean Organization / Numerous Miscommunications Occur
Format: 12" vinyl + Download
Label: Diagonal Records
A tongue-in-cheek silliness runs throughout this rather ungenerous release, which despite being described as a “2LP”, clocks in at only 35 minutes, with many of the tracks being sample interludes of thirty seconds or less, and essentially only 4 full-length tracks. It’s a deliberately daft blend of bouncy Dutch techno noises with mechanical percussive beats played against speed changes, unexpected jumps and false starts.

“New Bulgaria” is the closest the album comes to a solid, straight-faced seven-minute techno journey, slightly reminiscent of some early Josh Wink tracks, but even that track grinds to a halt and closes with noises that wouldn’t sound out of place in Looney Tunes. “Double Arm” is notable for its jazz elements and text-to-speech commentary.

“Armchair Evader” is the strongest track for me- it’s the one where they get the balance right between esoteric noises and unusual sound sources, and a groove which shifts and adjusts in interesting ways, not always sticking to even bar counts, but without behaving like it’s trying to throw the listener off the train.

Overall though it’s a package that sounds like it was more fun to create than it is to listen to. It’s daft, and it’s not without merit, but it doesn’t quite convince.

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