Music Reviews

VV.AA.: Amuse Bouche Vol 2

 Posted by Stuart Bruce (@)   Techno / Trance / Goa / Drum'n'Bass / Jungle / Tribal / Trip-Hop
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Jul 08 2016
Artist: VV.AA.
Title: Amuse Bouche Vol 2
Format: Download Only (MP3 only)
Label: Night Noise
Distributor: EPM
Despite being a mini-compilation, there's a strong consistency through it, and if I'd been sent it and told it was a single artist mini-album, I'd have believed it. It's house music in its structure and its form, all fairly mellow in its pace, but with strong retro-wave vibes to the production throughout. You can hear why these guys are all friends.

After Monolife's ambient mix of "Coastal" serves as a confident if slightly unusual over-long album introduction, Plastic Fantastic's "Dark Side Of The Moon" is a measured, systematic vibe that is pleasant and smooth, but has a strong whiff of 'corporate technology promo' about it. I'm more likely to hear it in a documentary about the early days of the internet than I am to hear it in a club, partly because of the slightly thin bottom-end.

Pino's "Nutmeg" has a funkier groove but runs out of ideas towards the end, while William Earl's "Tomorrow Theory" launches off into spacey arpeggios and melancholic echoes that leave me wishing I could hear a little more of the drum programming, but which is otherwise very neat- apart, again, from the "is that it?" ending.

Bedford Falls Players' "Chuggers In Crime" has its feet more firmly on the ground, with very Hardfloor, TB-303-like acid loops gradually tilting and shifting at a firm walking pace, this is music to walk up mountains to, and my favourite of the bunch. Structurally it also feels like the track where the journey was planned most thoroughly in advance.

Humantronic and Leonard de Leonard's "Minimal Palace" closes the album with an urgency and attitude that's slightly out of keeping with the other tracks, making me wonder whether the whole compilation is back to front and they should've lead with this track and put the ambient one at the end. Everyone's definition of minimal is different, but to me "Minimal Palace" is actually quite busy. The layers are very interesting but this track definitely had the opportunity to spin off in different directions, especially after the breakdown, and didn't take them.

Overall this is a solid collection of slightly sci-fi techno moods. As a genuine amuse bouche warming you up to listen to heavier techno it's might work quite neatly, but as a traditional sampler compilation driving people to check out more tracks by these artists and this label, unfortunately I don't think there was quite enough inspiration and imagination threaded through these tracks.

Max Jahn: Skyrunner

 Posted by Stuart Bruce (@)   Techno / Trance / Goa / Drum'n'Bass / Jungle / Tribal / Trip-Hop
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Jul 07 2016
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Artist: Max Jahn
Title: Skyrunner
Format: Download Only (MP3 + Lossless)
Label: Broque (@)
Distributor: Broque
"Skyrunner" is the sound of man, no actually a whole generation of people, who immersed themselves in clubland, revelled and excelled for many years, then got older- took a break, started a family, settled down, reprioritised, and began to realise that hangovers were now lasting two days instead of one. But instead of turning their back on the beats and slowly succumbing to MOR and chat radio on their Sunday mornings, they've decided to that simply being nostalgic about their clubbing days isn't enough- they still want and need the music.

All of which is a very flowery way of saying that this is a highly polished and mature album, that takes straightforward, slowly progressive 4/4 grooves and winds you around on a journey with each one that's both quite gentle and quite deep at the same time.

There's nothing euphoric or aggressive here, but there is determination, particularly in tracks like "Intergalactic Wildfire" which starts with a five minute crescendo towards a beautiful piece of progressive house happiness. "Sweat Tool" might have been envisaged and titled as music for dancing but could just as easily be music for jogging, for ex-clubbers trying to stave off the middle-aged spread.

Given the growing old theme, it feels fitting to compare some of these tracks to some other legendary producers. You could stick the name 'Josh Wink' on "Harmonic Blast" and people wouldn't question it. "Happy Little Droid" has a dubby soundscape reminiscent of the Orb's Kompakt releases. "Basics In Blue" or title track "Skyrunner" wouldn't sound out of place in a Sasha mix or you could even believe it's from a Sasha album. Several of the tracks have a slightly timeless feel to the production, and if you'd told me they were on a Global Underground compilation I'd have difficulty telling you if they were from 2003 or 2016.

Forget clubland, "Melotronic" makes me want to go for a long drive with this on the speakers- if the beats were peeled back you'd find a melodic chill-out classic underneath. "Bells Of Life" follows through on that idea, a film-soundtrack-worthy piece of pathos and electronic melancholy that comes just at the point where your aging legs might need a break from the beat.

The only thing I don't like about this release is the artwork, which looks like a monochrome screengrab from a cheesy 1990's techno video. It doesn't do justice to the music, which just shines with quality throughout the whole 75 minutes.

Utroid: The Movement

 Posted by Stuart Bruce (@)   Techno / Trance / Goa / Drum'n'Bass / Jungle / Tribal / Trip-Hop
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Jul 05 2016
Artist: Utroid
Title: The Movement
Format: Download Only (MP3 + Lossless)
Label: Enfant Terrible (@)
This is a four-pack of thumping, relentless lo-fi acid techno numbers, so stark, simple and raw-edged that they're quite mesmerising. This is something that Hardfloor might knock up if they were very, very angry about a messy divorce- it has the same slow progressive structure and many of the same elements, but with the bounce replaced with bitterness.

Despite this, though, you really could still dance to it. "Death Disko" has a solid groove that you could lose yourself in for hours. "Vascular" has a deep reverberant echo to it that makes it sound like it could actually have been recorded from inside somebody's cardiovascular system, it sounds muddy for home listening but quite epic at high volumes- similarly, if slightly worryingly, "The Movement" sounds like it may have been recorded through somebody's bowels- though thankfully the melodic sustains that arrive later in the track are more harmonious than my bowels and, I'd presume, most other people's bowels too.

Overall, this is a solid if moderately disposable cluster of low frequency patterns and kicks.

Prostitutes: Ghost Detergent

 Posted by Vito Camarretta (@)   Techno / Trance / Goa / Drum'n'Bass / Jungle / Tribal / Trip-Hop
Experimental / Avantgarde / Weird & Wired / Glitch / Noise / Field Recording
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Jul 04 2016
Artist: Prostitutes (@)
Title: Ghost Detergent
Format: 12"
Label: Spectrum Spools
Rated: *****
The first thing that I do, I admit, when this release popped out of my box was humming the truthfully easygoing 80ies hit "We Are All Prostitutes" by The Pop Group. The humming induced me to check that song again, before mixing my nostalgic selection with the first song of this contemporary stuff (I have to say, that the matching between The Pop Group song and the opening track "Nerve and Gall" wonderfully works, DJs of this sad planet) and begin the listening journey inside the straightforward sonic journey offered by Cleveland-based producer James Donadio. The tune I just mentioned cannot be better titled as percussive rampages sound like having been well amalgamated into stinks of bile. Chiptunes (including that fake gamelan hits you could find in every Casio tone banks) got nicely mixed over amazing textures in the following tune "Chandeliers Sake" and keep on getting crumbled like sheetrock on "Government Wrecker", a track smelling like a possible hymn of improvised nerd league championship. Donadio - he is Prostitutes... I can't be considered offensive! - unveils his skills in dealing with textures on the offbeat chirps of the amazing "The Sting That Stung" before igniting the torture technoid machine on the slowly disturbing stomper "Pressure On The Haunted" - staging a bizarre interbreed between Bandulu-like trance and sadistic industrial inflections -. The other side of "Ghost Detergent" includes some of my favourite moments of the whole release: first of all the opening entrancing computational sneaking of "Skeptalepsy", but above all "Pregnant Toad" (another guessed title, that says something about the sound this guy masterfully assembled) and the following "Cheap Amplifiers", wisely described as a possible "Def Jam bonus beat with ripping, cough syrup slathered DMX snare sounds"! After the plasticised controlled detonation of a breakbeat tune of "Fake Hawaiian Suit", Prostitutes smears some residual beats over a muddy surface on the final "Served On The Floor". Excellent listening and I can keep on humming The Pop Group's tune... "Capitalism is the most barbaric of all religions/Department stores are our new cathedrals/Our cars are martyrs to the cause...".

VV.AA.: Ten Years of Souvenir

 Posted by Vito Camarretta (@)   Techno / Trance / Goa / Drum'n'Bass / Jungle / Tribal / Trip-Hop
Ambient / Electronica / Ethereal / Dub / Soundscapes / Abstract
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Jul 03 2016
Artist: VV.AA.
Title: Ten Years of Souvenir
Format: CD
Label: Souvenir (@)
Rated: *****
Getting stomping (it's required by the style they deal with), but with a certain grace. This simple strategy could summarize the secret formula that justifies the longevity of Berlin-based label Souvenir Records. The label got founded ten years ago by Dj Ali Tiefschwarz and his partner Basti and keeps on withstanding the upheavals of a fast-paced scene, where stars got dimmer seconds after they gleam and shine. They are perfectly aware of the fact ten years in the current musical market is an astronomical era, and that's why they have a reason to celebrate. Besides a tour that will touch many finest clubs in Germany, France and Switzerland, they celebrate by this compilation, including a mouthwatering selection, exploring a broad range of styles in between tech house, techno, deep house and electronica, melted together by an intuitive sense of quality. Over a decade, they collected many good tunes, such as Ruede Hagelstein's hymn "Emergency", Tiefschwarz collaboration with Jaw for "Hurricane or floor filler "Triple S" by Chris Wood and Meat. This compilation of 15 breathtaking tunes is really catchy since the opening "Eago" by the above-mentioned Ruede Hogelstein - a lovely chilling warm-up on finest airy deep-techno chords - to the final "Taboo" by IOAKIM SAYZ - a mesmerizing declension of tech house - and groups together both long-term partners of Tiefschwarz label and newcomers such as Mathame, Cesare vs Disorder, Dixie Yure (tributing his "Mapache" to Ulises Gomez) and the duo by Thomas Von Party and Thomass Jackson (his misty tune "Boneyard Fluteman" is one of the highlights of the selection). Released under the lucky number augurs well for label owners!

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