Music Reviews

Servitor: The Forest Crept Back Into The City...

 Posted by Steve Mecca   Techno / Trance / Goa / Drum'n'Bass / Jungle / Tribal / Trip-Hop
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Jun 15 2016
Artist: Servitor (@)
Title: The Forest Crept Back Into The City...
Format: CD
Label: self-released
Rated: *****
Servitor is Sean Malley, formerly of Detroit, now located in Richmond, VA, and Servitor is his tribal/industrial project. I think 'The Forest Crept Back Into The City...' is Servitor's third or fourth album but I haven't heard anything previous from this artist. One thing is certain though, after 'TFCBITC' it is unlikely that any further releases by Servitor will ever be overlooked. Obviously when you think of "tribal" there have to be drums, lots of drums, and there are drums a plenty on this album, but so much more. In fact, you won't believe that this was made by one person, as it sounds like an entire tribe, and then some. Besides a wide variety of drums and other percussion intruments/elements (djembes, dunus, ashiko, riqs, dumbeks, frame drums, surdos, tambors, snares, pow wow drum, davuls, shekere, zils, cowbells, monkey drum, toms, pandeiro, tambourines, qraqebs, baritone ukulele, and zhong ruan) there is also sampling and synth programming. Don't expect this to sound like other so called "tribal-industrial" acts that bring an ersatz measure of tribal to the table at best, flavoring their industrial sound with some tribal condiments. This is the real deal. Malley's commitment to this also takes form in his physial appearance - a combination of Native American and rivethead, but what else might you expect?

Opening track, "Bruigh An Cnaipe" begins incongruously with heavenly choir and electronic buzzing before it takes off into the primitive. A salvo of hand drum, a war whoop and then the onslaught. Ferocious and exhuberent drumming (and other percussion) punctuated by whoops, cries and yelps indicate that the natives are indeed restless, and seem to be having a damn good time too. With the cathedral choir in the background you almost get the impression of some Catholic missionaries stumbling on a wild Indian party in progress. Great intro! Things get even more intense on "Branchbaila" as the drumming gets into this manic groove, subtle industrial elements emerge, and there is a growled vocal chant that only becomes clear during the break - "Underneath the concrete rising up from the earth cracks, sewing the runes with earth seed, mother come take the town back." Followed by a roar, the manic dance returns to full frenzy. All the while that heavenly choir floats in the background. "Root room DOOm BOOm" changes gear into a happy crowd stomping groove with deeper drums, negro spiritual samples, and a vocal "Rawr rawr RO RAWR!" with some musical sample repeatedly accenting the measures. There are also vocals with lyrics but I can't make them out. More happy vocal samples (pygmies chanting ?) and the beat goes on. This track would be perfect for dancing around a bonfire with painted face and not much else. "Donusturmek" is very Middle Eastern; perhaps Turkish or Afghani, but the chanting comes from elsewhere. There are exotic double-reed woodinds and a clatter of metallic percussion, as well as some monstrous industrial synths and samples. This is like nothing you've ever heard before, I'm sure.

"Kanda Ruskar" was my first disappointment on the album. Servitor moves from hand drums to snares and the result is like high school marching band frenzy, no matter how many industrial elements get thrown into the mix. There's a lingering liturgical choir in the background which seems totally out of place here. It's different; I'll give you that much. Speaking of different, the next track, "Haz Rumpus" opens with a repeated walking blues acoustic guitar riff sample, then the much heavier drum rhythm follows along with growled speak-singing vocals of which the chorus ("Walk as we WALK!") are the clearest. It's the closest thing I've ever heard to an industrial shuffle. Pretty neat once you get used to it. Over the next few tracks ("BOOm Ra Tek," "Kuzama," "Bassor Foomp") Servitor takes us deeper into the industrial aspects of tribal with more synths, sampling and a wide variety of drums and percussion. "Bli Mig Lite" slows it down a bit with an atmospheric percussive passage that could serve as an intro on a Front Line Assembly or Synesthesia album, then changes completely with an excerpt from the Swedish traditional "Grone Lunden" song where harp and violin are employed. This happens a couple of times on the track, giving it a very eerie feeling. "Sindle Spindle Six" juxtaposes intense tribal drumming and percussion with glitched-out choir samples. The junglesque "Sinte Sangaia" employs a variety of industrial sampling woven within the drumming and there's a fragmented lyric line in there somewhere too. Malley's back to the snares on "Jaeghora" and it comes across like a whacked-out funky drumline. "Kuku Cantorum" might just be the most intense track on the album with frenzied drumming, choir samples and tribasl vocal samples other (synthetic) industrial elements amidst the renegade yips and yelps. You will be exhausted after this one. "En Arca" seems to be the most industrial track on the album but still manages to maintain its tribal feel. Finally, Servitor wraps it up with "Turtle Island," a simple Native American tune with male and female vocals and a single drum.

You're going to need a lot of stamina to get through 'The Forest Crept Back Into The City...' but it will be rewarding. It would be cool if a dance club dj managed to sneak a track from this album into a set; I'd love to be present to experience the reaction. Considering that all the drums and percussion were physically played and not merely programmed, this is quite a feat. It's a potpourri of controlled rhythmic rambunctiousness, the dichotomy of tribal and industrial, forged in the furnace of the now to draw upon the power of the roots of the primal. Potent stuff, to be sure.

VV.AA.: Ingredients:050

 Posted by Vito Camarretta (@)   Techno / Trance / Goa / Drum'n'Bass / Jungle / Tribal / Trip-Hop
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Jun 14 2016
Artist: VV.AA.
Title: Ingredients:050
Format: 12"
Label: Ingredients (@)
Rated: *****
The 50th release is always something to celebrate for an independent label, but the somehow strange and almost unusual aspect for Clive's Ingredients, one of the most seminal drum'n'bass label, is the fact that it has never seen any output signed by his brilliant boss, who waited for this important goal before (co)signing his first track. The whole B-side includes "Parasite", an impressive collaborative track by Clive and the evergreen Mancunian producer and DJ Response - a collaborator of the label since 2013 as well as producer of some great tunes on likewise renowned labels such as Commercial Suicide, V Records, and Mars -. These wise beatmakers will let you move your body and your mind over worries that a player of Plague or a brilliantly paranoid mind could understand by inoculating into a foamy kicking roller a voice-over listing the most dangerous threat to humankind: bacteria, viruses, and ideas... Response also co-signed "Code 98" with Pliskin and, as the title could suggest, they dusted off a weaponry of sonorities (including those lovely drumfunk-driven bouncy rhythmical patterns) that will bring d'n'b lovers back to late 90ies. Last but not least, even if it's the tune that open A-side, "Interstate" by Duncan Busto aka Spirit is likewise vintage - I don't hear a so pervasively massive usage of flanger since ages - but similarly energetic. Happy 50th ingredient!

Gregor Tresher: Quiet Distortion

 Posted by Maurizio Pustianaz (@)   Electronics / EBM / Electronica
Techno / Trance / Goa / Drum'n'Bass / Jungle / Tribal / Trip-Hop
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Jun 12 2016
Artist: Gregor Tresher
Title: Quiet Distortion
Format: CD
Label: Break New Soil
Rated: *****
Three years after the last album "Nightcolors", Gregor Tresher is back on his own label Break New Soil with "Quiet Distortion". Born as a DJ in Frankfurt in the early '90s, Tresher has constantly worked on his own sound, starting in the '00s when he was making music under the Sniper Mode moniker. Tresher fame risen with two EPs released by Datapunk: "Still" and "Neon". Also his remix of Sven Vath's "Komm" and his contribution to the Cocoon compilation "Full Range Madness" helped him getting a wider audience. This new album "Quiet Distortion", contains twelve new tracks that mix techno and electronic music in a great way. Gregor worked really well by building rhythm layers with pounding kicks and syncopated beats which enrich so much the tracks mixing them with catchy melodies that make of this a release to enjoy on a wider palette. If "Numb" opens the album with a dark mysterious atmosphere, "Consistency" blink the eye to the dance floor with its crescendo and the in levare bass line. If the main title is a electronic dance tune, the following "Safehouse" is a minimal soft one with dry beats that create a nice contrast. "The Kraken" is another dance floor monster and it's followed by other two similar ones: "Riot Gear" and "Depend". "Decades" is one of the tracks that along with "Numb" and the closing "Give It All Away", will be able to catch the attention of the audience that is less keen on techno (maybe the people that are into Warp Records). I really enjoyed "Quiet Distortion" and with different listenings you'll be able to catch all its qualities, starting from the nice cover made by 3D-artist Dennis Richter.

Pr3snt: Rakish

 Posted by Maurizio Pustianaz (@)   Techno / Trance / Goa / Drum'n'Bass / Jungle / Tribal / Trip-Hop
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Jun 07 2016
Artist: Pr3snt
Title: Rakish
Format: Download Only (MP3 + Lossless)
Label: Ghosthall
Rated: *****
Out on Ghosthall, a relative new label coming from Switzerland and Lithuania, "Rakish", the new EP by Pr3snt is ready to hit the alternative dancefloors. The duo coming from Zurich and formed by Vasco Bachmann and Flurin Gishamer was active in the business since ten years but in 2013 they decided to make their own music and, since then, they released music on Yoruba Records, Hive Audio, Click Records and their own Ghosthall. The EP contains four original tunes plus a remix of the main track made by Lithuanian deep house project called 0rfeo. The EP stands out for its mix of techno and minimal house where melody and sound richness are the roots elements of their sound. Pr3snt know how to satisfy your will to dance as well as feeding your ears with nice tunes where the alternation of rhythms and melodies. If the opening "Arp Test" is a nice dark techno tune, "Boundless" (which is born from a collaboration with Zurich club dj Grauer) has lighter mood with a mix of techno and electro. If "Sunsad" will please the lovers of early Moderat, "Rakish" will satisfy your will of pure Berlin style techno. Orfeo is closing this digital release by destructuring it giving to it a deep house flavor. Check it here

The Phineas Incarnation: Liquid Karma

 Posted by Steve Mecca   Techno / Trance / Goa / Drum'n'Bass / Jungle / Tribal / Trip-Hop
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Jun 07 2016
Artist: The Phineas Incarnation (@)
Title: Liquid Karma
Format: Download Only (MP3 + Lossless)
Label: self-released
Rated: *****
The Phineas Incarnation is Phineas Brady from Iowa City, Iowa, and 'Liquid Karma' is his project's debut album. He calls it Progressive Metal/Ambient, but that's not exactly the genre(s) I would place it in. There's no doubt the music on 'Liquid Karma' is progressive, but metal, I think not. To me, for metal you need guitar(s), and there are none here, as it's all synths & drums. Progressive jazz electronica might be a better tag. Two things should be noted- Brady is only 17, and he's a drummer. You'd know the latter immediately upon hearing this, but you'd never know the former without reading about him. For a teenager, this work is an astounding feat, but I don't judge by age, only talent, which Phineas seems to have in abundance. He makes no bones that 'Liquid Karma' was enabled by Reason 6.0, but who isn't using some sort of computer software these days to realize their electronic musical visions. The Phineas Incarnation uses a lot of arpeggiation on 'Liquid Karma'; in fact, that's the main modus operadi employed with the synths, not exclusively, but it's presence is a major factor in the music. As for the drumming, I'm not sure if it's actually played, programmed, or a combination of the two. One thing is certain, he's quite adept at it whatever the case.

The album consits of 9 tracks with a unifying theme- "the concept of eternal motion; the cycle of cosmic growth and decay, evolution and involution." The album opens with "Void: Emergence" with light, sequenced synths (some arpeggiated, of course) before the ferocious proggy drumming comes in. The timing nuances are impressive, and so is the compositional quality of this opening track. "Void: Design" takes it even further into prog-jazz-rock territory, this time the sequenced sythn seems less arpeggiated but has a mechanical element to begin with. Other melodic lines grow out of it, with a stuttery bass holding down the bottom. Phineas brings it into breakbeat territory (old school, I might add) after a ferocious drum battery then melodic synth pads support the piano-like arpeggios of the melody. All the while interesting time changes are taking place but only support, never subvert the melody. I've heard may a keyboard-oriented prog-rock band that aren't half as good as this! "Life: Quasimortality" opens with a rapid blippy arpeggio over subtle synth pad before some hard prog cooking. Phineas uses bass more as accenting stabs than a bass player would normally do. The track goes through a variety of rhythmic and synth changes playing with dissonace, yet retaining a melodic quality. One thing I noticed - Phineas seems to love cymbal bashing almost as much as Keith Moon at times. There's a portion on this track where a pretty synth arpeggio melody backed by organ presents a very lovely passage. The drums lay out for "Life: One Becomes Two" with beautiful ambient synth pads and the eventual arpeggios, which is the only rhythmic component in the track. "Life: The Divine Paradox" begins with an urgently climbing bass sounding like a later day King Crimson rhythm section jam session. Phineas adds ascending piano chords with a following synth to the mix then stops cold and synth arpeggio, synth pads stutter-bass take it in a different direction, yet still ascending until it stops. Then crazy fast arpeggios, sample and hold style, herald in the next section, like ELP's 'Tarkus' but twice as fast. Jeez- where'd that come from?

Fortunately, Phineas slows it down a tad for "Life: Birth of Omniscience" with some calming ambient synth pads. The calm doesn't last for long though as weird breakbeat percussive elements emulate strange creatures. The cymbals keeping time on the downbeat weren't particularly to my likeing here; I would have chosen something else. More sequenced arpeggios lead into the next (heavier) section, then a very prog-rock section interspersed with, and finally concluding on ambient synth pads. After some introductory synth arpeggio "Truth: Ego Death" begins hard and heavy with a rabid, bass-led killer progression, dissolving momentarily into dreamy arpeggios, then blasts back into rapid sequencing with high speed locomotive drumming, and a light little melody line. Seems incongruous, but it works. After a strange staccato break, the track finds it's happy place in a pretty mid-tempo pattern, and ironically enough, I'm reminded of Happy the Man here. It's really sweet. Phineas builds some nice tension with a rhythmic single note sequence with a prog-jazz melody laid over the top. Ambient pads add nice texture, then it fades into wind-chimey ambience which carries through to the end. Final track, "Truth: I, Infinity" begins with machine-gun sequenced synth before going into some crazy alternating ascending/descending synth lines, then calms down with some beautiful synth pads before the drums come in. The track then proceeds to go through a variety of progressions and changes before drifiting out on a cloud of tonal ambience. Wow!

It's hard to imagine another band or artist that could achieve this. Think Bill Bruford and Philip Glass with synths programmed by Larry Fast and Tony Levin sitting in on bass. Then again, this is sui gereris, it's own duck so to speak. While 'Liquid Karma' is a remarkable achievement that all who enjoy progressive electronica should hear, there are a few things I would advise The Phineas Incarnation to consider in its next outing. Lay back on the crash cymbals in keeping time; cut down on arpeggios for melodic content and and use more non-repetitive melodies; and give the bass more melodic freedom. This kid is on fire though, and his next work is likely to burn down the house!

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