Music Reviews

Mental Overdrive: Plugged

 Posted by Vito Camarretta (@)   Techno / Trance / Goa / Drum'n'Bass / Jungle / Tribal / Trip-Hop
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Dec 04 2016
Artist: Mental Overdrive (@)
Title: Plugged
Format: 3 x 12" vinyl
Label: Rett I Fletta
Rated: *****
I'm happy to notice and notify that many techno producers are removing dust and sometimes reinvent those phunk and IDM sonorities, which got pushed since the first half of the nineties by artists like that fucking genius of Richard James or top labels like Apollo. One of the relatively less known names of the rising stars, that came out of darker lights of that wave, mostly driven by hours and hours of work on the glorious drum machines like Roland TR-808 or 909, was the Norwegian techno-maker Per Martinsen, who was just 23 years old when he signed as his brainchild Mental Overdrive for the legendary Belgian label R&S, after he met its smart boss Renaat Vandepapeliere at Boccaccio club in Gant, Per's temporary hometown, in 1989. After a series of EPs on R&S, Per came back Norway, where he founded Love OD Communications and released "Plugged," the album that 21 years after its launch got reprinted on triple vinyl by Rett I Fletta, sister label of Norwegian disco-house label Full Pupp. This reissue, including original tracks and some alternative takes, will make you clear why some connoisseurs of electronic music consider him the father (and godfather!) of the whole Norwegian cosmic disco, house and techno scene and why many notorious Norwegian producers such as Royksopp, Bjorn Torske, Lindstrom and even Thomas Moen Hermansen aka Prins Thomas, one of the founders of Full Pupp, could be considered his beloved sonic progeny. Per should be around 50 nowadays, but the music he made is still fresh... Years advance for artists as well, but some of their offspring will never die.

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!

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