Music Reviews

Did Virgo: Rise & Shine EP

 Posted by Stuart Bruce (@)   Techno / Trance / Goa / Drum'n'Bass / Jungle / Tribal / Trip-Hop
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Mar 07 2019
Artist: Did Virgo
Title: Rise & Shine EP
Format: 12" vinyl + Download
Label: La Dame Noir Records
Did Virgo has been DJ’ing in Marseille since the first night of the city’s first techno club, and further afield of course, for decades, and been involved in music production since the early noughties, but this is only his second EP release under that name, with the first five years ago- so it’s a bit of a rarity.

This is steady, generally 110bpm-120bpm house music with a supreme steadiness and a confident lack of drama. Synth bass steps reliably and unambitiously over simple 4/4 drum patterns, and a variety of synth details higher up to give texture. Opener “Show Me”, with its two-word vocal mantra, sets out this template very accurately. The lengthier spoken word work on “Glass Wool Acts” is strangely Yello-ish, while “Rise & Shine” has a more guitar-driven aspect to it that slightly recalls Rinôçérôse or perhaps a more American-ish EDM flavour.

“Kiss Me, Kill You” has a female vocal that’s English language but very French in pronunciation and stereotypical delivery, languid, soft and vowel-driven. It’s the closest intersection to pop, especially when the quite synthwave-ish arpeggios arrive. It’s the only track to get a remix, from Max Pask, whose re-take on it is rather straightforward- changing the sounds, making things sound a little brighter and poppier, but essentially it’s a remix that doesn’t venture very far from its parent track.

It’s a decent, steady, and DJ-friendly EP that will keep you relaxed but moving, without really rocking your world.

Sturqen: Survivalismo

 Posted by Vito Camarretta (@)   Industrial Noise / Power Noise / Harsh Noise
Techno / Trance / Goa / Drum'n'Bass / Jungle / Tribal / Trip-Hop
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Mar 03 2019
Artist: Sturqen (@)
Title: Survivalismo
Format: CD
Label: Kvitnu (@)
Rated: *****
Under the genuinely sonic aspect, this new album by Portuguese duo Sturqen (real names David Arantes and Cesar Rodrigues, from Oporto) for the knowingly excellent label Kvitnu, which cab be reasonably considered a milestone for lovers of power electronics, industrial techno, rhythmic noise and acid sonorities, maybe cannot be considered a fully fledged turning point, if you know the approach they followed on their previous outputs. In the first part, it's reminiscent, rather, of the acid stage of so-called elektro of the late 90ies (a branch of techno, siphoning elements of acid trance, who got packed into disorienting hyper-compressed epileptic rhythmical patterns), by following a pattern followed by many contemporary techno producers, who are massively reprising those sounds. Besides the (valuable) exercise in style (tracks like "Nervos", the stifling "Nuz" or "Novag" - the moment where these folk gets closer to some of the highest points reached in that niche by artists of labels like Rephlex, UR or Tresor -), the concept of this album could explain its structure: the first confusing and somehow unpleasant tracks, departing by the intro "Aranha" (Portuguese for 'spider') and the nervously acid glue of the already quoted "Nervos", seems to translate into sound the likewise confusing and disorienting world, where we live, whose timely traps and cages, where metal bars have been replaced by likewise unbending illusions. The following tracks seem to render a gradual awareness of such a concrete dystopia, a sort of carnival mirroring that cyclicality (as suggested by the strangling progression of "Hegel") of a history that becomes more and more smothering. The last (and the longest) track, titled "Energia", seems to cement both Sturqen's conceptual framework and the previous aural clues by a viscous electric storm, that sounds like a distorted declension of some obscure stuff by Gwenn Tremorin (Flint Glass).

Jamka: Inter Alia

 Posted by eskaton   Techno / Trance / Goa / Drum'n'Bass / Jungle / Tribal / Trip-Hop
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Feb 28 2019
Artist: Jamka
Title: Inter Alia
Format: LP
Label: Urbsounds Collective (@)
Rated: *****
I was unfamiliar with this London-based duo of Monika Subrtova and Daniel Kordik, but the label calls this album “the latest evidence of their patient, intimate relationship with their analogue machines. From the start there’s a sense of event – we encounter clear, interlaced electronic textures, powerful analogue drones and well-placed beats.” From the opening track, you get the sense that this is not your typical dancy techno. There is a beat, and the music is quite well put together, but this is not music for the club. At least not any club that you want to be at after dark. There is a feeling of unease underlying these tracks that goes against the technological optimism of a lot of electronic music. “Anazmo,” for example, has a kind of minimalism that makes the repetitive beat seem oppressive (and I mean this in a good way) rather than something that gets you onto the dance floor. For the most part, this is instrumental, with the exception of “Eskulap,” which has some distorted, unintelligible vocals. If you like your techno with the bleakness and darkness of old Front 242, with a touch of minimalism thrown in for good measure, this is worth picking up. Pressed on white vinyl.

W3C: Event Horizon

 Posted by Stuart Bruce (@)   Electronics / EBM / Electronica
Techno / Trance / Goa / Drum'n'Bass / Jungle / Tribal / Trip-Hop
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Feb 28 2019
Artist: W3C
Title: Event Horizon
Format: Download Only (MP3 + Lossless)
Label: Infinite Machine
With an ongoing air of mystery, W3C follows up an excellent 2017 EP on the Infinite Machine label with an 8-track instrumental album that’s thumping, steady-paced, bass-driven techno with a decidedly sci-fi flavour.

“Cabin Fever” is an opening march that really sets the tone, a brutal low procession of low bass and kick decorated by an occasional three-note alien synth melody. The title track is somewhat lighter, pulling a drum-and-bass-esque breakbeat into somewhere around 125bpm territory, keeping the grumbling and pulsing bass ever-present but balancing it more with high pads and atmospherics.

Other highlights include the laughing clowns-ish pitch shifting synth notes on “Intoxicated”, and the more sedate delay-chamber pulses of “Paradise Lost”’s journey through an electronic jungle. The tension and distorted breaks of tracks like “Primordial” are among the elements that sometimes provide a gaming feel, ideal tension fodder for some first-person-shooter in alien territory, although the percussive hits of “The Year Of The Blood Moon” would undoubtedly confuse a gamer as they already sound like gunshots.

It’s a dedicated and rich 54 minutes of deep, semi-industrial electronic techno that doesn’t yield any major twists or “wow” moments, but which nevertheless gives you an entertaining and atmospheric sci-fi journey that’s easy to recommend.

VV.AA.: Powder In Space

 Posted by Stuart Bruce (@)   Electronics / EBM / Electronica
Techno / Trance / Goa / Drum'n'Bass / Jungle / Tribal / Trip-Hop
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Feb 19 2019
Artist: VV.AA.
Title: Powder In Space
Format: CD + Download
Label: Beats In Space
It’s unusual to get sent DJ-mixed compilation albums here. Focussing on art music, experimental sound and the more thoughtful and esoteric sides of noise normally means a purist approach to the integrity of the work, so an 18-track mix of different artist’s work blended together into one 74-minute mix is something of a novelty. But, like some of the best mixed compilation albums of the past, the result, compiled by Momoko Goto a.k.a. Powder, is a utterly coherent sonic journey that definitely stands up as a worthy piece of art in its own right.

Predominantly this is feather-light electronic house music, that borders variously on chill-out, semi-ambient and lounge but carefully so, and without ever delving into corny territory.

The opening tracks are especially mellow, bordering on full ambient, with elements that bring back strong and pleasant memories of the 90’s, both in tone and sonic quality. This is bookended well with the latter sections too, with the smooth leisurely hum of Lord Of The Isles’ “Your Smile” taking it down multiple notches, before a quite 80’s-ish finale in Cos/Mes’s “Forever”.

Inbetween those points, once it gets going, the remix of Daphne’s “When You Love Someone” epitomises the sunkissed dancing-on-the-beach vibe that dominates the central section. Vedagor’s “Untitled II” utilises the ubiquitous and overused ‘deep spoken word vocal talking about house music’ technique for engagement, a perhaps slightly unwelcome narrative interruption to what’s mostly a very smooth instrumental journey. A sense of bright optimism pervades, with Powder’s own track “Gift” and Vertigo Inc’s “The Water Margin” exuding unashamed feel-good vibes.

There are slightly quirkier moments here too, but nothing to shake you off your stride. Tiago’s “Roy Brooks” works around an infectious jazz loop. K-Line’s “Saxopetu” is a squelchy number with a bouncy acid bassline and a keyboard-choir-sound melody that borders on daft, with Jules Etienne’s “Cuban Omelette” is not as silly as its title suggests, with its decidedly retro light techno vibe.

It’s pitched in high artistic terms as an exploration of “the properties of time” and “genre, movement, schedule, and societal convention to rebel”, and while I’m not wholly convinced that its credentials would hold up to excessive scholarly scrutiny, nevertheless the bottom line is that this is a great mix. Relaxing, detailed, well-pitched and positive, it’s a release I’ll be returning to for pleasure for sure.

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