Music Reviews



DJ Raph: Sacred Groves

 Posted by Stuart Bruce (@)   Electronics / EBM / Electronica
Techno / Trance / Goa / Drum'n'Bass / Jungle / Tribal / Trip-Hop
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May 03 2018
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Artist: DJ Raph
Title: Sacred Groves
Format: CD & Vinyl
Label: Noland
Working partly in Nairobi and partly in Berlin, DJ Raph draws on Kenyan and broader pan-African field recordings (archive material rather than original recordings if I understand correctly) of traditional ethnic music and shapes them into modern electronica arrangements that are on the very mellowest side of bass music. Soft clicky electronic grooves and rolling, rich but lightweight-and-fluffy bass notes hum underneath organic sounds that are from the more celebratory and reverent side of tribal music.

Some of the source sounds are treated in quite dubby ways, often allowed to breathe quite nicely, and when it works (which is most of the time), it really works. Highlights include “Reeds From Chad” and the bizarrely beautiful “Butcher’s Rhythm” that’s far more relaxed than its title suggests. “Ikondera” is notable for its slightly more driving, synthwavey bass sounds that seem to point proceedings in the direction of moombahton.

Mostly it’s a very complimentary fusion of sounds that makes the most of the source rhythms, but it’s not always a perfect match- the odd off-beat in “Earthstep” feels like a pull between the speed variations of the organic drumming and a less tolerant 90bpm-ish kick pattern.

In the 90’s acts like Deep Forest gained popularity followed by disfavour for their cultural appropriation of ethnic music into electronica. More than twenty years on the principle behind this release is not actually all that dissimilar, and while the grooves and flavours may have changed (though some of the samples are vaguely comparable), it still operates in the same field. Thankfully there’s a lot more musical open-mindedness around now, plus DJ Raph’s own heritage should defend this release against any misplaced misappropriation claims.

Final track “Yayaya Twins” wraps things up in a slightly limp fashion, but otherwise it’s gentle African-traditional-music-infused electronica with a gentle warmth, too leisurely to really set your heart racing but a very pleasant, relaxing and slightly-unusual way to spend 37 minutes.

Sonns & Tavish: Trycksaker

 Posted by Stuart Bruce (@)   Electronics / EBM / Electronica
Techno / Trance / Goa / Drum'n'Bass / Jungle / Tribal / Trip-Hop
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Apr 27 2018
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Artist: Sonns & Tavish
Title: Trycksaker
Format: 12" vinyl + Download
Label: ESP Institute
These two tracks mark a production debut for established LA DJ’s Alexandre Mouracade and Tavish Graham, and it’s a bold and confident opener. Two slabs of bright, confident, steady instrumental four-to-the-floor with bits of synthwave, bits of electro-house, and some aspects of a more minimal aesthetic, this is music you could dance to, or drive to, or work to, or just sit down and enjoy.

At almost nine minutes the A side “Trycksaker” maybe overstays its welcome just a touch for home listening and bouncier B side “Roguish Days”, with its bassline lifted from the funkier side of acid house, seems more compact and well-formed, but they’re both born from the same sonic pod and they’re both highly polished, if borderline uneventful, bits of mid-set feel-good fodder.

Lybes Dimem: Syncleft Chronem

 Posted by Stuart Bruce (@)   Electronics / EBM / Electronica
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Apr 24 2018
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Artist: Lybes Dimem
Title: Syncleft Chronem
Format: LP
Label: SVS Records
Lukas Rehm, who describes himself as a visual artist before the word musician, opens up a new alias here. The Lybes Diem project is integrally built to be a synergy between sound and ‘moving image artwork’ (or ‘video’ as plebs like me might call it), designed for installations, spatial sound experiences and “synesthetic shows”.

But ignoring all that, what do you get if you buy the LP or the download? You get eight punchy tracks of loud, often aggressive distorted techno and electronica instrumental built on complex and often slow kick rhythms.

“Tachy” is a noisy, abrasive opener that borders on white noise at times, and while “Horizon2020” allows for sparser breathing sections, the noise is never too far away. “Auto Alternative” offers a dark electronic thrum that probably does sound fantastic live.

The second half of the album settles down somewhat, with “Nascent Tenet” a collection of low faintly industrial drones mixed with long synth pads and odd atmospherics. “Double Bound” uses chord patterns that are odd-sounding but more conventionally structured. “Da-Jiang Innovations” reintroduces noisier elements but over more settled pads, before “Powerset” wraps things up in a predictably dark and industrial rumbling manner.

Either cathartic or unwelcoming depending on whether you can get into the sound or not, “Syncleft Chronem” takes some of the sonic qualities of IDM and reworks them into the world of immersive installations and disorientation. The result is one of those albums that manages to be not particularly likeable at times, yet really tempt you to turn the volume up up up nevertheless.

Christopher Ledger & Luigi Ranghino's Trio: Cielo Intonato

 Posted by Stuart Bruce (@)   Electronics / EBM / Electronica
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Apr 18 2018
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Artist: Christopher Ledger & Luigi Ranghino's Trio
Title: Cielo Intonato
Format: 12"
Label: CL Series
“Cielo Intonato” is a vinyl-exclusive set of sparse minimal electronica, with gentle rhythmic patterns treading with extreme softness under long, slow atmospheric pads and environmental sounds in a lush, mellow way. Luigi Ranghino’s Trio add organic and acoustic piano and woodwind sounds that give proceedings an exceptional elegance.

The main pieces are just three parts, each less than four minutes long, with the first setting the tone, the second adopting a slightly bubblier flavour, and the third a more conventional ambient affair.

The B side of the vinyl is taken up by an eleven-minute remix of the whole work by Ion Ludwig, who adopts a clubbier but still gentle approach that’s quite Ricardo Villalobos-ish in style- steady, minimal, progressive house where the elements of the original performance are looped politely over the steady drum machine bed.

This isn’t a release that vies for your attention, but instead is happy to sit on a wall and aspire to be beautiful sound art, flitting at the edges of electronica. It works well, it’s certainly very pretty, and leaves you wondering what it would sound like realised on a larger scale.

Kiwi: Mountains Of Dew

 Posted by Stuart Bruce (@)   Techno / Trance / Goa / Drum'n'Bass / Jungle / Tribal / Trip-Hop
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Apr 14 2018
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Artist: Kiwi
Title: Mountains Of Dew
Format: 12" vinyl + Download
Label: Disco Halal
“Mountains of Dew” is an unusual single- well technically they’ve called it an EP, but with a radio-length version, a B-side and a club mix, that pretty much the definition of a good old-fashioned single to an 80’s kid like me.

The main version of opening track “Pine Marten” is a really unusual blend, with a 105bpm groove that’s slightly 80’s funk meeting some unorthodox Celtic atmospherics and some quite cinematic and slightly synthwave-y melody work that feels a bit heroic.

“Daubenten’s Bat” is in more familiar territory, around 125bpm with a steady house beat over which sampled tribal chanting and folksy guitar loops gradually fade in, and filter and effect themselves up, before the ‘real’ house beat and faintly acid bassline kicks in three minutes in to strong effect.

The club mix of “Pine Marten” also pulls it up to around 125bpm, with a heavier beat and turning the bass synth pattern into something quite Moroder-ish- or reminiscent of Vangelis’ Blade Runner theme- but retaining everything that’s good about the melodic heart of the track.

Described as a tribute to the highlands of Scotland, you might be hard-pushed to identify the cultural origins of a lot of these sounds- you could even argue they sound more sun-drenched and African and Ibizan in parts. But for a nice bit of dreamy mid-set house meandering, this is a nice package.


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