Music Reviews



Phaedrus: Game Of Tones

 Posted by Stuart Bruce (@)   Techno / Trance / Goa / Drum'n'Bass / Jungle / Tribal / Trip-Hop
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Aug 17 2018
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Artist: Phaedrus
Title: Game Of Tones
Format: 12" vinyl + Download
Label: Transfusions (Medical Records)
Seattle-based Joris Kamma’s new EP has a clear and simple vision- classic-sounding minimal techno in its purest form. Steady kicks and short percussive patterns do their work underneath two-note analogue-sounding synth lines while filters and knobs get slowly twiddled to twist each track gradually for six minutes a pop. No shocks, no sudden movements, just steady rhythm-and-synth exercises aimed at your feet. And provided the mood is right, it’s a total success.

There’s enough variation between tracks to give each a slightly different texture, but everything’s in the same ballpark. “Bender’s Game” puts the attention on the (appropriately slightly bendy) lightweight synth sounds. “Encyclopod” has a little more attitude, with some nice muted-explosion-as-cymbal effects. “Violet Dwarf Star” ups the squeaky bleep factor and “Xenotaph 3” adopts a slightly harder, somehow more American tone with backwards FX, thumpier kicks and crispy noise-based snares.

It’s a nicely focused bit of well-made minimal techno with nothing up its sleeve.

Hilde Marie Holsen: Lazuli

 Posted by Stuart Bruce (@)   Techno / Trance / Goa / Drum'n'Bass / Jungle / Tribal / Trip-Hop
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Aug 15 2018
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Artist: Hilde Marie Holsen
Title: Lazuli
Format: CD & Vinyl
Label: Hubro
There’s certainly a distinctive character to Hilde Marie Holsen’s work in taking her own experimental trumpet performances, layering and processing them, deftly and extensively, to derive all the electronica tones on this downtempo and atmospheric release from them. As such it’s a remarkable production accomplishment but also a very engaging listen- one of the more brooding and soulful bits of electronica soundscaping I’ve heard in quite a while.

There’s a deep and sultry tone to some of the trumpet work that makes it sound more like saxophone, particularly on opener “Orpiment”, reminiscent of Rachel Edmondson’s “I Am Calm”. Conceptually there’s a strong connection to painting, with the track titles being minerals that are used to colour paint, and second track “Eskolaite” has an almost-rhythm that feels faintly like brush-strokes. “Lapis” is more faithful to the trumpet as the featured soloist, mostly leaving it sounding pure over a luxuriant warm drone. Finally the ‘main event’, the title track which makes up almost half of the 34-minute running time, is a broad multi-sectioned and quite cinematic work opening with industrial clarion calls, bubbling noise, dramatically strained metallic tones and a real sense of it being the full works, before settling down into more open plains that allow the trumpet to regain focus once more.

It’s a rich and focused mini-album that oozes character, and a virtuoso bit of performance that doesn’t end up being too self-indulgent either. Definitely worth a listen in a calm space.
Aug 14 2018
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Artist: A Place Both Wonderful And Strange
Title: The City Smells Like Cat Spit EP
Format: Download Only (MP3 only)
Label: self-released
Distributor: Bandcamp
Rated: *****

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Elegant and whimsical but dark and uncomfortable at times..."occult electronic" and "doom gaze" are perhaps the terms closest to being appropriate for the Brooklyn duo, A Place Both Wonderful And Strange.

After a successful East Coast/Midwest tour, the band releases their new digital-only EP, The City Smells Like Cat Spit on August 24. The EP features one original track, "Kristae" and 3 re-worked live & studio tracks, "W*tch (Mevius Tour Version)," "Stone (Version)," and "Hex And The City (Resonata Remix)."

"Kristae" is a deeply haunting cut that evokes the image of a ghost-guided dusty LP, perhaps something out of Moby's worst nightmare. The standout track for us is "W*tch (Mevius Tour Version)." Musically haunting in the backdrop but guided by the heavenly vocals of Laura. "Stone" starts off with a cinematic female spoken narration and then moves to a whimsically-nuanced, fluid and moving track that ends before you know it or want it to. "Hex And the City (Resonata Remix)" is a bit of a layered, complex version of the song showing the band's unique mix of electronica and trip-hop.

"Wonderful" and "Strange" they are indeed. But the band is much more than that. They are simply one of the most original, un-classifiable electronic bands out there right now. I can't wait to see what they come up with next. For now, The City Smells Like Cat Spit is a perfect blend of electronica, darkwave and post-punk and then some....

Gavin Guthrie: The Totality

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Jul 31 2018
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Artist: Gavin Guthrie
Title: The Totality
Format: 12" vinyl + Download
Label: Medical Records
Gavin Guthrie’s second album is a pack of ten DJ-friendly house tracks that gleefully play with acid, techno and synthwave elements in a manner that manages to feel both authentic and fun.

Opener “AciDDD-1” shows the enduring appeal of classic-sounding acid house, while “4 For Blood” also employs the acid squelches but with a more driving sawtooth-synth techno set-up that softens into a very-nearly-house-piano-led melodic second half. The title track has shades of Marshall Jefferson-style US house, to the extent where you keep expecting a deep American voice to cut in and start telling you how to move your body, before “Ectoplasmic Beats” has a more European early-pop-techno flavour to it.

In tracks like “Home Furnishings” there are some glitchy touches that expose the release as a modern production but for the most part it’s kept analogue and ‘real’, close enough to keep the purists happy for sure, an hour’s worth of tunes that inspire mentions of everyone from Adamski (the more underground stuff) to Richie Hawtin to Josh Wink. Some tracks stretch their wings a little further, such as the rumbling “The Impending” or more raw percussive-driven “Sound Mind In A Sound Body” which both have elements of 80’s industrial about them as well.

I’ve got a massive fondness for old underground club sounds- maybe just because I’m old- and that’s why I absolutely love this album. There are plenty of people plundering that era for sounds and ideas but it’s rare to hear it done with both the sincerity and the success of this collection.

Marlon Hoffstadt: Human Interpretations Part Two

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Jul 30 2018
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Artist: Marlon Hoffstadt
Title: Human Interpretations Part Two
Format: 12" vinyl + Download
Label: Midnight Themes
After describing Hoffstadt’s album “Themes From My Future Self” was ‘short of unique selling points but well-made, smooth mid-set filler’, then the first remix package from it as ‘not one of the most diverse remix packages you’ve ever heard, for sure, but it rolls nicely’, I could fairly expect more of the same from the second remix bundle- and sure enough, there’s no surprises lurking here. But there is 26 minutes’ worth of steady, nicely-produced reworks of instrumental synth-house that happily take you on a steady walk, though not a passionate dance.

You get two versions of “Second Track”, with Eric Maltz’s version a nice combination of light bouncy bassline and jazzy echoing keys, and M Ruffing’s version works a similar mood but with some lightweight drum & bass-ish action.

Between that you get two versions of “Der Merowinger”. The mix by Matteo Luis & DCHM is my favourite of the pack, a combination of energetic rhythm patterns, some decidedly 90’s percussive elements and a well-managed slow evolution of elements in a conventional but entrancing fashion. The Pepe's Electro-Break-A-Rama remix has even more of a retro vibe with its perky Amen break and faintly junglist production touches.

Putting the remix origins aside it’s a nice collection of four light melodic instrumental house tracks, very DJ- and Summer-friendly. Overall, it probably edges it over the first package in terms of appeal, especially if you’re fond of the unabashed old school references in the “Der Merowinger” mixes.


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