Artist: Artmann, Karimun
Title: Signals Thru The Silence
Format: 12" vinyl + Download
Label: Slightly Sizzled White
Signals Thru The Silence is one of those house releases that, listening without context, you would be hard pushed to pin down to anywhere between the late 90’s and today. A steady, walking house groove with a bouncy feel rolls under a rubbery bassline. Oddly kitsch stab keys dominate, and the slow female vocal line (almost always just the four words of the title repeating) takes more of a back seat, as a bit of dream topping.
On the flip side “The Way You Do It” feels a bit more consciously garage-retro, channeling the older sounds of MK, Todd Edwards et al, adding a male vocal snippet and taking things just a little deeper, but still easily within the same wheelhouse.
It could cynically be called house by numbers, but all the ingredients are in the recipe at just the right amounts and well baked, so it certainly has its merits.
Ben Coxhas been a musician for thirty years and a recording engineer for twenty years. His interest in music has taken many forms over time, from playing trumpet in jazz bands to singing bass in an informal renaissance music group. His electronic music has been heard in television and radio advertisements, installation projects, and at trade shows, in locations ranging from Indiana to Australia. Although he doesn't have a lot of releases of his own, Ben's mastering engineering credits with Spotted Peccary include albums by Darshan Ambient, Craig Padilla, Paul Ellis, Jeff Greinke, Rudy Adrian, Phillip Wilkerson, Shane Morris, Chris Russell, and many more. 'Consciousness and other tricks of the light' is Ben's second album and an adventurous expedition through the musicality of synthesizers and electronics. It consists of six tracks and clocks in at about 39 minutes. The opener, "Einstein Cross," features a loping rhythm, repeating echoed synth bass pattern, some minimal synth chords and Ben reading text from the Physics StackExchange site on the Jacobian Matrix. To me it sounded a bit like Mitchell Froom meets Joe Frank in the mathematician's study. Sort of sets a mood though. "Delta Waves" is nowhere near as esoteric, comprised primarily of a slow-filtered sawtooth drone, intermittent simple synth melody, light synth pads and floating amorphous arpeggios. It's a new age brain massager for the overly stressed. The base of "Just Begin Again" is arpeggiated synth pattern(s) that Ben builds upon with a glissando lead line and bass. Definitely new age electronica on this one. "Now" struck me as not much more than a rhythmic key tapping (mostly on the same note, but a little variation further on) exercise and low synth drone. "Chirality" might just be the most experimental track on the album and also the shortest at 2:40. It sounds very electric guitar-like (but probably a synth) noodling in a very spacious environment with a heap of chordal distortion in the end. Final track, "Matins," is the longest at 13:07, again with a slow-filtered synth drone and sparse melody, swept by an occasional gust of wind. I'd call it cosmic except for the presence of an undercurrent of some sounds I can only describe as subtle synth farts. Don't really know what the artist's intention was with that, but I found it distracting. So most of 'Consciousness and other tricks of the light' seemed to be a pretty good effort, but there were a few things that could have been done differently that might have enhanced it.
This single might be called 1989 but the original version is a form of melodic progressive house that really grew in the late 90’s and never really went out of fashion since. A semi-euphoric chord pattern that steadily repeats on a grand piano sound while other synths arpeggiate happily away around it, stepping in and out in a steady, journeying fashion, it’s got all the right bits of the formula, nicely applied. It’s DJ-friendly too, with an ending that’s more melody than beat.
The most surprising thing about the release is the genre-hop of the Paper Street Soul remix on the flip. Though it’s faithful in a way, especially in the breakdown, the groove is a complete shift, with funky slapbass sounds and disco string stabs that sound like they’ve come straight from the first Justice album. It even adds a new guitar-sound melody that gives a brand new hands-in-the-air moment just before the five minute mark. It’s rare to hear such a thoughtful re-shift of a track in this kind of genre, and it’s no real surprise that the radio edit provided in the package is of the remix rather than the original.
It’s quality stuff from the Redlight label, not liable to raise any eyebrows but top of the class for production quality.
Alexander Julien, a Canadian resident American is the sole member of Vision Eternel. Starting in 2007 he released a batch of highly conceptualized EP's circling around romanticism, heartbreaks and solitude. As the cover by Michael Koelsch illustrates this EP explores thematically no new ground. In the making since 2017, aborted and reworked from scratch the 4 tracks had time to ripe until they finally got mastered in early 2020 and now be published this September as limited Cassette (with additional Cassette of rarites), CD (with exclusive bonus track) and unlimited Files. No vocals or lyrics are set to the music so full attention went into composing this mood pictures just with electronics and guitars. The careful arrangements and lush production are those instrumentals strongest and weakest points at once. A mellowed out ambience drifts by moment after moment which invites the listener to drown in his own reflections and memories but is too kind to grab the attention completely. I think a few samples and a little more space in the arrangements could have made them more memorable and differentiated but this seems not be the artists intention here. After reading the short story which accompanies this EP I'm sure he strived for a coherent mood and this Julien achieved successfully.
Under the project name Mystified, Thomas Park has many, many releases on a variety of labels that go all the way back to 2003. Among other projects, Park put out a couple of techno releases under the name Autocad, and has also collaborated with Robin Storey of Rapoon and also released a primordial soundscape triology with Shane Morris. With all the albums Park has put out (16 pages worth on Discogs) one could spend months, maybe even years wandering through his discography. Well, I haven't done that, and all I have is 'Yenisei Crossing,' a quite different album even for Mr. Park. The title was inspired by a dream he had about being in Siberia, where the Yenisei River just happens to be. As Park says, "The Yenisei is a huge river that moves through this landscape. It divides Siberia in half, carrying time forward and water to the sea." Don't be expecting a nice flowing watery ambience though; more on that shortly.
This album, consisting of 17 pieces clocking in at a little over an hour was created by Park curating a large pool of sound sources that he transformed into elements ideal for iterating and mixing. Then he used Python programming code with his computer to give the machine the leeway to layer and combine sounds. This puts a lot of trust in technology, and results may not necessarily be what you might expect, or even want. Thomas doesn't say how much he discarded or didn't use that was computer generated, or even if the order and length of the pieces on the album was predetermined, so we really don't know about the editing process, if any. Track titles may have been computer generated as well, with titles such as "LUSCG," "XTWZ6," "OECV4," "DZE3W," etc.. Let's get back to the Yenisei River. There is nothing that sounds like a river (Yenisei or otherwise) on this album. What we have are 17 industrial ambiences that rely primarily on a looped base sound pattern with other loops and/or sound elements overlaid. Looping is both an art and a science. While examining the sound waves visually for loop start and end point is the science, what your ear hears is the art to creating the perfect loop where the loop point is almost impossible to detect. Computer programs are pretty good at the science aspect; not so much in the art aspect, hence the rub. When you let the computer determine what's appropriate to combine, aesthetics sort of go out the window. On 'Yenisei Crossing' sometimes that works out okay, but a lot of times it misses the mark in my opinion.
To illustrate, let’s analyze the first track "LUSCG," begins with a steady ticking/tapping that eventually multiplies (short slap-back echo perhaps?) over time while a sound like dull metal clanging against a flagpole and a wordless sampled voice humming an abstract melody over and under heaps of drone while a low pulsing looped tone emerges through bubbling electronic oscillations. For me everything was fine except for the percussive tapping which came across as uber-annoying and superfluous. In fact, most every track that utilized a stick type of percussion (be it stick, snare, drum, whatever) I found distracting and superfluous as no (extraneous) rhythm seemed needed to carry off the mechanical concept. "XTWZ6" begins with a loop where the loop point causes a rhythm. Since the material in the loop happens to be noise, this creates a mechanical industrial machine-like ambience. Other sonic elements provide some enhancement but it's pretty dry and static throughout the nearly 5 1/2 minutes of the piece. That's another problem with this type of programming. Once a scene is set, there seems to be little deviation from it except in additives, and "OECV4" is a perfect example of that. It starts out with a very short noise loop and a snare hit with constant cymbal noise while a whole lot of sonic effluvia plays in and around it. The snare hit multiplies into multilayered hits no longer rhythmic but rather arrhythmic as more and more sonic elements are mixed in. Unsettling, but not necessarily enjoyable to listen to. Not every piece has this percussion element, but there were enough tracks that did, and it was just unsettling.
Some pieces are less chaotic than others, and the ones that have less defined percussive components tend to be easier to digest. One of the problems with having so many of these similarly schemed pieces is that extended listening becomes tiresome. Then again, there are anomalies where everything seems to work great together, such as on "L31MF" sounding to me like a tin can tugboat ride in a kiddie park., if such a thing were to exist. I'm sure that repeated listenings could produce more imaginative descriptions of other tracks but I think you get the idea. Another thing I noticed is that numerous sound elements and loops appear again and again in different tracks. While they may be combined differently on subsequent tracks, you get the feeling you’ve heard this track or that track before and it starts to blend together.
So this is sort of as mixed bag; when things work well together a track sounds great in its mini-environment, but when they don't, not so much. Although there are some abrasive elements employed, this definitely is not power electronics or harsh noise, even though it sounds quite industrial. This is more of an experimental industrial ambient album, not something the Spotted Peccary label is known for, but I guess they're branching out.