Tuesday, September 22, 2020
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Music Reviews

Artist: Vladislav Delay / Sly Dunbar / Robbie Shakespeare
Title: 500-PUSH-UP
Format: CD & 12" & Download
Label: Sub Rosa
The idea of Sly & Robbie working with Vladislav Delay is an irresistible idea from the off, and offers up everything you’d hope it might, and more. It’s a follow-up of sorts to their Nordub project, where they’ve collaborated before, although that was more akin to live jam sessions, while this is a multi-studio special. Original material was recorded in Kingston in 2019, a combination of Dunbar’s drums, Shakespeare’s bass, their toasting and vocals, and also a wide variety of atmospherics and field recordings. Then Vladislav Delay took the recordings back to his native Finland and recrafted them, melding musical cultures in all sorts of ways.

The result is 52 minutes (including the CD bonus tracks) comprising nine tracks, all of which have an index and a number but no name.

Each track has a groove at its core. Some put the dub well and truly at the forefront. “02 (512)” jumps straight into the upbeat, semi-aggressive rhythm core and stays there, the production touches providing decoration ranging from classic reverb and delay to complimentary electronics. Others, like “04 (514)”, are more effects-driven, with tiny vocal snippets cut up and retriggered, but jittering over a mostly rock steady drum and bass pattern.

The Kingston sounds come to the fore in pieces like the quirky semi-industrial “05 (521)”. They’re looped in an intriguing way in “06 (519)” to form part of the rhythm track, while “07 (522)” has a sharp-edged kind of menace that bubbles under with those atmospheres. It isn’t generally as laidback as some might expect, there’s a constant sense of purpose infused throughout and there’s no point anywhere in this release that things feel empty or lazy.

The open-minded dub spirit is alive and well on this one, on a release that should appeal rather than alienate fans on both sides of what I’ll reluctantly call a fusion. It’s tempting to say “recommended if you like” and cite artists like On-U Sound System, Andrew Weatherall or The Orb’s dubbier moments- and I make no apologies for my 90’s roots on those comparisons. But it would be more appropriate just to say “recommended if you like interesting music”, because this is one of those eclectic crossovers that really deserves a lot of attention. This is one of the best releases to have landed on my desk this year, for sure.

Only Now: Black Wind / Merciless Destiny

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Artist: Only Now
Title: Black Wind / Merciless Destiny
Format: 10"
Label: Kush Arora Productions
Black Wind / Merciless Destiny is a new 6-track EP that I was very pleased to check out, after enjoying the impressive “Captivity” EP from the end of last year. There’s a certain natural progression here, but as expected (and hoped) it’s another collection of dark instrumental electronica with a sharp edge and a sinister outlook.

There are three parts labelled “Merciless Destiny”- not sequential, strangely- and I’d call these the centrepiece. A brooding post-dubstep industrial rhythm, more prominent in the first part, practically collapsed in part three, carries along rubbery distorted bass tones and busy, robotic glitchy noises.

“Black Wind” is two parts, and these are in effect a book-end, a more ambient melodic affair (despite the initial glitch-kick at the start of the first part that announces the EP). The first has a curious, almost drunken melody tone to it, while the second part adds a bit of gentle harp-type sound to lull you to unsettled sleep.

Like the last EP, despite only being 24 minutes there’s still space for a few twists- most notably the aggressive rhythm workout “Arrow”, which at under 80 seconds long and the only track that’s neither “Black Wind” nor “Merciless Destiny”, feels oddly anachronistic. There’s also the point in “Merciless Destiny pt. 3” that suddenly jumps without warning from near-noise into a gentle melodic arpeggio.

It’s another really strong EP that teases out more of the seemingly endless potential of dark electronic textures to fascinate and draw you in. Also, with apologies that this may come across as a footnote, it’s worth noting that all proceeds from the release will be going to civil rights causes.

Glok: Dissident Remixed

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Artist: Glok
Title: Dissident Remixed
Format: 12" + Download
Label: Bytes
Around a year ago I gave “Dissident” a generally positive review, as a decent piece of synthwave work (from the historically non-synthwave Andy Bell, not the Erasure one etc.), with the 20-minute title track earning particular praise but some of the other tracks feeling a little experimental and running out of steam. Now, a year on, Glok have enlisted the help of a stellar list of guests to remix the tracks, and in some cases fully realise pieces that perhaps felt a little bit underbaked on first outing.

Many of the tracks play on the safe side, rolling steady DJ-friendly electro and progressive house vibes that unfold gradually and without drama. Richard Sen’s version of “Dissident” and Franz Kirmann’s version of “Kolokol” are among these, although the latter’s extra dub version at the end of the release is perhaps more interesting than the main mix. Glok’s own extended mix of “Pulsing”- of which there’s a 15-minute version, but the album version has been cut down to 7- exemplifies the patience of just letting a groove, that’s acid and house without being acid house, meander and fade in and out, and the resulting sense of satisfaction- with its exit through the ‘ambient’ door slightly unexpected.

Others allow themselves to break off in different directions. The unexpectedly funky bouncing-bass groove and glitchy dance-rock of Minotaur Shock’s version of “Weaver” comes from the leftfield. C.A.R. takes the trip-hoppy original of “Weaver”, strips it down and spaces it out into something much more atmospheric. Timothy Clerkin’s 90bpm take on “Projected Sounds” elasticates and rubberises the groove and gives it a kind of adventurous swagger, covered in many layers of top-end pretty sounds- though the screaming guitar loop that arrives halfway through does feel a touch noisy and invasive.

Special mention obviously has to go to the late legend Andrew Weatherall, whose contribution to making the electronic music landscape as diverse and rich as it is has been justifiably much discussed, but really can’t be understated. Weatherall mixes were never predictable, and so it is here, with a version of “Cloud Cover” that goes for soft synth-symphonic electro, nicely underplayed but always steadily evolving- and with a fitting and almost symbolic catch-you-out tempo change ending.

The Jay Glass Dubs Reboot of “Exit Through The Skylight”, curiously, ends up sounding a little more old-school-Weatherall-like than the Weatherall remix thanks to its Sabres Of Paradise-ish use of slow delays in its electrodub. The Maps remix of “Pulsing” embraces the synthwave idea most of all, with its bright chord breakdowns, but enough complex production to prevent it from sounding truly retro.

To top it off and add value, an eight-minute edit of the original album’s 20-minute title track, that sounds more and more Tangerine Dream-like the more you listen to it, wraps things up nicely.

There was certainly nothing wrong with the original album, at all, but if anything this remix album manages to make it better- fully realising and fleshing out some of the sketchier tracks, and adding more breadth thanks to the diverse range of contributions. Rather than ‘milking another remix album’ as other labels are sometimes prone to, Bytes (as part of the Ransom Note group) have rolled out an essential electronica work that absolutely deserves to be listened to, even if the original passed you by.

Signal~Bruit: Hyperborée

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Artist: Signal~Bruit
Title: Hyperborée
Format: CD
Label: productionB
Rated: *****
"Hyperborée" is the second album by Signal-Bruit, the second solo project of Celluloide's keyboardist Member U-0176.
"Hyperborée" is also the second release of productionB, sub-label of BOREDOMproduct which is dedicated to the release of projects sounding a bit more experimental compared to what BOREDOMproduct is releasing usually.
This album contains nine new tracks which are chapters of a story based on the journey of Pytheas, a Greek sailor lived in the 4th century BC who embarked toward the northern seas, aiming to prove that the Earth is a sphere and that if someone was standing on the top of it, he should be able to see the sun all day.
Each track is a soundtrack to a different moment of the travel: if "Lacydon" shows the start of the trip, on "Pentécontère I" he's heading to the pillars of Herakles just to pass to the open Atlantic on "Atlantique".
At every stop, he's meeting new people or strange creatures until on "Baltique" he's facing the cold and the ice.
His travel ends with "Nuit Blanche" where the sunset and the sunrise melt in only one moment.
Musically the tracks ideally melt the '70s Berlin/French school of electronic music.
Most of the rhythms are produced by sequencers (if you have in mind the early Klaus Schulze albums, you know what I mean) while melodically I hear echoes of early Jarre and I'm not saying this because Member U-0176 is French.
Think about that mixture of styles and add also a modern production that gives a fresh approach to classic sounds.
Nice release!

Artist: Darcey Electronics
Title: Hallo
Format: 12" + Download
Label: Plant Life
A debut in a few ways- a first release from duo Darling and Tracey, as Darcey Electronics, and a first release for the Plant Life label- the Hallo EP sets off in its own direction, very mild and laidback, but still a bit of a statement of intent.

“Morgen”’s light, steppy beats run at about 145bpm, while the perky synth melody and chords amble gently over the top, the classic heart-pounds-while-brain-reflects combination. “Handbird” has a similarly floaty, dreamy top line, but eases off on the percussion- broadly balearic and incredibly mild.

“The Berries” is a little jazzier and quirkier, with a nice build-up, playful keys and some indistinct vocal samples that give an extra bit of texture, before the EP’s strongest instrumental melody line. It’s wrapped up by “Auto Zap”, again a bit perkier, almost Luke Vibert-ish at times, but again with the dreamy arpeggios and floaty chords.

It’s got its own character set as a release, and sits in an unusual hybrid zone inbetween chillout and the lower end of drum-and-bass, whilst keeping everything light and fluffy throughout. Interesting fare for home-listening or the more open-minded and eclectic of DJ’s.


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