Saturday, November 28, 2020
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Music Reviews

Droughtwerk: Glare EP

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Artist: Droughtwerk
Title: Glare EP
Format: 12" + Download
Label: self-released
“Glare” is a four-pack of thick techno with singular purpose. It’s dominated by heavy kick drums that are four-to-the-floor with bells on, that open both the title track and “Disintegrate”, before other acid and harsh-cut electronic loops gradually fade in, and then slowly out, keeping everything firmly flat and direct. Alarm-like tuned top end tones add to the sense of urgency. The occasional eight-bar drop-out of certain elements is the closest skirting with drama in an otherwise unbreakable wall of sonic attack.

A more rubbery kick in “Vivid” gives it just a hint of happy hardcore flavour initially, but there’s no sense of fun or novelty here, and the tone of “Somber” is so consistent that on my first listen I didn’t even notice that we’d switched tracks.

I’d say it’s actually rare to hear a release that’s quite as direct as this one, both in terms of its sonics and also its determination that it has struck on a simple and successful formula and it intends to stick to it. It’s techno with a lot of front and it doesn’t try to be clever.


ELWD: Dandelion

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Artist: ELWD
Title: Dandelion
Format: Tape & Digital Download
Label: Bad Taste
“Dandelion” is introduced as “an abstract beat tape made during lockdown”, and it’s certainly the sound of the lazier Summer lockdown that’s behind us, not the colder Winter lockdown in front of us. Apparently over the Summer ELWD did a lot of work in his garden, and while there’s nothing particularly Gardener’s World about the tunes, tracks like “Poem” are strong throwbacks to the golden days of downtempo and positive trip-hop, perfect for people who still get joy from old Kinobe, Bent and Lemon Jelly albums. Casual acoustic melodies roll over tunes like “Chu” like butter and there’s rich instrumentation, strings and sometimes Groove Armada-ish trumpet work as well.There’s a slightly more determined swagger to tracks like “Greetings”, but it’s no more aggressive than a walk to the shops, and a warm positivity, almost naivety, to tracks like the “Y R Pirates Pirates” (the answer to which is, of course, “because they arrrrrr”). It’s a feel good release, that ends on a high with “Foreverrrr”, defiantly at odds with many people’s moods right now I’d have to say.It’s predominantly instrumental, smattered with a handful of spoken-word samples, though “Hear Me” is a notable interlude thanks to its rather unexpected soul vocal that digs back into ‘80s soul ballad territory and which, frankly, will be too cheesy for some. “Thinking About Mars”’s jazzy vibe manages to toe a much better balance with the arguably clichéd chill out sounds.November seems like an odd time to put out this release, but it could act like a form of aural SAD lamp, providing a window into happier, lazier Summer times for those of us stuck at home in the dark. Try a track out on Spotify (any track will do), and if you like the vibe, then there’s a good chance you’ll connect to the album and it’ll help you see through the Winter.


Dæmon & Endgame: DXE

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Artist: Dæmon & Endgame
Title: DXE
Format: Download Only (MP3 + Lossless)
Label: Infinite Machine
“DXE” brings the moody grime lyrics of Dæmon alongside the equally moody subbass-rich Hyperdub-style slow beats and atmospherics of Endgame. It’s a confident, easy fitting match that feels natural and assured, and it’s surprising to learn it’s a first link-up.

The whole affair is heavily reverb and effect-laden, to the extent that you need to really focus in on the lyrics to even pick them up, otherwise they will roll over you thanks both to the treatment and to the rather droll, casual delivery. As far as I can tell, then, “Let Me Breathe” has a topical and political leaning, as well as the EP’s catchiest hook with its “passive” mantra, and “Caged” is born of deep frustrations, but mainly it does fall back into the over-familiar grime themes of lechery and thug attitude.

“Queue” has shades of dancehall swagger about it, which contrasts against the urgent and somewhat leery “Eye Teeth”.

It’s a consistent dark EP with an exquisite amount of polish, though it does maybe feel a little too washy and toothless in parts.


Anma: Kick 'em All & Kick 'em All Remixes

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Artist: Anma
Title: Kick 'em All & Kick 'em All Remixes
Format: 10" x 2
Label: Syncopathic Recordings
Originally cutting his teeth on drum’n’bass production with the alias ‘Sub’, Anma’s style has evolved over time into deeper and more experimental territory. However he acknowledges that “Kick ‘Em All”, as an EP, has shades of the former styles in the melting pot as well- certainly not in the tempo, but absolutely in the crisp subbass and sharp production that pervades through the 4-track EP.

The title track is a rolling 87bpm behemoth driven by a relentless non-4/4 but steady kick pattern, with tense alarming atmospherics over the top. “60Hz Stomp” is about 10bpm slower, making it feel like a d’n’b track at halfspeed, with a similar kick-centric tone and slightly more complex pattern, but essentially more of the same.

“Witchdrum” takes the balance a little differently, still subbass-rich but concentrating more on the sinister, soundtrack ebbs and flows of minor synth chords, a modern-day witches-chanting-around-the-cauldron theme for the post-rave generation. “Diode Chatter” is slower again and has a slightly more upbeat robotic swagger to it, with shades of grime, and a really bold, 90-degree turn in its later breakdown.

The package is backed by a couple of real d&b remixes that are bundled separately. Fre4knc’s take on the title track is a straight-laced and energetic take that adds in the rest of the percussion around the original kick and revels in the more fun side of the robotic and electronic sounds. Double 0’s take on “Witchdrum” is far darker, twisting the pulsing atmospherics of the original quite a lot and giving a more aggressive form of menace.

There’s an irony, or a deliberate idiosyncrasy to the imagery of the delicate flower used in the artwork. There’s nothing fragile about this release. This is beefy dark kick-heavy electronica with bite- more of a venus fly trap than a rare orchid.


Humans Can't Reboot: Lost Soul

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Artist: Humans Can't Reboot (@)
Title: Lost Soul
Format: CD + Download
Label: self-released
Distributor: Bandcamp
Rated: * * * * *
This is a new music project under the roof of the UK-based artist and DJ Simon Carter, who is known amongst others for his various collaborations fusing numerous electronic dance music genres or for his synthwave project SD-KRTR. Just check for example with his highly recognized discography brought to us by the Belgian Alfa Matrix label ("Studio-X vs. Simon Carter" series). He is an international renowned force for his modern dancefloor electronics which touch nearly all thinkable styles between Synth- and Futurepop, Trance, House, Techno up to the harder genres. Also his remixing abilities are widely recognized and often requested, just check the Alfa Matrix compilation series "Matrix:Reb00ted" on which he could already present his talent on different artists out of the label roster.
As for the vocal part of this new project he could hire with Amy Hannam a thoroughly capable lady and teamed up together they offer you their full range of "Unique, Stylish, Futuristic Synthpop", as their info sheet announces it. So the music of "Lost Soul" is kind of a fresh breathe in the above mentioned styles, not too much retro-infused though. Technically from the production and mixing it fulfills highest expectations and so criticism is rather to be included due to personal preferences.
As for the music I could ramble on some of the chosen bass line sounds and that they sound in my ears not originally enough ("Starlight" - is that a tuba doing this job?), while on the other hand I need to spend fair applause for the changes of float and mood between the tracks. The title track is a heart-touching piano-driven ballad and also Ms. Hannam provides here her best moments.
I enjoyed also the slightly New Wave-understones in a track like "Fading" through the descreet acoustic guitar sounds integrated. "Fallen Angel" is another track on which Simon slows down the tempo and adds musically depth with his dense piano insertions. But compared to "Lost Soul" this one is to me the weaker one out of both, too much I feel reminded on a parrot when it comes to check with Amy's repetitive vocal presentation on here.
I was also about to praise the original drum pattern programming of "iDO" (okay, I praise it...) but unfortunately on this one Amy offers her weakest part on this album. For whatever reason her vocals are sounding nasally and somehow she looses a bit track on the highs and the tempo - it misses intensity and emotionally dedication to me. A compareable characteristic can be noticed on "You Stand By Me" with its rather minimal produced synth arrangements and it shows the listener that Amy's timbre works at best when it got well balanced into richly placed pad and lead sounds.
Finally another true pearl on this album needs a mention too and this the album closer "Reality". I would never-ever reduce the success formula of this album on this very one tune, but hey, with its great piano drops, nicely installed synth harmonies and Amy's nearly perfect sounding timbre, you've got one track flying a bit under the radar asides the tracks which have been already previously released as downloadable singles like "Fading", "Fallen Angel" or the title track "Lost Soul" itself.
The full-length album "Lost Soul" offers indeed a wide array of multiple synthetic music styles and everyone should be able to figure out own favorites. Nice work show of the musically dimension of Mr. Simon Carter, flawlessly produced of course, but don't stop listening before you reach the final track.

As for further information taken out of the info sheet, Simon Carter likes his music to tell stories and two of the tracks on this album are based directly from his short stories of the same name ("iDO" and "Reboot"). You will find a copy of both of these stories as a part of the digital download in Ebook and PDF format. For more short sci-fi stories from Simon, please visit: https://www.smashwords.com/profile/view/sdacarter