Friday, June 18, 2021

Music Reviews

Voyager: Shields Down

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Artist: Voyager
Title: Shields Down
Format: 12"
Label: Tempo Records (@)
Considering the references to space journey, satellites, and the guessed image of Jupiter, that according to some eschatological visions is the planet where the souls of philosophers and thinkers migrate after a life on Earth (if not a hidden tribute to the glorious and versatile synth series by Roland, that were used - particularly Jupiter 6 and 8 - by drum and bass producers as well), I'd like to think that this nice output on the Dutch label Tempo Records intercepted transmissions that reached some lucky zone of the outer space 25-30 light-years away from here, but if you check who's hiding behind the moniker Voyager, you can surmise that those same sounds were spread some Earth years ago and maybe reshuffled more recently by the same author/interceptor. Pete Parsons signed many great tunes, belonging to the so-called old skool of drum and bass in the early 90ies, and his tunes reached truly iconic dnb labels such as the glorious Good Looking by LTJ Bukem. All those listeners, who enjoyed that promising stage of electronic music and those awesome years of that scene, will be really delighted and I won't wonder if this delight will run together a fit of nostalgia while listening to the romantically beautified amen break that Pete assembled on "Shields Down" and "Enso" - with those emotional "traditional" refills, stressed by super-low bass punches -, as well as by the dubby tune of "Still Waters", going back to the primordial forms of sweetened dub that artists like Dj Krush, Robin "Big Bud" O'Reilly, The Amalgamation Of Soundz, Makoto Shimizo and many more that Pete surely met during his sonic journeys. A nice "once upon a time" sonic pearl drop! While I'm writing just 6 of the 100 copies of the picture disc are available, but the label highlights that if you're reaching a higher quality the classical black vinyl (500 copies should be printed) is recommended.

The Red Hour: Cracks

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Artist: The Red Hour
Title: Cracks
Format: Download Only (MP3 + Lossless)
Label: Manual Control Records
Distributor: Bandcamp
Rated: * * * * *
There's activity behind this Minneapolis-based electronic label established by Jason Hollis (Endif, Retcon) and Brooke R. Calder (Felipe & Brooke, Lolly Pop). As a result out of this, The Red Hour is a mutual project between both. “Cracks” is as far as I know their first release under The Red Hour moniker, a Maxi-Single release which surely is intended to gain some first recognition and to introduce a coming album.
While Jason's Industrial-/Noise-project Endif is rather intended to satisfy the needs of a small niche of specialized listeners, The Red Hour is surely destined to reach a wider audience with the clear intention to be successful.A "Femme-forward Darkwave duo from Minneapolis" so they call it, it needs to be said, that musically “Cracks” is a catchy and fast-forward marching Techno-/Electronic tune with a crafty produced dancefloor-compatibility.
Outstanding is the general nasty attitude provided through the raunchy vocals and BDSM-inspired lyrics of Brooke on here. Well, who won't like to lick her boots now...?;-)
Already the chosen remix contributors speak for itself and the strategy behind, as there's prominence on this release available. The names of the remixers include the famous Belgian musician Jean-Marc Lederman (The Weathermen, Fad Gadget, Front 242), the UK-based and Analogue Trash-recording project Nature Of Wires, DJ Transporter, Steven OLaf (who has been around for years by remixing acts like Xorcist, Out Out or Hate Dept.), Prophei, and Badrich.
Both the remix contributions of DJ Transporter as well as Nature Of Wires bring in fresh club food while the interpretation of Jean-Marc Lederman unites Jazz and Big Beat elements and is surely the strangest and most unexpected contribution on here. Badrich tested diverse Glitch percussion elements on it, while Steven Olaf used a few Break-Beats and guitar loops on it to integrate a rather more classic Industrial-/Coldwave influence to this globally modern sounding track in.
Decent stuff available on here provided by all remix contributors available as download-only release available via the Bandcamp refrences of label and band project. A YouTube video to support this track and the project is in the works too. Give a try!

VV.AA.: The Spirit Of The Age Vol.1

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Artist: VV.AA.
Title: The Spirit Of The Age Vol.1
Format: 12" + Download
Label: Details Sound (@)
Distributor: One Eye Witness

BUY from HERE or BUY from HERE
This 4 track compilation EP actually holds what the title promises. I was really sceptical at first not knowing what to make of 'The Spirit Of The Age' but it get's better and better with each listen. A melancholic blade runner mood captures the loneliness of lockdown and keeping on for the sake of it.

Anotalian Weapons starts with "A Series Of Changes", a great dubby leftfield track, powerful steady rhythms and a looped voice accompany a drift through the current times. Then A Hand dives even more into the loneliness of the androids with continuous hynotic sequences driving 'Modern Cages' into the outer spheres. Gamma Intel adds a decent hypnotic acid touch to his brand of electro to brighten things up a little in "A Note To My Love" before London based Vactrol Park end with a seemingly endless atmospheric dark downtempo track, accordingly named "Dense And Ragged".

A remarkable well curated attempt by this Turin based label to catch the moments and changes we live through since more than a year now.
(Scheduled for release on April 16th.)

Zer: Outatim

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Artist: Zer
Title: Outatim
Format: 12" + Download
Label: Opac Records
With a title “Outatim” and a blurb that references being inspired by film music, there are no prizes for guessing that there’s a “Back To The Future” reference in the first single from French artist Zer. But it’s not any of the themes, riffs or spoken word samples- it’s the sound of the converted electrified Delorean engine, used very sparingly as a wash and riser sound, with the faintest hint of the flux capacitor controller beeps in there.

Everything else about the track is fairly purist techno. The original opens with rich thumping kicks and immediate synth rumbles, a Tiesto-favoured technique from the 00’s, and the whole track remains fairly Tiesto-ish, with a fairly populist synth melody over a relentlessly hammering yet positive groove.

The AeFe remix falls in similar territory, again with thick kicks, but with a somewhat more rubbery synthbass that adds just the tiniest fraction of funk into proceedings. Personally I would’ve rather had the surprisingly catchy new bass pushed forward and the kicks pushed back, but that’s just me. The slightly grooved hi-hat patterns, kick and arpeggios all patch together into something that sounds very old school Hardfloor-ish, again pushing this release “out of time”- back to the 90’s.

If you’re expecting to be rocking the dancefloor with a techno cover of a Huey Lewis & The News track, think again!

Laughing Ears: Blood

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Artist: Laughing Ears
Title: Blood
Format: 12" + Download
Label: Infinite Machine
The second album from Shanghai-based “Blood” is rather quirky- a set of ten succinct and surprisingly bright-sounding electronica instrumentals, packed with slightly off-centre rhythms, simple melodic loops formed from sometimes marginally silly synth sounds, and plenty of pure-sounding, speaker-wobbling sub-bass.

Like its accompanying artwork, it is both dark and strange, but it is a little stranger than it is dark. It’s generally all very tempered, and the measured pace of tracks like “Untouched Places” help emphasise the drama, for example when the aggressive distortion kicks in in the title track, or the more overt thumping techno of slightly Underworld-ish “Murderous Means”. As such it’s a solid fit for the Infinite Machine label, which has a very strong track record in this field.

There’ve been footwork-ish releases not too dissimilar to this where I’ve suggested that they sound like an incomplete grime album, with a big space in the middle where a rap, other vocal or lead instrument could go. There’s very little of that space here, in a good way. Tracks like “Night Wisps” fill it quite gently, with careful use of textured synth washes and plenty of atmospherics, while “Buona Fortuna” fills it very differently, with barking chanting sounds. It’s got plenty of international flavour, with Eastern influences poking through in the melody and percussion in tracks like “Potcheen”, but in a thoroughly modern way.

There is a case for saying this release lacks the USP to push it to the top of anyone’s 2021 lists. However it’s a release that charts its own course, taking some fairly familiar fundamentals but blending them together in a way that feels like it is bulging with ideas, and it’s well worth a listen.