Wednesday, August 12, 2020
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Music Reviews

IIITAIII: Zeros And Twos

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Artist: IIITAIII
Title: Zeros And Twos
Format: Download Only (MP3 + Lossless)
Label: Truthtable
The debut album from the unpronouncable IIITAIII is delivered on the vehemently analogue TruthTable label, and the release makes a point of highlighting that “no software was used for any sound generation on this album”- it’s just analogue modular synthesizers, and vocals, and nothing else. So whilst it’s tempting to call parts of this release ‘synthwave’, the band have taken the hard route towards making this dark synthpop album, and the effort seems to have paid off.

Every track was recorded as a performance, to avoid the temptation for endless post-production layering. This self-imposed restriction keeps the tracks cleaner, but it also contributes to a sense of retro.

After the cold intro and Gary Numan-like vocals of “Humanoid”, it’s second track “When It Rains” that really shows what this act is capable of- a sort of post-EDM with a catchy vocal hook and definite crossover potential. However this pop capability and accessibility isn’t fully maintained for the rest of the album.

There’s a certain leisureliness to most of the tracks, with the title track and “How Will It End” stepping an odd line where it’s neither downtempo nor uptempo, and walks along in a kind of smart casual format. This works better when the sounds being used are more expansive and are allowed to feel epic and fill the available space, such as in the nicely pained “Mindstare”, the tenser and more aggressive “Android Parade”, or the measured noisiness of “Voltage Vultures”. Although that being said, the downtempo “Up & Downgrades” does end up being another highlight.

A bit more drama and dynamic across the 36 minutes would’ve helped elevate this album into something spectacular, as it seems to sit in something of a comfort zone. But for a debut album it’s a good showpiece, with some strong musicianship and a lot of potential.


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Artist: 9cento9
Title: Reflected
Format: Download Only (MP3 + Lossless)
Label: HUM_an


BUY from  HERE
9cento9 is a solo alter ego of Marco Milanesio of DsorDNE which he invented in the 2000's. Most of the time used for experimental tinged ambient electronic works 'Reflected' is not an exception but an further exploration.
Recorded in May during lockdown in Italy and self-published via his own HUM_an Netlabel this is a fine example of today's independent production and release possibilities.
Reflected is worth listening especially in the quieter moments; interesting movements of electronic layers, carefully arranged beats supporting the moods and shades of harmonies appearing unexpected. Thoughtful Electronica reflecting the times we all have to go through. Self reflection, questionable future perspectives, a little nostalgia.
"Biochemical Reactions" as intro leads into a soundworld where nearly anything can follow, "Structure" promises a way before "Modern Discomfort" uncomfortably chimes in, "Core" dives even deeper before "Perpetual Sound" appears as mixture of soothing and stretching at once before "Slow Motion" as in a hydropower plant sets in.
The final track "Provides Energy" is a strange 10 Minute + outro which leaves me confused - Is it Irony to call it this? It's a troubling, discomforting ride to somewhere entirely else, a bewildering conclusion returning to the themes of "Modern Discomfort" but in it's very exhausting version.

No words can be as meaningful as words for those able to listen closely.



SpeakOf: Enterprise

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Artist: SpeakOf
Title: Enterprise
Format: CD + Download
Label: False Face Music
This is the first LP from Montreal-based Hamed Safi as SpeakOf, after a series of shorter releases. It’s from the most emotive and introspective side of melodic house, so that whilst technically it’s dance music, it is focussed far more on tugging your heartstrings than on moving your feet.

Tracks like “Disclosure” follow a relatively well-known progressive house formula- super-soft melancholy chords, very light beats, soft vocal snippets and light sparkly pieces. “Mantra” has the mesmerising step groove, and “Odyssey” even has the long sustained grand piano chords. But just because it’s a familiar format doesn’t lessen it, and this ends up being some of the strongest moody house I’ve heard in quite a while. A strong sense of melody in tracks like “Endless Love”- which teeters close to cliché but manages to avoid it- elevates the tone, and the calm never feels forced.

Four tracks are given an extra edge with vocals from fellow Canadian Kyla Millette. Generally these are the slowest tracks, and they are all highlights, particularly if you’re feeling sullen. Opener “Satellite” is very slow and pensive with post-dubstep shades, an introduction that slightly mis-sells the tone of the album but which certainly has power, but it’s the album’s title track that showcases the beautiful combination of silky vocals and soft electronica to the full. The somewhat Leftfield-like “Florida” is just as rich.

It has to be said that over the course of 64 minutes, there’s something of a chilled indistinct wash about this album at times, but other notable elements include the Public Service Broadcasting-style reportage sampling and unexpected guitar sounds in “Leap” (definitely a gateway track for bringing more middle-of-the-road tastes towards this album), and the more overtly synthwavey “Destiny”. The polished string sound and subtle rhythm changes of “World Inverted” are also a plus.

It’s laidback and unchallenging in many ways, but the unashamed emotion and bright production make this a really enjoyable hour of home-listening mood-house.


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Artist: Siegmar Fricke
Title: Funkwellen
Format: Download Only (MP3 + Lossless)
Label: Klappstuhl Records (@)


BUY from  HERE
Siegmar Fricke is a long-standing contributor to the experimental electronic / dance music world. The German producer (who also works as a visual artist) began releasing music in the mid 80s and has produced many albums across a variety of styles including industrial, techno and ambient.

Funkwellen (translated as “radio waves”) is described in the press release as “melodic based sequencer driven work with…futurist appeal”. The album itself has quite a history. Originally recorded in 1994 at Fricke’s Pharmakustik Studio, the work was not released until 2008 when it surfaced as a free download in a different form with a slightly different tracklist. It has now been reassembled and remastered by Fricke, and this “definitive edition” is available as a 24 bit high quality download.

The music itself is quite brilliant. The whole record has been approached with a rare attention to detail and subtlety. Its melodies, grooves and robotic loops owe much to house and techno, but it also contains an underlying and ever-present arty weirdness. This is not “hard” dance music, but it marches forward with enough intent and drive for it not to sit comfortably in the “ambient” category. The beats often seem to be right on the edge of climax, but instead they gracefully hold back. This has the effect of holding the listener on the edge of their seat, energised and alert. The synth sounds are expertly jigsawed together. Angular and disorientating sequenced arpeggios mesh with warm atmospheric pads. Repeated samples of single words or short disembodied phrases in German or English come in and out over the top. By its nature this music is repetitive, but Funkwellen artfully pulls off the trick of creating subtle and sometimes barely-perceptible variation bar-by-bar. New synth parts and samples rise up and fall away whilst filters, reverbs, delays and panning are constantly being controlled to generate dynamic motion.

Funkwellen is evocative. It paints an ever-shifting mood journey. There is hopeful excitement and there is cold bleakness. Sometimes these feelings coexist. The palette of sounds is familiar, but its application is idiosyncratic. It will energise you, it will stimulate deep thought, it will make you feel something, and it will hold your attention.

If you like to think as well as to dance, and if you enjoy having your expectations subverted, then Funkwellen by Siegmar Fricke is album you should hear.

Funkwellen is available now via Bandcamp.


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Artist: VV.AA.
Title: Oxygen: Critical Level I
Format: Download Only (MP3 + Lossless)
Label: Korpus 9
The Korpus 9 label begins a new compilation series here with a four-track various artists EP of thick, kick-heavy techno.

It starts aggressively with “M2S” from Kusp (UK), which stands presumably for ‘menace to society’ since those words are used in the sampled monologue about the dangers of drugs, an established and seemingly ironic approach given techno’s 90’s drug associations. Tom Hades’ “A Constellation” offers up a slightly more spaced-out arrangement of long sci-fi cinematic pads that are just about audible over the thumping, then Bleur & MB1’s “Cerenity” [sic] sits somewhere between the two, foregoing much melody in favour of a repeated vocal sample whispering ‘serenity’ over a beat that’s the opposite of serene, in a good way. Quisan’s “Epiphany” uses the familiar contrast of growling lower synths against wispy, airy top notes over a housier beat, and feels almost mellow by comparison.

Overall this EP feels like it thrives on the fairly simple energy of the mid-90’s techno heyday, and there’s nothing in here that pushes boundaries, stands out, or drills itself into your memories. But as a polished set of reliable, DJ-friendly, journey-techno, it’s very polished.



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