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.
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.
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.
The self-titled debut release of Cernichov was actually recorded some time ago - between October 2017 and April 2018 - but got recently discovered and reissued by limited edition specialists Cathedral Transmissions from the UK (whose version is already sold out as of today).
It's 5 tracks, developed as the first collaboration from Bruxelles based David Gutman (who also releases experimental ambient and improvised music as Drawing Virtual Gardens a.o.) with Torino based Marco Mazzucchelli, are too refreshing to be called Dark Ambient.
There is constant movement, transformation and a sublimity in the use of sounds which makes it easy to listen to this as a whole. None of the tracks outstays it's welcome, in fact my favourite is even the longest one "Dissipated Poets".
The well constructed and mastered pieces are drones - painting a mood picture which is open to individual interpretation. As such they actually work as ambience too and very well.
As of now Cernichov are working on their second Album which should appear later this year and is definitively something to look forward to.
“Chord / Gong!” is a digital restoration of a 1978 recording of two long piano pieces from Philip Corner, assisted by Carles Santos (and performed on Charlemagne Palestine’s piano!). Originally available on cassette, it has been dusted off and it has to be said, the remastering is excellent, and the recording quality shines as though it was a brand new recording, with just a slight exception of some crushed tones at a couple of points.
Musically, the beginning of “Chord” inevitably draws comparisons with the other famous minimalist Philip, the arpeggiated chord feeling somehow almost a trademark of Philip Glass- but over the course of 28 minutes it leaves such comparison behind and heads off into a selection of different tone variations, ranging from very light and fragile, through to romantic, before ending aggressively. It’s an interesting exercise in the range of expressivity possible with self-imposed chord limitations, and while it never goes truly out-there- no thrashing or hammering, no gaps, nothing overtly experimental- it is something of a journey nevertheless.
“Gong!” does push the tonal range somewhat more, beginning with low rumbles and reverberant tones accessorised by small atmospheric noises that are periodically recognisable as piano, but often just very low drone, finishing with a barely audible tail that really draws you in as you genuinely struggle to hear the last section.
The two pieces are a very well-balanced pair, a yin and yang of romantic and dark, and they feel like special works. The only thing I find offputting about the release is the oddly vain artwork, strangely, but musically it is simply formed but exquisite.