This various artists set is a collaboration between Mexican club night YuYu, and the very reliable Infinite Machine label. It serves several purposes, including to showcase the health and quality of the club and electronic scene acrossMexico, and also act as a fundraiser for the people whose livelihood is in trouble whilst that club scene is closed thanks to coronavirus.
After kicking off in purposeful fashion with the chanting techno of Er Irreal Veintiuno’s “Demagogia”, it quickly twists towards the darker, more sinister electronic sounds I associate with Infinite Machine. I can’t imagine any dancefloors throbbing to the awkward time signature and metallic pulses of Turning Turso’s “Los Dos”, but as a piece of home-listening EDM (and isn’t every piece of music home-listening music at the moment?), it’s got some excellent detailing. A throbbing, sub-bass-heavy techno with above-average rhythm complexity is the home ground here, though Tomas Urquieta’s “Midake”, Undefined Pattern’s “En Contra” and more.
It’s cleverly sequenced. Benfika’s “Torrente” contrasts nicely its plinky, trap-like top end with gutpunching and aggressive rhythms. In turn this plays well against AAAA (not Jimmy Cauty)’s initially lighter and breaksier “Phased Flashing On A Building”, and Microhm’s beautiful and trancey “Kyoke”.
Within the broad umbrella of EDM, it’s generally very consistent in vision, with no real odd-ones-out. It’s dominated by instrumentals so Camila Fuchs’ “Settle Down”, with its “oh it scares me” refrain that’s somewhere inbetween Siouxsie, Yoko Ono and Bjork, comes as a bit of a surprise- but generally, the surprises are few.
Other highlights include OMAAR’s deceptively simple but effective house-acid crossover “Sabe”, the skittish, glitchy “Leitmotiv” from CNDSD, and the nicely meaty brooding progressive of Nico’s “Walk”.
Like most compilations, there’s a sense of a large buffet rather than a full meal. With the majority of these tracks under five minutes, there are points where you’re left wanting more, forced to resort to Googling whether those artists have got full albums out. But there isn’t a single duff one in the pack, and ambitious and very open-minded DJ’s will find a lot to work with (or at least to practice with, at the moment) in this pack.
While it is true that most good IDM music has some element of melancholy to it, this reviewer has yet to experience one with this level of gloom. Calling Everything an IDM release might be a bit of a stretch, closer to melodic ambient and drone, there is one such track on this release. The impetus behind Everything’s darker side of the emotional spectrum is Ocoeur aka Frank Zaragoza’s contention that our society is increasingly consumed by mobile devices and attendant apps while oblivious to the world around. Therefore, Zaragoza wants the listener to not only tune in to his music, but the environs immediately outside devices, to absorb everything once more. Opening track, “Ascent” immediately instills a sense of gloominess with its subdued, bleak melodies and despite picking up mid way through, never leaves the dark cloud. Title track, Everything, follows almost dirge-like, keeping in gloomier territory and even the crunchy fragments of beats mid way through does not propel out of its overcast state. “Current” follows in gloominess, albeit briefly, while also maintaining a pensive and introspective side. Therefore it is a relief to immerse in the sole proper IDM, “Glow” with its more assertive scale-structure-like melody that builds in delicious tension before launching its defining steam-punk-robo-glockenspiel-angular-rhythms in tandem with said melody and both pair beautifully. “Glow” gradually unfurls throughout, both elegant and uplifting though still having overtones of melancholy, like most good IDM. Tracks, “Dawn” and “Dusk” are said to be companion pieces and could easily belong on Aphex Twin’s Selected Ambient Works Vol. 2 the way subdued, bleak yet seductive melody forms at the start of the track and then gradually strips down to ambient-textural-drone overtones, mere vestiges of its former self, like the decay of an old-school musical loop machine. “Dawn” and “Dusk” are your melodies on pharmaceuticals getting to work and gradually winning. For this writer, Ocoeur is among favoured artists and this time he challenges the listener to appreciate a different side of his art, even if we are to accompany him on the rainy side. The journey of Everything is well worth it, bring your galoshes.
From the off, it’s clear that Renaud Gabriel Pion’s dual role as classically-trained pianist and electronic producer is going to make this an unusual release. Despite being the work of one man, the steady pull of the clarinet towards jazz while the electronic work pulls towards glitch and abstraction is at the core of the album’s friction. But it’s a friction that gives energy, rather than stress, as evidenced beautifully in the upbeat opener “Zeitgeist”.
At times the see-saw swings more to one side, sucha s in the beautiful layered second half of “Russian” which gives us a dubsteppy wub-wub sound playing deferentially quietly under multi-tracked rich clarinet tones. In return, there are points in pieces like “Lush” or the decidedly trip-hoppy “Katana 2” where the clarinet takes a breather (but not for long) to let the intricate and detailed click rhythms and synthetic pad work come to the fore.
“Radiance” features the soft, fragile vocals of Big Sir’s Lisa Papineau. It’s a standout track, not just for that reason but for the richness of expression throughout. Fans of Submotion Orchestra should absolutely connect with this, and I hope it has some broadcast success that draws people in to hear and appreciate the instrumental work.
It’s mostly fairly punchy stuff, bordering on frantic in the rhythm department occasionally, though there is a nicely timed mid-album lull in “Cyborg” where the sounds get a little darker and more expansive, before opening up to a new dawn in “Tala” and beyond. Examples from the international rhythm flavours in “Bunraku” to the electro bass of “Neo-Tokyo” emphasise the diversity of elements being called on.
Across thirteen fairly short pieces, the electronica here is not revolutionary or ground-breaking. But the fusion between the electronica and the earthy expressive tones of a clarinet (which as previously documented is an instrument I’ve got a serious soft spot for) is handled absolutely beautifully here, and it’s that richness that genuinely makes this one of the most striking and attention-grabbing albums I’ve heard this year so far.
Instrument Sleeve # 1 is the collaborative effort of Psychiceyeclix and Caecus Animi. Before I delve into my review of this album, I think it is important to first provide a little background about these artists. Psychiceyeclix is the anonymous multimedia (sound and visual) project of an electronic and mechanical engineer. The project has been around since 2001 and has produced a number of releases. Much of Psychiceyeclix’s music is made via modified or “circuit bent” synthesizers, toys, etc. You can purchase some of Psychiceyeclix’s modified equipment here:https://psychiceyeclix.wordpress.com/circuit-bent-items-for-sale/Caecus Animi is a producer and electronic musician who has worked with a variety of artists through the years and has a residency with Aria, which is a collective that puts on various underground parties. Like Psychiceyeclix, he is known for using unconventional sounds. With that background, let’s talk about this album. After first reviewing the various press materials for these two artists and the album itself, Instrument Sleeve # 1 was not the wild album I was expecting. Having anticipated erratic glitch beats complemented by abrasive and odd noises from an array of modified instruments, I instead heard a very smooth, polished, and structured collection of songs that can best be described as a cross between AFX, 8-bit video game music, Crystal Castles, and The Octopus Project. As a whole, the album is rather downtempo. All of the tracks have roughly the same bpm. None are particularly fast paced. All of the songs have a steady base rhythm that is supplemented by the occasional glitchy overlay. It is not at all erratic or in constant flux like a lot of glitch and IDM. The synth parts and melodies are steady, but dynamic enough to keep you interested. The build ups and crescendos are gradual. What is nice about this album is that the music is comprised of simple parts that are thoughtfully layered. My favorite parts of the album are the interspersed blips, beeps, and glitches that reminded me of Joy Electric, if Ronnie Martin used 8-bit emulators. Some of my favorite tracks include 808 Game, Chinese Disco 8 Bit, Portersound, and Talking Teacher. Overall, I liked the album and found it was great to play while working. Specifically, I was doing some statistical analyses and it provided an excellent soundtrack. I like it more with each listen. On a final note, the physical version of the album includes an “onboard noise box” that is attached to the sleeve, which you can fiddle with while listening to the album or use for your own creative endeavors. I’m not going to lie, that is pretty damn cool, and I hope to get a copy.
A well-curated, well-sequenced compilation can sometimes shine brighter than an artist album, if the quality, variety and energy from all the component acts trumps what a single artist work is normally capable of. To use the old DJ cliché, here Josey Rebelle ‘takes you on a journey’ which on the surface is just another eclectic mix CD- but it’s a very good one.
The travel starts in the darker side of house and the lighter side of techno, but goes in directions you can’t predict, bringing in all sorts of elements on the way. Automation’s “Electricity” jumps us back to the sound of rave 1990-style, complete with Planet Patrol sample. We get near-jazzy groove work and Robert Owens’ familiar and always welcome velvety vocal tones in Uschi Classen’s “Only In Your Eyes”, and the Frankie Knuckles-like house piano of Reggie Dokes’ “Piano Seduction”. The tension levels ebb and flow over time, with grittier and grimier tracks like Rum & Black’s “Zombies At Dawn” or Loraine James’ “Glitch Bitch” contrasting but also connecting with much mellower items like the long chord keys of Molinaro’s “Amber Beach”.
The mixing is exemplary. The transitions are sometimes completely invisible if you don’t know the tracks, and the more notable shifts, such as into Fotomachine’s energetic and acid-driven “BBoy”, flow completely naturally. Harder tracks like Brassfoot’s “Kingu’s Sceptre” work their way in gradually, shifting your attitude before you even realise. Some of the crosses are on the abrupt side- the entry into Nubian Mindz’ “Sunrise 777” for example- but demonstrates that just because a cross-mix is short, doesn’t mean it has to feel wrong.
It seems from a sample near the beginning that Josey Rebelle’s surname may be pronounced as the verb ‘rebel’ rather than the noun, as in “to rebel against the establishment”. There are slight shades of political feeling here, most notably in the monologue of the two bookend tracks from DJ Marcelle that start and finish the mix. But it’s not an overtly political or even attitude-driven release overall, and the main meat of the mix is instrumental music for dancing, working, walking, driving, or plenty inbetween.
At the time when dance music feels flooded with locked down producers churning out work-day tracks with no character, this is a really refreshing mix that helps make me believe in house music and all its variant forms once again. This could be one of the mix albums of the year.