Alex White works predominantly with electronic music, but Transductions is based almost wholly around a disklavier- a MIDI-controllable yet acoustic (and seemingly extremely expensive) piano- which is being driven through programmatic or machine-output patterns. Consequently, the result sounds like the work of a classical pianist who’s going a little bit mad.
The variation comes from differing levels of chaos. “Slow Descent Of Wooden Window”, despite its name, is one of the noisiest and least obviously structured pieces, while “Cheekbone Against Window Of Train” is calmer and more solemn, evocatively reproducing those senses of travel and the slow travel on raindrops on glass.
Each track title describes a transfer of energy, yet I have to say that overall, the feeling is more sedate than energetic. Even shorter more active pieces such as “Bicycle Rear Wheel Lateral Movement”, thanks to their enchanting and slightly fragile acoustic sound, have an effect that’s a little like listening to a waterfall- while it’s a wall of seemingly unmanaged noise, it flows in such a way that it feels like a single natural texture.
Despite the unique methodology behind it, the only criticism I feel inclined to level at this release is that it sounds much like the simple work of an experimental pianist, sketching textures with their fingers alone, and if you hadn’t read the accompanying blurb to tell you how it was generated, you wouldn’t realise how it had been formed. But nevertheless it’s a rich avantgarde piano work that’s worthy of attention.
I was a little surprised when the name Quivver popped up in my inbox, as it’s a name I associate positively with some of the best examples of the 90’s-to-noughties progressive house sound, with some classic originals and remixes- but I’d fail to realise that Quivver had never really stopped releasing ever since. I was doubly surprised because until now I didn’t realise that John Graham, whose album “Cold Sun” is a highlight of the last few years for me, was even the same guy. So I was taken to school about this before it had even begun.
Under the Quivver alias everything does appear to be business as usual though, which is good news. The original of “Forest Moon” is a steady bit of prog house with the familiar recipe of light-and-crisp four beats, fluffy sci-fi effects and long, emotive chords- in this case somewhat on the cold and thoughtful side. In dance music terms, this is walking pace material, but it’s dreamy.
The Dmitry Molosh remix of the title track is a fairly subtle rearrangement, with the obligatory remixer’s changes of percussion and structure, including a bolder breakdown towards the end, but ultimately not changing the vibe of the original very much. The ‘B-side’ (in old money) is an Integral Bread remix of “8 Bit Eclipse” which rolls with a lovely rumbling bass tone and some nicely sci-fi bleeps that hark back a little to Graham’s other old alias Space Manoeuvres a little.
There’s nothing revolutionary here, to put it mildly- this is very much business-as-usual for an artist who releases on labels like Bedrock- but the quality is undeniable. You know what you’re going to get from this, and you can buy with confidence rather than curiosity.
Try as we might, there is no escaping the fact that the current global pandemic has caused a lot of people to have to miss out on many of the things that normally keep them sane. Dancing to grinding and hypnotic music at excessive volumes is an outlet which allows many to transmute rage and frustration into something more positive. This escapism is not currently available.
Thrillsville is a darkwave / industrial solo project from LA-based composer and producer Rani Sharone, who has worked with such luminaries as Marilyn Manson and Puscifer, as well as running his own dark cabaret project Stolen Babies. The newly-released track Lockdown is a “Dark dance club song inspired by the unrelenting restlessness of being ‘stuck on lockdown’”, and it does indeed bring the listener immediately into the bleakly energising world of industrial club culture.
Sharone seems to have used Lockdown as a vessel in which to pour anxieties and suffering. “Tightness in my chest / Anxious and distressed” is one of the first lines, growled in a bitter whisper over a punishingly harsh beat. “That nervous twitch wasn’t there before” croons Sharone as blasts of all-powerfully huge metal guitars stamp over everything in their path. The groove is also sensual in a way that brings to mind “Closer” by Nine Inch Nails, and the lyrics of the chorus reflect this: “I should be driving to your house / We should be under the lights / Instead of stuck here on lockdown / Losing my fucking mind / This is not a test”. As that last line is repeated the music soars to an enraged crescendo of turmoil. The whole thing is has an empowering energy which will undoubtedly inspire many to don the white makeup and dig out the glow-sticks. If they flash the living room lights on and off and allow Lockdown’s ultra-tight kick drum and pulsating synths to embody them they might even momentarily believe that they are right there in the grime and beauty, moving “under the lights” with hundreds of others.
The current global situation is so huge and all-encompassing that it can’t be entirely avoided by artists in their work. There is an ongoing debate about how directly the situation should be referred to in creative works, and I don’t have a correct answer to that. What I am sure of is that Rani Sharone, through Thrillsville’s Lockdown, tells his own truth and delivers it in catchy hook form atop an undeniably powerful blast of fury which will be of great appeal to fans of dark electronic and industrial music.
Lockdown by Thrillsville is available now from major digital outlets.
The duo of Columbo were one of the quirkier, funkier things to come out of the commercial success phase of big beat indie pop in the late ‘90s. With a video starring legendary (and anachronistic) TV celebrity Lionel Blair, the “Rockabilly Bob” single could’ve been massive. But back in the days when your first single had to be a smash hit otherwise you were dropped, it somehow failed to hit the mark, second single “Made In The UK” (which was even stronger) was quietly parked without promotion. The planned album was shelved and Columbo disappeared- although the two members, Jules Bromley and Rajan Datar, have had successful careers since.
In 2016 a casual inquiry and a randomly fired-off email from one of the people behind the small Banoffeesound label managed to unearth the fact that an album was buried under all the dust. It was exhumed, remastered and released, and the album “We Know Who You Are” was unleashed on the public, just sixteen years late. Sadly, it too managed to not roll the right number on the dice to get wide attention.
This Bad Behaviour EP is a mopping up of some leftover tracks that were remastered as part of that process, but not released as part of the 2016 bundle. They’ve been slipped out as the sixth installment in Banoffeesound’s gloriously inconsistent 2020 Singles Club series, where they put out a release each month for the year- a conceit planned, it happens, before lockdown came along and changed everything.
Finally getting to the point- this is brilliant jazzy pop music, that got seriously overlooked back in the day. Bad Behaviour showcases Bromley’s indie-tinged vocals over a rolling pop beat that in its alternative mix, subtly different from the album version, emphasises the more Propellerheads-ish elements. Twangy guitar melody lines are catchy as hell, and a slight bitterness in the vocals plays nicely against the cheery, almost party-like music vibe.
The track is backed by previously unreleased instrumental versions of the two back-in-the-day singles “Rockabilly Bob” and “Made In The UK”. These really showcase the big-budget production quality. “Made In The UK”’s brass is glorious. If only “Match Of The Day” had picked up on the perfect match these might have made with their goal-of-the-month montages, it might have been a different ballgame (but, erm, still football).
It’s Banoffeesound’s final attempt (unless they can unearth any more) to draw attention to an isolated and wrongly abandoned bit of former pop glory. This is indie-pop at its best.
'Full Of Life' is ambient guitarist/composer John Gregorius's 3rd release on the Spotted Peccary label. Sorry I missed the other two, so this album is my only frame of reference for the artist. According to the label promo sheet, 'Full Of Life' "...is a free-flowing, sincere set of compositions brought to life by the time-honored ensemble of guitar, bass and drums, all richly augmented by synth ambiences, electronic beats, and ambient guitar atmospheres. Moody and elegant, the album's melodic passages and tonal textures guide the listener on a delightful discovery of painted vistas and unfolding beauty." Yes, that's typical label flavor text, but what are we really listening to here? I'll get to that in a moment. First I should mention that Gregorius moved from his home in Southern California to the Sonoran Desert of Tuscon, Arizona (a place I've actually been, albeit briefly), after finishing his last album, 'Still Voice' in 2016. I imagine that kind of change really has an influence on one's outlook, as well as on their creativity. It must be an introspective, quiet and peaceful sort of effect that sets in after awhile. Such is the music on 'Full Of Life,' or life in the slow lane.
To be perfectly honest, I didn't much care for the album after the first couple of listenings. To me, it sounded generic, and too similar throughout. I could almost hear it being used as background music for The Weather Channel when no commentators were present as the screen flashed forecasts, temperatures and weather icons. I guess I wasn't really listening though, because after that, something happened that really made me like this album. The simple themes John was exploring just somehow broke through and massage the happy places in my brain. Yes, there is a degree of homogeneity running through the twelve tracks that clock in a little under an hour, but I think that's more due to the instruments and sounds used than the compositions. You can't really say that opening track "The Expansive Sky" with its downtempo shogazer atmosphere sounds anything like the Enoesque "Early Reflection" with its elongated ambiences and sparse melodicism.
Where melodic themes are presented, they are simple, but there is still a degree of wonder in that simplicity. Listening to the title track ("Full Of Life") I'm reminded of Pat Metheny, and how he could take something fairly simple and make it sound rich and complex. (And you know, Pat did occasionally have an ambient side in his music.) Sometimes other musical elements appear, as on "Path Of Renewal" with violin and cello (courtesy of Kayla Applegate) playing the main theme while Gregorius fills in the spaces between. What initially struck me as "guitar noodling" is actually very adept but discreet soloing. And yes, there are ample examples of shoegaze atmospheres, such as on "Blanket of Stars" where gauzy guitar swirls in the piece filtered through the light streaming through echoey panes. There is also a definite emotional quality to 'Full Of Life'. Halfway through "Winds Of Change" when the sparse ambient section gives way to the fuller portion with the fingerpicked ostinato chords over a simple beat and some backing strings you could imagine Nick Drake (if he were still alive) singing a plaintive melody over it. "Wellspring" sounds like a pop song for a low key pop band, and there's a good chance that if a decent one had come up with this they'd have had a hit. Kimberly Daniels' wordless vocals on "Monsoon Clearing" are so subtle you're likely to miss them in the first listening of the album, but they do add quite a bit. It's little touches like this that make 'Full Of Life' extraordinary. It all ends fittingly enough with the amelodic elongated ambient piece "Rincon Fading Light" and here once again I'm reminded of Brian Eno. When you can amalgamate your influences into something that is a cohesive whole and yet sounds like no particular one as Gregorius does on this album, then you really have something.