Around a year ago I gave “Dissident” a generally positive review, as a decent piece of synthwave work (from the historically non-synthwave Andy Bell, not the Erasure one etc.), with the 20-minute title track earning particular praise but some of the other tracks feeling a little experimental and running out of steam. Now, a year on, Glok have enlisted the help of a stellar list of guests to remix the tracks, and in some cases fully realise pieces that perhaps felt a little bit underbaked on first outing.
Many of the tracks play on the safe side, rolling steady DJ-friendly electro and progressive house vibes that unfold gradually and without drama. Richard Sen’s version of “Dissident” and Franz Kirmann’s version of “Kolokol” are among these, although the latter’s extra dub version at the end of the release is perhaps more interesting than the main mix. Glok’s own extended mix of “Pulsing”- of which there’s a 15-minute version, but the album version has been cut down to 7- exemplifies the patience of just letting a groove, that’s acid and house without being acid house, meander and fade in and out, and the resulting sense of satisfaction- with its exit through the ‘ambient’ door slightly unexpected.
Others allow themselves to break off in different directions. The unexpectedly funky bouncing-bass groove and glitchy dance-rock of Minotaur Shock’s version of “Weaver” comes from the leftfield. C.A.R. takes the trip-hoppy original of “Weaver”, strips it down and spaces it out into something much more atmospheric. Timothy Clerkin’s 90bpm take on “Projected Sounds” elasticates and rubberises the groove and gives it a kind of adventurous swagger, covered in many layers of top-end pretty sounds- though the screaming guitar loop that arrives halfway through does feel a touch noisy and invasive.
Special mention obviously has to go to the late legend Andrew Weatherall, whose contribution to making the electronic music landscape as diverse and rich as it is has been justifiably much discussed, but really can’t be understated. Weatherall mixes were never predictable, and so it is here, with a version of “Cloud Cover” that goes for soft synth-symphonic electro, nicely underplayed but always steadily evolving- and with a fitting and almost symbolic catch-you-out tempo change ending.
The Jay Glass Dubs Reboot of “Exit Through The Skylight”, curiously, ends up sounding a little more old-school-Weatherall-like than the Weatherall remix thanks to its Sabres Of Paradise-ish use of slow delays in its electrodub. The Maps remix of “Pulsing” embraces the synthwave idea most of all, with its bright chord breakdowns, but enough complex production to prevent it from sounding truly retro.
To top it off and add value, an eight-minute edit of the original album’s 20-minute title track, that sounds more and more Tangerine Dream-like the more you listen to it, wraps things up nicely.
There was certainly nothing wrong with the original album, at all, but if anything this remix album manages to make it better- fully realising and fleshing out some of the sketchier tracks, and adding more breadth thanks to the diverse range of contributions. Rather than ‘milking another remix album’ as other labels are sometimes prone to, Bytes (as part of the Ransom Note group) have rolled out an essential electronica work that absolutely deserves to be listened to, even if the original passed you by.
"Hyperborée" is the second album by Signal-Bruit, the second solo project of Celluloide's keyboardist Member U-0176.
"Hyperborée" is also the second release of productionB, sub-label of BOREDOMproduct which is dedicated to the release of projects sounding a bit more experimental compared to what BOREDOMproduct is releasing usually.
This album contains nine new tracks which are chapters of a story based on the journey of Pytheas, a Greek sailor lived in the 4th century BC who embarked toward the northern seas, aiming to prove that the Earth is a sphere and that if someone was standing on the top of it, he should be able to see the sun all day.
Each track is a soundtrack to a different moment of the travel: if "Lacydon" shows the start of the trip, on "Pentécontère I" he's heading to the pillars of Herakles just to pass to the open Atlantic on "Atlantique".
At every stop, he's meeting new people or strange creatures until on "Baltique" he's facing the cold and the ice.
His travel ends with "Nuit Blanche" where the sunset and the sunrise melt in only one moment.
Musically the tracks ideally melt the '70s Berlin/French school of electronic music.
Most of the rhythms are produced by sequencers (if you have in mind the early Klaus Schulze albums, you know what I mean) while melodically I hear echoes of early Jarre and I'm not saying this because Member U-0176 is French.
Think about that mixture of styles and add also a modern production that gives a fresh approach to classic sounds.
A debut in a few ways- a first release from duo Darling and Tracey, as Darcey Electronics, and a first release for the Plant Life label- the Hallo EP sets off in its own direction, very mild and laidback, but still a bit of a statement of intent.
“Morgen”’s light, steppy beats run at about 145bpm, while the perky synth melody and chords amble gently over the top, the classic heart-pounds-while-brain-reflects combination. “Handbird” has a similarly floaty, dreamy top line, but eases off on the percussion- broadly balearic and incredibly mild.
“The Berries” is a little jazzier and quirkier, with a nice build-up, playful keys and some indistinct vocal samples that give an extra bit of texture, before the EP’s strongest instrumental melody line. It’s wrapped up by “Auto Zap”, again a bit perkier, almost Luke Vibert-ish at times, but again with the dreamy arpeggios and floaty chords.
It’s got its own character set as a release, and sits in an unusual hybrid zone inbetween chillout and the lower end of drum-and-bass, whilst keeping everything light and fluffy throughout. Interesting fare for home-listening or the more open-minded and eclectic of DJ’s.
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.
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.