Wednesday, June 3, 2020

Music Reviews

Artist: Quivver
Title: Forest Moon EP
Format: Download Only (MP3 + Lossless)
Label: Univack
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.

Artist: Tresque
Title: Ereignisse (part.2)
Format: Download Only (MP3 + Lossless)
Label: -OUS
A few months ago I praised the first installment of Geneva-based Tresque’s “Ereignisse” for offering up a small pack of techno that “sounds both simple and fresh at the same time”, taking relatively conventional sound sources and rhythms but assembling them with enough character to make them stand out from the crowd.

Part 2, happily, continues in much the same vein, offering up three more techno instrumentals that are in some senses quite flat, and mid-techno-set DJ friendly, but with their own voice.

The groove loop on “Hanyatias” reminds me of some classic Josh Wink assemblies, where the actual layout of each bar seems almost silly but if you repeated it often enough, and tweak it just at the right times, it becomes infectious and danceable. The squeaky up-down bass and offbeat clap that rolls into the next kick ought not to work, but it does.

“Souke” adopts a 12/8 rhythm that feels more industrial, and gives me another throwback comparison, this time to T. Raumschmiere, but without as much aggression, while final track “Rauheit” is brighter, almost poppy-sounding, but still purposeful and nicely straight-laced.

Again it’s deceptively simple stuff, but it’s pitched perfectly to make it really compelling.

Artist: Jace Mek ft. Clarity
Title: Elevate
Format: Download Only (MP3 + Lossless)
Label: Country Club Disco
Elevate is a squelchy bit of EDM with a lovely bounce and swagger. The original version, which has a somewhat radio-ready structure (but not radio-friendly lyrics), has a lovely balance between the rubbery bass and breathy spoken-word mantra (“I can’t think straight, think I’m ‘bout to elevate”) over a confident 126bpm groove, and covers a lot of ground across post-dubsteppy grooves and a surprisingly long melodic breakdown at the two minute mark.

Both the remixes take a more traditional DJ-friendly structured approach, with simpler straighter house rhythms. Curtiba keeps things super-steady, with a walking bassline and trustworthy clap groove (but DJ’s beware the promo has twenty seconds of silence at the end!). Lister UK also keeps things on well-trodden house ground, making nice use of the rolling chords, and throwing in a couple of extra synth lines, including a completely out-of-nowhere shortlived and one-off riff at 2:48 that constitutes the release’s only real surprise.

Steady, middle-ground house music with a slightly forced mantra, it’s workmanlike EDM and house that doesn’t feel particularly inspired but which will definitely keep things moving.

Artist: ED1999
Title: Original Sin
Format: 12" vinyl + Download
Label: Porpax
Original Sin is a 4-track techno EP with a gritty and direct industrial feel. Over staccato pulsing synth basslines and simple driving kicks and snares roll a relatively sparse collection of upper elements.

“Pandemonium” has the classic gravelly industrial shout-sung vocal on it, but washed in so much delay and looping that it becomes indistinct, more of a tone than a message. “Straight Outta Hell”’s repeated sinister chants of ‘we are ancient’ are initially clearer, over a faster and more aggressive beat, before opening up into a throat-smashing thrash metal-esque vocal.

“Evil Disorder” is a highlight for me as it feels like a throwback- in a good way- to the energetic trance-techno crossovers of the ‘90s, letting synth and acid high notes off the leash on a slow and sparse journey in the higher register whilst the drums pound hard underneath. It’s a technique that’s repeated in a more low-end-heavy way in final track “The Furnace”.

It’s formula stuff in one way, but it’s nicely executed and produced, and in the aspects where it seems retro, it manages to pull it off.

Artist: Marat Mode & The Look feat. Eleanora
Title: Endless
Format: Download Only (MP3 + Lossless)
Label: Alpha Black
Endless is a deep house track built on a recipe that’s very familiar, but which still has power. The approach of drifty female vocals over steady, soft-synth-bassed house stepping has been done a hundred times, and examples like “My Head Is A Jungle” can’t be far from mind when listening. But, thanks to a emotive vocal performance and a fairly catchy melody, it does still work, and still feels relevant to the current lockdown ennui even though nobody will be dancing to it any time soon.

The extended mix sets the tone first, and the three remixes are fairly faithful to it, changing sounds and tweaking tones but generally keeping the song structure and overall casual vibe intact. The M.E.M.O. mix is based on slightly harder percussion and sharper, more acidic sounds, while the Odagled remix has a clappier, almost U.S. tribal house vibe to it and lets the chord atmospherics loop around a bit more freely. But frankly, more casual listeners might struggle to spot any key differences, and the two mixes would vie for the same spot in a DJ set.

Of the remix bundle, it’s the Juanjo Tur mix that works best for me- a slightly bouncier bassline and more stripped-back approach lets the melancholy of the chords cut through, playing nicely against a slightly crisper rhythm.

It’s a strong original track, with a nice mood to it, but a bit more remix variety and some changes in energy level would have given this a boost.


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