Sunday, March 30, 2008

Electronic Explorations

I rarely find a podcast that is notable for a dedicated writeup. Electronic Explorations makes a second appearance in my reviews - and why not? - I listen to the 90-minute show every week! Rob Booth first got inspired by broadcasting when he heard a show on Radio 1, titled Breezeblock, hosted by Mary Anne Hobbs back in 1997. Since then, he has been fascinated with exploration in sound and evolution of genres. After some experience with Alternative Blueprint Records and Good Looking Records, Booth was blessed by working directly with Hobbs. In November ’07, Booth launched the first installment of Electronic Explorations - a weekly podcast showcasing glitchy IDM, minimal techno, dubstep, and everything in between. I first came across Booth’s show at its seventh episode, featuring amazing melodic dubstep from Ranking Records. Since then I have been religiously consuming every minute, and it has been a very rewarding experience. Through Electronic Explorations, I got introduced to labels and artists now permanently gracing my rotations. Unlike other podcasts, which frustrate me to no end with constant chatter right over the music [seriously, guys, I tune in to listen to the music, not your uber-fascinating half drunken stories - you know who you are], Booth keeps his show focused on what matters the most - music. Although a bit heavy on the dubstep, Booth covers a range of genres, keeping the flow of tracks going with an intermission perfectly trimmed for track credit. Smack in the middle of the show is the pearl of Electronic Explorations - exclusive artists mixes by the likes of Neil Landstrumm, Boxcutter, Vex’d, Somatic Responses, Escapee Planes, Surgeon and many more. And Booth is just warming up! In my mind, Electronic Explorations is the leading podcast for the freshest beats from the established labels like Planet Mu, Ad Noiseam, Rephlex, Warp, Thinner, Ghostly, Modern Love as well as plenty of undiscovered talent. I write about the music that I like, but it’s up to you to get ahold of the reviewed material. Well, if I’ve never directly shared my favorite music, it’s because Booth is doing a tremendous job in that space all on his own. And it’s free! |

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Ricardo Villalobos - Fabric 36 (Fabric)

The label created by the London’s club Fabric, and known for their mix CDs, featuring sounds from some staple names like Carl Craig, Adam Beyer, and even John Digweed, brings you its 36th installment of minimal tech house by Ricardo Villalobos. Born in Santiago, Chile, Villalobos moved to Germany at the age of three. At the age of 24 (1994) he released his first EP on Playhouse, followed by a debut LP almost 9 years later, titled Alcachofa, on the same label. Since then, Villalobos has been enjoying a stream of consistent quality minimal, micro, and tech house releases. Villalobos’ three other aliases are Bispeed Black, Richard Wolfsdorf, and Termiten; his most notable collaborations include Social Being with Justin McNulty, and Ric Y Martin with Santiago born Martin Schopf (aka Dandy Jack). Fabric 36 is a continuous mix, compiled of mostly Villalobos’ tracks and mixed by himself - it thus can be treated as an album. The rhythms are simple, light and groovy, and I loose myself in the hypnotic sound over and over, as the tracks effortlessly blend into one another, and ride on. This may come off counter-intuitive for some critics of techno, but I often use such minimal sound as a tool: to relax, clear my mind, and on occasion even cure a headache. Recommended if you like Matthew Dear (False), Dominik Eulberg, Marc Houle and Gabriel Ananda. | |

Hol Baumann - Human (Ultimae)

Hats off to my good friend Underfoot for bringing my attention to this new release from an excellent French psybient label, Ultimae Records. The owners of the label, Mahiane (Sunbeam) and Vincent Villuis (Aes Dana), have been focusing on some of the most advanced, chilled out, psychedelic ambient sound, with that uplifting morning trance feel. Lyon based Olivier Orand’s (Hol Baumann) sophomore record, Human, is no exception. Orand tastefully blends a pinch of ethnic asian sound with a base of downtempo glitchy atmospherics (reminding me a little of Tipper’s earlier work). Orand’s tracks have previously appeared on almost every installment of the excellent Ultimae Fahrenheit Project series. For the latest compilation volume, Fahrenheit Project Part Six, Orand contributed his Radio Bombay track, which, in my opinion is not the strongest in his entire album. What I’m saying is that Human has a lot more to offer than what you may have accidentally glimpsed through past appearances. I recommend you check out this release in its entirety, especially if you’re interested in exploring another form of chillout: psychill. Other artists to check out: Cell, Aural Planet, Bluetech, and Aes Dana. Favorite track: Benares. | |

Animals On Wheels - Nuvol I Cadira (Ntone)

Another album that keeps popping up on my rotations is the last release by Animals On Wheels, Nuvol I Cadira, released on Ninja Tune’s sub-label Ntone (originally named Ninja Tone). Animals On Wheels is a solo project of Andrew Coleman, whose last album, Tony Alva’s Hair appeared on Cocosolidciti Records in 2005. Nuvol I Cadira, on the other hand is almost ten years old now. Yet, if this is your first listen, I promise you a collection of light, jazzy, and refreshing beats. Falling somewhere during the prominent years of output from Amon Tobin, Prefuse 73, and Squarepusher, Nuvol I Cadira (translated from Spanish to "Cloud and Chair" and named after a sculpture in Barcelona), is a trip through chilled out organic downtempo with an occasional broken jungle beat. Recently, however, Coleman has been tinkering with some robot sci-fi, "crumpet nibbling", electronic hip-hop, in collaboration with Mike King under a project which he calls Robots With Hearts. In 2008 we can also look forward to Coleman’s soundtrack work for a video art project by Patrick Doan, Openland. The DVD release will include a separate audio CD featuring Coleman’s work as inspired by this collaboration, distinct from the soundtrack. Recommended if you like Funki Porcini, DJ Food, Coldcut, Blockhead, DJ Krush and Bonobo. Favorite track: A Plus Tard. | |

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Artificial Intelligence (Warp)

On July 9, 1992, a small label, starting off as a record shop in Sheffield, England, released a first installment of its Artificial Intelligence series, with the purpose of showcasing some of the most experimental electronic music at the time. The founders of Weird And Radical Projects (WARP), Steve Beckett and Rob Mitchell, took the first leap in marketing dance music, produced for the purpose of listening. As suggested by the image of an armchair on the album’s cover, the listener was invited to engage in sound and contemplate its intelligent form. The release was a success, and became the topic of conversation on the electronic mailing list founded in August 1993, called Intelligent Dance Music List. Thus, the term IDM, was born. Allow me to take the time and go over each individual track and artist appearance that graced this monumental period of electronic music history.

Read full article Artificial Intelligence only on

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Bitstream - The Severed EP (Touchin’ Bass)

Bitstream are two brothers from Northamptonshire UK, Steve and Dave Conner, who produce some of the most corrosive, darkest, glitchy electro I’ve heard. Their earlier, sophomore full length release on Boomkat’s Modern Love label, titled Domestic Economy 7, had me bopping my head for years (I especially love track 6 on the album, Dragon 32). They have since migrated to Touchin’ Bass, a label more prominent with its electro releases. The Severed EP picks up exactly where the Conner brothers have left it off with their Streamlining EP three years ago, although I think their style got even darker, and almost industrial. I’d like to quote Kris Needs’ metaphorical image of "the electro-goat [...] charging around the garden butting everything in sight while waving an angry bell-end at musical conventions." And permit me to quote one more, since I myself couldn’t have said it better - "cold, chattering machines gnash at the skeletal groove’s pendulous testicles, again to an impenetrable background of small animals having a picnic." Next time, invite me to the picnic, will ya? I am hoping that the four tracks on the EP is just a sneak preview into a new album that Bitstream is working on. Similar artists include Gescom, Claro Intelecto, Chris Clark, AFX, and Cylob. Favorite track: Muspel. |

Barry Lynn - Balancing Lakes (Planet Mu)

Barry Lynn is a sneaky fellah, and I must admit, he almost slipped this release unnoticed by my watchful eye of his usual releases under the Boxcutter moniker. Thankfully he didn’t drift too far, and comfortably settled on his home label, Planet Mu. Well, Barry, what have we here? A delicious collection of abstract glitchy IDM, with an occasional dub track and even some breakcore - must you make me mention Squarepusher in this writeup? Ah, but I guess it all makes sense: Balancing Lakes is mostly a collection of previously unreleased material, produced in the four years prior to Boxcutter’s LP debut, Oneiric (2006). It’s no wonder that I hear influences from all of my favorite Warp artists. And in this reviewer’s opinion, some of the drill’n’bass tracks don’t even feel that dated, but are instead welcomed by a nostalgic ear. It feels like discovering an accidentally missed artist. In fact, that’s true. That artist - Barry Lynn. The only down side to the release, is that thematically it’s a bit tougher to consume as an album, rather than a collection of tracks. Doesn’t mean that I won’t be ripping it apart and flag individual selections as favorites for my rotations. Pick up your copy over at [I’m still fuming over iTunes attempting to slip 128kbps as acceptable medium]. Recommended if you like The Flashbulb, Aaron Spectre, Aphex Twin, and Clark. No dubstep here. Favorite track: London. |

Friday, March 21, 2008

Harmonic 33 - Extraordinary People (Alphabet Zoo)

I know it’s important to keep up with evolution of sound, music, and genres, but why can’t I stop listening to Harmonic 33’s 2002 release, Extraordinary People? Did the common folk forget about the light, spacey, and spy-sexy trip-hop sound, or am I just not looking in all the right places? Even the group’s follow up album, Music For Film, Television And Radio Volume 1 on Warp Records did not satisfy my cravings for a similar sound. Out of fourteen tracks on this first full length Alphabet Zoo release, every single one is a standout! The label owner, Danny Breaks, even contributed a few cuts and scratches to the record with his turntablism skillz. The Harmonic 33 is Dave Brinkworth and Mark Pritchard, producing under various pseudonyms since the 90s. Brinkworth has previously contributed to Capio and the duo’s early drum’n’bass outlet, Use Of Weapons. Pritchard’s discography, on the other hand, is almost impossible to trace, with his numerous aliases and group collaborations, most notable among them with Thomas Middleton under Global Communication [note to self: revisit 76:14] and Jedi Knights. Although I can fully appreciate Pritchard’s latest gravitation towards a more Detroit influenced hip-hop sound with his Harmonic 313 moniker, I still turn back to Extraordinary People time and time again. This was one of the albums that made me want to write reviews almost six years ago, simply for the sake of spreading the music to everyone, thrusting with "here, hear!" |

Skyphone - Avellaneda (Rune Grammofon)

A Copenhagen based group of friends, Keld Dam Schmidt, Thomas Holst and Mads Bødker, make up an electronic trio known as Skyphone. Avellaneda is their second release on Rune Grammofon, mostly a Norwegian roster label. Skyphone, on the other hand, is a the forefront of Danish electronic music scene, with similar groups like Efterklang and Under Byen. Skyphone tends to stay clear of post-rock, and instead uses acoustic instruments with electronic treatments to create a home listening genre perfect for the headphones. As the album progresses, it recedes into a lullaby of electro-acoustic, experimental and ambient sound, that isn’t shy of revealing performer’s breathing to grasp the listener closer to home. Listening to Avellaneda, I feel like I’m eavesdropping in a back room of a secret factory, where unimaginable instruments metamorphose from electronic into metallic, and vice versa in the hands of skillful sound-smiths. Avellaneda is a solid sophomore follow up to Skyphone’s first release, Fabula, that captured my attention back in 2004. Be sure to also check out Skyphone’s remix of Port-Royal’s Spetsnaz on Flared Up remix project out on Resonant in May 2008. I place Skyphone alongside Fennez, Julien Neto, Boards of Canada, Dictaphone, and Xela. |

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Woven - Aftermath EP (self) [+2.5]

I honestly have trouble placing the album into a specific genre bin, and I think that fact alone is refreshing. The EP starts off sounding like an instrumental indie band with a post-rock influence, but soon the beat breaks and vocals come in. Readers of my reviews may be familiar with my habit of too quickly dismissing any vocal pop sounding track [the radio is saturated with formulas for the masses]. So just when I’m ready to brush  the Aftermath aside, the beat picks up again, this time distinctly cut with micro beat programming, and my ears instantly prick up. By the time the EP is over, I’ve taken a trip through all of my favorite genres, from shoegaze to breaks to illbient and back to soothing electronica, and I press play again. When the chords and percussion explode into almost nu-metal chorus followed by a snare roll, I realize that Woven has covered all of their bases, and done masterfully with a high end production and precision. Based out of Los Angeles, Woven is a five-piece band that describes its sound as "travel[ing] a path from guitar-driven drum and bass to syncopated, sparse IDM, ending in a dark and brooding dreamstate." In 2003, the band managed to land a maxi-single, EPrime, with Interscope Records. Tracks appearing on Aftermath EP are just a sample of what’s to come from the group’s full length release, Designer Codes. Perhaps because I’ve never heard anything like it, I am a bit at loss for my typical cloud of RIYL artists, but see the question posed to Woven below. Favorite track: Machine Room (I played this track alone a dozen times!)

Read Two and a Half With Woven only on |

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Benga - Diary of an Afro Warrior (Tempa)

Having previously heard Beni Uthman’s (a.k.a. Benga) track titled Music Box on Mary Anne HobbsThe Warrior Dubz, I picked up his first full length release on Tempa. The fourteen track album is a total trip through some of the deepest, groovy and at the same time melodic dubstep that I’ve heard to date. Operating out of South London, Benga’s previous numerous 12-inchers appeared on genre’s head-starters like Big Apple Records, Planet Mu, Hotflush Recordings and Southside Substars. Diary of an Afro Warrior is more than just a collection of previously heard hooks shoved through the dubstep grinder - each is unique in texture, style, and rhythm; each contains that ’in your face’ attitude that I love so much about confident artists. Among the common groove treatments, I hear some prominent hip-hop influence, electro breaks, wobbly bass and even elements of minimal and funky house. With an incredible resource of ideas, directions and style incorporation demonstrated by Benga, we can be very confident in accepting that dubstep is here to stay, and evolve way beyond its current adolescent form. Note that the tracks appearing on a 3xVinyl release are pretty different from the CD release (for example, it doesn’t contain the 2007 hit, Night, featuring D. Harris as Coki and instead it appears as a separate 12" EP). Highly recommended if you enjoy Skream, Boxcutter, Distance, Pinch and Burial. Favorite tracks: Zero M2, Night, Go Tell Them, and Emotions. |

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Human Blue - Base Basket Buffet (Transient)

Dag Wallin has been producing psyprog for ten years now - starting with the third label release on Spiral Trax, back when minimal Swedish sound was still establishing itself among the goa and progressive trance genres. Spiral Trax almost folded in June 2006 due to financial difficulties with its distributor, only to be resurrected exactly a year later, while Human Blue moved on to Transient Records. Coincidentally, Transient had a similar operational bleep in 2005, and reopened its doors in 2006 with a compilation titled Resurrection. Wallin’s 2008 release, titled Base Basket Buffet is an album that rides through tracks with tight kicks, rolling basslines and minimal melodies - all with a measured paced progression (I love how the hi-hat comes in half way into some tracks). Although this genre is considered upbeat and geared towards the dance floor, I ultimately relax to the arpeggiated synth lines, filtered sweeps, and hypnotic rhythms. I use the album as a head cleaner to calm my busy mind (Atmos comes to mind). There is nothing revolutionary on this release, yet it still feels powerful and refreshing, without that overwhelming Middle Eastern influence in Arabic scale and Maqam modal structure. Some elements remind me of the older Platipus releases, and of course, it is very much in the footsteps of Vibrasphere, Ticon, Astrix, Hux Flux, Son Kite and the like. And yes, I listen to psytrance. |

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Clint Mansell - Smokin’ Aces (Lakeshore) [+2.5]

Former lead singer and guitarist of Pop Will Eat Itself, Clint Mansell matures into a Golden Globe nominated composer, and a winner of numerous awards for best original score for a film. I have previously sang praises to Mansell's musical scores to Darren Aronofsky's Pi, Requiem for a Dream, and, of course, The Fountain. Being in love with Mansell's melancholic modern classical pieces, which are perfectly complemented by the performance of The Kronos Quartet, I decided to grab the soundtrack to Smokin' Aces - I have not seen the film, and instead listened to the album "as is" - as music.  From the first track I am immensed in haunting images that glide with that uneasy feeling of something lurking in the shadows, until it all explodes with tension breaks of silence. In the soundtrack he effortlessly controls the mood, dynamics, and even the genre of individual pieces. The orchestral accompaniment works very well with an organic big beat and a funky rhythm. The scenes switch, and so does the music. Forty five minutes of music take you through mental images driven by emotion saturated sound. Mansell is clearly a craftsman of his trade, and Smokin' Aces may be his most cinematic composition to date.

Two and a Half Questions With Clint Mansell

Do you feel that writing for film may be limiting to the composer's imagination?
One of the reasons I like writing for film is because it enflames my imagination not douses it! I find that writing for film gives my work context and focus which I must admit I struggled to find as a 'musician' writing purely for myself. I love the combination of music and image - this probably shows in the sort of films I generally write for....films with images and themes that provoke thought and give my music somewhere to soar.

So perhaps, in your case, you actually enjoy the constrains of a structure?
I've often noticed that the more options I have the less gets done! For instance,if I only have a guitar then I have to write music on the guitar... if I have every bit of software and equipment invented then come bedtime I'll have done nothing but mess around, having a good time but still far short of the shore!

What about live performances?
I am currently putting together a 'live' band for future performances of my film scores (and some other things...) and part of the challenge of doing this is trying to re-conceptualize the music in to a stand-alone format...certain pieces will always be married to their source images - Requiem/The Fountain in particular - but can I put them into a new environment and add something further to them....?

Will we ever see an album by Clint Mansell?
It's a good question - and I ask it myself A LOT! I am working on ideas for my own record for sometime in the future... I am due to write non-film material for Kronos Quartet.

Balmorhea - Rivers Arms (Western Vinyl) [+2.5]

Balmorhea (pronounced bal-mor-ay) is a duo from Texas, Rob Lowe and Michael Muller, creating simple and enchanting music with ambient spaces, relaxing places, acoustic guitar, and a piano. For their second album they have expanded the group to a quartet, adding a cello and a violin. The style floats among folk, modern classical, and acoustic ambient. The production incorporates sensitive microphones recording live instrumentation, and the effect is immediate - the barely audible rustling and shuffling sounds teleport the listener into the studio, placing the ear near the frets, the keys and the bow. Unlike the duo’s first self titled album, Rivers Arms is more mature in quality of production, and the vastness of field recordings used to offset intertwining melodies with a string accompaniment. It is especially a great headphone treat, as the sound is crystal clear and perfectly balanced within the stereo field. I recommend to grab their two albums together and play alongside Library Tapes, Eluvium and Goldmund. Favorite tracks: The Winter and Barefoot Pilgrims.

Two and a Half Questions with Balmorhea

What prompted the decision to incorporate strings?
there is a beautiful sullenness about strings that enrich music like nothing. t think we just started hearing string parts in our songs as we wrote and rehearsed them, so we added them as soon as we could thereafter.

Describe your use of a typewriter as a percussive instrument.
communication is brilliantly achieved through music and more literally through type. the dynamic strikes of the letters coupled nicely with the music we thought. the familiarity and nostalgia of a typewriter connected deeply with us.

Why not Pecos?
rob grew up going to balmorhea on vacation with his family growing up. so it was a special place for him. over the past two summers, we have visited, played and even written songs there while visiting. though, pecos has some of the best cantaloupes you will ever taste. | |

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

DeepChord Presents Echospace - The Coldest Season (Modern Love)

On the train I started reading The Road by Cormac McCarthy (author of No Country for Old Men). The Road is a dark, post-apocalyptic story about a nameless man traveling the cold, ash covered landscape, with his son. To drown away the commuters' chatter I read with my headphones on. Today I'm listening to The Coldest Season by Rod Modell (DeepChord) and Steven Hitchell (Soultek) together known as Echospace, releasing this first full length on Modern Love. I brought up The Road, because The Coldest Season couldn't have been a more appropriate soundtrack to the novel. The tracks are full of windy, ambient, white noise, dubbed out minor chords, and minimal techno beats. The only warmest aspect of the album is the sound of vintage analog equipment. The coldness doesn't let up from the fact that all of the tones, static, and field recordings were done in Chicago and Detroit. But the low temperature does not take away from the beautiful experience captured by this instant classic. I immediately listened again and again. Recommended for that Basic Channel sound, and if you like Pole, Vladislav Delay and Monolake. Favorite Track: the 13+ minute Aequinoxium. |

Monday, March 10, 2008

The KLF - Chillout (KLF Communications)

If it's one thing we're sure of by now, it's that The KLF are justified and ancient. Bill Drummond and Jimmy Cauty began to taunt and subvert the music industry back in the early 90s. I will spare you the long and very interesting history of The KLF (Wikipedia is a good start). All you should be aware of for this review, is that in 1988 Cauty and Alex Paterson founded The Orb and that the Chill Out LP was born out of their monthly DJ sessions at the London's Land Of Oz. The album was recorded in a single 44-minute "live" take straight to DAT, and took a whole two days to put together (ha!). The ambient textures and sounds within the album attempt to capture a trip through the American Deep South, derived by pure imagination of Drummond, and sampled from Elektra's Authentic Sound Effects Volume 2. I remember listening to Chill Out for the first time when it came out in 1990. I'd close my eyes in the dark and imagine the sheep, the train, the Tuvan throat singers, and the evangelist's sermon. My friends just thought I was insane. Some of them were right, of course. But, in my sober opinion, even back then I was aware that I was witnessing something transcending, evolutionary and prophetic. Listening 18 years later, I know that I was right. The KLF was clearly ahead of their time with the new textured and organic sound, and Chillout is one of the most essential and influential ambient albums of the era. |

Saturday, March 8, 2008

Beefcake - Drei (Thrill Beat Construction) [+2.5]

What is happening? First, Radiohead releases In Rainbows on donation basis. Then, The Flashbulb uploads his own album, STAVL to bit torrent (see my full interview in Conversations With Benn Jordan). Then, Nine Inch Nails repeats the donation-based approach with a twist - offering an ultra-deluxe edition of Ghosts I-IV for $300 limited to 2500 copies. Within a day, the album sells out (that's a hefty sum of $750k for those without an abacus). And now I see that Volker Kahl has released ALL of his previous albums to the public, embracing the collapse of the industry as we know it. Being a huge fan of Kahl's most recent releases under the Kattoo moniker, I couldn't pass this one by, grabbing his older Beefcake releases (in collaboration with Gabor Schablitzki), and of course, donating in the process. I immediately embraced myself for breaky, crunchy IDM goodness over ambient atmospheres and orchestral pieces, and was rewarded with every track! This album was difficult to track down for a very long time, especially since Thrill Beat Construction packaged it in a miniature canvas tote bag, and chances are that you haven't heard this 2001 release! Well, now is your chance! If you are a fan of Hymen releases, Gridlock, Architect, Somatic Responses, Venetian Snares, Hecq, Wisp and Jega, you probably will melt into this cinematic masterpiece, and hopefully reward the artist accordingly.

I was able to track down Volker Kahl and get his view on the current state of the industry. Read full article as an installment in my new series of mini interviews called "Two and a Half Questions" - Two and a Half With Volker Kahl | |

The Refractors - All Colors Run (self) [+2.5]

Once in a while I receive an unsigned demo that blows away the commercial steam, and gives me hope that music will keep breathing, no matter how strong the industry's chain-hold is hanging around its neck. The Refractors are Joseph and Kayline Martinez of Pacifica California, who turn running colors, abandoned sounds, and loose threads back into art. The sixteen minute All Colors Run EP is a collection of vignettes and gentle sketches feeding analog instruments and field recordings into cold machines. The sound is described by the artists as "vegetation coming up through the cracks of man-made structures." On this Sunday morning, the music of soft crackles, waking lap steel guitar, and wobbling strums of piano with reverse reverb, is a great breakfast for my sleepy mind. The last track on the EP, I Shutter To Think, is composed of oil refinery sounds and the camera shutter of a 1940's Leica. I am really excited about The Refractors' first full length album, Eight Year Sleep, which is still in the works and is due out sometime in 2008. All Colors Run EP is available as a digital download from iTunes, Amazon, eMusic and other digital outlets. Highly recommended for the likes of Deaf Center, Elegi, and Porn Sword Tobacco.

Two and a Half Questions With The Refractors

What is the most interesting sound that you have sampled or worked with?
Recently it would be water receding from a rock bed.

How does the atmosphere of your music shape your daily life, and vice versa?
Regardless of the artist's medium, music has been at one time or another a contributing factor to ideas.

So... Analog or Digital?
Some legitimately mourn the loss of musicians that play analog instruments and record to tape. We think analog and digital sound can have a symbiotic relationship. Utilizing both has proven to be rewarding for us. The way people listen to music is changing. A growing number can't even discern the audio quality of an MP3. The CD is now being talked about in the past tense. To our ears, nothing has been able to replace the warmth of a vinyl record. Our admission is not based on sound proof, it is only a longing for the past and an appreciation for all things analog.

Saturday, March 1, 2008

Robert Logan - Grinder EP (Slowfoot)

Last year, 19 year old Robert Logan hit the UK scene with his debut album, Cognessence. It was immediately embraced by the dubstep and the dark experimental IDM communities alike. In February 2008, Logan followed up his full length with a 12" EP on the same label, Slowfoot Records. Although two tracks from the record have previously appeared on the LP, the title track alone makes the vinyl worthy of collector's purchase. The sound of the four pieces is a continuously developing crunchy groove with a touch of big beat, infusion of hip-hop, and a base of dark ambient texture swishing at the bottom of this poisonous cocktail. I am perpetually impressed by the twists and turns of the progression in Logan's music. The label quotes Logan's previous collaboration alongside of Grace Jones and Brian Eno, contributing to Alex Gibney's documentary Taxi to the Darkside [winner of Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature]. Recommended if you like Hecq, Architect and Burial and crave a bit of new evolving darker sound. Favorite tracks: Grinder and Lost Highway. |

Skeetaz - Off (Proboscis)

I am a huge Jamie Watts (KiloWatts) fan, so it's no wonder that I'm excited about his side project with Bil Bless under the Skeetaz moniker. This 2008 debut album is released on the duo's own label, Proboscis Records. Watts seems to be all over the place these days - there's his latest full length release Ground State on Native State Records (which alone is worthy of foaming mouthful of praise), multiple singles on his own digital KiloWatts Music label, and a fantastic take on IDM meets folk sound - an album titled Focus & Flow, in which he collaborates with Peter Van Ewijk under KiloWatts & Vanek moniker. Whew! It seems that Watts is simply oozing music and excreting ideas... But back to mah- Skeetaz. The album features the usual excellent IDM treatments - still melodic, intelligent and very playful - but just a touch darker at times. I would even be brave to nudge the album towards dark electro and psychedelic breaks, as the sound is clearly influenced by psytrance bleeps, clicks, and other insects. Don't get fooled by a digital-only independent label release - the sound is groundbreaking and the production is super tight. Excellent brain tingle for the lazy Monday mornings. I snatched this candy from Addictech's new digital download outlet in FLAC - check out the online samples. Absolutely favorite track: Dirty Dobbers. | |

Wes Willenbring - Somewhere Someone Else (Hidden Shoal)

Modern classical hasn't felt this young in years! I mention the genre to friends, and they yawn to the tune of stuffy library halls and uncomfortable theater seats. Meanwhile, the old friend quietly slipped under the contemporary knife of post ambient and got itself a face lift. Enter Wes Willenbring and his debut full length on Australian digital label, Hidden Shoal Recordings, simply titled Somewhere Someone Else. If you love melancholic piano sounds that bathe you with warm and wet kisses; if you like ambient textures exploring the silence and space; if you like muted guitar and blurry soundscapes that move with synthetic and organic sighs... then Wes Willinbring has a treat for you. Hailing from San Francisco, Willinbring started piano lessons at the age of seven. Years of recordings, collaborations, and explorations yielded this perfect soundtrack to an emotional repose. Pick up the album from Hidden Shoal's online store, and while you're there grab the free label samplers. Recommended if you enjoy Manual, Bruno Sanfilippo, Evan Bartholomew, Kiln and Opitope. Favorite tracks: Lost Illusions, As You Fade Away, and While My Lungs Fill With Water. | |

Tipper - Tertiary Noise (Tipper Music)

Dave Tipper returns with the latest installment in electro flavored trip hop, downtempo, and nu skool breaks. This album, titled Tertiary Noise, is once again released on his own label, Tipper Music. With a couple of remixes (including two by Si Begg), remastered back catalogue selections, and never before released tracks, this 2008 flashback sounds a lot like... well... Tipper. And that's not necessarily a bad thing - from the very first track, you find yourself in a familiar territory of glitchy treatments, solid beats, and deep rumbling bass. From then on, the album is a rhythmic ride down the Tipper lane. It's a bit darker, crispy-crackly, and less melodic than Tipper's previous releases, with an occasional rehash of a recognized beat - but once again, this aspect doesn't make it any less appealing. Tipper's ability for continuous output in the genre is unrivaled, yet Tertiary Noise is rumored to be his final foray into the uptempo break beat sound. Excellent disk for the dance floor. Side note: my Grados lacked the bass response, but the studio KRK sub did not disappoint. So be sure to have a well equipped vehicle to feel the vibrations on this trip. Available as a lossless download from Addictech. Favorite track: A Touch Of The Vapours and Dissolve (Si Begg Mix). |

Morning Recordings - The Welcome Kinetic (Loose Thread)

Morning Recordings is a brainchild of a Chicago based Pramod Tummala, and The Welcome Kinetic is his second full length on Loose Thread Recordings. The album is sprinkled with many guest appearances and musical collaborations, most notable among them is the voice of Drag City's Edith Frost, essentially comprising of a collective of friends. Tummala himself is easily comfortable on guitar, piano and the harmonium on this laid back classic soul, future jazz, and fusion album with elements of Tortoise-like staple vibraphone post-rock sound. The breathy playful vocals remind me a bit of Psapp and Portishead, while the lo-fi treatments and analog tape manipulation is reminiscent of Boards of Canada and Dictaphone. The album effortlessly loops and folds over itself, mostly in major harmonic scale, and serves as excellent background music, while you stare at the clock, watching the hands tick away the stubborn minutes left at work. Many tracks are already stuck in my head. Be sure to pick up a previous album, Music For Places, which features the lovely voice of Lindsay Anderson (think Telefon Tel Aviv's Sound In a Dark Room). Favorite Tracks: Sugar Waltz, The Welcome Kinetic, and Songs From A Hotel Bar. | |

Flying Lotus - Reset (Warp)

Steven Ellison lands a Reset EP, on Warp Records. His previous full length release, titled 1983, was released by Warp's US West Coast outlet, Plug Research. The LA producer grained recognition, and graduated with flying lotus [er... I mean "flying colors"]. Reset opens up with a track featuring heavily gated, soul vocals by Andreya Triana (think Jazz Sensation's Just Like That). From then we wobble through super groovy, left-field, instrumental hip hop, to the likes of Daedelus, Prefuse 73, DJ Shadow and Malcom Kipe. Overall the sound is spacey, loungey, sexy, if you will. The EP is rather short, and before you know it, the six tracks of eighteen minutes are over, and you press play again. And if it sounds like you have heard some of these head-nodding beats before, well... you have: think all the text-based short Adult Swim interludes with laid back and dope rhythms. It's nice to see Warp Records back in the groove (not that I dislike Grizzly Bear, but... you know what I mean). Check out his web site for a quick game of Attack! Then hit Reset. Favorite tracks: Tea Leaf Dancers and Massage Situation. | |

Port-Royal - Flares (Resonant)

Flares is a 2005 release by a Genoa based Port-Royal on Resonant Records. I have already voted their follow-up, Afraid To Dance, to be one of the best albums of 2007. I bring back this earlier work in anticipation of an upcoming remix project, Flared Up, due out in the spring of '08, with contributions by Manual, Dialect, Skyphone, Stafrænn Hákon, and Ulrich Schnauss to name just a few. In Flares we are graced with beautiful blend of ambient meets electronic meets shoegaze meets post-rock sound, that defies strict categorization and exists only for your earthly pleasures. One needs to put down the caffeinated drink, turn off the blinking scrollies, and pause to appreciate the album's sheer vastness of hazed texture, lush chilled-out soundscapes, and pure tranquility. And here's the best part, folks (I'm quoting from the label's site) - "in preparation for the upcoming remix version, the royals have placed their debut album 'Flares' for free download from their website." So how can you pass this by? Recommended for followers of Hammock, M83, Sigur Rós, and all of the above mentioned artists. Favorite tracks: the three part Zobione. | |

Aquilone - Untitled (Unsigned)

Cyril Guillory is a Rennes (France) based unsigned musician, who goes by the name of Aquilone. The thirteen track demo disc that I received in the mail features a unique blend of electronic and organic instruments with an occasional vocal interlude, incorporating saturated pads, filtered noise, loopbacks and a familiar analog rhythms. The heavy and raw synth lines remind me a bit of Ulrich Schnauss, while the near distorted and overdriven guitars flash with a flavor of Belong and Ben Frost. Guillory includes a handful of artists for his inspirations, among them I recognize Pan Sonic, The Notwist, A Silver Mt. Zion and múm. But I also can't help but hear a heavy Radiohead and Thom Yorke influence. Check out some tracks on his myspace, while I'll keep my eye out for his first album.