Sunday, July 27, 2008

Ital Tek - Cyclical (Planet Mu)

OK, I was going to de-capitalize the artist and album name appropriately, but it screws up my nice formatting. I'm sure that Alan Myson won't mind. Hailing out of Brighton (UK), this is Myson's first full length release. There were a couple of 12" back in 2007 various labels, plus a few file releases here and there, but that's all. I first came across iTAL tEK on 10 Tons Heavy compilation, followed by 200, and now Mary Anne Hobbs drops his tune on her Evangeline - all released on Planet Mu. The above appearances should lovingly pigeonhole Myson's music into a dubstep genre. Through eleven tracks, Myson explores all facets of the uprising style, from dark to melodic, and from experimental to dance-floor. As an album, it is a very involved listening experience, begging to be returned to over and over to uncover its multi-layered production that will satisfy the break-,IDM-,and bass-heads alike. In the recent years, dubstep has been a hit or miss for me. I mostly end up tossing away records that exploit the genre's popularity by applying the tiring old formula - sample this here, apply the syncopated beat there, drop in the wobbling bass, and repeat. The volume of current underground output reminds me of the days when gabber swept Rotterdam in the mid-90s: anything was up for grabs as long as it employed the squirrely vocals and distorted 909 kicks spun above 150bpm. Only the gems outlast the hype to survive through history for another rotation. Myson stands among the few artists that integrate and employ the genre's characteristics with an intelligent design, bringing dubstep closer to the electronica for listeners, and gaining a permanent presence on my shelves of classic albums. That being said, Planet Mu is responsible for pushing the boundaries of electronic evolution, keeping up with the trends and exciting our neurons. It is with a full support of such an established label, among the many independent and progressive smaller counterparts, that the musicians and fans alike, will benefit for the years to come. Thanks, Mike [ed. Paradinas]! Keep it rolling. My good friend, Rob Booth, over at Electronic Explorations, is also a big fan. He recently hosted Ital Tek's Exclusive Mix with a couple of unreleased tracks - it's a must. Recommended for fans of Boxcutter, Pinch, Vex'd, The Gasman, and Distance. | |

Two and a Half Questions with Ital Tek

I placed you somewhere between dubstep and IDM - how would you describe your music?
I'm really bad at this question usually! I think that's a fair description though. I've tried to create a middle ground in my records between bass heavy music that works really loud in a club but also so you can listen to it at home/in the car/walking about etc. I think albums are really important as whole pieces rather than just collections of tracks and so I wanted to make one that people would want to listen to all the way through. I love bass music/dubstep but sometimes I want to listen to something with a nice melody aswell. I try to tick both the boxes. Old electronica - Aphex, Muziq and then the sort of textures and soundscapes that bands like Nine Inch Nails and Radiohead make have had a big influence on the way I go about making music.

Do you feel that you have found your own unique voice in your compositions?
I don't know about having created a unique voice, I'd say it's pretty hard to be creating anything unique. I just enjoy sitting for hours making something I want to listen to, and something that excites me.

Anything fun on the horizon? Live shows? Collaborations?
There are a couple of collaborations that I had been putting off whilst finishing my album so hopefully they will get sorted now. I'm sure there will be something new out later this year, there's lots of things I'm working on at the moment. Aside from writing I'm doing some more festivals for the rest of the summer and then more gigs around and about most weekends after that.

What's the story about iTAL tEK capitalization?
The capitalisation thing was just how someone wrote it a few years ago on a flyer and then it kind of stuck with some other people doing it, and it going on the records like that etc. I don't mind how people want to write it. I've told some people who've asked that it's because of a sponsership deal with iTUNES... I think they believed me. |

Kettel - Myam James Part 1 (Sending Orbs)

Reimer Eising, producing under the name of Kettel, is no stranger to the IDM scene. Since 2001, Eising has vigorously released a dozen EPs and nine full length albums on a handful of respectable labels, such as Planet Mu, Neo Ouija, DUB, Merck, Kracfive, and his home label (which he co-runs with his brother, Wouter Eising and Kristian Peters), Sending Orbs. His last album, Myam James Part 1 was originally scheduled to be an EP, but Eising's onslaught of his mind-to-music-stream has borne not one, but two albums in the Myam James series. Based out of Groningen, The Netherlands, Eising is a classically trained musician, growing up playing piano since he was five years old. His love for Bach is clearly evident through complex, mathematical, and harmonic progressions in the acid driven, micro programmed, and organically acoustic pieces. From the album page on Sending Orbs: "Kettel manages to squeeze uplifting, warm, cheerful and enjoyable music out of his kettle and pottery factory, which is sad, melancholic and sensitive at the same time." The tracks on Part 1 are as intelligent as Inteligent Dance Music can be, with excellent production, masterful effect control, and instantly memorable melodies. Towards the end of the album, the track My Dogan (from the album My Dogan, on Sending Orbs [2006]), gets a treatment by Phoenecia. We also get an excellent remix from Secede, of another track, Church. Highly recommended if you like Aphex Twin, The Flashbulb, Jega, Barry Lynn and Wisp.  |  |

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Two and a Half Questions with Kettel

What do you imagine it would be like to hear Bach playing the organ for the first time in church?
What I have read about Bachs improvisational skills on organ, is that it was even better than his composed work. I don't know who said it, I have no source, but it's a famous quote so it may bear some kind truth. I want to believe it does, at least. I can't even imagine improvising a fugue, because for me it seems you have to have 4 different brains to do so. It is known that Bach improvised perfect fugues. What can I say? I know I would love it, I know it would be an amazing and miraculous thing.. I also know I'm not good enough at English to express the right superlatives at the right time in this matter. I'm such a great Bach-lover, I would seriously consider giving up an organ (HA!) to hear him improvise on it!

How much of your music is mathematical in nature?
Hard one. I don't go around calculating anything when I write music, but I think when a melody is "good" it has some kind of mathematical symmetry or 'truth'. If one is able to do it -have the scientific basis and knowledge to do so- can 'prove a melody'. If not equipped with math skills (like me, by the way), there is this way in which you can 'feel' good melodies go round. It's all about consistency I think when it comes to good music. Things have to sound intentional and consistent. I certainly believe that music is math in some way. I'm not sure if I want to find out how so.

How much do you participate in running of the label [Sending Orbs], and which tasks do you usually pick up?
It has always been my brother Wouter and my friend Kristian's label. My involvement in it is on and off. I'm usually part of the process of contemplating decisions tho.. Basically just someone that is not officially affiliated, but in the loop. Tasks.. I have helped out working the shop, done setting up some labelnights.

Do you recall the first electronic release that made you want to produce this kind of music?
I think it was a mixtape ridiculously called "Pfffff" my brother made for me with various electronic tracks on it that initially got me interested. Then I picked up a lot of Mouse On Mars and mid-90's Plaid, Autechre and Aphex. It wasn't really 1 release that turned the wheel for me, but I remember listening to Plaid's Not For Threes and wishing I made it. (But I kind of still do that). If you put a knife to my throat for this question I'd say Mouse on Mars was the first electronic love i had. Iahora Tahiti is still one of my most dear albums in the world.

I know that you're a 303-fiend, do you own a couple of teebees; and what other fun toys can we find in your studio?
I work the most basic and simplistic setup thinkable by a badger. All my music is based upon me playing keyboard; whether it's a synth or a 303. That is really the basis of everything I do; I can't make music if I can't jam/play. I find hardware toys hard to get into most of the times, merely because I think i find my roots in pianoplay; give me a few keys and I'm happy. But of course hardware synths can sound amazing, and they are amazing, and I'm even really into sound toys, I just don't own them. Let's just say I've never really gotten into knobtwiddling and experimenting with sounds. So far I've always found enough satisfaction and challenge in trying to write beautiful melodies. Different approach, I guess.

Who is Myam James and when are we going to hear Part 2?
Myam James is a viking a once dreamt of, throwing little blue balls at me. Part 2 is coming up, I'm actually working on it right now. It's supposed to come out in fall, so it will. It's a different album than Part 1; it's gonna have some more chilled out, soundtrackstyle, classical moments among more Myam1 acid stuff. That's the way it was all planend out and I still feel comfortable sticking to it. Showing a few different musical sides of myself; that's why it was a series in the first place. An album is always like a summary of the past year.

How different are your live shows from the album tracks?
Quite. They have been at least. The last year I have been doing a few Myam James tracks live, actually most of the Myam James tracks started as live tracks. But also during the releases of ambient albums my livesets would always been a little more upbeat and party, I think I just enjoy that the most myself.

Any memorable moments from your recent North American tour?
A lot. One memorable moment is this. We (Flashbulb, me, and a ..guest) had just travelled a long distance from Montana to Washington, somewhere. Note that during my tour the European Soccer Championships were on, and me being a big (Holland) soccerfan, upon arrival in the motel I instantly downloaded the match (that was already played back home, time difference). While I was getting loaded with Rolling Rock waiting till the download to finish, the Flashbulb was practicing his set and played some awesome guitar. I watched the match, we beat France 4-1 and I caused a beep in Flasbulbs ear screaming and yelling. By the time it finished I was nothing more or less than a drunken dutchman, far away from home, celebrating a party that was originally already over. Anyway, that night we took off to the festival to check out what it was like. It was already dark and the festival was up on a high mountain. Somehow we took a few detours, and although we were told the roads were gonna be unpaved and steep, the roads we drove on that night were life-threatening. We even were caught up in stream of sliding rocks that made it's way into the ravine, our brave SUV and SUV-driver (Benn) fighting with it. Anyway, all I can say is I'm glad I was drunk when that happened. |

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Rudi Arapahoe - Echoes From One To Another (Symbolic Interaction)

As Eve Basilides opens up with strumming of the harp, a distant lo-fi hiss transposes you into a surreal world of shadows and broken dreams. By the time Kaithlin Howard's voice breaks through the reverb and lightly touched piano chords I begin to wonder if the imagery is indeed from my long lost memory. Rudi Arapahoe's spellbinding soundscapes accompany my daydreams into a world of modern classical and magical realism. "A strange and beautiful tale, voiced across the windswept plains and forests of purgatory." Here I give into another temptation to repeat the Echoes From One To Another poem: "In a dream I am standing / At the entrance to a forest / Here there are constructed / Numberless arches that radiate light / When I step through them at night / My body floats gently in the air / At this precise moment / When I am on the cusp of sleep / My shadow vanishes / And with it my weight." Why bother attempting to even describe such beautiful and timeless experience? Rudi Arapahoe has captured it all. As if the music wasn't enough, the photographs included in the packaging perfectly echo the artist's message via the visual senses. Echoes From one To Another definitely reminds me of Max Richter, especially The Blue Notebooks. It's mostly because of the melancholic piano, cinematic strings, and of beautiful spoken word. And when being compared to Max Richter was a bad thing? I hope Arapahoe's future is bright with creating mystical soundtracks to a world that we carve out of this visible reality. For when I close my eyes, it rapidly vanishes. And only music remains. |

Sunday, July 6, 2008

BEST OF 2008 [so far...]

Well, it's officially half way through the year. What better time to take a moment and reflect on all the great music that has been released this year so far... Of course, I can only listen to so much. That being said, my selections are obviously biased. They are based on what I've heard, and there is of course so much more!!! But let's face it - I listen to all the good music [haha!], so the list must have some value. In preparing the following I took a barely scientific approach. First, I sifted through my library looking for 2008 releases, and picked out the gems - those artists and albums have been most likely already covered by my reviews here (which makes sense, since I only write about the music that I like). Second, in order to capture all of the missed releases, I polled my readers for their favorite of 2008 so far. I have received an _overwhelming_ response!!! The discussion thread grew to over 50 individually submitted lists, each being unique in its own way, containing many entries re-affirming my already prepared selections. I have actually discovered some amazing albums just because of that (we should do this more often, noh?). I thank you all for your contributions! I then picked out the most notable selections out of the lists. Finally the entire thread of submissions is still available and active (on my page), which you can browse for individual albums [400+!!!].

Click to see Best of 2008 [so far...]

Saturday, July 5, 2008

Venetian Snares - Detrimentalist (Planet Mu)

We can always count on Aaron Funk to punish us at least once a year. If you're not familiar with Venetian Snares, it's time for you to open up that hole and crawl out.  Seriously. Winnipeg (Canada) based Funk is a prolific champion of the edgiest of genres - from modern-classical orchestral arrangements violated with breakcore to noisy IDM sprinkled with clicks and cuts. Among the collection of labels, he has managed to span some of my favorites - Zod, Distort, Sublight, Hymen and of course, Planet Mu. Detrimentalist is Funk's twentieth (!!!) album, in which he steps away from classical themes sampled and revisited in My Downfall (Planet Mu, 2007), and brings back the early drum'n'bass loops only the way Venetian Snares can. Planet Mu describes the release as "Venetian Snares' 332nd official studio album of disgusting ejacutronic rave horn." After a couple of rotations the intelligent design behind complex time signatures stands out from the imitators' attempts at making [whatever]-core simply for the sake of it. The first two tracks, Gentleman and Koonut-Kaliffee set the tone for the entire album, and the grind never stops. The cover art is sprinkled with an array of neon green aliens, robots, skulls, wingdings, guns, cassettes, and other demented and detrimental paraphernalia. And ducks. My favorite track is Eurocore MVP with ragga vocal samples, Funk's staple bass rips, drilling Amen breaks and an obligatory snare rush. This is breakcore at its finest. Keep it coming, Funk... We're listening... For similar styles, check out Bong-Ra, Shitmat, End.user, and my new favorite, Igorrr. | |

Friday, July 4, 2008

Jacaszek - Treny (Miasmah / Gusstaff )

Gusstaff is a small independent label based in Poland, which has already released two previous albums by Michal Jacaszek. Jacaszek's third full length album, Treny, is also picked up by Erik Skodvin's Miasmah. The latter mentioned label is quickly gaining recognition among the ambient and modern classical connoisseurs with CD releases (Miasmah started out as a net label) from great artists like Encre, Rafael Anton Irisarri, Elegi and now Jacaszek.  Looks like Miasmah has also picked up Jasper TX for his upcoming July release, Black Sleep, but more on that later... Treny is a modern classical marvel that immediately jumps to the top of my favorites for this year. And big thanks to all my readers who recommended it as Best of 2008 So Far in their submitted lists. Patiently paced melodies evolve in the hands of skillful violinist Stefan Wesolowski and cellist Ania Smiszek-Wesolowska [sounds like the two are a couple ;) ]. The reverb treated organic acoustics are complimented with piano phrases and atmospheric electronic treatments by Jacaszek. Through out the tracks, Maja Sieminska's voice glides within the hazy soundscapes like an echo of awakened ghost. My good friend Paul observes, "I listen and feel I have lost everything..." My immediate impression brings back that majestic moment of discovering an album that will stay with you through sweet and dark moments alike. Based out of Gdansk, Poland, Jacaszek is a profound manipulator of electro-acoustic sounds and fits right along my favorites like Dictaphone, Porn Sword Tobacco, Marsen Jules, Zbigniew Preisner and of course Deaf Center. Highly recommended. | |

Two and a Half Questions with Michał Jacaszek

What inspired you to manipulate acoustic recordings into a composition of its own?
Acoustic sounds themselves  are very  inspiring.  In opposite to most of synthetic sources they have a potential to be extended, manipulated, and after all they still  preserve their rich lively  nature. For me as a producer working with digital media , this is very secure and comfortable  situation.

Tell us more about your own musical language?
I hope I have one. I want my music to be soft but hardly touching, monotonic but keeping you awake,  filled with emotions but controlled, ... not too narrative neither too cinematic - but still atmospheric... A bit like with a prayer -  I like repetitions, trance mood.  If I really have my own  aesthetics, I want it to be in constant evolution...

Is there a sad story behind your soundtrack?
"Treny" means "laments" in ancient Polish vocabulary. This is also a title of collection of elegiac poems written by a Polish renaissance  poet Jan Kochanowski. These pieces have really strong tension,  they are deeply touching and they were written after the death of poet's little daughter. Her name was Orszula - and it is also a title of one of my tracks. Other tracks' names are "rhythm is immortality",  "grief", "death calm" etc. So definitely you can find some sad motifs behind my album.I am fascinated with this part of human emotions, although I have a quite happy life. Passing , vanishing, ending,  - these  things inspire me strongly. |

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Portishead - Third (Island / Mercury)

It's been almost 11 years since Portishead released their last self-titled album (I'm not counting Roseland NYC Live). The three member group of Adrian Utley, Geoff Barrow and more prominent Beth Gibbons have been often credited with making the trip hop genre more mainstream. Originating out of Bristol, UK, Portishead introduced their hometown sound to the commercial radio waves in 1994 with Dummy. With downtempo hip-hop beats, a touch of turntablism, and Gibbons' staple vocals, Portishead instantly created their own style and with that came a vast following. It's no wonder then, that when appropriately titled Third album hit the shelves, it was snatched with a hunger. Prior to the album's street date it was released on and attracted over 327,000 listeners within 24 hours. On Third, Portishead experiments in a darker territory, a bit brooding and at times almost industrial in nature, while rewarding the listener with a familiar voice. There are many unforgettable moments on the album when you find yourself go "what" and "nice". Perhaps there is not much revolutionary on Third for some, and they may not feel justified for the waiting period. Nevertheless you can't just let it slip by. Portishead remains a favorite and after consecutive rotations, Third climbs to the my list of "Best of 2008 so far..." I still love and play the first two albums. [Gibbons also released a solo album titled Candy Says in 2003]. Favorite tracks: Plastic and Machine Gun. |

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Kangding Ray - Automne Fold (Raster-Noton)

An amazing array of releases from Raster-Noton can drain any serious collector's wallet. My latest search includes the twelve super rare twenty-minute monthly releases titled 20' to 2000, and I highly doubt that I'll be able to score it for anything less than a thousand bucks. Oh well... So instead I'll give myself a present of Kangding Ray's sophomore release, Automne Fold. And the album more than satisfies my experimental, organic, and dark rhythmic cravings. Kangding Ray is an alias of Berlin based David Letellier who creates synthetic, glitchy, and yet very musical compositions of analog tones, micro-programmed beats, and digital errors. Letellier's musical experience includes being a guitarist and a drummer for a band with rock and jazz influences. Stacking against his electronic music design is his diploma in architecture - perhaps Letellier erects and demolishes soundscapes in the same way. The sound of Kangding Ray is not as minimal as the usual roster of Raster-Noton (e.g. CoH, Ø, and the label owner, Carsten Nicolai). It is still experimental, super intelligent, yet at the same time very listenable - I found Alva Noto's Xerrox Vol. 1 conceptually very fascinating, but for some reason the album did not remain in my rotations. Kangding Ray, on the other hand, seems to fit more along his contemporaries, like Hecq, Subheim, Kattoo and Murcof. There are even lyrics in some of the "songs". Perhaps Automne Fold will create a gateway into the label's catalogue for listeners with a less sensitive ear. Be sure to pick up Kangding Ray's 2006 release on Raster-Noton, titled Stabil. Highly recommended. Makes my Best of 2008 list so far... |

Two and a Half Questions with Kangding Ray

What is your alias "Kangding Ray" mean?
Nothing really, kangding is a small town in the tibetan region of sichuan in china, where i went just before finishing my first album. Later i heard that it's also a famous traditional chinese song.

What role does your education in architecture play when you construct soundscapes?
A lot of people ask me this question, due to my background, but I still don't have a definitive answer to it. There are of course some links, in terms of construction or textures, or the idea of music "spacialisation", the fields explored by pioneers like Pierre Henry or Stockhausen. For me, one of the most interesting approach is probably the treatment of music composition and architecture through the same abstract patterns, mathematic rules, one of the finest example being the collaboration of Xenakis and LeCorbusier for the "poème électronique". But at the end, music stays music, it's about sound and emotions.

What is your favorite piece of studio equipment?
A portable digital recorder, that i use to record anything that i find interesting. |