Friday, May 30, 2008

Xploding Plastix - Amateur Girlfriends (Palm Beats)

Originally released as Amateur Girlfriends Go Proskirt Agents on Beatservice Records in 2001, re-released by Palm Beats in 2004, and (finally) re-discovered by me (with a helpful hand from a friend) in 2008, this acid jazzy, trip-hop infused, broken beat heavy debut album by Xploding Plastix is an absolute delight! I am instantly reminded by Amon Tobin's best tracks, and it's no surprise, since the albums are from the same era. Xploding Plastix is an Oslo (Norway) based duo comprising of Hallvard Wennersberg Hagen and Jens Petter Nilsen. The two producers are joined by Rita Augestad Knudsen under another alias, The Electones, to release a Summercloud LP on Inertia Records in 2002. The group is mostly known for their track (and debut 7" EP), Treat Me Mean, I Need the Reputation, released in 2000 on Beatservice Records and later repressed for Hospital Records. With nu-jazz fused keys, upright bass samples, scratches, and broken rhythms, the tracks on the debut album are fresh and groovy. If you love the sound of Amon Tobin's earlier and lighter works, Squarepusher's bass slaps with broken time signatures and The Herbaliser's UK-flavored instrumental hip-hop, then you'll surely fall in love with Xploding Plastix from your first listen. I know I did. Here's a great sentence from Norwegian Beatservice that I can't help but quote: "Xploding Plastix has a sound like irradiated neon washes; shimmering and pulse glowing accordingly disproportional to the flashy stuttering red lights, like cancerous cocktails; splintering with deranged delight. The cinematic, dirty film noir feel is mercilessly exploited. Xploding Plastix is the epicure of a gorgeous, jagged, murderous pulse." The last full length release by the group was The Donca Matic Singalongs, on Columbia Records in 2003.  Besides the above mentioned, similar artists include Skalpel, Jaga Jazzist, Red Snapper, Nostalgia 77 and Bonobo. |

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Vampire Weekend - Vampire Weekend (XL)

There is something intriguing and almost unnatural about the fact that I am continuously drawn towards Vampire Weekend. The light-hearted melodies with simple accompaniment of organ, harpsichord, strings, and flute, turn the clock back to the times of invincibility and carefree college days. Vampire Weekend is a four member New York City indie band, that slightly nods towards the afro-pop genre with a hint of ska. The 2/4 percussion, accented with African elements and an occasional conga, bring on that feeling of kwassa kwassa rhythms. Ezra Koenig, Rostam Batmanglij, Chris Tomson and Chris Baio describe their style as "Upper West Side Soweto", with influences from both, Western classical music and Congolese soukous music. After a couple of successful top hit singles on the UK Indie charts, Vampire Weekend got picked up by none other than XL Records. 2008 brought on their debut self titled full length, and by now it may be too late to hail praise to their sound - Spin has already declared them as The Year's Best New Band in March '08 issue. Look, it's been a while since I've written about anything other then instrumental or electronic, and even though I consider my taste pretty wide and open, Vampire Weekend reminds me that there's a whole ocean of untapped genres. Simply put, Vampire Weekend brings back the ease with which The Beatles conquered the world. | |

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Bitcrush - Epilogue In Waves (n5MD)

I thoroughly enjoyed Mike Cadoo's previous album, In Distance, under his Bitcrush alias. So I waited for a perfect moment to listen to Epilogue In Waves in a serene place setting. I was especially looking forward to the album after I read somewhere that this may be Cadoo's last release (hence the "epilogue" in the title). The latter rumor is clearly incorrect, and I've got the Two and a Half Questions with Mike Cadoo, to prove that. Plus there is an upcoming re-issue of a long unavailable digital release, Shimmer and Fade, remastered and extended. Epilogue In Waves has received mixed reviews. It may be due to unintended expectations from the ever changing musical approach - Cadoo has morphed between styles for years, from his choppy IDM Gridlock project with Mike Wells, to the d'n'b infused breaks as Dryft. Or it may be due to specific expectations of evolution in sound - anything that has been done before may not be exciting to some listeners. Nevertheless, I wholeheartedly welcome the chilled out production of ambient and post-shoegaze influenced bliss. There are instantly recognizable elements from inspirations like Hammock, Lights Out Asia and This Will Destroy You. And these are the sounds that I can't get enough of. In my opinion, this effortless genre migration demonstrates true musicianship, and should receive all the recognition it truly deserves. Cadoo continues to evolve his sound, and as the owner of n5MD, his label's output, through limitless boundaries of uncaged approach. If you follow the label make sure you also pick up Loess, Last Days and Hologram. | |

Two and a Half Questions with Mike Cadoo

To be honest, I still enjoy your Dryft tracks. Bitcrush, however, is such a departure from music you were making eight years ago. Do you miss producing that genre? Any chance of a return?
I am actively working on Dryft material. But what style or project I work on really depends on how I feel when I hit the studio. There are so many angles and projects that I am now working in and on. The next Bitcrush which will be somewhat different from what people I think will expecting. The Dryft material is probably what the people who could not follow me this far around the circle will want to hear. Then there is the SubtractiveLAD collaboration as well as some single guitar ambient I've been toying around with that will possibly see the light of day under my own name.

Who are your current musical inspirations and what genre elements excite you?
Genre has been a tough game for me from the music I create, release and listen to. I really try not to think of anything genre specific... just does it sound good and do I have an emotional connection with it. My inspirations for making music are usually how I am feeling. There are some days when the weather can be a nice dull gray and that sometimes is of inspiration as well.

What are some of the exciting upcoming n5MD releases?
Near the Parenthesis has a new album called L'eixample that will be releases this summer in tandem with the reissue of the Bitcrush Shimmer And Fade EP which has bonus material in the form of 4 unreleased tracks which extends it to album length. Then there will be releases in the fall from Another Electronic Musician, Lights Out Asia, and Funckarma. Last Days and Slidecamp are also currently working on albums for n5MD so the fall may be busy depending on when they finish. |

Friday, May 23, 2008

Klimek - Dedications (Anticipate)

Sebastian Meissner migrates his Klimek project from Kompakt on to Anticipate Recordings. For this eight-piece ambient album, German based Meissner indeed creates tracks dedicated to his many artistic influences. This guitar driven, effect saturated, and soundscape rich composition, positions Klimek perfectly along the leading experimental and modern classical composers like Ben Frost, Marsen Jules, and Deaf Center. Meissner's previous notable ambient recordings include Selected Random Works under his Random Industries alias; The Very Best Of under Bizz Circuits; and Walking In Jerusalem under Random_Inc alias for Mille Plateaux label. Meissner has also previously released Into The Void album on Sub Rosa under his real name. He is responsible for numerous installations in Germany, Poland, Norway, and an upcoming collaboration with Zaellia Bishop in Italy. Add to the CV a couple of latest soundtrack works, and you have yourself a fully immersed, musically rounded artist. The delicately crafted textures on Dedications, suggest hours upon hours of painstaking labor, pulling the strings through reverberation chambers, until they slap back into the standing waves of ghost filled echoes. Somewhere, in the back, an old piano is playing. Like Disintegration Loops of William Basinski, the sampled sources are cut and fed back into the machine, while retaining all of their organic characteristics. Whether taken out of context, or together as a conceptual piece, the tracks on Dedications speak all on their own. Haunting, lush, and timeless - Dedications is not an album to pass by or brush off lightly. Other artists to check out from Ezekiel Honig's Anticipate label include Sawako, Morgan Packard, and the very latest Nicola Ratti. And don't forget to pick up Klimek's last 2006 release on Kompakt, Music To Fall Asleep. Favorite track: For Steven Spielberg & Azza El-Hassan. | |

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Valgeir Sigurðsson - Ekvílíbrium (Bedroom Community)

The founder of the Icelanding collective, Bedroom Community, finally releases his solo debut on his own label. Although this is a first full length album for Valgeir Sigurðsson, he is no stranger to the studio. His musical career spans over a decade, and includes a lot of production work for Björk (Selmasongs, Vespertne, Medúlla and Drawing Restraint 9). He has also worked with múm on Finally We Are No One and CocoRosie on The Adventures Of Ghosthorse And Stillborn. On Bedroom Community releases, Valgeir contributed towards Ben Frost's Theory of Machines and Nico Muhly's Speaks Volumes. Nico in turn reciprocated, and played piano for six (out of ten) tracks on Ekvílíbrium. Which finally brings us to the album. Ekvílíbrium captures some of the most essential elements of today's electronica [if such genre dares to exist]. From tightly produced, programmed, cut up, and re-arranged sounds to organic drums, guitars, full blown strings and brass section, Valgeir toys with sounds and melodies that speak out in their own unique music tongue. The vocals from Will Oldham (aka Bonnie "Prince" Billy) and Faun Fables' Dawn McCarthy, are neatly folded and cradled by the top-notch mastered instrumentation. Some pieces contain that toytronic sound with music-box-like-quality, that is so reminiscent by the aforementioned múm. What I'm trying to say is this: if "Icelandic" was a sub-genre of electronic music all on its own, then Sigurðsson should be mentioned in the headline for its definition. For now, I can only attempt to throw around labels like leftfield, downtempo, and modern classical, to capture this unique sound. Whip out your best headphones [and not necessarily the most expensive] - Ekvílíbrium is a sure treat for audiophiles. Recommended for the above mentioned names, plus Sylvain Chauveau, Deaf Center, Helios, Marsen Jules and Jóhann Jóhannsson. Favorite track: Winter Sleep. |

Monday, May 19, 2008

Stars Of The Lid - And Their Refinement Of The Decline (Kranky)

It seems that I've been lately in a "chill out" mode, talking up Somnia, Hidden Shoal, and Darla labels, so it only makes sense that I turn my attention to Kranky once again. Two disks full of ambient bliss come from this Chicago label, giving us yet another quality release from Austin based guitarists Adam Wiltzie and Brian McBride, also known as the Stars Of The Lid. The latest SOTL release, And Their Refinement Of The Decline, is much more than a collection of drone-based ambient textures. It is indisputably modern classical in nature, where acoustic sounds stand out in front of the curtain of beatless soundscapes. The waves of pads and strings gently swell in dynamics towards the perfectly groomed and endless playa del sonido. These cycles of calmness retreat and repeat, as does everything else in the universe. Some critics may snicker at the genre, reminding them of massage parlors and yoga studios. But that may be because their mind is over polluted with thoughts - the daily noise that always promises a better tomorrow. But only if they pause and really listen, they would locate the present moment and the peace that lies within, with Stars Of The Lid providing the ideal accompaniment. In the world of contemporary ambient composition few excel in continuous evolution of sound. Stars Of The Lid is at the frontier, along with Hammock, The World on Higher Downs, Fennesz, Bitcrush and William Basinski. Their latest album reasserts once again, that Wiltzie and McBride are indeed the stars of our own personal cinema, located somewhere between the eye and the eyelid. | |

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Hammock - Maybe They Will Sing For Us Tomorrow (Darla)

Hammock never fails to dissolve the illusion of time and space, break down the matrix of structured rules, and unplug from the looping pattern of being. Hammock makes me close my eyes and with the flow of sound hear my breathing. I occasionally drift outside of my thoughts while soaring through the vast soundscapes of Hammock's pillow-soft meadows. But when I listen closely, the music speaks in its ambient tongue to the body within. Andrew Thompson and Marc Byrd have been creating their ethereal lullabies since the inception of Hammock Music, and their debut release, Kenotic, in 2005. Four albums later we are rewarded with Maybe They Will Sing For Us Tomorrow. At once in a familiar territory of reverb-heavy guitars, pads, and strings, the progressions are reminiscent of sound left over from Hammock's last masterpiece, Raising Your Voice... Trying To Stop An Echo. This recognition is not a mere coincidence. In 2007 Hammock was asked to play at the Riceboy Sleeps exhibit (the art project of Sigur Rós' Jón "Jónsi" Birgisson and Parachutes' Alex Somers) in a modest loft, in Hot Springs, Arkansas. But this was Hammock's first live PA, with no previous experience or sufficient budget to unleash their layered sonic ocean. A unique Hammock sound had to be created specifically for the live performance of the duo, using only their guitars, pedals, and synths. This stripped down version of Hammock revealed its essence at the core. Although the experience of live sound can never be repeated, its echo is shared with you, in this studio recording of the original music written for the occasion. And maybe... just maybe... they will sing for us tomorrow.

An interesting afterthought by the event's organizer, Chuck Dodson:
Maybe They Will Sing For Us Tomorrow | |

Two and a Half Questions with Hammock

How did your debut live performance shape your music production?
The production process on "Maybe They Will Sing for us Tomorrow" centered around capturing the same vibe & spirit of the live performance. We were able to record all of the pieces very soon after the "Riceboy Sleeps" opening & that helped in capturing the essence of that body of work. We performed the songs more or less live (very few overdubs & no click tracks) & then went back & focused on the string arrangements & wrote 2 additional pieces. Initially we were planning to use some of those songs on our next release, but after hearing them on tape, in context to one another, it seemed to make much more sense to release them as a single project.

What is the most important lesson that you took away from the experience?
In performing these songs, we had to put ourselves in the mindset of a string section basically. Because there are no beats to follow, all of the cues & changes are not only felt & heard, but come about through visual communication. A nod here, a glance there; I think it has helped us become much more intuitive & focused, especially live.

Will the rest of us get an opportunity to see Hammock live?
Hopefully so. We have a few things on the books, but I think the initial hurdle of performing our music in a live setting has been cleared. |

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Julien Neto - Le Fumeur De Ciel (Type)

I've been listening to Julien Neto for a couple of years now, since his debut Le Fumeur De Ciel came out on John Twells' (Xela) beloved Type Records. So it is way overdue for a proper review. Especially since lately the album keeps popping up in my rotations again. Not much is known about an artist producing these surreal, ethereal, insomniac lullabies. We know that Julien lives in Paris, and has produced other [unknown] works under many monikers. The latter is not surprising, since the music on Le Fumeur De Ciel is clearly produced by a season artist. Two tracks on the album feature samples by Keith Kenniff, also known for his work on Type under Goldmund and Helios. Personally, I wouldn't be surprised if Neto turned out to be Kenniff's alter ego, but then again, Neto's site is hosted on - home of Proswell. I have confirmed though, that Julien Neto is indeed his real name, and that Kenniff and Neto are different people ;). So really, the mystery behind the real man remains. And the mystery works well with the hazy smoke rising slowly into the sky. The sound is melancholic, cinematic, and without a doubt, modern classical. There is hint of suppressed memory that is bubbling up to the surface in another form of water that can not be turned to tears. The acoustic instruments are in turn consoled by their digital counterparts, within the pieces of a molded program music. Type extrapolates: "Neto based part of the record on the poems of Keats finding a kindred spirit in his deep and moving romanticism." Closing your eyes, you too, will draw on the special images within you. Bring this album back for another spin, if you like Max Richter, Colleen, Susumu Yokota, and Sylvain Chaveau. Favorite track: Voy. | |

Two and a Half Questions with Julien Neto

Who are your current inspirations, in terms of modern and classical artists?
I tend to listen to just about anything I can, regardless of the genre. I have been on a golden era hip-hop tip lately, but I have been playing quite a lot of jazz and klezmer music too. As for classical music composers, it is hard to mention any as an inspiration without sounding pompous, but I have a quite a tender spot for Debussy.

Le Fumeur De Ciel seems to be a conceptual album around poems of Keats. Is there another melancholic message hiding beneath the surface?
As a matter of fact, only a bit of the album is based on poems of Keats.

You've been pretty quiet since the last release. What have you been working on?
I'd like to avoid making the same album twice, which is probably what has been holding me for some time. I have had the chance to work on a few remixes for friends and I am planning to release a dub(as in reggae-dub) record on Jahtari as soon as I am happy with what I can come up with. A sampler featuring one of my tracks has just been released. |

Friday, May 16, 2008

Stateless - Stateless (Studio !K7)

I first came across Stateless after hearing Chris James contribute vocals to DJ Shadow's last album, The Outsider. I picked up the self titled debut on Studio !K7, and got treated to exactly what I was looking for - indie tracks mixed with trip-hop beats and a hint of that Radiohead sound. Stateless is a Leeds based band comprising of afore mentioned Chris James on vocals, guitars and keyboards; Justin Percival on the bass; David Levin on the drums; Rod Buchanan-Dunlop on live-FX and keyboards, and Gerard Roberts (Kidkanevil) on the turntables adding that staple Portishead feel. By the time you reach the third track, Bloodstream, which also appeared as a promo single (with two remixes by Henrik Schwarz), you realize that Stateless got somethin' there. Still a bit in the shadow of Josh Davis [pun intended?], Stateless is starting to pick up steam across the UK electronic/indie scene. Listening to an album a couple of times, you realize that Stateless' lyrics are full of soul. This is the kind of album you've been craving for without knowing. Play Bloodstream to your [non-electronic-inclined] friends in a car, and they'll be asking you questions about the artist, to which, in a matter-of-fact voice you can reply, "Oh, that? That's Stateless. Haven't you heard?" Recommended if you also follow leftfield sound from Hird, Plej, Little Dragon, Unkle and Nostalgia 77. | |

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Sankt Otten - Wunden Gibt Es Immer Wieder (Hidden Shoal)

Hidden Shoal continues to impress. My first introduction to the label was with Wes Willenbring's debut, Somewhere Someone Else. With its 29th release, it is clear that this Australian label is in no doubt with us to output quality experimental ambient, post-rock, and shoegazing pop material from across the globe. Sankt Otten is Stephan Otten and Oliver Klemm, hailing from Osnabrueck, Germany, with two previous full length releases: Eine Kleine Traurigkeit on Eleganz Records, and Wir Koennen Ja Freunde Bleiben on Hidden Shoal. Don't try to translate the titles, just take in the music as is. Trust me. Wunden Gibt Es Immer Wieder, is the duo's third LP, in which they shed the Bristol's trip-hop influence, and move towards a cinematic territory. The instrumental ambiance of the album is lavishing, gorgeous, and inexplicably German [well, what's that supposed to mean?]. I guess some of those lightly distorted, sawtooth synth and guitar sounds gliding over thick and layered pads is what makes it "that German sound" for me - think Ulrich Schnauss, Klaus Schulze, and sometimes Pole. Read my Two and a Half Questions with Sankt Otten to see what they think about that. The percussion accompaniment is light and upbeat, diluting melancholic heaviness with an airy feeling. And the melodies... Ah, the melodies. The track, Der Groove Des Guten Gewissens, with its dramatic strings and high octave piano notes is a true cinematic experience - turn that up and walk around the city in the rain, and let me know if your eyes don't swell up with tears. Both Hidden Shoal releases are available and distributed through Tonevendor. Similar artists cloud includes Talk Talk, Ennio Morricone, Portishead, John Barry and Bohren & der Glub of Core. | |

Two and a Half Questions with Sankt Otten

In my review I mention a unique German sound. Do you feel that there is a distinct geographic influence in your music?
Spontaneously, and as a German, I can't really see any apparent signs in our music, which could be linked directly to our German heritage. At least not in the way that one would think of Jamaica and their sort of music, for example. I guess considering the point of view of some of my other global compatriots that might look differently. What is the German stereotype in other countries? A mixture of tradition, being rooted, and visionaries? That somehow could fit to us, the Germans.

What are your classical music influences?
What I would accept, is that we try to achieve the sort of atmosphere, which is usually created by the classical composers, such as Henryk Gorecki, for example. It's a one of a kind mix of longing and mourning and yet at the end there is always a ray of hope. You combine that with hypnotic beats, the way you know them from Krautrock or Trip-Hop and the unbelievable Robert Fripp guitar soundscapes and that's how you get to Sankt Otten.

If your album was a soundtrack to a film, what would the main character's name be and why?
No clue. A mixture between a David Lynch episode and Brokeback Mountain with Darth Vader as a supporting character ;-) |

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Emanuele Errante - Humus (Somnia)

Italian ambient composer, Emanuele Errante lands his second full length release on the only label where it belongs - Somnia. Errante began his musical career in electronic folk-rock bands. In 2004 he released his first solo album, Stand, under Mais alias on a Maetrixsolution netlabel. In 2005, Errante released his first ambient work under his real name, Absolute EP on Maetrixsolution once again. 2006 reaped his debut full length, Migrations, on Apegenine Recordings - a Canadian independent label for electronic textural music that first hit the scene with a compilation of ambient sounds from Julien Neto, Xhale, Xerxes, and Khonnor among a few [definitely worth checking out as well]. Errante's sound is soothing, organic, drifting, and at the same time present in the now. The textures within the soundscapes are carefully laid out, like a crisp white table cloth saved for a special occasion. The music within Humus is more than just a selection of layered ambient pads and smoky dream states. Intelligent design and production looms just around the corner, ready to reveal itself just as you float away. Errante is definitely an excellent addition to the roster of Somnia. Instantly fitting in among the modern classical releases by its owner, Evan Bartholomew, Somnia's third hand made installment propels the independent label to the ranks of Xela's Type Records and Deaf Center's Miasmah. I've got my eyes and ears open awaiting any future releases from this young label, as it slowly reveals its layers and unfolds its wings. Recommended for the likes of the above mentioned artists. Favorite track: Radio Hopes |

Two and a Half Questions with Emanuele Errante

What defines modern classical sound for you?
The modern classical sound is the result of a constant research of new canons in the creative process, associated to a deep innermost research. The new resulting approach can include the whole music background of the last years, but the standards are radically distorted and released from the cages of the strict scores of the traditional classical music. I don't like to close music in small labeled boxes ordered by genres, categories and sub-categories though. I prefer considering the arts for what they express, no matter the genre, the style, or the standards they belong to.

Are there any Italian artists that we should check out?
My reference point is an artist from my city, Naples: Luciano Cilio. He was only 33 when he committed suicide in 1983. His music was a step ahead of any other known artist. If you listen to his tracks you realize how his music is still incredibly projected to the future. Maybe he was too "modern", too advanced, too much ahead to be understood and those might be some of the reasons of his sad story. His music survived though, and I strongly recommend to hear "Dell'universo assente", a collection of his masterpieces released by the label Die Schachtel in 2004, whose contents in the 20-pages booklet have been written by Jim O'Rourke. I'll never stop thanking Lino Monaco of the great electronic duo (Hefty) for letting me know Cilio's music several years ago. Also, I'm obliged to mention two Italian artists who do not need any introduction:Ludovico Einaudi and Alessandra Celletti. As per ambient music, I like Enrico Coniglio (especially in duo with Elisa Marzorati) Giuseppe Ielasi and Lorenzo Senni.

Tell us about NetstockFest.
NetstockFest was the very first 4 days 24hours-nonstop music festival that happened completely online. I wanted to create a special event for the whole netaudio community and I thought it had to happen on the Internet, which is the natural environment for all commercial and non-commercial artists who come from netaudio. So I talked about the idea of an online festival to my friend Raffaele Marranzini and we immediately started studying the way to make it possible. Pete Leuenberger (head of the netlabel maetrixsolution and creator of the Everest-released project Mathon) and Manfred Genther (creator of the Lab30 festival in Germany) helped in the organization. The technology behind Netstock (whose name means "Woodstock on the Net") allowed any artist to perform live for 60 minutes from his bedroom, his studio, or from any other place with an Internet connection available. The performance was broadcasted to a central server and then replicated in real time by all the webradios involved thus letting multiple users from all over the world listen to the festival without any problem of buffering and bandwidth. All listeners could also chat in a specific chatroom created on Soulseek and share comments and opinions in real time about the performances they were listening to. In the days before the festival we had to test the connection for every artist who participated and we tested it again on a private broadcasting one hour before each artist went "on-air". It's been a very long weekend, where we almost did not sleep at all but it was great fun for everybody. Maybe for the first time artists had the opportunity to play a concert from their own places and reach a global audience in real time! Artists were very nervous before performing as if they had to go up on a real stage. Some of them broadcasted from parks or other open-air places where they went with their friends and then posted pictures taken during their performances. We had a mean of 3000 listeners for every performance which is a great result considering that we did very little promotion. We felt like pioneers. No other event with the same features of Netstock has happened since then, as far as I know. In the lineup there were names like Kilowatts, Dennis DeSantis, Bern, Molair, Alex Navarro,, Tomas Jirku and Rob Warren, Krill.Minima, among the others. I hope we will have a chance to repeat this great experience one of these days. |

Monday, May 12, 2008

Gescom - A1-D1 (Skam)

Gestalt Communications returns after four years of silence, with two 12"s on Skam. The same release is repackaged into a mini white album with a clear sticker announcing in Braille its abbreviated name. The rest is just bar code and catalog number. The six tracks contain chopped up, effed up, transposed and twisted samples from classics like the 1978 disco, Space Dust, by Galactic Force Band; the 1994 acid track Downfall by Armando; 1993 ambient piece by David Byrne and Brian Eno, Come With Us; and a Chicago house track, No Way Back, from 1986 by Adonis. As always, the true identity behind the Gescom collective remain unknown, and we can only guess at the names of the usual suspects. Of course, Skam does not shed any light on the obscured artists either. What we can extract from this release is that it's as dirty, mental, and sick acid flashback as we could possibly anticipate. Whether Sean Booth or Rob Brown were involved, we can only presume, but will never know. What we can be sure of, is that A1-D1 sounds nothing like the 2008 album by Autechre, Quaristice. Perhaps Russel Haswell or Rob Hall had another hand at this. But since Gescom (aka, friends of Autechre) is a project of almost twenty different people, the digging and guessing is a moot point. Ignore the mystery and enjoy the release if you like abstract IDM by the above mentioned names plus AFX, The Tuss, Lego Feet, Jega, Clark, and Mr. 76ix. And I really dig A1. |

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Claro Intelecto - Metanarrative (Modern Love)

After four volumes of Warehouse Sessions and a few additional twelve inchers on Modern Love, Mark Stewart releases his sophomore LP on the same label. Stewart began his Claro Intelecto project in 2003 on Manchester's IDM label, AI, with a Peace of Mind EP. He quickly followed the release with the acclaimed Neurofibro (named after his genetic disease). Metanarrative is more melodic than the preceding EPs, centered around deep bass groans and minimal grinds building up the postmodernist grand narrative. Stewart infuses the Detroit influenced UK beats with his IDM and electro background, creating an album that spans the sub-genres from dub techno to tech-house. This sound falls somewhere around cold warehouse nights and deep underground lounges, where the walls vibrate with bass, killing all the vermin in the process. In Neurofibro, I found myself attached to a handful of glitchy tracks on the wavelength of Arovane, Nautilis and Tipper. This time, Stewart has left his experimental touch in the past, and in Metanarrative we're only offered the straight up four-to-the-floor beats. The bpm doesn't scour or trot, instead it bathes in its leisurely rhythm. Combine that with a short album playtime (40 min), and you find yourself hitting play again after eight tracks. Recommended if follow Ricardo Villalobos, Alex Smoke and Lawrence. |

The Herbaliser - FabricLive.26 (Fabric)

I've been trying to chase down this mixed compilation for a couple of months now. Ever since I saw that The Herbaliser (Jake Wherry and Ollie Teeba) contributed a mix towards London nightclub's Fabric label. Known for their trip-hop, downtempo, and jazz infused instrumental hip-hop tracks, The Herbaliser got signed to Ninja Tune back in 1995, and since then been a resident for the label's staple sound. Their last appearance was a 7" single on Skyline Recordings, as well as a track contribution (Gadget Funk) towards a 2008 triple CD  sampler from Ninja Tune, You Don't Know: Ninja Cuts. For the FabricLive.26 mix, The Herbaliser took a step back from downtempo sound to make a party mix. And what a mix it is. The turntable skills are flawless, but it is the track selection that makes this an instant gem for me. I feel it is my duty to take you on a quick tour of this genre-spanning collection of classics. We start off with ragga  track by Million Dan, moving quickly into dirty UK hip-hop, then a track by RJD2 and a label mate appearance by Dynamic Syncopation. Blufoot and Yungun add some North London rhymes followed by a classic Hurby's Machine with Antoinette. On track 8 (out of 24), we break down into James Brown! From here on The Herbaliser rock the tables with some funk, electro, and of course, soul. We've got J Rocc, old-skool breakbeat track from Demon Boyz, and even a 1971 soul disco from The Jackson 5! The Roots kick in with Boom! at track 21, and Dynamix II treats us to an '87 vocoder electro classic. We barely finish with some crunk from Diplo, as Bugz In The Attic contributes the last broken beat. Whew! It's a doozy! Thank you, Herbaliser, thank you! | |

Sunday, May 4, 2008

The Ideal Setback - Dream Dialogue (self)

These days I find myself spending a lot of time contemplating stillness, the nature of now, and the peace of being. With that, certain sound becomes my companion and a closer friend. Music without boundaries, concepts and hidden messages is best for clearing out my head of thoughts and instead turning them on within. Is it then a simple coincidence, that an album conceived for such moments lands itself in my demo bin, or is it something others may wont to call "a sign". Todd Chappell is the man behind this solo instrumental ambient project called The Ideal Setback. Hailing from Memphis, Tennessee, Todd blends minimal soundscapes, swelling pads, and simple melodies with guitar infused shoegaze. The mood of the album is calm, measured, and enlightened. Somewhere, half way between nothingness and dissociated bliss, the distortion slowly creeps in, takes a bow, and steps aside for bass, only to drop you into a reverb saturated oblivion once again. Chappell is definitely crafting some of the exemplary pieces where "less" is always "more". Dream Dialogue is a perfect soundtrack for your meditations, and I can only look forward to Chappell's future output as he perfects and tweaks his skill of ambient production. Similar projects that immediately come to mind are Hammock, Stars Of The Lid, Belong and Evan Bartholomew. A previously released Demo CD is available as a free download from the Ideal Setback myspace page. |

Two and a Half Questions with Todd Chappell

Describe your composition process.
How I compose my songs varies pretty often. If I had to put it into steps, I would say the first step would be that I come up with something simple, whether it's a piano part or a chord progression, and I take it from there. After that, I just do what sounds good, and/or what I want the atmosphere of the song to be. A lot of times I think a song is done, and I'll go and listen to it again and realize I need more there, so that's sort of step two in the process. There's a lot of layering with my music, and I try to manipulate the sounds I use as much as possible. I'll go back days later after recording the song and add reverb and delay and mix things differently, and even reverse sounds and change keys just to explore all of my possibilities. I've had songs that have changed completely from the original just by adding an extra layer of a reversed pad, etc - (An example of this would be "For Once").

Besides music, what is the role of minimalism in your daily life?
I think minimalism plays a part in my daily life without me even knowing it sometimes. I've always been drawn to the "less is more" aspect. I'll be looking at photographs, and I'll see one of a huge landscape with tons of trees and mountains and think "that's pretty cool", and then I'll see a picture of two wires out of focus and a white background and think "now that's awesome". It's just a natural thing that I've always admired - how you can show so much with presenting so little.

Where does ambient meet shoegaze?
I think ambient and shoegaze can mean completely different things to different people. To me, shoegaze is represented by bands like Slowdive and My Bloody Valentine, and ambient is represented by bands like Stars of the Lid and Hammock. I guess the point where both genres meet would have to be the reverb aspect of it. Both genres use a ton of reverb to change the ways the guitars, vocals, and drums sound, but I think it's the way that they're presented that separate them. To me, shoegaze is more raw sounding and ambient is more refined. |


Saturday, May 3, 2008

Wagon Christ - Tally Ho! (Astralwerks)

Hailing from Cornwall, England, Luke Vibert started his career early by releasing a debut album with Jeremy Simmonds on Richard D. James' Rephlex Records in 1993. He then moved on to Rising High Records releasing an ambient album Phat Lab Nightmare under an alias Wagon Christ. In 1996, Luke tried his hand at drill'n'bass with an alias Plug releasing Drum 'n' Bass for Papa on Blue Planet. Luke finally landed on Astralwerks - a Virgin Records owned New York label known for main stream electronic acts such as Basement Jaxx, The Chemical Brothers, Fatboy Slim, Future Sound of London and the likes. Tally Ho! is Vibert's sixth full length album (third under Wagon Christ moniker) to come out on Astralwerks in 1998. Luke's sound fits in nicely alongside the friends and artists that defined the late 90's electronica, such as Aphex Twin, Squarepusher, µ-ziq and Cylob. "Together they assimilated such diverse elements as hip hop beats and drum & bass into the more eccentric take on electronica they tweaked, and kick-started a virtual insurrection in sound around the world," notes journalist Andrez Bergen. Tally Ho! is a perfect example of more stylistic exploration under the electronica umbrella, where jungle meets trip-hop, and new genres emerge. The sound is upbeat, confident and playful at the same time. Luke's other notable aliases among the many are Kerrier District, Amen Andrews and Ace of Clubs with a deep discography on defining labels such as Warp, Ninja Tune and Planet-µ. In 2007 Luke collaborated with Jean-Jacques Perrey on Moog Acid project for Lo Recordings. I think I did more name-dropping in this review than talk about the music, but I trust you get the idea. Five stars for this one. | |