Sunday, March 29, 2009

Jega - Geometry (Planet Mu)

Here's a brief history of Planet Mu, which is very much relevant to Jega. Planet Mu was born in 1995, and was originally setup as a sublabel of Virgin Records, on which it initially planned on releasing music by µ-Ziq (Mike Paradinas), and similar artists. The experimental electronic genre that initially was vultured upon by the major labels never took off in the United States, and Virgin gave up spending their marketing dollars on this back-shelf product. In 1998, Paradinas decided to take on the label single-handedly, and, prefixing the releases with ZIQ, released Jega's Type Xer0 as the very first 12-inch. This teaser was followed up with Jega's debut album, Spectrum (Planet Mu, 1998), and from that the rest is history. Prior to his signing on Planet Mu, the man behind the Jega moniker, Dylan Nathan, has already released material on none other than Skam Records. There, with his two EPs, Phlax (Skam, 1996) and Card Hore (Skam, 1997), Nathan fit along perfectly with such contemporary abstract and experimental IDM artists as Bola, Lego Feet, Freeform, Boards of Canada, and of course Gescom. On Spectrum, Nathan rips through melodic breakbeats with newly perfected IDM elements, fitting right at home with Paradinas' µ-Ziq style. Glitched out percussion draws influences from Aphex Twin and even some leftfield downtempo beats ala Amon Tobin, whose first release, Bricolage, came out a year prior on Ninja Tune . Two years later, and a few EPs in between, Nathan releases his sophomore album, Geometry (planet Mu, 2000). This album is much different in tone, and immediately made its impression on me. A lot darker, machine-like chopped up percussion, jitters its way through the cold corridors of sonic spectrum towards the experimental Autechre sound. Although a few atmospheric melodies remain throughout the album, the deep electro beats and metallic effects hold their solid ground. Geometry is definitely among my list of influential albums. In 2004, Jega showed up with a Theme From 1998 on Planet Mu's compilation, Children of Mu. Another track, Aerodynamic, appeared on the label's compilation, Sacred Symbols Of Mu, two years later, in 2006. In 2003, as Nathan was working on his third album, Variance, a copy leaked out onto the sharing networks, and Nathan had to scrap and rework almost all of the tracks. The album is definitely still in the works, and Paradinas mentioned that Variance Vol 1 and Vol 2 will be released as a double album sometime in July, 2009 (!!!). As a matter of fact, Jega showcased his upcoming work during his exclusive set on BBC Radio 1 Experimental on March 11th, 2009 (do your own digging  on the forums to grab a recording). I hope that bit of news got your juices flowing, as I'm sure I'll be reviewing the album once I get my dirty hands on it. | | 

Label Profile: Somnia

It's time for another installment in our Label Profiles feature.
This month, it's an in-depth interview with Evan Bartholomew of Somnia.

Read Label Profile: Somnia on

Friday, March 27, 2009

Rival Consoles - Helvetica (Erased Tapes)

From the label that brought you majestic modern classical music from Icelandic rising star, Ólafur Arnalds, comes a new installment in emotional... wait... what's this? My expectations for melodramatic orchestral stabs are shattered by explosive drums and drilling breaks. Completely unexpected and incredibly welcome, Rival Consoles catches me off guard with his cinematic progressions, which are complemented by breakcore elements a la Venetian Snares. And this is only after I hear a single track on  Erased Tapes Collection I, which is available as a free download from the label's website. And so I reach out for some more. Helvetica is Ryan Lee West's second EP on Erased Tapes released under the Rival Consoles moniker. In only four tracks, the record is enough to grab your attention with delicate classical piano arpeggios, IDM influences deriving from the catalog of Rephlex artists, with acid bleeps, breaks, and beats palatable to fans of the above mentioned V-Snares, Aphex Twin, and Boxcutter alike. Yes, I can honestly admit that I'm excited about this artist, because all of these cutesy frequencies are skipping right down my alley, past the puddles of tears and walls punched with mud. Playful, adventurous, and confident, the tracks produced with intricate attention to detail, are only a teaser for the things to come from this Leicester (UK) based producer. The 7-inch vinyl is quickly selling out (already out of stock on some places I checked), but is still available directly from the label; and then of course there is the [mandatory] digital release. Be sure to also get your hands on Rival Consoles debut release, The Decadent EP (Erased Tapes, 2007). And don't forge to pick up the label's digital showcase compilation, commemorating its 1st anniversary, where, besides the track that tipped me off, Ryan Lee West contributes a remix and yet another track under his alter ego, Aparatec. Remember, it's free! Jump on this wagon. Quick! |

Two and a Half Questions With Ryan Lee West

I hear some very advanced techniques in your production, yet you only have a few EPs under your belt. When and why did you start producing?
i've been producing for a few years now, i guess i'm interested in what Stockhausen, Eno amongst others pioneered - using the studio as an instrument, i'm interested in things which are beyond a pair of hands. not that everything i do is, but as a general means of generating sounds.

I compared you a bit to Venetian Snares (I meant specifically his modern classical meets breakcore album, Rossz Csillag Alatt Született). A few have also pointed out a few AFX elements. What are your true influences?
i have many influences, most of them seeming to have no connection to my music - i  like venetian snares, afx  - a lot of music i hear at the minute in the electronic field is either disgusting dance floor wank such as Basshunter or completely glitched to the point where the process overwhelms the sounds themselves. -  any artist which maintains a good balance i like - such as aphex twin, venetian snares, clark etc.

How does Rival Consoles compare to your alter ego, Aparatec?
aparatec would seem to be more plastic, keeping to that Detroit acid sound. though i don't set a constraint on what music should be associated with what name, i am purely trying to produce music which interests me, and then if good, expose it to people.

Which artist or track would you love to do a remix of? I'd suggest Thom York, but it seems that everyone took a stab!
although i respect good remixes it's not really something that interests me, i'm much more interested in new works - though i do make music by creating tracks and then re-sampling, re-structuring them. so my way of making music in general is a remix process. i've been meaning to remix 4:33 by J. Cage for a while.

What are you working on now? Any chance for upcoming full length?
i have a split 12"/download featuring 3 new tracks ‘Milo’, ‘Func’ and ‘ARP’, which also includes 2 tracks from Kiasmos, Ólafur Arnalds new minimal techno side project. i also have a debut album set to be released in June called 'IO' which steps into a slightly different feel than previous Rival Consoles releases. centered around analogue acid synthesizers, and a lust for catchy music which still has some kind of integrity. all to be released on Erased Tapes Records. |

Monday, March 23, 2009

Resonant Forms (Los Angeles, April 3 - 5, 2009)

I rarely get this excited about live shows these days. Don't get me wrong, I love to see the artists perform. But with the bad sound system, rowdy crowd, and god awful hours, it's difficult for the event to compete with my studio speakers. But Resonant Forms is a whole new deal, boys and girls. I am so excited about this event that I've got myself a ticket to LA, where I plan on immersing myself within the art, the music, and the people for the whole three days.

No, it's not an outdoor festival, where you go to sleep in the morning hours, and wake up sweaty at noon with the sun blazing on your tent. This festival will be held at LACE (Los Angeles Contemporary Exhibitions). In collaboration with VOLUME, the festival will showcase new and established artists focusing on experimental electronic music, live cinema, and sound art.

The event will kick off with a live cinema performance by SUE-C. and Laetitia Sonami, titled Sheepwoman. The duo will premiere this piece with projection of photographs, drawings, three dimensional objects, and a huge array of other media, all of which will be manipulated in real time to create visuals inspired by Haruki Murakami's novels, "The Wild Sheep Chase" and "Dance, Dance, Dance" (watch the Sheepwoman trailer). Now I am very much familiar with Murakami, a contemporary Japanese surrealist fiction icon, and so I'm already drooling in anticipation of this presentation. And that's just the beginning!

Throughout three days my ears will be sonicly treated with performances by William Basinski, Richard Chartier, Christopher Willits, Kadet Kuhne, Lucky Dragons, Yann Novak and Celer. Where do I begin in expressing my adoration for the above mentioned names and their contributions towards the contemporary evolution of ambient, minimal, and experimental electronic sound. I briefly spoke with Richard, and he informed me that his projected set will include a solo performance and a rare collaborative performance with Basinski, of a version of Untitled 3, from Untitled 1-3 (LINE). This will be my chance to witness this only second live performance to date! Throughout the space there will be installations by David Kwan, Mark Trayle and artSpa, hosted by Adam Overton.

Oh, and if that's not enough, during the day, there will be panel discussions with Basinski, Khne, Trayle and Kwan. On another day, Christopher Willits will present a workshop, titled "Designing Process", based around the use and evolution of customized signal processing, and software tools Max/MSP/Jitter and Ableton Live.

And me? I will be observing, interviewing, soaking in, and floating through, submerged in visuals and sound. I plan on covering the entire event yielding a journalistic piece, which will emerge on its own during this experience. Again, I am very much excited about this upcoming event, and if you happen to live or be in the LA area, be sure to not miss out on this. Looking forward to meeting everyone and you! | |

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Bersarin Quartett - Bersarin Quartett (Lidar)

From the very few opening notes, I know that I'm in for a treat. As the album progresses, I get wide-eyed, and instead of paying attention to details [I know I will be coming back for more later], I spend time researching, tracing the steps that led me to accidentally miss this album, and calling all my friends to tell them about Bersarin Quartett. It's like I missed an entire year, while the self-titled album was there all along, spreading its loveliness across all open ears but mine. Well, I hope it's not too late to bluntly rant and rave about it, so that those who are asleep like me, can be awakened with this bliss. Because, kids, this is another one of those albums that rapidly wedges its way into the previously posted and now begging to be revised, Best of 2008 list. Bersarin Quartett is the solo project of Thomas Bücker, who for a while was hiding in the shadows under blank names in net-label releases Electronica Unplugged 1 (Aerotone, 2006) and its followup, Electronica Unplugged 2 (Aerotone, 2007). But digging deeper through a web of contributions and aliases, Bücker's discography reveals production work through an entire decade, when under the Jean-Michel moniker he released Marshmallow Rooms (Eleganz Records, 1999). OK, so at least I'm not drooling over a newcomer who completely blew me away with his production and composition. That is not to say that it underplays the work in any shape or form. On Bersarin Quartett, Bücker picks up the conductor's baton and draws all eyes upon him. With elegant gestures, he moves the modern classical progressions through ambient orchestral drones ala Biosphere's Shenzhou (Touch, 2002), to paced minimal pieces reminescent of Marsen Jules' Les Fleurs (City Centre Offices, 2006), to cinematic soundtracks and program music of Max Richter's The Blue Notebooks (130701, 2004), all beautifully complemented with a light touch of elements of  jazzy experimental IDM to land among the fans of Murcof, Helios, and The Cinematic Orchestra. How is that for some name dropping? The man behind the music on Bersarin Quartett laughs at my attempt of making The Best of 2008 Compilation mix of my favorite tracks, and instead drops his entire album on my lap. "Here. Listen to this. How is that for summarizing your favorite music of the latter years?" The imaginary projection of his voice is right. This album has it all. Enough to fill a page with adjectives, comparisons, and clichés. Instead, I'm feverishly typing words into this box in a desperate attempt to get you to listen to the album at all costs and then judge for yourself. Seriously. Just get it. Bersarin Quartett is the second release on Dortmund based (Germany) Lidar Productions label which first put out Jasper TX's A Darkness, back in 2007. If you're having trouble locating Bersarin Quartett in the US, may I recommend our good friends at n5MD, who have a few copies in their excellent mail order shop. Recommended for the likes of the above mentioned artists plus Emanuelle Errante, Jacaszek, Julien Neto and Rafael Anton Irisarri. | |

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Another Electronic Musician - Five (n5MD)

It's about time that I got my hands on Jase Rex's fifth release, appropriately titled Five. Critics universally agree, that unlike his moniker suggests, Rex is not just Another Electronic Musician. And though the past releases by Rex were closer to subdued melodic electronica, this album clearly puts the D in IDM. Familiar playful glitchy percussion is complimented by strictly defined rhythmic structures, covering groovy dub beats with layers of pads, delayed jazzy chords, and sprinkles of digital errors. Five becomes more than a head bopping album, it begs for a loungy atmosphere  and shoulder popping dance floor alike. These days Jase Rex is hanging out in Southern California, where he must surround himself by a vast influential musical library, from early pioneers of electronica to the latest craze of dubstep, as it clearly reflects in his music. This marriage of the old and the new is at once familiar and welcome, as the two favorite elements bridge together in the album that keeps on pumping catchy hooks in every track. Where sound becomes a story, and the story yields the sound. This is an interesting addition to n5MD, considering that this highly reputable and personally admired Oakland based label, tends to [lately] focus on less upbeat releases - from ambient neofolk by Last Days, to electronic dreamscapes from Near The Parenthesis, to post-rock shoegaze by the owner himself, Mike Cadoo (aka Bitcrush). It's an interesting avenue that is only applauded by at least this fan of the label. Although I tend to agree that IDM in its original incarnation may be long dead, and that the acronym is slapped and overused by many, we owe it to Another Electronic Musician for keeping it alive (even if it needs a little life support). Thank you, Jase, for a wonderful reminder of the times that are still yet to come. | |

Two and a Half Questions with Another Electronic Musician

I have to ask - what made you choose your moniker?
When I chose "Another Electronic Musician" as my moniker the number of bedroom composers (or under the stairs for me) within the electronic music community was growing rapidly. My intention was to communicate that, yes, I was yet another electronic musician, but that, in openly stating so, I would eliminate any potential negative connotations associated with beginning as a bedroom composer, and have my music taken at face value.  Unfortunately my moniker has been seen as a means of self deprecation, which was not its intent.

Five is an interesting departure, or perhaps just a side step, from your previous works. Can you tell us more about your decisions of producing a more dance oriented album?
Five was written during a good period in my life.  I was happy and having fun and I think it came through.  I wanted to communicate the uplifting feelings of love from my family and friends I was experiencing.  The dance aspect was a result of this, I wanted people to have fun while listening to it. I do not view Five as a departure from my previous releases. I think it is a progression and contains what I learned during the writing of Use and Patience.  Just as a person evolves over time, I feel my releases have evolved.  It may not be the smartest business move, but I approach writing music as a learning experience and what I write at any particular time is what I feel I need to explore more deeply.

Being just another electronic musician, I imagine you producing on your laptop in your bedroom. What is your current hardware/software setup like?
The days of writing under the stairs are long gone.  I currently have a studio where I do most of my writing.  I do, however, use my laptop to capture ideas whenever they happen. My current setup - Computer: Intel Core2 Quad Q6600, 4gb RAM, 3 each 500gb HD, WinXP; Audio Cards: 4 each Echo Audio Layla 24/96; Hard Synths/Effects: Roland Space Echo RE-101, Roland Space Echo RE-201, Roland JX-8P, Roland SH-32, Nord Modular, Yamaha TX7, Waldorf Blofeld, Waldorf MicroWave XT, Korg MS2000R,  Digitech S-100, Electrix Warp Factory; Soft Synths/DAW: Ableton Live, Native Instruments, Various Other Synths/Effects...

Do you think we should retire the IDM genre, at least in its definition or the acronym? Perhaps we should call it something else?
I do not pay attention to genres.  I am probably the worst person to ask about what music is commonly classified in what genre and whether it is appropriate.  Five has been classified by some as IDM, Dub, Lounge, while Patience was Glitch, Ambient, Dub and Use was Minimal, Glitch, Ambient, IDM it all makes no difference to me.

How do you describe your music to your parents?
I have explained my music to my parents as experimental electronic music which is made on a computer.  Anything more specific than that would be out of context for them.  They have always been very supportive of my music.  Five was the first album that they were able to 'understand' and apparently it is something that they play for their friends.  That makes me feel good. |

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Interbellum - Over All of Spain the Sky is Clear (FlingcoSoundSystem)

FlingcoSoundSystem is a relatively new Chicago based label spearheaded by Bruce Adams, who back in 1993 was one of the co-founders behind Kranky. OK, do I have your attention? Now settle down and keep listening. With this fourth label release, Over All of Spain the Sky is Clear, FSS is introducing us to Brendan Burke, aka Interbellum. On the album, we hear Burke behind the piano, while Fred Lonberg-Holm softly plays the cello. The tracks are recorded in their open ended form, following a minimal restraint digital and acoustic manipulation, with the help of applied mathematics and durational processing. I'd be lying if I said I really understood the mathematical formulations in this piece, but it is the end-result that's important here. And it speaks for itself. Fans of long form and improvisational modern classical pieces would be absolutely delighted to hear this duet. While none of the pieces overpower the mind with concrete melodical structure, the overall drifting experience is that of pure musical exploration. Throughout the album, the sound vibrates, travels, and floats in and out of our peripheral hearing, until the slightly audible voice becomes almost coherent, only to drown again in the harmony of bowed and struck strings, which flips between the major and minor scales, like a child laughing through the tears after a fall. This unobtrusive wondering through musical modes becomes especially apparent during the second track on the album, The Life and Death of Anne Zimmerman, which is over twenty minutes long. Add to that some distant crackling, echoed machine buzzing, and you've got yourself a requiem for the living. Interbellum [in its definition of the word], is a period of time between wars (World Wars I and II to be more specific). Perhaps such definition will explain the more somber mood of of this unfolding album, which, as with all other FSS releases, is meant to be listened to in one sitting, as a collection of sequenced tracks, making up a coherent album as a whole. Pick up this digital release from available for download for only $5. Recommended if you like Richard Skelton, Machinefabriek and Sylvain Chauveau as well as some acoustic pieces by The World's End Girlfriend. |

Two and a Half Questions with Brendan Burke

I'm very curious about the role of "applied mathematics" and "durational processing" in your work. Can you elaborate?I've been interested in algorithmic composition for quite a while now. Probably the first time I began to think about it was many years ago in college when I bought Discreet Music by Eno and read his liner notes.  My education is in Mathematical Logic, and while in graduate school I began reading the work of David Cope, who is at UC Santa Cruz and has written extensively on algorithmic composition. That work had a big influence on my thinking on the subject.  For this record, on certain pieces I used a software program that I wrote which chooses both melodic and harmonic progressions based on a probabilistic method that takes into account many variables.  That said, a lot of the work on the record is written in more traditional ways and some is even improvised, so I'm not an algorithmic composition purist.

How much of your work is improvised at the time of the actual recording?
The piano parts were seldom improvised.  I wanted them to mostly provide a harmonic foundation for the cello.  There were fully written cello parts for each piece.  However, when we recorded, Fred played the parts as written, but also did a couple improvisational passes through each song.  I ended up using elements of both the composed and improvised cello.

What are some of the digital processing techniques that you used on the album?
The instruments are not really processed much after recording, with some exceptions. There are the usual engineering techniques: a bit of EQ, a little compression, and occasionally  heavy use of delay or reverb.  I also used some distortion as well.  The "non-instruments" (samples, noises)  are usually not processed very much.  They are generally used more or less as I found or recorded them.  There is, of course, a large degree of layering and looping of parts as well.

Do you have any interest in writing film scores?
Film scores are an interesting subject.  Part of what I wanted to do with this record was to have the sound be sort of like a soundtrack.  But unlike other "soundtracky" music, I wanted the listener to hear all the sound from the film, not just the music.  So that's part of the reason for voices and the sounds of crowds and other sounds on the record.  I wanted it to be more like going to the movies, but with your eyes closed.  So you can hear the music, but also small parts of the dialog as well.  So in that sense, each song has a theme and the samples and noises are generally all related to that theme.  I hope that makes sense.

Who is Anne Zimmerman?
Anne Zimmerman was my grandmother.  She was a nurse,a leader in the labor movement, and a pioneer in the movement for worker justice.  She was at one time the president of the American Nurses Association and was a founding member of the Interfaith Committee for Worker Justice.  Also, we spoke almost every day on the phone until her death a few years ago. Here's a little bio if you want to learn more. |

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Reso - Live @ The Kinetic Playground (Chicago, 03.14.08)

I always show up early. Especially at the club. I like to watch the atmosphere evolve, the vibe morph, and the dance floor slowly cover its shameful nudity with a layer of sweaty bodies. Tonight, I'm at The Kinetic Playground - a Chicago venue, which usually showcases live music from blues and jazz to rock and jam bands. But spring is here. Change is coming. Bass is in the house. The Kinetic Playground has opened its doors to one of the UK dubstep scene's rising stars, Reso. Ten bucks at the door, free parking, and a double shot of 15 year Glenfiddich in my glass. Now I'm ready.

For the opening DJs, who spun everything from dubstep and grime to old-skool hip-hop and breaks, the bass was a bit on a weak side, getting lost in the corners of the venue, where it would gather in invisible clouds of standing waves. But by the time Reso went up, the sound engineer seemed to solve this dilemma by turning the volume way the fuck up. And after the girls in high heels, and the boys with the glowsticks went home, Reso ripped it up with the rawest, filthiest, and nasty vibrations. Here's what happened next. Ugly mud creatures oozing with rubber stank wobbled up from the darkest crevices of the venue. Absolutely disgusting, saw-toothed synths, clawed through the revolting layers of smut and grime. My entire body hurt from cringing my nose, clenching my jaw, and shaking my head in disbelief. You sick, vulgar, mother fucker. What did you just do?

I've been following Reso ever since my good friend Rob Booth introduced me to his sound through Electronic Explorations. Since then, I've snatched up every 12" and digital release (available from that Alex Melia has released on a roster of labels like Urban Graffiti, Civil Music, Pitch Black, and even a collaboration with Ruckspin on my favorite Ranking Records. Reso's unique sound can be summarized with one of my all time top tracks, Onslaught, available on Tags & Throw-Ups Vol. 5 (Urban Graffiti, 2008). Make sure to pick up Reso's 2009 collaboration with I.D, Shifty EP (Smokin' Sessions, 2009). Reso is currently finishing up his full length debut due for release in 2009.

Big ups to Phaded, who also runs The Dented Sessions on every Sunday 2-6pm (CST), for bringing Reso to Chicago. And now I hear that Rusko will be here next (Smartbar, April 2), while The Kinetic Playground will keep their new bass infused lineup by showcasing Colorado's Vibesquad. | |

Friday, March 13, 2009

Mechanical Steering - 10:10pm (self)

It seems that bigger labels started to steer away from straight up IDM in the recent years. Perhaps the passing away of Merck, and the resurrection of Neo Ouija may be a testament to that. Even n5MD chilled out and turned towards emotional electronica. In my opinion it has to do with evolution of sound, and the perfection and polishing thereof. You pick a direction and you go with it. So it was a pleasure to stumble upon an exciting and innovative album by an unsigned artist who goes by the name of Mechanical Steering. As always, with amazing self released albums, there is a spark of excitement in the air, the standing waves of sound excited with organic electricity, the crackle of the processed bits bouncing off the porous walls into my body. You feel as if on the tip of discovery. And that discovery is this unknown album by an unsigned name.Designed from sampled urban environmental sounds and digital manipulation, 10:10pm is a poisonous cocktail of melancholic melodies and distorted beats. The sounds break through the web of suffocating percussion and shifting noise, bombarding your ears and mind with complex patterns that resolve into the beauty of their simplicity. Complimented with industrial mechanical sounds, dark passageways, and deep descends, the sound slowly rises to the surface where you find yourself catching 10:10 on the clock again. And again...Konin (Poland) based Mechanical Steering has ben producing electronic music since 1999. Initially creating a few albums under the alias Head, the music slowly matured into the sound of 10:10pm. It's a wonder that this artist has not been snatched by a prominent label yet, as I can totally see his releases on Ad Noiseam, Hymen and Tympanik alike. The album is currently self distributed on Amazon, iTunes, Rhapsody, and (note: 10:10pm is published under the Head alias). Recommended if you like Hecq, Gridlock, Subheim and Ginormous. |

Two and a Half Questions with Mechanical Steering

You initially started off with an alias Head. Why did you change your name to Mechanical Steering?
The answer is very simple. After some time, I realized that there are many artists with the name "Head". I was discovering hundreds and thousdands of them on the net. I needed something more unique and original. It was possible for me to undergo a name change easily, since I'm still not that famous in the music business yet.

How did you end up releasing 10:10pm all on your own?
This is even easier to answer - I could not find a label which could properly promote my material. I gave up on working with a netlabel since I received no exposure at all. My own promotion on Myspace was more fruitful than theirs. I will continue to look for a sensible label. I am also interested in playing live, since this allows for a larger exposure to my music.

What do you think is the most difficult aspect of finding a label?
Today, is a very tough time for a real artist. If you do not produce something that follows the mainstream sound, something easy and nice, you have a very small chance of finding a label. Do note, that even if the label will produce and sponsor something new and fresh, it must still be a bit traditional, and must work well with the label's agenda. Only a small number of artists are lucky enough to cross this bridge, or brave enough to go on their own in special and unique way. And this is very sad...

Who are some of your inspirations?
I see inspirations everywhere: in nature, in art, in every single sound, like the sound of a passing train, for example. Everything depends on having an open mind and from your perception of the world.I never limit myself. |

Sunday, March 8, 2009

:papercutz - Lylac (Apegenine)

From digitally manipulated recordings of organic instruments, to organic interpretations of abstract digitalism, :papercutz presents his debut album, Lylac, for the fans of experimental leftfield pop music. Broken breathy vocals contributed by Melissa Veras intermix with thematic elements of chords, stabs, and plucked strings, all without taking on the lead in the arrangement; while glitched out beats and sprinkled multi instrumentation take to the forefront instead. :papercutz is Portuguese Bruno Miguel, who first appeared on the scene with his Ultravioleta EP on Montreal based Apegenine recordings [the same label that introduced us to Emanuele Errante and Julien Neto on Apegenine Volume 1 compilation (2004)].  On his site, among a more interesting explanation behind the concept of the album, Miguel defines: "To be papercutzed: to pursue your own way, to dream images in music, to like the light as well as the dark, to see all music styles as valid languages in which artists use to describe what's inside them, to find :papercutz's music and ideas a place where you can lose yourself... let's get lost!" Hmmm. I like that. I've always thought of our five senses as just receptors of various communication protocols through which we all attempt to send or receive a message. Albeit very much unsuccessfully, since all our visual and auditory sensors get corrupted with real and imaginary noise and do not have built in error correction. But I digress [feel free to ping me on this topic though]... On Lylac, Miguel does just that. He fans out the confetti of his shredded thoughts into our ears where they circle, float, and finally settle to cover the empty spaces occupied by silence. It's nice to finally get to know :papercutz on a more personal level after such a brief introduction via Ultravioleta EP, although be it with a few helpful remixes of The Sight Below, Neotropic, Spandex and Signer. | |

Two and a Half Questions with Bruno Miguel


What instruments do you play on Lylac?
Piano, acoustic guitar, xylophone, melodica, synth & sampled strings. Some instruments I was taught to play, others I just learned the basics by myself. But the piano has been my main interest for some time now and I recently got back to some classical studies with a great professor I met. There are just so many layers and different ways you can approach truly is an amazing instrument!

What elements, would you say, are present in a composition to label it with "pop"?
I'm guessing you're asking me that since :papercutz has been labeled by Apegenine recordings as (intelligent/experimental) Pop which some people find it strange. The fact is I think the music I make is on the borderline of what could be considered Pop music or just plain electronic or leftfield music. You could say Pop music is a music genre that features recognizable melodies and some conventional structure. But don't confuse that entirely with mainstream music. As most musicians know you could play almost every piece of mainstream music with a variation of three to four major chords, almost always the same ones just in different sequences. But Pop music is music that gets to people's hearts by a common language.

So what does that have to do with :papercutz?
Simple, even if I do like and use this sort of musical signatures and the reaction they cause on listeners one of main motivation is to try to subvert what's expected... I mean experiment with structure (verse, chorus, bridge), vocals (which can play part as a lead, or just as percussive element or as background atmosphere), using known acoustic instruments but processing them with electronics, try out different spoken languages or work out album transitions or live shows sequences so songs feel connected as a whole but always try to convey feelings and emotions not just pure music rationality. I mean, I could do more experimental stuff, I like all types of music, and there's no telling I won't do stuff like that in the future but for now this is where I feel comfortable and where I think as a musician I have something different to offer. At the end of the day things just come out naturally when I compose and I hope that definitions will be surpassed by the music itself. Funny enough I caught your interview with one of the artists that did a remix for us, The Sight Below, and he mentioned “I do not view Glider in any other way than a very personal and emotional album. It grew out of a lot of things that were happening at the time I wrote it, so I wasn’t really trying to make music to fit a certain genre. It just went that direction naturally”. Just goes to show how two supposedly very differently labeled artists try to convey exactly the same.

There is a much deeper side to Lylac, asking the questions of being, in the past, present and future. What role does time play in your conceptual work as well as every day life?
On a macro scale :papercutz concepts have been following what I've gone trough in life. So there is a definitely timeline although somewhat blurred by flashbacks and future insights. What makes us is what we were, are and what we'll become. Sometimes people remember you from one definite time period and in their mind that's what you are but we're always growing and defining ourselves. If that's one thing I'm learning is that we're always changing, inside and out, and that's a good thing as long as you don't let go of what you you've gone through. I don't really focus on everyday life, but all those micro events can be use full if they can tell a bigger story.

What is the relationship between "complexity" and "simplicity" on your album?
That has to do with my second answer really. I think :papercutzs music and "Lylac" in particular comes in layers. You can get some of it at first glance but as you dwell deeper you'll find there's a lot more be it musically, lyrics, concept, visuals,...just like you'd find on great Pop artist. Poor mainstream music however has nothing else underneath. |

Friday, March 6, 2009

Propellerheads - Decksandrumsandrockandroll (Wall of Sound)

So whatever happened to these guys? You remember their hit single History Repeating, which at one point was played on every radio station back in 1997 after being featured in that hysterical film, There's Something About Mary. Then, there was the Spybreak! track which appeared in The Matrix. Meanwhile, the track Crash, was used in Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me. Even the Take California track from this same album was the first song ever used in an iPod commercial. So, by my calculations, these guys had it going for them, and then poof! Nothing! Did they just cash out? The only full length album to date is Decksandrumsandrockandroll released on London based Wall of Sound back in 1998. The big beat sound by Will White and Alex Gifford quickly took the world by storm. The groovy and repetitive beats which were perfected at the time by The Prodigy, The Chemical Brothers, Fatboy Slim, and The Crystal Method take on a jazzy, funky and playful spin, with a few vocal samples, turning on a few new mainstream listeners to breaks and breakbeat. On the track, 360° (Oh Yeah?), De La Soul contributes frozen-style urban rhymes that quickly flip the record to intelligent slow-groove loungy hip-hop sound. History Repeating is of course at the center of the album, featuring the vocals of '60s cabaret vocalist, Shirley Bassey. This is definitely a catchy tune that quickly got snatched  up by a few advertising campaigns (including a Jaguar and a Pantene Pro-V commercial... heh). But the big beat sound proliferates the album, prominent with plenty of breaks, James Bond-like spy film themes, and the head-bopping sounds that still sound super fresh a decade later. Propellerheads are still quiet. No new tracks and no new albums since the one and only. Well, there was one new track, appropriately titled 10 Years, which appeared on the Wall of Sound's compilation double disk, Off The Wall - 10 Years Of Wall Of Sound, commemorating the labels, well... you guessed it, 10 year anniversary. Last I heard, Will White played the drums for Long Range during its live performances. Long Range, of course, is a UK group comprised of Nick Smith and Phil Hartnoll of Orbital. Meanwhile, I continue to enjoy this album time and time again... And until the duo decides to get back into the studio, I have only one thing to say: Bang On!

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

The Prodigy - Invaders Must Die (Take Me to the Hospital)

Should I even bother covering this? It's not like Liam needs my help. His 5th studio album, Invaders Must Die, barely hit the streets, and already all of the notable publications have lauded this long awaited album with more than favorable reviews. It's not like Liam needs my words to boost his career, although it's been five years since his last album, Always Outnumbered, Never Outgunned (XL, 2004). And I do mean - his. Besides what you may hear or believe, the man... the only man... the musical genius, The Prodigy, is Liam Howlett. Yet while the words pour in, the shouts and murmurs accelerate in frequency, and a stack of promos from independent labels and unknown artists grows on my desk, here I am... writing about the album. I think the reason behind it is simple. And my woofers can attest. Invaders Must Die is a slam dunk. Period. No, it's not the anticlimactic return of the artist who blew out the speakers of my first owned car with Experience (XL, 1992). It's not the attempt of reinvention of the incredibly powerful and unprecedented underground sound of Music For The Jilted Generation (XL, 1994). It's not even the post-script of the pop-rising and slightly weathered return of The Fat of the Land (XL, 1997). While the rest adapt, remix, rinse, spit and swallow, Howlett bursts our comfort membranes with his own masterful style. Pop! Invaders Must Die opens up with a title track slamming into your face with saw toothed synths, distorted guitars, and extreme precision rhythmic programming of the genre that was invented by the man himself. Oh please, please, please let the album be as good as the first track! And so it goes! A collection of eleven songs [I'll call'em songs since some have the lyrics in that famous Prodigy style], pushes and jolts your brain as if strapped to a hot electrode until the very end. Acoustic drums are compressed and mashed up into pounding big beats, with deep riding bass lines, occasionally cut with a flashback to The Prodigy's older tracks. My favorite, of course, are the re-sampled old-skool rave stabs, which are implanted in my memory and in the history of Electronic Music. Here, Howlett skillfully wraps all the elements into a radio hit format, which no doubt will top the UK charts. Quick nod to Take Me to the Hospital, a  sub-label of London based Cooking Vinyl, specifically created to put out this, and possibly other upcoming releases by The Prodigy. Although, as I said, all of the music is all Liam, the two original members of the act, Keith Flint and Maxim Reality, return, no doubt to wreak havoc on the upcoming UK arena tour with some support from Dizzee Rascal and Fight Like Apes. If you are a collector of all EPs, offshoots, and limited goodies, you absolutely must get the Omen EP where Noisia contributes a sick drum'n'bass remix. Play it loud! |

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Spleen - Where We All Fit In (Summer Rain Recordings)

Beautiful melodic electronica will always have a slot on my shelf. Even if it's a digital only release. And here's one from a quickly gaining recognition netlabel, Summer Rain Recordings. And the label has a clear defined goal and purpose - all signed artists donate 5% of their royalties to NextAid (or any selected charity). And this is music you should be gladly paying for anyway. Spacey, euphoric, and melancholic - the sound of Where We All Fit In falls somewhere between downtempo and IDM. In fact, Spleen defines the style himself as melantronica. But it's not just sadness that saturates this four track EP. In many places it is up-beat, light-hearted and breezy, perfectly fitting on an appropriately named label. Spleen is the solo project of Antwerp (Belgium) based Lennart Vanstaen. His musical influences include Radiohead, The Album Leaf and a roster of Icelandic musicians like Sigur Ròs, Björk and Mùm. Mentioning those artists should give you a rough idea of Vanstaen's influenced style. It's easy to imagine this music accompanying a film, a lonely commute, a soundtrack to a passing life. In fact, Vanstaen has collaborated with Sophie Vanhomwegen to produce a soundtrack for a short film, Whatever Floats Your Boat, which was selected for the HDFEST film festival. This EP is Spleen's second release on Summer Rain Recordings. His previous contribution was 6 Moons Ago EP released in February 2008. [I want to make a quick note, that Lennart Vanstaen's alias Spleen, is not to be confused with Miro Merlak's Spleen, who released a self-titled electronic album on Phthalo Records in 2001]. |