Saturday, May 30, 2009

Hecq - Steeltongued (Hymen)

Hecq... Have you heard? If you haven't, it's time to jump on board. And by the way, you're missing out! After all, this is Hecq's sixth full length release (fifth on Hymen Records). Dare I say it the following way : with Steeltongued, Hecq surpasses the leaders in electronic experimentation, Autechre, leaving them in the dust to scratch their heads in awe of this twenty-seven year old Berlin based musician. Like a villain of traumatized sonic disintegration, Ben Lukas Boysen unwinds the tight coils of sound into distinct entities of material forms and packs them away into carefully allotted spacial frequency shelves. I did not bring up Autechre for mere name dropping. I clearly remember the very first time I heard the decomposition of sound in the Booth & Brown's track Vose In on LP5, (Warp, 1998). I will never forget. Not one release in the last decade has stopped my breath with the penetrating thought of "what the hell was that?". In the last years, steps have been taken to evolve the sound and build upon the solid foundation, with only Autechre occasionally in the lead, piercing the darkness of uncharted territory. They are always allowed. Because, frankly, they are Autechre, right? The one falling in their footsteps is always behind. Apprentice to a skilled magician. Then... BOOM! ... Hecq. I don't know how Lappersdorf (Germany) based Hymen Records had discovered Boysen [that surely deserves an interview question], but when they did, they have struck gold. Quickly demonstrating his abilities with Scatterheart (Hymen, 2004) and Bad Karma (Hymen, 2005), Boysen has landed a coveted spot on a limited Hymen boxset, Travel Sickness (Hymen, 2006), with a mini-EP along with the releases by Lusine Icl, Solar X, Lowfish, Venetian Snares, Psi Spy, Snog, The Manhattan Gimp Project and Mad EP. Mmmm. My copy still smells like cedar... Delicious. Boysen's fourth album, 0000 (Hymen, 2007) made my Best of 2007 list, and in 2008... well... I have lost the words with Night Falls (see my previous review). So what to expect with Steeltongued? Twisted rhythms swirling around your brain like an inhaled sip of wine and a gulped breath of smoke. Divine soundscapes crawling beneath the barbed wire of the restraining acoustic prison, begging to rather be shot in the back then remain draining their minimalism onto the cold surface of tears and blood. I will survive, bounces the reverse reverbed voice of Nongenetic, Late for my funeral, rather be buried alive... Then destruction and mayhem... Then silence... Frost... and the Hypnos trilogy of tracks. Well, that's just gorgeous... This double disk release features twelve remixes of Steeltongued from an eclectic group of friends and collaborators, including Spyweirdos, Si Begg, Black Film, and Team Doyobi among the many. Words are too limited and gentle to describe the range of emotions evoked by Steeltongued. The album is a trip and an unforgettable experience. That one memento that will stay with you for years to come. That one beautiful moment of "what the hell was that?" | |

Two and a Half Questions With Hecq

I've always wondered how Hymen Records has discovered you. How did you end up getting signed to the label?
i switched from kaleidoskop records to hymen since all parties agreed that it would be more suitable and also the ways of distribution and representation were more suitable.

After a dark ambient trip with the Night Falls, you return with an even more mind blowing rhythms, occasionally laced with orchestral explorations. What was your inspiration behind this album and what does a storyline of "Steeltongued" represent?
steeltongued feels like the whole beat-science cant go any further for me - i wanted to take a (propably final) shot at it and get as much as i can from it. i have the feeling that there are a lot of these musicians out there (so the genre didnt need much more reflection in my eyes and ears) and also i want to do different things now. night falls was a step forward for me and my development, showing me that i touched new grounds (not because its orchestral since there so many orchestral albums out there) but the way of conception, the meaning and the techniques behind it are way more thrilling to me than pure IDM/electronica concepts. so steeltongued is look back, a revision of the previous albums, summing up the whole constructivism (!?) that happened there, but is probably the last one in this style for me...(i'll never know but it feels like it right now)

In my previous interview, while working on Steeltongued, you've hinted that the album "will be showing more and different approaches to music." Now that I've heard it, I can definitely agree. Can you elaborate on this "approach"?
this has also to do with the "looking-back" factor to my previous work... to condense what happened on the earlier records and combining this with new elements (the most obvious example is the cooperation with nongenetic) was the aim for this one. but, like mentioned above, there was also and end and a new beginning to it at the same time: by trying new things i noticed that i need to go towards a new direction and have to try completely new things from now on. there's no other way to grow and to stay an artist i guess.

I have always been impressed with your sound production. Can you share with us the components of your studio?
im working 100% digital these days. i started with an mpc 2000, an old PC a 4-track recorder and so on in 2003... pretty archaic setup already back then... i was never good in dealing with a lot of hardware tho since it confuses me and i really need to pin ideas down when i have them without going to a huge DAW setup - so i narrowed everything down as much as i can and still creating the optimal work environment for me. at the moment the setup looks like this:

1x 19" rack PC (for heavy duty work)
1x 15" macbook pro (for livesets and mobile works like inerviews etc)
1x echo audiofire 4
1x motu ultralite
2 x 22" samsung syncmaster 226bw
2 fostex pm0.5 (good for small, detailed sounddesign like websites etc)
2 mackie mr8 (excellent speakers with the perfect range for my needs)
1x soundcraft compact 10
1x AKG 220 studio headphones

1x rode NT4 (for fieldrecordings and instruments)
1x AKG 220 perception (for voiceovers/interviews)
1x marantz 620 HD recorder

ableton live 8 (for everything - its the best!)
NI kontakt
NI absynth
NI battery
NI FM7 and FM8
Rob Paapen Albino

What was the idea behind a second disk with remixes of Steeltongued, and how do you go about selecting the artists that get this honor?
when i finished the actual track steeltongued i was happy with it but it was also weird for me... its very open, not defined but its shape and structure is pretty obvious... i had a couple of different version of it here before i decided to send these to other artists to see what their interpretation of the song would sound like. each and every one of them are musicians that i highly admire and i'm proud and happy about their support! i.e. si begg one of my greatest role models and i grew up with his music and releases on force inc and noodles - to have him on the record was a dream come true and also goes well with the thought that he, who influenced me all the years, is releasing something on an album that is a farewell to my previous work. same goes for michael fakesch and team doyobi. the younger artists (like blackfilm, el fog or disscoxx) pointing towards the future of things to come - these guys are inspiring me a lot and show me new ideas and approaches through their work! |

Monday, May 25, 2009

Mokira – Persona (Type)

The gentle swells of lo-fi loops and and breathing atmospherics set the tone for Mokira's eighth full-length album. After previous releases on a roster of labels, a Stockholm-based Swedish sound sculptor, Andreas Tilliander returns to Type Records with Persona. Tilliander introduced us to his Mokira moniker with his debut, Cliphop, on Raster-Noton. His glitchy hip-hop sound has landed him on Mille Plateaux, where Tilliander continued to contribute towards the 'clicks & cuts' genre. But for Type, Tilliander has been stripping away the beats [but not the rhythmic structure], and focusing more on ambient textures that let the music flow organically through analog and digitally processed layers. Starting from the first track, the disintegrating repetitions of drony re-sampled pads instantly remind me of works by William Basinski, tape hiss and all, while the gentle onslaught of incoming harmonic frequencies are reminiscent of works by Tim Hecker and Vladislav Delay. The dull, murky, and thick reverberations bridging acoustic and electronic elements will also satisfy the fans of Gas and Fennesz alike. But comparisons to others are futile, since Tilliander has already made a name for himself, ranging from his dub and tech-house releases under his real name on his own label, Repeatle, to abstract electronica and glitchy IDM on Komplott under a Komp alias, and even a minimal dub 12" on Echocord under his Lowfour moniker, among the many. Across a wide spectrum of tracks, I hear the same main theme, which is explored upon through various experimental approaches. Tilliander's proficiency in electronic music and control of its branches clearly shows throughout Mokira. This is especially evident when ambient progressions are interrupted by a growing 303-like-gliding-bass-line that is at once unexpected and yet feels very appropriate. Throughout the album, a noticeable amount of true analog equipment dominates the presence, as only accented by a track, appropriately named Oscillations And Tremolo. Towards the end of the album, a single loop is re-sampled and re-assembled. And once the tape hiss comes in, the path is obvious - it leads back to the beginning of the album where the music continues to decay and disintegrate. Persona is truly listening music. Preferrably with your eyes closed. And it is upon multiple listens that you will begin to discern and peel off its layers, to reveal the true genius behind this latest installment from Mokira. It's no wonder, that after numerous contributions towards the evolution of electronic music, Tilliander was awarded a Swedish Grammy music award in 2005. Thus, I am immediately propelled to dig up and revisit his earlier releases. During your parallel search, it's worth picking up an acid tech-house 12" under Tilliander's real name, titled, Stay Down (Repeatle, 2007) featuring a remix by The Field. Also recommended Tilliander's debut on Mille Plateaux, Ljud, and his very latest Show (Adrian, 2009). | |

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Electronic Explorations

I’ve been ranting about my favorite podcast, Electronic Explorations, for over a year now. It’s about time that I was able to catch Rob Booth for an in-depth interview. And while you read it, make sure to grab the latest episode, featuring the artist at the top of my rotations, Hecq.

Read full Interview with Rob Booth of Electronic Explorations. |

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

H.U.V.A. Network - Ephemeris (Ultimae)

Humans Under Visual Atmospheres (H.U.V.A. Network) is back with a long awaited sophomore release on Lyon (France) based Ultimae Records. Before I cover the album, it's worth it to pause and deconstruct this group. H.U.V.A is a duo comprised of Magnus Birgersson and Vincent Villuis. Birgersson is none other than Solar Fields, a regular on Ultimae, with six full length albums. If that alias sounds familiar, it's probably because you were blown away by his recent music score for the Electronic Arts game Mirror's Edge. That's right, that's Birgersson. And Monsieur Villuis is none other than Aes Dana, an alumni member of Asura (as of 2001) and part owner of Ultimae with Sandrine Gryson (Mahiane). With such a solid and talented combination, you'd be right to get excited about this next installment in psybient evolution. The purveyors of "oneiric trip-hop", downtempo, and "ambient geometries" will be absolutely delighted with the psychedelic melodies, etherial sound design, and impeccably crisp production. Seekers of sonic voyages will be enveloped by limitless soundscapes, spreading over slow punctuated beats that eventually lift off into an outer journey. The mid portion of the album picks up in tempo, and evolves into a light morning trance, keeping with the rhythm of a four-to-the-floor kick drum. But at the end of Ephemeris, the beat slows down once again, to bring you back down to Earth, after your brief meditative trip. The album was composed between two studios, Villuis' Ultimae Studio in Lyon, France and Birgersson's Studio Jupiter in Göteborg, Sweden. The deluxe edition of the digipack release contains a sixteen page booklet with photographic works by Gingerine, BeneA, Concoon, Goulden, 1100, and Matzchen. Here is a quote from the album defining its title: An ephemeris (plural: ephemerides; from the Greek word ephemeros "daily") is a table of values that gives the positions of objects in the sky at a given time or times. The position is given in a spherical polar coordinate system of right ascension and declination or in logitude along the zodiacal ecliptic, and sometimes declination. The ephemeris paramaters relate to eclipses, apparent retrogradation/planetary stations, planetary ingresses, sidereal time, positions & the phases of the Moon, Cartesian coordinates, picnic on Mars, breakfast on Jupiter and disturbing jetlags. While filling your cart on Ultimae's web shop, be sure to add the duo's first collaboration, Distances (Ultimae, 2004), as well as Solar Field's recently released Movements (Ultimae, 2009) and Aes Dana's Season 5 (Ultimae, 2005). I am also a big fan of the Ultimae's Fahrehnheit Project compilation series, with its last installment being Part 6 as of 2006. Favorite track on the album: Orientations Part 1 | |

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Bluetech - The Divine Invasion (Aleph Zero)

Evan Bartholomew drops another album for our hungry ears. This time, his groovy downtempo sonic treatments are released under his renowned moniker, Bluetech. For The Divine Invasion, Bartholomew puts aside his ambient and modern classical work under his real name, and returns to his tight IDM , digital funk, and tech-dub beats with a touch of masterfully produced atmospheres and spacey psychedelia. Here's Bluetech with his staple sound of micro-programmed clicks and stereo bouncing bleeps. Here's the never-ending echo of the the minor dubbed-out chords. Here's everything we have grown to love from one of the pioneers of PsyDM sound. Listening music meets dance floor meets contemplative far away places where dreams recursively collide.

Aleph Zero is an Israeli label putting out downtempo and psychill records, as spearheaded by its co-owner, Yaniv Shulman (one half of Shulman). Bartholomew has found a home on Aleph Zero for Bluetech releases since Elementary Particles in 2004. This is Bluetech's fourth full length release, including the quietly slipped in Phoenix Rising, released on his own, mostly minimal, modern classical, and ambient focused label, Somnia, just a few months prior. Did you catch that one? On The Divine Invasion we hear Steve Hillage (Mirror System) return for a contribution of his guitar sweeps, after a very successful collaboration last year with Bartholomew, under his dub techno slotted moniker, Evan Marc, on Dreamtime Submersible (Somnia, 2008). We are also treated to a track of collaborative work between Bluetech and Eitan Reiter, who has made numerous appearances in the past on Aleph Zero, Dooflex and Iboga.

The Divine Invasion is at once more mature and playful. Following Bartholomew through his ambient and techno releases, I can hear the both sides converge on the Bluetech sound that steers clear of stylistic constraints and genre defining elements. This is not a futuristic science fiction space odyssey, where the newly technological advances can be disproved by today's early adopters. This is a mysterious world of dreams and psychedelic visions. And in such alternate realities, unfathomed by our limited senses, anything goes. This surreal music of no limits and boundaries is the perfect candy for your reality smothered mind.

With numerous appearances on a roster of respectable labels, Interchill, Yellow Sunshine Explosion, Platipus, and his own Native State Records, this is one of Bluetech's finest contributions towards the evolution of psychedelic sound. For an ambient exploration in sound, pick up Bartholomew's releases on Somnia. Make sure you also check out Bluetech's Sines and Singularities (Aleph Zero, 2005). Recommended if you get down with Plaid, Jon Hopkins, Kilowatts and Ott.  |  |

Two and a Half Questions with Bluetech

How would you say your sound has evolved over the years?
I wouldn't say my sound as evolved as much as it has been refined and expanded. Instead of exploring my personal aesthetic in one particular genre, I've branched out and brought my creative ideas to other forms, each one building off of what I've learned from the previous, and expanding the tonal quality of the whole.

How much of your exploration in ambient and modern classical releases under your real name leaks into your Bluetech work?
I think all of the exploration refines each project. My ambient work really gives me a large palette to explore texture, so naturally that finds it's way into the bluetech project. The dance stuff is all about kinetic motion, and rooting things for the body, so it's added a funkier/heavier vibe to the latest album.

Describe your music to my 95-year old grand uncle.
I called my music spacehop, or cosmic funk. I play off of lots of minimalist motifs and try to establish a sense of hypnotic rhythm, like the auditory equivalent of watching kelp beds swaying in the ocean. There seems to be a consistent thread of hopeful melancholy, and a definite "voice" or melodic element portrayed through synthesis of various sorts.

Tell us about your production setup and what hardware/software do you use.
I'm all about Ableton Live these days. Have done a lot of modular programming with Reaktor, Kyma, Analog Modulars, etc. though at the moment due to financial concerns, my studio is stripped down to just a laptop with some choice plug ins.

Being about six months apart, is there a relationship between the recently released Phoenix Rising on your label, Somnia, and The Divine Invasion on Aleph Zero?
Phoenix Rising is basically outtakes from Divine Invasion, tracks that didn't make it onto the full album.  |

Monday, May 11, 2009

Telefon Tel Aviv - Immolate Yourself (Bpitch Control)

[Editors Note: I tried writing about it. Multiple times. I tried avoiding it. I felt obliged. I tried not to listen. But listened anyway. At the end, I found these words by Sarah Badr.]

What follows below is a review for an album whose title has been rendered regretfully apt. The sudden passing of Telefon Tel Aviv’s Charlie Cooper only two days after the group released their long-awaited third full-length studio record is a coincidence suggestive of a sacrifice: an untimely departure at the arrival of something so great, yet so final. The well-deserved reception of Immolate Yourself, made public on 20th January, has since seen TTA fans buzzing with excitement across music forums worldwide.

Based in Chicago and originally from New Orleans, the duo comprised of Cooper and Joshua Eustis had opted to join Berlin’s BPitch Control community shortly after their successful release of Remixes Compiled (including Apparat’s ‘Komponent’) provided clear indication as to why such a marrying of talent would be ideal. Previously signed on with Hefty Records, their earlier albums Fahrenheit Fair Enough (2001) and Map of What Is Effortless (2004) had been emotive masterpieces in their own rites. Early introduction into the world of TTA meant listening to tracks such as the first’s title number, ‘Introductory Nomenclature’, and ‘Nothing Is Worth Losing That’, with an awe reserved to the contemporary electronic greats who so masterfully balance the timbre of their glitches, the time-delays on snare and the synthetic chorus in reverb that unfailingly elevates the entire listening experience.

Telefon Tel Aviv have always presented something so beautifully understated with their music’s philosophical allusions as evidently inspired by science and literature (’What’s The Use Of Feet If We Haven’t Got Legs?’). But beneath that, their unique chameleon metamorphosis integrating sounds across genres (most notable R&B and ambient) into a quasi-minimal techno has never ceased to impress. And Immolate Yourself takes that even further, bringing in some New Wave inspiration (’Helen of Troy’, ‘M’) with all the heavy 80s synth necessary for nostalgia to boot. Yet, somehow it still manages to sound very much like TTA, culminating halfway through on the hauntingly poignant ‘Mostly Translucent’ so worthy of replay and reminiscent of that driving force behind the fifth on their second LP. But all of this is beside the point. Because it is in this nature of TTA’s sound that Charlie Cooper will be remembered.

Joshua Eustis, in a eulogy on MySpace for both his groupmate and close friend since high school, wrote:

We have been so fortunate to tour the world together, while at the same time having a massive amount of laughs at one another’s expense… His musicianship was surpassed only by his greater gift to the world — his warmth, his generosity, his unquenchable humor, and his undying loyalty to those whom he loved.
Aside from Charlie’s singular genius and musical gifts, I can tell you that he was a total sweetheart of a guy, and a loving friend and confidant to people everywhere.’ At the age of thirty-one and earlier having been set to tour North America with Matthew Dear, Cooper is survived by his parents, sister, nephew and ‘more adoring friends than the Universe has dark matter.’

Charles Wesley Cooper III
12 April, 1977 – 22 January, 2009

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Original review posted by Sarah Badr on
Republished with permission of the author. | |

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Giuseppe Ielasi - Aix (12k)

A few steps in an empty gym, an organ chord, some pouring water, and we're off... Aix is a slight departure from the Italian artist's, Giuseppe Ielasi, previous release on 12k, August. The latter is a work of restraint ambiance with electronically treated acoustic instrumentation, which was a perfect fit for Taylor Deupree's minimal label. While the former album, the one we're concerned with in this review, produced in Aix-En-Provence (a city in southern France), is a juxtaposition of found confetti of sound, glitched trite and stitched tight into rhythmical structures and repetitive patterns. Like a winter coat glued and sewn together from ripped pieces of fabric, the sporadic collection of sounds seems obscure, that is until you get closer, and you realize that it's warm and fuzzy, even if the colors don't match. The selection of tracks on this "grid" album are groovy, funky and jazzy, drawing an imagery of street performers playing on buckets, rubber bands, zippers, aerosol cans and an array of homemade percussion. In fact, this album strangely reminds me of a recent intarwebs video I saw, Music For One Apartment and Six Drummers. Yet this concotion of dusty sounds does not feel muddy or loose. In fact, it is light and bouncy, leaving plenty of room for each sound to evolve and breathe in its own sound spectrum. Ielasi becomes a master chef, walking into your abandoned kitchen and while opening a rusty refrigerator door, mumbling to himself, "Now what do we have here?" While folding the samples of micro textures and handfuls of semi-random rhythm into a boiling pot of bouncing echoes and stirred grooves, Ielasi delivers an exquisite course of contemporary musique concrète, best served warm, while the melody's still lingering... Overall, this is an interesting sidestep for Ielasi and 12k as well. Don't expect the warm Fennesz like layers and washes reminiscent of August. Enter with an open mind, and Aix will surely leave an imprint and beg you to return again. Besides releasing albums on 12k, Sedimental, and Häpna, Ielasi is also a founder of Fringes Recordings [now defunct] and a co-founder of Schoolmap Records. Be sure to pick up his one-track 30-minute masterpiece, Plans (Sedimental, 2003), as well as above mentioned August (12k, 2007). | |

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Arovane - Tides (City Centre Offices)

With only five albums and a handful of EPs and even some 7-inchers, Berlin-based Uwe Zahn, signed off from producing music altogether, with the last track on Lilies (City Centre Offices, 2004), titled Good Bye Forever. But Arovane's music doesn't age. In fact, it is one of those rare occurrences where it gets better and better as time passes. Today, as part of my Nostalgic Flashbacks series, I wish to revisit Zahn's sophomore album on City Centre Offices, released in the summer of 2000, titled Tides.

As the title of the album may suggest, in Tides, Zahn is exploring the incoming waves and their outflow, perhaps in relation to music, perhaps in relation to life. The ambient sounds are accompanied by intricately produced beats, re-sampled guitars, Arovane's staple-sound harpsichords, and organically layered developments. And those melodies... The melodies are simple, delicate and elegant. The sound is melancholic and contemplative. The downtempo slowed down hip-hop beats have lost their bouncy aggressiveness, and instead become loungy, laid back stretches of yawning morning rhythms. The arsenal of elements is limited, yet immediately effective.

At only a little under forty minutes long, the album remains one of Arovane's timeless compositions. I remember being overwhelmed by the sound then, and returning to Tides now, I can confirm that Zahn was ahead of his game, and one of the dominant pioneers of sound in the genre. But his journey towards this position was not rapid. Beginning his music experiments since he was 15, Zahn worked with acoustic instruments (clarinet), microphones, synthesizers and turntables, and in the early 90s began producing d'n'b influenced tracks and breakbeat. During his work at a Berlin radio station, Zahn was discovered by Torsten Pröfrock and his label, DIN. Arovane released his first 12", I.O. on DIN in 1998. This EP was soon followed by Icol Diston (DIN, 1998) and a limited 7", Occer / Silicad on City Centre Offices in January of 1999. The year 2000 finally yielded not one, but two full-length albums from Arovane. DIN released Atol Scrap in January, and as noted earlier, Tides came on the scene only six months later from City Centre Offices.

The stage was set for Zahn to shine, and so he did. Gaining quick recognition among notable international labels like Lux Nigra [under his Nedjev moniker], and Morr Music [remixes of Accelera Deck]; collaborating with Vertical Form, Phonem, Christian Kleine, Jake Mandell, and Markus Schwill [in a duo group Research Garden]; and touring across the world, Zahn established himself as a one of the top producers behind intellectually melodic, and rhythmic ambient sound. Zahn's short biography on City Centre Offices signs off with stating that "he is currently very much into motorbikes and might start recording a new album pretty soon." Please... Let's hope as much... The world needs more beautiful music. Until then, enjoy Tides and my all time favorite, Lilies. | |

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Label Profile : n5MD

It's time for another installment in our Label Profiles feature.
This month, it's an in-depth interview with Mike Cadoo of n5MD.

Read Label Profile: n5MD on