Wednesday, July 21, 2010

DeepChord Presents Echospace - Liumin (Modern Love)

I am always hungry for new music. I think I continue to consume the sounds, so that I can recreate that moment. That moment of when one hears that sound, and is taken away out of this world into another. That moment, reminiscent of your childhood memories, when you would put on your headphones and melt away in the hypnotic beat beyond all thought and worries. It is the music you would turn to, for answers and escape. Remember? I do. And so I search, among the hundreds of albums, for the one that would bring back those memories, and take me to that place. What can I say? I think with Liumin I have found it. Big thanks to Rod Modell and Stephen Hitchell of echospace [detroit]. First of all, I think it's a huge plus, when an album seamlessly transitions from one track to another. That solidifies my reasoning for listening from beginning to end. The tracks flow smoothly, in that velvety, dubbed out, and incredibly hypnotic beat. The duo is not apologetic for letting the tracks evolve over the ten minute marker. Although some may find this rolling rhythm a bit repetitive, I think that it's only after the first six or seven minutes that the mind latches on to the beat and new environments unfold. If there was a science behind this process, then Hitchell and Modell should base their thesis on their work, their magic, and their art. Incredibly simplistic, yet awesomely complex percussion is drenched in vaporous white noise, as it envelopes the chords that swirl around in the stereo field of infinite dimensions. Complimented with a touch of field recordings captured by Modell in Tokyo, Japan, the kick trends on, falling out of the foreground of the typical warehouse sound system, into the ether of organic pulse. For me, the absolute masterpieces on the album include "BCN Dub" and "Maglev". The latter, in particular, takes me to a mysterious place, elusive in its existence, with hidden doors and passages that only open up somewhere in the middle of the track. Liumin is the duo's second full length album, releasing under the alias DeepChord Presents Echospace for Boomkat's Modern Love. Of course, both have been pretty active in their Chicago and Detroit dub techno scenes. Rod Modell has recently released Incense & Black Light Plop, 2007) and a two-track 60-minute dedication to Michael Mantra (Silentes, 2007), while Stephen Hitchell has been busy releasing remixes on Kompakt and Echocord as well as his critically acclaimed 2009 beauty, The Seduction Of Silence on echospace [detroit]. Together, they have been making quite a splash on the scene of dubbed out minimal beats, specifically after the absolutely incredible The Coldest Season back in 2007. This double-disk release, contains a bonus 80-minute CD with the original field recordings from Tokyo. This second place is only accessible after you've made the journey through the hollow caverns of Liumin, revealing itself like a secret garden hidden deep beneath the earth. This is indeed a surreal, almost narcotic, experience, which, like that most treasured childhood memory, is a  momentous trip. Move over Basic Channel, and let the boys from echospace impress you for a change.

See also Two and a Half Questions with Echospace

Two and a Half Questions with Echospace

Interview with Stephen Hitchell and Rod Modell of Deepchord Presents Echospace

Liumin is a lot warmer than your previous release, The Coldest Season. To what do you attribute that change, and how has your sound evolved between the albums?
[SH] This is a great observation and one we attribute to our travels. The Coldest Season was recorded primarily in the winter months so the mood of the music reflected the environment in which they were recorded. This album is a reflection of the many shows we've played and the sound we brought before an audience, it's sort of a sonic travelogue. We eventually sat down and went through what we felt was our best material from our live shows and started building an album from that point but of course altering and expanding on the live material.

Can you shed a little light on your collaborative process?
[SH] The creative process for Rod and I is always different, from the time "The Coldest Season" was recorded to "Liumin" the dynamic in which we worked has been modified a bit. I also contribute a lot of this to moving quite a few times over the past 3 years, I've had to re-assemble my studio each time we've moved and I never remember how things were hooked up before, I just rip it all apart and put it together again but it always ends up different in the end. Our studio's have both changed a bit over the past 3 years and now we work a bit more efficiently with the help of some editing tools and software advancements. On this album I worked on specific elements, mainly the synths, atmosphere and bass loops and then sent the work I had to Rod and let him assemble and make sense of it all. Of course we had some key rhythmic starting points from material we culled from the live shows but in the end Rod mended all the sonic tape. We still use a good portion of analog equipment in this album but with the help of the computer we were able to take these elements in different directions. Rod also used a variety of microphones and field recording equipment (including a few custom made underwater hydrophones) to try and capture and push the threshold of natural organic sounds around us and submerged beneath us.

[ - s n i p - ]

Read the entire interview on Headphone Commute

See also Headphone Commute review of Liumin

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Sound Bytes : Tones, Drones and Earphones [part two]

Here's the second installment of Tones, Drones and Earphones which started in part one, where I covered Cut Iowa Network, Locrian and The Golden Sores. Hope you have a blast with the rest!

Yellow Swans - Going Places (Type)
Released on the beloved Type Records, run and operated by John Twells (Xela), Yellow Swans spearhead the development of sound, as it's concerned with noise, drone, and power electronics. But in their latest release, Going Places, it's not all about distortions and sheer cringing fuzz. There's clear structure, texture, and even pulsating rhythm behind each track, allowing the foreground instruments to carry out the development, while the background noise soars to new heights. Based out of Portland, the duo of Pete Swanson and Gabriel Mindel Saloman describe their music as "powerful rendering of free rock, black electronics, and white light vibrations." Their latest work is a product of over a decade worth of music, released on CD-Rs, cassettes, and vinyl, coming to an end. In April of 2008 the band announced their decision to split up, concentrating on finishing up their final album. Even the title suggests that they might be going places, and the same-titled last track fades away, like a burning rocket into deep space. Farewell, my devastated friend. The album is available for purchase directly from Type. It's also available for streaming from Type's SoundCloud. If you are at all curious about the capacity of noise, start off with Yellow Swans and then work your way into darker territory...

Aun - VII (Important)
To continue the exploration of noise in this unique installment of Sound Bytes, I turn to Aun. I met Martin Dumais a few weeks ago in Montreal at Mutek. His captivating doom ambient performance, complimented by the visuals from his partner, Julie Leblanc, only inspired me to check out his latest, titled VII on Important Records. This is indeed the seventh full length album from Montreal based Dumais, where he explores his black metal roots infused with dark ambiance and post-doom-everything. But unlike his beatless guitar driven swirls, VII is an album worthy of moving your entire body to. I think it's due to percussion, since this release features an appearance by Michel Langevin (aka Away), the drummer from the Canadian metal band, Voïvod. Snarling guitars rip through the fabric of psychedelia infused with "gut wrenching ultra downtuned avant black dirge". On "Broken Hills", Langevin suddenly kicks in with his drums, and the thick de-tuned riffs are now cut with crystal clear cymbals and snares, and the album takes on a rhythm, structure and progression. Excellent. Check out Aun's 2009 release on Alien8, titled Motorsleep. Recommended for fans of KTL or Bowery Electric.

Aidan Baker - Liminoid / Lifeforms (Alien8)
I couldn't possibly return from this voyage without mentioning one of the most prolific artists, Aidan Baker. Look, I couldn't even begin to rummage through Baker's discography, so after reviewing Fantasma Parastasie, which he released together with Tim Hecker in 2008, I settled on his latest for the Montreal based label, Alien8. This is a two-track release, with Liminoid broken up into four distinctive parts, while Lifeforms is a single 30 minute piece. It starts off quietly, with lucid textures, soft guitar strums and distant drones. "Incorporating composed and improvised segments, the piece uses elongation of sound and layered polyphony in an attempt to create a liminal and/or numinous state". In an almost apocalyptic setting reminiscent of the darkest hours of Godspeed You! Black Emperor, the ensemble of guitars, violins, cellos, and drums, engulf the beauty unleashed by the romantic classical orchestra with that of a skilled master of drone and noise. And then the vocals come in! Lifeforms is a whole other beast. Unfolding from a continuous string bowed drone-chord, the cellos are plucked around the 10 minute marker, and then, half way through the piece, the strings drop out in lieu of pulsating metallic sounds, played by Alan Bloor (aka Knurl). Commissioned by The Penderecki Quartet in 2003, this is indeed a symphonic masterpiece, that lifts me out of the abyss into the aural bliss. This may be Baker's best. Highly recommended.

Be sure to read this entry directly on Headphone Commute for audio track samples.

Sound Bytes : Tones, Drones and Earphones [part one]

This installment of Sound Bytes, as the title suggests, features six full length albums [published in two parts] that I have recently enjoyed, covering guitar driven noise, dense drone, dark ambient and even black metal. It's sunny outside, but I still feel a bit of doom approaching. What can I say? It's that kind of day... In terms of sheer intensity, and physicality of sound that these pieces convey - you either get it, or you don't. I'm not here to defend the genre or convince you otherwise. But if you want to experience it first hand, turn up the volume, and let your hair flap in the whirlpool of sound.

Cut Iowa Network - Projector Gunship Held {Ø,{Ø}} (Champion Version)
We begin our aural journey on a lighter side, with a three-piece UK band, Cut Iowa Network, with Tim Evans on the guitar, Adam Barringer on the bass, and Steve d'Enton on the drums. The trio collage expansive soundscapes, that are cut through with mid-tempo percussion, to create the second volume in their Projector Gunship Held trilogy. The first volume was released on Panic Arrest, while this follow-up comes out on a Champion Version. Both labels appear to be members of the Eat Sleep Repeat network. The group quotes Tarentel for the experimental instrumental influence, and Tangerine Dream for the "sprawling ambient dreamscapes". At the core of the record is a definitive krautrock reference, with the drums making up the structure of the album, drenched in abstract textures of bass and effected guitar. The skilled percussion alone makes up a larger slice of the record, and in turn gives it an up-beat feel. And before I descend into the doom-drone-gloom territory, it's worth mentioning another release from the folks at Eat Sleep Repeat, which is a 7" EP from Eric Chenaux with two folksy tracks, Warm Weather and Le Vieux Favori 4. Check out Chenaux's previous releases on Constellation records. I'm looking forward to the final installment in the Projector Gunship Held series...

Locrian - Drenched Lands (At War With False Noise / Small Doses)
Although the prolific Chicago based Locrian duo, André Foisy and Terence Hannum, had quiet a few releases since Drenched Lands, I'm still enjoying this dense, drone heavy, massive album. Released on a Scottish drone/noise label, At War With False Noise and Small Doses in 2009, and later repressed by BloodLust!, Utech, and DeathSmile, Drenched Lands is a dark voyage into post-apocalyptic land of abandoned concrete highways and obsolete ruined structures. The inner desperation of desolate landscapes and overgrown wastelands is conveyed with howling vocals, growling guitars and power electronics, blending dark ambient and black metal into cacophony of thick layered sonic palette. With its narrative structure, the album "starts with a slow descent into a dark abyss, moving torturedly, gradually rediscovering the light, then leaving you where everything began - completely transformed". Background distorted riffs are punctuated with foreground guitar strums in an epic buildup, appealing to cinematic soundtracks of deep caverns and cold cells. The last, 30-minute track, is a complete trip. If you dig this sound, be sure to also pick up Locrian's Rain of Ashes (Fan Death, 2009) and their latest album, Territories (2010).

The Golden Sores - A Peaceable Kingdom (BloodLust!)
Kicking off with soaring guitars and mid-range background drone, The Golden Sores, open up their sophomore album, A Peaceable Kingdom. This is another release by the Chicago-based BloodLust! label, which has already put out numerous records by the above mentioned Locrian. Unlike the latter (also from Chicago), Christopher Miller and Steve Fors tend to create resonating reverberations mostly in the major key, physically abusing your ears to euphoric heights that can only be reached at higher volumes. A Peaceable Kingdom is an album without any percussion, composed entirely of vibrating strings and oscillating synths, smudged layer upon layer through effects chains and pedals until its density is viscous with blood slowly oozing somewhere from your cranium. These sounds, meshing between the incredibly beautiful and the insanely grotesque, create an atmosphere of lust and anguish, as only music can, in a single sonic onslaught. My favorite exercise is to keep raising the volume throughout the track, as my ears adjust to the levels, then hitting the stop button, absorbing the ringing silence with apparition and fumes of ghostly melodies, then hitting play again to get slapped with the noise. Be sure to pick up the duo's debut release, Ashdod to Ekron , available from Drone Cowboy.

[ - part two coming up next - ]

Be sure to read this entry directly on Headphone Commute for audio track samples.

Akatombo - Unconfirmed Reports (Hand-Held)

From the mysterious depths of Hiroshima, Japan, arrives an inconspicuous, yet meticulously packaged 10" square packet. Inside is a hand-numbered elaborately printed envelope containing two photographic prints, two random newspaper clippings (I've got a photo of an Italian train station, and a shot of an Asian artisan), and a full length album from Akatombo, titled Unconfirmed Reports. But that's not all! There's also a bonus DVDr with three promotional films featuring music from the album. So why do I begin my review with a description of the packaging? Because the presentation and the appearance of the album plays a considerable role in its initial impact and the overall appeal. How serious are you about your music? This is Paul Thomsen Kirk's sophomore full length release. His debut, Trace Elements, appeared on the London based Swim~ label, in 2003. With this very first catalog release, Kirk propels his very own Hand-Held Recordings, onto the underground electronic music scene. Your attention is grabbed from the very first track, "Friend For Hire", which has a dark, almost industrial, hollow rhythm, a la Pan Sonic and earlier Autechre. Aha! Do I have your attention now? Well, read on... Unconfirmed Reports is a dark, almost gloomy affair, at times sounding tormenting with its brooding guitars. But beneath the layers of thick pads, punctuated with carefully selected percussion, lies an audio/visual travelogue "as seen through the warts-and-all tinted-spectacles of" Paul Thomsen Kirk. More from the press release: "From skimming the surface, to trawling the dank underbelly; the daily minutiae of life in a large Japanese city is duly presented in all its garish hues and faded glories. Accessing all areas, and dispelling numerous urban myths along the way, 'Unconfirmed Reports', allows you, the willfully willing participant, the perfect opportunity to immerse yourself completely in a thoroughly enticing, 360-degree, technicolour, sonic adventure." And a few words about the videos, if I may. These are extraordinary short pieces, which already had numerous screenings at notable Independent Film Festivals around the globe. Along with the nine-track album, Unconfirmed Reports is an excellent addition to any follower of electronic and experimental music. Especially if you're in the mood for post-apocalyptic, urban alienation, and social exclusion themes. Usually, in this portion of my review, I list a few similar artists, but for the ex-pat Scotsman, Paul Thomsen Kirk, it's tough to pick the closest ones. And that's a good thing. Check out something new, for a change.

See also Two and a Half Questions with Akatombo

Two and a Half Questions with Akatombo

Tell us about your label, Hand-Held Recordings
HHR was set up about a year ago. Presently, it's main function is to release Akatombo recordings, and hopefully, in the not too distant future, recordings from other artists & projects that I think deserve a wider audience. The label's ethos is, literally, a genre-free zone - anything goes, if it's good.

Let's talk about album presentation for a bit. What are your thoughts on packaging?
I think that in these very tough times, music sales-wise, packaging is a very important part in attracting potential customers. My feelings are that each Akatombo release should be as special as possible; the packaging for each album should be as enticing and intriguing as I can conjure up & put together. With "Unconfirmed Reports" I spent almost as much time on the packaging as I did on the recording. It's THAT important. The overall aesthetic of each release from the outer sleeve right through to the label design are of paramount importance. It doesn't take too much effort to source the most suitable printers, stationery suppliers, etc., once you set your mind to it.

In the 80's, you used to be in the punk rock scene, is that right? What was your transition into electronic music?
Yes, I played in a few punk bands & released a few records back in the early 80's .... fun times! However, ever since my mid-teens I also listened to a lot of early electronic music from the likes of Cabaret Voltaire, Suicide, Brian Eno and the like. So, it wasn't as difficult as it might have been to switch genres. Even when I was listening to a lot of guitar-based groups, I was also listening to experimental bands like Zoviet France & early Chrome too.

[ - s n i p - ]

Read the entire interview on Headphone Commute

See also Headphone Commute review of Unconfirmed Reports

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Podcast : Shukry Adams – kw1v3r

After sharing with the commuters his previous mix, Ethereal Cinematicism, Shukry Adams returns with an edgier side of his likings. Listeners should expect to get enveloped in drone, noise, and even "douchestep", in this slowly evolving, hour long journey.

See full track listing, plus stream or download the mix on Headphone Commute

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Roel Funcken - Vade (Ad Noiseam)

Here's my remedy for a sleepy brain. A shot of caffeine with a touch of Funcken in my headphones. First the mixture goes down easy, drifting in and out of my peripheral hearing - then the beat latches into the neuron receptor, and unlocks its secrets with a click. Roel Funcken is one of the Funcken brothers, together releasing as Funckarma, Quench, Shadow Huntaz [as well as half a dozen other monikers]; and Vade is Roel's very first album as a solo artist. Vade is released on Ad Noiseam, where the brothers have already released Dubstoned Vol 2 back in 2008. This album marks a full on crossover between glitchy IDM and gritty dubstep. Delicious. Packed with 16 intense tracks (averaging about four and a half minutes each), Vade is a deconstruction of smooth flowing dubbed out beats, with that familiar Funckarma style. Bringing to the operating table an arsenal of razor sharp DSP tools, Roel cuts deep into the harmonics, pulling out coiled frequencies while keeping his eye on the rhythm monitor. The beat staggers, then skips into the oscillating pattern, spewing out old skool 909 percussion, and leaving stains all over the floor. And just as the melody seems to choke, smothered beneath the metallic wires and valves, Roel shocks it with his sonic defibrillator, giving it another reason to soar, out through the window and into my brain. [I write this as I listen to the title track, Vade, and if these words seem abstract, you must hear the music.] Let me be honest - in my selection of boundary pushing electronic music, the Funcken sound is at the top. Without actually rating the music, it stands alongside output from Autechre, Hecq, Gridlock as well as Deru, Lusine, Proem and Loess. This is that crunchy, glitchy IDM sound that I've fallen in love with from the early days of n5MD, Neo Ouija, and Merck (RIP). Among the latter, only n5MD seems to be still kickin' [still waiting on the return of Neo Ouija], while the Funcken brothers find their albums released by Symbolic Interaction, Skam and thankfully, Ad Noiseam. Music like this deserves to carry on the legacy, as well as the flagship of experimental and ground breaking sound. Let me put it another way - when people ask me for the top notch electronic sound, I always say - Funckarma. And with Vade, I am able to single out Roel as the force behind group. I wonder if Don is working on an independent release - doesn't seem that Vade had any of his input. It does appear, however, that Cor Bolten (who previously worked with the brothers as member of Dif:use and Legiac), has heavily contributed to this release. In the album credits, he appears as a co-writer and a synth player (Jupiter4, Jupiter 8, Arp 2600, System 100, Monopoly, and others) on half of the tracks. I also see an appearance by TJ Dimoon and one of my favorites, Reimer Eising, aka Kettel. And while Roel split off into a single entity in Vade, it doesn't mean that the Funckarma project is over. The brothers will continue releasing EPs in their Dubstoned series on Eat Concrete, with vinyl coming out this summer. Be sure to pick up some of my most treasured Funckarma output: Bion Glent (Sublight, 2006), Hip Hop Instrumentals (FUNCK Music, 2007), Vell Vagranz (n5MD, 2008) and Psar Dymog (Symbolic Interaction, 2008). Really like the last one, although I keep buying a corrupted digital copy with annoying 4-5 sec silence before each track in this continuous play album. Oh well - it's still worth it!!!

See also Two and a Half Questions with Roel Funcken

Two and a Half Questions with Roel Funcken

First, I've got to ask, what prompted you to go solo?
Don and I are both trying out other avenues right now while we maintain doing our brother funck. It's natural that every person also has something to say on their own, so while Don got busy being a father for his new guy I took the opportunity to create/finalize Vade.

What does "Vade" mean? It's not short for View, Add, Delete, Edit, is it? Or is it something in Norwegian?
It doesn’t mean anything. I like using words that sound cool. Mostly I come to these words by playing with 2 or more and switching the letters around between them. Most of the time it doesn’t come to anything but then all of a sudden you say something cool (8-) Btw my norwegian is not that great at all.

How has dubstep influenced your sound?
Well, the Funckarma Dubstoned series made the statement that we had gotten into the step universe (shameless plug: Dubstoned 4 just released in our shop). But the DS series also showed that we had a different slant on the formula. There are aspects of Vade that expand on that exploration through my own flow, what i love most about the step. Part of that is bridging some more dancefloor oriented aspects to the music while I maintain my vision.

[ - s n i p - ]

Read the entire interview on Headphone Commute

See also Headphone Commute review of Vade

Monday, July 5, 2010

Podcast : Arkady – But I-

I’m pretty psyched up to get this mix out into your ears! This one has been in the making for quiet some time, and it is finally here! Get ready for some massive dark IDM, grinding dubstep and raging drum’n'bass, perfectly mixed up by Arkady! If you haven’t heard this type of music before, then I’d be proud to introduce you to this style!!! I am a huge fan of the artists featured in this mix, which is why, when I found Arkady spinning these tracks, I’ve asked him to prepare a special mix just for Headphone Commute listeners!

See full track listing, plus stream or download the mix on Headphone Commute

Scuba - Triangulation (Hotflush)

It begins with Descent. A slow, quiet, and eerie slide of minor chords into a track that kicks off the album, followed by Latch, a light syncopated beat with rolling bass, organic strings, and ghostly vocals. Scuba's latest release, Triangulation, is more than a collection of tracks - a few have previously appeared as 12" EPs - it's an intelligent headphone experience of lush atmospheres and dub influenced environments. The tracks evolve and carry forward their themes, blending from one to another, locking your mind into the hypnotic rhythms of Scuba's staple sound. Let's rewind a bit to 2003. This is the year when Paul Rose founded the now famous Hotflush Recordings. On it he released about a dozen of 12" under his Scuba alias (see Catalog numbers with SCUBA prefix), as well as his first full length, A Mutual Antipathy (Hotflush, 2008). And I'm not even counting a few 12-inchers on Abucs (Scuba spelled backwards), a sublabel of Hotflush. Triangulation is Rose's second full-length release that breaches a classification of genres, which I would almost classify as ambient two-step meeting minimal techno in the abandoned tunnel of dub. On the title of the album, Rose hints at the blend of genres: “It’s basically the three central musical ideas of house/techno, dubstep and this weird drum ‘n bass stuff. These were the three inputs, if you like." And that's not a surprise. Having lived and performed in Germany as of late (Rose runs a monthly event at Berlin's Berghain), the sound of minimalism has clearly crept up into his production. That includes a few four-to-the-floor stomping tracks in the spirit of Berlin's sound, as well as crystal clear and tight production wrapped around the low frequencies of rumbling bass. If you're only waking up to dubstep, it's time for you to whip out your wallet and add a few albums from the label's catalog. The highlights of the label's roster include Pangaea, Untold, TRG, Boxcutter, and Sigha. Oh, and don't forget to check out out Joy Orbison and Mount Kimbie! Be sure to also check out the label's Podcast, for which you can subscribe to on iTunes |