Saturday, September 25, 2010

Sound Bytes : Indielectronic

Here's a great selection from Casey Winters's writing on The Music Lobby. Onecaseman has previously contributed to Headphone Commute's Sound Bytes with a few mini-reviews from instrumental hip-hop to jazzy electronica. This time we select a few entries in TML's "indielectronic" recommendations. We hope that a few of the sounds on here will open new doors to your listening experience. Enjoy...

Napoli Is Not Nepal - Boredom Is Always Counterrevolutionary (Onitor)
Napoli Is Not Nepal is Germany's Hendryk Bayrhoffer. In 2002, he released a classic genre-hopping album on Shitkatapult called Revolv_er that mixed jazz, IDM, noise, glitch, and instrumentation in a way that was totally new for the time. After Revolv_er though, Hendryk disappeared, finally returning in 2009 with a new album with little fanfare. Well, I'm happy to say the new material is worth the wait. While not as awe-inspiring as Revolv_er (maybe because it never gets as abrasive), Boredom is fully of glitchy, indielectronic compositions that hold something just a little bit special. The album really showcases the beauty of glitch sounds with their juxtaposition to traditional instruments. And it still only sounds like Napoli Is Not Nepal. The project has an aural identity that so few artists reach these days in electronic music. An album and artist that should appeal to a large cross section of fans - this is one you shouldn't sleep on.

Mark Van Hoen - Where Is The Truth (City Centre Offices)
In the mid 2000s, City Centre Offices was the most impressive electronic music label around. The label released defining albums from Arovane, Ulrich Schnauss, Xela, Christian Kleine, I'm Not A Gun, Casino Versus Japan, and many more. By 2006, they had opened a sub-labeled for more organic instrumental works, and look poised to develop a canon and following similar to Warp and Ninja Tune, but with their own distinct style of slightly, experimental indielectronic music. Then, their distributor Hausmusik closed shop, crippling the label for years. I'm hoping this release signals a return to prominence, as Mark Van Hoen's album is a classic return to form for the label. No doubt a huge influence on the label's existence as a member of Seefeel, Scala, and Locust, Where Is The Truth is an album expressing Mark's emigration to the US and his discovery that he was adopted as a child. The album mixes in sounds from his entire career, and is a balanced arrangement of acoustics and electronic sounds. Any fan of Seefeel or related material should be able to jump right in, but also get something new out of the experience. A tremendous record.

Tanlines - Settings (True Panther)
Tanlines is a duo comprised of former members of Professor Murder and Don Caballero. Yeah, I don't see the connection either. But if you liked the former, Settings is a record you'll definitely want to check out. No, it doesn't sound like Professor Murder, but it has that sort of reverence to it. The actual sound is a mix of club sounds and indie pop sensibility. The EP is split between vocal and instrumental tracks, and thankfully both work well and coincide well next to each other. It's hard to pinpoint what it actually does sound like. I guess you could imagine dance punk five years older firmly entrenched in the Berlin club scene, but listening to Panda Bear and Depeche Mode a lot when at home. "Real Life" is an absolutely killer tune. I'm hoping this EP is the promise of something more in the future, which turned out not to be with Professor Murder's Rides the Subway EP.

Solar Bears - Inner Sunshine (Planet Mu)
Solar Bears are an Irish duo set to make a big splash, with their debut album coming soon on Planet Mu. The Inner Sunshine EP acts as precursor with four songs and two solid remixes by instrumental hip-hop maestros Lone and Letherette. But this is not a hip-hop record at all. This is some psychedelic, retrofuturistic post rock. The heavily 70s vibe works very well with the nostalgic inroads of Lone and Letherette though. Solar Bears sound like the soundtrack to experimental films in the 70s, with guitars next to synths and other electronic sounds, but very much an organic sound. They could bass for a band version of Boards of Canada. The EP shows a ton of promise, but you get the sense that Solar Bears haven't let out their complete bags of tricks yet. Definitely looking forward to the album.

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

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Sound Bytes : n5MD Special [part two]

We're back with [part two] of our n5MD Label Special coverage of Sound Bytes. Be sure to check out [part one] where we covered the latest from Bitcrush, Lights Out Asia, Dalot and more! In this installment, we explore the darker side of n5MD, in all its digital, raw, and crunchy glory! A lot of great music in here, so let's get right to it!

Near The Parenthesis - Music For The Forest Concourse
Gentle swells of piano, synth pads, and electronic percussion fill my room from the very first track of the latest album of Tim Arnd's Near The Parenthesis project. On his fourth album for n5MD, titled Music For The Forest Concourse, Arndt explores meditative passages crafted specifically "for dusk, for open air, for sitting down, and for breathing in. It is music for staring upwards and listening attentively or casually". Falling somewhere between modern classical, emotional electronica, and conscious sky gazing, the music of this San Francisco based producer evokes an up-lifting feeling in each near-five-minute-long track. Perfect for afternoon walks, open window car rides through the country, and for lazy Sunday morning coffee sips. It is especially nice to hear Arndt's very personal piano work embedded in the background of each track, appropriately ending the album with the lullaby, "Goodnight". Over the course of an hour in twelve loosely wrapped tracks, like random gifts left on the porch to be discovered by your sleepy neighbors, Near The Parenthesis delivers another collection of soothing glitchy ambient sounds, calming atmospheres and warm sunny rays. Be sure to check out Arndt's 2008 album, L'Eixample (see Review on Headphone Commute), as well as Of Soft Construction (n5MD, 2007). Recommended if you like his other label-mates, Another Electronic Musician, Arc Lab and SubtractiveLAD.

Proem - Enough Conflict
Last year, right about this time, we covered Richard Bailey's haunting dark ambient album, Till There's No Breath. Although the album has received a set of mixed reviews from the fans, we definitely loved it. Whether it's breakcore or drone - if it's good then we'll find the time for music! And now Proem is back to descend on our fragile little minds with his digitally twisted IDM, sporadic beats and abstract melodies. This is the album which the followers of the deceased Merck records have been aching for in agony! Here it is, god damn it, with enough splattering elements to keep your mind busy through many empty nights! This is the eighth release from one of the veterans of American IDM (based out of Houston, Texas), showcasing some of his most creative advanced production to date. On Enough Conflict, Bailey "expands his role as 'designer of controlled randomness' by augmenting his expansive computer-based arsenal with outboard hardware for the first time". There are enough rough cuts in this fifteen track album to give you plenty to twitch about, from Jiittirrrriii to @ The Firey Abyss. Die hard fans of melodic buildups that explode into an array of triggering percussion and then settle into brutal solid rhythm will be surely delighted. Clearly, Bailey's most experimental album since Socially Inept (Merck, 2004). Easily one of the best albums of the year, designed for multiple rotations. Recommended if you like Hecq, Funckarma, Lusine, Deru, Arovane, Autechre and Clark.

Ruxpin - Where Do We Float From Here?
Ruxpin's kaleidoscopic broken beats and synth fueled, seemingly random but perfectly arranged, complex patterns pretty much define the sound of IDM today. Whether you were the follower of the genre since the early works of Aphex Twin and Autechre or continue to satisfy your jonesing trip for experimental electronica with sounds from Hecq and Access To Arasaka, Jonas Thor Gudmundsson's entry into the family of n5MD as Ruxpin will surely get your ears pricked. And pricked you'll get... Solid micro-programmed percussion, 303 acid lines and hallucinogenic passages awake the mind during its somber sleep and send the neurons firing across the entire surface of the mushy matter under the skull. Where Do We Float From Here? is Gudmundsson's sixth full length record. This Icelandic producer released his debut, Radio on Uni:form Recordings back in 1999, followed by two more albums, Midnight Drive (2000) and Avalon (2003) on Elektrolux. Check out his full discography - you have a lot to catch up to! With this latest release, Ruxpin is gathering quiet a following from the public, demanding the album's original appearance as a download on n5MD's digital imprint Enpeg to be re-released as a physical CD. Be sure to also pick up a remix companion, I Wonder If This Is the Place available as a free download via n5MD's Bandcamp page. Fans of playful sounds from Luke Vibert, Ceephax, Plaid and Richard Devine will enjoy this hidden gem!

Dryft - Ventricle
Well, it's only appropriate that I polish off the second part of our n5MD special with a surprising return of the label boss, Mike Cadoo, as Dryft. It's been an entire decade since Cadoo released his solo debut album, Cell. Prior to exploring his drum'n'bass demons, Cadoo worked with Mike Wells under their celebrated Gridlock alias, with numerous releases on a variety of labels. The last full length album, Formless, was put out by Hymen in 2003. Right about that time, Cadoo sprung off in another direction, with live instrumentation and glitch infused shoegaze, releasing lauded work as Bitcrush on his own label, n5MD (see part one of this special for his latest). And just when I thought that Cadoo would abandon his signature dark and crunchy IDM sound altogether, he awakens from his hibernation as Dryft with Ventricle! This is more than just a "side-project" - in this hard hitting, industrial-strength comeback, Cadoo admits to explore the subconscious compositions and explorations of his mind since the disband of Gridlock. As if there were a few things unsaid, Dryft brings back the "massive enveloping drones and rusty clatter" that has left us in the dark, aching for more... But make no mistake - Ventricle is not the ghostly echo of the dormant Gridlock - this is the new sound of Dryft, pushing the envelope of experimental IDM further up a notch. A must for any fan of dark and cinematic passages, wrapped in solid beats and drenched in morphing DSP. Recommended if you also like Kattoo, Access To Arasaka, Hecq, Somatic Responses, Architect and Nebulo.

Don't forget to check out part one of our n5MD special, and download a free label compilation, MMX |

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

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Sound Bytes : n5MD Special [part one]

It's been a while since we covered one of our all time favorite labels, n5MD. The last time we praised Mike Cadoo's label was in Headphone Commute's Best of 2009 lists, where Plastik Joy, Port-Royal and Last Days grabbed the slots among our selections of the year. In 2010, Cadoo has been busy, releasing a flurry of amazing music that we have only been too busy to cover. In this installment of Sound Bytes we honor the latest releases from this fantastic label, where electronica meets ethereal ambient, and post-rock dances with IDM. Be sure to also check out the interview with Mike Cadoo in our n5MD Label Profile.

Bitcrush - Of Embers
It only makes sense that we begin our coverage with an album from the label boss himself, Mike Cadoo, releasing his fifth album under the Bitcrush alias (see his latest as Dryft further in our next installment). Picking up where his 2008 album, Epilogue In Waves, left off, Cadoo employs soaring guitars with reverb drenched synthetic pads, cut-up glitchy IDM clicks and full on acoustic percussion. With only six tracks adding up to less than an hour, the album effortlessly floats between genres, fusing favorite elements of ambient and post-rock. "Of Embers finds Cadoo looking even further back into his experiences and inner struggles than ever before to create what may be the most hopeful album of his musical career." Fans of emotional electronica will be delighted to glide along the downtempo rhythm with the ghostly background vocals of Cadoo himself. Fourteen minute track, Fray The Middle To Meet The Ends, takes the listener onto a cinematic journey, where textured layers and sonic waves unfold into a new beginning, so very welcome after his last, misleading Epilogue. Overall, Of Embers is a very personal album, bringing the listener closer into the intimate setting of this musician's world, where the fire slowly crackles and the embers gently glow. Highly recommended for fans of Hammock, Port-Royal and Lights Out Asia.

Lights Out Asia - In The Days Of Jupiter
That nicely segues into our next entry, doesn't it? We last heard from this Wisconsin based band, Lights Out Asia, back in 2008, with their release, Eyes Like Brontide. Two years later we are gifted with their fourth full length release, In The Days Of Jupiter, and it's a doozy! The album opens up with gentle electronic pads, and cut-up robotic voices - an intergalactic journey is ahead... The second track, "Except Europa", picks up with tight IDM beats and slowly builds up into the explosion of sound, as we are launched beyond our stratosphere into the outer worlds. The guitars erupt into an expansive wall of frequency rich textures, as we break away from the Earth's gravitational hold, and float through the ambient layers of atmosphere. Mike Ystad continues to treat the sound with electronics, as Mike Rush delivers the bass riffs, with a guest appearance by Ayala Trumper on the cello, and of course, Chris Shafer on the mic. The album also employs a few field recordings and a selection of samples credited to "Just as Jupiter eclipses the other planets in our solar systems, Lights Out Asia have eclipsed expectations by delivering their most expansive album to date." I couldn't agree with that quote from the label's page more... Be sure to pick up this and their previous releases, Tanks And Recognizers and Garmonia.

Dalot - Loop Over Latitudes
The label welcomes a new member to its family with Maria Papadomanolaki first proper full length debut as Dalot, Loop over Latitudes. From sweeping pads to pulsating electronic beats, Dalot demonstrates her skill at "creating moments of lush ambience, emotion and texture by blending elements of phonography, electro-acoustic composition and minimal electronica with more traditional musical elements such as voice, guitar, glockenspiel and tablas." Quoting Stars of the Lid, Colleen and Boards of Canada as her inspirations, Maria blends field recordings with glitchy percussion, meditative passages, and reverb drowned voice to create music as cerebral as it is contemplative - each piece presenting a story, "much like one of the novels she once studied in her native Greece". The album collects three tracks from Dalot's first EP, Flight Sessions, released by Coo Records in 2009. With this release, Dalot joins n5MD veterans such as Another Electronic Musician, SubtractiveLAD, and Near The Parenthesis to contribute another solid release to the label's catalog of emotional experiments in music. Well done, milady, and welcome to the family!

Bitcrush - From Arcs To Embers
Approaching a fourth entry in this installment of Sound Bytes, I realized that I'll have to do this as a two-part series, as there are a few more albums from n5MD that I wish to cover. Rounding up this trip through emotional electronica and soaring shoegaze, it's only appropriate that I return back to Bitcrush. And it seems that there are more than just a handful of musicians who are also fans of Mike Cadoo's signature sound. Here's to add a flavor of their own is a remix album, From Arcs To Embers, featuring reworks of tracks taken from all five of his previous albums. If you are a fan of Cadoo's work and label alike, you'll truly enjoy this collection of remixes from Jatun, Bersarin Quartett, port-royal, SubtractiveLAD, Near The Parenthesis, Funckarma and many others! Given a wide array of contributing artists, you can expect your favorite Bitcrush tracks reworked in soothing electronica, glitchy IDM and head-bopping downtempo genres. A few good surprises on here. A remix from Tim Ingham (aka Winterlight) of Every Sunday, a leftfield-shoegaze-dream-pop-ambient exploration, leaves me curious to hear more from this Thames Vallye (UK) based artist. Watch out for his debut on n5MD!

Various Artists - MMX
As I wrap up part one of this label special, hopefully leaving you thirsty for more, there's just one more thing I need to mention! You can download a FREE n5MD Label Sampler, titled MMX, comprised of tracks from the 2010 release schedule, featuring above covered artists and more! Click this Bandcamp link, and feed your player and head with music. And I'll be back next week to cover the rest of my n5MD Special... See you then! |

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