Monday, May 31, 2010

Podcast : HC - Oceanica

Sun... Ocean... Calmness... Being in a meditative state of mind, attempting to clear out all thoughts and rid myself of negative energy, I put together a mix to compliment my breathing. As the water sways in waves, so does my breath, and so does everything else. Rotations... Cycles... Beginnings... This ambient mix with a touch of dub is meant to relax your mind and take the stress away. Use it as a simple tool to bring peace into your restless soul...

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

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Event : MUTEK 2010

If you haven't heard me rave about MUTEK yet, well, now is the time. I am absolutely excited to be attending this year's 11th edition festival, taking place in Montreal, Canada in less then a week - on June 2nd through 6th. I am also deeply honored to announce that I will be covering the festival as the member of the press, and will return not only with many memories, but also hours of interviews with some of my favorite artists. The ones that I am really looking forward to hearing and meeting in person include Ben Frost, DJ Koze, King Midas Sound, Marsen Jules, Minilogue, Moritz Von Oswald Trio, Mouse on Mars, Nathan Fake, Overcast Sound, Shed, The Caretaker, Tim Hecker, and Vladislav Delay among the many others! Check out the entire List of Artists scheduled to perform! I am also looking forward to being introduced to much of Canada's new talent, and hope to uncover a few gems to share with you when I return. Since its creation in 2000, MUTEK, a non-profit organization, has been curating the annual summer festival to promote the development, evolution, and creativity in electronic music. In 2009 MUTEK saw over 20,000 people in attendance, and hosted many world renowned musicians, such as Plastikman, Gas, Carl Craig, Murcof, Pole, Apparat, Modeselektor, Gui Boratto, Jamie Lidell and Ricardo Villalobos. The success of the festival has brought much attention to the city, and the organization has been awarded the Grand Prix du Tourisme Du Quebec in the "Festivals and Touristic Events" of 2009. I've had the privilege to interview Alain Mongeau, the founder and artistic director of the festival. In it, Monegau reveals that MUTEK is a morphing of two words: MUsic and TEKnology, with a notion of MUTATION to blend the two. It's not all about electronic music at the festival - there is a large connection to visual and technological arts as showcased in the A/VISION series. Another series, EXTRA MUROS, will showcase a number of outdoor installations and interactive performances, using Montreal as an urban canvas for the artists. MUTEK's DIGI SECTION, will include workshops, panels, and presentations covering Physicality of Sound (with Ben Frost and Tim Hecker!), intimate interviews (The Caretaker and Mouse on Mars!), and Ableton Live workshops. This year, MUTEK features over 50 Canadian and International acts, hoping to "raise the standards of the five-day showcase by striking an equilibrium among [its] many historical strengths". I am once again, extremely excited and honored to set forth on this adventure in just a few days, to make many memories with some old buddies and newly found friends!

Be sure to read my Interview with Alain Mongeau

Conversations with Alain Mongeau

Alain Mongeau is the founder and artistic director of MUTEK, the International Festival of Digital Creativity and Electronic Music of Montreal, Canada. I've had the privilege of interviewing Alain prior to the MUTEK's 11th edition, taking place on June 2-6 of 2010.

Tell us about your involvement with MUTEK. Were you there since the very beginning?
Yes, I masterminded the festival and have been involved since the first edition, in 2000. I first drafted the project in 1997, so it took a few years before I could actually find a way to make it happen

Where does the name MUTEK come from?
Well, there's the connection between MUsic and TEKnology... but also the underlying notion of MUTATIONS that drives it, the festival's mission being to track the mutations of an art form where music, sound and new technologies meet... the subtitle of the festival for its many first years used to be that: MUTEK - Music, Sound and New Technologies

[ - s n i p - ]

Read the entire interview on Headphone Commute

See also Headphone Commute's preview of MUTEK 2010

Friday, May 28, 2010

Hammock - Chasing After Shadows... Living with the Ghosts (Hammock Music)

I know that an album is timeless, when after many years I return to it, and it still sounds fresh. Not only does the sound not age, but I feel like I should tell everyone about it all over again! And the music... it slowly hovers over the roofs of the sleepy houses, swirling down the chimneys into my cold morning room, and slips into my mouth with the steam of the freshly brewed coffee... This soaring quality is the staple sound of Hammock. I first became aware of the band with their 2006 release, Raising Your Voice... Trying to Stop an Echo. There is a special quality to that album. Like an old friend, it can bring back the eternally haunting feelings of belonging with a simple gentle hug. The fourth LP by Marc Byrd and Andrew Thompson, Chasing After Shadows... Living with the Ghosts, is a follow-up to the duo's Maybe They Will Sing for Us Tomorrow (Hammock Music, 2008). Hammock returns with the multi-layered, reverb-heavy, sonic drifts, blending organic ambient with shoegaze and skydrift. The guitars again play as the foundation of every composition, complimented with the resonant voices of strings and subdued percussion, ready to lift you above the trees and let you fall with leaves and the warm summer breeze. Washing away the edgy remainders of last night's bad dreams, Hammock paints a soundscape of pillow-soft meadows, deep ocean breathing, and boundless time. These ethereal lullabies are perfectly accented with track titles like "In The Nothing Of A Night", "The World We Knew As Children", and "Something Other Than Remaining". In addition to the six-panel digipack, the album is released as a limited edition book collaboration with photographer Thomas Petillo. This hardback volume, North West East South, includes a four-track ambient EP. Make sure to also pick up Hammock's prior releases, The Sleep-Over Series (Volume 1), and Kenotic (Hammock Music, 2005). Chasing... is quickly rising to the top of my favorite albums of the year so far... Highly recommended for the followers of Lights Out Asia, Port-Royal, July Skies, Stars of the Lid, and The American Dollar. This is music for driving with the top down in the back country. This is music for meditating on a cliff above the ocean. This is music for chasing after shadows... and for everyone one of us, living with the ghosts.

See also Two and a Half Questions with Hammock |

Two and a Half Questions with Hammock

Tell us a bit about the title of the album, "Chasing After Shadows... Living with the Ghosts". Is there a story behind it?
There is no specific story. It's a general statement about human existence. Shadows represent reflection but not true reality. We all chase after things that are not real at times. It could be our own perception of ourselves or of the world as a whole. Living with the Ghosts, well I know that neither of us believe in ghosts. We are however haunted by circumstances and events that have happened in our lives. It could be the loss of someone through death or the end of a relationship, etc. Something we never fully recovered from, despite every attempt to do so. We all have our personal symbolic ghosts.

You talk about setting no limitations for "Chasing...". How does the theme and sound emerge when there are no constraints?
We pretty much went for whatever the song called for. We employed a string section & horns for the first time based on that approach. We've always worked with Matt Slocum for cello & did again on this release, but we pushed ourselves a bit further sonically & texturally because the batch of songs we had written called for a somewhat different approach than we were used to.

[ - s n i p - ]

Read the entire interview on Headphone Commute

See also Headphone Commute's review of Chasing After Shadows... Living with the Ghosts

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Podcast : Bop - Micromixes

Let me introduce you to Bop. Hailing from Saint-Petersburg in Russia, Alexander Dmitriev is a new breed of producer intent on re-writing the rulebook with an intoxicating ice-cold sound; embracing influences from deep techno and minimalist dubstep through to IDM and ambient drum & bass. This is beautiful, melodic, micro-glitchy d'n'b that should definitely get you excited about the evolution of the genre.

In 2009, Dmitriev released his first EP on Med School, Song About My Dog and immediately captured my attention. He followed it up with his debut full length album, Clear Your Mind (Med School, 2009), and Headphone Commute has selected it for our Best of 2009, Music For Caffeine Free Car Chases.

I am now delighted to present you with not just one, but two micromixes fused together. Although combined, both still clock in under 30-minutes, there is still a lot of music on here. This is a showcase of the latest compositions by Bop and a few of his label-mates. I reversed the order, and first feature Bop's Micromix #2 from May 2010, followed by Micromix #1 from April of last year, 2009. I don't think the order matters here, as long as you enjoy the music. Which, I'm confident, you will!

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

Sound Bytes : New Blood, Autonomic and Sub:stance

A lot of great music in this one! In this installment of Sound Bytes, I want to cover a few compilations across a spectrum of genres. Not only do these showcase the latest in dubstep, drum'n'bass and techno, but I promise you that this sound is unlike anything else you've heard before. In all cases, the compilations feature a newly defined stylistic branch of the ever growing music tree. I am incredibly excited to see these releases cross the genre boundaries, push the envelope further and contribute to the evolution of electronic sound. Hope you'll feel the same way.

VA - New Blood (Med School)
First up is a compilation from Med School showcasing new talent, appropriately titled New Blood 010. Med School has been on the edge of ground breaking micro-minimal drum'n'bass since it's been launched as an offshoot of London Elektricity's London-based Hospital Records back in 2006. This is where d'n'b meets glitchy IDM, dubstep and breakbeat, redefining boundaries as delicate cut ups, glitchstep, and half-tempo stompage. New Blood is a series designed to bring the up-and-coming artists to the frontlines before they graduate to become professional 'sonic surgeons' operating in the world renowned Hospital rooms. "These young practitioners have checked your vital signs and are ready to deliver the next prognosis with an array of scalpel-sharp sounds and rhythmical remedies." The roster of appearances includes contributors from all over the globe: UK, Australia, Hungary, Russia, Germany and even Ukraine. Lots of unknown names on here, but that shouldn't stop you from enjoying this exhilarating ride.

D-Bridge & Instra:mental Present Autonomic - FabricLive. 50 (Fabric)
Moving on to a selection of more established artists in the drum'n'bass and dubstep arena, is an impeccable mix of over 30 tracks from D-Bridge & Instra:mental. This is the 50th installment in the Fabric's FabricLive series, and it instantly shoots up to the list of my favorite mixes from this London based label. Compiled by Darren White (aka D-Bridge and former member of Bad Company) and Alex Green & Damon Kirkham (collectively known as Instra:mental), the sound traverses the depth of deep and vocal micro d&b, to hip-hop influenced dubstep and smoky intelligent downtempo. Inspired by their Automic club night and podcast, the mix takes that club sound into the spacey head-nodding lounge or air tight headphones. Featuring a wide roster of artists, mostly from the Exit and NonPlus+ labels, we are treated with top notch selections from Consequence, Distance, Alix Perez, Vaccine, Scuba, Meleka, Skream, Genotype and of course, D-Bridge and Instra:mental. Another important note: all of the tracks for this mix were written exclusively by invitation, so they have not been previously released as singles. "The people behind it are not setting out to make a drum & bass track; they are setting out simply to make music, producing compositions that are emotionally charged, personally edifying and organic."

Scuba - Sub:stance (Ostgut Ton)
Since I've touched on dubstep, it only makes sense that I navigate you towards its deeper territory, approaching atmospheric, minimal and dub techno. Mixed by Paul Rose (aka Scuba), the man behind Hotflush, Sub:Stance "is the collision of two worlds – the vitality of UK bass music intertwined with Berghain and all it’s sensory exhilaration and unique atmosphere." I couldn't have said it better. Released on a label of Berlin's Berghain club, Ostgut Ton, the 24-track mix features some unreleased and exclusive tracks from Scuba himself, as well as Sigha, Pangaea, Untold, Surgeon, Digital Mystikz, and Joker among the many. The journey traverses through minor progressions of bass heavy dubstep until the 4/4 kick picks up the pace with its hollow punch, attributed to Surgeon's style. And now we're in that creepy, cold, and industrial territory of abandoned warehouses turned into clubs turned into temples of aural worship, where frequencies rise from the basement, up through the pipe organs, and drop back to the floor. I only wish that I could hear this in Berghain.

Techno: In Perpetual Motion
As a postscript to this entry of Sound Bytes, if you are interested in going further along this evolutionary trip and move on to a pounding, hypnotic and mesmerizing techno territory, I recommend that you check out the installment, Techno: In Perpetual Motion, featuring a selection of rare 12-inchers and remixes by Marcel Fengler, Planetary Assault, Ben Klock, Mike Dehnert, and Delta Funktionen. "Techno is forever in flux, and this is just a snapshot of where it is at this particular place, in this particular moment in time..." Yes. Put that in your pipe.

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

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Loscil - Endless Falls (Kranky)

It begins and ends with rain. But when the waterfalls subside, a picturesque landscape reveals itself through haze and fog. Vast fields of textural sound unfold beneath the soaring heights, with a slight pulse of bass vibrations, originating from the unexplored depths, and an echoing muffled synth line, dying in the cavernous emptiness of this landscape. With a microscopic nod to dub, Loscil weaves sonic parachutes that lift up beyond the clouds and slowly coast down to earth, only to have it curve beneath them, in an endless fall. Endless Falls is Scott Morgan's fifth full length album on Chicago's Kranky, not counting the digital freebie, Stases, released out by a net-label, One. Endless Falls also comes on the heels of Strathcona Variations digital EP, released by Ghostly International in October 2009. I was sure that the follow-up full length was going to be put out by Ghostly as well. But, alas, Morgan returns to Kranky, which has been the home for his last four albums, Triple Point (2001), Submers (2002), First Narrows (2004) and Plume (2006). Since Plume, Morgan has been busy developing his ambient soundscapes, complimenting looped drones with subliminal melodies and modulated bass. The intricately designed dense textures wrap one's unoccupied consciousness in melancholy, sadness and reflection. The mood fluctuates the listener from wakefulness to hypnotic dream states, crackling and clicking with stripped down rhythms and wet minor pads. On the last nine minute piece, "The Making Of Grief Point", Morgan features a long spoken word piece by Daniel Bejar (member of indie band, Destroyer, for which Morgan plays the drums and saxophone), delivered softly and deliberately, over a pulsing tone and walking synth notes through an unresolved chord. This is the first time Loscil brings vocals of any kind into his work. About this choice, Scott Morgan states: "The collaboration with Dan made us both incredibly nervous. Dan felt out of his element doing 'spoken word' but rose to the challenge. I felt self-conscious about changing the listening perspective from abstract, ambient music into foreground, conscious listening. The first time I heard Dan's voice recording I was terrified and was tempted to call the whole thing off. I listened to it a few more times and it completely grew on me. Now I can't imagine that piece without his performance. I love Dan's use of words, his vocal rhythms and the intimate intensity of his voice." Additional collaborators on the album include the return of Jason Zumpano on piano, Kim Koch on strings and Robert Sparks on bass recorder. Scott's four year old daughter, Sadie, is responsible for providing the cover art for the album, taken from the backseat of the family car. Check out an interview with the photographer on Loscil's Blog. Endless Falls is incredibly gorgeous, sublime and subtle yet precise. Recommended for fans of Pole and Gas, as well as Stars of the Lid, Christopher Bissonnette and Tim Hecker. "The answer to the making of grief point is picnic baskets filled with blood."

See also Two and a Half Questions with Loscil | |

Two and a Half Questions with Loscil

What is the connection of your music to rain?
Mostly the fact that I live in a rainy city (Vancouver) and this affects me which affects my music. The sound of rain is also very interesting - a randomly generated texture comprised of many small sounds.

You already commented on your choice for using vocals on the album. What do you think of the overall reception, and will we see more tracks like this?
The reception is mixed which is what I expected. Some people appreciate it for boldly stepping outside of the loscil comfort zone and others despise the track and the fact is appears at the end. I'm not sure if I'll do it again. That depends on finding the right collaborator and making the right track together.

"Grief Point" appears to be an album that has never been made. We know the answer to the making of Grief Point. But what is the question?
This would properly be answered by Dan as they are his words. Grief Point was made, however - under a different name. I'll leave the mystery to be solved by someone else.

[ - s n i p - ]

Read the entire interview on Headphone Commute

See also Headphone Commute review of Endless Falls

Sound Postcard : 015 : California Beach

I brought you some ocean from the West Coast. I crouched down as close to the water as possible without getting wet, so that I could capture the waves roll across the beach in stereo [from right to left]. If you listen closely, when the waves crash on the sand and rush towards me in a current of water receding to foam, you can hear the water slowly drain into the sand, and then the popping of the tiny air bubbles, as the earth exhales. I could listen to this all day...

Hear this and other sound postcards directly on Headphone Commute

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Sound Bytes : Hyperdub Special

This special installment of Sound Bytes features not just three, but five quick entries covering the very latest releases from one of the ground breaking, boundary pushing, genre bending labels, Hyperdub. This UK label is run and operated by Steve Goodman, aka Kode9. It is Hyperdub that introduced us to William Bevan - aka Burial - back in 2006 with his debut self-titled album, Burial. It is Hyperdub that broke all rules again with King Midas Sound and the critically acclaimed Waiting For You... The reviewed 12"s, released all in 2010, are not your typical dubstep wax. This is chiptune bleepy, breakstep grimey, syncopated goodness, oozing with bass and mind bending rhythms. Now hear this!

DVA - Natty / Ganja
We begin our exploration of the latest releases from Hyberdub with DVA (aka Diverse Arts and Scratcha). As an x-member of Aftershock crew (alongside Terror Danja), the tracks are bass-driven, dubstep riddems with a housey flavah. Natty starts off with a 4/4 kick and falls right into a square toothed bass ride with low rumbling snare hammering out tribal rhythms. Ganja is my favorite track on this 12" - employing Benga style sliding, octave walking, gangstah whistle, simple kick heavy pattern, and incredibly persistent melody, it's surely to become a winner for ringtone collectors. Check out DVA's previous releases, My Style / Africe and The Jelly Roll EP on his own, DVA Music. Did you know that the word 'ganja' is a Sanskrit word for "hemp"?

Terror Danjah - Acid / ProPlus
Old skool rave stabs are at the front-line of the appropriately titled track on A side, Acid. This is a first release for Terror Danjah on Hyperdub, previously appearing on UK's garage label, After Shock and even Planet Mu. For ProPlus, the "grime don" is joined by DOK (previous member of Aftershock), showcasing their classic sound of twisted synth notes landing somewhat sporadically across the syncopated drums, creating one of the most infectious deep grinding melodies. I love rolling down the street to this one, with the volume cranked up and the windows down! I only wish this track was about 5 minutes longer! You feel this?

Kyle Hall - Kaychunk / You Know What I Feel
Here are two tracks from Kyle Hall, with his first appearance on Hyperdub (after a remix of Darkstar's Aidy's Girls Is A Computer). Hall is an 18-year old Detroit resident with a few releases on his own label, Wild Oats. Kaychunk offers more of that 8-bit bleepy mechanical wonkiness, with a Detroit influence of hip-hop, syncopated drums and even UK funky. On Side B, You Know What I Feel approaches 2 step territory, with a vocal controlled melody and a square wave bass line. Hollow kick, stumbles over a backdrop of synth pads, and a clicking rim shot slash claps combo. If you like the sound, also pick up Hall's 4-track Must See EP ou on Third Ear Recordings.

Ikonika - Idiot
This arcade style bleepy molded, dubstep layered, beat stomped track hides an intricate melody shifted into 8-bit territory of toytronic chiptune. Pushing the boundaries once again, Hyperdub brings us the latest from a female producer, Sara Abdel-Hamid, going by the name of Ikonika. The flip side of this 12" features a housey mix by Altered Natives (aka Danny Native), that transforms the sound into a four-to-the-floor beat. The main track, Idiot, is taken off of Ikonika's debut LP, Contact, Love, Want, Have, recently released on Hyperdub. If you dig this, see also Ikonika's 2009 EP, Smuck, released on Planet Mu.

LV & Quarta 330 / Dong - Hylo / Suzuran
Here's another 12" split with only two tracks. On the logo side is the track Hylo, written by LV & Quarta 330. A fast paced beat splatters after the gameboy intro, with a super lo-fi percussion and a sonar melody that challenges the higher frequencies of my studio monitors. On the AA side is a remix by the duo of Suzuran, originally produced by Dong, which splatters in your face off the first beat. This is an uncharted territory of Japanese style chiptunes meets electro pops meets vocoder meets syncopated drums and off-key bleeps. Pretty alien sounding, if you ask me.

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

Podcast : Mnemonic45 – Spring Rain

Macedonian producer, Goce Gligurovski, composing under the name Mnemonic45, takes us into the sounds of nature, attempting to synthesize and sample the "wind on trees", birds in "conversation", and river stone "society". For this mix, he selects some of his favorite artists to create a moving ambiance of sound.

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

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Marsen Jules - Yara [remastered] (Oktaf)

My Reflections on the music I listened to one, two and three years ago, has guided me to revisit previously loved albums by Marsen Jules: Herbstlaub (City Centre Offices, 2005) and Les Fleurs (City Centre Offices, 2006). While I was digging through my collection, attempting to dust off these gems for yet another rotation, I noticed that they were missing from my library. So I had to go ahead and purchase them [again?]. Oh, and what's this? An album originally released on Thinner's sublabel, Autoplate, has been remastered and re-issued! I vaguely remember this 6-track digital release by Martin Juhls from 2004 as a digital modern classical marvel. So it's no surprise that I jumped at the opportunity of upgrading it to a remastered version. With two bonus tracks, that extend the original release by 22 minutes, Juhls brings back his masterfully woven neo-classical pieces that gently loop to the singing of organic instruments. The sources of the original acoustic recordings, as manipulated by Juhls, come from a classical trio Yara. Field recordings of atmospheric elements softly sway to soft piano phrases and the tender strumming of Meike Rath's harp. Occasional pads swell up in the background and exhale into the soundscapes of oscillating delays and ghostly vocals. The composition's building blocks slowly build up, then drop out, disintegrate, and rise into thin air, gradually evaporating, to become one with breath. It's easy to become lost, entranced, and saturated by the light aural fog surrounding your mind with this enchanting meditation. Yara is being released by a mysterious Oktaf label - "a place for authentic music and art", owned and operated by Martin Juhls himself. Kicking off the label's existence with a remastered edition of Marsen Jules' another wonderful work, Lazy Sunday Funerals, the label plans on releasing ambient, electronica, contemporary classical and modern jazz albums. Maybe we will see the City Centre Offices releases being remastered as well... Be sure to pick up Juhls' previous releases on Kompakt, Miasmah and Genesungswerk. And don't forget Juhls' deeply submerged dub ambient aquatic exploration, Nautica, released under his krill.minima alias on Native State Records back in 2007. Recommended for fans of Julien Neto, Klimek, Ryan Teague, Deaf Center and Rafael Anton Irisarri.

See also Two and a Half Questions with Marsen Jules |

Two and a Half Questions with Marsen Jules

Tell us about your label...
OKTAF is a new label for authentic music in the field of ambient, avantgarde classic and modern jazz. It´s a place for my own music as well as cooperations with other musicians and special compilation projects. Aside from the release of CDs we also have the "OKTAF SKETCHES" series with exclusive tracks for free download (the first one can be found here:

Where does the name Oktaf come from?
Some years ago me and a friend (Digitalverein) were thinking about an own label. On the way to a concert we were discussing possible names and OKTAF was one which came up. I liked it, because it´s pretty close to the German word for octave, but it´s also completely different.

What was the driving force behind re-mastering your past releases?
For me they are important parts of my work, even if the original albums have just been released as mp3s. I took a long time working on these re-releases. It´s not only remastered versions, I also took a couple of nights and a lot of good red wine to rework every single sound of the tracks.

[ - s n i p - ]

Read the entire interview on Headphone Commute

See also Headphone Commute review of Yara

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Flashback : Orbital - In Sides (ffrr)

Fourteen years ago, in May of 1996, Orbital released their fourth full length album, In Sides. I remember the day when the disk finally arrived, and I carefully put it into the CD tray while leafing through the booklet. I remember when The Box finally came on. The entire ritual of absorbing the music for the first time will forever be embedded in my mind. And how many times have I heard this album since then? The count is immeasurable. In the car, on the train and on the plane - it has always mesmerized me with its familiar path, unexplored depth, and hidden turns. This was the sound of electronica that kept my neurons alive. And it excites till this day. A true classic. Brothers Phil and Paul Hartnoll came on the scene with their self titled album (aka the Green Album), Orbital in 1991. By the time the follow up hit the streets, Orbital 2 (aka the Brown Album), every aspiring DJ and closeted 'raver' knew of the group's name. Tracks like "Chime", "Omen" and "Satan" all reached the UK Singles Charts. And who could forget the beautiful Halcyon? Orbital's third album Snivilisation, released lon ffrr in 1994, reached #4 on the UK Albums charts. The track and single, "Are We Here?" featured vocals by Alison Goldfrapp, and once again topped the charts. Rising from the rave, into the bedrooms and headphones of discriminating listeners, the British electronic duo has become one of my personal favorites. Repetitive phrases that hypnotize and lift above the conscious plane of existence, loop and layer sound with endless instruments and melodies. Introducing one theme after another, these slowly build up, drop out, and then explode in one final array of sound. The building blocks of each track peel off and reveal the layers of individual elements that together comprise an elegant instrumental piece, folding and shifting, in the never ending configurations of the Rubik's Cube of music. And my brain is happy. In Sides became Orbital's second Top Five album, and revolved around a theme of "ecological disaster and dissatisfaction with society". The name of the album referenced the fact that it originally came out as a 3x12" 6-track LP box set, with only one track etched per side. The track "The Girl with the Sun in Her Head" was dedicated to Sally Harding, a photographer for the Volume magazine, who died in 1995. This track incorporates electricity from a Greenpeace solar power generator and opens up with a heartbeat that continues throughout the development of the track. A true marvel in itself. The track "P.E.T.R.O.L." was selected by Clint Mansell to appear in Darren Aronofsky's film p. While "Adnan's" was written for The Help Album for the benefit of War Child charity. Alison Goldfrapp appears on the album once again, singing on "Dwr Budr", which is Welsh for "dirty water", written after the MV Sea Empress oil tanker ran aground near the southwest coast of Wales in 1996. Hmm... How all of this is still appropriate with the recent news of Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. The US version of the album included a bonus CD with additional tracks, which were also released as two separate singles: Times Fly EP and The Box. The latter included a 28+ minute extended version of the track, The Box, with lyrics and vocals by Grant Fulton, who previously contributed to Orbital's single, Belfast/Wasted. In 2007, Paul Hartnoll confirmed a list of gear used on the album to include the Oberheim Xpander, ARP 2600, Korg Wavestation and a collection of Roland synths like Jupter 6, SH-09, SH-101 and of course, TB-303. And yes, the drum machines TR-808 and TR-909 are always present. This should keep the geeks happy. Back when Orbital's sound was still classified as 'rave', 'breakbeat' and [god forbid] the early taste of 'techno', In Sides took a giant leap to represent the act as a contemporary piece of electronica worthy of professional studio and even radio play. Selected as one of the best albums of the 1990's by independent and mainstream critics, In Sides, continues to satisfy and fascinate. If this flashback got your taste buds wet, pick up Orbital's 20 year celebratory release, simply titled, Orbital 20 (Rhino, 2009). And guess what? Orbital is currently on tour! Check out the confirmed 2010 Live Dates on their original site,

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Podcast : Tigon – Phasers on Stunned

A long time contributor to Headphone Commute, Tigon, tries his hand at mixing up his favorite tracks for our Podcast. Fans of experimental, ambient and dub sounds will be absolutely delighted with this traversal of amazing selections! Once again, the music speaks for itself here!

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

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Sound Bytes : Baconhead, Anodyne Industries, and Mormo

This installment of Sound Bytes features some of my latest picks among the net-label community. Distributing music digitally, and mostly for FREE, net labels are a collection of artists sprinkled across the domain of intarwebs with one goal in mind: make great music and spread it far and wide! Back in the early 90s even I was a member of a subculture of artists, musicians and hackers, known as the 'demoscene', uploading MODs to European elite HQs over a 1200 baud modem. Sigh... Am I dating myself here?

Baconhead - Soap EP (Acroplane)
What's that rumbling in the caverns of an abandoned tunnel? Why, it's the evil bass monster! C'mere, you poor creature, let me feed you some digital scraps. Whoah, don't be greedy! Let go of my 8-bit console! What's your name anyway? Oh, it's Baconhead, now, is it? And wipe your dirty bleepy mouth, or I may have to wash it out with Soap. So, who is hiding behind that green skin unleashed by the Irish net label, Acroplane Recordings? It's Ben Hudson (aka Ebola) and Paul Bee (Autobee). This is their first collaboration together, producing saw wave synth stabs, laser sweeps, and deep bass sci-fi beats to wake you out of your day dreams back into nightmares of cartoon flowers and cutout trees. The six track Soap EP, is a nice addition to Acroplane's catalogue of digital releases, previously featuring Igorrr, Somatic Responses, and Barry Lynn (Boxcutter). While visiting the label's site, be sure to pick up Ebola's Brodmann Area available for FREE! Check out the track Wookie, to get your woopie wonking...

Anodyne Industries - The Gateway EP (IDMf)
A newcomer to the scene of digital bass is Aaron King, releasing under the moniker Anodyne Industries. Hailing from the Bay Area of the States, King lands his first EP on IDMf Community, a net label spawned off of IDMforums. With solid production, breaky beats, and beautiful harmonics, King climbs to the top, among the label's previous seven EPs and compilations. The Gateway EP collects five tracks across a few genres, including dark and crunchy IDM, melodic-vocal-anthem dubstep, and even drum'n'bass. The mood shifts from light to dark with appropriately titled Make It Darker, showcasing King's ability of combining ethereal synth chords with nasty bass stabs. The best part is that this and all previous label's releases are available for FREE - so point your clickers and download legally away! For a taste of IDMf, pick up the first few compilations, featuring tracks from the members of the forum community. Here's my advice to established labels: always keep your eyes on some of this fresh talent... Download 320vbr MP3 or FLAC version.

Mormo - Epicurean Swerve (Bedroom Research)
Navigating through the web of net releases, I land upon a glitchy and abstract sound of Tomasz Kaye, aka Mormo, with his mind-bending experimental 8-track mini-album, Epicurean Swerve. Think Funckarma, Phoenecia, and dare I say Autechre. Put out by French collective of artists, Bedroom Research, this release features a taste of bleeps, clicks, and heavily processed rhythms as warped, swirled, and bit-stretched by this Holland-based artist. At times chaotic, mind-bending and bizarre, Kaye's sound pushes the envelope further, past intelligent design and dance oriented beats. Always complex and never revealed at face value, the album begs for numerous returns, to peel back the intricate structure for a closer look at the splintered sound. Be sure to also check out Mormo's debut album, Wasting 500 Sounds, released by Low Impedance Recordings back in 2006. If you have more bandwidth, crawl around the net-label's site, and fill your queue with more freebies.

More net labels to explore...
If after this bass-heavy entry you're still hungry for more, check out this list of my favorite net labels to visit : Sutemos, Serein, Thinner, Kahvi Collective, Monotonik, Controne, zymogen, Stadtgruen, Polymorphic Music, 12rec, and last but not least, one - yet another netlabel.

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