September 2005 Archives

Burning Bridges

Thames Festival along Blackfriars Bridge, London

No, I didn't know much about it either. But then I'm not really plugged into the populist media here in London. So, there was a Thames Festival in London last weekend. Probably held a bit too late; during the arse end of summer as temperatures drop and clouds start to gather in force.

But despite my dislike of 'official' government endorsed parties, this seemed to be a worthy alternative to the Notting Hill Festival. Which has become embroiled in all sorts of political and organisational wranglings. I can't really comment too much on that because I haven't been since 1997.

But the sheer visual spectacle of seeing the Thames and its protective concrete building-scape being engulfed by jarring colours and lights proved entertaining and memorable. Words and pictures of the mini electronic festival that was held outside the Tate posted up soon.

The Russian Futurists: Our Thickness (Upper Class) - CD

Responsible for one of the few lo-fi pop albums that I genuinely return on a regular basis (2003's astonishing 'Let's Get Ready to Crumble'). Matthew Adam Hart returns with even more fiercely original still-life observations. That previous work contained so many moments of sonic trickery, deft turns of melody and vocal delivery of sheer joy that it seemed overwhelming on first listen.

'Our Thickness' pulls no punches and each track comes complete with a chewy centre of pure sugar. Whereas most guitar albums have one centrepiece track, this album is all centrepieces. Singalong lyrics / playground melodies / echoes drenched in drama. Like all the best pop music, this only gets better with repitition.

Peter Grummich: Switch off the Soap Opera (Shitkatapult) - CD

Previously known for off-the-wall excursions into techno and house. Lacing his low din 4/4 with bursts of sonic mischievousness has, up until now, been his trademark. But in comparison, this is quite restrained, sophisticated even. As if he's come out in a new suit, cocktail drink in one hand but still wearing his old sneakers.

The scuzzy schaffel of 'The Animal' reminds you of its Berlin origins. Propulsive minimalia within 'You don't know' and 'Orange Moon' are loops held in stasis until decay sets in. But during the closing phases of the album, he dispenses with the beats altogether and leads us through fractured, reflective passages of digital dread. 'Alien Radio Duststar' evoking Fennesz's more condensed efforts and 'The kids are playing in the park' ending the album with experimentalist abstraction.

Arovane: Lillies (City Centre Offices) - CD

Been listening to this off and on for the best part of a year. Still can't find anything interesting to say about it.

Small tip: sticking on Hecker's 'Sun Pandamonium' straight after will make you realise the true application of computer based music.

Matias Aguayo: Are you really lost (Kompakt) - CD

Having a killer opening to an album really helps. In this case, the slow syllabic house punch of 'De Papel' is so good, it appears twice! 'Drums & Feathers' keeps it Chilean and minimal.

'Well' can quite rightly be compared to synth-pop reductionists the Junior Boys. Imperfect vocals hold together plucked b-lines and ghostly chords. 'New Life' even stirring up echoes of DFA, with sneering vocals, lo-slung bass and street-lit melodies. Mention must also go to the title track; coming on like Berliner Grime.

Effortlessly engaging.

Various Artists: 2 (Machine Records) - CD-R

I don't think I even bother listening to 'electronica' these days. I've tended to settle into musical areas of purity or extremity. Electronica seems too diluted, gentle, nice for my current palette. Attributes that will no doubt appeal to others.

So that same indifference is directed towards this, a fifteen track CD-R compilation from Cardiff based Machine Records. Some nice ideas and sounds in amongst the unusual band names (Lifting Gear Engineer, anyone?) but nothing is pushed to the edge. Everything has a followable time signature or recognisable melody. Mego it most certainly isn't.

Later tracks move towards Ninja-inspired moments of jittery jazz and Cubase hip-hop with reasonable success. Whilst containing nothing to bring me back, fans of grass-roots electronic music will surely find something to whet their appetite.

Cold Beetroot Soup

iPod Dice Shuffle (photo by Sandra)

Just to be complete (I'm not doing this for anyone else's benefit). Reports and pictures of recent gigs that deserve some kind of coverage somewhere will be making their way here. Including an astonishing performance by Squarepusher and a bank holiday weekend of gash, grime and greatness.

And in case you can't be fucked. All the following records are ace.

Noto: Autopilot / Autorec (Raster Noton) - Book / CD

Perfectly bridging the digital chasm between experimental art and the traditional notions of 'electronic' music. Noto aka Carsten Nicolai has carved a career from jumping between these two plinths with ease. Able to ponder the meaning of frequencies in clinical art establishments to dishing out pixel-pop funk at Spanish music events (his Sonar 2004 performance justified the entry fee for the entire festival.)

This is a beautifully presented visual and aural document. The theories discussed are way too dense to wrap up in a blog entry. But the aesthetics of what techno should 'look' like are captured here perfectly. The framing of light, hardware and motion allows a vista for the accompanying CD to work in. Signal manipulation that only the very best playback equipment will render to any satisfactory degree.

The Black Dog: Silenced (Dust) - CD

The Black Dog used to be three. Then two went to the land of Plaid and one remained to fight dull music industry meetings. More industry and less music. But time has proved kind to this canine and now, back with three members, they give us 'Silenced'.

The same motifs that made earlier works so enthralling are all there. Mystic nods to eastern musics, a compressed sound that evokes sparse dub and an almost live / loose feel to sequences. It's ambient, sure, but you cant use it as aural wallpaper. The opening hip-hop limp of 'Trojan Horus', 'Alt/Return/Dash/Kill's gentle Orbital homage, the filmic acid of 'Remote Viewing'.

To cheekily quote from a review of their classic Bytes. There are no hits, but then no misses either. It proves you don't have to be Eno-loving dullard to enjoy ambient music.

Secret Frequency Crew: Forest of the Echo Downs (Schematic) - CD

Oddball, disjointed but highly original mesh of staple electronica and downtempo haze. Snatches of real instrumentation in the form of brass / wind instruments and vocals evident in amongst the subtle DSP. The sensible running time means that unavoidable replays will reveal even more smart collaging.

'Neon Bridge's micro hip-hop reminds me of Bomb The Bass's more esoteric forays. 'Holographic Moon Owl's eventual descent from smooth trip-hop to 8-bit acid is fun to intake. 'Baron of the Bog' comes on like some twisted, nightmarish Portishead tribute. The gentle guitar lullaby of 'Forest Floor' desperately needs to be expanded upon. But the night-drive getaway of 'Photovonic Inchworms' beggars belief, taking on new melodic turns and twists right up to the end.

As labelmates Phoenecia explore their Miami environments via abstract digital analysis, the SFC explore similar terrain via textural mood and weight. Everything here feels searingly hot, music to hang in the twilight air. Supreme.

Julian Fane: Special Forces (Planet Mu) - CD

Will take time to convince some, but this could be the hidden gem in Planet Mu's catalogue. OK, so those who have already indulged in the likes of Sigur Ros and The Flaming Lips will recognise the tone of plangency throughout the album. Comparisons are inevitable and occasionally it does stray too close (listen to 'Safety Man' and tell me you don't hear Mercury Rev).

But an interest in low-level coded rhythms and Mu-ziq approved distortion stops the album from turning into one long post-rock cliche. So the seven minute Lynch-inspired freefall of 'The Birthday Boys' is jarringly interrupted by the metal clang of 'Taoist Blockade'. His "tender and fragile" vocals being jackhammered by robots on 'Darknet'.

Wang Inc.: Woods Roads (Context) - CD

Quirky, electic....weird. Some of the words that spring to mind during this organically produced foray into micro-electronics. Out-of-focus phases of click house occasionally remind you as to why this came out on Sutekh's label. But other than that, this is discreet audio rendering.

Folded rhythms unfold into patterns of nature. The recurring themes of wood, water and travel are the product of inspiration of a specific event. A road trip across the Pacific Northwest. Terrain that was previously explored in American cinema now has a suitably up-to-date soundtrack.

Ten x Tenori-On

Yamaha's Tenori-On

Anything to get us out of the hellish throng that enveloped around Holborn station on a mid-week afternoon. But to get ushered into a nearby small hotel room to test a prototype of a revolutionary new musical instrument? Well, stranger things have happened.

What you see above is the TENORI-ON. A touch pad musical interface developed by Yamaha and presented to us by Yu. The floor littered with strange metal boxes, leads and laptops. We felt like we were looking at something illegal. Expecting the authorities to bust the door down at any moment.

But all of this was offset by the sound of Jo Apps eeking out crystalline droplets of melody from the unit. Each sound and trigger accompanied by an LED pixel dance. Yu saw our eyes light up and let us loose on the units.

No point in me trying to describe how it works. Best you head to the online demo at Needless to say this is next level shit and will prove to be the perfect gift for any aspiring laptop musician looking to add some pazazz to their performance. Either that or it'll be in Dixons for a tenner.

Audion: Just Fucking (Spectral Sound) - 12"

Lacing his Audion side project with filthy innuendo (via his track titles), an aggressive attitude and dollops of sub. Matthew Dear's palette is there to remind you of house music's ability to make you jack. But somehow it seems to be all dressed up with nowhere to go. Roman Flugel's (Alter Ego - the Rolling Stones of techno) associated remix is equally empty and vacuous. Music to make girls writhe.

John Dahlback: My Favourite Stars Vol.2 (Morris Audio) - 12"

As if Dahlback took minimal house cliches and forced them into a club populated by trashy electro kids. Then stood back and watched them try to move to a different swagger.

Both tracks are named after his favourite adult porn stars. 'Devon' is the more moodier of the two, reflecting LFO-style bleeps off a damp kick with some naughty vocals. 'Asia' brilliantly merges the rat-a-tat loops of Plastikman's 'Spastik' to time-stretched vocals and alternating sine-waves.

AFX / LFO: Split 12" (Warp) - 12"

Warp totally appealing to the IDM backpack crew with more exercises in bass weight. LFO proves he still has it in him to knock out adrenalin rushes of hyperspeed techno. 'Pathfinder' could be described as indifferent dance music for the alcopop generation. AFX smartly donates 2 leftover Analord pieces to the flip. Acid-washes try to keep up with rapid fire 808's. Limited Edition status for some, eBay bound for others

AM/PM / Lump: Split 12" (Sud) - 12"

Secondo's AM/PM project continues to shrink further into dimly lit introversion. The musical equivalent of resonance and reverberation filmed with a photosonics camera. Both offerings are cut from the same cloth; layered sustain stapled to a 4/4 pulse. 'Foolish Thing to do' edges ahead in terms of the funk. Lump on the other side reduces the scope, but brings proximity rhythms nudging up against unpredictable melodic turns.

Oliver Hacke: Subject Carrier Remixes (Trapez) - 12"

Hacke's recent album for Trapez was pretty faultless as far as I could tell. As mysterious and sexy as all the best dance music demands. Whilst these remixes don't really seem to add anything new to Hacke's near perfect equation, they do offer alternative viewpoints.

John Tejada takes the opening still-life of '6.04' to more synchronised steps but its Alex Under's masterful remix that scores highly. Evoking a mediterranean palette, like a Hockney painting; sun-drenched colours melt alongside hand-drawn sketches of rhythm.

Dominik Eulberg: Flora & Fauna Remixes Part 1 + 2 (Traum Schallplatten) - 12"

From the first 12" of welcome reinterpretations of Mr. Eulberg's work. Andre Krami's remix sounds like he's conducting The Orb to shuffle in 4/4 time. An english summer envelops low-level mutterings that climax in a tense, urgent pulse.

"That's nice, sounds like tap-dancing techno.", remarked Ayla during Remute's techno rush on the second 12". Hrdvsion is Mathew Jonson's brother. He takes pictures of toilets and makes geometric reductionist techno. His remix is in turns inverted, skewed and filtered with an arsenal of buzzsaw riffs and trapezoid licks. Possibly the best hybrid of glitch and house you'll hear all year, unless you're me.

Adam Kroll's remix is pretty tame in comparison. More concerned with linear propulsion and motion than technique. But it still glides along with much gusto and zing.

Lusine: Inside / Out EP (Ghostly) - 12"

Fuck it, at this rate, all other label's peddling arc-light minimal house should just pack up and quit. Lusine moves away from the rather predictable palette of electronica to, well, arc-light minimal house. His 'Serial Hodgepodge' LP was patchy in turns. But everything thing here is assured, refined and sophisticated to the nth degree. The final cry of 'These Things' is as heartfelt as anything Luomo has done. Refreshes the parts other labels cannot reach.

Prefuse 73 Reads The Books EP (Warp) - CD

Smart, collaging of folky vignettes, as Scott Herren's Prefuse 73 project moves away from obtuse electronic territories back to more pastoral areas. Intimate recordings punctuate crackly beats and playful variations on the low end theories. A quiet statement, but a compelling one nonetheless.

Hystereo: Validity Revision (Soma) - 12"

Hopefully, this will be the last time Soma send me any more records. Cloying, clotted, rancid, bottom-of-the-barrel dance music for those who spike their hair with gel and really wish that they had as much fun as those cunts in the WKD drink ads. Designed for daytime Radio 1 and Top Shop.

Burning bridges? I'm re-fueling the flame-thrower as we speak.

Franklin De Costa: Reaktanz EP (Trapez Limited) - 12"

On 'Like You', Mr. De Costa can't help but stray from the standard-issue Trapez template and so periodically disperses bursts of concentrated-DSP to nudge the rhythm along. 'Negotiation' takes the warped sub-bass sound so common in British Electro / Grime and sculpt it to a flickr'd skip. Decent.

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This page is an archive of entries from September 2005 listed from newest to oldest.

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