Tagged: electronica

Something From Asia

Polish electronica composer Mirt has shown up here numerous times, most recently with his Vanishing Land record, which collaged three unfinished works into something that amounted to a whole album. A similar collage technique has been used for Random Soundtrack (KOSMODRONE DRONE 1601 CD), as is made evident in the title – a title which also owns up to Mirt’s preoccupation with movie soundtracks, which his work is often said to resemble. Random Soundtrack stitches together field recordings, ambient music, and scraps of improvised / composed music, all the music segues into a continuous whole, and the titles resemble those for imaginary film music cues. Going by selections such as ‘Night Sequence’, ‘Motorboat Chase’ or ‘Sunrise on the Beach’, it’s a movie that sounds incredibly bland – a sort of 1990s European art-house remake of Miami Vice. I wonder what Mirt thinks movies really are…in his world, they are certainly void of events, character, meaning or stories, and all that’s left are some vague traces of “atmosphere”. It’s as though he derived everything he knows about movie soundtracks from collecting old LPs. Still, the cover painting does manage to suggest an imaginary still from an intriguing celluloid tale. From 27 October 2016.

Interpretation Game

Daniel Ruane
The Interpreter
UK THE SILENT HOWL HOWL011 CD (2016)

The Interpreter is full of contemporary dance music of the leftfield kind – and of a very high quality from this young Manchester, UK-based producer. Owing to Ruane’s attention to the material’s superb low-end, this is great-feeling electronic music. Made by young people for young people – I know; it’s a competitive market, so how do you stay ahead of the game? Personally, I really have very little idea as it was possibly as long as fifteen years ago that I last stepped into a “nightclub” for the purposes of entertainment, but I suspect Daniel Ruane knows.

Tracks 1 to 6 are remixes by Ruane of other artists’ material, while tracks 7 to 10 showcase Ruane’s own recordings. There is possibly some evidence of cross-pollination with some of his labelmates of which lots of names are new to me: Martijn Comes, Trinkkets, Inverchoulin (not a type of single malt whiskey), Kumiko, Fred Thomas, Pierre Alexandre Tremblay, and Shay.

“Lace” starts off like something you would have heard in a dark disused light industrial unit or in a field in the middle of Oxfordshire in the early 1990s. All those fields are gone now it seems; victim to the insane appetites of the construction industry and central government’s new housing quotas. Kumiko’s “Triple Word Score” is a bit like sub-par trip-hop meets brutal techno beats. Mogadon Gabba, my mate called it. Fred Thomas’ “Partita In C Minor” starts as a drone treated to some slow tremolo effect. Then Ruane, firmly ensconced in his studio with a nice cup of tea and a couple of garibaldis no doubt, adds some nearby heavenly synth. This is probably the stand-out piece on The Interpreter for me. Sounds that could be roadworks vaguely intimidate in the background, but when the volume is boosted, the gristle of granular synthesis and Terminator-style anvil stabs are heard. Meanwhile, a Shermann Filterbank (or digital equivalent) opens its savage maw in time-lapse like a rare Amazonian flower. Intrigued, after some time looking for some more information about Fred Thomas on the internet, I found his personal website and not much else. Here, I learnt that he has several releases on The Silent Howl imprint, as well as with Loop Records and F-IRE. His area of interest seems to be contemporary classical and/or jazz, but there are no soundfiles of any type online to audition that I could find, so I could be completely wrong there.

Moving on. “Leaf” is fairly generic but not unpleasant. Its sophisticated Euro break-core will bother your bass drivers quite nicely, while “Tranquiliser” which is remixed by Shay, is more laid-back, summery even; I would say going for a more sedate Ninja-Tune vibe, perhaps. “Switch” is a functional club edit – it does what it says on the tin, and “Tranquiliser” – as remixed by Trinkkets – is more like a massive deconstruction of the Shay version, which is what I like in a remix. This album plays more like a compilation than the work of one man, but that’s not necessarily a criticism – you could say it shows Ruane’s versatility.

Any Colour You Like

Ab Intra is the Polish musician Radosław Kamiński, who’s been releasing his brand of dark ambient electronica since 2006. His previous three albums came out on Zoharum, one of them a split with 1000schoen. His alter-ego is a Latin phrase which roughly translates into English as “from the inside”, which may indicate something of the introverted nature of this self-absorbed music; like so many releases in this genre, it doesn’t have much of a life outside itself. Today’s release has a Greek title rather than a Latin one however, and Henosis I-V (ZOHARUM ZOHAR 132-2) uses the Greek word for “unity”. Kamiński’s earliest influence was the French synth big-wig populist Jean-Michel Jarre, and this does show on parts of this album; the second track ‘Henosis 2’ exhibits much of the pomposity and self-importance of the French player, as if announcing to the massed audience some mysterious post-millennial event whose significance has to be bolstered with flashing lights and laser shows. But there’s no real payoff; as with most of the music here, it seems to be all build-up without any actual event, idea or statement at the end of it. Even so, Kamiński’s music does have a well-crafted production surface, and he manages to avoid over-familiar synth settings and sounds, arriving at his own style of dark ambient brooding. A six-panel digipak is required for the artwork, allowing for slight visual variations on the arrangement of equilateral triangles on a black field; it invokes the cover of Pink Floyd’s best-selling album, and some of Ab Intra’s synth drones would have felt right at home, if not on that album then certainly on Wish You Were Here. From 27th October 2016.

Have His Carcase

Danny Hyde is a producer and remix genius known to many as the man behind the console for numerous releases by Nine Inch Nails, and also the Spanish pop-electro combo Fangoria; he’s also been associated with Psychic TV and Depeche Mode. But true cognoscenti of this dark mistico-sex-disco genre know him for his work with Coil, particularly his production work on milestone releases such as Horse Rotorvator and Love’s Secret Domain, the latter being an item that was recommended to me many years ago if I wanted to try and get “into” Coil. It didn’t quite work, and neither their music nor their themes have ever completely clicked for this listener, but I recognise it would be churlish to ignore the depth of the cultish feelings that Coil inspire in their acolytes, pilgrims and followers.

Hyde is also known as Electric Sewer Age, a project which sometimes featured Peter Christopherson from Coil, and the album Bad White Corpuscle (HG1607) has recently been released on vinyl by Hallow Ground. It originally came out in 2014 on the Italian label Old Europa Cafe, in a limited digipak, but this new issue has a bonus track called ‘Redocine (Death Of The Corpuscle)’. Given that all the tracks have the word “Corpuscle” somewhere in the title, one is tempted to read the album as a story of some sort, a day in the life (and death) of one of these micro-organisms that are associated with red and white blood cells. However, given the overall theme and the largely sinister caste of this electronic music, clearly things are going wrong in the body politic, and it might be more realistic to view this as a grim musical interpretation of slow death by cancer, AIDS, leukaemia, or sickle cell disease.

The press notes advise us to listen out for “dark, futuristic environments” and “glacial synth suspensions” on this record. Today’s spin has been underwhelming, though. I kept waiting for something to happen, some musical event or concrete moment to pass before us, then realised I was nearly at the end of side one already. What I mostly hear is rather samey and thin electronic tones, repeated in sloppy and ill-fitting patterns; there isn’t enough backbone in this “soupy” music for me. However, it’s clear that Danny Hyde has spent a good deal of time figuring out how to arrange his various layers and elements into these subtle, shape-shifting globs of sound, and he’s a producer who pays close attention to timbral shifts and tones, working out how he can match them together, along with foreign elements such as voice samples. What he lacks is a sense of shape or structure, meaning that no track ever really develops in a meaningful way, nor reaches a satisfactory conclusion. Call it modernistic mood music for the lonely and disaffected ones…a soundtrack to a rather maudlin bout of self-pity and overwrought sentiment. From 11th October 2016.

Wings Of Fire

Loopy electronica, wild noise, insane illogical beats and coarse sounds abound on Phoenixxx (PLANET MU RECORDS ZIQ383), a sprawling experiment which comes to us from the East, concocted by three youngsters from Russia and the Ukraine calling themselves WWWings. Heck, the oldest member here is 25, so they seem largely untroubled by draggy things like fitting into categories or providing any kind of continuity with the past, and in places seem intent on applying a punk rock-inspired tabula rasa attitude to everything they do. It’s also notable that the band seems to have come together through the internet and social media networking, rather than more conventional old-school methods.

WWWings are massively disaffected and frustrated by everything they see around them, and given the state of the world today, who can gainsay them? “Struggle with real life in almost totalitarian countries affects us,” they snarl at the world, in between mouthfuls of a dead rat they’re roasting over a makeshift campfire in the middle of a bomb site. “I think that’s why most of our tracks sound disturbing and depressive.” This alienation, and it’s not too strong a word, carries over into their personalities and prompts them to work under alias names which distance themselves from the so-called “real adult world” and bring them closer to a cyber-world of tags, avatars and forum names, a world which they own and understand, and have completely colonised, hence ‘Lit Internet’, ‘Lit Eye’ and ‘Lit Daw’. To say nothing of the colourful characters who collaborate on the tracks, with names like Born in Flamez, Gronos1, Chino Amobi, Endgame, Ebbo Kraan, and DJ Heroin.

The game plan for the modern world proposed on Phoenixxx is a simple one – burn everything down and (probably) don’t bother to rebuild it. This is reflected in track titles issuing simple instructions such as ‘Pyro’, ‘Ashes’, ‘Melt’ and ‘Ignite’. I can get that, for sure. While the name Phoenixxx implies a rebirth from the flames, I don’t think WWWings have written that part of the plan yet. Until they do, grab that can of gasoline and box of matches, and get stuck in. From 3rd October 2016.

Interstellar Low Ways

The record Low (OPA LOKA RECORDS OL16008) by Gintas K is supposed to complete a trilogy, of which the earlier parts were Lovely Banalities and Slow, both of which have been noted in these pages. I have previously enjoyed what I regard as the intuitive approach of this Lithuanian solo electronicist, but today the experiments on Low simply feel unfinished and unsatisfying. Despite care and attention being given to the sounds he makes, there’s a troubling lack of ideas in each tune, such that they fail to engage the listener for very long. There’s also the samey tone and pace to Low, meaning we are never lifted out of this rather gloomy and grey zone which might be a dismal European village on a rainy Sunday morning. Still, the very introverted nature and muffled sound of this album may give it a certain appeal if you fancy a day at home as a lonely shut-in. From 3rd October 2016.

Reinier Van Houdt is a Dutch pianist who has “done” some 20th century composers such as Shostakovitch and Valentin Silvestrov as part of his classical repertoire, and also played works from the New York school including Robert Ashley and Charlemagne Palestine. Paths Of The Errant Gaze (HALLOWGROUND HG1606) however is a more unconventional and experimental record; he concocts studio assemblages of ghostly, spectral sounds, somewhat in the vein of a Nurse With Wound collage, and with similar aspirations to a “surreal” state of mind. Unsurprisingly, Van Houdt plays in recent Current 93 line-ups; I sense he has just the right balance of fragility and occluded, precious details stored in his brain to please David Tibet. The mysterious drifty sounds on Paths Of The Errant Gaze can’t help but evoke a ghostly sailing ship like the Flying Dutchman or H.P. Lovecraft’s The White Ship, and the cover art confirms this “lost at sea” theme. Van Houdt uses these unsettling, nightmarish washes of sound, textures, and found fragments as a platform for his minimal, melancholy piano fugues. I found the mannered style and solemn tone a little off-putting, but there’s a lot of variety here across two sides of the LP, and the listener can’t help but feel the sensations of being taken on a strange voyage to a lost Edgar Allen Poe island in the middle of nowhere. From 11 October 2016.

Dark Carnival (DYIN’ GHOST RECORDS) is the latest release from the team-up of French guitarist Michel Henritzi with the Japanese player Fukuoka Rinji. On this occasion Rinji bows his violin to Michel’s lapsteel guitar. They’ve made a lot of records together and while we always enjoy them, I can’t see much significant advance here on any of their previous outings, for instance the relatively recent Descent To The Sun LP. Once they get going the pair just can’t stop, and what characterises their sound is a relentless, aching rain-sodden screech that wears away the listener by sheer persistence. Full saturation is another one of their specialities; barely a space left for anything else in this teeming atmosphere of full-on droning, sawing, strumming, and howling. These recordings were made in Tokyo in 2013-2014 and feature various medieval woodcuts on the ancient theme of mortality and the Dance Of Death, while the title comes from Ray Bradbury. Gather ye rosebuds while ye may…as you are now so once was I…and other such memento mori spring to mind while scoping these images and drowning in this intense music, which really rubs the heart full sore. From 13 October 2016.

The Swiss jazz trio Day & Taxi has been active since 1988 and Way (PERCASO 34) is their 8th studio release. Christoph Gallio, the saxophonist, is their driving force and he also happens to run the record label that has released most of the trio’s records. Way appears to be slightly unusual in their repertoire as it includes three very short songs, sung in German by their bass player Silvan Jeger, and their inclusion may give you a clue as to Day & Taxi’s open-minded musical aspirations – they would like to broaden out jazz forms, include composition as well as improvisation as a strong element, and are not afraid of including “sentimentalities” in their bright, rather melodic music. The flipside to all this user-friendliness is the abstruse sleeve note penned by Berni Doessegger, which attempts to deconstruct the meanings of the word “way”, through speculations on paths through a labyrinth. I found the actual music competent enough in its execution, and Gallio is an extremely fluent player with an exceptionally clean tone, but it’s just too tidy and correct to be mistaken for real jazz; the attempts at swing feeling are laboured and plodding, and even the saxophone screams feel as though they’ve been carefully studied from annotated Coltrane solos. From 2nd November 2016.

Otho The Android

Pretty good muscular electronica from Redukt, a duo of tough guys from Moscow named Alexander Vasiliev and Nikolai Turchinski. Well, one of the pair looks a pretty rough customer, with his shaved head and arm tatoos and fairly powerful forearms. The other has glasses and a more presentable hairstyle and, despite geeky appearances, may act as the “brains” in this gang and plans the bank robberies which the other mug has to execute. They make their music on Otho (KVITNU 46) using analog synths, drum machines, and “computer hard drives with pickups”, the latter suggestive of some sort of digital input to the overall production.

I’m sure there’s plenty more threatening and aggressive music being made in the name of Dark Techno or Black Reverbo-Feedback just now, but what I enjoy about the five tracks on Otho is the relentless hammering of pulses and beats, which are used to drive home a near-blank statement, a reflection on the world that refuses emotional attachment and is pretty much numb and deadened to a very extreme degree. To put it another way, Redukt don’t care about anything or anybody, and are prepared to propel the steamroller of indifference over all the good things in this world, flattening out all the distinctive qualities in the process.

To further advance this thesis, let me point out that all five track titles are simply anagrams of the same four-letter word ‘Otho’ – ‘Ooth’, ‘Tooh’, ‘Otoh’ and so on. I note the care with which they avoid the only permutation that would form an actual word ‘Hoot’. This demonstrates two things: (1) Redukt understand that language is just becoming monsyllabic gibberish these days, as demonstrated by 99% of what passes over people’s mobile phones and texting devices; and (2) they appreciate that everything we say and do is now treated as signs of equal value, in a post-modern world where skills, experience, intelligence and discrimination count for nothing.

I regard this release as a strong metaphor for what is happening in the world today, and suggest that Redukt are skilled at depicting a general emotional crippling of our minds, bodies, and senses. Issued in a very fine die-cut sleeve designed by house artist Zavoloka; the colour part of the artwork is inserted inside a window-mount, effectively. From 3rd October 2016.

The title of this post is a reference to a character who appeared in the adventures of Captain Future, a pulp sci-fi classic from the 1940s.

Planet Echo

Rara
W//\TR
POLAND ZOHARUM ZOHAR 125-2 CD (2016)

Formerly known as Przed Państwem Rara, Poland’s now-truncated Rara are a trio who purvey (apologies in advance) a kind of ambient folktronica (sorry again) that weaves acoustic guitar, percussion and low-key electronic textures into moody dreamscapes – both oneiric and nightmarish – which are well-suited to the gothic whims of the Zoharum label. While their new album, W//\TR, is generally warmer and more emotive than the black metal ambience hinted at by the cover, the 10-minute opener ‘Echo Planety’ leaves us little the wiser. This, the longest of the otherwise intermezzo instrumentals, is a runway taxi of echo pedal-drenched shoegaze guitar with all the glory of the first yawning in millennia of dawn light across a distant moon. It’s a fine scene-setter for the epic theatrics that subsequently emerge from subterranean strata of crisp, ornate finger-picking, bubbling synths and deep, droney undercurrents that add drama to ambivalent chord progressions.

While much of this is to seemingly simple pastoral effect, Rara also know how to throw a ‘country’ shape or two, whether it’s affecting the slow southern drawl and wild west mise en scene of Angels of Light’s no country for old men (‘Gen Planety’) or the more rustic charms of a fair-voiced maiden (one Kuba Ziolek) singing to the night (‘Przynieś To Z Nocy’). All nice enough, though there are unsettling anomalies like the risible electro-goth segue halfway through ‘Pasaźerowie Wiatru’ or the moist male whispers that follow a plangent guitar into the ear canal in ‘Szepty W Głowie Elly Brand’. Mood killers both.

There is ear-balm aplenty however: ambient interludes that provide recovery time, and the more soothing female voice that dovetails with itchy guitar lines, recalling some of Stine Grytøyr’s plaintive contributions to Ulver’s Marriage of Heaven & Hell. In fact, W//\TR shares a good deal of that album’s mannered and musically omnivorous gothicism: primal undercurrents of tethered frustration beneath ornamented structures (and the odd power-chord pyramid), suggestive of a reservoir of archetypal power that gives form to all physical appearances. Some might find W//\TR‘s stylistic shifting a tough swallow, but Rara’s musical blending is an accomplished one, lending W//\TR a sense of fractured identity well-suited to their recent change of name.

Drei, He Said

At first glance, the European trio Bader Motor may appear to be offering us nothing more than a very knowing take on Krautrock records, with their obvious quotes from Kraftwerk and Neu! LPs, and probably other Germanic references too. However, I’ll forgive any project which has Fred Bigot as a member, considering my fondness for his solo records where he mixes electronic noise with rockabilly in a highly enjoyable manner. not to mention the unusual Melt Famas record with its over-amped guitars and drums. Bader Motor are Bigot with Arnaud Maguet and Vincent Epplay – the latter played with Jac Berrocal and David Fenech – and the three have appeared together before on Musique Pour Les Plantes Des Dieux in 2009. This record, Drei drei drei (VEALS & GEEKS VAGO17 / LES DISQUES EN ROTIN REUNIS LDRR #056), not only has the clever Krautrock pastiches assembled by these French wags, but also offers their slightly sardonic version of electropop, disco, and general Euro-murk – the sort of banal aural wallpaper that might blight your continental tour at any point between the airport, the shopping mall and the cafe. This may be what the threesome have in mind when they speak of “a new class of space [rock] and Riviera Krautrock”. Riviera Krautrock?! What does that even mean? I can’t think of anything worse than experimental music recast as another consumer / lifestyle option for the “Riviera set”, those rich buffoons wearing expensive sunglasses and swimsuits, if indeed such a thing even exists any more outside of 1960s travelogue movies, but I’m prepared to believe Bader Motor are up to something vaguely subversive and sarcastic. As it turns out, this LP is an enjoyable listen with its edgy mix of user-friendly beats and melodic drones combined with odd, queasy noises, rough textures, and outpourings of filtered glorp. From 12th August 2016; available as an LP or download.

Bird Song

Gudrun Gut
Vogelmixe
GERMANY RUN UNITED MUSIC RU18 2 x CD (2016)

As part of Heimatlieder aus Deutschland, an initiative funded to shed light on the ethnic and musical diversity of modern-day Germany, producer Gudrun Gut has been commissioned to set up symmetrical, speaker-friendly setlists of eight re-recorded ‘traditional folk’ songs for the magpie-minded Vogelmixe; going on to give each a rhythmic makeover into the bargain. While first impressions suggest this pan-global melange is more vapid-minded cocktail bar than boudoir, Gut’s choices are apparently as informed by history as by personal taste: each of the songs tracing its ancestry as far back as the 15th century to nations to have immigrated to Germany and which can thus be regarded as contributing to the country’s current ethnic identity. Each nation (Turkey, Cameroon, Morocco, Croatia, Cuba, Portugal, Transylvania and Bulgaria) is also represented in the pool of musicians to perform the ‘original’ songs; the streamlined format of which ensures that such ‘confusing diversity’ will in fact prove pleasing to listeners with and without a studied interest in the multi-coloured purview of the much-loved ‘world’ music label.

While this visible striving for authenticity might seem at odds with the remix disc’s aesthetic of electronic beats and textures and melodic extrapolations, it’s just as easy to reflect on the ‘cover tune’ simulacra nature of the pieces themselves. These aren’t preserved in amber, but subject to the prerogative of whomever happens to bring them into the present moment, though by all accounts a good deal of care went into sourcing musicians as part of ‘an extensive research and recruitment process’. The underlying theme of ‘unity’ putatively runs through all songs as expressions of a trans-continental ‘melting pot’, bringing dynamic equilibrium to which must have been a task for the compiler, but who better than the DJ to effect such a transfer?

One further motive of the remix treatment is to address the supposed lack of representation of traditional folk music in modern German electronic music. Qualifications regarding cultural appropriation aside, Gudrun’s remixes are both inventive and light of touch, making adroit use of dub, club and electro-pop motifs. Her poly-stylistic subtlety is not completely removed from that which made Honest Jon’s Shangaan Shake selection such an interesting event, though it does lack that collection’s the producer headcount advantage. Under Gudrun’s watch, generic 4/4 beats collide into thorough deconstructions, tightly-wound Thomas Brinkman-sized samples loop-based rhythms and an almost hymnal resonance that bleeds from the past into the present. While not every piece is likely to please every listener, it is nonetheless a tasteful arrangement that can be enjoyed from many a distance.