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White Noise: November 2011

Wednesday, 30 November 2011

4 Great Albums for Winter: #3 Beach House

Teen Dream


Norway

Walk In The Park

Better Times

Take Care

Teen Dream is perhaps a harder sell than it should be on the list of my all-time favourite albums. It’s not a concept album, it isn’t epic, and while their luxurious sound is very distinctive, it’s not what you’d call utterly unique. In their third release, Beach House simply created a great album with a beautiful sound that is packed with fantastic songs. The justification for raising them above any other great album is that almost two years since its release, I still listen to Beach House all the time, I still love each of these songs very much, and every time I put Teen Dream on it’s an absolute delight to hear. If that doesn't constitute a brilliant album, I don't know what does.

I don’t by any means want my opening paragraph to do Beach House any discredit. The art of crafting ten songs brimming with irresistible melodies and powerful atmosphere is no less admirable than making a complex and challenging concept album, and Teen Dream is, from start to finish, practically note-perfect. Although I stated earlier that they don’t have an ‘utterly unique’ sound, there is a distinctive warmth and space in their gauzy dream-pop, with dusty drum-machines holding the line under the endlessly complimentary treated guitar riffs and keys of the band’s two members. This is all before the magnificent icing on the cake, Victoria Legrand’s voice. Her vocals, honeyed and deep, forge hypnotic melodic lines through the sunny haze of their instrumentation, and the cryptic soundbites of her lyrics are often impossible to get out of your head.

The heavy and warm atmospherics of each track lend the album cohesion, and the songs have other key structural similarities. Not content with a simple verse-chorus-verse structure with a single melodic line, melodies often shift through their tracks, keeping every song remarkably fresh and satisfying with every listen. Take for example stunning lead single Norway, in which a shimmering guitar line coasts over propulsive percussion in the chorus, giving way to sumptuous pitchbent guitars with the verse. Towards the close of the track the listener is rewarded with a glittering plucked melody, before the breathy chorus makes a welcome return. The soundfield is loaded with instrumental detail but the result is a fluid whole, you can take in and enjoy everything without having to dissect it. To say Beach House’s music is satisfying is really how it feels as the listener, with each verse, chorus, melody or beat the duo seem to give the listener exactly what they want while always remaining surprising, which makes listening through the album an immensely enjoyable experience.

There really is so much to love here. Silver Soul is a woozy gem showcasing all the best elements of the Beach House sound, which is much cleaner and tighter on Teen Dream than on their previous two albums without losing any of its warmth or charm. There is a slight gauzy sheen over their sound which distances the music from the listener, such as in the heavy and melodic Walk In The Park, but it actually works to their advantage, driving home the quietly complex emotions that the pair are trying to get across. Elsewhere Better Times is an utterly hypnotic tune showing off Legrand’s elastic vocal talents to great effect, swooping between hoarse highs and deep lows before the vocal line changes completely halfway through to a faster clip. Hear at the end how a driving guitar riff appears for only twenty seconds or so, courted perfectly by her voice. This is exactly what Beach House do best; they lull the listener into their sound with enthralling and fluid instrumentation, and with every considered note and complimentary melodic line they succeed magnificently, drawing you into their dusty, honeyed world.

Teen Dream is a deeply atmospheric album at its heart, and perhaps its greatest success is that it layers itself fluidly on existing moods and situations rather than dictating that the mood be a certain way, leaving you to draw your own associations with these magical sounds; whether they be with a person, a warm night at home or a walk out in the snow. Aside from the atmosphere, the other clear triumph here is just how great every single song here is; I’ve practically finished my review and haven’t even mentioned my two favourites. One is the shimmering rush of 10 Mile Stereo, with some of Legrand’s best lyrics coupled with a song that bursts exuberantly to life a couple of minutes in so smoothly you may not even notice that every aspect of the music has changed since the opening.

It’s a great collection, but for me the best song on Teen Dream will always be the last, Take Care. In a lot of ways it is one of the simplest songs on the album, with a recognisable inevitability to the plodding bass and the fuzzy melodies, allowing Legrand’s voice to do all the work here. Her long closing refrain ‘I’ll take care of you / that is true’ is one of the most sincerely felt and moving lines on any of these tracks, and the melancholy longing proves a perfect album closer.

Throughout the album Beach House evoke deep feelings of melancholy and nostalgia with their broad, hazy musical strokes, and the combination of a winning sound and careful composition produces stunning results on track after track. Teen Dream is a confident and deeply rewarding album that will fit in perfectly with any part of your life you choose to share with it, and it will stay with you long past the winter months.
9/10


4 Great albums for winter:

#2 - The Antlers
#3 - Beach House
#4 - Joanna Newsom

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Monday, 28 November 2011

Kingdom – Dreama EP



Let You No

Stalker Ha

Hood By Air Theme

With the territory between RnB and Bass becoming ever narrower and more crowded, it’s becoming more and more difficult to pick out the shining stars of the genre. Leave it then to Brooklyn-based Kingdom, who’s been doing this sort of thing since way before it was fashionable, to offer the genre an inventive kick-start, in the form of a grime-infused Bass EP that might just be a hint of big things to come. Having worked closely with the always excellent Night Slugs lot in bringing about the wonkier side of UK dance in the last couple of years, Kingdom’s Dreama is a tight and exciting collection of slick productions, and a welcome return for the producer.

The set of four tracks kicks off with the magnificent Let You No, where a squiggly grime synthline charts an intoxicating course over clean percussive snaps and sighs. It’s a standout club hit, made all the better by the soft RnB sampling that breathes sultry vibes into the second half of the tune. RnB sampling isn’t exactly rare at the moment, but Kingdom’s exquisite vocal chopping shows that in the hands of a skilled producer with genuine affection for the genre it can still sound fresh. Second cut Stalker Ha is the other real dance cut on the EP, and it’s just as great. Kingdom takes a clear stab at vogue-house using the ubiquitous Men At Work ‘ha’ sample, spacing the sound across a taut grimey instrumental with hollow bass throbs, paranoid mechanical grinding and choppy wordless vocals. Despite the darker effects used here, Kingdom never strays too far from his core sound, and keeps everything polished and slick.

The second half of the EP contains a couple of more chilled out cuts, but neither sacrifice any of Kingdom’s distinctive style or charm. Title track Dreama is a spacious tune where a similar squiggly synth meanders above textured percussion and vocal snippets. The track feels pleasantly laid back, but still gives the dedicated listener a fair amount to grapple with. If the first three tracks on the EP were undeniably great, it has to be said that none of them strike me as particularly surprising. That’s where the curious final track Hood By Air Theme comes in. Kingdom’s take on footwork percussion is interesting, with stop-start stretches of beats interrupted by a big bouncing synth, and he really pulls it off. Most surprising of all is the reverb-drenched choral vocals (sampling Madonna’s Like A Prayer) that emerge towards the end of the song, but yet again Kingdom proves his talent for combining very different sounds to fantastic effect when the vocal line runs perfectly over the existing percussive field.

Here Kingdom has yet again proved why he holds such a well-regarded position in the dance world, managing to create a release that is excitingly innovative whilst still remaining engaging. To cap it off, two of these cuts are fantastic dance tracks, while the skilled production on display here raises the others far above standard EP filler. Kingdom’s releases have always been consistently solid and exciting, and I’m paying him the highest compliment by saying that Dreama is business as usual.

7.5/10

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Sunday, 27 November 2011

Video of the Week: Teeth - Shawty

This week’s video is Teeth’s strange video for his fantastic single from earlier this year, Shawty. It’s a very spare track, with a repeating vocal sample (cropped from Beyonce’s introduction to her Gaga-collab Videophone), creepy rising synths and punchy percussion, and it’s definitely one of my personal picks from all the fantastic singles released this year. Not only does Teeth deserve this accolade, but the clips of 80s romance and make-up commercials are funny and twisted, making a great and unexpected accompaniment to the track.


There’s something very sexy about Beyonce’s vocals echoing out over the barren soundscape, and this is echoed in the visuals of beautiful women from the 80s, all involved in clips about image; whether they are make-up and hair adverts, call girls or just posing for the camera. The resulting combination of the audio and video is more than a little unsettling, but it’s also got a funny side to it, and the clips generally seem to be very well precisely edited into place. It’s not a video which gives you a huge amount to say, but it works brilliantly, and is part of the growing trend of refiguring old (and more often than not quasi-sexual) video clips to new dance tracks, which has aroused quite a lot of controversy in certain circles. More than anything, it’s a great atmospheric accompaniment to a brilliant tune, and on that basis alone Shawty earns its position as Video of the Week.


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Friday, 25 November 2011

4 Great Albums for Winter: #2 The Antlers

Hospice


Kettering

Bear

Two

Epilogue

The Antlers had a lot of press for this year’s Burst Apart (which I personally found disappointing) and their just-out EP, but for me their debut was really something special. An indie-rock concept album charting the narrative of an abusive relationship with a woman dying of bone cancer, it’s one of the few albums that can justifiably be called tragic, and it also serves as a definitive soundtrack to the cold, white, wintry days.

Hospice is an emotional heavy-hitter, and every aspect of the album is tailor-made to make you feel as the narrator does. And although frontman Peter Silberman’s beautiful lyrics, transmitted in a quiet falsetto, are where the album most clearly shines; the instrumentation here does just as much to evoke the suffocation and deep sadness of the story. On Hospice, The Antlers perfected a gauzy hospital sound, as can be heard in the muffled and ghostly instrumental Prologue. Throughout they alternate between hazy, melancholy synth-work, simple guitar melodies and evocative instrumentals to reinforce the emotional weight of each stage of the narrative. Quietly stunning second track Kettering starts things off slowly, establishing the abrasive female lover, ‘you said you hated my tone / made you feel so alone / and you told me I ought to be leaving’ and her death sentence given by the doctor, which overshadows the rest of the album. It sets up a grand emotional arc with rare ambition, and it’s to The Antlers’ extreme delicacy and skill crafting the LP that the lofty heights they reach for aren’t out of their grasp.

The album’s skilled musicianship and snatches of beautiful lyrics are easy to appreciate, but Hospice is an album where every listen makes you fall harder for these songs. The dedicated listener can follow the story through from beginning to end, choosing to pay close attention to lyrics which really do stand up to scrutiny. Every track here feels like a necessary part of the concept, but there are still some that sparkle slightly more than others.  Coming straight after Kettering, the angry Sylvia shows the narrator’s intense frustration with his lover’s sensibility and situation, along with his converse acknowledgement that she can’t be any other way, and that he will look after her regardless; ‘let me take your temperature / you can throw the thermometer right back at me, if that’s what you wanna do okay’. It’s a complex and beautiful sentiment, and is expressed perfectly through the crashing chorus and the knife-edge tense verse instrumentation, with a thin line of discordant static making sure you never quite feel comfortable.

Midway through the album another stunner emerges, flashback episode Bear which reflects on an abortion the couple had in the past. The children’s lullaby tune that threads its way through the track is a fantastic accompaniment to the confused and deluded lovers; ‘we’re not scared of making caves/ or finding food for him to eat / we’re terrified of each other and terrified of what that means’. The lyrics also show the woman’s tendency to freeze out the narrator, ‘we’ll make only quick decisions / and you’ll just keep me in the waiting room’, using smart references and tiny details to flesh out the two central characters magnificently into living, breathing people whose tragedy the listener feels so acutely. The symbolic final image, ‘you sit in front of snowy television / suitcase on the floor’ is a poetic flourish showing just what a keen grasp Silberman has over the language he uses, putting his words to staggering emotional effect over and over again.

With the jangly acoustic single Two the narrator finally realises and accepts the prospect of her death, and it’s a dense lyrical affair with a deeply saddening chorus that goes some way to explaining the woman’s violent temperament. The lilting and absorbing follower, Shiva, deals with her death. The elegant image of the narrator transforming into his dying lover adds a heavy poignancy to the scene, as well as expressing perfectly his love which is unmarred by her difficult attitude, a curious conflict between wanting to be in her place and not wanting to be dragged down with her. His mourning is examined in majestic penultimate track Wake, the process of slowly opening up to your own grief and allowing others to help. It’s a quiet piece and contains some of the album’s most beautiful and poetic lyrics, such as the expression of him rejecting the help of his friends; ‘when your helicopter came and tried to lift me out / I put its rope around my neck’. It ends with what is essentially the only uplifting moment on the album, with powerful percussion driving forward his proclamation, which after the intense experience of the album comes across as a universal truth, ‘don’t ever let anyone tell you you deserve that’.

Silberman’s unique talent at turning a deeply personal story into a universally empathetic album is nothing short of staggering time and again, and I have nowhere near enough room to go into its depths, for example the interesting recurring theme of the female character creating her own fictions and narratives, somewhere between wakefulness and sleep. The barrier between the two states is explored in the unbearably beautiful closer, Epilogue, where the reality of his conflicted memories of his departed love are just as painful as his nightmares about her. The album is closed with two surprises, both lyrically and musically. Lyrically Silberman hints at a welcome memory in penultimate line ‘but you return to me at night just when I think I might have fallen asleep’ but then undermines the image and emphasises the endless conflict in his feelings towards her, even after death, with closing lyrics ‘your face is up against mine and I’m too terrified to speak’. Musically, the guitar drops away to a single fuzzy synth-line, effectively distilling the emotional weight of a lifetime into a single melodic line. It’s a perfect end to a near-perfect album, a release that deserves to be heard time and time again because its depths are so rewarding, and that has earned my undying appreciation for an emotional maturity, precision, and weight practically unheard in today’s Indie Rock scene.

9.5/10

4 Great albums for winter:
#2 - The Antlers
#3 - Beach House
#4 - Joanna Newsom

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Wednesday, 23 November 2011

Sepalcure – Sepalcure



Pencil Pimp

See Me Feel Me

Breezin

Sepalcure’s two members, Travis Stewart and Praveen Sharma, have had a very successful year. Under his Machinedrum moniker, Stewart released one of the summer’s best LPs in the form of the footwork-referencing Room(s), whilst Sharma’s second release of the year as Braille, A Meaning EP was one of the most solid and satisfying dance EPs I’ve heard of late. Added to this, as Sepalcure the pair released the Fleur EP early this year, fusing their respective Bass and House styles to craft a lush sound that really stood out from the crowd.

The prolific pair are on such a roll this year that it was with heavy anticipation that I listened to their debut LP for the first time, expecting great things from two who have already offered so much. After spending some time with the album, I wouldn’t say I was massively disappointed, but my (admittedly stratospherically high) expectations weren’t met either. The Sepalcure LP showcases some of the duo’s best work to date, but it also contains a surprising amount of tracks which don’t quite seem up to scratch, either weighed down by too many heavy textures or curiously directionless and indistinct.
I don’t mean to say this is a bad album, because the LP has an awful lot going for it. The songs are generally tight and well-produced, continuing the distinctive Sepalcure approach of adding a textural lushness and warmth to the all-too-often cold world of contemporary Bass and House albums. Added to this, some of these tracks are absolutely brilliant. Lead single Pencil Pimp is a stunning bass construction, running an intoxicating earworm of a vocal sample over propulsive percussion and a gorgeous mesh of synths that swoop around the soundfield. It also contains the little elements that made Sepalcure’s early work so special; low-key vocal samples, clicks and organic noises that bring the central sounds to life, making the song feel vibrant and warm rather than a collection of generic layers.

Sepalcure offer some other gems spread out through the LP. The Who sampling See Me Feel Me is a dusty, low-key affair, tapping into some sultry RnB vibes with a real attention to space in the track. It also serves as a reminder that Sepalcure can do great things with a few well-tuned textures, and might leave you questioning why so many tracks on the album are so crammed full of different sounds. Another tune here that demands attention is the beautiful and beatless closer Outside, which somewhat recalls the similarly ambient closing track of Room(s). It’s a desolate piece with great ambient sounds and lost voices, and is the clearest example of Sepalcure really stepping outside of their comfort zone here; a brave move that really pays off. Unfortunately, this is essentially the only point in the album the pair really try something new.

That’s not to say there are no new sounds here. There are quite a few tracks here incorporating less treated synths, bitcrushed effects and dubstep wobbles. However, it doesn’t really tend to pay off in these tracks. In The One, the synths sound clumsily implemented and a little on the nose, far from Sepalcure’s usual subtle and detailed style. The same could be said of later cut Hold On, in which a distressingly simple synth-line overlays fairly generic percussion and vocals. The only point they really nail this style is on Breezin, where a complimentary synthline and bass wobble underpin call-and-reply vocal samples to great effect, before the track breaks down magnificently into a more richly textured percussive field with another fantastic vocal line. It’s a formidable track, just as sleek and rewarding as their previous experimentation with these synths on Fleur’s No Think, and it’s a shame it’s the only point where they really get this sound right.

That covers most of what I have to say about this album, because unfortunately the rest of the tracks are rather unnecessary and indistinct. Whereas each gem on their EPs could be absorbed with ease, the long-play format means that the weaker songs get seriously lost here, and songs like Eternally Yrs and Yuh Nuh See are weighed down by heavy textures and a lack of variation, sounding like less exciting versions of other great tracks on the album. This is especially galling on a song like Carrot Man, where the potential is clear from the genuinely fantastic vocal and guitar samples laced through the track which just become loss in a directionless bed of messy-sounding synths and percussion.

There are clearly some fantastic tracks on this LP, but even those don’t add anything hugely to the existing (and brilliant) Sepalcure canon thus far. Few changes are made to their sound and the heaping on of heavier layers means these tracks are also far from a refinement of their style. While little here is inherently bad, with expectations running so high from their previous output this LP really does feel like a disappointment, and after spending a long time with the album it’s hard to know what it gives you that you couldn’t get in a more interesting and stylish fashion in their earlier EPs.

6.5/10

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Monday, 21 November 2011

4 Great Albums for Winter: #1 Spiritualized


Ladies and Gentlemen We Are Floating In Space



Ladies and Gentlemen We Are Floating In Space

I Think I'm In Love

Broken Heart

Cool Waves

Ladies and Gentlemen isn’t just an album, it’s an odyssey. Anyone who has spent a lot of time with Spiritualized’s greatest release will understand what a mammoth undertaking it is to take these songs apart and discuss them. It’s a profoundly moving album showing consistently excellent musicianship across the board, and describes a tight narrative arc across its twelve songs. The main theme here is addiction and loss, in relation to both love and drugs. As a result, the album is a series of wired highs and crushing lows, interpretable either as the peaks and troughs of an intensely passionate romance or the transcendent highs and desperate comedowns of a heroin addict’s life. The whole piece could be seen as a masterful expansion of the musical and lyrical ideas displayed in The Velvet Underground’s seminal Heroin, of a near-powerless and desperately delusional man trying to grapple with forces far stronger than himself, the intensity of his love and the complicated relationship with his drug of choice. Adding to this the real-life story of frontman (and open ex-addict) Jason Pierce losing his girlfriend Kate Radley to The Verve’s Richard Ashcroft in a secret wedding, Radley’s role on the keys and her iconic opening vocal sample seem all the realer, more painful, and more human.

The varied musical styles across the album are enough to make anyone fall in love, with Jason Pierce commanding a full band and even a gospel choir to chart countless corners of the rock spectrum, from Come Together’s thrashing hard rock to the heart-wrenching classical-tinged ballad Broken Heart. Along the way he encounters genres such as blues and jazz, and uses the classic ‘freak-out’ in songs like All of My Thoughts and Cop Shoot Cop... to depict the mad, out-of-control highs and contrast them with more the more considered instrumentation representing normal life. The music in these songs tells just as much of the story as the raw and affecting lyrics; take for example Home of the Brave, the complex self-pitying comedown after Electricity’s crazy high where confessional lyrics like open wounds and a pathetic yet hopeful vocal refrain are slowly choked by a wash of raw instrumental noise, rising unstoppably into the next drug-fuelled peak of the album. Elsewhere look to the superb swung lullaby Stay With Me, where a blissed-out Pierce intones ‘I love the way you’re mine’ and the gentle guitars cocoon the listeners with Pierce in his bubble of denial aand delusion.

The music keeps the album endlessly exciting and innovative, and there is far more to say than I could possibly write in a single article, but it is still in the lyrical content that Pierce packs his heavier emotional punches. Unlike a number of other writers on this list who appeal to the listener through complex poetry and imagery, Pierce goes straight for the jugular, relying on the rawness of his words and the undying sincerity of his vocal style to appeal to the listener’s emotions. And god, does it work. It’s completely impossible to comment on all the amazing ways Pierce uses his words to really make the listener feel with an uncommon intensity, but I can certainly try and pick out a few favourite moments. He is a master of creating simple phrases that will stay with you long after the song has finished, such as the beautiful line that repeats all the way through the title track, ‘all I want in life’s a little bit of love to take the pain away’. In other places he shows himself near-poetic in his style, such as the schizophrenic call-and-reply in the second half of the drugged-up and jazzy I Think I’m In Love. For nearly two minutes he calls out his most optimistic feelings and thoughts and rapidly undermines each one in quick, cutting phrases; ‘I think I can fly / probably just falling / think i’m the life and soul / probably just snorting...think i’m alive / probably just breathing / think you stole my heart now, baby / probably just thieving’. It’s a masterful lyrical section that affects the listener both through its concise and pointed form and through the tragic truths of his situation.

When Pierce really wants to break the listener down, he does it with beguiling simplicity. A few of the tracks here are enough to make anyone cry, as in the hopeless monotone of comedown anthem Home of the Brave; ‘sometimes have my breakfast right off of the mirror / and sometimes I have it right out of a bottle...I’m gonna rip it off / tear it out / got to get it off of my soul’. The saddest song in the collection is also the very lowest point of Pierce’s intense emotional journey, where all the guitars and jazzy instruments drop away for the pure strings and organ-keys of the tragic Broken Heart. In this suffocatingly atmospheric ballad, Pierce contemplates the impossibility of action in his heartbroken state; ‘I have a broken heart / I’m too busy to be heartbroken / Lord I have a broken heart’. It’s deceptively simple but these vocals will pierce straight through to the heart of any but the coldest of listeners, resulting in a song of uncommon power.

This is an album where each track deserves to be given a huge amount of time, because each in their own way adds brilliantly to the story that Ladies and Gentlemen tells. And though every listener will have their favourites, for me the penultimate song Cool Waves is the best of all. Pierce again employs the sweetest and simplest lyrics in this love song about letting go; “Baby when you gotta sleep, lay your head down low / don’t let the world lay heavy on your soul / ‘cuz when you gotta sleep, you gotta sleep”. Each verse is beautiful and direct, and the transcendent chorus is a sad testament to a love that can never be, and the nobility of the lover who knows when to let go; “Babe you know you gotta be, and let your light shine through / and let your light shine through / and don’t let anybody tell you what to do / ‘cuz babe you gotta be, you gotta be”.

This wonderful track leads into the complex closing epic Cop Shoot Cop... which ends the album on a very ambiguous note, combining wry lyricism (“hey ma, there’s a hole in my arm where all the money goes / Jesus Christ died for nothing, I suppose”) with large-scale freak-outs reminding us of the hits and comedowns we’ve experience across the album.  It’s a perfect ending to a perfect album, and there’s not really alot more to be said. If you haven’t heard this masterpiece, I recommend you go out and get it immediately. If you have heard it, then you probably love it, and I suggest now’s as good a time as any to dive back in.
10/10


4 Great albums for winter:
Intro
#1 - Spiritualized
#2 - The Antlers
#3 - Beach House
#4 - Joanna Newsom

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4 Great Albums for Winter: Intro

Since I did my big summer playlists and features about 6 months ago, I’ve been waiting for an opportune moment to write something more personal again. Although this blog focuses entirely on Electronic and Dance music, just a few years ago terms like House, Bass and Dubstep didn’t really mean anything to me. My introduction to the world of music came in the form of 90s and 2000s Indie and Alternative albums, a world which I’ve all but had to leave behind to keep up with the bafflingly vast and ever-changing Dance scene. As a result there’s not a lot of new acoustic music in my life, because when you listen to Electronic stuff all day, searching for new takes on existing styles and re-interpretations of dance tropes it becomes harder to fall in love with a set-up which is almost always a guitar, a vocalist, a bassist and a drummer. This difficulty doesn’t quite come into play with old classics from more than 20 years ago or more experimental, far-flung acoustic projects, but it certainly makes it harder to welcome every new Indie or Alternative band like you’ve never heard anything like them before.

At the same time, it is undeniable that these bands hold a power that only the greatest Electronic producers can achieve; the power to move easily through expressive lyrics and the humanity of their musicianship, which is all too often lost in laptop production. Don’t get me wrong, some laptop-produced albums are among the most powerful and transportative in my collection, but the ones that really make you feel, in your stomach and your heart rather than your head, tend to be releases where a computer wasn’t even introduced until the mixing stage.

This all coincides rather conveniently with the encroaching winter season, where a bit of humanity and warmth is just what is required from your daily listening. By no means am I talking about happy music, but that analogue richness that organic instruments naturally produce that only the best laptop producers can re-create with any real fidelity. So for my winter feature I’d like to briefly discuss some of my favourite acoustic albums for the season, because although I’m not still moving with the times on the Pitchfork front, I can’t stop loving my old favourites from the last few years or so. If you’re an Electro-head then maybe take a rest to give one of these albums a listen, and if you’re a fan of Indie or Alternative music then you’ll probably already know them, but maybe give them another spin, for winter’s sake.

And just in case you’re interested, if I took Electronic releases out of the equation, all four of these albums would place in my top ten of all time.

PS – I’d probably have included The National on here too if I hadn’t covered them in an extensive feature over the summer.

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Sunday, 20 November 2011

Video of the Week: Shlohmo – Couch (Soosh remix)

It’s the second entry for Shlohmo into the video of the week, but his image-rich sounds just seem to inspire some great visual pieces. This time it’s a new official video for Soosh’s remix of Couch on the upcoming re-release of the Shlo-Fi EP.


This is a minimal film for a relatively minimal song. The camera pans incredibly slowly over the prone body of a girl in a mask, and the monochrome suits the ghostly tune to a tee. What really impresses about this video is the accumulation of minute visual effects in line with every subtle shift in the instrumentation, a swelling at the deep bass resonance, a sideways stretch on the bassline and horizontal lines blurring the image on the ethereal rising synthline. As the effects accumulate they begin to warp the image in a recognisable looped pattern, but the effects are always subtle enough to impact quietly rather than to take over the whole video. It closes with the girl’s eyes closing as if to sleep, ending a remarkably understated but undeniably beautiful video.


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Friday, 18 November 2011

Salva – Yellobone EP



Yellobone

Obsession (Feat B. Bravo)

Komodo

2011 been a great year for Salva, with a slew of major releases including an LP, the rising star of his own label, Frite Nite (who released the excellent Surreal Estate compilation last month) and even a recent admittance into Madrid’s Red Bull Academy. On this tight and inventive EP, he shows no signs of letting up, with three great new tracks and a couple of remixes that reach far above average.

The EP kicks off with the fantastic title track Yellobone, in which an irresistible bass thump lays the groundwork for an intricate but tight bass number. Salva has always been a fan of big sounds and this is no disappointment, every layer is perfection from the irresistible tribal rhythm to the understated and atmospheric vocal sample. It’s a stunning lead single and really shows of Salva’s winning combination of raw musical muscle and precise sonic details that create such immersing and exhilarating tunes. A similar dance approach leads to the more off-kilter but equally great Komodo, where old-school synths and basslines cascade downwards over choppy vocals and intermittent 808 drum assaults. The pair is a thrilling set of dance tunes that would fit perfectly in any bass set, but Salva’s determined to show he has even more to offer.

On the second original cut, B. Bravo adds his trademark vocoder stylings to the fantastically funky Obsession, and the two artists manage to produce a perfect synthesis of their sounds. The rushing inhale of the bass wash and the tight drum programming is all Salva, but the squiggly G-funk synth-line and irresistible vocal lines (plus a cheeky little Gil Scott-Heron sample) make sure Bravo’s input is more than evident. It’s an immensely enjoyable tune and a very successful collaboration, proving that Salva has skills beyond his great dance tracks. Out of the two remixes of the title track, it’s Shlohmo’s with relative newcomer 2KWTVR that is the real gem. Shlohmo gives the track his distinctive deep bass treatment, ghosting the vocals half-way out with resonant claps and subverting the tribal rhythm into a rushing electronic pace. It’s to the remixers credit that the track is both recognisably a remix and clearly a great tune it its own right, that could easily be enjoyed with or without the original. LOL Boys turn the same song into a straighter club stomp before it descends into a trippy 8-bit deviation to interesting effect.

With a couple of fantastic dance tunes and some indisputably worthwhile funky and beaty deviations, Salva is making a clear statement that he’s a talented producer at the very top of his game. Every track on this release is considered and effective, and it’s a great end to a successful year for Salva. Time will tell whether his future output can be quite so enchanting, but the future looks bright for this multi-talented producer.

8/10

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Wednesday, 16 November 2011

Teebs – Collections 01



Cook, Clean, Pay The Rent

Verbena Tea with Rebekah Raff

Yellow More New

The debut album from Teebs, aka LA-based Mtendere Mandowa, Ardour, was received on release as organic music for the Brainfeeder set. It had all the complex production and hip-hop influences of Flying Lotus and his crowd, but was far more pretty and accessible, incorporating swirling acoustic textures and gentle beats. Unfortunately, Ardour’s density and sheer volume of tracks made it rather impenetrable as an LP, as all the beautifully subtle moments were blurred into each other and forgotten across the length of an album that didn’t quite suit being played all the way through or having singles picked out. On Collections 01, the first in a series of mini-albums Teebs intends to release throughout his career, the tunes are given more space to breathe and there are far fewer of them, resulting in the smooth and engaging listen that Ardour always had the potential to be. On the other hand, with an album like Shlohmo’s stellar debut Bad Vibes cornering the acoustic-electronic divide within the genre this summer, can Teebs’ compositions stand out now they have more stringent competition?

It’s not an entirely easy question to answer, and obviously it will come down to individual tastes as always. The tracks here are more loop-based and relaxing than Shlohmo’s but they also lack the gripping melodies that make every single track stand out. A clear similarity between the two is the extraordinarily lush compositions present throughout, with melodies and beats rarely composing more than half the sound, often giving way to subtle record hiss, distortions and vague swirling synths. Across this suite of tracks Teebs shows a greater variety of tone and mood than on his debut, and some songs here are a pure delight. In Cook, Clean, Pay The Rent gauzy melodies swell and conjure images of a blissed-out domestic life, while follow-up Pretty Polly twins an incredibly textured soundfield with a hazy locked loop and ethereal female vocals. Another clear standout here is Verbena Tea featuring harpist Rebekah Raff, in which Teebs’ loose beats and lush washes are combined beautifully with Raff’s celestial and melodies.

There is certainly a greater sense of space across these tracks than on Ardour, and it’s surely to Teebs’ credit that each one is defiantly pretty and engaging, and it’s an incredibly relaxing collection to listen to as a whole. On the other hand, some of the shorter tracks here feel a little bit insubstantial, such as the directionless interlude Your Favorite Weekday or the pretty but forgettable Jahara. Whilst final cut Yellow More New is one of the most fully realised and engaging of the collection, penultimate Red Curbs Loop sounds like it could actually be a Shlohmo track and the extended version of Ardour’s While You Dooooo is nothing to write home about if you’re already heard the original.

My problem with this release is that I enjoy these songs and think they’re genuinely well made and engaging, but I feel as if they’re perhaps better placed in the background, not really seeming meaty enough to really stick your teeth into. These are pretty songs, but I’m not sure there’s anything particularly memorable on this release, especially with artists like Shlohmo (and to a lesser extent Shigeto) carving out such interesting work from a similar niche that is genuinely gratifying to revisit over long periods of time. After all, longevity is the true parameter that sets a great album apart from a brilliant one; will I still be listening to this a year from now?

But all in all, it’s relatively hard to fault Teebs here. This is a lush and hypnotic collection of tracks that could provide a gorgeous accompaniment to many a lazy afternoon, and this is what Teebs seems to have in mind. Added to this it’s a vast improvement on the overcrowded Ardour, and shows steps forward for him as a producer in terms of range, awareness of space and versatility. After spending some time with this discreet set of songs, it’s hard not to fall prey to their woozy and chilled-out charms, and I think it’s safe to say Teebs will be offering us some equally delightful tunes in the future.

7/10

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Monday, 14 November 2011

Mosca – Wavey EP



Jager

Orange Jack

Wray & Neph

As a producer, London-based Mosca has always valued the groove above all else. Whereas other artists occasionally go off and produce ‘interesting’ or ‘experimental tracks, Mosca’s releases are always aimed squarely at the dancefloor. That is not at all to say that Mosca’s tracks aren’t interesting, but I feel it underlines a confusion that may come about from this, his most recent release. His biggest and brightest release of the year, the monstrous two-headed beast Done Me Wrong / Bax was a set of two brilliant, finely nuanced tracks that could be listened to at home, but were clearly purpose-built for mixing. His more recent (and free) 5000 Followers EP showed a pair of two super-slow and intensely groovy tunes but was still clearly crafted with the same goal. So when Mosca released the Wavey EP on Martyn’s oh-so-hot 3024 label, I just didn’t understand comments like ‘boring’ or ‘this doesn’t go anywhere’ – these are dance tracks, made for mixing, and while they don’t break any moulds the tracks here are fantastically solid club tunes,  and to that effect Mosca has achieved his goal in spectacular fashion.

This collection references techno more heavily than any of Mosca’s recent productions, eschewing big drops for tight layering and slow, throbbing builds. The short collection of four songs also shows that Mosca really has his finger on the pulse of today’s dance scene; everything is slowing down, and a lot of producers are getting more tech-y at the moment (see the latest releases of SCB, Pariah, Karenn). That said, these are by no means standard techno tunes, and the 4/4 beats belie some of the most swung and groovy compositions that Mosca has released to date. Furthermore, to say these are tech-y doesn't imply that they are fuzzy like the tracks linked above; on the contrary the production quality here is outstanding, with unbelievably clear highs and lows throughout. He kicks off the alcohol-themed selection of tracks with Dom Perignon, which takes no time to settle into a light thumper with warm bass stabs. The core of the tune changes little throughout its course, but the base elements are strong enough to make this a great dancefloor track. Added to this, Mosca heaps on the details with a great recurring vocal sample rendered down to a percussive snatch, as well as mechanical hisses and rips of static that keep the layers interesting. It’s a tight and concise tune that does exactly what it should do, and there’s no faulting that.

Second cut Orange Jack is a much darker affair, and all the better for it. A dusty 4/4 lays the foundations for vibrant synths that penetrate the dusky atmosphere, created with textured percussion, a great vocal loop and the occasional interruption of what sounds like the door in a prison being opened. It’s another really strong track, and would fit perfectly in a dark, eyes-down mix.  Jager plumbs these dark sounds even more deeply, with Mosca replacing the brighter synth stabs of the first two tracks with a sawing percussive noise that dominates the tune to exquisite the effect. The aggressive vocal breakdowns work better than the Wu-Tang sampling close of The Way We Were, and although there isn’t a great deal of forward motion on display here, this is perhaps the best dance cut of the lot and is another display of just how tight and concentrated Mosca’s great production can be.

That’ll be it if you buy the EP physically, but there’s a very welcome surprise in the digi-EP in the form of exclusive closer Wray & Neph which does things a little differently. This cut is more in tune with today’s bass scene than anything else, and could almost fit in as a B-side to this year’s Done Me Wrong release. A building synth line introduces the tune with great momentum, and when the perfect snares start to mingle with a dubstep-referencing bass wobble this track is really a joy to behold. Mosca keeps the pace up with perfectly-pitched miniature breakdowns, building up in seconds only for the core track to pound back into place. It’s a great touch and when the intro’s rising synths recur it wouldn’t be far-fetched to call this the standout tune of the EP.

This release doesn’t break any boundaries, but as far as I can see that’s never really what Mosca’s been about. This is a selection of unbelievably tight and controlled tunes from a producer at the very top of his game, and a must-have in every DJs collection.

8.5/10

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Sunday, 13 November 2011

Video of the week: Balam Acab – Apart


Anyone who regularly follows this blog will know how much I love Balam Acab, and in fact I still regard Wander / Wonder as my album of the year to date. Although the LP was a highly emotionally interpretable and sonically lush collection, to date this is the only fan-made video I’ve found that really does his sound justice.


This video for Apart tells a very simple story; that of breaking through a barrier and in doing so, gaining the possibility at fulfilling an unrequited love. Simple it may be, but it’s really in the craftsmanship and detail of this piece that the video excels. A beautiful stop-motion with a muted palette and gorgeous natural images, the video introduces itself by delving into a single drop of water just as the song proper begins, implying the presence of beautiful secret worlds that exist unseen in every hidden corner and unobserved facet of the natural world. A flower grows in a single droplet and rises up, a delicate and beautiful skater who dances elegantly inside her frozen world. A dandelion seed enters the magical world and is transformed, as she was, into the lover, as another part of nature come to life. Just as he sees her and the music slows, a wall of ice is constructed between the two and he laments his love, railing powerfully against his fate. His sense of loss is so strong that it produces a physical effect and breaks down the wall to enter hopefully into her world, cheering not at the achievement of his love, but at the possibility now offered to him. Throughout the music compliments both the visual action and style superbly, and the video stands as a beautiful and nuanced love letter to the secret worlds that exist in nature and our imagination, just as Wander / Wonder does across its course. 

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Friday, 11 November 2011

Brenmar – Let’s Pretend EP


Let's Pretend

Temperature Rising

Done (Don't Luv Me No More)

Brooklyn-based producer Bill Salas has certainly had a very busy year; with two EPs, a good few sleek mixes and his own touring schedule to grapple with, he’s managed impressively to embrace the producer’s life. However, good time management and a prolific approach to releases does not a great artist make. In the increasingly crowded scene fusing Bass and Juke with a more-than-healthy amount of RnB, can Salas truly stand out from his peers? On the basis of these three tracks (and a clubby remix), I’d say the answer is a definitive yes.

His release earlier this year on Sinden’s Grizzly label, Let Me Make (Tasting) was a densely layered selection of club hits, and here he’s taken a cooler approach, giving his rhythms and samples more room to breathe. It’s a great move, because Salas clearly knows his way around his production kit and the added space in these tunes really works to his benefit. The Chris Brown-sampling title track combines bouncing bass and pained RnB vocals, with a choice synthline introduced a couple of minutes in to great effect. It’s a nice tune but honestly in today’s bass scene it doesn’t really sound particularly special. Fortunately, the same can’t be said at all for Brenmar’s two other productions on the EP, which easily rank among the best of his work and are a pure pleasure to listen to.

The aptly-titled second cut Temperature Rising announces itself with a restrained bassline and synth stabs, before bursting into a brilliant and propulsive bass number. For me, the thing Brenmar does best and most distinctively throughout this EP is his excellent vocal sampling, often leaving entire phrases to run before echoing offstage, or looping the start of a phrase before letting it play out. Both techniques are used here to fantastic effect, and this track could be perfectly placed in any bass/RnB flavoured mix. It’s also insanely sexed-up, for anyone who’s interested, from the sultry breakdown to the lyrics themselves (“spread yourself all over the bed ... you should feel my nature too”). This track alone would be enough, but Brenmar manages to step it up another notch for his final piece, Done (Don’t Luv Me No More)¸which is easily the standout track of the EP. Here stomping bass, synth stabs and condensed finger clicks combine into a dark banger, with RnB samples chopped into jukey snatches to absolutely stunning effect. The track mutates every so often, the percussion and sub-bass slowly becoming more and more prominent until it all comes together beautifully for the close. MikeQ takes over remix duties on Done, straightening it out with a solid beat and more concrete rhythms. The outcome is definitely a nice listen, but it’s hardly essential.

This EP is surely the best thing Brenmar’s put out to date, and the two latter tracks are easily some of the nicest in their field I’ve heard this month. The bass scene is becoming rather overpopulated, yes, but when the talent is this fantastic it’s hard to care.

8/10

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Wednesday, 9 November 2011

October Dance Roundup

We’re now entering the dark depths of winter, and so what kind of blogger would I be if I didn’t try my hardest to supply you all with tunes to keep you dancing through those cold nights? I’ve collected together twenty one of my favourite dance tunes from the last month or so, downloadable as a playlist from mediafire here, so let’s get going.



Classixx - Into the Valley feat. Karl Dixon (Julio Bashmore Remix)

First off is a clear contender for track of the year in Julio Bashmore’s euphoric remix of Classixx’s Into The Valley, running classic Chicago house stylings through a thoroughly modern filter with everything you could possibly want from a dancefloor stunner; ecstatic keys, emotive vocals, and one of the most irresistible grooves around.

Maurice Donovan - Call My Name

Keeping up the retro feel is Maurice Donovan’s (aka Ramadanman / Pearson Sound) throwback cut Call My Name, in which a cloying vocal line is stretched around a straight and bouncy house track that has all the right elements in all the right places.

Coat of Arms - Is This Something

Coat Of Arms’ low-key release Is This Something is probably my most played track of the month, a gorgeous piece of bouncy bass with a Faith Evans sample twisted almost beyond recognition that can pretty much be mixed with anything to sound brilliant.

Mercury - You Lift Me Up

Still holding onto those upbeat vibes we have Mercury’s September release You Lift Me Up, where diva-licious vocals are styled and chopped with classic garage trimmings and some gorgeous bassy synth-work. This is an absolute banger.

Visions of Trees – Novocaine (Melé Vocal Mix)

Next is a lovely vocal mix of Visions of Trees’ endlessly surprising Novocaine, where a great vocal line is twinned with stomping bass in a track full of great micro-edits and details in order to keep it well-paced and engaging right the way to the close.

A1 Bassline - Falsehood

A1 Bassline’s releases have been fire recently, and the recent Buoyancy / Falsehood is no exception. The A-side’s bassy glory is well worth a listen, but for me this darker B-side stole the show. Here great percussion vies for attention with choppy footwork vocals, before dropping into one of the best builds I’ve heard all year.

DJ Godfather – Make That M.F.

Moving on to other genres, this piece of dirty ghetto techno has had me moving all month long. Joining the ranks of the likes of DJ Assault, DJ Sluggo and Maurice Joshua, here Percolator-style bounces supplement knife-sharp handclaps under that commanding vocal line.

Boddika – Acid Battery

One of the more remarkable tracks on Scuba’s excellent DJ Kicks this month, Boddika’s cold new acid take relies on treated synths, skittering percussion and paranoid searing synths to fantastic effect.

Distal – Mamanimal

I kind of put this track in because I’m still unsure whether I like it or not, but it’s definitely worth a listen. Clipped from this month’s Frite Nite Surreal Estate collection, this mutating track settles from a stuttering bass number with precise and textured percussion into an uneasy synthline, before abandoning all of this completely for two minutes of an epic synth build and powerful beats. Has to be heard to be believed.

Brenmar – Temperature Rising

First pick of this month’s bassier numbers goes to Brenmar’s gorgeous and sexy release from his newest Let’s Pretend EP. A fantastic vocal line glides smoothly over light percussion and deep bass stabs, while a constantly shifting synth-field always keeps the song firing at all cylinders. This is one not to miss.

Jack Dixon – Clear

Another gorgeous cut from up and coming Jack Dixon, this is a light and airy cut with distinctive bass stylings. A nice vocal line echoes off into a warm and bouncy track that has the real potential to get dancefloors moving.

Sepalcure – I’m Alright

Coming out as the B-side to their forthcoming single Pencil Pimp from the NY duo’s self-titled debut out this month, this is a great sign of what’s to come. Really laid back, the vocals court light synth-work showing Sepalcure’s trademark skill and bass know-how.

Jack Dixon – Coconuts (Disclosure Remix)

Another Jack Dixon cut, this time remixed by White Noise favourite Disclosure, this has had a lot of playtime on my laptop in the last few weeks. Disclosure take Dixon’s slow and sexy tune and draw those vocals and beats out as far as they will go, crafting a fantastic tune in its own right.

Arkist – 23 Summers
(Not on youtube but included in the download)

The always on-point Arkist crafts a sinuous groove across bouncing synths and vocals that are just out of earshot, showing his consistent ability to put a warm and funky twist and contemporary dance music.

Addison Groove – An We Drop

Another track culled from Scuba’s DJ Kicks release, this is quite a restrained cut for the normally intense producer, but it’s recognisably Addison Groove in the acid-house stabs that rule the latter half of this great tune.

Gugu – Rollin

Following this year’s Afro-Cuban EP with a release on DVA’s recent Some Things Never Strange EP, Gugu stole the show for me with Rollin. Deceptively simple, the bounciest of basslines rules under sharp beats and a great vocal loop.

Kahn – Tehran

The B-side to Kahn’s last Illy single, Tehran sounds totally unique, with distinctive Eastern trappings running over the top of a pulsing dance tune. Definitely one of the best tunes of the month.

Najem Sworb – Severance
(Not on youtube but included in the download)

French producer Najem Sworb’s last single was one of the best I’ve heard in a long while, and this A side more than proves why. Through what is essentially techno he creates a busy and rich soundfield, layering mutating synthlines over a head-bobbing beat and irregular percussion.

Floating Points – Danger

Floating Points’ last experimental 7” won’t be to everyone’s tastes, but it certainly held my attention. This is micro-dance at its smallest, beats sounding like rips in the musical fabric interrupted by a tiny swirling synthline that makes for quite a cerebral listen. You might find it hard to fit this into a mix, but its definitely worth a listen.

Mosca – The Way We Were

The first track from Mosca’s free 5000 Followers EP (released to celebrate a Twitter landmark), this is a track of unusual quality for a free release. The word here is groovy, and Mosca ties soothing vocals over warm keys and tops it all off with a Wu-Tang skit. What more could you ask for?

Nicolas Jaar – Don’t Break My Love

Fresh off the press, Jaar’s free EP (available to download as of this week) shows Jaar is still on form, and he’s looking in more interesting directions than ever with his sound. What is largely an experimental percussion piece unfolds at its own hypnotic pace, with organic sounds complimenting each other gorgeously. It all finishes with an intoxicating loop that you’ll wish went on for much longer.

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Monday, 7 November 2011

Kuedo – Severant



Scissors

Truth Flood

Memory Rain

As one half of Vex’d, Jamie Teasdale (Kuedo) with his partner Roly Porter created some of the most aggressive sounds of the early 2000s, and their legacy has lived on in the changed dubstep scene they left in their wake. For any Vex’d fans, the most surprising thing about this album is its lightness; Teasdale stated that he was more of the ‘engineer’ in Vex’d rather than the ideas man, and if this is him stepping into the limelight it’s an incredibly welcome discovery. In Severant he has crafted not only something extraordinarily confident and beautiful, but one of the most unique electronic albums of the year.

The majority of Severant focuses around the merging of two distinct flavours; vintage synths that hark back to Vangelis’ Blade Runnner soundtrack and ticking, rushing percussion that contrasts with it perfectly. The skilled drum programming is shown in his grids constantly, and throughout he marries it with the at times calming, at times paranoid, but always futuristic synths with an astonishing variety of ideas and directions. The synths recall an 80s vision of what the future might be; from Whisper Fate’s tranquil melodies to Ascension Phase’s loop that constantly threatens to come out a funky chord sequence by way of Truth Flood’s intensely threatening lines, similar sounds are reconstituted in vital and riveting ways. The percussion eschews the stomping bass of today’s club scene for keen, footwork-referencing beats that taper and clatter with endlessly exciting momentum, complimenting these synth-lines wonderfully.

I don’t really want to pick apart the tracks, because most of these have to be heard and lived in to be fully appreciated. There are fantastic details to discover in every one of these compositions but it’s not necessarily the easiest first listen, and it took me a good few spins just to get my head around the overall sound. Once you do, though, Severant has so much to give. Although a great deal of these tracks are on the melancholic side of the emotive sphere, there is always a sense of warmth, nuance, and most of all freedom- three words which could hardly be less applicable to the back-catalogue of Vex’d. Although I’d recommend you just listen to the album about five times and you’ll just ‘get’ it, there are a few mind-blowing sequences. As an example, the breathless pacing of Onset (Escapism) leads into the rushing Scissors (a surprising and oblique rework of Carly Simon’s Why), which ricochets in alien directions with a power and confidence rarely heard on a debut solo album.

What makes Severant work is that Teasdale’s voice is so strong throughout, he is constantly pitching his distinctive style in different directions across the LP and he’s unerringly successful in doing so. What’s most impressive is that the sound he’s hit upon is entirely and undisputably unique; there are touchstones but they are left far behind by the ambition of this release. For example the deep grooving wobbles of Salt Lake Cuts and the twinkling ethereality of Shutter Light Girl take electronic tropes, sure, but they are revitalised into distinct and beautiful pieces. Kuedo never shirks away from taking his ideas in new directions either; Flight Path is a cold and propulsive number that is defiantly unsettling, whilst stunning closer Memory Rain is slow and pensive, leaving lost vocals to echo around the landscape. The rare use of vocals in this track and Scissors only go further in highlighting Kuedo’s remarkable skill in conjuring emotion and humanity purely by his tight compositions, an impressive feat in today’s sample-driven electronic scene.

Expectations may have run high for the return of one half of Vex’d, but in Severant Teasdale more than exceeds these. When listened to as a whole (perhaps after a settling-in period), the album is unrelentingly stunning, throwing more new ideas and precise details into every song that the average beatsmith can conjure in an entire album. If you’re looking for something cutting edge; breathlessly exciting and endlessly distinctive, look no further than Severant.

8.5/10

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Sunday, 6 November 2011

Video of the Week: Max Richter – On The Nature of Daylight


This week I’ve decided to leave actual music videos and instead show a ballet piece choreographed by David Dawson, set to Max Richter’s On The Nature of Daylight from his superb album The Blue Notebooks. Along with Steve Reich and Philip Glass, Richter is for me one of the most interesting artists fusing classical compositions with the increased scope of electronic production, and although his work strays much further towards the classical side, he is cited as an influence by countless contemporary electronic artists.



I’m not going to pretend to know a great deal about ballet, but even from an outsider’s perspective the idea of expressing emotions and relationships solely through movement is an intriguing proposition, and the feelings depicted by this piece are by no means obscure or difficult for someone unfamiliar with ballet to interpret. The dancers move with remarkable grace and poise, and the vague narrative of their relationship is set perfectly to Richter’s achingly mournful suite. I won’t go into interpretations of the dance because I don’t know a great deal about the form, but I hope you can enjoy the expressive piece and that this is a breath of fresh air. 

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Friday, 4 November 2011

Pole – Waldegeschichten



Wipfel

Wurzel

Wipfel Dub

Stefan Betke has always assumed a shadowy figure beyond the music that he has produced, but his importance in the electronic scene is not to be underestimated. Spanning thirteen years of dub experimentation, his releases have evolved slowly and consistently, reconstructing dub ideas in new minimal and techno settings. Outside of his releases, his creation with Barbara Preisinger of the sadly defunct ~scape label has brought us other brilliant releases from the likes of Deadbeat, Frivolous, John Tejada and many others. So where can Betke take us on this, his first release as Pole for two years?

The answer is necessarily unsurprising. Just as his previous releases ignored the latest trends and buzzwords to focus instead on phenomenal precision and a keen rhythmic sensibility, here the devil is once more in the details. At first there isn’t too much to set Waldegeschichten (‘Forest Lore’) apart from his back catalogue, we hear the same dub echoes in micro-edited techno landscapes with an unmatched sense of space in his compositions. But listen more closely (as his music forces you to) and the differences emerge. Wipfel start typically with a locked loop and atmospheric hiss, but over its eight minute runtime evolves into an unexpectedly busy and rich composition, with delayed organ keys casting a dubby groove over loose percussion. It’s hard to keep track of all the disparate elements here before the track is already in full swing; a gorgeously lush and fantastically detailed slice of micro-dub/techno/whatever.

In another unsurprising but immensely welcome stroke, Pole keeps up a supreme level of consistency throughout. So much so, in fact, that it’s difficult to pick a favourite between the two full tracks here. Wurzel is a far more spacious and downbeat affair, the beat sometimes slipping away entirely before lulling you back into its sparse hypnotic groove. Every sound here is treated to the tiniest alterations to complement the whole fluidly, and Pole’s attention to detail constantly amazes in the richness of every note on this release. The third cut, Wipfel Dub, is not quite essential but is a warm and (obviously) more dub-centric edit of the original, with the delays and echoes taken up a notch and given more space to breathe.

Waldegeschichten is Pole doing what Pole does best; acutely nuanced cuts of dub techno that are fantastically rich and constantly contemporary. But here his compositions are richer and more rhythmic than ever, and it’s an incredibly welcome return for Betke. For some, four years out would be too long away from the scene, but it’s clearly not the case here and I’ll certainly be waiting with keen anticipation for his next LP due out in early 2012.

8/10

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