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White Noise: February 2012

Saturday, 25 February 2012

Holiday

Hi all,

I'm going to take a week or so off the blog as I'm going on holiday to Berlin. Look forward to a few very big reviews and features when I get back.

See you in March,

Tom

Christian Löffler – Aspen

Label:  Ki

Aspen

Undefined Season

On one end of the Deep House and Techno spectrum is an obsession with machines; the inhuman clanking and percussion of Berghain’s finest. But deep at the other end of these genres is found just as striking an obsession with nature; the deep forests in Gas’ seminal loops and the rustling windchimes of Pantha Du Prince. Löffler situates himself firmly on the latter end of the spectrum, drawing deep and atmospheric compositions from his equipment that flow organically and almost seem to softly breathe as you listen. On this gorgeous EP he presents a few cuts from his album to be released later this year, and the tunes on offer are a real delight.

These tracks are Techno at its most melodic and placid, so if you’re looking for driving dancefloor material then it may be best to look elsewhere. But if you allow yourself to become immersed in the depths of these songs it’s easy to see their beauty. Title cut Aspen is an intensely satisfying cut, building slowly with a melancholic organ and subdued percussion. Every sound is perfectly chosen and treated to compliment atmosphere and mood, so even when there isn’t a lot going on it’s still a joy to listen to.  Slowly the field samples accumulate with a deep low-end and finely textured percussion cementing the track in a solid groove. Midway through the song transforms into something really special; a twinkling melodic line emerges with subtle chimes and the beat drops back in with perfect timing. The result is a deeply atmospheric and meditative song which has been carefully constructed to draw attention to each element, and it’s a rewarding journey.

On the flipside Undefined Season explores darker territories, with deep minor chords and subdued percussion evoking a powerful mood. Small details stand out; a morphing synth accent and the natural touches that emerge only to be stifled by the throbbing bassline. Final cut Signals returns to the cerebral leanings of Aspen but with different touches, a deep bass pulse underpins skittish synths and swung beats until the track establishes a strong groove. All the tunes here are careful and subdued, but masterfully wrought and presented with a real understanding of mood and space. Löffler has definitely got my attention, and if you’re a fan of the deeper, moodier end of dance music then he might just grab yours too.

7.5/10

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Randomer – Scruff Box / Get Yourself Together

Label: Hemlock

Scruff Box

Get Yourself Together

London-based producer Randomer hasn’t been releasing for too long, but is very quickly establishing a sound for himself. Early releases on Hessle and Super showed a range of styles but it was in his recent Real Talk EP on Numbers that Randomer really hit his mark; displaying a rough-edged approach to House that aims big and hits hard. This double A-side release on Hemlock shows Randomer refining his style, kicking off with Scruff Box. This is Dance music taken to its roughest roots, it’s all about those heavy, skipping beats and a monstrous bass riff that tears into the fabric of the track. Abrupt vocal and synth samples penetrate the sound in a precise, mechanical fashion, leaving very little that could be called a human touch. The cold, harsh style of these beats may not be to everyone’s taste, lacking the tight construction of German Techno or the raw viscerality of someone like Objekt, but the track hits home, and looks set to dominate dancefloors.

B-side Get Yourself Together is perhaps a stronger cut because it stretches Randomer’s style all the way to the limit, discordant keys and static rips building to a massive first drop, where a huge elasticated bassline once more starts to rip into the sound. Although there’s a fair amount of sonic detail accompanying the showstopping noises, these tracks can feel a little too reliant on big features rather than a real sense of variation or construction, and occasionally bear a too-close similarity to Blawan's output, but that doesn’t take away from their value in the club. If you’re looking for something with a lot of depth and warmth it might be worth looking elsewhere, but both these tunes will hit home for DJ’s looking for a hard, mechanical sound as well as fans of Randomer’s previous release.

7/10

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Wednesday, 22 February 2012

Huxley – Let It Go

Label: Hypercolour

Let It Go

White Noise favourite Huxley finally gets his first solo wax release on rising House label Hypercolour, and unsurprisingly, he kills it. After a promising 2011 notably featuring the digital-only Shower Scene which wound up on our Best Singles list at the end of the year, Huxley hits the big leagues running with Let It Go, an excellent release in the form of this catchy, straight-cut House release. Dance tunes often rely on a clear hook to draw the listener into loving a tune, but practically every element of this tune is a hook. The track is underpinned by a monstrously heavy three—note bassline which lays the ground for sharp syncopated beats and it’s all capped off by an unbelievably catchy vocal line. Colourful synths streak across the second half of the track to add some nice detail, but Let It Go is enormous enough anyway, you’ll know it when you hear it.

Bristolian producer Eats Everything, who had a pretty good 2011 himself, supplies a surprisingly delicate remix of the track, letting the original vocal sample play out in all its glory, while supplementing it with some ravey synths and a big echoing bass bounce. It’s not as big as the original but a worthy addition all the same, making this an essential purchase for anyone looking for cutting-edge House chock full of big sounds and moody vibes.

8/10

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Ital – Hive Mind

Label: Planet Mu

Doesn’t Matter (If You Love Him)

Israel

First Wave

Daniel Martin-McCormick, aka Ital, has got quite a history behind him. From his beginnings with the group Black Eyes to Sex Worker’s indefinable Dance releases, he’s always had a powerfully independent voice. Having spent some time recently releasing on Not Not Fun and 100% Silk, his debut LP as Ital takes a very different route to his punchier early singles, presenting four long-form pieces (and a short one) that take the listener on mesmeric journeys through shifting soundscapes.

Ital is a real export of the internet’s role in music, and has spoken very interestingly on the subject in a recent interview with The Quietus. “The internet has become this place for evil,” he says, going on to explain that Hive Mind was born as a response to the “crushing aspect of our society” and “the glacial onslaught of the world we’ve made for ourselves.” Interestingly, then, the first track here samples Lady Gaga, who could justifiably be named the most enormous product of the internet thus far in the celebrity sphere. In Doesn’t Matter (If You Love Him) the titular vocal sample is looped to a nauseous, inhuman degree, and it almost feels as if Martin-McCormick is reducing Gaga to a droning electronic loop with a toneless, generic quality that aurally symbolises the same depthless anonymity of most music born from the internet generation. If we take it away from the more philosophical angle the sample is clearly indebted to the recent rise of Footwork, but the composition is firmly rooted in the world of House. A warm bass loop belies well-paced percussive textures and a huge host of glittering synth accents that swoop across the track magnificently. Although there’s a lot of repetition here there’s a keen sense of pacing throughout (as well as a curiously relevant Whitney Houston sample), and clean micro-edits ensure that the length of these songs never undermine their intentions.

All this seems to put Martin-McCormick on a level with many Dance producers who, when putting out a long-player, try to do something different; to use dance styles and tropes to create something that can no longer be danced to. The tracks now serve as cerebral journeys through twitching Electronic soundscapes, with scattered ideas and stylistic references cohering into a sound that is both heady and challenging. It’s not an easy thing to pull off, but most of these tracks really work. After Doesn’t Matter (If You Love Him) ends tellingly with Gaga’s voice looped and crushed into an uncomfortable, inhuman sonic mulch, second cut Floridian Void provides a more laid-back slice of cosmic House. A solid kick-drum is the only constant here amidst a swirling mass of garbled voices, squealing synth deviations and lush pads. It’s a track that, like most on offer here, reveals its beauty slowly over careful repeated spins, allowing you to discern the moments when the clouds part and a gorgeous melody makes its slow way across the soundfield before receding back into the ether. Most of the reason that these moments are more obscure is the shear amount of layers here, but they rarely feel gratuitous, for example there’s no faulting the sharp snare that appears in the last few minutes of this second tune.

Privacy Settings is the central axis of these more lumbering House numbers, and it’s clearly the sonic black sheep. It’s about a third of the length of anything else on here, there’s no anchoring drum kick or pleasant synth melody to draw you in, and Ital ramps up the broken-audio rips and effects that he has always enjoyed implementing. It’s a menacing and disorientating tune with ghostly synths and threatening percussive snaps, and it seems the perfect analogue for Martin-McCormick’s alarming vision of today’s internet culture. As the track recedes, synths slowly morph into the sound of howling wolves, a well-chosen symbol for the power of machines; whether a vision of our internet use or electronic music production itself.

Fourth cut Israel opens with a barely audible monologue, overpowered by some of the sharpest beats on the record. The track has a great swing to it, with cosmic synths washing dramatically over well-structured percussive sequences. Even though these songs can feel repetitive at times, the moments where they deviate are always so impressive that it’s hard to mind. This is just the case on Israel, when hollow percussive bounces take centre-stage only to be effaced by too-bright synth streaks from around the 6-minute mark. These are the moments that open up over repeated listens, and highlight just how surprising and satisfying Ital can be as a producer. Final cut First Wave closes the album in stunning fashion, souping up the languid pace of Hive Mind into a decaying Disco number that combines bright synths and gloopy acid basslines with an enormous amount of canny micro-edits. It comes off as the album’s most overtly beautiful track, and will probably stay with you longest after it’s over.

Ital gives you a lot to think about and a lot to listen to with Hive Mind, but it’s not quite a perfect album. The track lengths mean that the LP lacks a certain dynamism, and while there is an abundance of ideas on show, perhaps they could have been employed more deftly to give these tracks a little more pace and excitement. Because these tunes are so densely layered they require quite a lot of time to fully absorb but their formidable length and lack of clear hooks mean it might not be an album you’re dying to return to. This isn’t helped by the fact that most of the tracks here are constructed in a fairly similar fashion, but if you listen with patience and allow the sounds to immerse you it’s easy to lose yourself. Apparently Ital constructs all his tunes on Audacity, so I’m willing to forgive some of the effects sounding a little flat because it’s remarkable just how many of them don’t; frequently individual sonic elements leap out at the listener just for being so crisp and interesting. If you can give Hive Mind some time you’ll find yourself rapturously hypnotised by these flowing tracks, and there’s a wealth of detail and innovation to explore once you’re in there.

7.5/10

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Monday, 20 February 2012

Shlohmo – Vacation


Label: Friends of Friends

The Way U Do

Wen Uuu

Rained The Whole Time

Since Shlohmo, aka Californian Henry Laufer, began putting out his first EPs he seemed like one to watch. His early Shlo-Fi and Shlohmoshun Deluxe releases ranged from chilled instrumental Hip Hop to growling electro crunk, but it was his stellar debut album Bad Vibes that solidified his impressive talent and unique voice.  On this LP he combined a textured percussive field of clicks and blips with lush organic loops, occasionally added to by his dreamy, wordless falsetto. The result was a deeply atmospheric album that truly sounded like the work of an individual, and while it had its darker moments it could easily be played just to relax. What was almost more worthy of attention was how much he had advanced his sound between his early EPs and his debut, and it’s satisfying to see that here on Vacation, a short collection of three choice tunes, he is once more changing and looking to the future while never losing his unique sound.

This EP doesn’t feel like a rushed post-album release, more a transitionary collection, but given that placement each track here feels very polished and complete. The EP opens with The Way U Do which emotes through a subdued two-note synthline and a broad sweep of percussive accents. A crooning pitched-up vocal creates a gorgeous melody that is effaced by a proggy guitar line, sometimes growling, sometimes screeching, that somehow coheres with his sound, proving yet again Shlohmo’s talent for combining unexpected elements fluidly in his songs. Another talent he has brought on from his debut is that of refusing to let a track settle as a simple set of loops, constantly changing up his sounds and combining them to new effects, such as the twinned vocal lines towards the close of this track. Second track Wen Uuu is equally impressive, with a choppy vocal providing a lilting rhythm that compliments the jerky beats and contrasts with the constant ambient fuzz, occasionally surfacing from this back-and-forth in moments of beauty that you can’t help but notice. Interestingly, it feels that a little influence has seeped into his sound from the dance world; with hollow drum hits of the first track and the chopped up vocals of the second, and although there’s barely a trace of a dance song in these productions these ideas are certainly an interesting addition that work well with his existing sound.

There’s an emotional immediacy to these tunes that reveals the downcast but hopeful mood more clearly than on Bad Vibes, which could occasionally sound a little detached. Lurking behind these lush tunes there was always a hint of melancholy, and here it’s brought more clearly to the fore. Final cut Rained The Whole Time could easily be a tune left off his last record, dealing with slightly more familiar sounds but is none the worse for it. A starker composition with twinkling percussive twitches is supplemented by guitar riffs laced with longing.  A deep vocal growl adds a note of threat before the beautiful second ‘drop’, if you could call it that, where all the sounds come together in a languid beauty. This release is nothing particularly new from Shlohmo but it clearly shows him looking in new directions, and as three cuts of lush, lazy beats it’s practically faultless.

8.5/10

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Dusky – Lost Highway

Label: Anjunadeep

Lost Highway

Three Colours

Someone Like You

Deep House is not a genre that the UK dance scene is particularly famous for, but given the strength of the releases by duo Dusky, aka Alfie Granger-Howell and Nick Harriman, this might be set to change. Since their debut long player Stick By This emerged the pair have been one to watch, and this EP proves they have so much more to give. This giving occurs not only under the Dusky moniker as the pair also record more upbeat House jams as Solarity, but under both guises there is an impressive show of skill alongside a killer sense for mood.

The EP kicks off with an extended mix of Lost Highway, a standout cut from their LP which is already on the way to becoming a Deep House classic. A stripped beat with more than a little swing introduces deep, melancholic chords and an echoing vocal line. The groove is firmly established by a simple 4/4, and these dance chops are twinned with an extraordinarily emotive tone; sweeping strings and a moving ‘you’ looping across the soundfield and producing that powerful melancholy that only the deeper end of House music can conjure. You have to hear it to get what’s so extraordinary about this track, but there’s no doubt that it’s something special, not to mention it has the potential to be a 4am club anthem.

But this EP is more than just a rehash of old material. Three Colours takes a harder approach with a firm bass pulse driving a meaty bassline that gives way to twinkling synths and a plaintive vocal refrain. All the compositions here are fairly simple but this really works to the pair’s advantage, as it’s impressive how they produce both a strong groove and a deep atmosphere with so few elements. Final original cut Someone Like You does one better, slowing things down with soft, moody chords and spare production laying the base for a powerful vocal sample and fleeting synth accents. Hugga Thugg remixes Lost In You to close off the digital release, offering a more upbeat affair with sharp beats, skittering synths and a well applied selection of vocal slices, providing a nice but ultimately unremarkable end to the release. Whether you ignore it or not, the strength of the three original Dusky tracks here should be more than obvious; and the abundance of late-night atmospherics and clear danceability should make this an essential for DJs and Deep House fans alike.

8.5/10

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Friday, 17 February 2012

Burial – Kindred


Label: Hyperdub

Kindred

Loner

Ashtray Wasp

UK producer Burial is as close as you get to Dance royalty, and I have to admit I wasn’t relishing the task of attempting to articulate my thoughts on his new release. Since he put out Untrue in 2006, an album that is almost unanimously considered the definitive (not-quite) dance album of the last ten years, all has been fairly quiet on the release front. Along with a few collaborations there was last year’s Street Halo EP, a gorgeous collection of quintessential Burial tracks that admittedly didn’t stray too far from his established sound. With Kindred, Burial is finally moving forward, into unknown and innovative territories; and the outcome could hardly be more dazzling.

In order to examine just why Kindred is so brilliant, it’s probably worth investigating just what makes Burial such a special producer in his field. Up until now he has produced gloomy tracks with broken Garage beats, dark ambient stretches and lost, ethereal vocals; and although these traits sounded new at the time, we now live in an world of electronic music saturated by these elements. So why, when Kindred was released digitally, did the Hyperdub servers slow to a crawl trying to keep up with people buying the new release? Why has he, resistant to press and until a few years back anonymous, brought about the most intense intellectual and academic scrutiny of any electronic producer in recent times? Why do your friends who mainly listen to Indie and Rock still love Burial?

These aren’t questions that have any definitive answer, but there are clearly certain characteristics of his music that are unparalleled in today’s Electronic scene. First and foremost is his rare ability to elicit emotional response through his music. As his hard beats drive on they shed a ghostly sense of melancholy and loss; through percussion stripped of its warmth, minor chords, shadowy ambient textures and vocals that cry out into the void; singular shreds of humanity in hopeless and barren soundscapes. It’s worth concentrating on these vocals because Burial refuses to impose any clear emotion upon the listener, pitching male ambiguously to female and vice versa, leaving his voices dislocated for the listener to forge their own associations and emotional connections.

It’s also important to consider those who say Burial mourns for Dance music’s past, constructing a sonic graveyard for the ghosts of Jungle, Rave and Garage. Anyone who has lived through these movements will feel a sharp twang when they hear these familiar elements re-evoked in his mournful sounds. Then there is the extraordinary sense of space created by his music; Burial places you in the middle of a deep soundfield and lets his samples travel around you, so instead of a vocal line pasted on top of beats there is the sense of a contingent world inside his music; just as snips of conversations and other songs drift by, so do his spare beats and ambient crackles. This is emphasised by the amount of the real world that Burial allows to encroach upon his musical space, not only human voice but field recordings such as the thunderstorm here in title track Kindred, or the sound of a clicking Zippo constituting a 2step beat. The sense of grief combined with the constant references to people, society, and London to a great extent make his music seem not only an elegy for Dance music past but also for the society we live in, before it’s even gone.

Since all of these ideas characterised Burial’s earlier releases, particularly Untrue, it’s worth pointing out exactly what makes Kindred so different. The most immediate innovation is the length of these tracks, with two nearing twelve minutes and the other just over seven; allowing these worlds to be bigger, more evocative and epic but still shockingly intimate. This is helped by the mixtape quality in these tunes: tempo, key, beats, samples and synths are all subject to change throughout each of these tracks, allowing each cut to cast its own spellbinding narrative upon the listener.

First cut Kindred is a gentle breaking-in for listeners from Burial’s earlier material, demonstrating the only real return of his fractured Garage beats. A beatless introduction of decayed, sweeping synths is blustered away by a wash of bristling static, before that familiar metallic percussion makes its mark. But even that most classic of Burial traits is subject to deterioration here, the static suffocating it and preventing it from establishing a groove early in the track. Eventually a sweet-sounding vocal manages to emerge from the darkness, lent an unusually epic quality by the one-note vocal cry that echoes off into the distance. Not far in it all grinds to an unexpected halt, the static returning to duel with those evocative vocal lines and giving the first sign of the shifting, suite-like quality of these tracks. The change comes over more dramatically in the last three minutes of the track with the introduction of ghostly synths and a slackening beat. Suddenly all the noise drops away, only that static remaining before a different beat, slower and more subdued, emerges with its own vocals in tow. It’s a beautifully restrained close to such a ferocious track, and a sign of the new exciting things to come over the EP’s next twenty minutes.

If Kindred was meant to ease you in, second cut Loner shows Burial treading confidently to new ground. After a typically sci-fi vocal flourish a canned drum pattern emerges, with drawn ambient synths introducing a surprisingly bright synth arpeggio that forms the centrepiece of the tune, although admittedly even this lightest of elements feels somewhat decayed and suffocated. The vocals here are less discernible, occasionally timestretched to the point where they no longer sound human and merely exist as sonic elements. This track is tighter and more focussed than its siblings, with tight beats and other percussive accents anchoring you to those growling synth textures that lie beneath. Slight details are added and taken away with a precise fluidity, giving the sense of an enormity of sound layered densely on top of itself, of a sound too deep and textured to ever fully explore. Burial again pulls of a stunning shift at the end, this time reminiscent of Untrue’s Shell of Light, as a soulful vocal line cries into a beatless darkness, drawing out evocative synths before being consumed by a mechanical click and that same blistering static wind.

As these first two tracks introduced a new style and direction, final tune Ashtray Wasp shows Burial taking these ideas as far as he possibly can, and somehow he comes up with an even bigger and more beautiful song than its predecessors, easily ranking among the producer’s finest work. This is truly a song of two halves, the first opening with an ambient wash and those familiar human touches, the beat being introduced just after a field sample of someone hanging up the phone, ‘Alright, bye.’ Another strong House beat is established, with mechanical syncopation laying a path for a rising synthline that creates both stability and a sense of unease. This track is so full of sonic accents that it is easy to get lost in the details, in faceless voices that sound out only once and that ambiguous chanted refrain ‘I want you’, which shifts later into ‘I used to belong to you’. The percussion is added to by a deep pulsing 4/4 and serrated synths before the tune reconstructs itself, layer by layer, to its former sound before that too is stripped away to nothingness. Near the eight-minute mark a slower percussive click is introduced with twinkling synths and a high-pitched vocal line that shines out like a beacon of loss, powerfully once more submerged in the carnivorous static before emerging into a melody that shows Burial at his most nakedly beautiful. A simple four-note synth melody compliments clinking effects and a choppy vocal line which is surely the most catchy of the lot, a rare moment of sweetness and compassion in this vast darkness that is nevertheless decayed and assaulted by white noise, which finally reclaims all sounds and the record returns to where it came from.

This technique that Burial uses throughout Kindred of waves of static cannibalising his own sounds, ultimately destroying brief flashes of hope, provides some of the most emotive moments of the record but is also symbolic of Burial’s success here on a wider plane. This white noise is not evil or necessarily dark but it is faceless and unforgiving, and for a producer to subject their own sounds to this treatment is evidence of both a high degree confidence in innovation but also a comprehensive view of how a track will come together even while it's under construction. In Kindred, Burial has produced his most forward-thinking and powerful record since Untrue, proving that while trends in dance music may ebb and flow, his changing style will always be relevant. I hesitate to give a perfect score to a collection of only three tracks but this feels so much more than an EP to me, usually marked out as precursors to albums or generic dancefloor fodder. Across these thirty minutes I cannot find a single flaw, and surely perfect scores exist to be given out once in a while. Here Burial has somehow achieved new heights, and all I can do is advise you to buy Kindred and listen to it, again and again.

10/10

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GoldFFinch – Funky Steppa / Groove Panda


Label: Saigon

Funky Steppa

 
EP Minimix

Belgian duo GoldFFinch have been on my radar for a while with great releases on Numbers, Airflex Labs and 887, but have yet to quite penetrate the big-time dance leagues. Hopefully their first release on Saigon will change that, continuing their style of hard-bodied grooves assembled with clipped samples while ramping up the danceability. Funky Steppa quickly brings in all of the pair’s strengths; minute vocal snips that repeat until they’re a part of the rhythm, a varied and textured percussive field and sparse but warm vibes that would ramp up dancefloor anticipation. The only difference is that when this track drops it’s bigger and more epic than any GoldFFinch release to date; klaxons wailing out as a fantastic vocal loop echoes out over tight beats that sound like someone knocking on wood. The pair have never been content to leave a tune as just build up and breakdown, and here plentiful micro-edits add to the track enormously, with skipping vocal loops and percussive layers dropping in and out of the mix at perfect times, leading to an enormous second drop that would blow any club wide open.

B-side Groove Panda is more overtly percussive, with the beats shifting every minute or so to great effect. It’s also a more subdued tune, with wordless vocals echoing across the soundfield amidst twinkling synths lower in the mix. It’s a tune that would sound good in a mix but doesn’t impress quite as much as the A-side. Either way, it’s clear that GoldFFinch are really establishing a sound for themselves, and while Funky Steppa is an essential for Bass DJs, I’m even more excited to see what they come up with next.

7.5/10

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Wednesday, 15 February 2012

Gonjasufi – MU.ZZ.LE

Label: Warp

White Picket Fence

Nikels and Dimes

The Blame

Sumach Ecks’ first album as Gonjasufi, A Sufi And A Killer, was a wild, unpredictable ride through broken Hip Hop landscapes, dominated by Ecks’ inimitable vocals. Sometimes screeching, sometimes soothing, his voice anchored these songs as they covered a wide range of musical styles, from lullaby to Trip Hop. But as is clear in the album title, the success of his debut was just as much down to production partner The Gaslamp Killer as it was Ecks’ utterly unique vocals and themes. Here on his second full-length Gonjasufi offers an album just as fascinating and just as difficult, but perhaps ultimately a little less rewarding.

Opener White Picket Fence establishes the album strongly, with all Gonjasufi’s trademark mood and instrumentation in place. A deep haze submerges all instrumentation, with a trippy groove supplied by an electric piano’s languid keys. Ecks’ lyrics, although often just as indistinguishable as on his debut, are once more elucidated by his wide range of vocal tones, making this release more emotional immediate than its predecessor. On second cut Feedin’ Birds Ecks’ wife supplies a soaring croon that compliments the sound perfectly, soothing at first but simmering with acidic rage just beneath the surface.

This shrouded threat of violence is continued as the second cut switches fluidly into a crackling drum
 loop at the start of Nikels and Dimes, an early highlight. The beats are contrasted with an oddly sweet melody which screeches and cries, and while the instrumentation reaches an uneasy equilibrium it is clearly grounded by some of Ecks’ clearest lyrics, discussing poverty and the role of privilege. The production across the LP is generally top notch, with minor details often accented the soundfield such as the muttered words towards the close of this track, which could be Ecks or a sample, melding fluidly with the creaky atmosphere which sits halfway between a lullaby and an agitated daydream.

Elsewhere Rubberband is an attractive mixture of drums that thump and crackle with a sluggish inevitability and Ecks’ trademark crooning, while Blaksuit sounds like a slowed-down Funk break taken offroad as his voice exalts the sounds of Mt Zion and echoes off into the nebulous ether. The tracks flow into each other or stop abruptly with the same attractive incoherence as on A Sufi And A Killer, creating unpredictable vibes that suit Ecks’ subject matter of inner conflict perfectly. Each tune here offers something different and worth exploring, but the brevity of the songs means there’s rarely enough time to actually getting into the sound before you’re essentially listening to something else.

Not only are the tracks short, but the album itself is incredibly slight, running just under 25 minutes with only a couple of songs pushing past three minutes. Ultimately this proves to be quite a disabling problem, because as a listener you don’t feel like there’s a whole lot to hold on to. Ecks’ lyrics, when audible, always provide interesting thoughts; ranging from his continued discussions of his violent thoughts and creation as destruction to conflicted references between his Sufist and Rastafarian leanings.  Similarly in musical terms there is a broad array of styles and instruments that seem to cohere in their incoherence, as if all the sounds wear the same weathered mask but are bound together by their dissonance and unpredictability. This would all be good if there were some fine grooves set up, with the music acting as an accessible base from which to tackle the more difficult questions of composition and lyrics. A Sufi and A Killer  was half composed of mad deviations and half of smoother Trip Hop grooves, and this meant that it could be listened to as an uneasy, conflicted whole or individual songs that could be played for their pure musicality. Here the latter isn’t really an option, MU.ZZ.LE suffers as an album for being so succinct and difficult, so while it’s always an interesting listen it’s rarely exciting in the conventional sense.

There is a lot to dive into here, but I think it’s telling that the two tracks here that exceed the three-minute mark are the two that feel like they are most wholly realised. The first is the aforementioned Nikels And Dimes and the second is late-album highlight The Blame, which could be seen as a culmination of Ecks’ mental torment. Here his lyrics are more lucid and audible than anywhere else on the album, as he lets loose on both contemporary society and himself (‘I know I’m not the perfect man / and I never claimed to be / I’ve done some things in my time / even i’m ashamed of me’). The song is a slow and dramatic testament to just how brilliant Gonjasufi can sound, but also highlights how frustratingly short and condensed a lot of the rest of the material on display is. By no means am I saying that Ecks should artificially lengthen his songs or albums to make them more digestible, but if your chosen format is music then making at least one element of your sound accessible is surely to be recommended.

So MU.ZZ.LE is by no means an easy album, but it still has a huge amount to offer. If you’re looking for a trippy and soulful background to a smoking session then this will stand up as a successor to A Sufi and A Killer, but you’d be missing a lot of what Ecks is really saying. The instrumentation, construction and lyrical content of this LP perfectly gets across the inner workings of a conflicted mind, yet the album too often comes across as demanding and wilfully difficult for it to be a truly great work. Gonjasufi continues to prove himself an utterly unique voice in today’s music scene, and I’m sure he will continue to walk a path entirely his own, but it would be nice to have a little more attention paid to the role of the listener on the next release.

7.5/10

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Monday, 13 February 2012

Objekt – Cactus / Porcupine

Label: Hessle Audio

Cactus

Porcupine

For someone with so few releases under his belt, German TJ Hertz has already made quite a name for himself. This should come as no surprise, however, as on Objekt’s two previous white label releases were some of the most confident, aggressive and powerful dance tracks of 2011. Here he continues in style on Hessle, with a couple of tracks that have been making the rounds for some time but still constitute his best work yet. Objekt’s combination of Garage and Techno is notable not only for its uncompromising aggression but also for its rare vitality, with each of his singles going in innovative directions with a rare immediacy that threatens to destroy dancefloors with every note.

Cactus is the A-side, a hard-bodied tune that you might have heard over the last few months, notably as a threatening centrepiece in Ben UFO’s excellent Rinse mix last year. The track lopes along with a spare Garage rhythm barely containing a monstrous low-end which lends the tune a mean efficiency.  Everything degrades at the first breakdown, the sub-bass speeding to an irrepressible pace before hard acid synths spew out a mechanical rhythm. It’s a stripped-down cut but every detail is flawless, from the rising and falling serrated synths of the latter half of the track to the note-perfect micro-edits and notably the ghostly disappearance of the second breakdown before the bass comes back with a vengeance.

B-side Porcupine is just as dazzling, with hardened drum patterns leading over a woozy synth-bed. Again the sounds on display are stunning in their power and utterly unique, with a couple of distorting basslines making one-off appearances at either end of the track and subtly mixed synths mutating before your ears. If Objekt’s earlier releases didn’t sate your appetite then you’ll find it hard not to be won over by these vicious and vital productions that clearly deserve a place in every DJ’s bag of dancefloor knockouts.

8.5/10

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Live Review: Tri-Angle Showcase with Balam Acab, oOoOO and Holy Other

Point Ephemère,  Paris – 10 / 02 / 2012



Balam Acab - Big Boy

Tri-Angle Records has charted a meteoric rise over the last year or so; from their beginnings with a few short EPs tentatively (or dismissively) described as ‘Witch House’ to their superb run of releases from late 2010-11, including efforts from White Noise favourites Balam Acab, Holy Other, How to Dress Well and Clam’s Casino. The label embodies a powerful and unique sound; ghostly and emotive, slow and dream-like, and even if you don’t love every release you’re unlikely to hear anything derivative or unoriginal. When I heard they were coming to Point FMR in Paris you can imagine that I bought my tickets straight away, and I wasn’t disappointed.

I’ve discussed before the difficulties of bringing heavily treated Electronic music to the stage; making a performance feel live while ensuring that it still sounds good and that the songs are at least recognisable. This is a tough task to get perfect, and the most important facet is to avoid the cardinal sin of just standing there pressing play on a laptop. These problems were thrown into sharp relief by the supremely lacklustre opening act (o F F Love, who actually sounds okay on record), who danced around embarrassingly to pre-recorded beats. The backing tracks themselves weren’t too bad, but his performance, in which he covered his face and inexplicably shrugged his jacket repeatedly off and back on his left shoulder, had no sense of immediacy or energy; the only live addition being his voice run through a series of different synthesisers. It was all rather ludicrous and not a particularly promising start to the night, but luckily the three following acts served as a comprehensive lesson on how to bring Electronic beats to life perfectly.



Balam Acab - Oh, Why

One of my very favourite artists, Balam Acab, was up first, and put on a fantastic show. The incredibly young-looking Alec Koone has clearly thought hard about how to bring his sounds to a live show and re-structured many of his songs to suit a gig, the most notable change being the introduction of a female vocalist to sing the ghostly samples in his recorded work. It was a great choice, mostly down to the beauty and strength of her voice, which brought a powerful energy to the opening run of Big Boy and See Birds (Sun). His synth-work lost some of its organic edge in being brought to the stage, sounding more treated and electronic, but Koone made this change work to his advantage, turning the aching melancholy of Await into a glittering dance affair with a surprising degree of success. It was a joy to actually be able to hear the lyrics to his tunes, especially when sung by such a spectacularly talented vocalist, but an element of Wander / Wonder’s darkness remained intact, particularly in the intense basslines of Expect which came next. His set was topped off with a mesmerising new song and a beautiful rendition of Oh, Why; one of a handful of songs where Koone added his own expressive voice to the mix. I’ve always thought the most important thing an artist can do in a live set is allow the spectators to lose themselves completely in the sound and forget everything else, and the only disappointment of Balam Acab’s set was how soon it was over. Thirty minutes just didn’t really feel like enough time given that he had top billing for the night.

oOoOO – Burnout Eyess

While waiting for the next act to come on there was the surprising treat of a genuinely good selection of music in between sets, I picked out How To Dress Well’s Ready For the World and Shlohmo’s remix of Burial’s Shell of Light while we were waiting. Before long oOoOO stepped up to the stage, with a big hood and his own female vocalist in tow. His set was very different from Balam Acab’s bright and wondrous sounds, forcing unusual noises from his machines and evoking emotions closer to disorientation and dread. A creepy black and white video ran behind the two as they worked silently through new material, moving fluidly from one song into the next. All oOoOO’s normal sounds were present; syrup-thick synths drenched in eerie reverb, sharp uneasy strings and ghostly female vocals swimming over the top. After a few new tracks including NoWayBack from his upcoming release, he returned to earlier material with his stunning debut EP highlight Burnout Eyess. For these more vocal-heavy tracks the singer came out from behind her synths and samplers to sing and dance in front of the crowd, but it didn’t really work for me. I thought music with such gravity and darkness as this would be better performed by artists who almost dislocate themselves from their sound, allowing the tunes to speak for themselves. Despite slightly distracting showmanship, the run through Hearts and Mumbai was great; dark bass stabs sounding magnificent on Point FMR’s soundsystem. After a couple of new tracks, including a very intriguing tune with a harsh Hip Hop vocal loop, the singer left the stage to leave oOoOO to close solo with Sedsumting. The final track really brought to the fore the darkened sensuality of his sound, and put a fantastic end to a powerful set.


Holy Other - Touch

The night was closed out by Holy Other, who entered masked and didn’t waste time with introductions. He immediately ran through a continuous and brilliant set of tunes ranging from dark, glitchy productions to brighter, more vocal-driven material. Unfortunately I’m not very familiar with his releases so can’t go into details on which songs he played, other than a surprisingly emotive performance of We Over and a mindblowingly sensuous rendition of Touch to close. In a way Holy Other was the most impressive artist on display, as he seemed to get everything about his performance right. His anonymity was enthralling and seemed very appropriate for his sound; as the last notes of Touch trailed off he turned and left the stage without so much as a nod. The trippy visuals behind him of rippling water and grainy manipulated footage of a hand subtly added to the experience rather than overstating any particular emotion or effect, and his set was absolutely breathtaking from start to finish. At the Tri-Angle showcase there was not one but three excellent gigs held back to back, and although the current European tour is over if you see them coming to a venue near you I could hardly recommend the night more highly.

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Thursday, 9 February 2012

Jacques Greene – Concealer

Label: Vase

Flatline

These Days

Arrow

For me, Canadian producer Jacques Greene was easily one of the most brilliant breakthrough artists of 2011. Emerging with the unbearably catchy Baby I Don’t Know (What You Want) on Night Slugs and releasing two great EPs, The Look and Another Girl, the title track of which was easily one of last year’s biggest tunes, and ending the year with a stellar white label release, everything Greene touched seemed to turn to gold. So you can imagine my excitement when the news broke that he had a new EP coming out on his own freshly-minted label, Vase. By this point, the Bass market is saturated by people doing exactly what Greene has always done; lush and airy dance tunes that heavily reference RnB both in sultry mood and in expert sampling, but the producer has clearly worked his execution down to a science. The compositions here are sleek, sexy and efficient, but in their ease there is an inherent weakness; the tunes here are surprisingly forgettable, and far too frequently in listening to Vase I found myself asking if Greene was actually going to provide anything new.

On the lead track Flatline Greene takes his particular style of Bass music, so heavily indebted to RnB, to its inevitable conclusion by enlisting the help of sometimes collaborator Ango to record an original vocal track to flirt with his bright synths and shuttering percussion. The vocals can easily be compared to the recent spate of moody, plaintive RnB singers such as The Weeknd, Drake or The-Dream, but Ango’s voice doesn’t really work for me. His smooth, breathy lyrics excel in the low ranges but sound somewhat weak and nagging rather than moving when it comes to the chorus. The construction of the instrumentation here feels styled more after mainstream pop than either Bass or RnB, and Greene’s production is surprisingly bland. There’s absolutely nothing offensive here, and it’s a very smooth listen, but it all feels very generic, sparkling synths and stuttering percussion that has none of the surprise or punch of Greene’s earlier pieces. The same could be said of third cut Clark, it retains all the elements that always made Greene such a joy to listen to; an exquisitely chosen and applied vocal sample, sharp percussion and a bouncing bassline, but completely lacks force or direction- I kept waiting for the track to lift off and was sorely disappointed by the end, as it all felt rather pointless.

To be fair, it’s not all bad news for Greene on Concealer. These Days is a stronger track, with a twinkling synth arpeggio, beats that actually seem to have some weight behind them, and a superb spiralling vocal line that repeats to dazzling effect. It’s an effective and lush affair but I can’t help but find the tune a little by-the-numbers; just like the other tracks here it just doesn’t really offer anything new. By no means am I demanding that every producer must put out something completely different on each release, but here Greene doesn’t give me anything to listen to that offer any significant difference or improvement on classics like Another Girl or Motivation, and I’d prefer to spend my time listening to the original tracks than more formulaic, diluted versions of them. Greene stated in a recent interview with the Guardian, “It would have been boring to just do Another Girl part two”, but it seems to me that would have been preferable to these first three tracks that feel uninspired at best.

Given all this, it’s a very welcome stroke of luck that the final tune on offer here, Arrow, a collaboration with White Noise favourite Koreless, is a total success. Here Greene really goes to make something different, a piece nearing ten minutes that seems to actually breathe across its immersive course. The sense of space on this track is very indicative of Koreless’ productions so far, and the two producers’ styles suit each other perfectly; with snappy 2step beats and a single bright note receding and emerging from a textured soundbed of spacey synths and warm effects. I’m not sure the tune would work so well on the dancefloor but it’s an undeniably beautiful track, and really signals something different for both producers. One great tune isn’t quite enough to be Concealer’s saving grace, but it suffices to convince me that Greene still has a huge amount to offer, if only he’ll step out of his comfort zone a little more on his next release.

6/10

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Artifact – Archaic Line


Label: Deadplate

Archaic Line

Deserted

Just as Dance genres cycle in and out of popularity (see the recent re-emergences of House and Acid compared to Dubstep’s bloated death), so the UK dance scene constantly moves between darker and lighter periods, with a hard-nosed grit or an airy euphoria generally signalling each respective change. It seems that Bass music, so inundated last year by fluttering synths and saccharine RnB vocals, is on the turn, and Artifact’s first big release on new imprint Deadplate is one of the best examples yet of this new, darker Bass sound. Artifact, hailing from Bristol, pulls out all the stops on this release, crafting two sublime pieces of Garage-inflected Bass that are not only powerfully atmospheric, but that would obviously be massive on the dancefloor.

Title cut Archaic Line is all sharp, scattered percussion and dangerous bass wobbles, with gorgeous details like the paranoid cowbell or the mutating clipped synth melody coming to the fore over a threatening soundscape. It’s a really impressive piece that I can tell you from experience is absolutely killer in a club setting, and remix duties are left to Graphics on the B-side. The remix keeps the ghostly ambience but speeds up the percussion, shifting certain elements like the cowbell to the front of the mix while introducing great additional touches like the indecipherable vocal sample and the big bouncing bassline that underpins the lot. While remixes added to 12” releases often seem to be lacking in imagination, Graphics really pulls it off by reconstructing the track to do something different enough to be worth an independent listen while remaining true to the sonic elements and mood of the original.

B-side Deserted is perhaps even better than the title cut, with some moody synthwork introducing the first violent drop, where a harshly bitcrushed bass bounce dominates the fleeting vocal lines. It’s an intense and atmospheric piece, made all the more spectacular by the spare breakdown three minutes in where the only element present is that stark bass stab. With both tracks proving rather spectacular and a top-notch remix, Artifact has certainly hit the big leagues running, and this is a must-have for any DJs who want to trade in that dark, moody sound.

8/10

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Tuesday, 7 February 2012

Scuba – The Hope


Label: Hotflush



The Hope

Flash Addict

The last six months have seen Hotflush label-head Scuba, aka Paul Rose, become something of a Dance superstar. With his label’s increasing popularity (and quality) and his stunning Adrenalin EP that came out last summer, this fame is clearly deserved. In fact, his amazing slew of releases in 2011 earned him a spot on White Noise's Best EPs of 2011 and two entries into our Best Singles of the year. Good news for Scuba fans, his Personality LP will be out next month, and The Hope is being released as a single ahead of the album to whet our appetites.

Scuba’s productions used to be characterised by cerebral, complex tunes but with Adrenalin he took a turn towards the maximalist, with big sounds and bright effects combining to create House tunes that are, in a word, massive. Here he looks set to continue on this track, kicking off with no-nonsense club stomper The Hope. Rough, techy beats recall some of his work as SCB, but the anthemic vocal chant is a clear signifier of his bigger style, with acid-flavoured synths ramping the energy up to eleven midway through the track, and a classic House vocal cry icing the cake. Bright synths streak across the second half of the track, and it’s clear that this tune is nothing short of enormous, sure to light up dancefloors all over Europe. The inclusion of a Radio Edit is interesting, because although the vocals on this are fairly catchy, the shear driving force of the tune suggests it might not be the most radio-friendly tune, but time will tell if it can be a crossover success.

Flash Addict is a headier take but no less enjoyable, with swift synths arpeggiating a near-tropical rhythmic loop over a bouncing drum pattern. The blinding pace of both these tunes counteracts the criticism of an over-indulgent breakdown in Adrenalin, as on this second tune he barely lets up the pace for a second, the tune grinding to a quick halt midway through and being added to by various clever effects throughout to ensure a sense of variation even though the pace never lets off. Both these tracks continue to prove just why Scuba is so much the man of the moment right now, able as he is to make big tunes that are also interesting and well-constructed, while varying his stylistic output in a manner that puts a lot of other one-note producers to shame. Bring on Personality.

8.5/10

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Monday, 6 February 2012

Benjamin Damage & Doc Daneeka – They!Live

Label: 50 Weapons

No One

Creeper

Halo

Crafting a long-player as a Dance producer must be a very difficult task, or so it seems as so many of them seem to get it wrong. Either an album ends up as a disparate collection of dance stompers or a meandering selection of sluggish instrumentals. One can conclude that making a dance album listenable and fluid is no mean feat, but here on their second release on 50 Weapons, Benjamin Damage and Doc Daneeka have pulled it off without a hitch. Around a year ago they put out the stellar Creeper single on Modeselektor’s label, and apparently the German boys liked it so much they invited the producers from Swansea to Berlin to craft an album. Why They!Live works so well is obviously partly down to the skill of the producers; these are slick, satisfying songs dissecting a range of genres while maintaining a cohesive and accessible style, but a lot of care has also been paid to sequencing and a careful balance of light and dark, slow and fast, to make this LP a surprising and significant triumph.

Across the album Damage and Daneeka draw from the obvious Berlin influences as well as ideas from Detroit and Dub-Techno, and more than passing references to Deep House and UK Funky, which is a broad and stimulating array to add to Creeper’s straight-cut dance chops. But fans of their previous 50 Weapons release will be surprised to not actually hear that many tunes here aimed at the dancefloor, as the pair take a very successful stab at moody electronic pieces that meld fluently with the more upbeat numbers on display. The album’s low-key opening few tracks are a surprise, with opener No One combining emotive synths, Burial-esque pitched down vocals and sharp percussion to craft a smooth and efficient tune that’s deeply atmospheric and surprisingly catchy. Second cut Battleships trades in similarly powerful atmospheric techniques; broad, darkened synth strokes and a powerfully melancholic vocal line that towards the end of the track is looped and allowed to echo out of existence in a beautiful moment that you’ll want to hear again.
 
The addition in these tracks of British vocalist Abigail Wyles is a great touch, as she brings a strong voice that highlights the soulfulness and emotive qualities of their compositions; a shred of humanity in a moody electronic soundscape only emphasises the contrast between the two and the skill with which the two producers craft their sounds. These home-listening cuts are very affecting and spread liberally across the album, and range in mood from the anaesthetised rush of the longing and beautiful Charlottenburg; all pacey synths, suppressed vocal cries and percussion rattling off into the distance, to Halo, the sublime follow-up where a huge ambient hum shifts chords magnificently beneath simple synth accents as a vocal line lies lost under layers of emotive effects. It’s powerful stuff, and fantastic considering the dull and lifeless non-dance cuts most other producers spread across their LPs.

I’ve paid all this attention to the less dancey numbers, but when Damage and Daneeka want to, they can conjure up a storm for the dancefloor. An abridged album edit of Creeper is the glittering centrepiece of the release, and it’s an exercise in simplicity; woozy synth-lines take centre stage in varying degrees of iridescence, accompanied by punchy beats and detailed effects keeping the sound interesting. Elsewhere Deaf Siren deals in knife-edge tension referencing the London scene’s masters of dark 2step, with clipped vocals and sharp claps punctuating a nervy, unstable soundfield. On the other end of the album Juggernaut is a heads-down growler, with sharp synth stabs and a vocal line perfectly manipulated into place. These dancier cuts build but never quite take off, it seems they’ve been produced with a certain restraint so as to fit with the rest of the songs on the album, and it’s a tactic that pays off. There’s a great sense of ebb and flow, not only from song to song but also within individual tracks, as the producers deftly balance both pacing and light against dark to ensure a continually varied listening experience. Some of this is also down to the sequencing and the fairly pared-down 9-song tracklist, which means that not only is each track a joy, but the listener is also left looking forward to each tune in turn.

All of this said, there’s nothing in the individual songs here that’s going to break any moulds. The production is always efficient and strong, particularly on the standout numbers such as Creeper, Charlottenburg and Halo, but perhaps these two producers spend too much time referencing other genres to actually craft a really innovative sound of their own. On the other hand, their subdued and darkened approach lends each song a real cohesion within the whole, and They!lLive is a masterclass on how a dance album should be put together, making it not an essential purchase but a very impressive release; continuing a long run of successful output from Modeselektor’s 50 Weapons label. I’m definitely impressed by the tunes on display here, and hope that future collaborations will bring even loftier success.

8/10

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Friday, 3 February 2012

January Roundup

So the first month of 2012 comes to a close, and it seems a strong start to the year. Here I’ve collected together some of my favourite releases of the month, moving from the biggest dance hitters through darker UK dance territory and back round to bubbly bass tracks, all topped off by a couple of slow and smooth electronic moodsetters. Enjoy!


You can click on some of the tracks to get to my original review.

 Pusherman - Shake It Off
 Boddika & Joy O - Swims (Alternate Mix)
 Jon Convex - Closer
 GoldFFinch - Point of Entry
 Sei A - Break The Pattern
 Dadub - Perseverance
 Kowton - Looking At You
 Artifact - Deserted
 XI - Squeeze
 Machinedrum - DDD
 Locked Groove - Rooted
 Cuthead - Brother
123Mrk - Untroubled 
 Jacques Greene feat. Koreless - Arrow
Disclosure - Flow 
 Benjamin Damage & Doc Daneeka - Halo feat. Abigail Wyles
 Lianne La Havas - Forget (Shlohmo Remix)

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Troy Gunner – Fool’s Gold

Label: Mindset

Fool’s Gold

Dancing In The Leaves

The latest release on Indigo’s offbeat label, which has featured the likes of Synkro and XXXY in the past, comes courtesy of new producer Troy Gunner, and it’s a worthy addition to the Mindset canon. It also represents the lightest and airiest release on the label to date. Each of the three tracks here showcase an incredibly promising new producer whose not-quite-dance tunes are always cerebral and stimulating without ever losing their sense of the groove. Gunner applies textured field recordings and clipped samples to beautiful effect here, recalling some of the best work of White Noise favourites Mount Kimbie while still managing to create a sound entirely his own.

Opening cut Fool’s Gold is the most maximalist and upbeat tune of the three, where stuttering percussive claps and clicks are applied cleverly to a wide array of textured samples, lending the track a welcome swing. None of the clipped sounds used here feel extraneous, with an inviting ambient wash shifting behind low-key vocal cries and a simple guitar riff that feels more a motif than a melodic line. When using such minute samples, a producer must have a very keen sense of timing, to make sure the track doesn’t become too bitty or incoherent. Gratifyingly, the sounds here are used with a keen precision and sense of structure, and feel neither overwhelming nor randomly pasted onto the composition. Second cut Head In Hands is equally impressive, with a finely syncopated beat introducing a huge moody drop of a reverb-drenched chord progression. The mood here is a great deal more melancholy, with vocals pitched down and individual elements rising from the intense atmosphere; a spattering echo from the beats leading to a surprising and forceful second drop. The deep soundfield of those big chords and ambient hiss makes the track unusually immersive, and for me it’s the clear highlight of this strong release.

Final cut Dancing In The Leaves is probably the most minimal composition on offer, in which Gunner builds slowly to a piece of subdued intensity. A funky bassline occasionally emerges over a sparse soundscape of textured percussion, but what’s remarkable is just how controlled the pacing here is, truly showcasing how much he can do with so little. Across these three tracks Gunner shows himself to be a very intriguing prospect, building on a sound that, while familiar, feels like it was never truly explored to its full potential in the ‘Post-Dubstep’ landscape.  Mindset, too, seems the perfect home for his vivid and cerebral compositions, and this EP is more than enough to mark Gunner out as one to watch. 

8/10

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Wednesday, 1 February 2012

Disclosure – Tenderly / Flow

Label: Make Mine

Tenderly

Flow

Guy and Howard Lawrence, aka UK duo Disclosure, have been firm White Noise favourites since their emergence last year, and since I last covered them in an Artist Spotlight feature, it looks like they’ve been continuing to exceed expectations. Although almost unbearably young, on their second 12” release the pair has upped their game once again, producing a pair of exuberant and polished tracks and steaming ahead of the UK bass crowd.

Getting straight down to business, it’s clear that these are Disclosure’s slickest and most mature productions to date, but they continue to craft their compositions with the same broad palette. You won’t be surprised to hear emotive, finely wrought vocals pushing ahead of bouncing, hyper-active synthwork and skipping, barely-there percussion. Although you may have heard these base elements before, here the final result is more accomplished and club-ready, as can be heard on the first track of the double A-side, Tenderly. A fantastic vocal line (“There’s something about you / you just give me that feeling”) builds to the energetic release of big, bright synth chords, while a second layer of deep vocal grunts accent the sound along with low-key percussive touches. Although they always do their vocals and basslines well, it’s always Disclosure’s synthwork that stands out; bristling with pent-up energy and a sincere sense of fun, perfect for any dancefloor in need of a shot of energy.

The flipside is just as strong, building more slowly through a warm ambient hum and rising vocal snippets to an ecastatic payoff, with bright synth stabs contrasting with a rolling melodic line. The vocal sample here commands more attention, demanding the listener ‘get on the floor / move your body’ with a voice dripping with breathy need.  The breakdown is a complex synth sequence perfectly complimented by big classic-House cry, before the tune bursts  back into life, leaving Flow perhaps Disclosure’s strongest composition to date. The two tunes on offer are admittedly not worlds apart, and it’d be nice to see Disclosure venture a little further from their established sound on their next release, but when the tunes are as excellent as Tenderly and Flow, it’s really hard to complain; the boys really knocked the ball right out of the park on this release.

8/10

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