Sunday, 29 November 2020

The Pang of Nostalgia

Paul Guiragossian - Dans la Nuit or Nostalgie (1986)


I've been working on re-publishing all the old entries of the blog which is why this post is a little later than normal - it's something I've been putting off recently, it's not difficult or anything, just a bit tedious (and marred by technical glitches such as Soundcloud changing how their embeds work meaning old player from like 2014 no longer work but I won't bore you with the full tech details). All that to say that looking over past posts, I can't help but appreciate how much I've changed (and likewise, how much has stayed the same) - there are posts from the early 10's where I put only one sentence before a track! Contrast to now where I think if anything I'm too wordy at times.

And that got me all nostalgic for the types of posts I used to do where I just threw down some tunes without any sort of connecting thread - just a 'what I've got on' kind of vibe. Granted, now I think about it the last few posts I've done could be categorised as that but let's do it anyway! First we have something that just barely missed being on the algorithms post (and the Spacey one too!) - it was recommended to go in one of the many playlists I have and while it sort of fit the overall vibe of the playlist it wasn't 100% right for it. Still I couldn't help but be entranced by it, takes a little while to get going but once it does it's a gorgeous piece of lumbering dark electro. I sheepishly admit that this is the first I'd heard of Andrea Parker so I looked her up out of curiosity, and while she hasn't put anything out in quite a while there is plenty to get stuck into in her discography. Another one for me to put on the ever expanding list.



I've been listening to a fair bit of Client recently too - I was originally planning to make a Retro Review of this or another of their albums but that fell a little by the wayside. Similar to Andrea they haven't released anything for a while but their work is harder to come by - being on of the few acts I was surprised to find aren't on Bandcamp. About the band themselves - I just adore Client's overall aesthetic - I've mentioned before I am an absolute sucker for that early 00's retro electronic revival so there is some bias there. But it's not just the sound that I love about Client, it's the escalation of the visual side of things too. Bands of this era may have done visual shout-outs to Kraftwerk by dressing in uniform and looking vaguely disinterested, but Client take it further by fully embracing the often-hinted at fetish side of things (in case the album art didn't make that obvious already). My bias is showing again perhaps, but the combination of the business-wear come uniform styles, garnished with leather and latex absolutely go hand-in-hand with this breed of electronic for me. It's most definitely in the same vein as Nicola Kuperus of ADULT.'s work for their album covers - she too has a slightly fetishistic and surreal presentation to her photography that is beautifully twinned with their more punky electronic.

Back to the tune itself though, I remember City being a fairly bleak album in terms of content which in hindsight was probably just the single Radio sticking out in my mind. I put the album back in rotation not too long ago and was presently surprised by One Day At A Time coming up on shuffle a couple of days ago. I'd hesitate to call it a positive vibe but it's certainly more upbeat than other parts of the album and definitely doesn't telegraph that Fetish angle I talked about above. I love the vocal delivery on here, parts of City have that stoic style that was in at the time again harkening back to Kraftwerk, but then more melodic tracks like One Day At A Time shine brighter for it.



And finally, I've been revisiting Squarepusher's latest EP again since it's release. Not to sound like a broken .mp3 but once again I cannot stress enough how much I love his ambient work, there's precious little of it, but every single one is just brilliant. The Lamental EP is by far the biggest selection we've had of it from Squarepusher for a long while, with MIDI Sans Frontières leading the charge in glorious form. I had the chance to see this video for Detroit People Mover premiere way back in April when I first posted about it, and it remains as powerful if not more so these months later. The EP title rings true, the whole thing feels like mourning - I don't know what video they had planned originally, but this backup one they put together as the lockdown hit is beautifully poignant. The combination of vintage photos and lush synths seems more like something from Boards Of Canada than Squarepusher of all Warp acts, but I would love to hear more of this more delicate sound from Squarepusher in future. Then again, he has never been one to stick to a sound for too long though.



And that'll about do it for this one. I'm slowly working through the archives as before (only 1300-ish posts left to go!) so the next one may be a re-post of a really old one. Apologies in advance, both for the re-run and any horrific writing contained therein from a teenage me, I'll try my best to not go full George Lucas and editorialise them to hell and back!

But as always, stay safe and enjoy the music.

-CVF

Saturday, 21 November 2020

Spacing Out

What a week it's been - things have been following the trajecotry of a full on rollercoaster lately. To the point where I sat down today and realised "I don't know what to write about", but I gave it some thought and I came up with a little something - we're going to revisit the world of spacey techno that I so often wax lyrical about!
Lyubov Popova - Space Force Construction


You've probably seen me mention how I could find precious little of that bleepy future sound this side of the 2000's, but I have been lying to you a little bit as there is an EP I discovered a little while back that ticks those boxes. E.R.P, an alias of Gerard Hanson, better know under his Convextion name and an artist I was totally unfamiliar with just some months ago. This could have been included in the last post in all honesty as I discovered the original EP this track was from, Alsoran from a recommended suggestion on one of my more ambient techno playlists but I digress.

The Alsoran EP is originally from 2007, the release I'm posting it from is a kind of re-issue of two E.R.P. EPs, both that and the Vox Automaton EP. I've yet to sit down and really listen to the Vox side, but the Alsoran EP is three tracks of gorgeous spacey electronic goodness that comes close to evoking those feelings the Artifical Intelligence stuff did for me way back when. All the tracks are solid, but my favourite by a hair's breadth is Lament Subrosa, this first track I heard. It has much more of an old school Electro vibe than the usual ambient techno feel I gravitate towards which is refreshing. Though I certainly get my fill of ambient goodness with the superbly lush intro, which is something that's consistent across the whole EP. Another one of those cases where I can't believe I didn't find out about this stuff sooner, the original EP is well over 10 years old now!



Continuing that trend with a revisit to Richie Hawtin's Dimension Intrusion, originally from 1993. I could never get on with Hawtin's work as Plastikman but I have always adored the F.U.S.E. work. It was re-issued not too long ago after mysteriously disappearing from some streaming services, turns out they were planning a 25th anniversary edition with some bonus extras that I happily snapped up. The re-issue did move the tracklist around a bit, moving some to an accompanying EP and inserting some previously unreleased ones in their place. They're a nice addition - my favourite of them being the suitably titled Downbeat, nicely bouncy thanks to that bassline and firmly rooted in that early 90's sound. Both for better and worse, the sounds are divine for sure but I can't help but feel that the synthy bits first introduced around 2:07 sound so so out of place, almost what someone would do if they were making a parody of that kind of techno. Still, not to sound too negative - it's another prime slice of ambient techno, and I love it, dated parts and all.



And finally rounding out with some proper electro from Warp. Not part of the canon Artificial Intelligence albums but always lumped with them in my head - Elektroworld is myserious album indeed, we know Drexciya's Gerald Donald and James Stinson were involved, but as you can see there are four people on the cover and in promo shots but even that could be a total red herring. Elektroworld was one of my first real dives into electro, and while with expeirence I do think there are better albums out there, it's still a good release and an intersting listen. My favourite has always been Midnight Drive - where the touch of Gerald Donald and James Stinson is absolutley clear to hear. It's among the most accessible tracks on the album, full to bursting with lovely beeps and boops and all kinds of electro smoothness - it does suffer like a few other tracks on this album from having a repetitive vocal sample, while on other tracks like Japanese Elecktronics it does take a backseat for a bit to let the instrumentals shine it's a near constant precence here. It doens't bother me but I can see it grating on some people which is unfortunate.



And that wraps us for this week, this post is going up slightly later than normal just because I took a slightly unintentional extended break. I'm still going to look at getting some older posts re-done! For all my negativity about the new blogger UI it actually looks like it'll really help - I'm just getting used to it and working out the kinks. Sadly not the fun kind. As always, stay safe and enjoy the music.

-CVF

Saturday, 14 November 2020

Algorithms!

I've for a long time voiced my issues with algorithms when it comes to discovering new music. Partly because I'm slightly jaded from every 'you might like' system not being as good as Grooveshark's (RIP), or at least as good as I remember it being with rose tinted glasses and all. That and getting stuck in a perpetual loop of 'Albums you might like' recommends from discogs too, though I will admit that they have gotten better with time. And that's really the crux of this post - I've changed my tune a bit when it comes to the algorithms, whether that be them getting better or me just having less time to take the deep dives that I used to I can't say. Here's a selection of tunes I've found via automated processes.

Ellsworth Kelly - Spectrum Colors Arranged By Chance VI (1951)

A lot of this music comes from Japan, and the reason for that is multi-layered. Firstly I've been on that kind of mode for a while so it's only natural the machines learn that and send similar stuff my way (see my previous posts on Rei Harakami et al), but secondly because it seems to be a big scene in the world of YouTube. And the reason for that is interesting in and of itself, word in the industry is that it's diabolically hard to license Japanese music for release elsewhere - though labels like Light In The Attic are doing their best to rectify that, I highly recommend their compilation Kankyō Ongaku: Japanese Ambient, Environmental & New Age Music 1980-1990. There are exceptions to this, most of Rei Harakami's work is easily accessible via Bandcamp now for one, but often things just get lost in the interim.

Enter Susumu Yokota - an equally prolific name in the world of Japanese electronic but unlike Harakami's works, a lot of his discography is not simple to get your hands on. The album I found via the 'rithms, Cat, Mouse & Me, is one such example: released in 1997 on the Harthouse label, never re-pressed or re-issued beyond the original releases in Europe and the US and the label is still around but has been defunct several times throughout the years - the first time being actually in 1997. And that's before we introduce the complications of Yokota's death probably making managing the rights a real headache. But enough background, onto the album itself! Credited to just 'Yokota' on the sleeve, it's a different flavour to the House and Ambient stuff I've posted of his before. Here we take a trip to the more downtempo side of things, some of these tracks are straight up Trip-Hop and I love Yokota's interpretations of the genre. The whole thing has this lovely late 90's feel that as you all know by now I really really love. I picked this track in particular for that very reason, for a little while we dip our toes into Drum & Bass territory and if you're at all like me and love Soichi Terada's D&B work - this one will be extremely up your alley. Taking a few cues from the like of Omni Trio as well, Few is packed with lush ambient pads backed with breakbeats, Yokota gives the tune plenty of room to breathe with extended breakdowns focusing on those delicious synths. I've been wearing it out for well over a week now with no signs of stopping.



I've also discovered a lot of compilations this way - one I've mentioned very briefly in passing, Hamburgeins has given me a chance to once again open my borders to more minimal stuff. I'm incredibly picky when it comes to minimal as longtime readers will know - which often makes it hard for me to pin down why I like some tracks over others and this one is no different in that respect. At it's most base level its just a simple loop and a 4/4 for 8 minutes with the occasional vocal chorus - on paper it sounds like I wouldn't much care for it but it's probably one of my most listened to from the compilation, though it is an alias/group of Alexander Polzin so that might explain it a bit. I think it really captures that hi-tech smoothness that permeates that compilation, and maybe it's just the menial work I'm doing these days but it's been a great one to pass the time with.



And a roundabout one to play us out, and the oldest example of this here. This one's a cross-media tale - VA-11 HALL-A was first recommended to me by Steam thanks to my interest in any and all things with the 'Cyberpunk' tag. It was the artwork that caught my eye first of all, but like so many people's Steam accounts I essentially wish-listed it and promptly forgot about it. A few weeks later a streamer I follow mentioned they'd be playing it so I figured I'd tune in, and it was one of those moments where I couldn't stick around - not because of timezones or I had something to do - no, this was one of those times where I had to leave the stream because I knew I needed this in my life. The artwork, the music and of course the game itself absolutely nail their aesthetic and I'm having to stop myself from writing multiple paragraphs on it once again. Simply put: if you like Synthwavy stuff at all, definitely consider picking up VA-11 HALL-A or it's soundtracks - Garoad's music is impeccably twinned with it and makes the whole experience that much richer, it runs the gamut from full on synthwave club tracks, to borderline ambient and twinkling downtempo slow jams like this one. Absolutely gorgeous.



And so ends another weekly post, I'm going to try resurrect some old posts this weekend if I can make heads or tails of the spaghetti html with the new blogger layout, I may republish a couple of them as 'new' posts at some point during the week as well. Apologies for the re-runs in advance but I'll try and balance it out with new ones too! And as always, stay safe and enjoy the music.

-CVF

Saturday, 7 November 2020

Trip Report

Back for what has now become the weekly post. Following on from last post I have this time a selection of things I done picked up on bandcamp recently. And to the surprise of no-one, none of them are ones that I had posted about last time. Let's have a look.
Alice Baber - Noble Numbers (1965)


In stark contrast to my usual MO, I've been very into picking up EPs lately. Partly a practical decision as it's easier to listen to an EP given how busy things have been as of late but also because the number of them in my wishlist had been growing and I thought it'd be high time to look at 'em anyway. Starting with Burial. I've been pretty quiet about Burial in recet years, but that's because I occasionally dip my toe into his works rather than take a full dive. A real nasty habit of mine in the past is essetially overloading too much too quick on an artist so I'm tryign to not do that here. Rodent is one that slipped me by, a gorgeously hazy rumbling house number with a B-side footwork remix from Kode9. The A-side is the real attraction here; as someone who only occasionally dabbles in Burial it's a refreshing change as well. If I had a complaint it'd be I'd like the body of the track to have more time to breathe seperate from that vocal sample - which I can see turning some people off with the repwtition. It does get a chance to shine through every now and then like around 1:30, but I'd love to be even more fully immersed in those sections.



A complete 180 in sound now, as I visit yet another artist that I've only a passing relationship with; Dopplereffekt, specifically an alias of theirs Der Zyklus. In concept I should adore their works - hi-tech sci-fi infused techno/electro is supremley up my alley - but the truth is I've often found it a little hard to get into some of them. I do have a few bits and pieces here and there though, and this is one EP that I'd actually already heard plenty of as both the A-Side and B-Side were featred in a ton of compilations around their original release on another EP in the early 00's. And both tracks are absolutley great, I think they hit a nice balance of the hi-tech vibe while keeping things more melodic than the Dopplereffekt work which is something that often turns me off, Elektronisches Zeitechno is a perfect example of the kind of electro I love for example. However today I'm going to talk about the B-side, the equally lengthy titled Mathematische Modelle. As one might expect from the title, there is more than a smidgen of Kraftwerk influence here and I am very much here for it. As I say all too often when a track like this comes up, I will always adore tracks like this - as a bright eyed young'un I was often fascinated by the sounds on old Kraftwerk records - they were so different and interesting sounding than anything else I couldn't help it. And as you may know to this day I still have a real love for it! Much like Warp's Artifical Intelligence compilations, to me, this is still the sound of the future.



And finally, slightly cheating as I picked this one up ages ago (and have also probably posted it before), Golden Boy & Miss Kittin's Rippin Kittin. Sadly, the version Kittin has archived on her bandcamp is missing my all time favourite mix by Alexander Polzin (that you can no longer actually buy anywhere digitally) it is still a solid version of the EP. Rippin Kittin was a bit of a hit in it's day, no doubt helped out by the brilliant Radio Mix by Glove. Truth be told it's not really that different from the album version - slightly restructured yes but mostly the same, although as I point out every time I talk about the alternate mixes, a lot of the remixes and this Radio Mix feature a chorus that is puzzlingly not at all present on the album version or the 'Original' mix. While an odd choice, it does make the Radio Mix a lot less bleak sounding than the original mix. Aside from that - I still love the slick production of it and the accompanying album Or, and it goes without saying at this point that I almost universially love Kittin's vocal contributions. She's very much in that early 00's stoic electroclash mode here which I appreciate might not be for everyone, but I have loved this tune for nigh on 2 decades now and that is highly likely to continue.



And so ends our brief dive into my bandcamp happenings - the rolling Bandcamp Fridays have been a real treat for me, letting me constantly dip into that wishlist and keep it slightly trimmed rather than having it grow uncontrollably like some of my other wishlists. Of course to not be selfish for a moment it's a real bonus for the artists as well, I'm very happy to see a lot more stuff on digital distribution these days - as much as I love collecting physically sometimes its more practical to grab a digital copy from the artists themselves. Though it's worth pointing out that you can buy physical things from bandcamp, I just haven't done so yet. Perhaps for the next trip report I will do so!

As always, stay safe and enjoy the music.

-CVF