Tuesday, 20 December 2011

A Very Warped History 14: 2006 (2 Of 4)

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As we wind down once again for the holiday season, I leave you with one final helping of downtempo goodness from my hometown buddy Nightmares On Wax. After a slight stumble with Mind Elevation, the Wax man returns to form with a fresher take on that slightly more mainstream sound in spectacular style that dare I say even rivals the original Smokers Delight in terms of out and out quality. Oh, and be sure to keep an eye out for those tunes used in [Adult Swim] bumps!



Take Passion for example. I've posted it before, but it deserves it again. NoW is pretty good at killing it with his intros, and this is no different. Any doubts I had after the slightly bland intro of Mind Elevation were quelled and lost in that hazy sea of sound.



As you can tell, In A Space Outta Sound is all about the Hippty Hop, and pulls it off much better than Mind Elevation did. It's all a far cry from the dub infusions present on Smokers Delight, but parts of it return here: notably the bass booms just after the intro, and the ever present reggae style organ.



The Sweetest then flows ever so gracefully into what is right up there as one of the best Nightmares tracks ever, right from the downright brilliant intro to the final fade, it's just downright essential. It achieves everything that Mr. Evelyn wanted to do with his sound. There is no need for any more words, just give it a listen and you will hear just why.



The Wax man goes full on hippty hop for the next venture, The influences of the 1970s soul scene on this track and NoW himself an are quite obvious, it is after all where most good n' funky samples come from. It's kept fairly simple but that doesn't hold it back in any way, in fact it feels a lot shorter than it actually is.



A return to the longer tracks now, with Damn providing some Arabian sounding strings to go with the tried and tested beat formula we're now accustomed to. It's a pretty good track as-is, but the introduction of the vocals at about 2:40 pushes it even further into proper quality territory.





I have heard this track far, far too many times. Yet it's still as good as ever, why that is I do not know, the sample, the organ, the slight hint of vinyl crackle amidst it all? it could be anything. But damn if it isn't satisfying as hell to listen to.



Remember Me + You from Smokers Delight? Remember how great it was despite being about 50 seconds long? Well, this album has it's very own little sample-based track like that. Presenting Chime Out: the tune that says so much with so little.



I was unsure of this track on first listen, it was good alright, but it was missing that crucial, essential groove that makes Nightmares On Wax. The 'lil guitar bit at 1:05 had my back, and that led into that amazing chiller drop at 1:15. I don't even know if you would call that bit a drop, but who cares it sounds a-mazing.



As the album draws to a close, we're treated to another candidate for the best of Nightmares On Wax. (and it even has an 808 in it!) The best description of it was from a review which simply said "This track is like if Trip-Hop came out of Florida instead of Bristol". And I'd have to agree with them wholeheartedly there, it's definitely brighter than the moody musings from the likes of say Portishead.



Playing us out is African Pirates, which I believe we posted a remix of once. It's very bouncy and light, much like the rest of the album. The bassline for this one is just perfect in setting the mood. It's nothing like an outro track at all, so like all NoW releases before it leaves you wanting more.



This is not the first time I've had to stop myself from posting a full album, but I really, REALLY wanted to this time. I massively recommend you check this out, it's so well produced and catchy that it at least deserves a listen from you. That an it's probably the easiest NoW album to get into with it's easy going vibes.

Out Of Sound,
-Claude Van Foxbat

Sunday, 11 December 2011

A Very Warped History 14: 2006 (1 Of 4)

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It's a Boards Of Canada blowout this week, this time with the Trans Canada Highway EP. It has a lot of similarities to The Campfire Headphase (Hell, the first track is Dayvan Cowboy which appeared on that album) but it is different enough to warrant it's own release. It's longer than the previous In A Beautiful Place Out In The Country EP which was only a 3 tracker, and even includes a remix! So without further ado, let's pick apart this EP.



Missing out Dayvan Cowboy, we get the first proper track. Left Side Drive, like the rest of the EP, leaves the acoustic driven direction of The Campfire Headphase behind in favour of the classic BoC formula with thundering beats with hints of synth sprinkled throughout, and even a few reversed parts in the background for good measure.



You may have noticed a distinct lack of the short ambient interludes that were such a treat on The Campfire Headphase, unlike albums previous. And that's where the EP comes in, it features a couple of them and they're a welcome return this ones a quasi-drone piece similar to Corsair from Geogaddi.





Skyliner is a bit of an interesting one, I saw a deconstruction of it not too long ago and pretty much the entire song is palindromic. Basically the melody and the synth sounds the same backwards as it does forwards, though I suppose it's not that strange when you consider BoC's track record with samples and whatnot. It seems to be uncommon as the only other palindromic melody I know of is in Sigur Ros's Starálfur.



And finally, the other ambient interlude: Uder The Coke Sign. I love when Boards do this kind of thing and this track is no exception, they cut it just short enough so that it doesn't get old, so that way it stays just as sweet on every single repeat listen. It'd be fitting to just end the EP right there, but...



Click for Huge

There's a little something on the end. A massive 9 minute remix of Dayvan Cowboy by a one Odd Nosdam. It's sort of the musical equivalent of watching a really old VHS tape, the whole thing is warped and barely sounds like what it used to, but it has that charming quality to it. The moment that airy intro gives way to the now menacing sounding guitars is amazing, and just like that they're gone again. The song doesn't start properly for about another minute and even then doesn't stick around long, giving in to another ambient bit. Overall it plays out like a more trip-hop version of Dayvan Cowboy, it's pretty great.



And finally, another first for Boards Of Canada, their very first official music video featuring footage of Joesph Kittinger legendary skydive from practically the edge of space. it's pretty much what you'd expect visually from a Boards tune, all washed out and retro like. Officially it was directed by a one Melissa Olson, though I suspect it was probably the Boards brothers themselves, considering the tracks "Melissa Juice" from Twoism and "Olson" from Music Has The Right To Chrildren it's too coincidental a name to be true.



...And I'm Gone,
-Claude Van Foxbat

Saturday, 10 December 2011

A Very Warped History 13: 2005 (2 Of 2)

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You may have noticed not much changes between each Boards Of Canada album, that's not necessarily a bad thing, their sound was interesting and they kept it fresh enough to stretch out. So what happens when the band themselves decide to change things up a bit? well, The Campfire Headphase has more of an acoustic slant and even though it's still got spatterings of their now trademark nostalgic analouge haze on it, the album as a whole just feels different perhaps... warmer I want to say, than anything else they've done before.



And it begins innocently enough, with a little ditty that sounds like something from an old TV test card from more than a few decades ago rather than the underlying menace of tracks such as Beware The Friendly Stranger from Geogaddi



And with no hint of hesitation we dive right in at the acoustic end, with the guitar here essentially taking the place of where a synth would before on their previous efforts, contributing to that whole warmer, looser atmosphere to the album while still sounding like Boards Of Canada.



Aside from the intro, the next track takes a different approach to the incorporation of acoustics, like Chromakey Dreamcoat the guitar forms a recurring melody, but it's sandwiched between sets of BoC's usual dreamy electronics affair, with a tiny ambient piece on the end for good measure.





Now, up until this point I was thinking the album's pretty good, but it needs something to push it over the edge, something with the instant classic vibes that tracks like Roygbiv gave off in the past. I wasn't disappointed. From the absolutely sublime first chords until the very end, I was hanging on every note.



And much like the Dawn Chorus/Over The Horizon Radar combo from Geogaddi, it's followed up with another outstanding track. Dayvan Cowboy is one of BoC's most famous songs and it's not hard to see why. The track is essentially in two parts, with the woozy intro breaking off about halfway through to give way to an amazing moment at about 2:05. When you hear it you will understand why it's one of their most famous tunes. It's just brilliant through and through.



The acoustics take a well deserved backseat for now, and instead we're treated to one of the electronic based tunes that made them famous in the first place. They're still as good at it as ever, with the usual mix of emotion and atmosphere making for the quintessential Boards Of Canada experience.



It's not long before the guitars make a comeback and we're back in the now familiar valley of strings however. I've posted this track before, for a post that was just mix of summery tunes. That's pretty much it, like Dawn Chorus before it, it's practically made to watch the sun rise to, Its even in the title of both of them.





This track has always stood out as a bit strange to me, not only does it mark the end of any more acoustic elements, but it just sounds out of place considering the more upbeat nature the album, as it sounds like the more sinister ambient pieces from Geogaddi that's not to say it isn't still quality though. If Hey Saturday Sun was made to watch the sun rise to, this is for those hot and humid summer nights where you can't sleep.



And that leads us to the winding down period of the album, as always, A few ambient pieces to guide you through the last few minutes. This one's always been a favourite from just the intro alone, it's a short one, but it feels like it lasts forever. In a good way though.



Farewell Fire holds a unique niche in the world of BoC ambient pieces, it's got the usual soft pads but this time it's entirely un-sequenced, just recorded as it was played. This leads to some interesting and subtle differences throughout in regards to the note structure. Also of note is that the track almost completely fades away at about the 4:00 mark but it remains just barely audible for the remainder of the song. I have no idea why they did it but it sure does make for an interesting listen (and a bit of a fright when it ends and you have it on shuffle + full volume).



That's meant to be the last track, but just like with Geogaddi I'm gonna throw in the Japanese bonus track as well, it doesn't quite fit after the sparse and spaced out Farewell Fire. Regardless, the track itself is quite interesting and sounds quite a bit like some of the stuff that would be on the EP after this, the Trans Canada Highway EP which we'll see in the very next entry.



Boards Of Canada have yet to do an album since, there's been rumours on and off for the past couple of years that they're releasing a boatload of old unreleased material like the infamous 'Old Tunes' tapes in a box set (or BoCset, if you will), but nothing's come of it yet. Mind you if you listen to Boards Of Canada you kinda get used to waiting a long time between releases, because it's probably going to be more than worth it in the end.

1986 Summer Fire,
- Claude Van Foxbat

Saturday, 19 November 2011

A Very Warped History 13: 2005 (1 Of 2)

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Broadcast have always had a rocky history with their line-ups; mostly drummers drifting in and out of the band. 2005 sees Broadcast reduced to a skeleton crew of Trish Keenan and James Cargill after the departure of their long time guitar player Tim Felton. The result of this is that their third and ultimately last album, Tender Buttons, takes a much more electronic route than anything broadcast have done before, almost taking a complete 180 in terms of their sound up until this point. This is probably my favourite album by them, like The Noise Made By People before it, it completely nails the aesthetic. Except this time the hazy atmosphere of albums past is replaced by an overall much more rigid feel, while retaining some warmth about the songs themselves.



Take for example, the opener. It's simple enough, the main hook is just descending keys, but they soon get lost in the sea of now trademark Broadcast sounds. It's a short one at just 2 minutes long, but it serves as a perfect demo of how the band works without a guitar.



Broadcast haven't lost their experimental touch though, as heard on the second track, Black Cat. It's structured much like the opener with a heavy focus on the electronic side of things and I think the song is better for it, it just makes it complete.



The title track sees Keenan's cryptic lyrics lathered over the contradictory sounds of a guitar and a lone synth. The guitar is the main focus at first until about 40 seconds in, when it gets kicked to the backseat and the synth steals the show. Despite this, it flows just as well as any of their acoustic tracks from albums past. It's just a shame it's all over so soon.



I have a special place for this one in my library, as it was the first song I ever heard from Broadcast, a long time ago on a blog just like this one. The song just grabs you and is brilliant from the introductory plastic sounding drums all the way to the final fade out.

Tender Buttons takes a mellow turn as we approach the middle of the tracklist. Keenan's vocals form the backbone of the song as it's mixed much higer than everything else. Unlike the songs before it her voice remains untreated (save for an echo) and will remain so for the rest of the album, as will the more subtle merging of the electronic and acoustic.





I'll always remember Corporeal as it was my current favourite when I heard of Trish Keenan's untimely death early this year. Ever since then it's sounded bittersweet to me despite the underlying intimacy within the song itself. Still a highlight for me though.



Heading briefly into upbeat territory again with Michael A Grammar. It's probably the poppiest sounding song on here, and the closest Broadcast get to sounding almost like an indie band. That's not a bad thing though, it's a welcome change from their usual material.



Tender Buttons gets it's title from a series of poems by Gerturde Stein in which she deconstructs clusters of words and re-defines them. The inspiration on the album has been seen before on the title track Tender Buttons, and is heard once again on this next one.



Another upbeat sounding track that Keenan's vocals just shine on. That's pretty much all I can say, I just love what she does and this track is pretty much the best example of that on Tender Buttons. Even without the other 3 members around, the band makes amazing tracks.



The closing track is a different sound altogether: I Found The End is the opening keys of I Found The F re-purposed, slowing them down to create a haunting ambient piece, a bit like Sigur Rós did on Avalon from Ágætis Byrjun. It also shares the twinned opener/closer like the Long Was The Year/Dead The Long Year on The Noise Made By People. Very fitting seeing as this was the last thing Broadcast released outside of collaborations and old material.



That's it for Broadcast, when you put it like this it doesn't seem like a lot of music. Their three albums will pretty much always be in continuous rotation by me, and I hope some of you will as well.

Comb, Calm, Colour, Cortex,
-Claude Van Foxbat

Thursday, 27 October 2011

A Very Warped History 12: 2004

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On a similarly Drum & Bass / Jazz note, here's another Warped entry. This time it's Ultravisitor, the last in the line of Squarepusher's frantic experimental stage that started with Go Plastic. Remember earlier this year where I said in my review of Bibio's Mind Bokeh that it was a bit all over the place in terms of sound? you ain't heard nothin' yet my friend, 'cos Ultravisitor is by far the least cohesive album I have ever heard. But it works, well yeah some of the tracks are pretty much full on abrasive noise, but it's all part of Squarepusher's grand send-off to the experimental style.



This album also has a bit of a gimmick where some of it was actually recorded live, and some of it just has crowd noises spliced in to make it seem live. I don't quite get the idea, but it sounds good so I'll let it slide. Anyway, onto the tracks: It starts innocently enough, with the titular track proving actually quite tame by Squarepusher standards. A far cry from what we'll hear later I assure you.



And to throw you completely off, Mr. Jenkinson throws a jazzy bass solo at you, just for kicks. It's a welcome return to the style that he explored on 1998's Music Is Rotted One Note and would again in 2009 with Solo Electric Bass 1



Again another Jazzy-esque bit that wouldn't be out of place on Music Is Rotted One Note, this one actually reminds me of the track My Sound from that record, and that is one of my all time favourites. This one goes down a treat.



One final guitar solo, not like anything he's done before, both on this album and previous this time. It's very nice in a not-Squarepusher way. It's the calm before the oncoming storm that should be coming riiiiight after this.

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Now. The time for Jazz is over. Those nice Guitar pieces you liked so much? They're gone. We're back in frantic Drum & Bass territory à la Go Plastic now. That doesn't stop it being brilliant though. My favourite bit is at 4:11, where the man himself starts spouting some distorted verses that work really well with the backing.



The Go Plastic-esque trend continues, a quiet intro filled with bleeps and boops leading to a cavalcade of sounds flying at you from all directions with spatterings of Bass Guitar later on. It's pretty much textbook Squarepusher for this era.



A return to the jazzy side of things, with a improv drum session leading nicely into familiar territory as heard on earlier tracks. A brief respite from the sound assault that came before it.



It's a similar story for this one, though just when you thought we were back in Jazz land in comes some actual Drum & Bass backing, this is pretty much the style the 'Pusher adopts for the next few albums after this, flowing electronics with a speedy Drum & Bass backing with splashes of Bass solos lathered over the top. It's probably my favourite of all his styles adopted throughout the years.

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As we come to the last few tracks of the album, we leave the experimental Drum & Bass behind for good. In it's place is the sequel to Tommib, an ambient number from Go Plastic. Like his mate Aphex Twin, 'Pusher is just as good at chilled out stuff as he is his usual repertoire. A well deserved break from all those breakbeats.



And wrapping the album up, one final guitar piece. No drums, no electronics, no speedy sampled breaks. Just Jenkison and his Guitar together for the last send-off. It's a fitting end, not just for the album but for his experimental work as a whole: it had it's patchy moments, but when it shined, it REALLY shined.



It's funny, this album isn't usually in my standard rotation because I always remember the ultra noise parts split with a few downtempo pieces, but looking through the tracks for ones to post I found it's pretty evenly balanced between the two. His experimental stuff isn't my favourite, that award goes to both the set of albums after this and his early works. Though saying that, it's aged a lot better than Go Plastic in terms of the more experimental stuff as in I find the stuff on here a lot easier to listen to. Next time we have a TON of Boards Of Canada stuff coming up, see you then.

Rearranged Into Plastic Membranes,
-Claude Van Foxbat

Tuesday, 13 September 2011

Look Who I Got to Talk To... [Revival]

In memory of DJ Mehdi, who sadly passed away today, aged 34.


Sheesh, some people are so hard to get a hold of. I mean, really, who does this guy think he is? Oh, he's DJ Mehdi? Acceptable. Wait...DJ FUCKING MEHDI?!

Yep. And here's a 4.7MB image which is totally going to raise my hosting prices and clog up my bandwidth, but I don't care. It's a new image of a music god.


Look at him. Just... just look at him. (Click for full size)


First, let me say it is an honor to even be speaking to you right now.
I've been a fan of yours for years and your music - along with other
tracks from Ed Banger Records - truly got me listening to dance music
(other than Daft Punk) and consequently led to the start of my blog. So
thank you.
Well, pleasure is mine, thank you too.

Cuteness aside, let's start with some background info. Tell us about
yourself, including the origin of that name.
My name is Mehdi Faveris-Essadi. I'm a DJ and producer from Paris,
France. I've been working on various Hip-Hop and Electronic Music
projects since 1995. A while ago, when I was a fresh and new
beat-maker for french Rap bands, friend of mine wrote 'Produced by DJ
Mehdi' in the credits of a song I did, and it just sticked. I am also
one of the original artists from the Ed Banger Records label for which
I released one LP (Lucky Boy 2006), three EP's (I am Somebody 06,
Lucky Girl/Signatune 07 and Pocket Piano 08), and a remix compilation
called 'Red Black and Blue' (2009). I love art, food and sex.

What got you involved in that electro/dance music scene? Who are your
inspirations?
Meeting people got me into this. Glib'R from Versatile was the first
DJ to play some Chicago and Detroit classic tunes for me, around
1993/1994. He was running programs at this radio station named NOVA
here in Paris, and they were playing Hip-Hop, Electro and World Music
all the time, all mixed, which was quite unusual at the time.
Pioneering. Then I met the guys from La Funk Mob and Motorbass in
1996, on the production of MC Solaar's third album. Those guys opened
a whole new world for me with their instrumental EP's. Later, they
became very popular as CASSIUS. Last but not least, I met Busy P and
the Daft Punk crew in 97, right after the release of 'Homework'. P and
I became good friends, and when he left Daft to set up his management
company called HEADBANGERS in 2001, I immediately jumped-in. All these
people were, and still are, my main inspirations when it comes to
evolving and growing in the music field without losing my
particularities and background culture.

What was your first track? And under what name did you create that track?
I can't remember the first thing I ever composed. I used to experiment
a lot with my parents stereo equipment as a kid and I 've been
composing or sampling music since 1990 (I was 13 years old). The first
thing I 'recorded' was a rap demo with my cousins. I used to rap, too.
In 1994, my band IDEAL J participated in the soundtrack music to a
french movie called "RAI". The movie was a flop, but they still
released a CD of the music. That was the first music I ever got
published.

As a solo artist, I used to print instrumental EP's on my own label
called ESPIONNAGE, in 1998, under the names CAMBRIDGE CIRCUS, ESPION
or ESPIONNAGE SOUND SYSTEM. That was before Ed Banger, but Busy P and
Feadz were already in the team.

If you could sum up your music in 4 words or less, what would you say?
If Kraftwerk were African.

How is life working with the Ed Rec crew? Is this the life you expected as
a child?
Life is good, thanks. It's all about making music and having fun.
Exactly what I hoped it to be as a teenager.

What are some other talents you have? And when/how did you discover these?
I'm an amazing jamaican Dancehall dancer, along with Gaspard from
Justice. We practice all the time. We won contests and stuff. I also
cook. If I could open a place where you could eat a Mehdi dish, and
dagger to the latest dub-plate, now that would be my ultimate goal.

What equipment do you use?
Bongos, mainly. And a cowbell, sometimes.

What is your favorite aspect of being a musician?
I really like that Platinum frequent flyer miles card that I got from
Air France. It gives me that 'upper-class' feeling that I always
strived for. I still get the 'arab-looking-suspicious' search at
security though, but I also kinda like it. I keep it real, if you may.

What is your favorite song right now?
Right now, 'Man Of The Year' by DRAKE.

From the fans...
Hey guys, to quote Mariah Carey: "I love my fans".

What is your next big project with Ed Banger?
Working on a new haircut right now. Trust me, it ain't easy.

Where do you think electro is headed?
To the East brother, to the East.

Favorite VST Plugin?
Spankwire, hands down. Note: That's porn. lol. --Prez

Thanks so much DJ Mehdi, I look forward to hearing back from you soon,
Prez
Thank you Prez, my pleasure---
Mehdi.

Rock your blogging DJ's
http://djmehdi.coolcats.fr/

I've never laughed so hard. Touche Mehdi... touche. Well, we couldn't milk any secrets out of him, but hey, I made en effort! It was an honor, it really was, to just talk to him. Makes me feel so accomplished. *tear*

Alright, now some party favors. Here's DJ Mehdi's spin on Busy P's To Protect and Entertain. It's good, it's some of the best Hip Hop I've ever heard, actually. I frequently blast this stuff (along with the rest of Pedrophilia - EP when I'm driving.

Busy P ft Murs - To Protect and Entertain (DJ Mehdi 99Rap Mix) [iTunes]








And... a nice mp3 players chock full of Mehdi's new "Red Black & Blue," courtesy of his manager.

(Update: Player wasn't working anymore, so in it's place is the video for Signatune.)



Enjoy, I know I did.
Prez

PS - Can I let out a scream of excitement now? Yes? AAHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!


RIP DJ Mehdi

Monday, 5 September 2011

Warped Leftovers One

Looking back, there's been more than a few releases I was going to put into the Warped History posts, but then I remembered they weren't on Warp at the time of release. And that's why I'm here, because this stuff is too quality to leave un-posted.



AFX's Selected Ambient Works 85-92 was released on Belgian label R&S Records, and it's an amazing album considering when it was recorded (1985-1992, hence the title) and the fuzzy mix of analogue equipment, old school drum machines and swooping synths still sounds fresh today, and it was absolutely revolutionary at the time. Take for example Xtal. I love this track so much, the sampled voice flows smoothly throughout and those synths coming in at 1:50 kill me every time.



I've posted this next track before, it's a great example of the album's elements, being upbeat while remaining fairly chilled. and I dare you to not like that opening melody :).



I wouldn't say I have an overall favourite, but Ageispolis comes damn close. there's not much to say about it than what I've already said. Heavenly synths, low bass and so on, enjoy.



Moving into quasi-dancefloor territory is this track, the intro is something else, slowly leading you on until the drop happens. And it's bloody fantastic.



another great showcase of tech this one (listen, try and guess all the equipment!), it's what we've come to expect so far, only with a layer of acid drizzled on top. Gorgeous.



My final pick is a real testament to AFX's skills, managing to keep probably the most simple melody/bass/beats combo of the album fresh for about 7 and a half minutes. you'll have listend to it all before you know it.



And that's all from me, I know I haven't written alot about the tracks like I normally do but, as cliché as it sounds, I felt I didn't need to. It's a fantastic album (that and the tracks are hard to describe anyways :P). Also bear in mind this was recorded between 1985 and 1992, meaning the oldest tracks on here (only one I remember from '85 is Ageispolis) are TWENTY FIVE YEARS OLD and he was only 14 at the time to boot. Like it or not, you gotta admit that's pretty amazing.

Beep Boop,
-Claude Van Foxbat

Wednesday, 10 August 2011

A Very Warped History 11: 2003

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Like the last entry, this edition of Warped will also feature a bands slightly more mainstream take on their established sound, and again the album is slightly patchy in places with some gems within (though it's less patchy than Mind Elevation). Most of the bad press seems to levelled against that fact, but I'm going to show you once again that a more mainstream approach isn't such a bad thing. Tune in this week, because it's Broadcast time again!



I prefer Haha Sound's introduction to the one on The Noise Made By People, their previous effort, it has that dreamy washed out quality to it right off the bat, which is something Broadcast consistently nail



There was a reason I said this LP has a *slightly* more mainstream take to the sound. Straight after the floaty intro it jarringly dumps you into this world of menacing electronics and imposing drums juxtaposed with the steady musings of Trish Keenan. And it's brilliant.



The cycle continues with this next track, with Pendulum fading ever so gracefully into Before We Begin, which sounds like a long lost record from the 60's; and that is pretty much Broadcast in a nutshell.



This is where the first "patch" as it were, occurs. The tracks aren't necessarily bad, they just... aren't anything special. Your patience is rewarded though, as as immediately afterwards you are treated to what is perhaps one of the band's best efforts.



Probably my overall favourite from this album, unlike most of their work it contains very little in the way of electronic effects, meaning that this track in particular sounds very crisp and all the other elements play into each other beautifully, all strung together by Keenan's unique voice.





Much like the above, though packing a bit more in the electronics department is Winter Now bears a structure akin to a pop song, albeit with that slightly skewed trademark Broadcast sound to it. Which really shows itself in the last 30 seconds or so.



And finally, playing us out is the rather out of place Hawk I was a bit unsure of this track at first (as I've already said it comes completley out of nowhere) but then those simple but oh so effective pads hit and I was in love, and I have grown to love the frantic rhythm in time as well. A fitting end? eh, sort of. An excellent track? Most Definitely



It will be a while before we see Broadcast's third (and ultimately, last) album. But we have more stuff from Squarepusher & Boards Of Canada to keep us occupied.

Until Then,
-Claude Van Foxbat

Thursday, 28 July 2011

A Very Warped History 10: 2002 (2 Of 2)

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2002 would see Nightmares On Wax take a slightly different approach to a new album. Having moved away from his previous techno work with ex-bandmate Robin Taylor-Firth to bring us the stone cold chillout classic Smokers Delight in 1995; which was followed by 1999's Carboot Soul which was a suitable sequel, and showed a progression in sound from the previous record whilst leaving room for more.



Mind Elevation is perhaps the black sheep of all NOW's releases (to the point where I debated even posting it at all). In it, George Evelyn takes a more mainstream approach to the sound that made the last two albums so popular. Now, the mainstream approach isn't why this album is very hit & miss with me, it just... misses something. For example: I've said a few times in the past NOW's intros to his albums are almost flawless, this one being the exception, it clocks in at just over 7 minutes and for the first few minutes it's fairly catchy, but it soon overstays it's welcome.

Despite this, the second track is better, it's a more suitable length for what it is. However this album does have some gems in it, and the first shows itself three tracks in: Sporting a sound progression similar to that of Morse from Carboot Soul, it finally captures that sound I'd been waiting for during the first two tracks.



Right away the album hits a twofer, Following it up with one of the singles and the first of the more mainstream oriented tracks on here, expanding upon the couple of tracks with vocals from Carboot Soul. And while it's nothing like those tracks, or like anything from NOW we've heard so far and it's perhaps not aged very well either. Despite all this I still think it's good track.



Three for three next, with another track reminiscent of the sound of albums previous. Built around a single loop, NOW works his magic to keep it fresh and interesting throughout, if a little short. It may not have the instant impact and appeal of some of his older tracks, but it's still unmistakably NOW.





I was originally going to give this one a miss, but it came up on shuffle and it turns out I'd forgotten how good it sounded. Again it's another delve into the mainstream side of things, bringing yet more vocals to the table. And surprisingly unlike Date With Destiny, it's aged quite nicely. A testament to both NOW's production ability and the voice of Chyna Brown.



Another case where NOW's production shines, the sounds of 70s 80s set it up perfectly for the period piece lyrics laid down by LSK. The track is catchy enough to grab you from the very first few notes and just does not let go. One of the places where the album truly shines.



And I'm going to gloss over the last few tracks to bring you the final one. The last few tracks are just as good as the ones previous, but this last one stands out to me the most, setting up where he's taking his now trademark sound over the next few LPs. Which is done in perfect style by laying down a trademark 7 minute chilled number.



Definitely check this album out if you've liked everything NOW related so far, it's patchy in places, but it has its moments and those moments are brilliant. Those of you who weren't such a big fan of this album, don't worry, the next few are pretty much golden and , dare I say it, almost compare to Smokers Delight in terms of quality. If you're looking to pick this up, have a look and see if you can find the 2CD version, it has a mix by NOW on it that is basically a retrospective of his tracks until this point. (and curiously has the track Thoughts labelled as Heaven instead)

Pretty Fly,
-Claude Van Foxbat

Friday, 1 July 2011

A Very Warped History 10: 2002 (1 Of 2)

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This time on Warped, we take a look at Boards Of Canada's follow up to their critically acclaimed Music Has The Right To Children. It takes a slightly weirder approach to the now trademark BoC sound, melding the already present nostalgic overtones with some downright strange elements. Samples of Numbers Stations, Backmasking, references to the Branch Davidians (As seen on the In A Beautiful Place Out In The Country EP before it), Hypnosis and even some slight Satanic implications (the total length of Geogaddi is 66:6), but make no mistake, this is still Boards Of Canada doing what they do best.



This LP doesn't have that slow dive into sound that it's predecessor had, it just cuts right to the chase with an excellent re-affirming of why BoC are so well regarded in the electronic world with this; Music Is Math.



But it's not long before it also let's you know this isn't the same Boards Of Canada from 1998, and do so with a track you may recognise from David Firth's Salad Fingers series; it's a melodic interlude, but with a menacing crackle and fizz lurking just below the surface, summing up the new sound of the album nicely



Geogaddi also embraces the simplicity found on the In A Beautiful Place... EP, with more than a few songs built around a recurring melody or theme. While some of the EP tracks dragged a bit; the tracks on here are more refined, with more variety and less length.



1969 features both backmasking and Branch Davidian references, the song is structured so that more layers are added as time goes on, starting with a simple 4 note loop and progressing from there, but rather than feel arbitrary, the breaks are balanced in such a way that everything flows together in a quite natural way to form the end experience.





And what's a Boards album without it's token ambient soundscape? well, there's several on Geogaddi but like Olson from their sophomore effort, this one stood out the most to me, just because it packs so much nostalgia and emotion into a small time frame, it's amazing and perfectly encapsulates the essence of BoC.



This song also stood out to me, and coincidentally happened to follow Over The Horizon Radar in the tracklist. I almost don't know what to say about it, everything from the production to the title is perfect. This track alone makes it more than a worthy successor to Music Has...



Dawn Chorus ushers in the last 4 or so tracks of the album, which crank the weirdness factor to the max. All but one of these is a BoC patented ambient soundscape, and the very last track is simply 1:46 of silence (some say to achieve that 66:6 runtime). I was torn between two of these, either this track or Diving Station, eventually Corsair won out. Normally I don't really care much for the drone side of ambient, but this track has enough subtleties to keep it fresh throughout.



And because I'm not going to post the track of silence, Magic Window, instead have this Japanese bonus track that I went to track down many moons ago, it may ruin the 66:6 runtime and have the weirdest samples of the entire album (even weirder than the Leslie Neilsen nature documentary on Dandelion), but it has some of the best sounds on the entire album. Plus it's nice after the rollercoaster that is Geogaddi to have it end on a high note.



I picked this album up along with Music Has..., so both albums kind of got merged in my head, I was new to BoC then and basically put them both on shuffle. It's been a while since I've listened to Geogaddi and I'd forgotten how good it was, it was quite nice to come back and have it almost be like my first listen. Anyway be sure to tune in next time where we will have another follow up to a classic album, Nightmares On Wax's Mind Elevation which hopefully shouldn't be too long depending on when I can get my computer woes sorted.

1969, In The Sunshine,
-Claude Van Foxbat

Thursday, 5 May 2011

A Very Warped History 9: 2001 (2 Of 2)

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2001 would also see Aphex's long time buddy Squarepusher release his 5th album, Go Plastic. It takes a very experimental route to production, being very open ended and quite complex compared to anything before it or anything after Ultravisitor (which would be the last time 'Pusher made something this experimental) and is unique in the realm of Squarepusher as all the instrumentation and production is entirely electronic; manipulated breakbeats in place of his usual bass guitar affair.



Go Plastic and Ultravisitor were my introduction to Squarepusher, and in hindsight it wasn't an ideal place to start (I'd recommend Feed Me Weird Things or Hello Everything for those looking) but I grew to love both albums in time. I fell for Go Plastic's first few tracks almost instantly, with the first track on the LP being a perfect example of this, it's also probably the most accessible track on the album to boot.



It happened again with the second track, I'd never heard anything like this before or at least the progression 'Pusher applies to it, it changes so much over it's runtime that towards the end it doesn't even resemble the same song anymore.



The same also applies to the charmingly named Go! Spastic. It's one of the most experimental yet still listenable tracks, there are a few tracks that haven't aged well on this LP, this is not one of them. stay tuned for the brilliant break at 1:40.



Up next we have by far my absolute favourite track from the album and probably the least experimental full on Drum & Bass track here, or that Squarepusher has ever done for that matter. For the BPM busting Amen Break fuelled monster it is, it has quite a nice atmosphere about it, which leads us nicely onto our next track.





Squarepusher has a nice habit of putting a little ambient or chilled piece somewhere on his albums. This is Go Plastic's, Tommib (which gained fame after being used in Sofia Coppola's Lost In Translation), a nice minute long melodic piece that sounds completely out of place when you compare it to the rest of the album.



And finally we have the last track of the album, which also takes a more laid back approach to the sounds. That is until the main hook drops at 1:12, at which point it's pretty clear this is still Squarepusher being, well, Squarepusher.



Go Plastic is perhaps not Squarepusher's "best" album, but it does have it's moments and is certainly the most popular. It'll always resonate with me, being my introduction to his tunes and having some of my favourites on it. While I like the all over the place feel to this album, aside from a few tracks it's not something you can just listen to whenever, which is something I feel his later albums manage much better, as you will hear eventually.

Amen Breaks Abound,
-Claude Van Foxbat

Tuesday, 26 April 2011

A Very Warped History 9: 2001 (1 Of 2)

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2001. Aphex Twin releases the long awaited sequel to the cult classic Richard D. James Album. Press reaction was somewhat mixed upon release, something tells me they were expecting RDJ Album 2.0 (and rule #1 of Aphex Twin is never expect anything). So when it came to picking up this album about a year ago I had the press were telling me it was a letdown, and a friend of mine actually said not to bother with it. But my mind was saying "hey, it's Aphex it can't be THAT bad right? Besides, I've bought a few albums that the press didn't much care for that weren't all that bad". And with that, I dove straight in without even listening to any of the tracks.



Drukqs, while not his "best" album (certainly his longest, clocking in at 30 tracks) it does have it's moments and is also arguably his most personal album, with the skittering beats and everything that makes that sound so uniqley his turned up to 11 (His reasoning being that he wanted to push the new software of 2001 to it's limits.) and the track titles being in Cornish. However these tracks that we've come to know the Twin by are intersected with some lovely poignant piano pieces, (actually programmed to be played by sequencers rather than actually "played") These pieces contrast so much with the tracks proceeding them that it shouldn't flow well at all. But it does. In fact the album OPENS with one of them.



I quite liked the atmosphere the first track gave, this was my first time listening to the album so I had no idea what was coming next. And then it hit me. the first time I listened to the album I was on a very long road trip back from the middle of the English countryside and I had to actually stop myself from grinning like a madman. All the press complaints suddenly made no sense. The mangled and cut up beats, the soft melodic synths, this was still undoubtedly Aphex Twin.



This juxtaposition of sounds continues on later tracks, for example on this one the synths lines introduced at 1:08 just sound fantastic to my ears even more so when it joins the rest of the mix. This is followed by a change in styles around 2:44 where for once Aphex adopts an almost conventional drumbeat, interjected by a brilliantly executed sample after which Aphex resumes his regular beat carving techniques, all leading up to that crescendo of noise at 3:54. A favourite of mine for sure.



Probably the most known piano based track on here, odds are you've heard Avril 14th somewhere before. But that doesn't take away any of the beauty from it, to think that something like this could come from the same guy who made Ventolin is a real testament to his musical flexibility. Oh, and be sure to listen through headphones, for this one and a few others Aphex put microphones inside the piano, so if you listen carefully, you can hear the internal mechanisms working away.



This next one... This next one. I can't even begin to describe it, it's just an eight minute journey though the mindset of Drukqs and perhaps the best track here. filled with ups downs and twists and turns. Just immerse yourself in it.





Another piano piece and the most obviously Cornish titled song on the LP there's not a real lot to say about this one, it's like the others we've heard so far, though this one is a bit more dreamy compared to the sounds on Avril 14th and Jynweythek.

Aphex Twin - Hy A Scullyas Lyf A Dhagrow


QKThr (Or Penty Harmonium, as it's called on the vinyl) bucks the trend with the piano bits, as the vinyl title suggests it's played on a harmonium instead, leading to that rustic seaside shanty sound that plays into the album's "personal" feel



Afx237 v.7 is another tune you might recognise, Chris Cunningham used it in his now infamous short film Rubber Johnny. It also breaks the trend set by other Aphex style tracks so far on the album, moving away from the tried and tested light synths and beat barrages of Vordhosbn and the like, and instead bringing a much more experimental feel to the sounds.



And topping it all off is the final track and yet another piano solo, Nanou 2. the (presumably) sequel to Nannou from the Windowlicker EP ends the LP on the same not it began on, only this is a lot more melancholic, with some sparse keys punctuating the otherwise silent track. In my mind is a perfect closing track for Drukqs, especially since it's the last we've heard from AFX in ten years (Analords excluded).



You'll notice that as we progress through the years a lot less of these releases will be tarred with the "Classic" label. Perhaps they haven't been out long enough to be considered Classic, perhaps that label was thrown around too much in the early 90's, I don't know. The latest record I saw described as a classic from Warp was Flying Lotus' Cosmogramma and while it's a good album, I don't think it's worthy of that title; It just didn't have that same connection with me like the older stuff from Warp, I don't know what it was but it was lacking that something to make it extra special. And I leave you with that thought.

Sounds Of The Post-Millenium,
- Claude Van Foxbat

Saturday, 2 April 2011

Mind Bokeh (Album Review)

So Bibio's new album Mind Bokeh is meant to be released on the 4th. wait, what's this in my post today? A package from Warp? No, it couldn't be... surely not...



Oh. A full two days early? Yup, and since the US has had it since the 29th I'm gonna review it real quick. Mind Bokeh is UK Based electronic musician Stephen Wilkinson A.K.A Bibio's sixth studio album, and his first after 2009's Ambivalence Avenue, though fans of that record's "Folktronica" sound will find little to pique their interest here, to quote the man himself: "I'm looking to move away from that, I don't simply want to be repeating myself". In fact, as well as having little connection to the sound of Ambivalence the tracks on this LP have almost no connection to each other, either. A few reviews have complained about this lack of cohesion, I personally don't mind it but I can see why it's been criticised. If you approach it with an open mind it shouldn't be too bad, to quote Bibio again: "I called the album Mind Bokeh because I'm interested in the effect of defocussing your mind"

Onto the tracks, the only single so far and the first track: Excuses, a tune that's less like Bibio and more like one from James Blake's recent self titled debut. Well, that is after the 2 minute melodic intro. after that though is fantastic, establishing the experimental nature of the album. Stay tuned for the sonic onslaught at 4:21.



Another dive into the experimental, with Bibio expanding upon his known style, with some discordant keys and off kilter beats thrown in, which I wasn't a fan of a first but I grew to like them the more I listened to it. It gives the whole thing a hazy 60's psychedelic vibe that he does oh so well.



One of my favourites from the album, I knew from the first 30 seconds or so that Anything New had all the workings to be my spring/summer jam for this year, lighthearted and catchy with smidgens of the "Folktronica" stylings, it's definitely an early highlight and one of the standouts on the album.






Wake Up! sounds like it would be an excellent track to do just that to, if the intro is anything to go by. The main focus here is on his own vocals which fans will know he does very well, not much goes on in the background until about 1:50 where there's a sort of psuedo-breakdown with some synths. This part doesn't really do it for me, in my opinion the track works better with his vocals than without.



Light Seep could pass as a B-side from Bibio's past with the heavy use of that ever so funky wah-wah guitar, but like so many other tracks on this album it deviates from that style with some synth hits here and there and even a solo about halfway through. Another one of my favourites.



This track has been compared to French rockers Phoenix, and is destined to appear in some flashy advertisement some day. Coming in exactly halfway through the album, it's another example of him trying to cover as much ground as it can within it's 12 tracks. In a lot of reviews this track is critiqued for not sounding like anything before or after it, and while that's true, I like it. It's nice to see him try something outside of his known style, same could be said for the whole album really.



Artists' Valley treads familiar Hip Hop ground, reminiscent of earlier tracks like Excuses and Anything New. The majority of this track is instrumental, and a damn fine one at that, everything flows so well I can't think of any particular elements to pick out. Clocking in at six minutes, it's quite lengthy, but true to the album's concept I've found myself surprised by it ending, feeling like it had only been on for about 3 minutes instead of 6.






I was unsure of this next track for a long time, the sampler video didn't really give a lot of insight into what it sounded like, and I was divided while actually listening to the track. It was good, but it needed that extra something to push it over the edge. I wasn't disappointed, the excellently executed squelchy synth solo at 1:51 pushed this track from good to amazing in a heartbeat. Absolutely brilliant stuff.




Bibio lists one of his major influences as Boards Of Canada, and his favourite album the classic Music Has The Right To Children. And it's particularly evident on the title track of the album, a brief soundscape similar to the ones BoC are famed for. This is sort of an opposite though, not because it's bad, but because while BoC's soundscapes feel (and are) short, this one is short but feels like it lasts forever and that isn't a bad thing at all.



More Excuses is well... More of Excuses. albeit with different lyrics and backing, this time sounding less like James Blake and more like the Bibio we know. Like it's bigger brother, it also has an amazing ending section, from 2:40 onwards a storm of breakbeats is unleashed along with the now mandatory synthesizer accompaniment.



Another track that the press didn't really like, Feminine Eye is the shortest track here, just shy of two minutes. Because of that there's not a real lot to say about it, it's got that lovely 60's feel we've heard earlier and even some sax towards the end. It's not amazing, but it's not objectively awful either, I'd call it decent.



The final track is another ambient-ish piece, the main guitar riff that forms the melodic backbone of the song gets cut up, distorted and more over the six minutes. While the track is fantastic as a whole, I wouldn't recommend it for repeat listening, I really dug it the first time and I still do, but around 5 minutes or so I always find myself looking for other tracks to put on.



It's a brave move to release something so varied, with no real reference point. Bibio pulls it off, if only just. While I like the album, I feel it would have been better to have more hip hop based stuff thrown in to break up the more experimental stuff, à la Aphex Twin's Drukqs. That said, there are some real gold tracks in here, and you should definitely check it out. Though if you're new to Bibio I'd highly recommend you start with Ambivalence Avenue and then move onto this, if you're already a fan just dive right in.

Final Verdict: Overall decent album, a bit ropey in places. Enjoyable though incoherent. 8/10 Love it? Hate it? tell me what you think in the comments :)

How Was I Supposed To Know?,
-Claude Van Foxbat

Sunday, 20 March 2011

A Very Warped History 8: 2000 (2 Of 2)

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The year is 2000, Warp moves from it's hometown of Sheffield to the big old city of London. Broadcast were signed in 1997 and are integral in the history of Warp, as it marks the beginning of the label shedding it's exclusively electronic image and eventually gaining the varied lineup it has today. In 2000 they would release their debut album: The Noise Made By People. Broadcast are quite a bit different to anything we've heard so far, They draw heavily from 60's psychedelica; merging the sound of a conventional band with electronic effects and lead singer Trish Keenan's era-influenced vocals.



I'll be honest, I don't have a lot to say about this album as a whole. Not because it's a bad album, but because every track is so brilliantly produced and the sound so realised that I think (as cliché as it sounds) the music speaks for itself. Broadcast as a whole are criminally underrated, I suppose that goes with the whole "Psychedelic" territory but I digress, check out my selection below and see for yourself.

Note: The original version of this post was much shorter, upon returning to republish it (2017) I am also writing a little more about my relationship with the album which I was a little uncomfortable with at the time.

Broadcast came into my collection at a turbulent time in my life, and I can relate to Keenan's lyrical accompaniment here (and even more on the preceding compilation Work And Non Work). There's always an underlying current of melancholy running throughout their work despite the upbeat nature of the albums sound.



Echo's Answer, my next pick, immediately betrays what I've just said and takes an outright downbeat turn. Echo's Answer holds a special place in my heart too, it resonates incredibly well with me, as mentioned I was in an incredibly rough patch at the time, and (to me at least) Echo's Answer reminds you that there's always time. What things may come, there's always time, and everything will be alright.



Leaving the sentimentality behind for a moment, Papercuts is one of the spots on the album where Trish really shines. Granted I love her voice on pretty much every Broadcast record, but her delivery on Papercuts injects it with a certain passion that makes the whole experience that much more complete, and if I had to guess I think there's a certain element of writing from life there too.





In addition to the main few above, Look Outside is one that I use to introduce the album to folks I'm recommending it to, it's a nice encapsulation of the album's overall sound and feel, and strikes a nice balance between Trish and the instrumental side of things much, which makes the whole thing a lot more accessible to the newcomer.



Until Then plays out almost like a sequel to Echo's Answer in structure and tone. Albeit where Echo's Answer had that slightly bittersweet uplifting tinge to it, Until Then doesn't mince words and dwells frmly in downtempo territory. They do it well mind, an they downtempo moments do serve as a nice contrast to the remainder of the album, and they're well placed if you're listening to the album continuously, with Echo's Answer clocking in at track 5 and Until Then at 10.



City In Progress continues the trend of the album's overarching sound, but with some interesting additions in cadence from Trish that will come into play in later Broadcast projects. As their first go at a cohesive album rather than a compilation of past singles like Work And Non-Work was, it's very successful, covering a nice amount of ground, setting a specific sound while still leaving room for experimentation and refinement.



It surprises me how unknown this band is, even with a recent popularity spike due to the untimely death of lead singer Trish Keenan. I hope I've introduced a few people with this post, just as I discovered them on a blog some years ago.

Answer Echo's Answer,
-Claude Van Foxbat