Sunday, 24 June 2012

A Very Warped History 15: 2008 (2 Of 2)

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Last post was the final Squarepusher album of the series, this one's the last Nightmares On Wax one. And it's a biggie let me tell you. Like I said on that Felix post a few weeks back, I love me an album with a story behind it, and Thought So... has probably one of the best examples of it in my collection. The ENTIRE album was recorded while the wax man moved from our shared hometown of Leeds to a villa on the sunny isles of Ibiza. Now that's all well and good by itself as a concept for an album, there's a lot of tracks here with funky acoustics because of where they were recorded. But there's a video of it taken by the man himself that also serves as a preview of the album! get a load of it. glorious accents and all. So before we dive in have a gander at this mini documentary to get you in the mood for this LP, you can find the first part HERE along with a bunch of other NoW's videos. Really, go watch it

With that out of the way, let's get to the meat of this LP. Nightmares has never been one to disappoint on intros, and Thought So... is no different right from the get go the new feel, an evolution and mixture of both In A Space Outta Sound and Mind Elevation is showcased along with the trademark NoW funk. I said way back when doing Smoker's Delight that it was a very social album, but I think Thought So might top it in terms of social listening, thanks to the road trip the whole album has a real social atmosphere present within the tracks, and that oozes out into the room when you play it.

The Wax man doesn't put vocals to his tracks a whole bunch, but this time there's plenty to go around and they're damn fine to boot. My description of it being like a clash of his last two albums rings true, as you've got the beats from In A Space Outta Sound combined with the vocal slant of Mind Elevation. Speaking of which, The social aspect of the album continues here, with Ricky Ranking laying down some catchy bars reminiscent of an MC at a soundsystem, all tied together with Nightmares' excellent production.

Mr. Evelyn says he was brought up on a steady diet of soul and early R&B, and the influences show on his choice in samples. This track however, is like his own way of giving back to the scenes that influenced him. The styles are fairly easy to spot throughout, and there's even a sax solo chucked in there for good measure. This track is also notable because it features the first of a few little excerpts from the road trip on the end scattered across the album. This one's Nightmares and some other bloke talking about a 'little black book' he was given.

At the risk of putting too many callbacks in this overview, this track reminds me of the swelling orchestral intro Les Nuits that was the sublime introduction to Carboot Soul. It's not long before it ventures back into hip hop territory though, rolling beats punctuated sparsely by a little bit of guitar, capturing that island feel. I was absolutely sold on this track by that point anyway, but then the intro fades back in and carries the song for another couple of minutes before the final fade. Lovely stuff.

As we approach the finish, the instrumentals become more and more frequent, kicking off with Pretty Dark, a track that stole the show for me early on when listening to this LP, purely because of the little electric guitar flourishes at 56 seconds in. The song knows it too, after their initial appearance, you're teased with snippets of them until their final, dramatic return at 3:25.

Nightmares makes another callback, this time to a more reggae style beat. it's unlike anything NoW has ever made before save maybe African Pirates and for that alone it's worth a listen, just to see how NoW interprets and then mixes up his own little reggae/dub ditty, and it is a cracking listen. I'm a big fan of the title too, punctuation doesn't get used in track titles so much these days, and they give a nice feel-good vibe like the one present throughout the whole thing.

And finally, what cemented my love for this album. I said way back on Smokers Delight that Me + You was one of my favourite tracks ever, it has a great bassline, amazingly well done sample and is jut generally well produced, it was a shame it was only 54 seconds long. Now, imagine my surprise when I play this track. I'm thinking "oh cool, a nice little ambient outro" but then the beats and oddly familiar bass hit. And I think I recognise those piano snippets too. And then, at 1:52 exactly, my suspicions were confirmed. The break allowed me to get a good listen of that sample. And there it was. Nightmares On Wax had sampled his own track, one of my favourites no less, and made an entirely new song out of it. I couldn't help but smile. I think it samples bits from his other albums too, hence the title, but I can't confirm any outside of Me + You. Not that it matters as Nightmares really really hit out of the park with this one.

And that wraps this up! Nightmares is working on a new album, and has been since late last year, you can see snippets of him working on it on his youtube channel i linked in the intro. Rest assured as soon as there's word about a release, you'll hear about it a soon as I do. Until then, enjoy all his contributions to the Warp catalogue. Until next time.

The Feelin' Is Real,
- Claude Van Foxbat.

Friday, 22 June 2012

Warped Leftovers Two: Autechre - Tri Repetae (1995)

Evening all, I just remembered I made one of these a long time ago to show off Aphex Twin's Selected Ambient Works 85-92, which while not on Warp is a downright essential album. Basically imma go through stuff I missed while writing a very warped history, mainly because I didn't get them in time or I bought them after I posted about their respective dates. Up first is the album that made me eat my words after saying "I only liked Autchre's first two albums", Tri Repetae

And yes, that is the actual cover. Some come with a sticker on, but mine was on the outside of the shrink wrap so I got that. This is also unfortunately where I draw the line with Autechre, everything after this point just doesn't appeal to me. But enough negativity, all you really need to know is that it's a damn good evolution from Amber, featuring a lot more techy sounding stuff that's pretty unique for when it was released 1995. And the rolling bass waves in this opener seal that deal.

Now I've posted this track before but it seems to have dissapeared from the Hype's records. So I'm gonna post it again! Clipper for me is where the LP really hit is stride, Dael was a brilliant intro to this new sound, but it gets taken up a notch here. There's lots of swooping light sounds, and then around 1:40 a wave of bass rolls up and takes them away. that moment right there cemented this track for me. To quote my friend once again from the last time I posted this "It sounds like space condensed into music form". And that's pretty much the entire album.

And it doesn't let up, the first minute or so of this track is what we've come to expect, but then 1:30 rolls around and everything goes a little bit orchestral sounding. This little bit gets me every time. Especially the little progression sequence starting around 2:50. And it only gets better towards the end when they start glitching it and messing with that pulsating bass that until then was just a background bit. Stellar work.

Many times I've been stung by my impatience with tracks. Stud used to be an ordeal for me, but like many others before it, I decided to give it a chance one day. And after the bit at 3:30 where the main synth is separated from everything else was that moment. Since then I've grow to love the track, it sounds a little bit like a early chilled out dubstep tune. Oh, and the ending is pretty great, as everything fades away and all you're left with is the analogue hum of the recording equipment.

We've reached Autechre's token ambient piece. Well, sort of. Unlike those on Amber, this still subscribes to the albums overall sound, as the bass kindly demonstrates at around 50 seconds. That's the turning point, after that things get all glitchy, the main riff you'd grown used to during the first minute or so is chopped and switched around, and there's some nice drum programming lathered over the top to tie it all together. It's easily the most accessible track here, so if you've not been feeling it so far, give this one a try.

The accessibility continues on this next one, also foreshadowing for Autechre's later titles that were just letters and numbers. Anyway, back to the accessibility: like Eutow it's just over 4 minutes long, compared to the 7/8/9 minute tracks of before, and it's not too experimental. This and some of the tracks off Amber are the way to go for the beginner's introduction to Autechre.

Finally,the last track will play us out. The accessibility is gone, we're back to a whopping 10 minutes as the tune slowly builds itself in AUtechre's unique way. he main riff in this one reminds me a little of Aphex's Digeridoo. It's a shame that it fades out around 9 minutes in, leaving the last minute or so in silence. You don't even get some nice analogue hiss like on Stud.

And that were that. I may have lied a bit when I said that last post would be the last of the Squarepusher, I have quite a few EPs and a couple albums I missed so I'll be upping them soon. Suppose it wasn't a lie though because this is a different series

-Claude Van Foxbat.

Wednesday, 20 June 2012

A Very Warped History 15: 2008 (1 Of 2)

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We're back on the final stretch now. As I've said before opinions get more and more divided as we move closer to the modern era, but as always I'll just call it as I sees it. This time it's Squarepusher again with the follow up to the pretty damn sweet Hello Everything. As you may already know from previous Warped entries and my Shobaleader One review, this is far from the Square man's original material, which I didn't include in this series just because I didn't own the albums/EPs. I might go back and give 'em an overview when this is done but for now: Just A Souvenir

Right off the bat you'll notice this feels a bit looser than Hello Everything, and is an evolution on the framework set down by the bonus tracks on Hello Everything, Hanningfield Window and Exciton. It's not too shocking if you listen to the albums sequentially, but I imagine it would be quite jarring to jump from Come On My Selector to the much more jazzy tones of this LP.

Just A Souvenir also has a certain degree of humour to it, especially on these vocoded tracks. Now, I've already posted A Real Woman, so this is all that's left. Both tracks have flourishes and sections that make them actually decent despite their slightly strange premises, though I feel this track doesn't have as many standout moments as A Real Woman, but it's early doors and there's more quality to come, so I'll let it slide.

There's a pretty steady rhythm of jazzy interludes and typical Hello Everything era Squarepusher experimentation. The latter are by far the standout here, and this is their first formal introduction. The thundering guitar takes center stage here, and the combination of it with the actual percussion running alongside it leads to a strange outcome. There's no crazy drum rolls or rushes, and the guitars aren't tinkered with as much as on Hello Everything. This has no elements that are trademark Squarepusher, but you can still tell it's Mr. Jenkinson behind the production.

The balance is restored once again with a jazzy interlude. Unfortunately on this album they never really exceed 3 minutes, which is a shame because then they pale in comparison to their speedier tempo-ed brethren which can be anywhere from 4 to 7 minutes a piece. They aren't bad, they're just not especially memorable thaks to their shortness

But its not long before normal programming resumes and everything gets real loud and real fast. I really like the juxtaposition of the dreamy synths and the grinding guitar riffs that is featured on a lot of these tracks, unfortunately there's not a lot to say about them until 'pusher changes it up a bit later. Once again, not bad but there's nothing much to say that I haven't already.

Here's where things get a little bit more interesting and that's a good thing. After the formula laid down by the first two uptempo bits from this LP, the Square man carefully avoids stagnating with one of my favourites that grabs you from the get go. Tensor In Green shares sounds with the other two, but fiddles with the tempo a whole bunch, there are breakdowns, fakeout breakdowns and resurgences up and down this one, all leading up to that glorious face melting climax starting at around 2:50

I have two minds about this track, I properly love the juxtaposed sounds a bit like those on Rotate Electrolyte from Hello Everything, I love the breaks and whatnot that were introduced in the last track. I really, really love the peak when it all comes together a 1:10. Problem is unlike Rotate Electrolyte where the track teases you with that peak, but then plays it out for the rest of the song, this one gives you the peak pretty much straight away and then leaves you wanting it back. This wouldn't be a problem mind, if it wasn't so bloody long! more than a minute is spent on a fadeout that just drags its heels Regardless, it's well worth the price of admission for that part, because it does come back eventually, in brilliant form.

As we pull in the final stops, there's nothing really that signifies an ending, other than the return of back to back interludes, I give it a pass this time though cos it had probably my favourite jazzy bit in there, which I'm gonna use now to play us out. Ending on an entirely different note from the first track is alright and all,but I wish there were a few more Star Time styled tracks on here.

And there you have it, the last Squarepusher album of this series! It's not bad, it's just... spaced oddly. Like you have these psuedo-jazz joints with vocoders and whatnot for the first four or five tracks and then they're gone. There's definitely less memorable material on here than Hello Everything but it makes sense from a sound evolution perspective (the openers are gold). The LP has its moments, they're just a bit all over the place in the tracklist.

A Member Of Society,
-Cladue Van Foxbat.