Monday, 23 July 2012

A Very Warped History 16: 2009

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In the last of the trilogy of finales, it is with both great pleasure and sadness I introduce you to the very last album entry of A Very Warped History. I wanted to take it all the way to number 20 with the whole Warp20 thing but it wasn't to be. It's taken me over two years to get to this point, so stick around as I wrap things up. Bibio is one of Warp's newer acts, although active for a while his big break came around the time of signing on to the label, culminating in the release of Ambivalence Avenue, my first exposure to Bibio (and 'Folktronica', another addition to my silly genre names list). The production is solid throughout, as the tracks explore a curious mixture of 70's inspired guitar licks and contemporary hip hop.



This exploration is ripe from the get go, with the title track featuring all of the above, with the added bonus of Washed Out style barely intelligible vocals. It does a good job of subscribing to the general 70's aesthetic, the hazy atmosphere no doubt helped thanks to Bibio's retro recording techniques. It's perfect in introducing the album, as it lays down all the structure and sounds that will make up the 11 other tracks here.



There are a couple points on the album where the contemporary hip hop element goes out the window and Bibio dons the full retro aesthetic. The first example isn't buried too deep in the albums track list, in fact it's track 2. I was unsure of it fist based on the descriptions, but the first listen was something special the funky wah-wah guitar that kicks off the track is present throughout, but the real highlight for me is the break at around 1:30 that plays the track out, specifically that killer bass line running alongside.



Bibo's said his favourite album of all time is Boards Of Canada's Music Has The Right To Children, and it shows. He covered Kaini Industries for the Warp20 (Recreated) compilation, and did a couple of similar ambient soundscapes on Mind Bokeh. There are a few shorter tracks on this LP that I think are the precursor to those soundscapes, albeit in a more acoustic fashion the first is All The Flowers which, to bring everything full circle, is referred to on More Excuses from Mind Bokeh



Like with Jealous Of Roses, there are times when the 70's aesthetics take a break. This time the hip hop elements are the focus, and it is by far one of the sweetest tracks on the album. in contrast to the duet of retro songs previously, this one takes a heavy electronic slant and is so different from everything before it I wouldn't be surprised if you thought it wasn't even from this LP. Saying that, the drop around 30 seconds in was an early highlight from my first sample, and the track only betters itself from there: the beats introduced around 1:40 are excellent and completely take over the remainder of the run time. Regardless of differences in sound, this is one of the best tracks here.




Likewise, we also get a duet of hip hop stuff this time around. And as with Fire Ant the track itself is very very sweet, as the main bass warble comes in and knocks you off your feet, which is all fine and good but once again the absolute highlight of this track is the breakdown-to-fade-out transition that Bibio nails consistently. Around 2:04 the track completely gets turned around, which is good because it keeps the whole thing fresh.



And finally we hit the most recognisable track here. Like Röyksopp's Melody A.M before it, some tracks from here were destined to be on advertisements one day as you'll hear a 1:27 here, which no doubt helped shift a fair amount of kindles. It definitely deserves it though, both halves of the tune are fantastic, the first reminds me of an old TV show I used to watch when I was a kid, and that transition around halfway makes it one of the best feelgood tunes I have in my entire collection.



After a long stint without, the LP finally revisits the sound of the title track, and is one of my favourites for sure. It feels like the culmination of all the LP's experimentation, and the evolution of the elements throughout is really something to hear: the main guitar hook comes and goes, various synthesized noises slide in and out of the mix and all manner of other things. Of note is the little soundscape on the end starting around 3:15, it's something special alright and probably wouldn't sound too out of place somewhere on Boards Of Canada's The Campfire Headphase.



Ambivalence Avenue is a proper good album, and I highly suggest you check it out. Also, while this is the last album installment from me, I'm not quite done with it yet, there are still a couple of leftovers I'd like to deal with, like I have done so far. And if the original idea I had for this series is still happening, my fellow writer Here should be taking over for his take on Warp, specifically the more modern side of things, we'll see how that plays out.

While Summer's Still Around,
-Claude Van Foxbat

Monday, 16 July 2012

Warped Leftovers Three: Squarepusher - Big Loada EP (1996)

A quick one today as we hit up an EP I couldn't get my hands on in time for the main entries. I managed to pick this EP up about a year ago from a nice German bloke, and it contains arguably what is the Square man's most famous track, that is Come On My Selector. There's a bunch of other quality sprinkled throughout the 7 tracks here, so let's do this.


I'd heard of the opener a couple of times but never actually listened to it. The first minute or so is fairly slow, with just the occasional drum roll to mix things up. But that all changes around 1:30, where what will soon become the main hook of the track is dropped in spectacular fashion, followed by a liberal slathering of butchered beats before that hook comes smashing back into the mix. One of the 'Pusher's defining moments I'd say.



Retuning to his roots, Squarepusher drops a fuzzy sounding compressed drum loo, which we haven't heard from him since his debut Feed Me Weird Things. This is actually quite close to conventional drum & bass and Jungle starting with the MC (referred to in the credits as MC Twin Tub) with the scene's staple low quality mic at :45. It's a little short,but I think it works better that if it were an extended mix. Saying that, I think the ending could have been handled better.



Skipping over Massif (Stay Strong) 'cos I've posted it before, we get to the main event, the track everyone's here for: Come On My Selector. Like Aphex Twin's Come To Daddy, a lot of the popularity stems from the infamous Chris Cunningham directed video that you can watch HERE. Saying that, it's a very good demonstration of what Squarepusher does, as demonstrated by that sublime bass work at 1:33, and then again at 1:53. It's not my favourite track of his, but those parts make it more than worth the price of admission.



Playing us out is what is an underrated track from SP's catalogue. I think the main problem is that it doesn't grab you from the get go like most of the tracks on here. I'll admit I wasn't a fan of this one until like Rotate Electrolyte from Hello Everything I forced myself through it. And like Rotate Electrolyte, my opinion soon changed. The breakdown at 1:43 caught my attention, But the deal sealer for me was the same sounds that made A Journey To Reedham at 2:02, I love that sound so much. Unfortunately after about three and a half minutes they're gone, but the track's rebuild in that section is pretty great too, before ending with the same phonecall bits from Reedham.



There is a little interlude that rounds off the album, but it's only 50 seconds long so I'm not going to bother with it. Back to the EP: it's got plenty of gold on it, definitely some of the best Squarepusher has to offer in handy bite-size form. Give it a listen and get your hands on it if you can.

Il N'a Pas De Chance,
-Claude Van Foxbat