Sunday, 25 October 2020

The Great British Bonanza



Not going to lie, I didn't really have a plan this week, and I didn't want to leave you all with *nothing* for another week, so I decided to kinda cop-out a bit with some archiving I've been meaning to do anyway. Here is an old mixtape thing (and an idea I shamelessly stole from Bibio from 2013!); a whirlwind tour of the isles I call home - touching a whole host of genres along the way. It's not *strictly* electronic but only barely, before it goes all in on the Drum & Bass, ending in that gorgeous explosion that is Surface To Air. I believe I originally wanted this to be a more in-depth tour of genres of the UK (hence the big D&B part), touching on Garage, Trip-Hop and old school Rave and Hardcore. But that might be a bit beyond both my skill level and things in my collection! Perhaps another time. Full track list here:

Tracklist:
Broadcast - I Found The F
Grape Digging Sharon Fruits - Man-Made Reservoir
Commix - Burn Out (Fade Away)
Goldie - Timeless (Inner City Life)
Omni Trio - Sanctuary
The Chemical Brothers - Surface To Air


A little light I know, but I'll try and be back next week with something a little more substantial - if you've never heard this mix I did (it was originally for the podcast), I hope you enjoy! And as always - Stay safe and enjoy the music.

-CVF

Sunday, 18 October 2020

A Love Letter To Euphoria

It's about that time again where I get a bit self indulgent. This time, we're talking all things trance. I've never been too shy about my adoration of that particular blend of trance from the late 90's to early 2000's, but as you've seen with other genres I pretty much embrace it these days. And like those other genres I am fully aware that a) it's not for everyone and b) it can get pretty silly at times. But regardless, I'm going to try put into words what I love so much about it, so hear me out and hear some tunes won't you?



I sat and did some thinking about why I like trance so much in prep for this post. On a purely abstract level - I'm a sucker for a good breakdown, and Trance - especially the Euphoric variety - is explicitly based around massive breakdowns that all lead to that one big payoff. Enter one of the big names for this post: Lange. I've always liked some of his productions but recently they have been really hitting the spot. Take Follow Me for example, sure the vocal is pretty cliché a good 20 some years on but I'll be lying if I say that the build-ups don't get me a little excited each time. As far as trance tracks go, this one is pretty balanced - there are some where I feel like the return to the break is too sudden (intentionally so, so you get hyped for the next release) but Follow Me avoids that quite nicely, the structure makes the ebbs and flows feel really natural.



There's something very evocative about the language used in Trance as well, both amidst the corny nonsense and sometimes within it. I mean, take that poster at the top of this post for a of-the-era example. For a genre that is often written off and generic dancefloor productions, you can't deny that there is passion behind it. Agnelli & Nelson are also among the top artist I'd use as an example, this time we're avoiding the vocal cliché entirely with an instrumental number (though there are alternate mixes of this track with them if you're so inclined!). It would have actually probably been a better track to open the post with as I think it's fairly accessible - and even if I hadn't banished the term 'guilty pleasure' this tune would be far from it. It's a sentiment I say time and again when dealing with slightly older tracks but this one is a delicious trip back in time, though not as dated as some of its contemporaries.



And I suppose that 'of-the-era' feeling is something else that colours my love of trance. To get a bit philosophical and nostalgic for a minute - even though I was too young to actively participate in the scene of the time, I distinctly remember admiring the whole uniting aspect of Trance, the idea of folk coming together and just cutting completely loose really appealed to me. To the young idealist in me it was fantastic - this was the future! Amazing electronic music and groups of people united under its umbrella, we could achieve anything!

In hindsight most definitely a naïve and over-romanticised view, but I was young. Still, jaded though I am, that's not to say that the underlying concepts of togetherness (no doubt assisted by various substances) don't still stir something within me. Peak example of that being Lange's remix of Lost Witness' Happiness Happening, it comes closest to evoking that feeling I had back then even all these years later - "Everything will be perfect, tonight and forever", a sentiment that while trite in the world of trance, will occasionally really resonate with me. 3 minutes of build up to one of the greatest payoffs of any trance track in my collection, I could live in a fragment of that breakdown and drop combination for ever and ever.



And finally rounding out with something a little less 'Arena' euphoric in it's execution. I've gained a real fondness for the original mix of Y-Traxx's Mystery Land, it's often overshadowed by it's (admittedly a stonking tune in it's own right) twin sister, the Sickboy Courtyard Remix which is more in that Arena style I mentioned above. The original mix by contrast is very different from the trance tracks I've posted so far, and the deliciously MIDI piano stabs and arpeggios throughout are more akin to the retro House and Garage me and Adam used to talk about. But in spite of that it has potentially my favourite of the examples I've put up so far of that euphoric vibe - the intro build up is nothing short of divine (if a bit dated), the little cut up vocal thing before the actual drop is incredibly powerful.



That's the skinny on the kinda comfort tunes I've been playing with at the minute, as I said before IRL things are picking back up (so posts might be a little lacking compared to before) but nothing chases the stress away like pretending it's 1999 and I'm about to peak. I know it's not everyone's cup of tea, and I don't know how butchered these tunes will be by the 30-second Spotify previews but if you like what you've heard seek out the full ones, as you've seen here there is a surprising amount of it available on streaming services, and in my experience the recommendations you get once you start are much more useful than with other genres!

And - as always - Stay safe and enjoy the music.

-CVF

Saturday, 10 October 2020

Smokers Delight @ 25

You know, I haven't mentioned that one of my all time favourite albums - Nightmares On Wax's Smokers Delight was turning 25 this year. It's a bit of a sore spot actually, I was supposed to go see the album played front to back in my and NOW's mutual hometown, complete with a full orchestra. Naturally, like so many other things this year that didn't happen, but NOW has always been pretty active, and in lieu of that has released both a companion film to the album and an EP of the bonus tracks included on the 25th anniversary edition of Smokers Delight.

The film itself is an interesting watch, according to the press release I have it's inspired by one of George Evelyn’s (the NOW man himself) dreams. The summary is included in there too: the film follows Tiger, a friendly neighbourhood stoner happily stuck in a comfortable wake-and-bake routine. After he discovers that he may have unknowingly stepped through the doors of perception, he is forced to detective his way back to reality.

It's a fun little companion piece, pretty surreal but with plenty of humorous moments sprinkled throughout - the stoned conversations and philosophical ponderings 100% on point. If I had any complaints it's that I would have liked a track-by-track covering of the full album like Daft Punk's Interstella 5555 or Goldie's Sine Tempus but that's me just being an idealist, the songs that are used are put to great effect, even the random interlude from the album 'Time (To Listen)', fittingly with ticking clock. It was a nice injection of happiness in an otherwise tumultuous week, I couldn't help but grin when one of my favourites 'Pipes Honour kicked in, followed by some of the more comedic exchanges of dialogue. If you find 12 mins, give it a watch.





And just so I'm not leaving you with just that, I'm going to talk about my favourite and first of the bonus tracks from the companion EP and 25th anniversary edition. Aquaself is a gorgeous little slice of Smokers-esque sound. I have no idea if it's a forgotten B-Side or other scrapped demo, while it definitely has that Smokers Delight vibe, there's an overarching funkier feel that wouldn't be too out of place on NOW's later albums. The track itself is gorgeously clean, there's not a foot put wrong which makes the 6 minute runtime feel like half that. NOW's sample selections (assuming they are samples!) are as choice as ever, and the essence of this track is almost a distillation of the sound I love. if you've never heard NOW before and you like the track below, you're in for a real treat; all the albums from Smokers Delight forward are all in this vein, and at the very least in my opinion - Smokers Delight and the album following it, Carboot Soul are a must have for any downtempo fan.



-CVF

Tuesday, 6 October 2020

My Vision Is Augmented

It's been a while since I sat down and nerded out a bit about a soundtrack, so let's change that. Video Games were a very important avenue for a young me, being one of the few ways I could get exposure to electronic music both licensed artists and original works. Deus Ex was one of many influences on me at that time (and one of many that I would later credit with my love of Cyberpunk), and it's soundtrack is nigh perfect. Cue my surprise when I stumbled across this: Conspiravision: Deus Ex Remixed, headed by original OST composers Alexander Brandon and Michiel van den Bos. Let's have a look-see.



I must admit I had some doubts based on the cover art that it might be a complete synthwave fest. Not that I don't like the genre but I feel like it's a very tired 'cyberpunk' genre at the minute thanks in part to a certain other upcoming game. And I wish folk would explore a little bit more: industrial techno, electroclash, deep house, trance and more can be equally if not more befitting of the genre. But I digress, those doubts were put to rest a bit by the fact it was the original composers doing the mixing.

I dove right in with one of my all time favourites, the UNATCO theme. And Michiel's new treatment of it did not disappoint: the high-tech vibes of the original freed from the limitations of the tracker soundtrack of the game and extended out to a massive 10 minutes, though it certainly doesn't feel like it. The whole album is very sedate to start with, the first 4 tracks are all kind of in this vein which I am happy to see, Deus Ex's OST had plenty of pure ambience in it and it's nice to see that legacy preserved: here, it's a good 5+ minutes before elements of drums are introduced. I can see the slick production of this one turning some people off, and I can certainly see that as someone who's loved the artefacts of the technical limitations on the original, but I adore this rendition, albeit with me being admittedly slightly biased as it's one of my favourite OSTs of all time.



Continuing with another of my favourites, this time the NYC Streets theme. The original was incredibly atmospheric for Deus Ex's vision of a decrepit New York, and the remix here most definitely carries that torch also. Though it has a more... filmic edge to it, probably again due to the freeing from tech limitations and the good 20+ years of Brandon's experience in the meantime. Saying that, parts of it do give me pangs of nostalgia for 90's electronic - specifically the kind of chillout trance I've been digging into as of late, so I am very much into it. It's also not as completely desolate-sounding as the original theme either, there's certainly a more hopeful sound lingering in the background and it even briefly goes full synthwave complete with synth noodling around 3 minutes in.



Interesting one next, as Michiel remixes a track that was neither his nor Alexander's in the original, the BGM for the Paris nightclub. And the result is quite different from everything else so far, Fittingly for the club BGM, this strays from the more soundtrack-y elements so far, firmly planting itself in Drum & Bass territory. I really like the breakdowns here, they are also giving me real 90's trance vibes as mentioned previously, and as you should all know I have a colossal weakness for euphoria inspired breaks. It's a little short compared to the other tracks here but it certainly does a lot with it's limited runtime.



And to nerd out a bit for my final choice; Deus Ex had a (fairly simple by modern standards) dynamic music system - if you entered combat the track would seamlessly(ish) transition into a more uptempo version of the current theme, which means if you stealthed your way through the whole game there would have been tracks you never heard which I thought was neat. This is also why a lot of the soundtrack is fairly ambient, so this transition can happen. Anyway, it's good to see that Brandon and Bos haven't neglected those theme variations here, there are a couple sprinkled throughout the album but my favourite is yet again the UNATCO one. It strikes a nice balance between the all-out dancefloor vibes of the Paris club track and the soundtrack, Bos did a fantastic job of updating some of the more retro-sounding elements of the original while still keeping it identifiable - the whole thing sounds a lot more smoothed out, the MIDI-like stabs of the original swapped out with lush pads instead. It takes a little while to get going, but I love every bit of it once it does.



The whole album is pretty solid if you're at all familiar with the soundtrack, but I think my selections especially stand just as well on their own. I've skipped over a couple in this quick overview but be sure to check them out if you like what you've heard here, I'm very impressed with Brandon's remix and update of The Synapse, a fan favourite of the original OST that sounds very dated now. And as well, I'm more than happy to support Brandon after enjoying so much of his soundtrack work over the years, I realised off the heels of this that he has a bunch of solo album too. So as with many of my others posts I'm making a mental note to check them out in future too. As always - Stay safe and Enjoy the music.

-CVF

Sunday, 4 October 2020

October Relics

Hi there, as predicted things have been a bit all over the place. I'm going to try and sit down now and prepare some things for the coming week however, starting with yet another round of 'things I found on my drive when cleaning up that I thought were neat'. This time it's another 'Radio Claude' style mixtape - the idea of which I shamelessly stole from Miss Kittin (minus me doing slightly sultry spoken word over the top of parts of the mix). I say it every time one of these comes up but they are an interesting look at my 'listening to' of certain periods. This one's about a year old I think, and clearly I was on a bit of an 'IDM' kick (though when am I *not* on one?), there's a lot of familiars here: Squarepusher, Aphex Twin and other folks from Warp.

Again, the mix isn't perfect, I just put them together in a couple of afternoons. This one in particular I think I salvaged part of from a program crash (which is why the transition into the Global Goon track is a bit... sudden.) But at any rate, the content is good if you can forgive a bit of rough handling of them. Full tracklist after the player:



TRACKLIST:
Aphex Twin - Yellow Calx
Modeselektor - Don't Panic
Autechre - Nine
Plaid - Ralome
Global Goon - Long Whiney
Squarepusher - Goodnight Jade


I'm in the process of writing another post straight after this one that I'll try schedule throgh the week, I have a couple of quiet patches so it should be easy to slot in somewhere if I don't finish it in one go. And finally, as always, stay safe and enjoy the music.

-CVF

Saturday, 26 September 2020

(Trying To) Wind Down

Juan Gris - The Open Window (1921)


Things have been a bit hectic as of late, and because of that I haven't managed to keep on top of my emails which only adds to the chaos. I sat down and rifled through them this morning and something I really appreciate is when Bandcamp keeps me up to date with artists I've bought from, so many times over the last couple of years an album or EP release has just completely passed me by and this helps mitigate that a bit, doubly so if you follow a label's bandcamp and see *all* their releases that way. They're ramping up lately which is to be expected with Bandcamp Firdays becoming a regular fixture. Here's a couple of things from both the new list and my archives:

And what better way to try and soothe than with the old tried and tested lo-fi style hip hop. I know it's become a bit of a meme in modern times (like so many other genres I like!) but I'll always carry a certain fondness for it, dating back to my times of staying up far too late and watching [adult swim] commercial breaks with that same vibe. I struggle to critique the genre in all honesty, it's pretty hard to get wrong; pick a nice sounding sample and you're pretty much there. I'm not super well versed in it admittedly, it's something I indulge in every now and then. Axian is one of the few examples I have in my library, and I had a look at the new stuff they have put up recently (though this one is originally form 2017 it's 'new' to Bandcamp) and Seasons Change really hit the spot. After being inactive for a long time this was a super sweet thing to come back to.



And just for old times sake, the original tune of theirs that I never actually posted about but included on a podcast way back when we used to do them. This one is a lovely slow-jam lo-fi'd version of Duvet by Bôa, which is one of my all time favourite songs in the non-electronic side of things. It was a lovely serendipitous moment where it appeared in my youtube auto-playlists for a long time but I assumed like so many one-off fan tracks that it wasn't anywhere else, only one lazy day did I read the description and find the Bandcamp page, and for a solitary dollar it was certainly worth it. Something both me and Axian agree on is that perhaps a little more of the original should have been included here, there's a small tease at the end of what could have been if that were the case. Not even the original lyrics, just a little more of that guitar work would have been a great closer.



Another one from the archives, I picked up Jasper Byrne's Night after hearing the title track on Adult Swim's synthwave as hell Fever Dreams compilation, and of course adoring his pieces from the Hotline Miami soundtracks from long before that. It's a lovely little album, although if you're coming off the Hotline Miami soundtracks don't go in expecting full-on synthwave ultra-violence. Having said that however, Bliss does have the feel of Miami from those soundtracks, having the same smooth synth melodies that were present on that track and the breakdowns of Voyager too. While it's got that neon-drenched vibe going on but overall has more of a chillwave style influence, like a slightly retro electronic version of Washed Out's Life Of Leisure, doubly so with those hazy vocals. They appear on a few tracks from this album and they're a nice addition, Jasper's instrumental work is gorgeous on it's own but the addition of vocals is super refreshing to hear.



And finally, yet another artist with a connection to Adult Swim for me, Casino Versus Japan. I've regrettably not really taken a really deep dive into their works in all these years, which is an absolute crime considering I've had Go Hawaii for ages, my original copy being a very low quality version from limewire of all places. Consider this then another one of my usual 'friendly reminders' to myself to actually do that in future. In the meantime, have one of my favourites from Go Hawaii, Local Forecast. It's a lovely little piece of melodic, squelchy home-brewed sounding electronic. The beat is a little harsher than I remember but that could be these laptop speakers that I'm stuck with at the minute. Be sure to stay tuned after the main tune fades out! there's an absolutely divine little bonus ambient piece on the end that I could immerse myself in for ever.



And so ends this time's slightly scatterbrained selection of things. As mentioned last time things might be getting a little more sparse from here on out so I hope you can have patience, as we all know a lot of things are a bit of a mess right now. Not to dwell on the negative though, I hop that firstly you are all well and secondly that you find some things you really dig in this selection. And finally, as always, stay safe and enjoy the music.

-CVF

Wednesday, 23 September 2020

Retro Reviews: Kleerup - Kleerup

Time for another look back at tunes gone by, this time with what I think is the newest album to yet feature on retro reviews, but I think at ~11 years old it's an acceptable entry. This time we're looking at Andreas Kleerup's debut; the eponymous Kleerup. It's an album that I have mixed feelings about, and it's yet another case of the album being released and then re-pressed within a year with a different cover and with an almost completely altered tracklist that really ticks me off - you essentially have to buy the album twice to get the whole experience. The Spotify version I'm covering today has the tracklist of the repress but the album art of the original just to muddy the waters further. But I digress, let's have a look.



The album opens with Hero, which now with the added hindsight of age wouldn't sound completely out of place in the Synth/Retro wave world, artists like Arcade High were making this kind of stuff circa 2012 for example. As an opening track it's pretty solid, it lays the groundwork for what's to come and nicely demos the sounds that permeate this album. It's maybe a little grandiose with the fadeout to choir on the end but overall it's fine.



The album's at it's strongest however when Kleerup has a guest vocalist to bounce off of, normally I am a bit suspicious when an album has a whole ton of Featuring credits (admittedly irrationally so now I think about it), but the album is only enhanced by the features on it. By far and away the biggest example is the very second track, the beautifully bleak Until We Bleed with Lykke Li. If there's a track from this album you've heard before it'll be this one; I do really like it and it's a great piece of production from Kleerup, though it's a bit of a 180 in terms of sound from the intro track. It's absolutely targeted to that slightly emo blogger demographic of the time, and Lykke Li does an amazing performance that completes that atmosphere. I can see the whole thing it coming off as a bit trite here in 2020 but I still have a fondness for it, though I do think the strings and lyrics make the whole thing a little bit overwrought.



Speaking of muddying waters, this track is the biggest culprit. You'll find it credited to Robyn, Robyn With Kleerup, Kleerup Featuring Robyn and just about every variation you can think of, which is warranted because Robyn also released this herself but I'm digressing again. If I had to pick one track that would summarises the album for me, it would be With Every Heartbeat. Every part of it is what I really like about this album: slick production from Kleerup with the way the elements build throughout, those lush synths and sparkling arpeggios, all tied together with Robyn's impressive as always vocal. Robyn was an excellent choice to feature (as were all the guest vocalists sprinkled throughout this album), her guest appearances around this time were all incredibly solid. Once again I feel like the strings are a bit much, they're not too bad when they're hanging in the background of the mix but I don't really get on with them when they come to the forefront during the breaks.

You can criticise some of this album as being total radio-bait, which I totally understand and think would probably apply to this track more than most as it was the breakout hit... But man, 2009 was a really good year for electronic pop stuff: La Roux, Röyksopp's Junior, Calvin Harris before he went full generic, it was good times.



I'm skipping over a fair few tracks here, which it's paining me to do a bit but I don't want this to turn into a track-by-track. We're getting into tracks now that were only included on the re-release one year later, and they're a lot more synthwavy than I remember. Iris in particular has that Kavinsky-esque slow jam feel to it. While it's only short it's been a highlight of my revisit to this album(s), strange that it's only included on the re-issue but then again it's also strange that some tracks were dropped entirely from the original pressing. While I've been praising the choice in guest vocalists throughout, I think Iris doesn't suffer from the lack of one, it's is a solid example of Kleerup's finely polished production style.



That trend continues on the next track and yet another highlight from my re-visit; 3AM. And again these parts of the LP are much more retro sounding that I remembered, those handclaps and synth solos like at 2:42 wouldn't be out of place when the whole outrun thing gained traction a couple years later. 3AM was also released as a single which I think was the right choice, much like some of the bits of Plastic Beach I feel tunes like this should have been bigger hits than they were but as mentioned above there were already so many hits that year it probably just got lost in the undertow. Hell, based on the bits and pieces I hear from the radio now a tune like this would still do well, and would probably be the only song on there to contain the world 'Newfoundland' (though rhyming it with 'and' was a bit forced!)



Misery continues the trend of slightly melancholic lyrics set to an upbeat backing that's present a lot on this album, and mixes things up with some male vocals this time to boot. I can't say that this one is a new rediscovery from this revisit either as it's had a place on multiple playlists of mine, so its not gotten as much of a dusting off as some of the others here. It's a pretty listen, home to all those twinkling sounds that we've had so much of so far, the delivery of the lyrics is this catchy yet cathartic release, and there's something lovely and paradoxical about an upbeat tune with this kind of vocal backing. I do wish the ending had a bit more impact behind it, the way it just kind of fades out has always bothered me a bit, I don't think it would be as bad if it were a to linger a smidge longer before the fade.



My final selection is more of the same, with a slightly funkier twist. It seems like a bit of a cop out to summarise an entire song in one sentence but it's pretty much true, by this point Kleerup has the formula down pat, and the tracks don't stray too far from it, which if you like them like I do isn't necessarily a bad thing at all. His production work really shines, and with he variety of guest vocalists there's enough variety in there that it at least stays a bit fresh. Also do remember that I am giving a slightly biased view of this album by choosing my faves which happen to lean on this sound, but even so tracks like Until We Bleed stand out as very different in contrast to the rest of my selections. Also note that this isn't the final track of the album, just my final choice. But saying that I reckon it wouldn't be too thematically out of place if it were



And so ends my trip down memory lane once again, this album is much more... 'generic' is the wrong word but certainly in that same vein. Don't get me wrong it's a quality album, I don't want it to seem as if that's a negative, I'm just having a hard time thinking of a synonym that would fit. I think essentially a bunch of the tracks got blended together in my head, which speaks to the consistency of Kleerup's production for better or worse. In looking it up I did find that Kleerup didn't do another proper follow up until this year, I haven't checked it out but I imagine the sound might have changed in the good decade and a year since this album. He has semi-regularly released EPs in between too, it's nice to see at least, Kleerup could have just carried on producing for other artists in the background.

So enjoy another instalment of these retro reviews, I think I'll have to consider more ~10 year old LPs of yore and see what and how if at all my opinions have changed in the meantime. There's not really a fully drawn up plan for these though, I write them as and when I sees them, I recently put this album back into rotation for example. Anyway, I hope you find something you like here, and as always: Stay safe and enjoy the music.

-CVF

Saturday, 19 September 2020

Decompress

Max Bill - Compression to Purple (1965)


It's been a bit of a week. And so I've pivoted to my usual listening in such times, albeit a little further. We're not going full ambient, but we'll come close at times! I mention a lot how much I love mid-late 90's to early 00's Trance in all it's EUPHORIA™ glory, but a large part of that is it's sister scene of chillout stuff; the songs intended to be put on in the room next door for all the folks coming down, or for you to wearily grab some orange juice from an Ibiza beach hut as you slowly work your way back to the hotel if you'll pardon the slightly romanticised imagery. A big part of why I love Trance in the first place is those actual euphoric breakdowns, and some of the chillout mixes of tracks are essentially never ending breakdowns. Case in point with another track I forgot I had, Solarstone's After Hours mix of Paul Oakenfold's Southern Sun. Full disclosure I haven't heard the original, but I've been looping this one for a couple of days now and I can't get enough of it. For its age I think it's held up fairly well, as have most of the chillout style mixes of the era, the mask only slips with that ATB-esque guitar that comes in every now and then.



Likewise with A:xus' Suite Disappointment, the digital EP comes with a ton of remixes but for me, my favourite comes at the very end. The Original Reprise as it's billed isn't the most complex mix in the world, like it's name says it takes a lot of elements from the original (which was full of gorgeous sounds anyway). But the key difference here is there is no beat at all, and I absolutely adore when tracks get flipped like this, just by removing that (admittedly amazing) 4/4 of the original just highlights the vocal performance and those melancholy lyrics that I've always liked. It reminds me of the Alexander Polzin chillout mix of Rippin Kittin in that respect which is another of my all time favourites. Tracks like this just beg to be used as a midpoint of a mix or something, I can already kind of hear the transition from the Reprise into one of the many other mixes in my head already.



I can't write a post about chillout without mentioning the elephant in the room. This one comes back into vogue once every few years, usually when it's featured on a soundtrack or as a streamer's intermission music or something. And not without merit, the tune is very good, if a little intense in parts for the 'chillout' label. Unfortunately I can only find the radio edit as an embed (I've been trying to shift away from Spotify see), which while it has enough to get your teeth into, it's just missing that crucial build up that makes the payoff extra sweet, it essentially cuts the song in half. Look up the full mix if you like what you hear. The original was actually a minor hit back in the early 00's over here in the UK, with Motorcycle (actually Gabriel & Dresden themselves, with vocalist Jes Brieden) only ever doing this one single and another solitary remix as was the style at the time. It's interesting to see tracks like this crop back up after years of quiet, especially when the resurgence in popularty sees it gain more attention in the USA and other places that it didn't originally, and it's tales like that which keep me blogging and sharing!



So ends our brief stint into trance come chillout after hours rundown, I hope these tunes help you have a minute of calm (maybe with the exception of Until The Rush Comes!). And as always: Stay safe, and enjoy the music.

-CVF

Wednesday, 16 September 2020

Throwback... Wednesday?

Trying to keep up with posting but motivation has been fluctuating, between the new and crap blogger 'redesign' that google is pushing, and the public transport system of my country as reliable as ever (I type, dripping with sarcasm). Anyway, point is that I *was* going to start this yesterday which would have made for a nice alliterative title but it wasn't to be.

Eyvind Earle - The Wave (1990)


So without anymore preamble let's talk about the tunes in question. First is short lived turn of the millennium music 'unit' as they were described SiLC. They dabbled with a wide variety of sounds during their brief run, and all of them very much of the era, running the gamut from moody trip hop to amen break fuelled Drum & Bass to just good old fashioned house. Their penultimate EP, Himegoto has a premium cut of this house sound in the simply titled Vibe, it's a gorgeous little encapsulation of the late 90's house that bled onto the radio. The real highlight however comes after the full force return from the extended breakdown at 3:20, Miki's delivery is just so full of passion it's almost infectious. Something about this one just hit extra special yesterday, which is why I'm talking about it here!



Throwing back further for the next one, long before Soichi Terada would treat us all to his slick brand of Drum & Bass, he produced a track called Sun Shower for Nami Shimada. I've posted it before (with some slightly incorrect information I think), Originally released in 1989, it's had a few represses since then and is surprisingly easy to get hold of thanks to Crème Organization's repress and digital versions. Listen through the slightly dramatic 10 seconds of the intro and what you get is a fantastically retro piece of Deep House, Terada is always good when he's working in that genre and this is no different. Sweeping synths and that driving bassline are surprisingly fresh all things considered. If you'd prefer a pure instrumental to get an unfiltered listen of that goodness there is one included on this EP!



And finally, returning to DMX Krew. I've long loved Ed from DMX's analogue synth noodling, and I dig the whole aesthetic he's going for with it too, think Chromeo but a good ~10 years before them and influenced by retro Electro instead of Funk and you're pretty much there if the cover didn't already tip you off. And to perfectly summarise this even more we have Place Called Love from '98's Nu Romantix. 15 seconds in and you're already greeted by the gorgeous melodic lead that's going to carry through the song, it's one of my all time favourites of Ed's, surprisingly powerful. For the first time in a while we actually have a demo of the one thing I bring up every time I mention DMX Krew and that is the lyrical content. It's not as intentionally ironic here and the vocoder certainly helps with that, the lyrics themselves are a little corny in their content but fitting given the genres it's a love letter to. It's a short album at only 9 tracks (and one of them is a remix of a track not on the album so more like 8), but if it's a crash course 101 into DMX Krew this is a very good jumping in point.



Keeping things consistent for now, but as mentioned before there's a lot of things on the plate at the minute. Going to be mainly midweek and weekend posts from now on I think. But I digress, as always: Stay safe and enjoy the music!

-CVF

Sunday, 13 September 2020

Ilictromix: DJ Toka (2014)

A re-post and archival of one of the series of mixes Adam sourced for us a long time ago. Think this is the last one, but don't quote me on it! In the meantime, stay safe and enjoy the music. -CVF

Hey guys real special exclusive mix today coming to you from DJ Toka. I've been listening to this mix for the last couple of days and I'm excited for you to hear it too.

Toomas is a 30 year old DJ from Estonia with a great ear for deep cuts. Believe it or not he has only been spinning for a year now and it sounds like he has an exciting road ahead. I recently chatted with Toka about his influences and this mix:

Ilictronix: so what kind of influences go into your sets and production? 
Toka: My taste and influences are very varied and i love all music made with heart, soul and thought. My favorite artist is Michael Jackson and i love soul music, classical music, downtempo music and of course electronic dance music.

I: So then what are you listening to now or recommend to friends? 
T: Lately i have been listening to the album from the danish/canadian duo "Rhye". The album is entitled "Women" and is a smooth soul record with amazing vocals. Generally im more into the soulful downtempo stuff as opposite to the music i choose for my DJ mixes. However, i always try to keep it soulful. I like to be open minded and a good DJ should be able to educate, throw in bits and pieces of old music but still keep it fresh and always look out for the next big record. 
(Note: we featured Rhye in our ilictronix: wingman features)

I: So what kind of equipment did you use with this mix? 
T: Regarding this DJ mix and the tools i use, im using only digital equipment. Laptop and Traktor S2 DJ controller. Personally i dont think there is any "true style" of Dj:ing today, since it does not matter what equipment you use, whether it is analog or digital. All that matter is the music selection and how you program the sets and the flow.

You can find more of Dj Toka here:
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Tracklist:
1. SOHN - Lights
2. Aki Bergen & Pezzner feat Terry Grant - Tararareando
3. Lifelike - Night Patrol
4. Hayden James - Permission To Love (Touch Sensitive Remix)
5. Tom Trago -Two Together
6. HNNY - For The Very First Time (Dirtytwo Midas Touch version)
7. Charles Murdoch - Dekire feat Oscar Key Sung (Bodhi remix)
8. Daughter - Youth (Lane 8 Remix)
9. Doc Daneeka - Walk On In
10. Nightriders - You Said
11. Outboxx - Need You
12. Lane 8 - Nothing You Can Say feat Lucy Stone
13. Ruede Hagelsein & Noir - My lover
14. Foals - My Number (Totally Enormous Extinct Dinosaurs Remix)
15. Funk d Voi - Lovin feat Jay Leblone (Your body mix)
15. Tensnake - Congolal (Tensnake Rework)


-Adam

Friday, 11 September 2020

Delayed Arrivals

Do you ever think you have something in your collection and it turns out that you never did? It's something that's happened to me more than a couple of times (though less since I overhauled my folder structure a few months ago). It has been a while since I've had it happen, but recently I did have a couple of cases of it, and I'm going to share the results of that for you today.

Marina Pallares - La llegada de la abundancia (2007)


First up is Helen Marnie of Ladytron's first solo album. I remembered the announcement and release in 2013, I was still at University then, I remember listening to it and digging it. And apparently I just never bothered to follow up on it? Which is a shame because it's a very nice album. I'm not as familiar with Ladytron's later works from around the time, but compared to the stoic electronics of Ladytron's debut 604 that took more than a bit of influence from Kraftwerk's The Man Machine, Crystal World is much more dreamy in its execution. It's a style that compliments Marnie's voice very well, I liked her vocal command in Ladytron and I'm more than happy to see the trend continue here on the very first track of the album. It's slightly odd for me to think of tracks like this that are still fairly recent in the grand scheme of things as slightly nostalgic but they kind of are, this one in particular reminds me of that one summer around 2009 when electronic was all over the airwaves.



Similarly we have Au Revoir Simone, pretty sure I had some loose MP3s of theirs on an old phone many moons ago that got left behind. But like with Marnie I remember liking it a whole lot but then just never following up on it. And then a few years ago now when the new Twin Peaks was on and they were doing that special guest band bit, Simone were one of the bands included which kick started a reminder in my head. Move In Spectrums is an album I've mentioned in passing once or thrice; specifically the gorgeous slow jam that is Somebody Who. Revisiting it after some time though, and it's instead Crazy that's really resonating with me. I am totally enamoured with what they do with the synths here, and much like some parts of Gorillaz's Plastic Beach, I can't believe that some of these tracks weren't big hits, especially Crazy with it's chorus that almost demands you shout out along with it. My favourite part right now is the final build up and payoff starting around the 2 minute mark, which is just divine.



And finally, my long time loves The Knife. This one is not like the others in that I've known about it for a long time but was never able to get my hands on it, thankfully now it's much easier to get via bandcamp, albeit on on its original EP. Originally released on one of their first ever EPs, Afraid Of You is an almost perfect summary of the sound that early The Knife productions had, the kind that my friend once lovingly described as "Napoleon Dynamite-esuqe". And hopefully that should make sense when you listen; it sounds very crafted, and I mean that in the hand-made sense, the whole record has this very DIY style to it. Not to say there aren't signs of where they'd take that sound in future, this track is probably one of the very first examples of Karin playing with vocal roles: pitch-shifting her vocals to adopt different characters and perceived genders, something that they would continue to do throughout their career. The drums also have a slight edge of the Deep Cuts style to them, which is probably why it was included on this issue of the Heartbeats EP.

It's slightly oddly nestled between two remixes of Heartbeats which seems a little odd, feels like it should have been the closing B-side personally but I digress. I have a real love for this slightly acoustic-meets-electronic sound that early Knife records had (one that as no doubt influenced by Karin's previous band Honey Is Cool), and Afraid Of You is a shining example of it.



Apologies for the big gap in posts a little while ago, I work in education and as I'm sure you're all aware things are more than a bit messy at the minute, and they are only going to ramp up in the next few weeks. Not to bring the tone down or anything, just thought I'd say somethin'. Hell, even with that little gap, I've already posted more this year than I did for all of 2019! (Even if I did cheat a bit with old re-posts). So I'll try my best to keep things semi-regular, but I hope you'll understand if things are a little more patchy than usual. As for you? As always, stay safe and enjoy the music.

-CVF

Wednesday, 9 September 2020

Ilictromix: Bobby Green (2014)

A re-post and archival of one of the series of mixes Adam sourced for us a long time ago. There's a couple more of these in the archives but I will spread them out between new posts! In the meantime, stay safe and enjoy the music. -CVF

No, no, I didn't forget about this series. I've been vacation and then at Pitchfork Festival all weekend. This week's Ilictromix comes to us from Dallas native, Bobby Green.

I came across this talented producer after the track "Changing Me" came across my inbox. It was bright and had some stellar production so I knew he would be a great fit for this weeks mix. 



After listening to the mix a couple of times though its safe to say its our most "Broiest" ilictromix, but its a perfect fit for that summer hustle. Enjoy!




Tracklist:
ZXX, Paul Anthony - Drink by the Jug
Nom de Strip - Techno Saturday
Diplo - Pull up Dat Booty
Skrillex - Stranger
Nom de Strip - I Can’t Believe
Diplo - Freak
Tujamo - Hey Mister
Duck Sauce - Mondo
Bobby Green - Drug Testing
Knife Party - Lrad
TJR, VINAI - Bounce Generation
MIA - YALA (Bro Safari & Valentino Khan Remix)
Milo & Otis - #FESTMUNCH
LAXX - Brainbug (MUST DIE! Remix)
Bro Safari - That A$$
Major Lazer - Aerosol Can
Calippo - Back There (EDX’s Dubai Skyline Remix)
Kevin Prise, Crazibiza - Reach Out (Leston Remix)
Hoxton Whores, Melleefresh - Let’s Get Dirty (Crazibiza Dub Remix)
Bobby Green - Goin’ Crazy
Iggy Azalea - Fancy (GTA Remix)
Usher - Good Kisser (Disclosure Remix)
Bobby Green - Changing Me
Bobby Green - My PT Cruiser is DOPE
Autoerotique - LZRFNK
EDX - Blessed
Tiger La - Now You Know (Bobby Green Remix)
Jessie Ware - Running (Disclosure Remix)
Wolfgang Gartner - There and Back
Jay Frog, Melleefresh - Peekaboo
Wolfgang Gartner  - Latin Fever

Dive deeper into his work here:
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Thursday, 3 September 2020

Re-Freeze

Olivier Debre - Vinter Oppdal (1979)


I've been stuck in a higher gear than usual when it comes to my choices for these posts these days (last one with the mixtape excluded). A welcome change for sure but man, you gotta slow things down every now and then don't you? I will admit re-publishing all the old posts made me realise just how much downtempo and trip hop I was into back then and it was definitely a lot. But today I'm going to indulge that side of me again just for today, starting with Flunk.

I found Flunk through my deep dive into Guidance Recordings, while mainly a house label they had a very strong downtempo component as well (see their Hi:Fidelity Lounge and Hi:Fidelity Dub series of compilations for a perfect demonstration). I feel like Flunk should be more prominent than they are, their debut, the incredibly aesthetically titled For Sleepyheads Only came out in '02 and was primed to be part of that wave of chill electronic that was popular at the time thanks to Röyksopp and friends, though then again Flunk didn't have a big label behind them like Röyksopp did. Still, both it and the remix album are very fine slices of that Northern European chillout electronic scene. The remix here from Athome Project takes the already very trip-hop styled See Thru You and strips it back to the bare bones, adding some glitchy IDM-esque skips and bleeps here and there and some extra synthy bits that are more than a bit Portishead inspired.



Contrary to the title and that last choice, it's not all doom, gloom and general cold vibes. Revisiting Funkstörung's Disconnected here with one of the singles from that album, Moon Addicted. I summed up the LP best last time I talked about it, the order of the day here is electronic meets acoustic with just a smidgen of IDM influence which from the text alone should tell you ticks more than a few of my boxes. This is one of a few tracks featuring Enik on guest vocals, and they certainly have a unique style that's not for everyone (particularly on the title track of this album), I can change opinion on them now and then but I think they work pretty well for the most part, especially on the choruses here. It's another one I have strong memories of thanks to its music video, which is just a time lapse of someone tweaking vectors in Adobe Illustrator, which is what I was doing when I was getting into this album!



A real throwback to wrap us up, Mr. Scruff's debut Mrs. Cruff. It's a very different sounding album than the follow up Keep It Unreal, that album is known for Get A Move On, the sample heavy single that I'm pretty sure that people hold up as early electro-swing. By contrast Scruff's earlier work is much more stripped back, the samples and Jazz influence is still there for sure, but there's a simplicity to the tracks that give them a lot more breathing room (and not to mention many, many outrageously bassy basslines, this track included!). It's not a complaint really, it's just interesting to see not only Scruff's style but technical working get more complex with time. If you're a fan of Scruff already you'll find plenty to like here as from the sound to the cheeky bits of humour scattered throughout it has his personality stamped all over it. If this is you're first exposure to Scruff and you're left wanting more from it, you'll do no wrong by checking out Keep It Unreal and beyond for more in this vein!



And so ends our whistle stop tour of some downtempo vibes, feels just like old times. Reminder that this upcoming Friday (the 4th) is another Bandcamp Friday, where they're waiving their usual cut of sales so that all the proceeds go to the artist, if you enjoyed anything you heard here today and are going to pick it up, consider waiting until Friday to support the artists and labels a little bit more!

As always, stay safe and enjoy the music.

-CVF

Wednesday, 2 September 2020

VaporDays - A Retro inspired mixtape

Lordy help me I am back on my BS. After becoming frustrated at the lack of some of these tunes on the usual streamers I took matters into my own hands (and tweaked some of them a little bit.) I knocked this out in one go this morning so expect it to be a little rough, but that's kinda in the spirit of things isn't it? Anyway, enjoy a rundown of some actually retro and some retro-sounding tracks from my catalogue. It's not 100% electronic granted, but I did some touches to make it a little more like Games' Heaven Can Wait Mixtapes but I'm nowhere near as good at it as Ford & Lopatin, and I didn't want to go full experimental EccoJams with it either.

Anyway, I hope you enjoy some of the selections on offer here, it's not very long in terms of tracklist but it clocks in at roundabout 25 mins thanks to my speed tweaks. It's a nice listen IMO, the first 3 tracks are a delight to listen to and I haven't altered them at all to enhance the vibe any. Tracklist and player follows:

Tracklist:
Konami Kukeiha Club - First Triangle
Joyo Katayanagi - T.N. Software
Software - Island Sunrise
SILK - Sunset In My Heart (@ 90% Speed)
Gunsmith Cats - Shiawase Da Yo (@ 75% Speed)
Isamu Ohira - Be At Home (@ 85% Speed)


Sunday, 30 August 2020

Retro Reviews: Everything But The Girl - Walking Wounded

Another instalment of this intermittent series today, with an album that spurred me onto doing this in the first place. It's the oldest album I've covered in the retro reviews series so far; Everything But The Girl's Walking Wounded from 1996. EBTG are an interesting band for their progression alone: staring off as a pop-come-indie band back in the mid-80's, by this point in the 90's they'd transformed into an electronic act making Drum & Bass and House. Despite this change, Walking Wounded is a good jumping in point if you're looking to explore their more electronic avenues as it's the first major release featuring this new electronic direction. Let's get stuck in.



As intro tracks go, there is no better demonstration of the overarching sound of this album than Before Today: 90's jungle backed with some deliciously smooth synths, all tied together with the sultry delivery of Tracey Thorn. I say this every time I bring up this album, but I still can't get over (despite the slightly dated sounds) how clean the production is. In my mind Jungle always has a bit of a rough 'round the edges aesthetic, especially in this era, but I have to remind myself acts like Everything But The Girl and Omni Trio were putting out stuff like this around then too (and I adore both of them).



Things take a delightfully retro turn next with Wrong, most definitely erring on the side of House this time. Picture the kind of house that would bleed onto the radio from time to time back in the 90's and you're most of the way there to how this one sounds. It's very much in the spirit of their own previous big radio hit Missing, from the album previous to this one Amplified Heart, specifically the Todd Terry remix from 1995. While treading the same ground as Missing, I think it's still pretty nice, Thorn's vocals are always a treat and even though Ben Watt's taken more than a few pointers from Todd Terry's mix here, his work throughout this album is slick and versatile.



I normally try to jump around the tracklists when writing these retro reviews but this album in particular perfectly summarises it's overall sound almost perfectly in the first 3 tracks. Single in contrast to the other two tracks so far is a more downtempo piece that's more in the style of the Trip Hop that was floating around at the time. For me this is where Thorn's vocals are at their best (though I will admit I am biased because my favourite is her work with Massive Attack on Protection which is very much like this). This particular breed of melancholy has been a constant throughout EBTG's work, and this album is no exception, even on the more upbeat tracks as we'll see with the next track. Watt's production is given some time to shine here in the latter quarter and shines as always. There's some muted sax in the background that runs the risk of dating the track but honestly I think it still works.



Moving onto the title track next, something I've not really talked about yet that I always bring up in regards to this album is the overall high-tech vibe it has. As was the trend in the 1990's, remember this is 1996: the beginning of the PlayStaton era, 3D CGI and Eastern Influenced graphic design a la The Designer's Republic as seen on the cover are very much in vogue at the time. It's a period I have more than a tinge of nostalgia for as I was a young Foxbat at the time, and in a sea of albums and designs that look or sound incredibly dated now a good 2 decades on, Walking Wounded always stood out to me as one that had aged well. Giving it a bit of a more critical close up now though there are definitely marks of the time on it, the string-styled accompaniment on the choruses is a little dated, but other than that I think it's still solid. The Jungle bassline remains killer and surprisingly powerful, it certainly gave my desk a bit of a dusting off when I had my speakers up just a touch too high. It was the first single from the album and I think that was a great choice as it makes a great demo of the new direction EBTG were taking, I will always love the intro here which for me properly encapsulates that high-tech feeling I mentioned.



I will admit here the album takes a bit of a stumble, nothing deal breaking but the tracks just don't do it for me like the choices so far do. Mirrorball for example hearkens back to their pre-electronic days, a downtempo acoustic jam about youth that, while charming, seems a little out of place up against the moody atmospheric Drum & Bass of the title track. Still there's plenty left to enjoy; Good Cop Bad Cop gives both halves of EBTG to flex in their respective areas: Thorn laying down some vocals that this time are more in line with the R&B vocals featured on some Drum & Bass of the time, and Watt's command of the production is as good as ever, although those strings make another appearance. I'd have maybe liked another track or so at the end, as it stands this is essentially the end of the album proper, Good Cop Bad Cop works fine as a final track but the whole thing feels a bit light at 9 tracks not counting the 2 remixes on the end.



It was only natural after the success of Missing that they hit up Todd Terry for another remix. This time reworking Wrong. Much like his mix of Missing the treatment is minimal, the addition of a little more dancefloor friendly House-y beat mainly. While the remix of Missing was a great flip and transformation of a folky tune into a House one, it doesn't feel like Todd's done much here. Which isn't inherently a bad thing but it is a little disappointing, a feeling that maybe wouldn't have been as strong if it were an extended edit out to like 6 mins or something similar. Still, the song's as good as ever, even if there's been no major changes.



And finally, another choice remixer for this album: Omni Trio. I mentioned them in passing above, bringing them on board to do a remix or hell even any of the Moving Shadow crew of the time was a choice move. And it certainly worked out very well in this case. Much more of a remix than Terry's above, here Omni Trio brings their own unique style of D&B to the table and it works very very well. Fragments of Thorn's vocals back a lush, almost chillout piece with a deceptively thick bassline and sparkling keys that is Omni Trio's style to a T. The way those additional drums cascade into the mix at 2:11 is an absolute masterstroke. My only complaints are first that the chorus never shows up, while I like the bits and pieces of Thorn's vocals sprinkled throughout, I would have liked the chorus to appear once or twice and I think it would have worked fine with the instrumentation. And second that it just kind of... ends. There's a little bit of a skip before to signify it but it just feels kinda abrupt, but that is small potatoes.



And that does it for another Retro Review. Walking Wounded is a good, albeit short album. It does take a bit of a turn in the latter part of the tracklist, but those opening songs are incredibly strong and very much make up for any rough patches. And that kind of thing is understandable as well given this was the band's first all-in-electronic album, and when you consider that context I think that the strong tracks are absolutely phenomenal. Certainly check out this album (Especially the re-issue with a second disc of more remixes, demos and live recordings, some of them are belters), and what would ultimately be their final follow up Temperamental which continues with that electronic sound. As always, stay safe and enjoy the music.

-CVF

Wednesday, 26 August 2020

Rising Action

Talking some tracks that could have easily been (and almost were) included in the post a couple of weeks ago: "Destroy Me". All from one artist this time as well in Zamilska. I, like probably many, was first introduced to their works via Ruiner, a cyberpunk hyper-violent twin stick shooter. Like Hotline Miami before it, the soundtrack choices were absolutely impeccable and Zamilska's contributions certainly stand out.



What sticks out to me about all the tracks I've chosen today is the reason for the title of the post, they're always building. Much like some of Clark's works, just when you think things have peaked something else is introduced to the mix. Zamilska's bandcamp mentions a bunch of influences including Noise and modern World Music, and that influence doesn't take long to show on tracks like Closer; the haunting chants of the intro soon giving way to rumbling electronics and a downright anxious synth. And really that's all of my choices today to a T, to sum them up in one word: Pressure. These tracks are absolutely unrelenting and once they get momentum just do not stop.



And it's this tension that permeates the entirety of their catalogue, even down to the choice of titles: all of them track single, punchy words. The intro of Smash sounds more like your traditional synthwave affair, but it's not long before a bit of that World influence from before makes an appearance, albeit distant in the back of the mix (and it won't appear in the main body for some time after that). It's potentially the most conventional of my picks so far, very stripped down compared to continuous cacophony of Closer, yet it's still very effective in building that tension over time. The sprinkling of some backing synths that evoke the 2010's blog electro sound to me during the last half is a real treat too.



Ruin sees a return to the Closer style of sound, this time with a hint of glitch influence on there to boot, when the beat is introduced it sounds like the arm of a disk drive stuck in a particularly nice sounding rhythmic loop. It too is a brilliant example of Zamilska's penchant for excellently building up; while there's not as many layers as some of the other examples here, it still grows into a lumbering monster by the halfway mark, there's barely any room between the elements to breathe. There are no real breakdowns save for something dropping out of the mix for a few bars, and any possible area of silence is filled with noise. Overthinking, represented in musical form.



I will admit it's taken me a little time to warm to Zamilska, the tracks posted are still my favourites and granted all of them are from the Ruiner OST (though I think Closer doesn't actually appear on the OST you can buy), but between the last post I made and now it's a vibe I'm very much into right now. I've yet to check out their latest album (from 2019) in any capacity, but I am very interested in where they take the sound going forward, and the progressions made in the ~3 years since Undone.

-CVF

Sunday, 23 August 2020

Tiding Over

Eyvind Earle - Grazing In Peace (1970)


Hey all, just dropping by with a quick one to see out the weekend. I do have a bigger post planned but I want to be able to give it a little more attention, so rather than leave you all till Wednesday with no updates I thought I'd knock something up quick. Keeping it Knife themed as I work out my complicated relationship with Fever Ray's second album Plunge. I absolutely adore the debut, as I do most things Karin Dreijer is involved with but the second is more of a mixed bag. It's... edgier, to put it mildly, there's a marked change in not only sound but approach to the subjects covered which is to be expected given the near decade between the first album and this (and the release of the incredibly politically influenced Shaking The Habitual from their other band The Knife as well). I might not agree with all the directions Karin took with the Fever Ray project (the eye-searing orange and blue color scheme of the bandcamp page for one) but I still admire them as an artist, and given I like 99% of their other output I think I'll survive. That said, there are little glimpses of the original Fever Ray here and there; Mustn't Hurry most definitely sounds like it could have been a b-side or even a solo single like the couple that were made after the first album: icy electronics and Karin's unique and trademark vocals are the order of the day here. It's been a while since I listened to it in full and I am absolutely stunned by the sounds, I was enjoying myself throughout but the little break and extremely powerful synth line introduced around 2:40 placed me firmly in love territory once again.



Took a bit of a road trip in sound recently too; looking over all the artists that Erlend Øye collaborated with on the incredibly smooth 2003 album Unrest. I've been in search of things to fill my love for that early 2000's DIY electronic sound and what better way than to go to the sources? In doing so I found Minizza, and while I've yet to take a full dive I'm liking what I hear so far, and they seem to have been fairly active since that era too. This one in particular is a real tale of back-and-forth influence: Apart from producing some tracks for Øye's album mentioned above, Minizza also did this electronic cover/rework of (Øye's folk/indie band) Kings Of Convenience's Winning A Battle, Losing The War, which Øye then included on his DJ-Kicks compilation! I do always enjoy hearing acoustic songs being flipped like this and this one's a really solid example, swapping the gitar for that poppy arpeggiated synth really gives the whole thing a different feel, and obvious bias of mine, bonus points for the subtly treated vocals too. I will say I am not a fan of the horns(?) introduced around 3 mins in, I can't help but feel they sound a little goofy, which I know is rich coming from someone who un-ironically loves Eurobeat. Still, they aren't around for long so it's not a massive detriment.



A similar tale with our last offering today actually. Ochre's A Midsummer Nice Dream, It's a lesser know IDM album that I found in the days when I was really into exploring lesser known artists of the genre. I had a copy on an old phone with plans to pick it up soon. Three guesses as to how that went. Anyway, it's an album I'd have sudden memories of and go dig out every so often, and purely on a whim I decided to look it up. I was nicely surprised to find there's a 15th anniversary re-issue out, chock full of bonus tracks as you'd expect. It's a lovely album, if a bit tame if you're hardcore into the Drill & Bass or otherwise intense side of IDM, but I've taken a long break from the sound myself, and between this and the lush glitch of Kensuke Ushio under his Agraph alias I've really enjoying being submersed in that world again. Here's a perfect example of that in REM Sleep Research; those gorgeous sounds are on display from the get go and are lovingly contrasted with skittering beats and occasional miscellaneous squelches. Ochre really gives the songs room to breathe here, there's brilliantly placed breaks that let everything slide into a stripped back or even full ambient mode toward the end which I certainly appreciate.



-CVF

Wednesday, 19 August 2020

Ilictromix: Matthew Prain (2014)

A re-post and archival of one of the series of mixes Adam sourced for us a long time ago. There's a couple more of these in the archives but I will spread them out between new posts! In the meantime, stay safe and enjoy the music. -CVF

This year I have been on a huge Drone/Ambient kick, so I'm really excited for this weeks Ilictromix! It comes to us from Matthew Prain a 23 year old Brisbane resident. I never knew that such moody dense music was coming out of Australia's scene, but after listening to his EP's and this mix my ears and attention are going down under. Also Surprising is how bright and cheery he is for how dark the material is that he puts out. I was introduced to his work after I fell in with the track "You Should Have Told Me (From The Beginning)" So I asked him a couple of questions and invited him to make a mix for us and luckily he agreed.



IL: So how did you get started and how long have you been producing? 
MP:  I started producing music in 2007, but I was really just messing around with pre-made loops and remixing Nine Inch Nails' songs at that point. I made some albums along the way under many lame pseudonyms until I finally got into film music in 2011.

IL: Minimalist and drone are some hard sub-genres to get into though what led you down that road? 
MP: I've always been interested in minimalist music where it's fairly repetitive in nature with only slight changes over time. The synthesizer I used in the EP (the Buchla Music Easel) was basically perfect for that style.




IL: So what are you listening to now then? 
MP: Lately I've been intrigued by the sounds of Death Grips and Tune-Yards, but my most recent favorite album would have to be Half-Eaten Guitar by Wyrd Visions - it's easily the most unique thing I've heard in a long time.

IL:  Oh you know how much we love Death Grips here! So then if right now you could work with any artists who would it be? 
MP:  I would have to say Phil Elverum of Mount Eerie, since I always go back to listening to his music at some point. Plus, it would be pretty cool to combine more electronic elements with his style of music...

IL: So how do you find inspiration for such dense textures and creating moody atmospheres? 
MP:  I guess the inspiration came from wanting to do an electronic album that was more personal and revealing, which I've always tended to avoid doing with most of my music. I was also inspired by Alessandro Cortini's solo albums to restrict myself creatively with using only a Buchla synthesizer, as well attempting to make it somewhat more performable live. Sound-wise, my inspiration comes from a combination of non-electronic artists like Mount Eerie and Wyrd Visions, and electronic artists like Tim Hecker, Andy Stott, and Boards of Canada.

IL: Oh ok that makes sense, So what Equipment are you using? 
MP: Apart from the Buchla Music Easel and a EHX Cathedral reverb pedal, I record with Ableton Live on a Mac. Tracks 2 and 4 were the only tracks that were multitracked while tracks 1, 3, and 5 were performed live in one take.



IL: If you could mail a letter to yourself 5 years ago what would it say? 
MP:  "You will stop listening to NIN in a few years time."

IL: Do you have a favorite flavor of Ice-Cream? 
MP: Chocolate easily, but sometimes vanilla depending on the mood. No extra gnarly toppings though - I like my ice cream to be minimal as well!

IL: So the EP is just stellar! Whats next for you? Rumors have it your going to sell out and make a Trap album? 
MP: I'm currently working on "Part 2" of Thoughts, so I can turn it into a complete album. The rumors are true - I'm planning on working with Kenny G to make a new style of trap music called "easy listening trap".


Tracklist: 
Andy Stott - Numb
Oval - Textuell
Boards of Canada - Reach For The Dead
Andy Stott - Execution
Tim Hecker - October, Part 1
Tim Hecker - October, Part 2
Aphex Twin - "Rhubarb"
Tim Hecker - Black Refraction

You can find more of Matthew Prain here: 

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-Adam


Monday, 17 August 2020

Retro Reviews: The Knife - Hannah Med H Soundtrack

This one has been a long time coming. After a noted absence The Knife announced on Friday that they would be putting almost everything released on their label Rabid Records on Spotify and Bandcamp (though being the massive fan that I am, noticed there is a distinct lack of Karin's old non-electronic band Honey Is Cool). Not that there was anything wrong with their own store but it's still nice to see, and if anything gives me an excuse to talk about them more, so I am doing!

The Knife are one of my favourite acts of all time; after being introduced to Karin Dreijer via Röyksopp's ethereal anthem What Else Is There?, she had already become one of my favourite vocalists. It took me a little while to jump on the Knife train but I was absolutely immersed when I did, I don't quite remember when it was but it was a whirlwind of sound as I picked up almost their entire discography up until that point in one swoop. But enough nostalgia, today we'll be talking about the black sheep of the Knife's output, their soundtrack to Swedish indie film Hannah Med H.



And I say black sheep for a couple of reasons: First, this is one of the albums that was curiously missing from Spotify and second because while it was released the same year as their sophomore album Deep Cuts, it exists in this strange valley between the DIY indie sound of their first album and the out-and-out electropop of the second. And this makes itself immediately known from the first track; Real Life Television embodies that odd transitional stage from the get go. To be clear, this isn't a critique of the album, in fact I quite like the slightly menacing undertones that tracks like this have and while I won't talk about it too much their work very much suits the film (though admittedly it has been years since I've seen it).



This does lead to an internal dichotomy within the album however, where more atmospheric soundtrack-style tracks like the above rub shoulders with more conventional Knife songs. Here we start to see more of a move in that direction with the introduction of Karin's vocals, albeit without proper lyrics. Hannah's Conscious with it's powerful synth stabs would fit right in on Deep Cuts, though curiously if you have one of the later releases like I do, this and a handful of other tracks from this soundtrack are included on their self-titled debut. It definitely feels as if they're testing the water of how close they can get to the Deep Cuts sound while still maintaining that soundtrack element, and I think it works very well in that respect: the song stands alone fine but it can also play under dialogue without being *too* distracting.



I could honestly do a track-by-track breakdown of this album but I will skip some just to rein in the length. Jumping back to that contrast I was talking about, it only gets more pronounced as the album prgresses, there is one scene in a Nightclub where they obviously needed some diegetic music to make it seem real, so The Knife lay down a pounding techno track with those trademark pitch shifted-down vocals in Handy-Man which is completely unlike anything on either of their releases so far, I still like it but it definitely sticks out in the track-list.

There are other examples of this that I think work better: the track New Year's Eve (that fitting plays in the background of a New Year's party) just bleeds that Deep Cuts style of sound, from the sugary sweet synths of the intro, to the Steel Pans that would define the early tacks of that album it is all there. In context it makes sense; it It certainly feels like a track that could play at a party circa the early 2000's I can't shake the feeling that this could very well be an otherwise unreleased demo from Deep Cuts, just reworked slightly to fit here, especially given that the lyrics have nothing to do with NYE. That is purely conjecture though, I have no proof of that but I think the description is spot on.



Like I say when so many releases finally make it to full streaming / bandcamp coverage, I am mostly happy that people have easier access to these releases because there is often some really good stuff on them. Some of the tracks from this OST made it onto the re-issues o their debut album as mentioned above, but some of them remained exclusive, This Is Now is one such example, and it's one of my favourites from this album. Its got a very unique style to it, the descending notes of the intro are unlike anything on either of the two albums before and after it and it is beautiful to listen to. It still feels as if they're holding back a little bit, while we get full vocal accompaniment from Karin on this one, her voice is almost in the background of the mix. I suppose this is understandable as it's for a soundtrack and all, and truth be told I do enjoy that kind of dreamy atmosphere that it gives the whole thing, which also compliments the film very well too.



As much I as love Karin's contributions to Knife projects, I must say that the Hannah Med H soundtrack is home to some of my all time top ten instrumentals from them too. Take The Bridge, I was taken in by it's charmingly euro-sounding intro anyway but it only gets better as the track goes on. The peak being the hands down euphoric breakdown at around 1:48, maybe it's my love of 90's trance talking but I could happily listen to those synth power chords all day, and the way it just slides back into the main body of the mix with the rapid fire crashes is fantastic. It's been a very long time since I first heard this one and it's still as excellent as ever. What I wouldn't give for an album of instrumentals like this from the sibling duo. Like I always say when talking about soundtracks too; I enjoy tracks like this too because they are just so much more interesting that your usual cinematic orchestral string affair, the electronics here convey that sense of tension perfectly well without them.



Keeping on that intense theme we have Wanting To Kill, and a better title for a track there never was. It is the embodiment of those closing lines of mine above: from the beginning until the end it is non-stop techno-fuelled intensity. There are so many things I love about this one: the way that those swooping bass pulses telegraph progressions in the song, the absolutely relentless beats and the way those claps build up to bombastic levels over the runtime. And all of it perfect in representing that feeling. And that's perhaps something I haven't praised enough so far when it comes to this soundtrack; the versatility of The Knife is on full show here, the same band that could make the heartfelt electronic-come-acoustic N.Y. Hotel can also flawlessly deliver pounding techno as well.



And speaking of versatility and that acoustic sound, there is actually a few tracks on here that embody that too, this is going to be the final selection of mine but the album does continue past this point. Vegetarian Restaurant is potentially my most played out of all the tracks I've talked about so far, I cannot ever skip over it whenever it comes up (and sometimes have to repeat it once more to get my fill), it's made its way into many a playlist and mix-tape and has played host to some amazing memories over the years. I know I try to avoid getting nostalgia tinged when writing these but I feel it's especially important here, as to me this track has that same quality that so many Boards Of Canada tracks have, where they already do feel nostalgic even if it's your first ever listen. The band themselves obviously think highly of it too, as this is once again another one of the tracks from this OST that were included in the re-issues of their debut. And that makes more sense than all of the others so far, as it does share a lot of sound DNA with N.Y. Hotel mentioned above from that album. Once again I know they evolved past this sound as a band but man, I could go for even just an EP of jams like this.



And that does it for my quick rundown retrospective. It's a hard one to review as an 'album' as if you do that it's super all over the place with sudden 180s in sound and all that. But I think it's still a solid addition to their discography, and home to some of those sweet exclusives I talked about. I don't think this is an ideal jumping in point if this is your first proper look at T Knife, definitely go with Deep Cuts if that's the case, the self titled debut The Knife also works too, but I feel that Deep Cuts better sets up the direction they'd take going forward, leading to one of my top ten albums in Silent Shout, but that is a tale for another day.

Do check out their whole Bandcamp if you have a minute, it's home to some albums I would recommend to any fan of electronic stuff, Silent Shout for one, but also Karin's first album under her Fever Ray alias, the self-titled Fever Ray, is nigh perfect and worth a look if you missed it back in 2009 or have just never heard it before. And as always, stay safe and enjoy the music.

-CVF