Thursday, 31 December 2020

You Are Now Leaving 2020



Well, we made it. Here I am again with the semi-regular tradition of a NYE-adjacent track dump. These are normally supposed to be tunes I'm planning to play at the get-together but that quite obviously isn't happening this year. So instead it's a collection of tunes that I've loved and fallen back in love with over the last year - it's more varied than I expected (though I have nixed most of the Eurobeat out, not because it wouldn't fit but because a lot of the tracks I wanted to include aren't on streaming!).

I don't want this to be too much of a pity party - hell, I've spent the last couple of posts reminiscing about the blog's past, which to be fair is expected given I'm going through and fixing them all up. With all the things going on, I am actually pretty privileged to be able to continue posting these regularly and I want to thank you all for reading. Hopefully some of these tracks have helped you as they have I. In a break from tradtion I'm going to try and write a bit about each one so apologies in advance if this is a bit long in the tooth.

Let's get back to it. This year was a firm kick up my arse to actually sit down and sort a bunch of things out, and of course catch up on a bunch of media I'd been meaning to as well - this is reflected by the bits and pieces from soundtracks you'll see later on in these selections. We run the gamut in between though - kicking off with Carpenter Brut's studio version of the Maniac cover, a crash course in Brut's slasher-style synthwave if you're new to them, and a quality entry in the catalogue if you're a long time fan. A piece from Ghostly's Disco Nouveau compilation that I got back into next, a great compilation themed around modern takes on disco that's also a real who's who of early 00's electronic.





In that same vein DJ Hell's I Want U, a real encapsulation of the slightly seedy electronic that is befitting of the founder of International Deejay Gigolos, down to the Tom Of Finland cover art. Truth be told I think the extended cut is a little long in the tooth, I prefer the video edit mix but I couldn't find that one on Hell's Soundcloud, but I continue to love this smutty brand of electronic that Hell and the Gigolos crew do/did.



Sidewalks and Skeletons next. I've been taking a slow dip in and out of their catalogue over the past year or two, but Drifter remains one of if not my most favourite of theirs. My favourite moments with this one are when it comes up of it's own accord or after a long absence and I get just lost in the absolute power of it. At the risk of repeating myself we have on the flip side HAL, a tune that takes me back to the days of Blog House - I don't mean to beat that comparison to death or anything but it really does, when I discovered this one it'd been a long time since I'd been immersed in that world and it was a delight to be back in there.





HEALTH next - Death Magic is an album I've been meaning to do an in-depth dive on because it's a very important album to me. Very accessible in terms of their catalogue, Death Magic sees HEALTH take a more electronic edge to their trademark Noise Rock sound. There are a lot of varied takes on it too: tracks like Stonefist would be right at home next to electro house (there's even a Boys Noize remix to further that!), to tracks like Life which are almost electropop. I love Jake Duzsik's delivery on this album, and Life gives it plenty of time to shine.



Back on my Cyberpunk kick once again (not that one though, you know the one!). Garoad's soundtrack for VA-11 HALL-A is aesthetic perfection, I can't think of a better accompaniment to the visuals and overall vibe for something subtitled "Cyberpunk Bartender Action". Good For Health, Bad For Education is a twinkly retrowave styled number, think the kind of stuff Mitch Murder does and you're in a similar ballpark. Digital Drive on the other hand is a short, sharp sweet piece that definitely takes some cues from the world of J-Pop with it's instrumentation. The absolutely gorgeous breakdown at 30 seconds in most certainly takes a leaf out of the trance playbook and catches me off guard sometimes in the most incredible way - almost criminally short, I keep coming back to this one for more.





I decided to dig back into Au Revior Simone again this year as I had an electropop itch that needed scratching. To my surprise they haven't put out another full length since 2013's Move In Spectrums, which is not really a big loss as it's a fine album and well overdue for me putting it back into rotation. I adore their overall vibe, especially on this album - and while Crazy isn't my all time favourite of the LP, it's very much doing it for me right now - the chorus that demands to be shouted out alongside them backed with those keys, especially in the final quarter where builds up to one last explosion of sound is just brilliant.



Mijk Van Dijk for the last of the bandcamp players. This one is the opening track from the Teamwork compilation which as you might have guessed is one big collaboration album. If you're familiar with Mijk's approach you can really hear where the collaboration happens, he has a really distinct sound - in the case of this one I'm fairly sure that the intro is 100% Mijk as he loves those swooping synths and samples from games (Tomb Raider in this case!). Humate's touches become more apparent when the intro gives way to a suitably techy beat, and really come into their own around the 5 minute mark with the introduction of that new slightly trancey melody. As album intros go, it's really something.



Indulging my soundtrack side for the final stretch we have Void_Chords with Feel Your Breath. It's from the soundtrack to an anime called Two Car about motorcycle racing and if I've learned anything from watching Initial D it's that they certainly know how to make hype as hell music cues in anime, and Feel Your Breath is no different - I knew I was going to love this one from the intro alone as it takes more than a few cues from the Hospital Records style of Liquid Drum & Bass. It's a style I love but haven't really checked anything out in that vein for a long time, so when Feel Your Breath came along it was like... well, a breath of fresh air!

The theme of hype racing tracks continues, with long time composer Yuzo Koshiro's soundtracks to Wangan Midnight Maximum Tune being a massive treasure trove of trance I've been digging in. Until this year only 5 & 6 were available on streaming, but a re-issue of the soundtrack to 4 is available now too! If you're at all into the trance I've talked about this year I would definitley recommend checking them out - though they aren't exclusivley trance, they dabble a little in Drum & Bass and even Hardstyle in parts. if you're not into the vocal ones I've posted there's plenty of instrumental ones to have at as well, here's one of my favourites Glare



The final Soundtrack piece is, of course, Peace & Tranquility. It's become a bit of a meme but as I say every time, I don't mind that so much if it helps people discover new music, electronic especially. Who can say how many people have gotten into Bag Raiders from all the Shooting Stars memes? But that's getting off topic - Peace is simply put a lush piece of House. It absolutley stands alone from the thing it's soundtracking, and you don't need any knowledge of it either to appreciate the song itself. Which of course I highly recommend, I think it might be among my favourite house tracks of all time.



And of course, same as every year, how could I forget to include The Knife? I include this on every new year's roundup, or at least the ones I remember to do, I think I missed last year. This is them in all their Deep Cuts era glory, down to the steel pan as heard on Pass This On, it was never included on any other album so you'll have to pick up the Hannah Med H Soundtrack if you want it, but that's not a bad thing at all as it's full of great songs.



And as always, stay safe and enjoy the music.

-CVF

Thursday, 24 December 2020

Wrapped Up - A Second Wintery Mixtape

This is that little something I was talkin' about! Figured I'd do the same as last year and do a little mixtape thingy again (you can find last year's here!). I'm normally very self deprecating about the quality of them - and while I'm still a little uncertain on the content here, I think the actual mixing part is better than a lot of them I have put out recently. Digression aside, this started as a compilation of tunes that I've loved and discovered or re-discovered this year and I've largely stuck to that. Some artists I wanted to get in there like Tsutchie didn't make it, and I had to stop myself from going overboard with Yokota (both for your sake and so Mixcloud would accept it!). I know I'd been neglecting the blog, I'd been in a bit of a funk personally and wasn't really feeling up to it for a long while. But if anything good has come out of this year, it's a rekindling of both my love for writing and for music discovery, having somewhere to write about these things has been really nice - and I hope that reading has done the same for you. Stay tuned for the tracklist, player and a track-by-track breakdown below:

Ivan Shishkin - In The Wild North (1891)




Tracklist:
Susumu Yokota - Sky And Diamond
Keiichi Sugiyama - Snow Girl
Omni Trio - Ocean Driver
Shinji Orito - Phases Of The Moon
JMJ & Flytronix - In Too Deep
Susumu Yokota - Few
Agraph - Gray, Even
Autosundmädchen - All The World Loves Lovers
A:xus - Suite Disappointment (Original Reprise + Original Mix)
Michiel van den Bos - Home Base (UNATCO)

Sentimentality aside - this mix takes a much less 'chill' approach than last year's - at least in terms of my usual content, there's no Röyksopp or similarly Scandinavian electronic this time. Though saying that the intro does betray that a little, it's a lovely slice of downtempo courtesy of Susumu Yokota, a track that would have been right at home with my coffee shop Trip Hop phase some years ago now. We take things more in that Scandinavian style next with Keiichi Sugiyama's Snow Girl which I promise didn't make the cut just because of it's title (or the fact it's from a Winter themed album!), though it does definitely exude those same tundra style vibes as tracks like The Knife's The Captain, it's full of gorgeously cold vibes that I just love, and it felt right at home here on a recap of my loves for this year.

Taking a left turn and upping the tempo with a bit of Omni Trio next, although not for a while as the lengthy intro of Ocean Driver flows almost effortlessly into the end of Snow Girl. I recently re-dug out the album this track is from Skeleton Keys recently - it has some amazing pieces on it like Sanctuary that are a perfect summary of why I love Omni Trio. The album does suffer a bit from being a bit same-y in parts and a personal gripe of mine is that it's one of those albums that has 2 separate releases with different tracklists (though not 100% different to compound the annoyance). Still, not to be too negative - I've fallen back in love with Trio's trademark style of breakbeats and Ocean Driver is a really solid example of them.

The Drum & Bass continues with a piece from Shinji Orito, taken from the soundtrack to Clannad; which while not entirely electronic is incredibly beautiful and something I've listened to a lot this year. Saying that, sometimes a bit of electronic makes its way on there as is the case with Phases Of The Moon, which is right at home up against Omni Trio, and indeed separate from the thing it's sound tracking as well. After that it's a return to Moving Shadow territory with the downright fantastic In Too Deep courtesty of JMJ & Flytronix. It's one of my favourite pieces of Drum & Bass of all time, perhaps a little dated now but I have a really deep appreciation of the early 00's Drum & Bass style that it has, the jazzy edge of Flytronix showing in full force too!

Back to Japan for the next couple, with another piece from Yokota, this time Drum & Bass. The combination of Yokota's more ambient side and proper breakbeats works amazingly well, and the deep almost machine-gun like basslines on Few are just brilliant. It's an excellently structured track, Yokota knew just when to drop the beats and let those lush synths shine for a little while before brining the whole thing crashing back together again. Slowing down a little next with Kensuke Ushio, specifically his solo work under the 'Agraph' alias. I fell in love with Ushio's work on some soundtracks and decided to follow the trail, and to my delight his albums are more of the same - smooth ambient style compositions, with occasional hints of glitchy IDM shining through. This is more pronounced on his later works, the tracks I've chosen here Gray, Even errs more on that ambient side but you can still hear that glitchy edge here and there, especially on the outro.

Rounding out we have a cover of All The World Loves Lovers that I have talked about on here before. It's from a compilation just called Hamburgeins - a compilation of minimal electronic from artists in and around Hamburg as you may have guessed. Minimal isn't always my cup of tea but some pieces of this compilation really do it or me, and Lovers is one that scratches a very specific itch - it's just a simple loop but I can't get enough of it. It's likely due to Alexander Polzin's involvement, his work is rare-ish but I've liked all I've heard from them. Fading out into a custom mix I made of A:xus' Suite Disappointment, potentially one of my favourite house tracks of all time, the Original Reprise is this introspective, skeletal version of the track with limited backing and the vocals, which I use on the fade out before slamming straight into the excellently crafted 4/4 of the full fat original mix. The lyrical content may be a bit bleak but I just adore the delivery of them, for me it's an almost perfect example of this style of soulful house.

And finally, Michiel van den Bos' 2020 rework of his UNATCO theme from the original Deus Ex soundtrack. A little bit of a last minute addition I will admit, but I've loved the UNATCO theme since I first heard it in the early 00's and it warms my heart to see it given this kind of treatment all these years later, that main melody is just iconic. The mix itself is just fantastic, not just a remastered re-tread of the original theme. It may stray a little into dubstep territory in places which could turn some away, but otherwise it's a perfect combination of the ambient and upbeat sides of the Deus Ex OST, and a nice capstone to this slightly eclectic mix of mine.

Well, that about does it for the talking side of things, I hope you enjoy this little mixtape deal of mine, I don't do it often but they are fun to put together, they let me use tracks I wouldn't be able to embed otherwise and stretch my creative legs a bit too. Saying that, I may pull something together for the end of the year but in case I don't - As always, stay safe and enjoy the music.

-CVF

Sunday, 20 December 2020

Rifts Revisited



Hello! this is a re-post of a post I wrote coming up on 10(!) years ago now. As I've said a bunch of times now, it's been quite nostalgic republishing all these old posts. In between the odd feelings of sadness when you come across artists who have disappeared of the internet and general dead links there are relics like this. It's funny, I distinctly remember sitting down to write this post and publish that mix at the end too, weird to think how long it's been. Well, the post itself is much shorter than my standard fare these days so I thought I'd write a little preamble. Just for clarity, anything I've added that wasn't in the original post will be in italics, should only be a paragraph or two more!

My thoughts on Rifts remain largely the same - it's a gorgeous compilation of early Oneohtrix Point Never, drenched in gorgeous arpeggios and sporting that distinctly retro sound. He's since gone on to be quite name in the electronic world, but when I wrote this post initially he was in that weird valley of becoming popular in the niche world. While I love a fair amount of his work, the contents of Rifts will always be among my favourites - now with the additional tinge of nostalgia. These players are from the re-issued version of Rifts that has a slightly different tracklist - there's no real change to this post's content apart from the correction of the name of 'Actual Air' on the original compilation actually being 'Time Decanted'. I'm not as big of a fan of the re-issue artwork, the font is a bit aggressive for an ambient record, but I understand why they changed it from the original Vaporwavy one seen below.

I'm going to try and get a post or two out before the end of this year, but if I don't manage it I will see you all in 2021. And as always - Stay safe and enjoy the music!

-CVF


In what will be probably my last post of this year, I bring you a recent artist in my collection, Brooklyn based ambient musician, Daniel Lopatin AKA Oneohtrix Point Never. Working almost exclusively with vintage analogue synths, OPN's music has same nostalgic qualities as heard in Boards Of Canada's tracks. If I could describe it to you, I'd say it's like the score to an old futuristic sci-fi flick. First up, some tracks from 2009's Rifts, A compilation of his previous 3 albums. These became kind of rare due to limited print and being on cassette. So along with being easier to find, many of the tracks are extended or alternate mixes. and so, let's begin.

One thing I love about OPN, as well as the vintage sounds, is how he builds tracks. often starting with a simple arpeggio and layering sounds over it, until each elements blends seamlessly, or conflicting in such a way the sounds blur together into one.











And to top it off: a Mix by OPN, bundled with my copy of Rifts by the nice folk over at Bleep.com titled Objects In Mirrors. I'd love to include a track list but I couldn't find one anywhere. The intro's a bit out of the blue, as are a lot of the selections if I'm honest, but stick through it, because there are some excellent choices scattered throughout - the first coming in in around 3:50 in.



2010, We'll Go There Again,
-Claude Van Foxbat

Sunday, 13 December 2020

Taking Stock

Feelin' all nostalgic this time. Again. But! Not in the usual sense where I share a bunch of old tunes I used to listen to or anything, well actually kinda that but not quite how I usually do it, hopefully it'll all make sense in a bit. Essentially these are not things that are *super* old or anything, but hit that same kind of feeling for me. Wouldn't be too noteworthy normally but I hit a good 3 in a row and thought it'd be nice to share. Let's go.



First is another bit of Trance. I promise that this post won't go super in depth with it, after all I already had my annual post where I wax poetic about Trance a couple months back! Though saying that, this track would have been right at home there - as I always say I could just be in those breakdowns for ever and ever. I will concede that as is usually the case with trance - that it does take an extraordinarily long time to get going. Though it's not as bad an offender as some tracks I have in my collection, I understand it could turn a lot of folk away. It's not as aggressive with the 'drop' as it were as the other trance stuff I posted - there's not really an explosion of that trademark euphoria here, it all just kind of slides into place. And that's not a criticism of it by any means, as much as I love that style I've been especially taken with this one as of late- which has also taken me on this virtual trip of YT channels that are just videos of vinyl.



Speaking of enamoured, it's been a long time since I mentioned Yoko Kanno on here. She's one of my favourite composers and while her work isn't always applicable for an electronic music blog, when she does turn her hand to the more electronic side of things it's something really special. I've talked at length about her soundtracks for Ghost In The Shell and Cowboy Bebop, but as is the theme of this post we're going a little bit more into the past. She also sound tracked a series called Terror In Resonance, which despite it's often heavy content (as you may have guessed from the title) is a absolutely full of gorgeous visuals and lush audio. I last mentioned this one way back in the early days of the podcast, around episode 2 I think? When it came up on shuffle I knew I had to include it here. Terror In Resonance carries a lot of Icelandic influence oddly enough, and this is reflected in the soundtrack. There's no outright plagiarism of homages to bands like Sigur Rós, the influence is clear to hear, more so on the tracks with vocals (my favourite being 'Hanna'. Crystalized however you can still hear that influence in, to me the way the build ebbs and flows is very reminiscent of post-rock as a whole.



And finally - ending the year as it began with an Everything But The Girl demo. Last year it was Above The Law, the demo for what would become Before Today on the Walking Wounded album, a vry rough round the edges early draft that only enhanced Tracey Thorn's vocal contributions. Speeding Car Side On by contrast is completely instrumental - and feels much more finalised than Above The Law albeit lacking vocals at all. Without knowing the ins and outs of the album's production though, who can say it was even intended to have them at all? But I digress, it's a shame this one was cut, it's not going to knock your socks off or anything but it's a lovely period piece of downtempo and for that I love it (With my biases admitted!). As always, I'm not a massive fan of the string accompaniment in places, but it was 1996 and that kind of thing was very much in vogue at the time. And if I had to critique it more the whole thing does feel a bit meandering - it's not something that stops me from enjoying it but I can see the lack of development grating on some - and again I have to give them some leeway as it is explicitly labelled as a demo, so you can expect it to be unpolished and unfinished. That doesn't stop it from being lovely in parts though.



And that'll do it for this week. Apologies for no bandcamp players this time but YT is a decent enough replacement, especially when dealing with tracks that aren't on the platform. I've got some things lined up for the end of the year, not sure if they'll come to anything yet but stay tuned anyway. Might be a little longer between posts as well now we enter the end of the year - rest assured that unless I say otherwise, I am still active and am probably just busy!

And as always, stay safe and enjoy the music.

-CVF

Sunday, 6 December 2020

Extended Play

Normally this would be where I talk about the stuff I grabbed in the latest Bandcamp Friday but the truth is I didn't get that much this time. No fault of the artists, it just snuck up on me and I hadn't prepared too many things I was definitely going to scoop. I didn't want to force it either so I just went for a couple of EPs that only just missed the cut last time. They're both EPs I've talked about before too (well, sort of in the case of one) - Thought it might be a bit thin on the ground so this post is going to be a bit longer as I talk about 2 other tracks I've been listening to lately too. Let's go.
Pierre Alechinsky - The Night (1952)


Leading us is DMX Krew with the newest thing of his I have in my collection, the Don't You Wanna Play? EP. Appearing on Peggy Gou's Gudu Records, the EP is a short sweet and slick rundown of the DMX sound, it's a smidge different from my favourites from him like We Are DMX but as the bandcamp description rightly says, that's to be expected given how long Ed from DMX has been in the game. It's an entirely instrumental EP which is rare among the bits and pieces of DMX work I've picked up over the years - there are no tongue in cheek rhymes here, just straight up House. While the opening track CJ Vibe is still the standout for me, I've been quite taken with the bouncy, playful, spacey retro feel of the final track 110 Series recently. Here Ed really stretches his melodic legs and puts those synths to work - I say this every timeI talk about DMX Krew pretty much, but the tracks are all so fun sounding you can't help but smile a bit, and I imagine Ed has a ton of fun making them as well.



Keeping it spacey next with another bit from Gerard Hanson, better known as Convextion. I've been taken with his work under the E.R.P. alias for a little while now though it was a little difficult to get a hold of digitally. Thankfully in 2019 Frustrated Funk re-issued two of his most popular (and hard to get hold of) EPs: Vox Automaton and Alsonran. Combined into one big EP now just called the fittingly technologic sounding FR014X - it's a great introduction piece if you're looking to get into the world of Convextion as a whole. I do think Alsoran is the stronger of the two EPs but that's not to say that the Vox side isn't worth your time. If you're at all like me and love that futuristic techno/electro sound, you'll find plenty to enjoy here. The title track from Vox is a nigh-perfect summary of that - I could live in those lush portions all day.



Taking another dip into the recommended space again with yet another track that barely missed being on the Algorithms post. This is once again the first I'd really heard of an artist to my knowledge, but what a track to make a first impression with, it was a perfect suggestion for the playlist it ended up going into. Desolate 1 is from 1998 but feels slightly older than that - and not in a negative 'this is dated' way if that makes any sense. It's the B-Side to an EP called It Ain't Gonna Be Me and as people other than me have pointed out it's a sort of strange choice to have: the A-side is a standard House come Big Beat affair, but this B-side goes hard - full on techno with perhaps a smidge of Trance influence on those breakdowns (though now I think about it, the whole thing sounds a little like Juno Reactor's Guardian Angel from '95). And to CJ's credit, there's enough variety injected throughout that I have frequently sat through the whole thing without realising a few times since my introduction to it. I didn't know I was really in the mood for this kind of intensity lately but apparently I am, and I have yet another artist to add to the ever growing list of things to check out once again.



And finally, not to give you all tonal whiplash but I've been taking a deeper dive into the back-catalogue of Susumu Yokota again. As I mentioned last time the man had many a release to his name, and even more under aliases but not all of them are easy to get your hands on. I've been exclusively looking at ones that aren't as readily available and so far I've liked each one I've run across. Sound Of Sky leans more on the downtempo side of things, that intro and opening track are gorgeous and wouldn't be out of place on a lounge compilation from the early 2000's. But as much as you all know I love that kind of vibe (and I am having to seriously stop myself from posting that one!), the standout tracks on the album for me are the more House-y ones, and there are more than a few to get stuck into. King Of Darkness is, unlike its name, not a very dark track at all - from the get go you have an almost 2-step garage style beat that soon gives to a more traditional House 4/4 with a deceptively killer bassline. Around the midpoint of the track is where it all comes together though, the twinkling piano that often goes off on Jazzy tangents is an absolutely inspired touch and beautifully twins with the House side of the track. Keep an eye out for more tracks from this album coming up in the near future, I can't get enough.



And so ends another weekly post, slightly longer than normal as I didn't want it to be just 2 bandcamp players or just YT embeds either. In other news, I've been making good headway on the republishing so expect that to continue over the winter, it might delay proper posts somewhat but I aim to put something up at least once a week, I've got a few ideas rattling around in this head of mine for just such an occasion!

And as always, stay safe and enjoy the music.
-CVF

Sunday, 29 November 2020

The Pang of Nostalgia

Paul Guiragossian - Dans la Nuit or Nostalgie (1986)


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

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



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

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



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



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

But as always, stay safe and enjoy the music.

-CVF

Saturday, 21 November 2020

Spacing Out

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


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

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



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



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



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

-CVF

Saturday, 14 November 2020

Algorithms!

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

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

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

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



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



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



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

-CVF

Saturday, 7 November 2020

Trip Report

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


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



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



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



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

As always, stay safe and enjoy the music.

-CVF

Saturday, 31 October 2020

For The Archives

We return to a familiar format this week: tunes I've discovered along the way that I'm posting to remind myself to pick up some point soon (probably when the next Bandcamp Friday happens!). I initially thought that this post would be a bit thin on the ground, but it turns out that I forgot to wishlist a few things on Bandcamp so now it's looking a lot healthier. Let's get into it.

Richard Hamilton - Archive I (1981)


First up is something that I would have sworn was in my collection somewhere, but like so many other songs and LPs over time it never did. At the time it was the peak of me being into this kind of sound - between Bibio and the other Warp crew I had a real hankering for this kind of off kilter hip-hop. The album this is from, Lucky Shiner was Gold Panda's debut - and what a debut it was. You couldn't escape this song around then if the YouTube algorithm had even the slightest idea that you liked electronic music. I distinctly remember eventually biting the bullet and saying "oh, go on then" and giving it a listen and really liking it. So how does it hold up 10 years on? Well, I still like it that's for sure, but that itch I had back then for this sound isn't as prominent as it was. I don't mean that to be too negative though, as I said it's still a really neat track - part of me is really into that frantic sample triggering style. And now would be a good time to pick it up, as it's being re-issued for the 10th anniversary with a bunch of bonus tracks as well. Better late than never, eh?



For all my love of Modeselektor I am very much unfamiliar with a great deal of their output. I have vague memories of Art & Cash, the former track of the EP being some predictably pretentious synth unpleasantness. That doesn't excuse me never checking out the remixes though (though in my defence, there are lots and lots of them!). Enter the SBTRKT remix of Art & Cash, I've been thinking a lot about SBTRKT recently - (I was thinking of doing a Retro Review post on his debut mainly, an album that still sounds real fresh to my ears but I digress) and I realised I'd never heard this remix, so I gave it a spin. While certainly different to the sound of his debut, you can still find some distinctly SBTRKT hallmarks, Sampha on the vocals for one. It's an incredible remix, turning the rolling electro of the original Cash into a much more lighthearted 2-step Garage style. I am totally loving the 8-bit style warbles throughout this one, reminding me very much of Flying Lotus' Kill Your Co-Workers from around the same time in that aspect.



And finally, a tale as old as time. Yet another holdover that I discovered way back on Grooveshark(!) and have been meaning to check out ever since. Grooveshark's recommends sent me in the direction of a bunch of artists I might not have found otherwise, tucked away on Planet Mu (μ-Ziq's label, naturally) is an album by Skyler McGlothlin under their Nautilis alias - the rhythmically pleasing to say Are You An Axolotl.

I'm not familiar with Skyler's other work, but I can tell you I fall in love all over again whenever this track comes up - it appeals to that side of me that I always struggle to pin down a good way to describe, from those times where I would stay up far too late making weird animations and watching [adult swim] bumps (and jamming to their exceptional music choices for them). And that's actually a really apt comparison for this track, Why It Got To Be So Damn Tough would fit right in as a piece of bump music, (I haven't checked but it wouldn't surprise me if it already had been used as such) the combination of the simple guitar loop backed with beats and occasionally cut up and turntable-ised is practically the distilled formula for what they'd choose for the music. Reminding me a little of Benn Jordan's work as The Flashbulb, but with a more trip/hip-hop style, I think it's an absolutely stellar choice as an album closer.



I'm surprised how well this post flows together, normally when I make a post like this is can be a bit all over the place but these three play out togteher quite nicely. Posts may still be a bit thin on the ground going forward as IRL things continue to pick up, but I plan to restore some more old posts in the meantime as well. Blogger's had a facelift which makes should make parsing the code of those older posts much easier than before, in a pinch I may re-publish some as new posts as I did in the early days of lockdown so apologies in advance for any re-runs!

And as always - Stay safe and enjoy the music.

-CVF

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