Thursday, 25 February 2021

Retro Reviews: Moby - 18

It's been a long time since I've done one of these hasn't it? About 5 months by my count. This week is an album that I've been meaning to look at for a long time, I was originally going to be covering it's demographic-crossing older brother Play but I think it'd be much more interesting to focus on the follow up to that one - 18. However, there are still going to be tons of comparisons between the two as they are intrinsically linked - with the added benefit of nearly 20 years of hinsight this is going to be one of the more detailed Retro Reviews I've done (And I am now kicking myself for not calling this series Retro Perspectives instead).

It's an curious tale for sure, it's not technically Moby's 'difficult second album', but it might has well have been given the sheer number of people that were suddenly introduced to him via Play, combined with the label naturally wanting more of that sweet licensing money that it brought them in spades. The pressure must have been something else, though Moby says otherwise in interviews from the era, at least on the commercial front. I have a fair few gripes with Moby as a person, but I'm not going to let that influence this piece - I'm trying to keep it about the art and not the artist as it were. It's not somehting that's completely avoidable naturally, but I'm not going to air out all my grievances at once here. And with that, let's begin.

Well, what can you expect from 18? How do you follow up from Play - an album that was originally intended to be your last one, one that suddenly gained massive commercial success 9+ months after it's release? To sum it up slightly cynically: More of the same. It's a methodology I can sympathise with, having worked in the creative space it's very easy and appealing to stick to working with a specific style/format/medium that gains you the most praise from various sources. But with that comes the risk of stagnation. And that's a very real risk: Moby certainly wasn't the only one to be doing stuff in that vein, tracks like Blue Boy's Remember Me from '96 originally, predate Play and tread much the same ground, albeit in a more Big Beat style rather than Downtempo.

18 was Recorded between 2000 and 2002 - a fairly significant amount of time all things considered, (but still around the same time it took to record Play) and as was the case with so many albums at the time with a slight delay to alter some content in the wake of 9/11, an event that must have been particularly traumatic for Moby given his home studio was in Manhattan. Would a quicker release have helped a little bit? Maybe, but you'd run the risk of burning people out or having a slightly unfinished record if you chucked it out as soon as possible.

18 also marks a change in method when it comes to Moby's production, transitioning to software based production using ProTools - on the whole there are much less samples than on Play, but they aren't completely absent. There's plenty to be said about Moby's use of samples and his choice of them - these are typically R&B, Soul or even Gospel records. Some tracks from Play where pretty much entirely sample based, Run On for example was pretty much the entire original 'Run On for a Long Time' from Bill Landford and The Landfordairs, just with some additional noodling from Moby. I'm not going to touch too much on the ethical side of things here (and I've made my opinion known in the past anyway), but these samples definitely contribute a lot to that sound that defined Moby's work at the time - and it's always interesting to hear an Artist's influences in that way. Cutting back on them was a wise move both for Moby to start to further define his original works, and probably cut costs by not having to licence as many samples, but in doing so potentially alienates some of that popular audience that was attracted to Play in the first place.

But enough Preamble - let's talk the actual music. 18 opens in quite a bold fashion compared to the sample heavy Honey from the last album, instead we have We Are All Made Of Stars: an all-original song that does away with the electronics almost entirely and swaps it out for an of-the-era rock sound. A late addition to the album, penned after 9/11 and chosen as the lead single from the album - it's an odd choice for certain. One that I'd argue is deliberate though, what better way toe expand your radio appeal in the early 00's than going with some fairly safe pop-rock? Intended to 'inspire hope', It may come across as a little trite now both lyrically and musically but it's not bad, but certainly alienating (no pun intended) to anyone looking for something similar to the last album.

It's not long before echoes of Play come back though - In This World could have easily been a B-Side from the last album. While there are less samples this time around, the ones that are there are excellently sourced. Based around the incredibly powerful vocal from 'Lord Don't Leave Me' by The Davis Sisters, it's the distilled essence of the sound of Moby from this era - backed with piano chords and lush (if a bit overwrought) strings. It is still very well produced no doubt and perhaps it's the nostalgia talking but I do still like it. There is however that undeniable commercial slant to the entire thing, tracks like this are totally advertising bait (and it was in fact used as such by Renault) - but whether the track itself sounds inherently commercial, or that is just the benefit of hindsight I'm not so sure.

The trend continues on the next track (and single), with the similarly titled In My Heart opening with dancing piano arpeggios that you will certainly have heard in some promotional video or in the background of a TV show at some point, garnished with the now expected gospel sample. Great Escape deviates from this quite substantially though - featuring dream pop duo Azure Ray on the vocal front, it's an almost ambient showcase of strings that's a bit underwhelming. The vocals are great but they're let down by the cliché string accompaniment. Though admittedly there may be some bias to that as I'm not a huge fan of strings like this anyway but I can't help feel it would be improved were it more akin to something like UNKLE's Chaos for example.

On the flipside, Signs Of Love is where I think Moby shines through, it's got more in common with some of my favourite underrated bits from Play like If Things Were Perfect. Rather than the moody melancholy of Perfect though, Signs has that more uplifting sound that opened the album, at least on the instrumentation - the lyrical content can be a bit bleak at times. Having said that, Moby's slightly treated vocals are a treat to listen to too, they're much more melodic than that example from Play. I think it's aged much more gracefully than some tracks here - while it's still very clearly a product of the early 2000's it sounds a fair bit fresher. Though maybe that's a virtue of this one not being completely overplayed as it wasn't a single.

One Of These Mornings also fits this bill, and is one of my favourite barring the big 6 singles. Once again Moby's choice in samples remains stellar - the vocal taken from from The Caravans 'Walk Around Heaven All Day' is incredibly powerful. There's not a real lot done to the sample in the grand scheme of things, but it is still more varied than some other examples from Moby's catalogue, rather than just repeating over and over a la Honey for example. For me, this is one of the standout tracks on the album, partially because it's not one that's been played out to death as a single. It still suffers a bit from those grandiose string swells in the second half but that could just be my personal bias at show again, the first half is absolutely lovely either way. Slightly off topic, but there's also a version Moby re-did with Patti LaBelle on the vocals for the 2006 Miami Vice movie - the instrumentation on that one is slightly updated for the era, much more sedate than the album version, which lets Patti's vocal take centre stage. I think I still prefer the album version, but it's interesting to hear an updated, 100% sample-less version nonetheless.

I was originally going to try and skip over as many tracks that were singles as possible, but so far I'm at 3/6 and I'm about to make it four. If tracks like In This World and the like were Moby fishing for those sweet advertising licences, then Extreme Ways is him angling to do the same for film soundtracks. Moby had been featured on plenty of film soundtracks before this already, as evidenced by the existence of the cheekily titled 'I Like To Score' compilation, But even then there is an undeniably intentional 'cinematic' sound to this one - I always thought the high tension screeching strings of the intro may have been influenced by Moby's work with the James Bond Theme from '97, though that mix is a more standard techno/breakbeat affair. It's another standout of the tracklist just because of how different it is by virtue of leaning on that more pop-rock sound again, though bits of the rest of 18's sound do peek through on the choruses.

We're at the mid-point in the tracklist now, and it takes a little bit of a turn. Jam For The Ladies evokes the more Hip Hop parts of previous albums, Honey for starters - and a great bit of wordplay on the title: with MC Lyte and Angie Stone on the vocals and an overall theme of empowerment the track is a Jam For the ladies and not a Jam for the ladies. But man is it ever retro sounding, and not in an early 2000's way - parts of Jam sound almost 90's in their execution (though I think that may have been the point). It's not a bad track by any means, but it does stick out on the album in terms of sound for better or worse.

But Jam also marks the end of any upbeat moments (barring a few exceptions) - from here on out the rest of the album is firmly in downtempo territory. We have another single next too - Sunday (The Day Before My Birthday). As is to be expected at this point Moby's sample choices remain on point, this time Sunday by Sylvia Robinson. The sample is a little bit more jarringly cut this time around - there's distinct stops as cuts from the original end, it's a problem that's not really avoidable and not a complaint, but other tracks on this album definitely sound smoother. Other than that, at the risk of sounding reductive this one is more of the same: Radio friendly electronica. The Piano on this one sounds a little stiff, distinctly digital (which to be fair, it probably was), but there are other flourishes I appreciate - flashes of acoustic guitar and lavishings of other lush synths over the top mitigate that a bit.

It's at this point the album hits a bit of a rocky patch for me. The title track 18 is a bit if a let down. There's nothing wrong with it and it's not bad really, but it is just yet another piano & strings piece in a sea of them, this time with no sample to inject some flavour into it. The intro is lovely - but it soon falls into the same trap of becoming needlessly grandiose again. And that's really my main complaint with 18 as a whole, there are no really bad bits of the album - just bits where it's just a bit bland, something that only gets more pronounced as we're very familiar with the formula at this point.

It rebounds nicely on Sleep Alone though; actually going against the tried and tested formula that I just talked about. This is by far the most Trip-Hop style track on the album, a change up in style that the album could have used more of scattered throughout. This is also one of the tracks that had some alterations done to it in the wake of 9/11. It's easy with hindsight to criticise the changes as being over-encompassing but I think the changes made here actually work better: "Pieces of fire touch your hair" being replaced with "Pieces of light" is an improvement for sure, I think the changed line sounds nicer and fits better with the overall moody melancholy of the track. Though having said that I'm surprised that the some lines like "City once full of people... is desolate" made it in unaltered.

At Least We Tried returns to that now staple format once again though, to the point where I mistakenly believed that the vocal on this one was sampled as well. Turns out it's not, and is original from Freedom Bremner. You can forgive me for thinking that though as it's about as repetitive as the sampled vocals, it wouldn't have hurt to have an extra verse or two there for variety.

Harbour is a slightly odd one again, apparently originally written by Moby in 1984, it again leans back on that pop-rock vibe. It's an interesting move for sure, as someone in the creative field it's not often you can go back to an older piece and not be struck by how much you've improved since then! The guitar backing here is a welcome addition, it sounds great and is a refreshing change of pace - especially those distant solos put in here and there. The string backing does return on the choruses but it's a little more sedate than previous tracks and I think actually compliments well with Sinead O'Connor's vocal here. I'm not so sure about they lyrical content in spots, but I can't deny that Sinead's treatment of them is brilliant.

We're entering the final stretch now: Look Back In shares a little bit more sound history with Play once again - the hazy beats of this one sounding a little like Down Slow. While fairly short, it's not long before it also falls victim to the curse of the strings on this album, and as a result it comes out sounding like one of the most corporate songs on here.

The Rafters, by contrast is an absolutely brilliant piece, right from the get-go we're hit with a distinctly different flavour of sample, setting up with a House style build up too (one time where an overly MIDI sounding Piano is actually a good thing!). When the full fat of the track kicks in its like night & day - as good of a sound that Moby's use of the R&B / Gospel has throughout the majority of this album, I think it would have been wise to embrace this sound a little bit more too: Gospel isn't always the slightly dreary melancholy that most of the past samples have been. The upbeat nature of this track is just so infectiously catchy that I can't believe that there isn't more of it to be had on the album, or that this wasn't one of the singles either - it would have played excellently into that 'inspiring hope' angle that Moby envisioned as well.

And finally: I'm Not Worried At All. Actually another one of my favourites and I think a great album closer, though it does end a little abruptly. It's again another one of those tracks where it doesn't feel like much has been done to the sample other than cutting it up into bits, but I think in this case it works really well. And for as much as I've knocked the piano & strings formula in the latter half of this overview, I can't deny that it works really, really well here - could be that it's not quite as overpowering as on previous tracks. It's a beautiful piece, one that I think genuinely does capture that hopeful vibe Moby had in mind. Honourable mention to the source of the sample in 'He'll Roll Your Burdens Away' by The Banks Brothers and The Greater Harvest Back Home Choir for being a major source of that feeling.

It's worth noting that after 18 Moby's next album - 2005's Hotel, leans more toward the rock front again. Perhaps disappointing for fans, but just think how much the electronic landscape changed between those years, a re-run of something like Play or 18 would have sounded pretty dated by then. Truth be told I haven't kept up with many of his releases past this point so I can't really comment further! Closing thoughts - if you're a fan of Play, 18 is worth a listen for sure - it was always going to be difficult to follow up that album but I think 18 does a good job of it, though perhaps lacking that instant pop appeal of the previous album in places. It has its moments where it stumbles but it comes back around by the end. On the whole it is a fine album, but overexposure and time have made it perhaps a bit more generic than when it was new. It's probably for the best that Moby moved away from this style after this album though, I don't know if it'd stretch to another full length, which is fine as these two albums together provide more than enough to get stuck into as-is, doubly so if you pick up the respective B-Side albums for each of them as well.

Apologies for the length and if this feels a bit fragmented. It's easily the longest Retro Review I've done so far and I've done it in bits across multiple days, I've tried to proof-read before publishing but some errors may have slipped through. Still, this was a fun exercise, though the length may have put me off doing another for a while! But as always: Stay safe and enjoy the music.


Monday, 22 February 2021

Our Work Is (Never) Over

Where do I begin here? Well, it hurts a bit that's for sure. I'm probably really underselling it there: I owe Thomas Bangalter and Guy-Manuel de Homem-Christo a hell of a lot, for if it weren't for them, I wouldn't have followed a link on a Daft Punk fansite years ago that led to this very page you are reading now. And that's just this blog - not to mention the thousands of hours I've gotten out of their discography both as Daft Punk and in their respective solo efforts.

I wish they'd have left it till 22/2/22 to keep it cyclical with their adoption of the robot personas on 9/9/99 actually! The re-use of the imagery from Electroma where Bangalter's persona is destroyed and Guy-Manuel continues to walk off into the sunset, while fitting, makes me feel like there's going to be a million and one conspiracies about the two splitting on uneven terms or something. Not that we'll probably know, the two were very secretive and who can blame them after all? Besides, the Robot personas were just so cool to boot.

I'm kind of jumping all over the place here so apologies, but I have a lot of feelings to work through. I appreciate each of their albums in it's own unique way, would I have liked another album from the two? Sure, but Random Access Memories is also a great bookend to their career, it was a real labour of love as evidenced by the inclusion of Giorgio Moroder and all the tales about little touches that the two would do, like choosing a certain microphone to record an individual element that only goes to show how true that is.

As varied as their discography, the various collaborations also make their output unique to boot, with no fewer than 3 films to their name in the forms of D.A.F.T, a full on original anime feature film in Interstella 5555 to the art house cinema of Electroma that is the source of this video. Discovery may be one of my favourite albums of all time for sure, but it being essentially one giant music video when twinned with Interstella takes it beyond just music - it's one of my favourite experiences of all time.

This is the fourth time I've seen one of my all time favourites disband. First with DJ Mehdi, gone before his time. Second with Broadcast, cut short by the untimely death of Trish Keenan. And third in The Knife, that one hit me something fierce as they too are responsible for one of my favourite albums of all time in Silent Shout. Does it get easier? Not really, but at least this way there's still the prospect of solo work from the two of them. If you've yet to check out Roulé or Crydamoure I highly recommend it - they are quite different from the output of their combined works, but there are some real golden tracks on both of them.

So while there won't be any more 'Daft Punk' records for the time being, there's still more than enough to get stuck into if you go looking - beyond just the main albums there's a world of bootlegs, remixes, rarities and live sets to keep you going. They might not be around anymore but their music lives on, and music is forever.

I leave you now with one of my favourite bits of Daft Punk video - I was going to chuck the Encore from Alive 2007 here because that absolutely blew me away the first time I saw it (and it too, is an almost perfect retrospective of their discography both solo and together up until that point) but I suddenly had a memory trigger in my head as I was about to go looking, and I figured I'd mix it up since everyone's going to be talking about their robot personas today. So instead here is a then relatively unknown Daft Punk playing their first ever live show in the USA at Even Further in Wisconsin. I just love the raw energy of it, these rough as hell live versions of tracks from Homework, the squealing 303s, and the fact you can see Bangalter get so into it even in the first 30 seconds is just brilliantly infectious.

It's a stark contrast from their funkier output later on, but I personally love all sides of Daft Punk. Discovery is certainly the more accessible album, but Homework has its moments like Da Funk and Around The World that made a big splash on their release and almost heralded what Daft Punk would become. So, I thought I'd shine some light on it to close out on. This piece of video is a great piece of electronic music history and I'm so happy it's been preserved all these years later.

The two have certainly earned their place in the history of electronic music and their legacy will continue for years to come. As I said way back at the top, I wouldn't be here writing this had I not fallen into a Daft Punk Superfan™ phase all those years ago, so perhaps I owe them more than some. So play them out One More Time, and as always - stay safe and enjoy the music.


Friday, 19 February 2021

In The Meantime...

Natalia Goncharova - La Forêt [The Forest] (1913)

I thought I'd have the Retro Review done in due time, but it's turning out to be a bigger job than I thought. So in lieu of making you wait for however long it takes, I'm here to write another quick one to stem the tide. Been enjoying a lot of late 90's stuff as of late, keeping it vaguely Warp themed we have Björk's Homogenic. I say vaguely because this album has a bunch of production work done by Mark Bell of LFO as well as Guy Sigsworth and others. Together they make this album have a great hi-tech feel, not quite the same as the bleepy techno of the early 90's I've mentioned a lot recently, but of the same sphere. That's of course not even mentioning Björk's vocal work - which is as stunning as always. The big one from this album is obviously All Is Full Of Love (though I prefer the Single version to the one on the album), but I think my favourite might have to be Immature.

All this Warp talk as of late and I've not even mentioned perhaps the act most associated with them - the eternal Aphex Twin. Keeping it late 90's too with the Richard D. James Album and it, too, is an incredibly futuristic piece. I believe this is around the time Aphex was moving from analogue to pure digital production and the difference is pretty clear. The album before this (...I Care Because You Do) had an air of DIY to it, a lot of rough sounds and crunchy bits. In contrast the RDJ Album is smooth as all get out, even when the beats are being mangled. The unassumingly titled 4 is absolutely stunning for a track from 1996, and I believe it to be one of the best opening tracks of an album that I have heard so far.

And finally, Rei Harakami again. I've said in previous posts how I can't believe it took me so long to get into Harakami's works, especially considering they were always recommended to me. Now that I have though, I love them all a whole lot, to the point where I've had to stop myself from just making entire posts about bits and pieces of his works (not that I don't want to, but I thought I'd save them for a rainy day!). Unlike the last times I've brought Harakami up though, today we're keeping in theme and talking about his debut album from 1997 - Unrest.

The tracks I've shared in the past all show off Harakami's unique style of almost ambient electronic - and you can definitely hear signposts of where his sound would evolve even on this record, which still has that downtempo but not quite fully downtempo feel. Tracks like this are exactly why I love Harakami's work so much, from the opening it simply nails his brand of lusciously smooth electronic and it only gets better from there with smatterings of flourishes scattered throughout and that bouncy bass line make it a joy to listen to. His works are also quite easy to get hold of too, as they were re-issued around 2015 and are readily available digitally as you can see here. If you like what you hear here, I would dive right into one of his later album [Lust] for more of the same!

As always, stay safe and enjoy the music.


Tuesday, 16 February 2021

This Means Warp

Horace Pippin - The Warped Table (1940)

Seem to have hit a bit of a dry spell, though that may be me being spoiled by the massive influx of new stuff I was discovering in the final few months of last year - I've been spending a lot more time with Warp Records as of late, not only because of that recent nostalgia kick of mine but also thanks to their appearance on Bandcamp.

Truth be told, a lot of the stuff I've got lined up isn't really 'new' so much as it is things I've been meaning to get to for a while, with the possible exception of this one! I posted around the time it came out, the 25th anniversiary edition of Smokers Delight, one of my favourite albums of all time (and one I was supposed to see performed live and in full before the virus) comes with a bunch of bonus tracks. And for my money, the best one is the first, Aquaself. I'm pretty sure these are new tracks NOW made in the spirit of the album and not forgotten B-sides - at any rate it demonstrates NOW's ability to make a killer groove, full of gorgeous floruishes in sound and steel pan harkeneing back to the original LP, it effortlessly sails through it's 6 minute runtime.

B12 next, there isn't much of their work on the Warp Bandcamp (but then again I don't think they released much on Warp at all) but what is there is sweet as. Time Tourist, while not my favourite album of theirs has the aesthetic of the futuristic Warp techno of the time down to a fine art. With it's cover envisioning a retro-futuristic take on London and track titles like The Silicon Garden, it really brings back the wide-eyed tech-optimist in me. This one in particular sounds a little like some of the stuff Oneohtrix Point Never was making in the R Plus Seven era, albeit much less experimental - it's gorgeous hi-tech ambient electronic to get absolutely lost in. A real hidden gem in the Warp catalogue, definitely look up B12 if you love this sound as much as I.

And finally, speaking of hidden gems - Broadcast. My favourite example of one from Warp. I just adore everything that Broadcast put out, I'd admired them from a distance for a long time but shortly after I decided to explore in earnest the band was cut short with the untimely death of Trish Keenan. Keenan was and is up there on my list of all time favourite vocalists and Broadcast showed tremendous versatility over their fairly short release history - going from 60's revival psychedelia on The Noise Made By People to the stripped and skeletal DIY electronics of Tender Buttons. Still Feels Like Tears is originally from the Pendulum EP: a track from the Haha Sound era, but you can hear precursors of Tender Buttons in those backing synths. Keenan is also on point from the get go - establishing that hazy, dreamy retro vibe from the very beginning. The real highlight is her main vocal here though, I love everything about her tone on the choruses, excellently enhanced by the slightly off-kilter instrumentation.

Slightly shorter post this time, trying to break things up a bit. I started another Retro Review today but that too looks like it will be very lengthy to say the least. So to buy me some time and break up the text a bit I thought I'd put this one up first! I hope you enjoy and as always: Stay safe and enjoy the music.


Sunday, 14 February 2021

Colors of Love - Another Valentine's Mixtape

After being on the back burner for nearly a year, I present to you another valentine's mixtape. I say a year because immediately after I finished last years I had a handful f leftover tracks that I really wanted to have put in but missed their shot. Guess what this year's mix is made up of? I don't want you to feel like this is 'the leftovers' or anything, each of these tunes stands on their own! Stay tuned for a bit of commentary by me after the player and tracklist!

Monk - L
Mitsunori Ikeda - Fallen Angel
Phil - Crazy & Ready
Chromeo - Bonafied Lovin'
R·O·N - Adult Bath
Tsutchie - Deeper Than Words
Clammbon By Nujabes - Imaginary Folklore
Röyksopp - In Space

I may have been a bit over-ambitious again this time, it feels to me a bit clunkier in parts than my last attempt at this kind of thing but I guess that's the price I pay for trying to put Eurobeat into Chromeo - the selection is unique at the very least! I tried this time to get a nice even balance of upbeat and downbeat this time - there's four tracks of each so it's balanced in a sense! We open with the beautifully hazy L from Monk. I was first introduced to this one from the soundtrack to OlliOlli2, which is full of other tracks with this style of hazy, compressed indie electronic, I love it but it's easy to have too much of it too. From there it's the one track that really pained me to miss out of last year's tape - Mitsunori Ikeda's Fallen Angel, yet another cut from the Panty & Stocking With Garterbelt soundtrack - which is also full of absolute stonking tunes. Fallen Angel is far too funky to just be an ending theme, and Aimee B just straight up kills it on the vocal front as well.

I spent a fair bit of time deciding what to put next... I knew I wanted some Eurobeat in there (after all a good 80% of Eurobeat lyrics are either about love or are innuendos) but the question was finding one that was mostly accessible. Which is tough when you're as into the genre as I am, it's kind of warped my perception of cheese a bit! But there are plenty of tracks out there that wear the disco influence on their sleeve, and Crazy & Ready is one of them, much closer to the House side of the spectrum of Eurobeat. That's not to say it's not still got that earnest cheese that I love - some of the lyrics are choice and the synth melodies should carry a warning label for how sugary sweet they are!

From there it's the surprising first appearance of Chromeo. And really what is there to say about them? They've been at it for well over a decade at this point and they are still doing what they do exceptionally well. I did almost put a track from their 'Quarantine Casanova' EP here, but I couldn't find one to mix well (and in hindsight it probably would have been in poor taste too). Instead I went for the tried ad tested fallback Bonafied Lovin' from Fancy Footwork. It's the album of theirs I'm most attached to but if you like the sound they have here, you could pretty much pick up their entire discography and not be disappointed. We're around the halfway point now and we begin our slide into downtempo, and what better way to signify that change than with Adult Bath. Perhaps not strictly electronic but I just had to include it for it's sound alone, and as I said just before it nicely sets us up for the more hip-hop final half.

Another track that I missed off of last years, Tsutchie with Deeper Than Words. I found Tsutchie during my dive into the world of Japanese hip hop a little while back and quickly became one of my favourite names in that space. There's no shortage of Tsutchie tunes that could go here - often super slick and smooth, it was no question of whether Tsutchie would make the mix but which one would I choose. Keeping it in that sphere for the time being, a super lush produced track from Nujabes. There are two versions of this one, Folklore and the one that I went with, Imaginary Folklore. It's one of Nujabes' more popular songs and it's not hard ot hear why, it's easily one of the best examples of his distinctly lo-fi production methodology and is just a gorgeous listen.

Finally, we round out with Röyksopp's In Space. I've been revisiting their debut Melody A.M. as of late - it turns 20 years old this year and it does sound very early 00's in it's overall style but it's aged very gracefully. and one that I still very highly recommend if you are at all into Electronic music, doubly if you like downtempo stuff as much as I. My heart told me to pick Sparks yet again as it's one of my favourite songs of all time, but I switched it up and went with a full instrumental piece instead. In Space perhaps shows off that turn of the 2000's sound more than most tracks from the album (a friend lovingly calls Melody A.M. 'Advertising Music - The Album') but it's still a lovely listen and I think closes this little selection out nicely.

Right, the commentary was a little longer than I expected but that'll about do it for us. I hope you like some of my selections here, and I'll be back soon enough with more. And as always: Stay safe and enjoy the music.


Tuesday, 9 February 2021

Always Returning

Going to knock something out right quick for old times sake. I've taken a break from the IV of non-stop Hi-NRG and Eurobeat that brings me up to operational speed most days and swapped it from something a little more familiar. My love of techy glitchy things is well known by this point, but it's been a while since I had a whole post dedicated to it - so let's do that.

Grace Cossington Smith - Bed Time (1922)

I've said before one of the things I like about my recent Bandcamp scoops is that I get notified when new things from artists are coming out, gone are the days of me being surprised by a new album because I didn't check an artist's socials. It hasn't stopped to wishlist pile from getting larger and larger but it's something.

Enter Ocoeur, an artist who I found in almost a stereotypical way for me at this point: heard them on Grooveshark when that was still a thing and it just snowballed from there. This was during that time when I was sailing through the Warp Records catalog for anything and everything experimental and was always hungry for more. The downside for that was that I think a lot of the stuff I was listening to got lost in the undertow - like Light As A Feather for example. There's a couple of tracks from it that I've absolutely rinsed but coming back to it now it's almost like a completely new album. A track that has surprisingly not come up much for how often I re-start my shuffle from the top is 1.11 - a great distillation of the album as a whole. A typically lush juxtaposition of skittering beats and smooth synths, backed with the occasional intentional recording artifact. Perhaps a touch generic if you're very familiar with the genre, but I always have a soft spot for tracks like this.

Speaking of that era, one of the artists I also picked up in that time was The Flashbulb. His style is quite a bit different from the stuff you'd normally think of when it comes to the 'IDM' label. There's a lot more acoustic elements, particularly on this album - the beautifully bleak titled Soundtrack To A Vacant Life, though that's maybe not too removed from the genre given the Piano pieces on Aphex Twin's Drukqs. Anyway, the track I've chosen is part of the extended intro alongside the opening track Prelude.

Kirilian Voyager highlights some things I really like about The Flashbulb, I think his use of vocal samples like on the intro of this one is fantastic, it's from the movie 'Waking Life' which is equally fitting - though I can see it coming off as a bit trite nowadays (especially the later track on this album Suspended In A Sunbeam sampling Carl Sagan). The rest of the song is quite different from the Ocoeur one above, sporting an almost post-rock influence to the instrumentation with some little glitchy bits here and there for added flavour. The album as a whole is a really good introduction to The Flashbulb if you're new, though it is a little long at 31 tracks! I'd recommend listening to Warm Hands In Cold Fog and Submerged Renewed for both a more traditional IDM sound and a good cross section of the album too.

To round us out, one of the bigger names. One of my potentially most unpopular opinions when it comes to electronic music is about Autechre: I can't really get into any of their stuff after Tri Repetae. On paper I should at least like the album after that as well as it's really the last one before they went all in on the abstractness but I've yet to have it click (come back to this post in a couple years and see if that's changed!). That's not to say I don't at least admire their later work - they are absolute wizards when it comes to making what has now become their brand of experimental electronic, but it's not for me. In contrast, I think their first album Incunabula is an absolutely divine piece of that early 90's Warp sound, but I'm going to revisit their second album Amber today.

It's been a long time since I talked about Amber since the Warped History posts roundabout 10 years ago now, shy of re-posting one of my favourite ambient pieces from it Nine every so ofter, it's not come up too much. If ever there was a release that deftly avoided the 'difficult second album' trope - Amber may just be it. Released just one year after their debut, it sees the overall sound get much more refined and you can almost hear the signposts being laid of the eventual direction they would take into Tri Repetae and beyond. Despite the short gap between them it sounds quite far removed from the charmingly retro vibe of their debut, and as a whole sounds very, very modern for a release from 1994 - a trend that would continue for Autechre going forward.

Nil is one of my favourites from the album, and probably one of the more accessible Autechre tunes out there - it's much more melodic than their later work for certain, and in hindsight almost tame compared to even the follow up Tri Repetae. It creates a really great atmosphere though, well structured with peaks and valleys throughout - my favourite of which being the ambient break being pierced by those lush keys at around 3:30 or so.

The republishing quest continues - aside from a couple of unrecoverable posts it's been fairly smooth sailing. I'm trying to put up as much of it as I can but there are missing players here and there. Still, some of it has been pleasantly surprising in how easy it was too, and great little slices of history like us hyping up Madeon before he blew up. Good times. Right, that'll do it for this instalment, I might get another small one in before the Valentine's Mixtape hits but if I don't - I'll see you then!

And as always - stay safe and enjoy the music.


Saturday, 6 February 2021

What's in my (digital) bag

First Bandcamp Friday of the year yesterday, and I had plenty of stuff to go at thanks to the extra month of prep time and Warp Records making most of their catalogue available there too. I got some usual suspects this time - things I've mentioned in previous posts (partly as a reminder to myself!) and things I'd been generally eyeing. Some non-electronic stuff in there too but I won't be talking about those too much. So - What's in the bag?

Sam Francis - From Tokyo #3 (1970)

Despite the art chosen for this post, there's no Yokota or Rei Harakami this time - instead we have Squarepusher. I talked a bit about the Lamental EP when it was near release and a couple of times since, and those posts focused on two tracks in particular - MIDI Sans Frontieres and Detroit People Mover. The reason I kept talking about these tracks is that they are absolutely divine pieces of Ambient, and I've been saying for years that every time Squarepusher turns his hand to that kind of sound it's always brilliant and leaves me wanting more. That's not to say that the EP is full on Ambient though - the (Avec Batterie) version of MIDI Sans... gives it a beat reminiscent of tracks like Iambic 9 Poetry from Ultravisitor, or the Jazzier parts of Just A Souvenir. Between the two I can't say which I like more, they compliment each other really well - though I will concede that Avec is certainly the more Squarepusher sounding of the two.

There's another great ambient guitar piece on the EP too - once again evoking Every Day I Love and Tommib Help Buss from Ultravisitor. 'Les Mains Dansent' is a short little interlude almost in the middle of the track list, it's short but really lends this very heartfelt atmosphere to the EP. Not that I haven't been a fan of Squarepusher's more recent work, though I admit I haven't really listened in a lot of depth, but it's an absolute delight to hear his return to this kind of sound.

Anyway, the track in question I'm going to actually post today is the opener - The Paris Track. I wasn't entirely sure what to expect going in (when do you ever with a Squarepusher release though?), his more recent work has run the gamut from dark electro to acoustic (or at least, played on instruments) versions of his old material with Shobaleader One. Paris Track seems to bridge that gap for me, the opening is very much in the style of the rest of this EP - smooth but haunting synths guiding us in. However once the meat of the track hits around 50 seconds in the whole thing becomes undeniably Squarepusher with an injection of slightly acidic synth accompaniment, I know a lot of fans have been disappointed with some of the changes in sound on newer releases, and to me I feel like this almost bridges the gap between the two. This track could have almost been a B-Side from Hello Everything, the structure itself is very much old-school 'Pusher - not quite as intense 'Drill & Bass' of Come On My Selector perhaps, but definitely more familiar. I'm very happy with this EP, if the album accompanying it, Be Up A Hello is at all similar I may have to add that soon too

Another scoop this week was more from E.R.P. - better known as Convextion. I've been slowly drop-feeding myself all things E.R.P. because so far every single release I've heard is like a direct line to that part of me that loves that early 90's ambient techno that Warp was pioneering and the Pith EP has been no different - it too is full of those spacey vibes that I love oh so much. Having said that, the main body of this EP is much more on the pure Electro side of things than the usual brand of stuff I post when talking about this specific genre, the opening track Luctu wouldn't have sounded out of place on the Elektroids LP on Warp (the Elektroids themselves being the legendary Gerald Donald and James Stinson). It hits a great balance of E.R.P.'s lush, sometimes melancholic synths with these newfound electro stabs, this is new and differnet territory for my listening of E.R.P., but I am very much into it!

Tuga is the prime example of this - I immediately slammed it into my playlist of futuristic electro. It's as if you took all my favourite Doppelerffekt tracks and combined them here, albeit perhaps not quite as dark. not to repeat myself but tracks like this really appeal to me, this is the kind of stuff I was fascinated by when I was younger and as I say every time, to me this is still the sound of the future. Title track Pith also epitomises this for me, perhaps even stronger. By far and away the track that's most Ambient Techno on the EP, it embodies that ideal I mentioned in the first half of that forward looking kind of techno from the 90's. It is definitely tied for my favourite on the EP, and it only just missed being posted literally as I type this. I do love it, but at times that beat can get a little repetitive for my liking, not all the time but still. With that in mind, I'm going to have to go back one step to the bouncy Tuga.

Cheating a bit for the final one. One thing I did do this time was finally get around to replacing the vintage Sébastien Tellier remixes I had from way back in the blog days with proper decent quality ones. But those have already been posted to death and just a touch more than a decade ago(!) too. So instead I thought I'd shine a light on another Warp release I think is worth your time now that it's more easily accessible, I picked up a physical copy a long time ago so it's not technically 'in my bag' as it were!

Plone are a fairly obscure entry in the world of Warp Records, I originally became aware of them as they were supporting acts for some Broadcast gigs back when (so you'll find them recommended if you ever get really into Broadcast) - and Mike Bainbridge of Plone also played Keyboards for their live shows in the Haha Sound era. They are more electronic than Broadcast for certain but they are most definitely sonic cousins at the very least - much like Boards Of Canada, Plone's sound originally is all tinged with nostalgia, full of vintage keyboards but with a distinctly more pop style overall - much like the Polyphonic Size track I talked about a while back now I think about it. It's been a long time since I talked about them but that's pretty much how I sum them up: theirs is a very unique and playful style of electronic that I didn't really see replicated until the 2010's.

The oddest part of the Plone story however is how it just suddenly stops. They looked as if they were set to become yet another staple act on Warp, their sound was a nice compliment to the lineup they were building, and Plone would release successful singles, an album and even contributed to the 10th anniversary Warp10 and We Are Reasonable People (WAP100) compilations. But after that, they pretty much just disappeared, their time on Warp only being around 2 years total. There is an unreleased second album floating around the internet, there's no solid proof it's legitimate (but if it's a fake, the sound is imitated almost perfectly) but things went quiet after that. They did however return out of nowhere in 2019 and announce that they would be releasing a new album Puzzlewood on Ghost Box in 2020. A surprising return to be sure, but a happy one. Though true to myself I have yet to check out the new album yet!

Their debut, For Beginner Piano is an ideal (and until recently, the only) place to hear this playful sound in action. Tracks like Plock just radiate that vintage, slightly weird electronic pop vibe that you might have heard courtesy of the BBC Radiophonic Workshop. I've picked Marbles to post - it's as good a demonstration as any track from the album. I especially love this one because I have a bootleg recording of it from a Peel Session that they did, and hearing a track like this on a slightly tinny and radio compressed recording only enhances that atmosphere. Plone is a little ray of sunshine in musical form, and if the weather where you are is anything like how it is today for me, I think we could all do with some right about now.

Righto, so it goes for another Bandcamp Friday. In hindsight I should maybe actually post these on the day but hopefully if you dig them, you can wishlist them for the next Friday at the very least. Apologies for the slightly bigger gap this week, I was hanging on for this and also hashing out ideas for another mixtape so it shouldn't be as long next time.

And as always - Stay safe and enjoy the music.


Monday, 1 February 2021

Think of Fire

I'm taking one of those turns again where I get a bit ticked off to put it mildly. I normally let stuff go pretty easy because for a while now I've tried to live a life that's mostly free of negativity, but I do turn bitter every now and then, but that's OK, it's healthier to release than just sit there slowly building up into a foaming rage. Enter the past couple of days... If I were at all religious I would definitely consider them tests that's for sure. A combination of entitled arseholes, general idiocy and frankly plain irresponsibility has me quietly seething off to one side but I'm going to try and follow my credo of limited negativity - and do a controlled release with some audio assistance.

Yves Klein - La marque du Feu ['The Trace of Fire'] (1961)

Death Magic again sprang to mind. So many pieces of this album could go here, but for instant impact it has to be SALVIA. The sheer sudden intensity of it makes it nigh on perfect for just this occasion. The machine gun beat appears unrelenting, it blindsides you and contiunes to layer on the intensity. And just when you think you can no longer breathe - suddenly you're falling free in a daze. But it's not long before it all comes crashing back down again around you. The cycle repeats once more, only this time the serenity stays. A short and brutal track, SALVIA is the musical equivalent of a sucker punch.

Coming up again after the recent mention - ADULT.'s later work is also a great shout for this theme. While the Why Bother? album is sometimes a little too noisy for my tastes - the EP before it D.U.M.E. really hits the spot, maybe it's the overall shorter length making it easier to digest. At any rate - Hold Your Breath is another great distillation of this mood and perhaps the most obviously Punk influenced tune from ADULT. I've mentioned so far. It might not have the sudden plunge of SALVIA, but it does have Nicola Kuperus putting in one hell of a performance - her frantic delivery wavers between cold and calculating to borderline manic throughout, giving the whole proceedings a beautifully disjointed feel.

I couldn't do a post in this vein without mentioning this one. The Autumnal Crush will destroy you in the most pleasent way. The opening is slightly misleading on this front, but it's not long before things get fairly intense. Something I always loved about this track (and sort of gets spoiled if you read this before listening) is that it absolutley does not let up, the intial post-introduction is already pretty heavy, but it just keeps on going and going with more and more layers - an experience befitting of the Crush in it's title. But like SALVIA, it does eventually let go, and for the remainder of its 7 minute runtime it becomes a much calmer beast. And with that, it's probably the most fitting track here by a long shot. Truly, if there were a piece of Clark's work I could point to that I think best demonstrated why I use that 'Melodic Grit' descriptor - Autumnal Crush would be up there.

Apologies for the slightly shorter (and a little more poetic than usual) post - I didn't really plan this one out! I could have put a couple more selections here but as I said in the opening paragraph, I'm trying not to dwell on things too much these days. And I don't know about you but I certainly feel a little better having written this out and immersed myself in that sound.

I'll be back later this week with more, but until then - as always, stay safe and enjoy the music.


Tuesday, 26 January 2021

Floating Feeling

I've been looking over my Bandcamp lists in prep of the return of the Bandcamp Friday - and it seems based on what's there I'm long overdue for a full on return to my downtempo loving phase (though is it a phase if you never really stop?) Anyway, I browsed through and put together a list of some things that fit the bill, a little mixture of pure ambient, the more usual general stuff I used to post way back when that could probably just fall under the 'chillout' umbrella and some straight up Trip-Hop to cap off - let's have a look.

Charles Blackman - Room at Twilight (1963)

I've mentioned a couple of times how it's sometimes hard to find legit versions of Japanese music, mostly because the licensing is either really expensive or super complex I've heard. It's something that effects all genres of music, but there is a label out there doing their part: Light In The Attic has been running a Japan Archival Series for a while now - re-issuing compilations of various genres and artists that for a while where either unavailable or prohibitively expensive to get hold of in the west. My favourite of these compilations (bias fully admitted) is the descriptively titled Kankyō Ongaku: Japanese Ambient, Environmental & New Age Music 1980 - 1990. As the name implies, it's a gorgeous, almost 'best of' selection of Japanese Ambient. It's been a while since I've posted or talked about any full-on ambient, mainly because I find it a little difficult to write about - I suppose that's the point of Ambient though isn't it? Especially in the Eno model, it's designed to be music that's 'there' and is equally at home in the background or being actively listened to.

Back on topic, Light In The Attic are also responsible for re-issuing a couple of Hiroshi Yoshimura albums which is great to see - his works have always been great listens but have been difficult to get a hold of. Here's hoping with this compilation we see the same for a few more of these artists. I've picked the opening track Still Space from Satoshi Ashikawa - I was a little reluctant going into the Compilation and wasn't 100% sure what to expect, but the opening tones soon set aside any hesitation I might have had, it's simply wonderful and I cannot think of a better opener to set the tone for this compilation. (With the possible exception of Yoshimura's Time After Time).

Please note that the digital version is only 10 tracks - the physical release is much longer! I assume that's also a licensing caveat. The physical release is more expensive naturally but it comes with exceptional packaging and with more than double the number of tracks, so it's definitely worth considering.

Moving onto Alucidnation next - an artist that broke free of my 'to check out in more detail' list a while back. I've had bits and pieces in my streaming playlists for a while but just dragged my heels when it came to picking something up, which is a shame because the record I decided to do that with - Get Lost is really nice. A mixture of pure ambient, downtempo and sometimes edging towards Trip-Hop, Get Lost is a very smooth record, as is most of Alucidnation's output from my experience. It was hard to narrow down a single track to choose from this album - part of me wanted to choose Solitaire as it's been a recent favourite of mine, but I thought the vocals might turn some people off, I find them chraming personally but they do contrast a bit with the overall sound. But I also didn't want to go full ambient with tracks like 15 Below, at least not back to back with the above.

So to split the difference it came down to two tracks: Skygazer or The Message. Skygazer is a beautiful twinkling piece that closes the album, beginning in full ambient mode but introducing some percussion after the first quarter or so, but in the end The Message won out. It's the most traditionally 'Downtempo' style tune here and also the one that's been in my streaming playlsts the longest, I can see it being slightly generic to some ears, hell I almost even used the phrase 'coffee shop beat' to describe it to someone once but don't let that steer you away - it's an enjoyable listen, and if it's not for, you still check out the more ambient tracks mentioned above. Having said that, The Message is a fairly solid summary of the instrumentation of the whole album, lush and flowing with occasional flourishes here and there, so if you're feeling this I would check out the whole thing!

Flunk to round us out. Way back when I first found Flunk I assumed they were, like many bands from the early 00's, not active anymore. That couldn't be more wrong, not only is pretty much their entire discography available on bandcamp but they are still putting out little singles too - the most recent being this month. I found Flunk way back when I went on a big dive into Guidance Recordings backcatalgoue well over 10 years ago now. I went looking for House but it turned out Guidance also dabbled quite heavily in the downtempo side of things too - having a few albums like Flunk's on there as well as both a Lounge and Dub compilation series.

I'm actually surprised that I didn't come across Flunk naturally, I was a fiend for picking up anything and everything in the chillout section as a youth and with an album title like "For Sleepyheads Only" (and those evocative covers they have) I can guarantee I would have been all over that. They have a proud place in my catalog now at least. The track I've picked out today is the Athome Project mix of See Thru You, the original was quite Trip-Hop as-is, but this remix takes it that extra mile and gives it that slightly grim Bristolian flavour that's befitting of a mix with the Vinterdepresjon subtitle.

Treat Me Like You Do is an interesting album, on paper it's remixes of tracks from ...Sleepyheads Only - but it's actually partially mixed together - you can hear it a little bit on the start of this tracks as the echoes of vocals from the previous mix of Your Koolest Smile bleed through. It's a different approach for sure, and definitely not a standard one when it comes to remix albums, part of me would have preferred it to be just the mixes as-is, but it's nice to sit and listen to it as a whole album once in a while.

I was planning another track to make it an even 4 players but once again I've run a little long. I hope you liked this midweek jaunt and discovered some artists and tunes along the way. I've actually taken a couple of days off so there hasn't been much news on the restoration front, and why there's been a slightly longer gap between this post than the last two. Rest assured that I will continue to come by every so often with more music for you!

And as always, stay safe and enjoy the music.


Friday, 22 January 2021

Breaking the Barrier

Alex Colville - January (1971)

It's taken some doing, but I am happy to report that as of now (which will be yesterday when you read this) we have hit the point in blog restoration that there are more posts restored than are left in 'draft' status. It's a little milestone that I've been seeing slowly come closer thanks to the new Blogger UI, and a process that's actually been fairly painless for the most part, and not quite as tedious as I thought. The older posts I'm hitting now often need more work than usual so expect that to slow down a bit, but I'm pretty happy with the progress.

It's not just going to be me patting myself on the back though! I've returned to poppier tides for the first time since New Year's - after double checking I'd not talked about some of these already, I've picked out a nice selection of the vibe I'm feeling at the minute. Starting with another piece from Helen Marnie of Ladytron's first fully solo effort Crystal World, it has a bit of a similarity with their later output but still manages to carve it's own niche - it's very far removed from the early Ladytron I posted not too long ago at any rate. Submariner is far and away the longest track on the album at a weighty 7 minutes, but it makes excellent use of them as the production ebbs and flows throughout, building to crescendos that before slinking away to make room for crystalline breakdowns. And of course there's Marnie's vocals, as they were in Ladytron, an absolute joy to listen to.

And falling back in with ADULT. I've not talked about The Way Things Fall much at all really, (though that's partially due to me overdosing on their early work back when) which is a shame because it's a solid entry in their discography. I'd hesitate to call it a full on pop record but it's certainly one of their more accessible releases, a return to more melodic structures compared to the punky, nervous noise of the album before it - the suitably nihilistically titled Why Bother?. And for as much as I love the frantic stabs and shouted out vocals of tracks like 'I Feel Worse When I'm With You', I think I may like the more sedate side of this album a touch more. That's not to say that Nicola Kuperus doesn't get to inject the proceedings with a little bit of their trademark melancholy, the opening lines being "Will we live like this forever?". The production is stellar as usual too - the slightly retro electronic bias in me being catered to quite heavily for sure - there's some amazing melodic breaks and solos to change up the pacing, the real standout for me is that entire final quarter of Nicola dueting with the synths.

And finally, going back a fair bit to an album I planned to do a Retro Review of (That still might happen!) - Ford & Lopatin's Channel Pressure. The story of Ford & Lopatin is an interesting one - formerly known as Games, they made waves with in the chillwave scene with two EPs in 2010, my favourite being punnily titled That We Can Play - followed that up with some absolutely class and slightly Vaporwave mixtapes before having to change their name to Ford & Lopatin. Come 2011 they take part in the Adult Swim Singles program with a track that would appear on this album 'Too Much MIDI (Please Forgive Me)' among others, dropped the album and then.... just kind of faded away. As we've heard nothing since 2011 I think we can assume that the project is over - both Lopatin and Ford going on to other things as Oneohtrix Point Never and Young Ejecta respectively.

It may have only been a short time they were around, but I can think of only a few releases they did that I didn't really enjoy. Channel Pressure is not one of them - a fantastic album, brilliantly executed and aesthetically on point in both audio and visual. I've chosen one of the tracks that I always thought was sorely overlooked. I didn't expect it to be, as it has a pretty wild video that dabbles in BDSM and some kind of strange VR torture(?), one that I fully expected to be a cult video like DyE's 'Fantasy' (Warning, incredibly NSFW). It's a little tricky to find these days, just googling it will give you a bunch of music blogs talking about it at the time with flash players that no longer work - I tracked it down via the production companies website in the end, you can watch it on Vimeo here!

I did want to talk about the video a little, before I even saw it, I Surrender sounded sensual to me (even if the video goes in a surreal direction with it) and it was a nice moment of serendipity - that thick, heady bassline sets the tone from the get-go and stands out as unique among the album's overall sound. The same's true for the whole thing really, Compared to the rest of the album which is mostly upbeat with abstract interludes sprinkled throughout, Surrender is a slow jam evocative of their earlier Vaporwave tapes - a trait shared with the track before it, the R&B styled Break Inside. The album is definitely worth a look if you like what you hear here - the whole thing is a love letter to an 80's style sound but without the now cliché trappings of other times that style's been aimed for.

Got a little longer than I planned at the end there, Here I was thinking this would be a short sharp one! Maybe I'll have to write out and edit that Retro Review after all! I'll be back soon enough with more - but until then, as always, stay safe and enjoy the music.


Tuesday, 19 January 2021

A Mixed Bag

I had a real clear outline for this post and was ready to sit down and get into it, only to find that the thing's I'd picked weren't as easy to find as I'd thought. The best laid plans of mice and men as the sayings go. I've not had too much bad luck on that front truth be told, apart from a few artists who've just disappeared from the net and taken their works with them, I can normally find a decent source to embed. Not so much this time, though I will admit I am being a bit dramatic, there's only one song today that isn't conventionally available but that's because it's not officially out yet. I'm just a bit bitter because I hate to do posts that are just back to back YT embeds, doubly so when they're not legit channels but sometimes that's what has to happen. Let's go.

Ken Danby - Delicious (1971)

First is yet another tale of 'Artist I was vaguely aware of but never checked out because have you seen the size of my list of things to check out?'. I get the feeling this one popped up in my YT recommends from my recent string of trace listening but also the few tracks I have with Kirsty Hawkshaw on them (Shoutouts to Swayzak's State Of Grace). Today's entry is Stealth by Way Out West - a track which discogs describes as Trance, which is accurate but you'll find it a fair bit different from the usual hands-in-the-air euphoria that I put up. No, Stealth is (rather suitably given the title) of that specific type of Trance that was kicking around in the early 00's that was part downtempo, part breakbeat and part lounge - and surprisingly radio friendly for the most part. The popularity of Moby around that time no doubt contributing to the 'chillout' side of things and the overall feel of this one reminds me of the stuff Hybrid was putting out around the same time too - like Finished Symphony. Now it's well known that I am a sucker for all things downtempo, but I've never really given this specific style much thought until now - I do like the smooth and slick high-tech styling of it, though it does sounds a little dated now. Hawkshaw has yet to disappoint whenever she features and this track is no different, really completing that turn of the millennium atmosphere. It's oddly not got an official upload, soundcloud or otherwise, so I hope this one stays for the time being.

The trend of me discovering tunes from old compilations continues - this time with Télépopmusik's Breathe, which I found on a curious little compilation called Collectors Series Pt. 1 - Popular Songs which tells you all you need to know. I scooped it up because it had some artists and songs on there I already liked, so I figured it'd be worth a look (and to see how they mixed together so I could take notes for future mixtapes!). Breathe comes in strong with that kind of heady hazy vibe that I had a bit of a penchant for some years back, doing a bit of digging and it seems the release this is from Genetic World is a bit divisive because of the inclusion of this more Trip-Hop infused sound and that the singles (of which Breathe is one) are the only really good bits. Now I haven't listened to the rest of the album yet so I can't really comment too much on it but I keep catching myself coming back to this one - it makes good backing for menial tasks and I mean that in the most sincere way possible. Angela McCluskey's vocal twins exceptionally with the steady 4/4 and contributes excellently to that overall haziness I mentioned at the top. Echoes of Röyksopp's Sparks here, albeit in more of a House-styled vein.

And finally - I dip my toes back into the world of J-Pop once again. There's plenty of electronic influence on J-Pop, the few bits and pieces I have in my library run the full spectrum of genres, from Eurobeat and Dubstep to IDM and Drum & Bass. The end result is usually pretty interesting as producers play around with the space and genres - enter Hikaru Utada's upcoming single for the new Evangelion movie, One Last Kiss. I couldn't find any info on the producer and probably won't be able to until it officially comes out, but that intro is pretty incredible and I could do with more of it. Granted it's only a 1:30 cut of the tune for a trailer but it sounds great, really reminds me of the stuff Shinichi Osawa was making for Nandodemo Atarashiku Umareru (Reborn Again and Always Starting New) under the Mondo Grosso alias. Its laid-back feel is at odds with the utter insanity that is Evangelion as a whole, but I'll definitely be keeping an ear out for this one when it comes out fully later this year.

Apologies again for the back-to-back embeds of YT but like I said, sometimes that's just the way it goes - doubly when talking about things yet to come out. Still, it's been a while since it's happened recently, there are plenty of pages in the archive that look like this though. And at least these ones won't be busted when a piece of tech gets phased out in 10 years (Now watch me go and jinx that, come check on this post in 2031 and see). But we're getting off topic so I'll stop myself here.

As always, stay safe and enjoy the music.


Saturday, 16 January 2021

Digital Archaeology

Not to sound like a broken .MP3 once again, but re-publishing old posts has been a trip and a half. It's interesting to see my opinions circa 10 years ago and the tunes that have come and gone, amid my awkward teenage writings (much like a diary in that respect!) - that's part of the reason I like collecting music like I do, it's a living archive of the moment and music ends up tied to memories, people, places and so on. But curiouser than that are the fragments and relics that lay forgotten in the list of posts - things that had been started by myself or the other writers of days past and never saw the light of day.

Salvador Dalí - Archeological Reminiscence of Millet's Angelus (1935)

The first of these relics is a bootleg remix of Bôa's Duvet - I'm pretty sure I didn't end up posting this one as I had put up the non-nude version of the mix not too long before it. Knowing me I shelved it to talk about at a later date, but probably didn't expect that date to be a solid two plus years later. Duvet is potentially one of my favourite songs ever and one I am guilty of collecting pretty much every remix and rework I can find of it. ScummV's were the first I found and are some of the most popular, and rightly so. The original bootleg gives the acoustic version of Duvet a do-over with a moody Garage vibe - something I could have definitely seen happen back in the 90's when it was originally released, it *did* have a trip-hop mix after all. However that's the original I'm talking about there, the Nude Version here as the name would suggest is a stripped back version of the bootleg with the two-step backing absent. Harkening back to the days of 'chillout' versions of mixes, despite being very similar the Nude Version is a gorgeous compliment to the original bootleg.

I can't talk about rarities and hidden gems without mentioning Miss Kittin. Kittin's been on a mad streak of mixes and rarities lately, archiving them all on her Bandcamp. Not too much of a surprise as her soundcloud was similar a little while back but still nice to see. Anyway, it's fun to see how often that someone like me who likes to think they're pretty up to speed on Kittin's output to come across something I'd never heard before. As is the case with The Vogue, one of her many Featuring credits from the turn of the millennium. And it's again one of those cases where I'm surprised it hasn't come up before, as someone with a deep love of Electroclash and especially Miss Kittin's work within it this track is another prime slice of the subgenre. Being from 2000 it's not exactly as defined as some later Electroclash examples, it's of the high-tech variety a la the Golden Boy & Miss Kittin EP or Felix da Housecat's Kittenz & Thee Glitz and not the punky kind that ADULT. and the like were putting out. The slick techy sound, the globe-trotting theme of the lyrics, and Kittin's of-the-era stoic delivery - all elements that I love oh so much - are out there in force and I absolutely unabashedly adore it.

Other digital leftovers I found were from our brief dalliance with Grooveshark players. I forget the exact circumstances but they were a pretty decent alternative for a while - you could do little 'broadcast' playlists where people could tune in and listen with you that I liked - not quite being a full on DJ but having the chance to talk about songs was nice. One of the posts that I came across from that time was talking about the then-new Clark LP Iradelphic. Thanks to Warp Records' recent addition to Bandcamp it was not only an easy fix but sent me down a leisurely scroll of their releases. I was thinking they'd only put the 'new' stuff up and slowly add the archives but that's not the case at all, a ton of albums, EPs and Compilations going back to the very first Warp releases are available on there, and I ended up making note of plenty of things to scoop up that I'd been putting off due to lack of physical availability or similar. But I digress, it's been a long time since I really listened to Clark (to my shame), his style is distinct for sure and one that I think I've aptly summed up in the past as 'Melodic Grit'. I gave the track I chose back then another listen and it didn't take long for me to remember why I'd picked it.

The opening is very reminiscent of label-mate Bibio's more folky breed of electronic, but that gives way after about 30 seconds to make room for some suitably punchy and trademark Clark kicks. It's a nice listen for sure, but doesn't really live up to that 'Melodic Grit' label I mentioned before does it? But as is sometimes the case with Clark, you need a little patience. The absolute explosion of sound around 1:20 is just brilliant; backed with a newfound synth that is best described as shredding, the sudden injection of intensity is great on it's own but that melodic accompaniment is absolutely pushed to its limit as well, sounding as if it's going to break down and start leaking out of your speakers. And just like that, it's all gone by the 2:10 mark. Short, sharp and powerful - a 3 minute masterclass in Clark.

Come to think of it, the variety of genres on show here reminds me of the old posts I used to do that were just a real grab bag of styles. Funny how some things never change eh? I'd have liked for this one to be a little longer but I didn't really have any more tracks to post, and looking at the text above it's probably wise I stop here before I type another pageful!

And as always - Stay safe and enjoy the music.


Wednesday, 13 January 2021

Goodbye Flash

A little late to jump on the bandwagon but I thought I'd write a bit about Flash finally being made defunct. It was a cornerstone of the web for years, though it was on a slow decline over the last few years. I'm of that age where I have very specific memories tied to Flash - there was a time on the web where animations and things weren't hosted on Twitter or wherever but were individual webpages with .swfs.

It goes beyond that too, as I'm working my way through republishing all the old content on this site, I'm having to fix old YouTube and Soundcloud players as they're Flash based (and some of the tracks no longer exist which pains the archivist in me). Which brings me to the theme of this post: songs/artists and so on that I would not have discovered if it wasn't for Flash. Let's get stuck in.

I was planning to start a little self-indulgent with a bit of Eurobeat courtesy of m.o.v.e but Japanese copyright means it can't be embedded. I will still talk about it though, what happens when you make a Eurobeat mix of some J-Pop? Well, it takes something that was already upbeat and injects it with pure sugar to make it even faster. I unironically love the choruses on here and as is always the case with Eurobeat, that final key change in the final quarter is brilliant. This track was actually the inspiration for this post as I found it via a very specific piece of Flash history. More on that in just a little bit!

Things stay Japanese for the time being though. A lot of stuff I found via Flash was in that vein, partly because the circles I was hanging out with were into that kind of thing as was the style at the time. I understand that can be a negative for some folks, (in hindsight the Caramelldansen memes heavily foreshadowed my love of Eurobeat) but these trance mixes are fairly free of any blunder-years worthy moments, aside from sounding very of-the-era. Compiled on the fantastically titled Cyber Trance Presents Ayu Trance, a bunch of the big names in trance get together to remix the works of Ayumi Hamasaki. Airwave's mix is one of my favourites, tapping directly into that euphoria loving part of my brain. The version on the compilation is shorter than the EP release, the version on the EP dedicates around 4 minutes of it's 8 minute runtime to build up, which I get is sort of the point of Trance but sometimes I just need that instant grat you know what I mean?.

An extra special shoutout to Ishkur's original guide to electronic music too, which is the source of the image above. Apart from being a really neat thing to mess around with is also a fairly comprehensive guide to all things electronic, with audio examples too! Ishkur's come out with an updated one that's even bigger and more up to date, but the original will always have a special place in my heart - Ishkur has some pretty strong opinions on certain genres, and while we may not agree on everything I respect the dedication. It was also a great resource if you were looking to explore genres outside your usual wheelhouse, which is partially what inspired this post.

The 'Electroclash' section - labelled 'Synthtron' by Ishkur and cynically subtitled with a million and one variations is a really good cross section if you're looking to get into the genre - the usual suspects are there: Felix Da Housecat, ADULT., Fischerspooner and Miss Kittin. Track one in the list of examples is Ladytron's Playgirl. Both I and the Press at the time have gotten a bit of flak for daring to give them the electroclash label and I can see that argument, they are collaterally lumped into that group because they were coming out with slightly retro-inspired electronic around the same time. Still, I will say that yes while 604 doesn't really fit the label 100%, it does come close sometimes - as seen with He Took Her To A Movie, a cover of Kraftwerk's The Model in all but name and on Playgirl with it's sligthly melancholic lyrics and stoic delivery it's not hard to draw comparisons to Miss Kittin and the like.

Likewise, tracing the roots back using the guide, I was introduced to a whole new world of things that were supremely up my alley - specifically in the 'French Pop' section. I was partially aware of some artists here, like Jean-Jacques Perrey but probably would never have found something like Girlscout on my own. I've said similar before but when played back to back like this, it only makes it all the more obvious that the 'electroclash' scene as a whole was essentially just a New Wave style revival with more up to date tech. This is a tune that will get stuck in my head once every few months and just have to give it a listen or two. That chorus is catchy enough on its own, never mind the little 10 second loop of it that's used on the guide.

I could go on and on forever about the guide but I'll cut myself off here. For what it's worth the guide is still live for the time being, it worked just now on my browser but I did have to tweak some settings to get Flash to work so no guarantees. If you're reading this in the future and Flash is definitely 100% dead - there is also a Flash Archive of tons of animations and the like out there with an emulator to run them, and Ishkur's original guide is included on there if you'd like to explore!

And as always, stay safe and enjoy the music.