Wednesday, 31 March 2021

Setting Sights

It's getting to be that time of month again where I start eyeing my Bandcamp list in prep for the upcoming Friday. And it seems like I've been busy, the Wishlist seems to have grown quite a bit with some things I vaguely remember putting on there. I think it's yet another case of me going 'cool cover!' and idly adding it to the wishlist as I'm known to do. Not the case for all of them though, and I'll be sharing a few of them with you today.

Kazuo Shiraga - Karin (1976)


A theme of the past couple of weeks has been me picking up stuff that I meant to and forgot about, or just for some reason never did. It's been a lot to be like 'Oh yeah this is fairly new still' and it's actually from 2017 or something. But I digress again - on that same vein though I am finally going to get my hands on Jasper Byrne's Hotline Miami 2 EP sometime soon. It's a bit of an odd one as it has three distinct release versions with a couple of extra tracks on each. The version on Byrne's bandcamp is the 5-track version - the version of Miami on here is a different mix to the one from the first game if I remember right, but it doesn't let you preview it so I can't say for certain just yet.

Despite the title this isn't just a re-tread of Byrne's additions to the actual soundtrack: the first two tracks did make it on the OST but the rest are tracks made for the Soundtrack but don't actually appear in it. I was really into the track I've picked way back when, a bit more dancefloor friendly than the usual slightly psychedelic neon vibes of what I normally associate with the Hotline OST. I may not be as into electro as I was back then but I still really like this kind of sound, Byrne has a distinct style when it comes to making them that still really fits the atmosphere while standing alone on their own as well.



Jumping forward to the present day next but keeping it on the soundtrack front. A few months ago I came across a game called Umurangi Generation and it looks like it will be supremely up my alley. Cyberpunk Photography? Hell yeah!. To my shame I've yet to actually get a hold of it, but I am reminded every time I see the artwork. It has a soundtrack by ThorHighHeels who I knew in passing from the online world, but a couple weeks ago I decided to check out their bandcamp. And I really like what I found there. There is a bit of... randomness to some of their releases for want of a better term - lots of one-offs with (deliberatley) naff album art, but there's good stuff on there. I'm sticking with the Umurangi soundtrack for now, the main game's OST isn't on their bandcamp but the DLC is - and it's 51 tracks of pure aesthetic perfection. I say that a lot when covering soundtracks I know but this time it feels more appropriate than ever!

The track I've chosen - Dancing At The Precipice belongs to a school of sound that I have little of but very much love, I can't really describe it beyond comparing it to some of the tracks from the OlliOlli2 soundtrack - that kind of slick and smooth but still sounding a little DIY kind of indie electronic. I get the feeling it would be an easy style to overdose on which is part of the reason I haven't really sought it out too much but I may have to start doing so at this rate. I will say one thing about this one though while a lot of the OlliOlli OST had this lovely dreamy vibe to it, Precipice has a ludicrously bouncy bassline backing it up that really sets it apart, evoking old memories of Speed Garage in me. A real shelf wobbler this one, definitely one that's high on my list!



And going retro once again as we bring things back down. Yet another album I had never heard of until I got deep into exploring the old 'recommended for you' side of things - Sun Electric's Kitchen. Being from 1993, I foolishly assumed it would not be readily available digitally, but it turns out R&S Records have a pretty complete archive available on their end.

It's very similar in style to the {Artificial Intelligence} stuff that Warp was putting out at the time, every time I mention the {AI} series I feel like mentioning that Warp weren't the only ones doing it around that time, here R&S have made that super clear for everyone to hear (and see, the design for this album was done by Warp mainstays The Designer's Republic whose work I adore.) I get that the Warp stuff can be a bit too ambient and sometimes a little experimental, by comparison tracks like Entrance play out more like techno of the era with just a slight nod to that ambient side. There's plenty of great moments throughout still - that bleepy break around 2:30 almost entirely summarises the sound of the era in pretty succinct fashion. It's perhaps a little more repetitive than some of the Warp stuff as well, but I'm very into it at the minute regardless, it's one that's wormed it's way into more than a few of my techy playlists.



A little bit more variety this time, that's a good thing though as for a while I was feeling like I was getting stuck in a genre rut. Here's hoping that you find some new stuff yourself based of these selections too, and in the cases of the soundtrack stuff if you like what you hear make sure to check out the respective games too! And as always, stay safe and enjoy the music.

-CVF

Saturday, 27 March 2021

Retro Reviews: Aphex Twin - Come To Daddy EP

I was looking to return to the Retro Review format, but didn't want to get bogged down like last time with a whole album. So I went perusing for some smaller releases I could do instead. To my surprise I've yet to cover an Aphex Twin record on these Retro Reviews, though I did do most of them as part of my 'A Very Warped History' series in my early days of writing - and I did cover today's EP briefly in one of a few 'Things I missed' wrap up posts for that series.

But enough background, let's talk about the release itself. The mid to late 90's saw more than a few EPs from Aphex Twin, and more often than not these would prove to be super popular as well. We'll be talking about the first of many of the more popular entires today with 1997's Come To Daddy. It's an odd one for sure for a lot of reasons, you'll find it called a 'mini-album' in some places - if I remember right that was something added to make it eligible for the charts as it's technically too long for an EP. It's also real odd when it comes to choices in sound, which to be fair is something that could be said about any Aphex Twin release but hopefully you'll see what I mean. I will say don't be put off by the slightly unsetting cover, it doesn't really reflect the EP apart from the opening track, more on that in just a second!



We open with the star of the show, the lead track made infamous by that video from Chris Cunningham. It's very much a product of its time in that regard - water cooler chats about "man, did you see that video on MTV last night?" fuelling the fire. Beyond just that though, '97 was seeing Drum & Bass become more popular too and as far as Aphex Twin tracks go, Come To Daddy doesn't go *too* experimental with things. That and the more Industrial sound of this mix must have given it a bit more appeal than to just the electronic market as well. It has rightfully earned its place as one of Aphex's top tracks, it's extremely well done and is pretty much unlike anything else in his discography. However if you picked up the EP expecting more of this throughout, you're going to be left a little disappointed



That doesn't mean the EP is bad though, just none of the other tracks bear even the slightest resemblance to the main mix. In fact, it's kind of the opposite - if you're at all into the more melodic Aphex Twin tracks I can highly recommend this EP as it is full of them. Getting right into it with track 2, Flim. Flim is very much of the school of the more ambient bits of the Richard D. James Album - a gorgeous floaty track punctuated with polyrhythms. Flim is one of my go-to tracks for anyone looking to explore the world of Aphex Twin, it's not too experimental like some of his later works but has enough distinctly AFX elements in there to make it a good first experience. It's one of my favourites of his entire catalogue too - but I always have really liked it when he goes all downtempo-ish like this.



It's track 3 that stumbles a bit. It's not bad by any stretch, but it's certainly not got the power of the one-two punch of the opening salvo of tracks. It too is a more downtempo melodic tune in the vein of parts of the RDJ Album, this time the more... childlike (for want of a better term) tracks. Aphex has a bit of a reputation for not exactly being super serious all the time, there's more than a few examples of him playing around with interviewers or generally having a bit of fun when it comes to his work. The Little Lord Faulteroy mix is where we see the first appearance of that on this EP with the looping vocal here saying "Oooh, you dirty little boy" - with an additional couple of lines like "Watching the water flow past in the canal", but delivered like Danny from The Shining. Some days I can be really into it, and as I said it's not a bad track by any means but it does pale in comparison to the first two.



However it's not long before we're back with another highlight - Bucephalus Bouncing Ball bridges that gap between the gentle introduction to the world of Aphex that was Flim with the much more experimental skittering beats that he's known for. I was guilty of assuming this would be a playing around with spatial sounds kind of deal (a la Plastikman's Ping Pong) but that's not the case. There is a titular 'Bouncing Ball' bit but the track as a whole doesn't lean on that as a gimmick, it doesn't even appear until about 3 minutes in! Truth be told, this track wasn't really on my radar for a long time, but I gained a new appreciate for it after hearing it in a recording of a live show from 1997 - it was there that I fell in love with that break around 1:30 where you have these super heavy kicks backed with the lush kinds of sounds as heard on Flim and the RDJ album, that whole middle part merges the two kinds of AFX sound in the most beautiful way.



That melodic streak continues, this time with a rework of 'To Cure A Weakling Child' from the Richard D James Album. I think of the two, this one might just edge out to be my favourite, the bouncy cut-up vocals of this one make it a joy to listen to. By the time I hit that absolutely divine break at around 1:20 I was completely sold. And it only goes to strength to strength from there, the vocals take a bit of a backseat and are instead replaced with the lovely bassy synth emulating the melody of them that I could gladly listen to all day. It's a great reworking of the original and makes some quality appearances in the live shows of the time, though it does make me wonder how many alternate mixes like this that AFX is sitting on.



We take a trip into the more humorous side after that with Funny Little Man, and I don't really have a lot to say about this one that I didn't already say when it came to the Little Lord Faulteroy mix - even down to the pitched up and slightly sinister vocals. There's nothing wrong with it as I said before but it's just kind of fine you know? After that is the final mix of the title track, this time the Mummy Mix. While it doesn't sound anything like the main 'Daddy' mix - there's a lot of similarity between this one and Bucephalus Bouncing Ball. To me, this is one of the better examples of playful samples - opening with "You've got so many machines, Richard" and with various others throughout it doesn't have that slightly unsettling vibe of the previous vocal samples, and the "Go on, give us a snare rush!" and subsequent avalanche of sound around 2:58 is the capstone of them all for me. Much more beat oriented, the Mummy Mix is yet another track that I can take or leave depending on how I'm feeling on the day: it might have benefitted from some of those melodic touches we've heard on this EP, but sometimes I like it just enough as is.



We close out with another of my all time favourite AFX tracks in IZ-US. I will admit some slight bias because I have some really strong memories attached to this one but even putting those aside I think it's one of his finest works. Sounding almost like something that could have been on 1995's I Care Because You Do, especially with those drums - IZ-US closes out the EP with another smooth almost downtempo piece. Another one of the more accessible pieces of Aphex Twin that there is, unlike Flim it doesn't have much of that experimental edge to it at all. I love everything about this one, it's just well done through and through to the point where it seems almost effortless. Every time I think there needs to be a break there is one, the sounds are played with enough throughout to keep it really refreshing too. It's perhaps a little short, but for a track to close the EP I can't think of a better option.



And that'll do it for this time. It's a great EP and one that I comes highly recommended from me, apart from the two tracks I mention that are just OK there's not a foot put wrong on it. It's perhaps not the best starting point if you're looking to get into Aphex Twin (Personally I would recommend the Richard D James Album for that!), but it's small enough that it's easily digestible and you can kinda use it as a springboard into the other works he has. But be warned, it's a sea of alaises and all kinds of different sounds out there! It's been a while since I listened to this EP front to back like this, and I gotta say it's structured fairly well, whether that was intentional given the 'mini-album' label I don't know!

I liked doing this smaller post, I'll have to look through and see if there are any other EPs I can give this treatment to, though they'll probably be smaller than this one. But I'm digressing again so I'll stop myself here! And as always, stay safe and enjoy the music.

-CVF

Tuesday, 23 March 2021

Get Paid

If there were ever a post that was the embodiment of 'Lord help me, I'm back on my bullshit' it would be this. After taking an extended break due to self inflicted burnout (what else is new?), I recently started playing Payday 2 again. See, Payday 2 and it's predecessor really try to capture a cinematic vibe, and they are pretty successful at it too - and a big part of that atmosphere is the incredible soundtrack work by Simon Viklund (and others in later years, but this post is all Simon). It's coming up on around 8 years old now and over those years the soundtrack has been added to pretty much constantly, so I thought I'd take a look over some choice bits from those years.



The sequel saw Simon shift gears to be much much more electronic with his compositions, a lot of these tracks could work absolutely fine as standalone electro tracks for sure. The formula of a Payday track also lends itself really well to the electro/EDM model too as it's split into phases: Stealth, Control, Anticipation, Build, Sustain and Fade. It would be easy to kinda phone it in when it comes to this formula, but to Simon's credit, the released versions of tracks on the Official OST are actually different mixes than the in-game versions. Evil Eye's in game version is quite different from this released one for example, but it still goes hard as hell. Evil Eye was made for a Payday / Hotline Miami crossover deal so that should give you an idea of the kind of vibe to expect - for me back then this was the greatest crossover of all time. I would be lying if I said there wasn't part of my electro-loving self of days gone by that doesn't still get a little hype when this one plays.



The OST sometimes catches flak for being too much EDM and all, which I could understand in the early days for sure, but updates have seen there be so much more variety added to the tracklist I don't think it applies as much anymore - I can totally understand it as a critique still compared to the individuality of each track from the first game. Simon's work is very flexible though, and he knows when to change it up to suit the mood: take the second track from the Hotline Miami collab, Hot Pursuit. As you might have guessed from the title, this one leans heavily in the other direction when it comes to the sound of Hotline Miami, going full retro with the sounds and structure (including a delightfully MIDI bass!). It fits perfectly with the frantic dash through a Motel that happens in the game, but I've only come to appreciate it more hearing it on its own - there are a lot of lovely little touches throughout that get lost in the gunfire during gameplay.



I have talked about both of those tracks before though, so I thought I'd cover another track to close us out. Forgive me for talking atmospheres again but it's something that Simon does really well. Dead Man's Hand is the soundtrack to a Casino Heist, if all goes to plan then you shouldn't even hear the more upbeat parts of this track, but if/when things take a turn south the super powerful intro of this track hits and you have about a minute before it changes into high gear. I'm sure there are plenty of options you could have when it comes to making a track themed around a Casino, and Simon's approach I think has the right amount of hallmarks to signpost that without beign too generic. Having said that, I'm maybe not as into this one as when it came out, but I sure as hell still aprecciate the little touches Simon put throughout to make it not just super generic EDM - the little breakbeat fills and of course the bombastic brass that heralds the big drop - I can't help but grin a bit at them.



I could go on and on about Simon's work - and not just the assualt tracks like you heard here, there's a whole album of B-Sides on that bandcamp as wel lwhere you can hear Viklund really flex his downtempo stuff as well. Simon's no longer at the company behind Payday, but he still swings by to do a bit of soundtracking now and then. I try and keep up with what he's up to these days as his works have been consistently great throughout, and as you all well know I always say the world could do with more full-on electronic soundtracks.

Apologies for the slight repeat of an old topic, but it has been a few years since I dropped a bit of this OST and I'm really feeling it again at the moment! I'll be back soon enough with more - might be a little longer than usual as I've mentioned before but until then: As always, stay safe and enjoy the music.

-CVF

Saturday, 20 March 2021

About the House

It's been a little while since that last one, and I was looking over my list of tunes that had picked my ear over the last week when I noticed a pattern. It's time again to revisit the genre that led me to this very site in the first place: House. It was French House in particular that brought me to this site all those moons ago - something that I really appreciate about electronic music and House as a whole is the sheer variety on offer, Acid and French House sound very different on paper but they share the same DNA.

Keith Haring - Barking Dogs (Pop Shop IV) (1989)


And that's essentially what this post is going to be - a smattering of all different flavours of House to try. First is a band you wouldn't necessarily expect to come up when talking about House - The Knife. I adore The Knife, the sugary sweet electopop of Deep Cuts is delightfully catchy and Silent Shout's cold electronics make it one of my favourite albums of all time. This track is a reworking of Pass This On from Deep Cuts - all the tracks from Shaken-Up Versions are reworks of past Knife tracks done for their final round of live shows. And for Pass This On they did a relly great job, the original is danceable (if a little slow), but the new and charmingly old school 4/4 hosue beat that opens this version make it much more suited for the dancefloor. The steel pan melody was something I was really curious about as it sounds a little dated on the original from 2003 but in a cheeky and slightly ironic way, but it's not changed much here at all, but with the switch up in instrumentation it doesn't sound out of place at all.



Speaking of old school, this one is an album I've meant to bring up for a long time now. I was holding onto it for a podcast episode for an extremely long time because the sound here is supremely up Adam's street. Another artist you might not have expected to see in a post all about House, Luke Vibert Presents UK Garave Vol. 1 is pretty much exactly what it says on the box: it's a sincere love letter to the retro sound of UK Garage and Rave. While Vibert is firmly in early 90's territory with the sound here - the UK Garage scene did continue for a loooong time, even after breaking into the mainstream and dying back again in the early 00's. We used to listen to tracks like this when I was a teen, and one of the records we loved was partially responsible for getting me this writing gig in the first place - Paul Rayner's 'Feel Me'.

So while I'm not the exact demographic this is aimed at, I have a real fondness for it still. It would be easy to discount it as shameless nostalgia bait, especially considering the amount of samples there is of the tracks being paid tribute to on here, but the whole thing is actually really sincere - the samples are part of a much bigger picture and aren't leant on as the main attraction or anything. I've chosen Heard It All B4 because not only is it a real jam, but it shows off an incredibly amount of the variety in the genre - there's breakbeats, lush synths, those classic shout-out samples of course, and to top it all off some lovely wobbly bassy bits too, I love it all. Here's hoping we see Vol. 2 sometime soon, it's been a little while now and there's no sign of it yet. But in the meantime there's plenty on this EP to get into.



And finally an artist who has recently come back into rotation after a long absence. Matthew Herbert (or just Herbert depending on the release) is an artist I picked up back in the Grooveshark days, with a track from this very album actually. Herbert's early releases were firmly in Deep House territory, though a different kind than the one I did the big post on a little while back. Bodily Functions on the other hand is a much more varied body of work: sometimes House, sometimes downtempo, sometimes just experimental - and all with a jazzy streak to it too. It's an album I have mixed feelings about, but that's mainly my fault as I ended up putting it away for years after completely rinsing it by over-listening!

There are tracks on it that I still really like though, Leave Me Now was released as a single before the album so as you might expect it's one of the less experimental cuts on here. It came up because a friend of mine was looking for stuff to put in a playlist for background listening, and I think this is perfect for that. I don't mean that as a criticism either! This is one of those tracks that is so smooth it makes the time pass by much easier. It blends a bunch of house elements I really like in a unique way, there's the lone piano and R&B-esque vocal you might expect from a Lounge style house record, but the beat and sparse synths border more on Deep and Tech House, even Minimal territory in parts.



And that'll once again do it for this time, I actually have some other tunes stashed in another post draft that didn't fit here so hopefully shouldn't be as long as a gap between them this time. It's not the coming up with ideas that is the issue, it's finding the time to write at the minute! Regardless, I hope you all enjoy some of the tunes here, and as always - Stay safe and enjoy the music.

-CVF

Tuesday, 16 March 2021

Newfound

It's been a productive time in terms of finding new tunes - between Omodaka and this bevy of stuff I'm sharing today we've got a decent amount of variety. For a while I felt like I was stagnating a bit - but I've also had it go the other way where I'm getting so much new music that I don't think that I'm giving it a good amount of appreciation. Not so much this time, a smattering of EPs makes for just the right amount of new stuff in my experience, and that's exactly what we have today - bits and pieces I've found either through recommendations, looking up old EPs to see if they're readily available for streaming and just generally exploring the world of electronic.
Wilhelm Sasnal - Kacper and Anka (2009)



Photek to begin with, yet another artist on the list of 'Things that I should be familiar with on paper'. I've never really explored Photek in much detail despite my occasional dips into 90's D&B - outside of the now customary bits and pieces I have from soundtracks I can't say I have much. But that's not really as relevant anyway as Photek has done much more than just Drum & Bass since the 90's (something that often sees people come out of the woodwork to whinge and moan about as well). The Aviator / Totem EP is a House / Dubstep record respectively, and it's the title track I've chosen today. Discogs says it's Deep House and I can kinda get where it's coming from, it's not the kind that I talked about in my big Deep House dive a couple posts ago though - But I'm not here to argue semantics, it's a lovely piece of mid-tempo house with a nice groove to it, a real far cry from the rough cut breakbeats that you may know him for. It's not hard to see why Photek is doing a lot of soundtrack stuff these days, tracks like this have that slick edge to them that makes for good ammo for that kind of thing.

Please excuse the doubling up of players, I wanted one for the Hypem archives but there is only this preview on 'tek's official soundcloud, so I included the YT player underneath with the full thing just to cover both bases.





Heading back to the 90's next with Dave Angel. I wrongfully assumed that a lot of Dave's older work would be not readily available online, as is so often the story with so many electronic artists, there's normally a licence issue or something stopping it from being readily available. But I am glad to report that is not the case - the entirety of the Seas Of Tranquility EP is up on Dave's soundcloud, as it is on other streaming platforms, albeit with much more plain album art than the actual original vinyl.

As you might have guessed from the titles, the whole EP has this aquatic theme running throughout it which is used to great effect when creating all different kinds of atmospheres. The EP dances between techno and house, with bits and pieces (Especially the opening track Shallow Waters) sounding like what Underground Resistance were making for Galaxy 2 Galaxy - think Jupiter Jazz and the like.

Some of these tracks could have gone into the Deep House post quite easily as well: Abyss is one of the standouts from the EP and would have fit right in with the rest of my selections there - though it's a little bit more heavy with those kicks than the choices I made for that post, the oceanic theme still makes for generous applications of lush synth work. I would have liked a little bit more variety throughout, but there's plenty to go at if you love the sound of each element as much as I as they each have their chance in the spotlight. I also love the pitch bends down during the break around the 5:30 mark, it's a small touch but one that's masterfully placed - It's a shame it happens so late in the mix though. The whole EP is a great listen but I just can't stop myself from playing this one out recently, for a track that's as old as I am I'm finding it incredibly fresh.



And finally - a little more from Ceephax. I've mentioned Ceephax a couple of times, mainly because I love Mediterranean Acid very much. And if you needed an introduction to the kind of thing you can expect from the Acid Crew, that video should let you know. Like DMX Krew, Ceephax has a rather playful approach to electronic music - making Acid covers of Bach, cheekily called Prelude in 303 Major, with deliberatley dated album art to go along with them.

But don't be tempted to write it off as just a tongue in cheek comedy project, as you might have heard on those last two examples - Ceephax has a penchant for being able to write real ear-worms which makes a lot of his works a real treat to listen to. Enter Haliphax (Friend Reunited), a reworking of an older tune called Friend Track. It's a refreshing take for me, lovely and smooth but with some pretty hefty kicks once the track gets going, similar to the Dave Angel track in that respect actually. While it's pretty hefty at a 9 and a half minute runtime, it's kept consistently fresh throughout so it doesn't feel overly extended.

I like the approach Ceephax takes on tracks like this too, it would be very easy to fall into the trap of making it all about the analogue tech, whereas I think that Ceephax's productions are more like modern tracks that just happen to be made on old equipment. While as you heard on Prelude in 303 Major Ceephax does go all in on the acid front from time to time, tracks like Haliphax really show off how good he is at taking those hallmark sounds and making something new with them. Tracks like this feel like they come out of a sincere place of love for the equipment, I love a squealing 303 as much as anyone but it's great to hear fresh spins like this every now and then.



And that'll do it for this time, I hope you like some of these tracks as much as I do - I've been really into the Seas Of Tranquility EP as of late following on from that House post before - and I plan on saving some of that Ceephax goodness for the next Bandcamp Friday so you can expect it to crop up again soon! I have my eyes on a couple of things to talk about next too, but IRL commitments are picking back up so it may be a day or two later than usual like this one was, but I'll be here!

And as always, stay safe and enjoy the music.

-CVF

Friday, 12 March 2021

Cherry Blossom Tunes

After the last post I managed to grab some new stuff from my 'recommended's that would make a decent follow up, but I've put those plans to one side for a minute as in the process I found something new as well. Soichi Terada's Omodaka alais that I thought was retired is still very much active - and in its current incarnation is doing some very interesting things when it comes to electronic music.

First and foremost Omodaka is now a full on performance experience - with Terada donning a blank white mask and a shrine maiden's outfit, surrounded by wires, tweaking the electronics as screens play out a combination of motion graphics and slightly surreal video edits. This past meets present aesthetic extends to the songs as well, the main methodology of the Omodaka project has been about fusing traditional Japanese folk music with modern electronics. Well, modern-ish, because as you'll soon hear a lot of the backing for these tracks is full on chiptune. Take a look at the 2-minute trailer for the most recent Omodaka album 'Gujoh Bushi' and have a listen for yourself:



It's an odd combo for sure, one that I'm not quite sure always works but there are definitely moments on this LP that have me falling head over heels. I've never really been much into chiptune as a whole, I have a couple of tracks here, and even then usually from soundtracks. I do have quite a strong nostalgia for them having said that though, one that comes from a lot of long haul flights with Pokémon generations 1 & 2 when I was little. The intro to Kariboshi Kiriuta hits that note something fierce, and when the worlds collide with that bassline at around 6 seconds in - this album immediately shot up my list of things to get a hold of. The Enka-esque vocals I can see putting some folk off, and in this early honeymoon phase of the album for me sometimes I feel that. Though for me I think it's a case of the instrumentals being gorgeous and I just want to spend a little bit more time with them.



The album does have a fair bit of variety in it though even when sticking to those same key elements. Hyamikao is fast on it's way to becoming my favourite so far, here Terada slips back into his old House grooves, with a thumping kick and bassy stabs taking over the expected chiptune intro - as it develops the chiptune elements almost take a backseat and it becomes more like a traditional Terada house tune. I also love the almost text-to-speech style cut-up treatment the vocals get here (again, my bias showing as I love anything to do with altered vocals!), I think it injects a nice bit of variety to the LP - the jumpy cuts making some nice unexpected melodies. and makes them feel a little more fitting than the above track for example. That and if we're getting philosophical, it's truly then a merger of the new and the old.



Speaking of returning, on Tosa Miren Terada brings out his Drum & Bass skills again, those of you familiar with his work on Ape Escape will find a fair bit of similarity here in the more melodic parts - especially when the little bits of chiptune flash through in the most playful way. This one and Hyamikao are currently locked in a fight for my no. 1 favourite from this LP. I think this is one of the more accessible tracks here to boot, the traditional vocals really work in its favour. But that's something I'd expect that as Terada has experimented with mixing them and Drum & Bass going back to 1996 - it's nowhere near as prominent as on this album, but there are hints of chants and such on Sumo Jungle, the album that got the attention of Sony and led to his work on Ape Escape. It's used throughout, but my favourite use of it is on Sukiyaki Dohyo Chanko. But enough of that, enjoy the tune!



I'm really excited to see Terada still active, his output rarely disappoints and having done a bit of research for writing this he seems like he has a lot of fun making stuff. Doubly so when he's performing as Omodaka, from the videos I've seen he'll just occasionally wander out into the crowd and give whoever's in the front row control of bits and pieces of equipment, making the whole thing more of an experience than just a concert. It seems as if he was gearing up to do more regular performances as well which is a shame - here's hoping he can get back to them when things are a little more safe. But in the meantime I am more than happy to jam out to this album, and I hope you are too!

And as always - stay safe and enjoy the music.

-CVF

Tuesday, 9 March 2021

How Deep is your House?

Following on from the Bandcamp scoops, I've dug into my archives to find what little bits and pieces of Deep House I have in there. See, it's a genre I'd say I love the sound of, but I don't seem to have much of it. A lot of that was me just riding the high of Mr. Fingers' Amnesia, home of Can You Feel It? among others. And if I had to point to a track that was probably my favourite example of it, Feel It would probably win out. But I've already talked about it a bunch in the past, and it is also (rightfully so) one of the more popular bits of retro electronic out there. So instead let's see if I can't round up some similar sounding stuff.

Sam Francis - Her Blue Deeps (1972)

Laurent Garnier to start out - one of those names again that always came up in the circles I frequent but I never really investigated in much detail. Still, even then he's managed to have several tracks come on my radar, and one that instantly came to mind when I was thinking about this post was Last Tribute From The 20th Century - suitably, the closer from 2000's Unreasonable Behaviour. As the name would suggest, much like Daft Punk's Teachers, this is a love letter to Garnier's influences - as the track itself says: "New York, Detroit and Chicago".

It's one of those tracks that gripped me from the get-go, as you all know by now, I'm a sucker for that kinda sweeping smooth sound. The whole thing has a tinge of melancholy to it, but that's easy to overlook when you slip into the groove of that bassline - I appreciate the little flourishes here and there that are evocative of Frankie Knuckles and company too. Last Tribute is definitely one of the highlights from the album and has more than earned its place here.



Admittedly this one is more straight up Detroit Techno than Deep House, but I think it still fits the bill. Burujha is a lovely and melodic cut - nice and bouncy but carrying that slight melancholy mentioned before. This is actually the track that made me sit up and pay attention to Octave One after hearing it on the Games' eclectic 'Spend The Night With' mixtape (where it's actually incorrectly listed as the title track from the 'Art And Soul' EP that it's from) - that mixtape really runs the spectrum of genres, from full on Detroit techno like this to Eccojams-esque disco cuts - Lopatin & Ford even give Enya the vaporwave treatment on it at one point! It sounds absolutely gorgeous on there - it plays back a little slower which really makes it sound more techno, and as a bonus the cassette tape gives it a great lo-fi edge, even distorting some of the synths.

But I think my heart has to belong to the real deal release one, the whole album it's from The Living Key (To Images From Above) is great but Burujha remains my absolute favourite, and like Last Tribute above makes for a fantastically fitting album closer. Burujha also catches me off guard on the regular, as there's 30 seconds of silence at the end before a little untitled hidden track starts.



And lastly, Soichi Terada. One of the ones I had in mind when I started writing and annoyingly one of the only ones readily available for streaming not from YT. You (and I) are probably more familiar with Terada's Drum & Bass work - I've talked about it a fair few times in the past here, his work on the Ape Escape 1 & 3 soundtracks is incredible - really playful, often lush and surprisingly heavy for what it's soundtracking! Terada actually got his start making House music in the late 80's and early 90's, producing tracks like Sunshower in '89 that could have easily gone here.

The track I've picked out though is a slightly reworked version of Purple Haze - one of Terada's early solo productions. The original is a little rough 'round the edges, charmingly so with those MIDI Piano stabs leading us in. I'm a little on the fence about the Hendrix sample however, while I do like it I have to say I much prefer the (Edit) that doesn't have it - that said, I'm also sure a big reason for this edit was to avoid having the rights holders coming knocking. The edit is overall much cleaner sounding too as a result of that and some little production tweaks here and there, which I think suits it better in the end - I absolutely adore those lush backing synths that seem to have been designed to directly target the part of me that loves that sound. Only complaints I have is that I would maybe like some build up to the main body of the track as you might expect from a Deep House cut, but I can't deny that I love that this one is all action as soon as you hit play.





And that'll about do it for this time, a shame I couldn't find more actual music streams but at least they're all from official sources. Speaking of, I can't do a deep house post without a least giving honourable mention to Marshall Jefferson's Mushrooms - specifically the Salt City Orchestra Remix, a frequent appearance on my more hi-tech sounding playlists, Mushrooms also has the unique twist of the spoken word storytelling guiding you through the experience. That'll do it for this one, I'll stop myself there because I could go on and on! And of course: As always - Stay safe and enjoy the music.

-CVF

Saturday, 6 March 2021

What I Got (on Bandcamp Friday)

Not gonna lie, Bandcamp Friday kinda sorta snuck up on me this time, gears are turning when it comes to IRL stuff is the excuse I'll use this time though. Still, I managed to come up with a plan for what I was gonna scoop - and then in true BC Friday tradition for me, ended up with an almost different set of things. This time might be the most varied yet, so let's get into it.

Rodolfo Arico - Struttura (1967)


Swayzak leading the charge, not all of their releases are available on their BC, and some of them have different covers for some reason too, but that's not why I was there. Tale as old as time for me, I'd scooped some compilations and noticed Swayzak appearing more and more on them so decided to check them out based on that - and as I so often do in cases like that, I go back and check out their debuts. Their appearances I had heard on the compilations was from their later poppier days and by contrast their first album is back-to-back slightly minimal techy deep house stuff.

There was a time not too long ago where I was really looking for more Deep House stuff for my collection, it's a genre I've found I can be quite picky with - Snowboarding In Argentina would have been perfect around that time as Swayzak's work on here is supremely up my alley. Speedboat opens with waves of synth that are directly evocative of Omni Trio's Sanctuary - and from there it's off to the races as more and more layers get added, and it's not long before you find yourself in a toe-tapping groove. The tracks on Snowboarding are really long as a rule, with the shortest one clocking in a 7:30 - which is both a blessing and a curse, sometimes you get super into the flow and it doesn't feel that long but other times I get 3/4 mins in and am reaching for the skip. Still, I've actually listened to this album quite a bit as it makes for good 'round-the-house music for working, and after spending a lot of time with it I'm more than happy to have it added in my collection. It's also another one of those releases that makes a slight hypocrite of me, for all my banging on about how much I don't care for minimal I sure seem to end up talking about tracks that fall under that label a lot!



HEALTH next - I was also feeling like something along the lines of DEATH MAGIC so their follow up was a natural choice. It's not as out and out brutal as DEATH MAGIC I don't think, but that's not really a criticism - though I was surprised by the acoustic and delicate DECIMATION as the outro track I think it works really well - the almost lo-fi trip hop twins really well with Jake Duzsik's vocals. On VOL. 4 HEALTH's twinning of Noise rock and Electronic continues - with STRANGE DAYS coming out with those electro-house style handclaps giving way to the machine-gun thumping at around 40 seconds in. I need to spend a bit more time with it to nail down my favourite tracks (Apart from FEEL NOTHING, which I've already posted!), but I am excited to see HEALTH continue with this type of sound, this time erring on a more Industrial side, it's pretty unique and I think they do it really well.

It's a little bleaker than DEATH MAGIC too, both sonically and lyrically, often to great juxtaposition: title track SLAVES OF FEAR building up to a thundering 4/4 backed with lines like "Slaves of fear / 'til we're dead in the ground". Tracks like GOD BOTHERER may summarise the album better, but I can't stop repeating STRANGE DAYS at the minute.



And finally, to do a complete 180 in terms of sound - more from Hiroshi Yoshimura. One of the re-issues from Light In The Attic, one of the labels putting a ton of work in to make vintage Japanese releases way more accessible. If you are into Ambient at all I can't recommend Yoshimura's work enough, and if you've never really given the genre much attention his works are a solid introduction.

1982's Music For Nine Post Cards is a great entry point for both - a compact and cosy package that in true ambient fashion is at home in the background or actively being listened to. Yoshimura's work here is much more melodic than a lot of Ambient out there - far from the sparse Piano flourishes of Brian Eno's Ambient 1 or even the roomy aquatic ambience of his alter 1986 album Soundscape 1: Surround.

And part of that is because none of these tracks are especially long, these aren't hour long soundscapes or anything, the longest tracks top out at around 6 minutes, practically bite-size in the Ambient world. This length makes the tracks really accessible but also means that they don't wear out their welcome, if you're listening to this album front-to-back, the individual pieces slide into one another almost effortlessly. Blink may be my favourite example of this, as it could very easily be a short ambient interlude on an electronic album - but the main melody is taken and played around with over the 4-ish minutes in all kinds of ways, my favourite is the little delay that gets introduced at the very end which is just a masterful touch. The end result doesn't really sound like your typical 'Ambient' archetype, sounding more like those little jam sessions Röyksopp used to put out from time to time, and for that I love it.



So wraps up this edition of my Bandcamp Friday scoops - this month's potentially the most varied so far. Like I mentioned at the top, things are starting to move again so expect perhaps slightly longer gaps between posts from now on, I managed to buy myself some time with some scheduled posts but they're all up by now. On the plus side too we are down to ~1000 posts left to publish from the archives as well so I'm pretty proud of that. I'll try swing back in a couple days with more for you, but until then: Stay safe and enjoy the music.

-CVF

Wednesday, 3 March 2021

Unheard

My Warp revisit continues - when I was first taking my deep dive into Warp's backcatalogue it was a great time as they were doing a year long celebration thing that meant re-issues of classic albums in double pack format were really easy to come by, in this futursitic if a bit clincal grey packaging. Alongise that were three compilations, much like the Warp10 ones but a bit different in practice.

The three are subtitled (Chosen), (Unheard) and (Recreated) respectively. And the titles pretty much give it all away - (Chosen) is community and Warp selected picks from their archives, (Recreated) is covers of classic Warp tracks by other Warp artists and (Unheard) is previously unreleased stuff. And it's this compilation in particular that I'll be talking about today.



The compilation is real good, but there's no denying that there are some deliberately chosen standout tracks on there. Case in point, it opens with the simply divine Seven Forty Seven from Boards Of Canada. If you've ever gone on a trip into the BoC fandom, you will know that there is a mountain of unreleased material from them - from snippets of tracks played only at live shows to early fragments of demos from cassette tapes and Seven Forty Seven is actually a slightly revised version of a track originally 'called' Audiotrack 6A from the 'Random 35 Tracks' tape.

The original is hauntingly beautiful in it's own right - the tape hiss and other cassette artifacts only playing into that fuzzy nostalgia that BoC do so well, though the beat sounds a little out of place, it very clearly signposts the sound that they were heading towards come their actual releases. And that makes Seven Forty Seven so interesting, it's the BoC boys revisiting a decades old sample and putting together a more refined version of their vision that more easily comes with all that extra experience. The track itself would have fit right in on The Campfire Headphase but it's perhaps even older than that, as snippets of this could be heard on the really old Boardsofcanada.com flash (RIP) website back in the day. Over time the song grows into a cacophony of various sounds, but it manages to not feel overwhelming in doing so. It's not my favourite BoC sound, but it's certainly one of their finest hours and an incredible demonstration of their aesthetic approach.



Autechre next - as I've said before their earlier work circa Incunabula and Amber are my favourites, and this compilation was a treat in that sense. Scratching an itch that wouldn't be hit again until they released the Warp Tapes 89-93 as a freebie a couple of years ago now is Oval Moon. Far removed from their genre bending trips into electronic that they are known for these days, their early pieces are very much befitting of that 'Listening Electronic' idea that Warp was pitching around the early 90's, a sort of ambient techno that's often infused with a high-tech melodic edge.

I have plenty of favourites from that era - from Richie Hawtin's work as F.U.S.E. on Dimension Intrusion to the decidedly Sci-Fi Electro-Soma from B12, to Autechre themselves, but I think if I had to pick one song that defined most of the elements of that style it would be Oval Moon - it's maybe a smidge repetitive to be the perfect example IMO, but that could easily be because this is a previously unreleased track, perhaps even a demo. Despite that I'd still consider it a solid example: all of the sounds are there and the little techy flourishes sprinkled throughout are an absolute delight, really capturing the spirit of that series. If you like this as much as I, absolutely seek out those Warp Tapes 89-93 I mentioned earlier (they were free from Autechre's store way back when but I don't know if that's still the case...) - it's essentially two continuous hours of early Autechre jams like this one.



And finally, Sixty Forty, Broadcast's cover of Nico. This one's another case like BoC where the (Unheard) tag isn't 100% true - they had performed Sixty Forty a few times, maybe at some live shows but absolutely on one of their many Peel Sessions (I know this because I have a recording of one!). Still, as with the BoC track it's nice to have a studio version at least and not a radio rip of it - though like Seven Forty Seven the lo-fidelity recording suits the skeletal electronics that Broadcast were playing with around the Tender Buttons era (though the Peel Session recording is actually from a few years before). There are other unreleased Broadcast tracks I would have loved to hear proper versions of if they exist - Forget Every Time from another Peel Session being one of them. The surviving Broadcast member James Cargill has put quite a few demos and other Broadcast miscellany on Soundcloud in recent years, so it's a possibility at the very least.

But that's veering off topic - I love Sixty Forty, but it being a cover leads to many, many pretentious arses whinging about it 'ruining' it. It's a different sound for Broadcast, the electronics are very much like what they would go on to use in Tender Buttons, especially on the title track of the same name - but the slow build up of layers and layers of sound on top of that as the song progresses is something new for them, and one that's done really well here. Trish's vocal is great too, (though that is something that also draws out the cover comparisons) perhaps not the best demonstration of her flexibility but very much in line with that stoic delivery that was present in certain tracks of Tender Buttons, a sound that suits that stripped back approach oh so well too. There is a bit of bias there as I have said many times that Trish is one of my favourite vocalists ever, there are definitely other Broadcast tracks where she shines brighter - but I love the bittersweet Sixty Forty all the same.



That'll do it for today, I could go on and on about these compilations but I'll refrain for now. Do check out the others if you're interested - (Chosen) is a solid rundown of the best bits of Warp and (Recreated) has some astounding covers on it to boot - my favourites being the ambient Piano inversion of Aphex Twin's Vordhosbn from Leila and the intense breakcore styled rework of Milanese's So Malleable by Clark. But I'll hold onto those for a rainy day sometime.

And as always - Stay safe and enjoy the music.

-CVF