Friday, 30 September 2022

Retro Reviews: ADULT. - New - Phonies

Returning to the retro review format for the first time in a long while, this one shouldn't be as draining as the last couple I've done that focused on albums - today I'll be diving back into ADULT.'s New - Phonies, a fantastic introduction to the group and probably one of their finest works. I've been listening to a lot more EPs than albums as of late due to how much more easily accessible they are, and though this isn't billed as an EP, its cut from the same cloth. Last time I brought up this EP it was around 2016, so let's see if anything's changed between now and then.



I have a long and storied history with ADULT. - though it took me a long time to come around to doing a full deep dive into their works, but once I did they fast became some of my favourites in their genre. And that genre is a bit of a sticking point: often lumped in with Electroclash with artists like Peaches, Felix Da Housecat and others, though ADULT. much like Ladytron disagreed with that label. While there is an undenaible element of similarity in their content and execution, I have had plenty of people kick up a fuss when I've posted them under Electroclash in the past. As I've gotten older I've stopped caring as much about labels, but much like with my begruding use of 'IDM', it is very helpful to define the sound beyond just 'electro' as it's listed on Discogs. But I'll put a pin in it there, this isn't supposed to be a rant about genres, let's get into the content.

When I think of ADULT. the first thing that comes to mind is Nicola Kuperus' unique vocal delivery - often stacatto, laden with anxiety and shouty when it needs to be. New-Phonies gives a nice preview of that on the first track New Object, featuring a stop-start-stutter rendition of the title, backed up with some delicious of the era filtered verses. That's not to discount Adam Lee Miller's contributions to their productions, I end up saying that every time but it bears repeating. They perfectly compliment each other, the electronics on show here are lovely and raw, really embodying that DIY punk style that was no doubt an influence on the two. Twin that with Kuperus' slightly surreal photoshoots adorning the sleeves and you complete the duo's iconic look.



Track 2 makes it much easier to see where that electroclash comparison comes from, a suitably sultry track about phone sex. Doubly so with Nicola's decidedly disinterested vocal recalling Miss Kittin's work with The Hacker of around the same time. Coming back to this one, it's a much slower tempo than I usually associate with ADULT., but one that I think works in this context. Despite the cliches surrounding scene when it comes to deliberately smutty content, I can't think of another ADULT. track that is as explicit as this, with Kuperus' vocal breaking the monotone barrier and literally rising to a climax in the final quarter.



By far and away the highest highlight of the whole thing for me however is Hand To Phone. First track form the aptly titled Lipstick Knife side of the vinyl - A track I will admit I am supremely biased towards and has been in my collection in some form or another since the mid 00's or so. Popular enough to warrant two further spin off EPs of remixes, a reputation it has well earned - it is fantastic, definitely one of the standout tracks of that time. The remixes are good in their own way but it is the original that is the highlight. Absolutley hypnotic, it is one of the few tracks I can never seem to tire of, Kuperus' vocal on here is perfectly matched, the subtle melody to it skirts the cliché flat delivery of the time. A perfect encapsulation of the time, wonderful stuff.



Closing track Your Lies always stood out to me as a little odd in comparison to the other tracks on show. Not nesecerially in a bad way though, it's just perhaps not as dark as the other tracks, and the vocal being distant and vocoded after 3 tracks back to back of Kuperus in full effect seems a little odd. Still, I can't knock it - the way the intro layers up and gives way to the main synth riff is lovely, a really nice electro cut. Perhaps not quite as raw as some of the tracks here, or even their earleir works but I think it carries that methodology with it a little. Looking back on other times I've brought this track up I seem to always say it is maybe not the best closing track but I have to disagree with hindsight, while perhaps swapping Your Lies with Don't Talk might have been a nice sort of comedown quarter, I think the four tracks as they are make for a nice "We are ADULT." kind of release.



And that'll about wrap it up for today, I have to say this record doesn't really sound its age, which I will admit is true for a lot of releases under the Electrclash banner as they were essentially emulating the 80's anyway, but there have been some less well aged examples from the era as well. Pretty incredible for a record that's coming up on 22 years old this year in my humble opinion - these early ADULT. records might be my favourite of their output, but there's plenty to get stuck into if you're digging this kind of sound, I'd recommend jumping to the Rescusitation compilation for more, not only is it full length compared to this release but it also features some reworked versions of their earlier releases too, including a version of Hand To Phone. I'll try and be back around soon enough with more but until then, as always, stay safe and enjoy the music.

-CVF

Tuesday, 27 September 2022

Load Game? (Club PlayStation Vol.6)

Hey all, I'm very aware it's been a while. Work has been kicking my arse as of late in addition to general life things. I do have some posts cooking but it'll be a couple of days yet. So I thought I could do with something nice and quick to post to just buy me a bit of time, and wouldn't you know it, recent friend of us and fellow lover of the PS1 Sean Seanson dropped another entry in his themed series of mixtapes. Volume 6 is a bumper edition of all Namco soundtracks, which gives him an absolute goldmine of material to work with - from Ace Combat to Ridge Racer, from Tekken to Klonoa - there are no shortage of tracks to choose from.



Namco's sound team around that time was absolutely on fire, not just in terms of the sheer amount of work they were putting out but how stellar a lot of it is. Ridge Racer Type 4's soundtrack alone is a masterclass in House and Drum & Bass - Pearl Blue Soul in this mix is a perfect demo of the overall funky vibes that it has in spades. Stay tuned immediately after that for the Tekken block - the mix of Chicago's theme into Nina's Theme from Tekken 2 is excellently done, and Nina's theme itself is a primo slice of sassy 90's house.

Some other random highlights that stood out to me: Times Square from Smash Court 2 is a delicious jazzy Drum & Bass number that wouldn't have been too out of place on some Moving Shadow compilation of the time, fans of my previous Ape Escape posts might also hear a tinge of similarity with Soichi Terada's work as well. Beats From Above from the Klonoa OST is fittingly fit to burst with breakbeats, not the first thing you'd expect from a cute 2.5D platformer, though it is a boss theme if I recall right! Meanwhile Be Warped Time sounds much older, though that's perhaps to be expected as the original arcade version was from 1993 - still, those bombastic, almost 80's drums and euphoric synth riffs give it an air of modern Synthwave.

There's plenty to enjoy here, I highly recommend the full series of mixes even if you're not super into VGM as Sean and I, there are plenty of hidden gems to be had out there. And once again I'm considering making my own bootleg entry to this series, especially as Sean actively encouraged it over on Twitter! I'm going to try and get another post out this week but until then, as always, stay safe and and enjoy the music.

-CVF

Tuesday, 13 September 2022

A Wild Week (and a bit)

Well, here I am again. And what a whirlwind week of weirdness it has been, both locally and internationally (and continues to be, at the risk of jinxing it as it's only midweek) I haven't really had time to sit down and write anything of substance, but I have had the chance to do plenty of listening in the meantime so I'm not short of ammo to detail - so silver linings and all that. Let's take a look at a random smattering of tunes.
Wayne Thiebaud - 24th Street Intersection (1977)


Picking up some leftovers from that spacey post that I still haven't gotten around to making with a little piece from The Exaltics, remixed by Gosub. Fitting actually, as I first got turned onto The Exaltics via Gerard Hanson's E.R.P. project, which in turn put me onto the SolarOne Music label, co-founded by the man behind The Exaltics Robert Witschakowski. E.R.P is one of my go-to examples for exactly the kind of hi-tech smooth electro style stuff I'm talking about - honestly, this one could probably make that list as it very much fits the bill, albeit a little more bouncy electro than the usual stuff I put under that space label. This mix of I.M.O.E.H. is catchy as, and full of lovely little touches to keep it fresh, I'm a sucker for pitch bends and the like as you all know.



Another one that's been sat on the backburner for a while that I haven't had an opportunity to talk about yet: the remastered soundtrack to a 1994 FMV point and click adventure game Burn Cycle. And If you've learned anything about me from my postings in the past you'll know that from the description alone that is supremely my bag. The soundtrack was actually included with the game way back when, but I imagine it's a touch hard to come by these days, making the remastered version all the more important. I'm not entirely sure how this came up on my radar if I'm honest, but probably through the suggestions for one of the many techy playlists I maintain - I do however remember the first track that was recommended, which was Zip. It had me gripped with those twinkling opening stabs, which builds to a thumping techno peak - twinned with the samples from the game itself, it certainly sets a befitting atmosphere.



Keeping on that trend of easier to access reissues, a slice of deep house that found its way onto my wishlist next. Late Night Basix Vol. 2 is originally from 1998, but this this version is from 2021 thanks to this reissue on Ghostly International's sub-label Spectral Sound. I've been on a bit of a deep house thing lately after diving back in to my collection of Guidance Recordings material, and half remembering sampling some of the tracks on here I figured it might be just the thing to scratch that itch. And right I was, the whole EP is a nice ride, I've gone ahead and picked the fittingly titled Forgotten Track this time around: it wastes absolutely no time at all getting down to brass tacks by hitting you with that classic 4/4 straight away. From there it's a lovely journey of lush pads, catchy stabs and all manner of things Deep House, just when I find it getting stale there's a little switch up to make it fresh again.



And that'll be all for this time, a little more scattered than usual I feel like, but that's also kind of how these past couple weeks have been so it's apt if nothing else. Still, hope you've found a groove to enjoy amongst these choices - I'll be back soon enough with more, but until then - as always, stay safe and enjoy the music.

-CVF

Tuesday, 6 September 2022

Catching Up

It's been a little while hasn't it? I originally planned to pen this yesterday but you know how things get, especially at this time of year. Anyway, I thought I'd do a little catch up on what's happened since last time I posted, which as it turns out is quite a bit. Let's not beat around the bush no more and dive right in.

Lajos Tihanyi - Three Trees (1922)




The elephant in the room and one of the funnier stories to come from the electronic music world in recent years involves Hudson Mohwake - his signature brand of wonky beats went a little viral over the weekend due to a Reddit post from some guy who had Cbat on his, quote, 'sex playlist'. I've always found the idea of those kinds of playlists weird anyway, but I gotta agree with the general consensus here that of all songs, of all HudMo's discography, Cbat is a wild choice for such a thing. HudMo is currently revelling in it as you can see from the description on the newly uploaded Cbat video, and in true HudMo fashion found the whole thing hilarious over on twitter, and no doubt appreciated more eyes on his work just as he has a new album out!

In-between all that you'll find a lot of heated debate about the song itself, plenty of the usual arguments that come up with anything electronic "hurr its robot farts" and the like, but on the flipside I bet more than a handful of people have found the man's work through this - and as I've said in the past: be it soundtracks, memes or whatever, more folk into electronic music is always good in my book. I can't really hold it against the negative crew either, Cbat is pretty abstract once it gets going, and truth be told its not my favourite from the Satin Panthers EP. If you're like me though and want more of that rave inspired intro to immerse yourself in, the closing track from the EP Thank You has you covered, and is a little more accessible than Cbat.



If that appeals to you then I'd highly recommend diving into the HudMo archives! Personally, I'm also going to throw in a hearty recommendation for Rising 5 from the man's debut album Butter. I'd actually suggest that as the perfect place to start actually, the whole LP is very nicely balanced and is a solid intro to HudMo's sound. Rising 5 is one of those tracks that I will not hear for a long long time, but fall in love all over again from the first bars of the intro - all the sweeter when it gets to the totally bombastic meat of the track with that eastern inspired hook.



Other than that, the only other thing thats happened is I missed Bandcamp Friday for the first time ever. No particular reason, it did kind of sneak up on me due to the gap between the last one, but I've also been busy so haven't had time to line up releases to pickup - and I was also in the pub for a lot of Friday so that may have been a factor. That doesn't mean I don't have eyes on things though, I make sure to browse my wishlist every now and then just to keep it fresh in my memory. And then I take the opportunity to make a post of the content to further remind myself!

I went a little deeper in my list than usual this time to see if there was anything deep down I'd not mentioned yet. There I found Baths, an alias of Will Wiesenfeld. I first became aware of through FlyLo's Ideas+Drafts+Loops freebie and the delightfully twee animated series Bee & Puppycat, for which he did the soundtrack. The soundtrack is no longer available legitimately which is a shame as they are all lovely little instrumental pieces. I've gone instead for a track from Cerulean that comes sort of close to having the same vibe.

Aminals, if the title didn't tip you off already, is firmly in that territory - a playful piece of cut-up hip hop. If you're a fan of the more hip-hop styled bits of Bibio's work, tracks like this and Maximalist are very much of the same school. Aminals perhaps more so with the samples of rambling children a la Fire Ant, but the samples on Maximalist do very much remind me of parts from Ambivalence Avenue.





And I think that'll be all for today, I did have a couple more tracks lined up but this has fast gotten longer than I anticipated, think I'll pop them aces back up my sleeve for next time! It's kept at least sonically consistent this way. I'll try and write the other tracks up sooner rather than later, but as mentioned up top this is a busy time of year for me so there may be a slight delay. Rest assured I'll be back soon enough with more but until then, as always, stay safe and enjoy the music.

-CVF

Sunday, 28 August 2022

Retro wRitings

Postponing that planned spacey sequel for a bit, as with many things I've just been a touch scattered and working on other things - the best laid plans of mice & men and all that. I figured I at least owed something to tide y'all over in the meantime, and what started as a quick one/two track post became a little longer. So let's dive in shall we?
Frank Stella - Eccentric Polygons - Effingham (1974)


I've almost become a mirror of my younger self lately, dipping back into the world of emulation and nostalgia fuelled by the content creators I've mentioned in previous posts. Helped along as well by the Retro Achievements website I've been playing old favourites, weird imports and things I missed. That comes in handy from time to time though - case in point here as Kohta Takahashi has released an album on Bandcamp that is a look back at the Ridge Racer Type 4 soundtrack through a modern lens. As with Rom Di Prisco's similar look back at their old work there's a definite charm to it, and fans of the original OST will very much find things to love here. It's not a simple re-tread though, as Takahashi notes on the Bandcamp page this is more about capturing the vibe of Type 4: the whole genre gamut is on show here from the expected House to Dubstep and then back again. Surprising no one given my recent posts, my favourite of the bunch is this could-have-been menu theme.



It ain't all low-poly stuff though, I've also been revisiting Midnight Club 3, which dedicates a large chunk of its soundtrack to Electro, Detroit Techno and Drum & Bass (the latter not really surprising as Moving Shadow and Rockstar have been close since GTA2 back in '99, and they appear again in MC3). The Midnight Club series has serious pedigree when it comes to soundtracks: the theme to the first one was classic Techno/House anthem Strings Of Life. The second game dug deep for its intercontinental USA, French and Japanese settings, treating us to an absolutely choice selection of House and Trance - including some of Thomas Bangalter's solo work!

All of that to say I've been flicking back through my archives and checking out more techno and Drum & Bass. These are usually one of albums or EPs that I note down and then get lost with time, but make for a nice surprise when you find them again, like digging out an old jacket and finding some cash in the pockets. Enter The Silicon Dawn from Dan Curtin. I can't remember how I came across this record in the first place but it doesn't take long to see why it was on my list, from the title and cover art alone I could tell it'd be the kind of record for me. Lovely melodic techno with that sci-fi edge, if your taste is at all similar to mine then a dive into Curtin's work will do you no wrong. Once again surprising no one, I've gone for the track that sounds the most like it could be from Warp's {Artificial Intelligence} Series - It Tastes Like. Absolutely gorgeous stuff.



Now onto the second half of that upper paragraph, as we visit the D&B side of things. you'll be surprised some of the things you can find on Bandcamp! It's gotten to the point now where no matter how obscure the thing I'm looking at is, I'll give a cursory search just in case it's found its way there. Inperspective Records is one such example of that, having most of their backcatalogue available on there. I've noted down some bits and pieces from them over the years, and it's always a nice surprise when I look them up to remember why. In keeping with the theme here, Stature feels again very much like a credits or menu theme! Admittedly not quite as Drum & Bass as the other parts of the EP but you can still hear flecks of it now and then. Check out the A-side Windchime for some more intense breakbeat action, contrasted with some smooth hi tech vibes.



And that'll be all for this fairly quick writeup, we wandered around a bit but I think I kept it mostly on topic (though behind the scenes I have since fallen down several more rabbit holes that may or may not result in posts). That sequel post I mentioned last time is still in the pipeline so keep an eye out for that but until then - as always, stay safe and enjoy the music.

-CVF

Sunday, 21 August 2022

Back Into Space

This post originally started out covering a completely different artist, but yesterday I watched Sisters With Transistors and it took a bit of a turn. I could still make a post of the artists featured, but this time I'm going to focus on one of the unsung highlights - the credits song by the aptly named The Space Lady

Fernand Leger - Forms In Space (1950)


I've talked a bit recently about DIY sounds and lo-fi recordings - this forms a big part of the aforementioned documentary but also is a perfect embodiment of the kind of sound The Space Lady employs. A Casio MT-40, a battery powered amp and a headset microphone is pretty much the extent of her gear setup. Unlike the bedroom melancholy of Casiotone For The Painfully Alone, who employs a similar setup - the end result is a quite psychedelic experience, the track I've chosen to illustrate this Synthesize Me does wonders to show that off. Those of you that are big fans of Broadcast like myself will find yourself in familiar territory here, especially if you've hears some of the demos from Tender Buttons. Synthesize Me is a lovely listen, the perfect capstone to the documentary and the kind of track I could see myself discovering on one of Oneohtrix Point Never's mixtapes from around 2010 or so.



The majority of the other content on that album consists of covers from various other artists (befitting, as The Space Lady started as a street performer). These stripped and re-contextualised covers have a real charm to them, though I have always found that with electronic covers of otherwise not-electronic material. The most left field example on here might be this one of Steppenwolf's Born To Be Wild. I still like it, but it's not quite as enthralling as Synthesize Me. I imagine part of the experience is being lost, given her street performance roots - I think I might prefer the recording from that video to the version on the album, but even so it is not without its moments.



In keeping with the theme of this post, there's also a cover of Major Tom on here - though not the Bowie version as I originally thought, rather the Peter Schilling single from 1983. This and Synthesize Me are perhaps the two tracks I would point to for a crash course in this kind of sound, as they sound exactly like the off kilter early experiments in electronic pop, The kind that a very young me would stumble across in my dad's tape collection and be entranced by (But perhaps thats the recording quality talking). Specifically I'm thinking of tracks like Polyphonic Size's Girlscout, albeit through a more psychedelic lens are where my mind goes first.



There's some other interesting bits on there too, the cover of Sweet's Ballroom Blitz sounds like it could have been made in that 70's era, sort of in the vein of Switched-On Bach. I'm going to call it a day here though, I hope you've enjoyed this brief look at this album, it's a bit different to my standard fare but if you've got similar taste to me I'm sure you'll find something to enjoy. As mentioned up top this post was originally going to focus on a completely different artist but I repurposed it into this one! I'll try and knock up the second one soon enough but until next time: as always, stay safe and enjoy the music.

-CVF

Sunday, 14 August 2022

Tracked Down - An Inbox Tale

Let me tell you all the tale of a bit of a wild experience that I had a couple of days ago. Enter James Varghese of Quiet Love Records, who if nothing else was absolutely resolute in getting in touch with me - going as far as to reach out on a whole bunch of platforms where I share the screen name (Which to his credit, he did apologise for it it came across as a bit weird - if you're reading James, don't worry about it, that's most of the reason I share the CVF name everywhere!). We eventually had a bit of back and forth on Twitter and I said I'd take a look over things when I had some time, and now is that time.



Further credit to James, he was also kind enough to get in touch with a ton of detail about what he's working on - All of which I imagine was in the original email that he sent but passed me by - that happens when you've ended up on a million different promo lists over the last decade or so). So for this next section I'll be cribbing a lot from the info he sent over to me. James in his own words is a "jazz bass player with a masters degree from the jazz school of Zurich turned pop bass player turned indie-producer turned founder of «Quiet Love Records» turned electronic music artist."

His first solo release is due out September 14th after a few years working on other projects in the background at Quiet Love, a release called Ambient 1, the result of a few years worth of tinkering. I'm a sucker for all things ambient anyway, and based on James' description (and some extra details that we'll get into a little later) it sounded very much what I could get into at the minute. I've had the pleasure of listening to the thing on a private Soundcloud playlist and it didn't take long to appeal - "Short and soft" is the descriptor I was given in the accompanying text, and sure enough the solitary tones of 222 fit that bill. A lush wave swoops in to join the lonely pulsar around the halfway mark, and after some time in the spotlight the two come together in harmony, if only for a moment or so.



You'll have to take my word on that one as you can't hear it (yet!), but that isn't the case with Juno Fades, which nicely sets me up to talk about the other bit of the promo text that piqued my interest. To quote James directly: "Most of it was recorded in the biggest synthesizer museum in the world here in Switzerland. It's called SMEM and is located in Fribourg." - which must be a dream come true for any kind of electronic musician or even if you have an interest in the gear in general - doubly so if you're into the archiving process as I am! If you're at all keyed up on your synths (no pun intended), you might have already clocked the Juno reference in the title there. I find it interesting to hear differing modern takes on ambient with this retro gear, I've loved the work of Oneohtrix Point Never for a long time, and his early work was full of downright gorgeous Juno 60 sounds, James' take on the other hand is a little... brighter I want to say, most prominently in the latter half where there's an explosion of triumphant brassy stabs. OPN's work has this decided melancholy to it, whereas Juno Fades feels a little more in the middle - befitting James' line from the description of the private playlist: "I often experience very ambivalent emotions. It’s never black or white."



James' work also feels much more like a Jam session than OPN's work too - and I don't mean that as a knock, if anything it's befitting of his Jazz roots and, after all, I'd probably make the same kind of thing if I had access to rows and rows of weird and wondrous synths like that, and in fact I know that I did back when I was experimenting with my first ambient releases. There's a definite charm to the proceedings, no doubt helped by that background information. Final track Fairfield Rd. however, does remind me quite a bit of OPN's work - drenched in analog hum and with a wistful air - which tracks as its a tribute to the Street James used to live on in East London. I've been listening to a lot of Casiotone For The Painfully Alone recently and the execution of this one very much reminds me of that. They both share a real home made lo-fi feel, even something as simple as the sound of stopping the recording intruding adds a little something to it. Off the top of my head it feels a lot like Tonight Was A Disaster.



Ambient 1 looks like its shaping up to be a lovely little record - as mentioned above this kind of sound is very much in rotation for me at the minute with Casiotone and friends. I appreciate the songs being short as well, last time I tried to explore some more ambient releases I ended up bogged down in a sea of releases ranging from 15 mins to a few hours long and found myself quickly burning out - much like how I feel about Boards Of Canada's more ambient pieces, sometimes short and sweet is better. I've also been working on finishing up the remnants of my own half finished EP from years ago, and hearing James' tale (and of course hearing the results) have given me a little kick to finish things up proper, I'll be sure to drop by when and if I finish it up fully. Until next time, as always, stay safe and enjoy the music.

-CVF

Find more from James and Quiet Love at:
James' Bandcamp
James' Soundcloud
James' Twitter
Quiet Love's Bandcamp
Quiet Love's Soundcloud
Quiet Love's Twitter

Sunday, 7 August 2022

Right on Time Again

Two for two this year, as not only did I finally manage to post June 9th on June 9th, I've got a couple more apt tracks for today. It is the 7th of August, it is Sunday - which means it is the perfect time to post Sunday (The Day Before My Birthday) from Moby's 18. Perhaps not quite as iconic as Play but I do have a fondness for it, albeit with some criticisms here and there. I'd mention them here but I covered it in great detail in the Retro Review post I did for the album. Going to post both the Soundcloud player and the music video because it is one of those paywalled tracks on Soundcloud.





And just to make up for that as well, I'm going to post the other Moby track titled Sunday - this time it's from the Play B-Sides album, which predictably is a collection of the B-Sides from singles from that album, and there are a lot of them. It's a great companion piece, Play has been a bit overplayed over the years which makes the B-Sides album a refreshing listen, it carries the sound of that era without the baggage of overexposure. Sunday is a little more House styled than you might expect given the content of Play, but it's still a gorgeous listen.



And that'll be all for now, I normally put together a big bumper post for mine and the blog's mutual birthday on the 8th but I'm a little busy so it might have to wait until midweek, though I'll see if I can't make a start later today. I'll be back soon enough either way, and until then, as always - stay safe and enjoy the music.

-CVF

Monday, 1 August 2022

Backwards Glance

At the risk of making the last trilogy of posts too wistful, this post is also going to centre on the theme of looking back once again. See, I've been going back to front and republishing the very, very old posts that Jordan was making when the blog was launched - as I mentioned before it's a sort of odd experience, the early blogs are very much that and at points it feels like reading back the diary of a teenage me; complete with... questionable choices in wording, but we were dumb teens and have grown since.

But scattered amongst the dated memes and old school slang is, well, music. The kind that I can distinctly remember downloading at the time, be it from here or one of the other myriad of blogs dealing in Electro House, which was the hot topic of the time. This lengthy intro all to set up the theme of this post, I thought I'd share some of the tracks that have been in my collection the longest (or as close as I can get in some cases).
Unichi Hiratsuka - Cape Kasuga (1930)


Kicking off with Flunk, a relic of a time when I was consuming any and all things I could find labelled 'chillout'. If there was an album that was guaranteed to have my interest it was Flunk's debut: the evocatively titled For Sleepyheads Only, sporting a cover that flawlessly sets the tone. It errs more on the side of trip hop than my other 'chillout' scoops of that era and I think it still holds up really well throughout (though your opinion on the cover of Blue Monday may differ to mine). I've gone with Honey's In Love this time around, lovely downtempo that has echoes of the more conventional parts of the Silent Hill soundtracks (End Of Small Sanctuary specifically, though this album actually came out before it), the instrumentation punctuated by that sparse vocal giving the whole thing a hazy, suitably dreamy feel. Sleepyheads suffers a bit from being one of those albums with a couple of different pressings with different tracklists, it's not too hard to get hold of it legit via Flunk's bandcamp though - they're also still active with an expanded reissue of their second album coming later this year.



Something else that's also come up a lot recently has been my history with the original PlayStation - something I credit with introducing me to more electronic music (though I already had a fascination with it before then, but I've told that tale here before). Clichés aside, the little grey box was chock full of Big Beat, Techno, Trance, Drum & Bass, Breakbeat and just about any other electronic genre that was popular in the 90's. Of course, a lot of that content was licensed, this was around the time budgets were big enough and storage was capable enough to allow that sort of thing - but there were also still original composers for a lot of titles too. Enter Rom Di Prisco, probably one of those most prolific in the field with 20+ years worth of titles under his belt.

My introduction to Rom's work was from the early Need For Speed games, with tracks like Quantum Singularity and Cygnus Rift having me enraptured with the hi-tech atmosphere. I can't post them as the OSTs were only released in the 90's on CD and are probably tied up in some copyright hell vault in EA headquarters. Lucky for me though, Rom would revisit this sound on Spacetime Miscalculation, going so far as to dig out the old hardware to make it on. It's a bit more Trance than the ones I linked above but it still has that heart if the science-y track titles didn't give it away already. I'm a big fan of tracks like Time Dilation, the kind that sound like they could be long lost menu themes.



And finally a bit from Blu Mar Ten's first album. I've talked about it a fair bit in the past, it is another one of those albums I picked up in phase I mentioned where I would get any and everything in the chillout section. It's an odd one, Blu Mar Ten's work before this (and afterwards too!) is definitely more Drum & Bass focused - which would make coming to The Six Million Names Of God a little surprising. A blend of House, Downtempo and pure Ambient in places, it's an album I've had mixed feelings on revisiting, but it's still home to some really nice stuff. The new 're-issue' that BMT put up on Bandcamp has a bonus track and nicer artwork, though I do have a fondness for the new-age styling of the original. The first 10 or so tracks are all great and flow together effortlessly. A very strong first half as well, opening track Home Videos does wonders to set the tone with the simple but effective acoustic loop. My favourites to this day is a toss-up between Drive and I Wake Up. It's been a long time since I posted either, but I'm feeling Drive a little more today, if only because it more perfectly embodies that 00's 'chillout' spirit.



And that'll be all for today, a little longer than I was expecting but its good to stretch the old writing muscles from time to time isn't it? I might disappear back into the archives for a little more republishing as they've not been too difficult as of yet, it's getting to be that time of year where things get a little busy so it may get a little sparse here and there. Still, I'll try and pop by every so often with more tunes - hope you've found something to pique your interest here and of course, as always, stay safe and enjoy the music.

-CVF

Friday, 29 July 2022

Digital Digging Returns

Apologies for the delay on this one, had a busy couple of days - I did manage to get some old posts republished but nothing major as I had planned to do that old republishing-as-new trick I mentioned in the past. No matter though, I've cooked up some tunes to talk about in the meantime to tide things over. Let's have a look-see.
Emilio Scanavino - Quadro (1972)


Bit of an odd one to start off with, a remix album that sort of... isn't at the same time? What we have here is an album by Komëit - Falling Into Place, only this version has been completely redone by Robert Lippok and titled Falling Into Komëit. I've liked what I've heard from Komëit so far, very much up my street being a slightly obscure electronic act from the early 00's and all. Lippok's treatment of their second LP cranks the ambient parts up to 11 and I am very much into that as well. Take I Can Tell, this reworked version coming out all skeletal and fragile - it's gorgeous stuff, the intro to this one is just lovely.



We're actually keeping that theme going next with a little bit from Roger van Lunteren, although we wouldn't find out for years after the fact. See, Lunteren originally recorded a track called M-2097 in 1996, but it didn't get released until it appeared on his album Satori a good few years later in 2016 Satori. However we actually heard an alternate, once again more ambient version back in 2000 on a compialtion from City Centre Offices called Cashier Escape Route - this version being dubbed N-2097! Which I guess technically makes that one the original and the 2016 release the alternative version. Of the two, this one is my favourite, much like the above it is lovely and suitably spacey in parts, it mostly just feels very warm and comforting in the meantime. City Centre Offices is defunct as a label now so I've had to go with a YT embed for this one, but it's at least from van Lunteren's personal channel.



Saying that, I have been pleasantly surprised what you can find on bandcamp, when I stumbled across the compilation MAS Confusion (a fitting title given the stories above!), I assumed like with so many other compilations it would have to be something I'd sail the seas for. Not true this time, the label it was originally released on has done a great job of archiving most of their releases after relaunching in January of this year - Musik Aus Strom, a creation of Funkstörung. I found this compilation on a recent-ish search for more early 00's IDM stuff and it did not disappoint, the opening salvo of tracks are all great but the opener is exactly what I was looking for when I went on that search for more of that sound. Takes me right back to those late nights working in After Effects.



And that'll be all for this time around, slightly shorter than usual. Hope you've enjoyed the tales and tunes above, I've been hanging onto them for a while now just making sure it all made sense before I wrote it up! I'll be back before long with more but until then, as always, stay safe and enjoy the music.

-CVF

Friday, 22 July 2022

Waxing Nostalgic

I've dipped into the archives and republished some of the very first posts on here recently - and they are an interesting curio of the time, very much still finding their feet in the blog world, and are very much 'blogs' for that matter: former site operator Jordan dropping random thoughts and such in typically teenage fashion. No judgement from me on that front, you can go back and read my posts from when I was 16 and see just how insecure I was back then! But the whole thing got me thinking once more about tunes that hark back to that era - as you may all well know, this blog was founded on French House (which is also how I found it), so lets see what I can dig up that would have gone down a treat back then.

Gerard Fromanger - Violet d’Egypte (1972)


Keeping it modern first with a bit of Macross 82-99. A lot of Macross' work would have been a natural fit for the house lovers of the blog's early days - operating in that 'Future Funk' sphere, his blend of J-Pop and House would have gone down really well I would think. Look no further than tracks like Let It Be Real to evoke that same kind of feeling of yore. It's not quite the most 'French House' example from Sailorwave III now I think about it - that honour goes to That Music that I have posted before - but the whole tape is full of toe-tapping jams that recall that era of blog house. Same could be said for most of the content of the Sailorwave tapes really, but especially III: bite sized slices of retro love letters, with only 1 track that's over 2:50 it's a very easy release to fall in with.



Heading back to soundtrack territory with this next one, Paradise Killer (which has a pretty stellar OST already) got an extra B-sides companion album released back in March that completely went under my Radar. You might expect with a title like Paradise Killer for us to be once again swimming the seas of Synthwave but in actuality there is pretty much none on the OST - plenty of Vaporwave and HOME style synth jams though. If the artwork didn't tip you off already, Paradise Killer also drinks from the same pool of influence as Macross does - the anime influence is much more clear here with big jazzy vocal numbers like its an OVA from the 80s/90s, which as a lover of Gunsmith Cats, Bubblegum Crisis and the eponymous Macross isn't a bad thing at all. In the spirit of the post I've picked Unlimited∞Luv, a self-professed summer jam that wears its house influence on its sleeve if the piano stabs and the 90's wobbly bass didn't tip you off already. I'll end with a quote from the bandcamp page: "We wish we could have an endless summer, dancing all night and for once in our lives, be glad to be alive before the claws of the weight of knowledge and responsibility pierce our flesh once more."



Speaking of heading back, here's another from Umurangi Generation. It's from ThorHighHeels who has come up when I've made this type of post in the past for the album Positive Yellow which is the soundtrack to a PS1 game that never existed. That undercurrent is always there in THH's work, though not always as pronounced as on Positive Yellow. The OSTs for Umurangi Generation and its OST are a little like Sailowave in that its a rapid fire collection of an almost absurd number of tracks, 100+ if I recall right. THH's work has a little bit of an ironic edge to it, as shown here on ESSENTIAL CLUB SOUNDS vol-2 from the title alone - compounded with the Text-to-speech vocal. I can imagine it turning some folk away, but it's worth sticking with as THH has a really good ear for this kind of thing - sit with this one and you're rewarded with a downright euphoric 'drop' come the 15 second mark. Perhaps not totally in line with the classic house theme I was setting up, but this one feels like an interlude from a house record to me, the bassline in particular feels like it was ripped from the late 90's.



And that'll be all for now, as mentioned up top I'm diggin' the archives for the first time in a while so I might end up doing what I've done in the past where I publish them again as 'new' posts as well, or I might just go a little radio silent for a bit longer than usual because some of them are a real pain to fix, especially when the tracks featured no longer exist on the web. But enough of that, hope you've found something to enjoy here, I did stray a little into soundtrack city again but definitely look up Umurangi Generation and Paradise Killer if you're interested, beyond just the soundtracks they are also both very interesting games with slick visuals! And of course, as always, stay safe and enjoy the music.

-CVF 

Monday, 18 July 2022

It's well 'ot

The cruel irony of working with computers is that they too generate heat - this vintage meme pretty much nails it (just replace the gaming part with 3D and video rendering). It's well documented I don't get on well in the heat anyway, but this post isn't going to be me sitting here and complaining at you (but it was important context for the songs on show!). Let's go ahead and get some suitably sweltering songs on the go.
Charles Sheeler - Golden Gate (1955)


Kicking off with a bit of Ceephax, Sidney's Sizzler always seems to crop up quickly whenever you search for anything related to the man, no doubt helped by the wild homemade video he made for it. This was the first track that came to mind when thinking up tracks for this post, beyond just the obvious name it does sound like Ceephax's equipment is on the border of melting throughout - especially with that stumbling breakdown at 2:10 making it sound as if the whole setup is breaking down. A touch more intense than the other Ceephax tracks I've posted in the past but nothing too wild. I've not had the chance to listen to his entire discography as of yet but in my experience there's a strong melodic element that keeps it from going into full on 303 arpeggio territory.



I've been back on a bit of a Soichi Terada thing ever since my last post, and the man has plenty of works that would fit this theme. I've gone with the timeless classic Sun Showered this time though, it's the instrumental mix of one of his breakout hits: Sunshower with Nami Shimada from 1989. I have nothing against Nami's vocal, both versions of the tune are stellar in their own right - but the instrumental really lets Terada's work shine through. I do think it feels a bit empty without the vocal in parts, but I've also mentioned it a ton of times in the past so I figured the instrumental gives a little bit of variety too. Check out the whole compilation this is from if you like the vibe, Sounds From The Far East is a fantastic 'best of' Terada's House works.



Keeping in a similar sort of vein to play us out, we have techno mogul Ian O'Brien. I initially knew him from a spate of remixes and of course Desert Scores, which opens with the homage to his influence taken from Underground Resistance with Mad Mike Disease. I checked out some of his more recent work a little while ago and The High Frontier EP quickly made it onto the ever-growing wishlist. It's a great little 3-tracker going from Tech, to downtempo almost IDM and full on Ambient across the tracklist. They are all lovely tracks but Harmonix really starts the thing off on a high note - it's a distillation of all my favourite bits of the Detroit sound. I say it every time a track like this comes up but I'm just real glad that tracks like this are still being made, absolutely gorgeous stuff.



And that'll about do it for today, the heat is set to continue for a couple of days so I might be able to fit another one of these in before the week is out - in true fashion for me it'll probably be a return to the more downtempo side of things! Hope you find something to love in these selections as I have, and as always - stay safe and enjoy the music.

-CVF

Thursday, 14 July 2022

Down The Road Again

A real retro roundup this time, I was thinking of things I've been listening to recently and wound up landing on another sorta Synthwave selection. I've mentioned in the past how I don't dive into that world much anymore as there was a time when anything vaguely synthwave was a dime a dozen - but after going back to some old Kavinsky records a little while ago, I'd be lying if I said I didn't quite like it a bit. So today I've rounded up some of my other recent favourites both new and old, let's have a look.
Peter Alexander - Ceanothus (2001)


Starting with the new (or new-ish) with a bit of the soundtrack to Road 96, which first came on my radar due to folks talking about the soundtrack. I was sort of surprised to see The Toxic Avenger on there, I hadn't heard that name since the remix heyday of the electro house era. And actually you can hear that influence on Home Call, it shares much more in common with Kavinsky's brand of Electro than it does your average Synthwave, which for me does wonders when it comes to evoking that nostalgia that Road 96 is going for. That intro is divine.



Hitting up Mitch Murder next, I've always described his take on the whole retro electronic sound as very honest, and that's very true for his early releases. The After Hours EP from 2009 was actually Mitch's first, the version on his Bandcamp is quote "slightly remastered" and with redone cover art that is more in line with Mitch's now established look. I've posted bits and pieces from it before but honestly every track on here is very well done - I've gone with Bertone's Theme this time around, a much poppier take on the sound than you might be used to. In keeping with that retro theme, it almost sounds like a DMX Krew track at times with that funky undercurrent. I gotta echo what one of the reviews says on the Bandcamp page, even from this early release you can tell the man has an ear for this kind of thing. And as I say so often on this page, if you like this, you would do well to check out all of MM's output - a lot of his early releases are Pay What You Want so you can scoop them for free if you'd like.



And finally, I can't talk early synthwave without bringing up Perturbator - perhaps one of the biggest names attached to the genre. It's not hard to see why, the covers for these early albums and EPs lean hard into the 80's sleaze and cheese: dripping with images recalling the satanic panic, slasher flicks, sci-fi and sofcore porn. I put the albums back into rotation after a long absence, they're still excellent examples of the genre for sure (my favourite still being The Uncanny Valley) and I've found myself liking the slow jams on them more and more this time around. Last Kiss being one such example, following a very cinematic structure, it takes its time building an atmosphere before lavishly laying on the synths come the 2 minute mark. A complete 180 to the previous track Complete Domination featuring another synthwave heavyweight Carpenter Brut - that one is all about instant intensity whereas Last Kiss is a much more of a mood piece. Maybe it's my soundtrack side taking over, but these bits have been the definite highlights of my revisit.



And that'll be all for today, I hope you've enjoyed this very brief dip into the world of retro electro, there's a whole lot more out there to get stuck into but I think I did a decent job of showing some variety here, especially if you've not encountered any of these artists before. I'll be back soon enough. with more but until next time, as always, stay safe and enjoy the music.

-CVF

Monday, 11 July 2022

Apes: Escaped (A VGM DJ Set Special)

I've talked before about Ape Escape, and more importantly its composer - Soichi Terada. Likewise, I've also mentioned Dedeco as well - thanks to my recent descent back into the world of the PS1. I don't mean to sound reductive, Terada has a long production history beyond just Ape Escape, with his own label Far East Recordings and plenty of House records under his belt (and his most recent release being this year). But that is how I and many others were first introduced to the man's works. His brand of D&B is lovely, different from what might come to mind when you think of the era's soundtracks but at the same time fitting right in. I seriously recommend the OSTs even if you're not into games at all as they stand alone very well, case in point here when Dedeco opens the mix with a snippet of the opening theme before diving right into Cryptic Relics, one of my all time favourites from the first OST. This mix is incredibly well thought out, Dedeco is obviously very familliar with the content and does a fantastic job of making them flow together - this ain't just some nostalgia bait.



That's not all either, as pointed out in the video before the mix starts, there's a commentary track of an interview with Terada himself (it's not by Dedeco however as he mentions in the YT description, I believe they are quoted from this interview with Nick Dwyer). It's kind of an odd way to present it I thought, but after a couple mins I settled right in, after all you can't have audio playing over audio in this format. If it wasn't obvious already, he really went above and beyond with this mix. I'm glad that Terada is open to talking about stuff like this for what is relatively a small-time act, especially as he mentions in the interview he's trying to take a more relaxed approach these days. Dedeco obviously impressed as well, with Terada tweeting out in both Japanese and English his praise for the mix not long after!



If you like what you hear above, the two Ape Escape OSTs that Terada worked on are readily available on streaming (I'll be linking to Spotify here but they are on others) - they are the punnily titled Ape Escape Originape Soundtracks and Ape Escape 3 - Originape Soundtracks. Of course I definitely recommend his solo work from there, a lot of it is not on streaming sites but if you're after more of the Ape Escape feel then seek out Sumo Jungle for more delicious D&B. There is also Terada's Omodaka alias, where he fuses the traditional and the technological in very interesting ways, check that out if you're in the mood for some chiptune Enka!

That'll be all for today, I'll be back soon enough with more but until then, as always, stay safe and enjoy the music.

-CVF

Friday, 8 July 2022

Retro Reviews: µ-Ziq - Lunatic Harness

It's been a while since I sat down and did one of these long form Retro Reviews, and there's been one album staring me i nthe face all this time that I can't really figure out why I didn't do one of it already, though I think I might have done a quick overview of it way back when. Regardless, we're here now - taking a look at µ-Ziq's 4th LP, Lunatic Harness, which is especially topical because like Daft Punk's Homework it is also getting an expanded reissue this year.



I have always loved the cover art, it's very iconic and very well composed. I will admit that I have a weakness for Helvetica in all its forms, but the way it pops on that orange background is just lovely. It's a bit odd for this series for me to dive into the middle of things, normally we start with debuts or maybe even second albums, but fourth ones is a bit of an oddity. Widely considered some of Mike Paradinas' best work, this album is a great jumping in point if you're new, and home to some of my favourite 'IDM' jams for this era.

Yet Lunatic Harness is a record I have a complicated relationship with, for what seems like a very silly reason now I'm preparing to type it out. As many of you know, I typically shuffle my entire collection when listening day-to-day - For many years, the music player I was using didn't have the capability to remember where I left off, so would re-shuffle every time I started it up. This isn't a bad thing in and of itself, where the problem comes in is how it would shuffle - it would always start alphabetically by artist, which means I have heard the opening bars of Brace Yourself Jason and others perhaps thousands of times. But if I power through the sections I've been overexposed to, the LP is just as good as ever.



Tastefully skirting the balance between your more intense IDM, the main memory that comes to mind for me when I think of Lunatic Harness is the strong melodic streak that it has - this does wonders to make the album more accessible but is also just a really great addition to the soundscape. The first 5 tracks all do a wonderful job of showing this off, as you might have heard on Brace Yourself Jason, but my favourite has always and will always be Hasty Boom Alert, which effortlessly dances between the madcap beats emblematic of this time in the history of IDM and these lovely, airy synths that make the whole thing feel a lot lighter. The little section after the break at 2:03 where they get to take the lead is just divine.



I try not to draw comparisons between Aphex Twin and µ-Ziq too often, but its inevitable that it will come up at some point, the two's sounds are of course quite similar and they have also collaborated in the past as well. It comes up now because I think that Mushroom Compost carries with it that same kind of playful messing around that appeared on Aphex's Richard D. James Album, more in the vein of Fingerbib than the slide whistles of Logan Rock Witch. That said, I wouldn't want to write this one off as 'just' one of those tunes though, the same melodic streak I mentioned just above in once again on full display and makes it an absolute joy to listen to.



Moving on to the title track - Lunatic Harness kicks off with a marked difference in sound, in which Mike Paradinas cuts & pastes and otherwise tweaks a sample from Fat Boys' Human Beat Box from 1984 for a full minute, my favourite part being the glitched out section around 53 seconds in. After that though, it's a return to the same light synth sound as before, though the sample crops up a couple more times throughout. It's an interesting spin for sure, but one that I could understand might turn some off. I know there's been plenty of times where I've hit skip because I didn't really feel the intro, which is a shame becuase at it's heart it's another good addition to the tracklist.



Speaking of changes in sound, there's an even more drastic one coming up next - all the light and melodic synths of before go out of the window with Approaching Menace. Befitting of its name, the intro alone gives away that this is going to a different beast that what came before. It comes a little out of left-field and there's not really anything else like it in terms of sound on the album - but this little bit of intensity nestled about halfway through the tracklist is certainly a highlight. Incredibly rough 'round the edges and with two feet firmly planted in the experimental breakbeat side of the IDM world - I could understand this being a bit of a sticking point for some folk who've fallen in love with the atmosphere of the other tracks, personally I still like it quite a bit because I think it absolutely nails the atmosphere set up by the title.



Rounding out with a couple more melodic entries with the Secret Stair parts. Part 1 shows off that melodic side to this album once again, that synth sound that was so prominent on tracks like Hasty Boom Alert is here again and I absolutely adore it. Around the 1:25 mark we again return to familiar territory with some breakbeat accompaniment, I think the way it fades into the mix can feel a little odd coming back to it - it sort of overpowers the melodics before they come back together in a kind of harmony. I've listened to it for so long that I'm just used to it by now though. Part 2 is similar, albeit a little more sedate. There's no breakbeat on the sequel (or at least, not the extent of part one), instead opting for more of that sort of Aphex-esque styling of the Richard D James Album era as mentioned before.





Unfortunately the wheels fall off a bit in the latter half of the album for me, I've always felt this way about it actually. I could never get on with a couple of the final few: Wannabe is a bit cacophonous, coming out like a hybrid of the Aphex Twin tracks I posted above and that one abstract jazz record Squarepusher did called Music Is Rotted One Note - by the midpoint we get a (presumably Paradinas') whispered vocal stating Wanna be your lover baby, I don't wanna be your friend, a line more suited to something from DMX Krew and not this darkness that is Wannabe. I can tolerate it for about as long as it takes to get to the midpoint but it loses me not long after. London takes things in a slightly more abstract orchestral direction, one that µ-Ziq would continue on the follow up album Royal Astronomy - twinned with a fairly generic 'IDM' bassy accompaniment come the two minute mark. It's not bad as it were, but it certainly isn't Hasty Boom Alert.



The other two final tracks I have a bit more of a warm reception to, Catkin And Teasel once again bringing that playful feeling back into the mix, twinned with some suitably ludicrous beat work that you've probably become accustomed to at this point. It's a fun listen for sure, but one that's easy to overdo very quickly, having played through the LP a couple of times in the writing of this I have found myself growing tired of the rising-and-falling motif that introduces the track - granted there are plenty of other elements to distract from it. Midwinter Log closes the album in much the same fashion, it's a tour de force of all the elements of the album thus far, even carrying with it some signposts to the sound µ-Ziq would adopt on the follow up. They're fine tracks, but I still do think the album's opening quarter is the strongest.





Worth noting that this 25th anniversary edition includes some bonus tracks and the Brace Yourself and My Little Beautiful EPs as well. I haven't had a chance to spin the bonus tracks yet but I can heartily recommend the EPs if you like the content of the main LP - I love the stylistic synchronicity between them and the main album as seen above, it really makes the releases feel part of a larger body of work with different 'flavours' as it were. Some of my favourites from the additional EPs to round things out: Summer Living which could easily slot into that strong first quarter on the main album and would have been a nice bridge into Approaching Menace (Curiously it's titled Summer Living 2 on this re-release).



Abmoit takes things in a surprisingly ambient turn for µ-Ziq, I think this one would have made for a great album closer, it's very pretty sounding, even when juxtaposed against a rough 'n steady beat later on - very much embodying the quote on the Bandcamp page of "atmospheres of ethereal colour and shimmering melody", true for a lot of the album but especially so here. The same goes for the Reprise of Brace Yourself, which IMO should have been the album closer, and not just because it's a spin off of the original track, though it would have made a nice bookend in that respect. Something about the reprise just feels much more climactic than Midwinter Log which would make sense as its the final track of the EP and all - but even then it still just kind of 'ends' abruptly.





And that'll about do it for this time, it's been a long time since I've done one of these so apologies for the length! I'm happy to see plenty of artists taking the chance to do more with their anniversary editions, be it including demos and remixes or accompanying EPs as above rather than just a plain reissue/remaster. As I stated before, if you're new to µ-Ziq this is a great jumping in point, its still my favourite but I think a large part of that is because it was my first proper listen to his work as well. A fantastic and relatively accessible entry in the world of 'IDM', Lunatic Harness is definitely worth a listen - be you new to the genre or just looking for some new additions to your library.

I'll be back around soon enough but until next time, as always, stay safe and enjoy the music.

-CVF