Wednesday, 29 June 2022

Winter Wishing

Hitting that point of the season where I get pretty sick of it. Me and Summer don't get on, heat makes me super irritable and it's just plain uncomfortable. Figured I also owed you another quick post as I've since realised the Soundcloud players in the last post aren't available worldwide for extra annoyance. So let's take a trip down to the chill side of things, might not be cold in person but at least we can keep it cool on the audio front.

Eyvind Earle - Red Barn and Tree Trunk (1974)


Starting with another entry in the 'let's see what artists I have single tracks of from compilations are up to' - Reporter with a release that's a touch on the obscure side. Reportedly released in 2008 but there's no discogs listing for it, Seasonal Rhythms is perhaps a bit of a digital deep cut, I'm one of only 7 other people who own it. A lovely little EP that hits all of my favourite early 2000s chill notes, from the album art down to the tracks themselves. It didn't take long - from the intro of track 1, the aptly titled Winter Sunlight, I was enamoured. Think of it as a tone setter for this post, its certainly one that I've had kicking around in my head for a little while.



Dipping into ambient territory a little next with another aptly titled release - Whatever The Weather, ambient focused side project of Loraine James. I've not spent a lot of time with this album, I did almost pick it up on my last Bandcamp trip - it's been a while since I got any new ambient stuff and its a genre I have a well documented love for. It takes a brief excursion into Drum & Bass territory on 17°C, but otherwise the whole thing is very lush. I've gone with opening track 25°C, again a perfect mood setter and again an apt title. Fittingly a little bit warmer feeling than the usual ambient that I post, I recommend the full thing if you're looking for more lushness like this.



Something I've been sat on for a little while now, the upcoming Gimmik LP. Since I started following there's been no shortage of new releases coming out of the Gimmik camp - Sonic Poetry being the latest coming later next month. The title track is the only one up for preview at the moment, and it kicks off in suitably IDM fashion, no surprises there if you're at all familiar with his output over the years. Gimmik has always done a great job of hitting the exact balance between the melodic and the glitchy elements that I like when it comes to IDM style works and Sonic Poetry certainly doesn't disappoint on that front.

The waves of melody introduced around the 50 second mark are just lovely, but when they get layered up around 1:20 or so they become divine. Things get a little acidic in the latter half too to keep things fresh, couple that with an extended ambient outro and before long that 6 minute runtime has just melted away. Mark me down as quite excited for the full thing.





Swinging back around to another aptly titled example, a little more from Alucidnation. It's been a long time since I picked up Get Lost and if I'm completely honest I'm not sure why I haven't picked up more in the meantime, it's always been a good time whenever I've returned to it. My usual go-to from the track list is The Message, a firm holder of its place on my 'Coffee Shop Electronic' playlist, but really you can drop the metaphorical needle anywhere on it and have a good time it's a great downtempo record. Enter 15 Below, of the same school as the Whatever The Weather track up top, a cosy number to wrap yourself in for when the cold comes. It does cut off slightly abruptly as it mixes into the next track, but that's all the more reason to check out the whole thing if you like what you hear!



And that'll be all for this time, went a little longer than usual in order to make up for the player issues for those of you not in Europe on the last post. Just proof-reading over a preview now and I really like how all the album art for this one looks, very in keeping with the theme, I'd like to say it was intentional but I also can't complain! Hope you enjoy some of these tunes as much as I do but until next time, as always, stay safe and enjoy the music.

Sunday, 26 June 2022

Revisiting Röyksopp

Röyksopp - long time favourites of mine and tied with a couple of other artists for being the oldest additions to my collection. They are back after a long abscence - after intiially bidding farewell to the traditional album format with The Inevitable End, they've come back around and released a new LP. They didn't stop in the interim though, they might have been down with albums but there was a steady stream of content from them. In true Van Foxbat™ fashion though, this post isn't going to be about the new LP, but instead a collection of their works I really like.
We're kicking off with Ice Machine - originally from their Late Night Tales compilation (and a televised live perfomance before that), but would also appear later on the Lost Tapes series. It's one of the early examples of them working with Susanne Sundfør, who you might recognise from her contributions to some M83 tracks, Sundfør is actually the main inspiration behind this post - but more on that later. Her vocal very well suits the Röyksopp sound of this era, shifting from the all-out electropop of Junior to something more closer to the electronic that inspired them in the first place - leading to this Depeche Mode cover. It's tradition for artists who do a Late Night Tales compilation to include a cover on them which can lead to some interesting spins on things, things are played fairly true to the original here though.



Moving forward in time to Susanne Sundfør's album Ten Love Songs - it's not wholly electronic, but the electronic parts are by far and away my favourites, top of that list being Fade Away. I've chosen Slowly for this post not just because it fits that bill, but also according to the credits Röyksopp did some additional production work for it. If you've listened to them for as long as I have you might not have even needed me to say that, their handiwork is quite evident here to my ears. Sundfør's vocal suits this style of electronic so well, (one that might yet get another revival if this retro trend continues) she's yet another in a long chain of vocalists I've been introduced to from Röyksopp records.



And of course, I couldn't do a whole post of Röyksopp/Sundfør without mentioning Never Ever, one of their first releases post-The Inevitable End. I actually talked about it on the podcast we used to do way back when, and having quickly gone back to listen to it my thoughts are pretty much the same as they were then: I loved Junior a whole lot, to the point where I still hold it up as a fine example of electronic pop done right - Never Ever continues that same trend - deviously catchy with a shout-out chorus, it's obviously gunning more for that 'summer radio dance anthem' angle of yore (Doubly so with the ironically retro music video). But I don't mind that at all - as I said at the time, I thought if Röyksopp planned to stop doing albums and just drop singles like this every now and then was the plan, it was a pretty good one.



And that'll be all for today, I suppose I should follow this up with an overview of their new album but who knows, maybe I'll end up doing a Retro Review of Junior instead! If this is your first proper exposure to Röyksopp, please note that not all their discography is like this, if electropop isn't much your thing I would still recommend their debut Melody A.M., it's one of the finest 'chillout' albums of the early 2000s - packed with ear-worms and some songs you will definitely recognise. That'll be all for now, I'll be back soon enough with more but until then, as always, stay safe and enjoy the music.

-CVF

Tuesday, 21 June 2022

Whiteout

Forgive me, for I am about to do another one of my classic extended talks about the latest example of sounds perfectly suiting the aesthetics of what its soundtracking - like I did with VA-11 Hall-A and Hotline Miami before it. Today we're talking Neon White, a speedrunny shooter dealio from the creator of Donut County - a bit of a thematic shift to say the least. I was charmed by the demo a few months back, while I haven't gotten around to playing the full thing yet, I've been keeping tabs on it and more specifically, the soundtrack.
It's by Machine Girl, who have cropped up on my recommends a few times but as is so often the case with me, I haven't really bothered to check them out in any detail really - a quick browse through their discogs page will give you a quick visual rundown: a dazzling mixture of retro anime, PC-98 screenshots and vibrant colours, like a Vaporwave record dropped in sugar. Take Lillith for example, the track used in the announce trailer (or at least a tweaked version of it) - the first 20 seconds of which are a bit of a fakeout that gives way to a burst of breakcore that doesn't let up for the remainder of its runtime. A crash course in the world of Machine Girl, and setting us up for the sounds to come.



It'd be easy to assume that they'd just collect a bunch of tracks like that and call it a day, not the case here though - instead we have 51(!) tracks split over two albums to compliment the experience. We open with Glass Ocean, very obviously from the same school of sound as Lillith but a little bit softer, a bit more dreamy perhaps - more Drum & Bass than Breakcore. I also feel like Machine Girl are leaning into their videogame influences here something heavy, to be expected as it is a soundtrack to a videogame after all: the arcade-esque vocal shoutout of "Aim for the heavens!" and the wild synth noodling at 1:50 doing wonders to cement that feel.



It's not long before the intensity is ramped back up tho, next track on the list Virtual Paradise rockets back into that territory, perhaps even straying into more conventional IDM in parts as well. It too is the perfect soundscape for the gameplay, ripping through stylised environments in a flurry of violence; "Feel the rush!" as another well placed vocal sample says during a breakdown in the latter quarter. I've talked before about how soundtracks are a great way to introduce people to genres they might otherwise have missed, I'd love to see how many people find out they like this kind of electronic by playing the game!



I'm purposefully drip feeding myself tracks in order not to overdo it before I even have the chance to sit down and play it myself (likewise, expect more from these OSTs to come up in the near future) - thought I'd shift gears for my last choice to one of the more sedate tracks that accompanies the conversation parts of the game. Even then it's not by much, Heaven Central Authority starts out nice enough, but its not long before it all gets a bit shelf rattling with a deep bassline and some Trap trimmings. I've seen people mention in the reviews that these albums are basically really extended Machine Girl albums so if any of these tracks pique your interest you will find plenty more where that came from, and a reminder to myself to eventually check their fill discogs out myself.



And that'll be all for now, hope you like some of these cuts as much as I do, and even if the game doesn't interest you I would still recommend the soundtrack as it stands alone - there's even one review over on Bandcamp saying pretty much that. This week is shaping up to be pretty chaotic so it might be a little while before I'm back with more - but until then, as always, stay safe and enjoy the music.

-CVF

Sunday, 12 June 2022

(Not) The Final Friday - Part Two

It's been about a month since I did part one of the final Friday, so not only is it high time I actually get around to part two but also between then and now Bandcamp laid out their plans for the continuation of Bandcamp Fridays going forward. In short, it's not every month from now on, which is a fair compromise to make I'd say. With that out of the way, let's take a look at what I had leftover from last time.
Hasui Kawase - Kozu, Osaka (1924)


Let's start with somethin' new, DMX Krew dropped this album the day before if I recall right so I took a look at it. The cover was quite inviting, long time readers will know I love me some electroclash and this cover would have been right at home in that era of sleazy glamour - and I would be very interested in hearing Ed take on some of the themes explored in that sphere. You don't have to wait long for that to be true, opening title track Party Life is very much in that spirit - look no further than the chorus for a summary of the vibe: "This Party Life, it doesn't mean a thing to me - or you". I've mentioned in the past how DMX embraces the cheese of the retro electronic that forms his usual output, but something about Party Life feels very earnest - perhaps I've been too flippant in the past, Ed's vocal really suits this sound.



Turning back the clock for the next one with a bit from Kaito circa 2002. I really gelled with this record, coming hot off the heels of my fall back in with Swayzak I must have been in the mood for a little bit more of that tech house flavour, Special Life more than delivered with it's mixture of Deep / Tech House, with a little sprinkling of Trance on top for extra. Some tracks perhaps a little long in the tooth, but they're usually so catchy that I don't mind - the whole album feels very sleek and polished, a real embodiment of that hi-tech vibe making the rounds in the early 00's. Perfect for soundtracking, if you like the opening track, go ahead and dive right in and you will not be disappointed. Of note as well is the sister album to Special Life - Special Love, which is made up of ambient versions of the tracks from this album - all lovely listens and as the bandcamp page mentions, a great DJ tool.



Keeping things House for the time being, I also scooped the other entry in Macross 82-99's Sailorwave Trilogy. There really isn't a lot to say that I didn't already mention last time - just when I think I'm done with House for a while, a track like Sakura will come on and inevitably get me toe-tapping again. Wearing his heart on his sleeve here, Sakura isn't shy about it's Shibuya-kei and J-Pop influences, but it's not saccharine sweet like that combination might suggest. Tracks like this share a lot with the kind of House we were posting around the 2010s, the whole 'French Touch' revival with artists like Louis La Roche and company so be aware there is a bit of bias on my part when picking them out - I recommend checking out the whole thing for a little more variety, spread across the trilogy there are small moments of ambient, vaporwave and little lo-fi breaks to enjoy!



And finally, something a little more uptempo to round out. I went down a bit of a DnB rabbit hole recently after the last big VGM roundup I did. I went searching for something a little more in the vein of Soichi Terada's work, it's a big world out there and for all the D&B in my collection, it's basically a drop in the ocean. Enter The Self Evident Truth Of An Intuitive Mind, an album I heard nothing but good things about, held up as a classic of the genre but I had never heard of it until not too long ago. This remastered version on bandcamp is extended slightly from the original release and is also a complete steal at a minimum of $1. I've chosen Trapezium as my track of choice, it's a short sharp demo of the breakbeat butchery on display here, with the lovely opening showing off the more melodic side of the album as well. I was originally going to post opening track Circle, but it does take a little while to get going - it's a fantastic album opener don't get me wrong, but I wanted to get straight to the chase as it were. Definitely give it a spin if you're looking for a little more D&B, if you listen to it front to back as intended it all flows together all silky smooth like, which is why this one cuts off so abruptly.



And that'll be all for now, apologies for the delay between parts, as I mentioned before we hit a rough streak at my IRL work and a bunch of posts fell through the cracks, I'm well on my way to being caught up now though. I hope between part one and this post you've found some new tunes for your library, I've certainly enjoyed what turned out to be a revisit to them! I'll be back soon enough with more but until next time, as always, stay safe and enjoy the music.

-CVF

Thursday, 9 June 2022

Right on Time

Every year I plan to put this track up, and every year I miss it by a day or so before I realise. But not this year! A little let down by it not being on BC so we'll have to make do with a YT player this time around, but small potatoes really. Join me as we listen to June 9th by Boards Of Canada on the date in question - if you're familliar with the BoC boys, you'll find this one quite a bit different, hailing from the early days of their career on Skam records, it's much more techno than the ambient trip hop that they'd later become known for. There's some real gold among those early releases, tracks like this one and Chinook have this very different feel but there's still that underlying BoC DNA in there.



It can be a pretty deep rabbit hole to go down, there's a lot of BoC material before their first 'official' releases (and more than a couple of forgeries as well) - it's incredible to be able to chart their progression over the decades, the tunes mentioned above are from around the time they were switching gears into the sound they're known for today so it's a little bit easier to hear there. And that's all I've got for you today! Apologies for the super short post, I'll be back this weekend with a more substantial entry but until then, as always, stay safe and enjoy the music.

-CVF

Tuesday, 7 June 2022

Same Name Game 2

You ever stumble across a note that you'd left yourself and just plain forgotten about? that's what this post is. Around the same time I made the first version of this post I must have made a second draft for a sequel that then got buried under other posts. There was nothing to it other than a cursory list of tracks so I figured I'd come in and flesh it out, and here we are.
Claudio Bravo - Mystic Package (1967)


The main limiting factor for this one is that some of the tracks aren't on my usual bandcamp players, but that's not the end of the world. It's also not the case for this first one either. Kicking off with a bit from Kavinsky's delayed debut. After a string of home-run EPs I was very excited for Kavinsky to drop an album, which eventually came to be in OutRun. OutRun is... fine. I told myself at the time its just because I was getting a little sick of the retro electro aesthetic but even on revisiting it my opinion remains the same. By far and away the best tracks here are the ones that were already on EPs that came before, but there are a couple standouts in the original camp as well. Don't let that put you off if you've never listened to Kavinsky before, the album is a great starting point. Since originally making notes for this post the man has announced a second album as well, and the single from it is very nice. Here's one of the standout originals, Blizzard.



From there we hit up Light Club, with one of the many tracks from Hotline Miami that are seared into my brain. Their Blizzard is a perfect addition to the sequel's soundtrack, very befitting of the more surreal direction that it took. Slightly off kilter, I think I could best describe it as nervous trap, a great choice to set the atmosphere for the scenes with dialogue. Sadly, like a lot of artists from the Hotline Miami OSTs, there hasn't been a release from Light Club in nigh on 10 years at this point, though a quick thumb-through of Discogs tells me that one half of the duo is still pretty active. I always think that's a bit of a shame, if you really dug the vibe of the OSTs like I did and go looking for more you can find that well dries up pretty quickly. Having said that, some of them are still at it, M.O.O.N. of Hydrogen fame has just dropped a new album for example.



A duet of Close Your Eyes next, first with Circ. I've talked about Circ's one and only album at length in a Retro Review and my feelings remain pretty much the same - if you like slightly kitsch early 2000's electropop as much as I do then you will find a lot to love. Echoing my thoughts from last time as well, the standout moment is still that incredible and obviously euphoric trance inspired breakdown around 2 minutes in - between that and the rest of the track its a great little capsule that is a distillation of the era's 'dance music' sound (see also, the very of-the-era music video) in my mind it's in the same ballpark as records like Mylo's Destroy Rock & Roll for example.



Speaking of, we're going to head over to The Chemical Brothers' Push The Button next, an album that I've thought about doing it's own retro review of. It's a bit of a mixed bag in my opinion, but one that's a little overlooked at the same time - look past overplayed tracks like Galvanize and there's some really great moments on here, my favourite being the spectacular closer Surface To Air. Close Your Eyes follows a similar kind of arc though, a real slow burn that builds to a post-rock-esque crescendo - not always my preferred way of things but sometimes it hits the spot just right, and when it does it's lovely.



Trying to make up for the back-to-back YT players with a little bonus, first things first kicking things more downtempo with my local hero Nightmares On Wax. Taken from Thought So... it has a little bit of a different sound to the albums before and after it, and a big part of that is probably down to how the thing was recorded - the whole album is a series of sessions recorded along the way as N.O.W moved from the U.K. over to Spain. This gives the whole thing this really interesting jovial 'live' quality, it feels like one big jam session and you're along for the ride.



And finally a bit of UNKLE, specifically their first album when it was a collaboration between James Lavelle and DJ Shadow. Psyence Fiction is a great little album, it was supposed to be getting an anniversary reissue a couple years back if I remember right but nothing seems to have come of it. Regardless if you are at all into 90's trip hop or are even just a fan of DJ Shadow it's certainly worth your time, Shadow's influence is very pronounced on it. Unreal is one of my favourite tracks from the LP, and there is also a sort of 'bonus' version on the end titled Be There, featuring Ian Brown of The Stone Roses on the vocal front. It feels very natural in its execution, it's not like the vocal has just been hastily overdubbed or anything - Ian's voice suits this sound really well, it's a collaboration I'd have liked to have seen more of, with UNKLE or a similar act.



And that'll be all for this time, I think I used up all my 'same name' ammo for a little while now! A little bit more of an eclectic mix this time around, but I hope you've enjoyed these tracks as much as I have putting this all together. I'm hoping to get back on track with the posting schedule so keep an eye out for more but until then, as always, stay safe and enjoy the music.

-CVF

Sunday, 5 June 2022

Like a Flashback

And odd sequence of events a couple days ago led to me getting back in touch with a bunch of old Ilictronix crew and friends - we did a little catchup here and there which was nice, we'd all fallen out of touch a long time ago. And that's not for any particular reason, more a case of us all having our own lives now (plus the US / Europe timezone divide between us doesn't help either). A lot of them are still making music so I figured why not take some time to look at them in more detail? After all, I've kept tabs on some of them but regrettably never really posted any so let's change that.


Enter Luin, those of you who have been around here for a long time may recognise the name Boba Fettuccini and their associated netlabel Power Glove Records. They were also part of the writing team way back when, we'd not always see eye-to-eye on all things (and to be fair, I was a bit of an obnoxious teen mad into Dubstep so understandable!) but I liked that, the beauty of the team back then was the variety we had elsewhere in our libraries beyond the uniting House that brought us here in the first place, I made tons of new discoveries that way.

Luin's work now is much more in line with how I remembered her non-House interests and contributions, a lot of Crystal Castles and the like. To quote her Discogs page: "Luin blends frank emotional honesty and existential dread with post-industrial, new wave and house influences". You need look no further than her latest Bandcamp offering, a 'live' version of Undead put together with bits and pieces from several live takes - don't let that description put you off, the finished piece is very clean. Luin totally nails the vibe outlined in her description, it feels very cinematic too, reminds me a lot of Gary Numan's Bed Of Thorns and some of the other tracks chosen for that GITS compilation. Though I must admit, Luin's has a more satisfying conclusion.



I mentioned this to her in our little exchange, but the aesthetics of her new work is on point as well, I have a weakness for Glitch anyway as its the kind of art I make already, but the use of it like here on Sync is beautifully done. On that point as well, something that really shines on these tracks is the sheer cathartic nature behind them - tracks like Sync exude this powerful, almost palpable rawness that I myself have tried to capture in the past. The rawness is compounded even more with the methodology behind this track, as noted on the Bandcamp page it was put together on a 24 hour turnaround.



And finally, Resigned To Rust, which plays out a little bit like a Freezepop track albeit with that now expected darkness behind it. Listening back to write about it for this post I get a little bit of an ADULT. feeling from the lyrical delivery to boot. It's great to see still active after all this time, doubly so after following up on a bunch of artists we used to know and finding so many dead links or abandoned profiles. To quote a little bit from our exchange - she's out there 'making the music I always wanted to make but felt I couldn't'.



And that'll be all for now, I have might have another one of these to come yet so keep an eye out for that coming soon. In the meantime I hope you've enjoyed this little foray into the past and more importantly look forward to the future. Until next time, as always, stay safe and enjoy the music.

-CVF

Thursday, 2 June 2022

Era

We're taking another deep dive into my digital archives this time with another visit to Echochamber's work - a very short lived project with only a few releases to their name (including one that used to be on bandcamp but no longer is). Today we'll be looking at their final offering, a 'compilation mixtape' called Era - don't let the album art fool you, this isn't a Vaporwave record. I've spent a lot of time with it recently, it's the kind of release that lends itself well to my kind of listening where I just hit shuffle and hold on tight. Let's take a look at some selections from it.



The reviews on the BC page both mention it being a lo-fi hip hop release, which is partially true, but don't lump this in with your dime a dozen YouTube producers of that kind of thing. Much like I'm Real, I'm Here that I've covered previously, it occasionally dips into more House style territory. Maybe it's just because I've been listening to a lot of Swayzak lately, but tracks like Iv feel like they are kind of in the same boat. It's a great atmosphere setter, the whole thing feels very handmade which I've come to really enjoy, a great contrast to my recent hi-tech postings.



I'm hopping around the tracklist here and my bias for the more downtempo side of things is very much influencing my choices here so bear that in mind. That's part of the appeal of this release for me though, from the bombastic trappings of Shimmering Black to the much more sedate bracketfive [low battery mix], this compilation covers a ton of ground in its 25 tracks. The lo-fi DIY feel really works here on bracketfive, that intro is delightfully fuzzy and makes for a very dreamy atmosphere.



Let's shine a light on the other side of the compilation now, heading into that hip hop direction. We're not doing a breakneck dive in though, I figure I'd bridge the gap a little bit, which I think Beyond The Yeb does very well indeed. It reminds me a fair bit of the kind of lounge-house that appeared on some of Guidance Recordings' compilations, Echochamber's work has a real ear for melodies which I think is really neat, helps to break that lo-fi cliché of it being 100% sample based. Speaking of, Beyond also breaks trend with my previous choices above, there's no looming analogue haze here and things don't sound super compressed - it was the right choice to make here, the clarity really lets the intricacies of this one shine and freshens up the tracklist nicely.



Let's finish that dive now with Mind Occure, we're back in compressed territory but it sounds just as great as ever. Bursting onto the forefront at around 15 seconds, the intro makes a very strong impression. I've not mentioned it as of yet, but a lot of the tracks on Era are fairly short which sort of goes hand-in-hand with the previously established 'indie compilation mixtape' style that it has, but its by far and away the most prominent here out of all my choices so far. Around the 1:47 mark, Mind Occure gets switched up, you can still hear its relation to the 'original' though - not content with just that, we get another switch up at 2:29, where the tune comes to a sudden stop and changes groove completely before fading out. This 'cobbled together' approach is charming, if a little jarring at first listen.



And finally, one proper lo-fi sample based tune for the road. Easily the most stereotypical lo-fi hip hop track on here, you've probably heard tunes like Rituals a million times before. And yet I can't deny that I have a fondness for them, despite being overplayed and all, sometimes a little dollop of somethin' like this just hits the spot. Echochamber's choice of sample here is on point, it has a really nice groove and it gets played with in interesting ways to keep it fresh. I can't really fault them for including this, given the sheer variety on show with the other tracks I've mentioned its not like it was a phoned in addition to pad out the runtime.



And that'll be all for today, hope you've enjoyed this little look into the archives with me, Era is an absolute bargain at $3, well worth picking up if you've enjoyed my brief overview today. Apologies for the slight delay, it's about this time of year we get busy in my line of work, and it's been the first proper 'return' to things for a couple of years so it's been pretty flat out. I've set aside some time to knock out a couple of posts this weekend though and I'll schedule them out as and when. But until then, as always, stay safe and enjoy the music.

-CVF