Thursday 31 December 2020

You Are Now Leaving 2020

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And as always, stay safe and enjoy the music.


Thursday 24 December 2020

Wrapped Up - A Second Wintery Mixtape

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

Ivan Shishkin - In The Wild North (1891)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Sunday 20 December 2020

Rifts Revisited

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

Sunday 13 December 2020

Taking Stock

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

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

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

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

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

And as always, stay safe and enjoy the music.


Sunday 6 December 2020

Extended Play

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

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

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

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

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

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

And as always, stay safe and enjoy the music.