Tuesday 9 February 2021

Always Returning

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

Grace Cossington Smith - Bed Time (1922)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And as always - stay safe and enjoy the music.


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