Tuesday 27 April 2021

Charity Run 02.1

Returning with the second part, the one that wqas actually originally supposed to be first but proved a little... complicated. See, I came back to this charity compilation after an old post of mine on Ochre had the soundcloud player break, so I went to look up other sources and found the bandcamp for it, 'oh neat, that'd make a decent post sometime' I thought. So I started scrolling down to find the Ochre track. And I kept scrolling. And scrolling... And scrolling...

Somehow along the way I'd forgotten that this compialtion is TWO HUNDRED AND FIFTY FOUR TRACKS!, and the min price is only £15 - and let me tell you I've paid much more for much less in the past. The cynic in you is probably saying 'Ah, but I bet there's a load of filler', and I'll admit I felt that way a bit at first - but a quick gander at the tracklist should set you at ease, sure there are lots of acts I've never heard of but nestled between them are some very big names indeed, and a fair chunk of the Warp crew both past and present. From my quick scroll you have: 808 State, Autechre, Arovane, B12, Bibio, DMX Krew, Luke Vibert, Machinedrum, Mira Calix, Orbital, The Future Sound Of London and even µ-Ziq at the very end.

A lot of these only appear on this comp too, with all the Warp names on there I'm surprised there wasn't more promo work done at the time, but I also don't really follow their main channels that closely. Digression aside, let's get stuck in. I'm starting with Arovane - yet another artist I found out about years ago but only fairly recently actually checked out. If you're at all famillair with Arovane's work this one will be familliar to you, delicate high tech vibes contrasted with these granular rhythmic bits. As expected of the 'IDM' world sure, but here and on a lot of Arovane works the contrast is not quite as harsh compared to some of my other previous posted stuff in this melodic style. As a result I think Arovane is a really good recomendation to those interested in exploring this side of the electronic genres if for example you like the more melodic bits of Aphex Twin but find some of it a little hard to get into.

Another from old school Warp favourites of mine B12 as well. Their album for the {Artificial Intelligence} series (like pretty much all of them in the series) was fantastic, a real triumph for that 'Electronic Listening Music' angle Warp was working with aroudn the time, and a great albeit slightly dated now piece of techy goodness. B12 have always had a bit of a Sci-Fi edge to them that made their work stand out a little on the {AE} series - the cover for Time Tourist for example showing a retro-future vision of London straight from a pulpy magazine cover. It's a visual style that goes hand in hand with the kind of techno they were making, and one that really suits that 'The sound of the future from the 90's' line that I use when talking about that era too. Orbita Tolv is another chapter in that book, if you liked the older B12 you'll find plenty to like here - the sounds and methodology are pretty much the same. And yet, I can't quite put my finger on why, but it certainly sounds much more... modern than their previous works. That sounds a little redundant I realise as of course a newer production is going to sound newer, but listen to a track like Telefone 529 and then this one back to back and you'll see what I mean.

Seeing Bibio on the list is always an interesting one as it could go a bunch of different ways - is it some fuzzy folktronica? Perhaps one of those nearly ambient pieces? Or are we talking one of those Gold Panada style wonky hip-hop kind of deals that broke up the folky bits of Ambivalence Avenue? In this case it's the latter! Truth be told I haven't kept up much with Bibio, I don't think he's doing this style full time from the bits and pieces that I've heard, it's still the odd track here and there that has this kind of sound to it. He does have a real knack for it I must say, I might not be into it as much as I would have been in the past but I can't deny it's still cacthy as hell. Perhaps not as much of an earworm that ocassionally crops up from the back of my mind to loop a couple of times like Fire Ant does, but give it a few years time to catch up and it might join the ranks.

Originally I planned to go through and share a bunch of my favourites from this comp but I'm afraid there's just too much. But I'm not going to stop here, as you might have guessed from the '.1' in the title I plan to come back and share some more tracks from here soon, just thought it'd be nicer to keep them in more digestible blocks is all. I did want to see if I could embed the main album page and see if it would even support the full 200+ tracks but I'll save that for later. Only complaints are I'm not a huge fan of the art - looks like it'd be more at home on some soundcloud hypeman (but it is for charity so I'll bite my tongue) and that at some point there was a Ceephax Acid Crew track on here that is now missing from the bandcamp page. Small potatoes given the sheer number of tracks here but still a bit of a let down.

Anyway, I hope you've found some stuff that piques your interest here, definitley check out the full thing as there are plenty of Artists there I didn't even mention that I'm varying degrees of familliar with and it's a really good deal for that price - almost certainly going to pick it up this coming BC Friday. And as always, Stay safe and enjoy the music.


Saturday 24 April 2021

Charity Run 01

Serendipity's a funny thing, I was throwing around an idea in my head about posting some stuff over the weekend that I'd found when fixing up an old post, and later on that night I got something else that fits right into that theming in my Twitter mentions. The theme of the day is charity, and while I figure out what I'm going to do when it comes to those other examples we're keeping it local-ish for the time being with Limnetic Villains.

As noted in the sidebar of their bandcamp page - Half of all the music proceeds are now donated to the Irish Cancer Society (and all of them on Bandcamp Fridays if you're reading this close to one!) - so why not take a trip with me into their discography and support a cause along the way? Multiple Divisions is the latest release and the one I was linked to first - the opening track Papadopoulos caught me a little off guard as it's surprisingly heavy with those panning bassy tones. The introduction of some super rough sounding drums come the 30 second mark echoes the DIY home recording aesthetic as heard on the likes of Mr. Oizo's Analog Worms Attack, and by the time it all comes together it reminds me a lot of the kinda stuff Ladytron was making around their debut: the whole thing very much reminds me of a slightly darker take on Mu-Tron the opening track from 604, with perhaps a dash of the old Commodore Rock in there too.

Hattifattener is another early highlight. To veer slightly off topic for a second I recently went back to the Ed Banger compilations of old and was suddenly reminded of their brief dalliance with a more indie sound in Theme from Vicarious Bliss, which I mention because this one in particular reminds me of that kind of indie stuff that would get remixed by the big names of the time back in the bloghouse days. That trend predates even that though, going back even older with Röyksopp's remix of Kings Of Convenience being a little closer in tone to this - albeit a little softer with the drums and minus the twangy guitar. That Ladytron streak is still there in the electronics, but the jam-session kind of sound on show here is a welcome addition too.

I'd recommend looking over their back-catalogue as well as there's plenty to go at - I've picked a couple other tracks from other releases to showcase here, first being Input from the album before Divisions. It grabbed my attention from the get go, as long time readers will know that I have an intense weakness for anything even the slightest bit smooth sounding, and the intro to Input did not disappoint - add some beats that sound like they're a faster cut from an {Artificial Intelligence} Warp era track and you very much have my attention. It's a very interesting experience for sure as around the 1 minute mark everything goes a bit off kilter, like when the drums come in all out of time in Eno's Here Come The Warm Jets, to use a non-electronic comparison. And it doesn't stop there, at the risk of spoiling the experience for first time listeners, there's a great switch up around the halfway mark where the tempo drops for the remainder of the runtime. The whole thing is this great collision of electronic and acoustic elements, which I know is something I've been critical of in the past but I feel like it's done well here - my usual complaint in that area is leaning too heavily one way or the other and I think Input strikes a nice balance between it's two halves!

One final opener to see us out, this time Loading from Save, which I may or may not have picked because I liked the play on words it let me do just then. Loading has the kind of bouncy retro warbles you might expect from Ceephax or DMX Krew, especially once it gets going. The breakdowns in the latter half make me think it's about to mix out into another track, it has that kind of vibe to it (further influencing my recent 'must make a mixtape' thoughts). The shortest but perhaps the most electronic of the bunch so far - it nicely foreshadows the other more electronic bits of this album too: from the darker almost dubstep vibes of Primordial Emperor and Unstable Clown to the more IDM infused bits in Machine On and Custard Indigo, the latter of which sounds a little like the more melodic bits of the Analord series from AFX. It might just have eked out the top spot from this quick overview, I'd have to sit down and give it a proper run-through to give 100% confirmation on that though!

As mentioned before, Limnetic Villains is currently giving half of the proceeds to charity (and all of them for sales on BandCamp Fridays) - latest release Multiple Divisions is pay-what-you-want currently, and the rest of their discogs are reasonable priced, usually around €4-7 (which works out around 5 - 8.50 in USD). I appreciate that disposable income is a bit of a luxury that not everyone has a lot of right now, but consider grabbing some of these releases if you like what you hear and are able to! You can get to the individual release pages from the embedded players above, but I'll also link to their main bandcamp page here as well. And as always - stay safe and enjoy the music.


Wednesday 21 April 2021

Selected Selections

I've been looking over my listening for the past year or so because I felt like I had forgotten a bunch of things that I'd liked and meant to pick up (this is due in part to the sheer amount of Eurobeat that's been giving me the energy over that time). And sure enough, there are little bits and pieces from days gone that I haven't heard in forever, or things I came across - wish-listed and then promptly forgot about. So what better way to remind me of them than to write up a little breakdown of them?
Gerard Fromanger - Corps à corps, bleu (2006)

Going old first of all with Modeselektor's I Love You. Tucked away at the end of their debut LP Hello Mom!, it's a massive contrast to the stuttering electro house that makes up the main body of the album. It's a little bit of a throwback to their more IDM stuff as well, like 2003's Don't Panic. I Love You isn't quite as intense on the IDM styling as that one, but you can certainly see the hallmarks still. I love it when Modeselektor drop a tune like this every now and the, their main electro stuff is solid as ever don't get me wrong, but as you longtime readers will know - I am a total sucker for any and all things even slightly downtempo. Beautifully smooth and just a damn fine piece of electronic.

Another album that I *technically* went back to - Ochre's A Midsummer Nice Dream. It's one of those I'll put away for a while and then dig out again once I've gotten the itch again. Well last time I got it I found out there was a 15th Anniversary reissue with a bunch of bonus tracks on it (6 to be precise) which was a real bonus. I found Ochre when I was looking to expand my IDM horizons many moons ago, that's how I found artists like The Flashbulb as well - Midsummer is a nice album in that regard and full of the hallmarks you'd come to expect from a record falling under that umbrella: techy sounds and juxtaposition between the smooth synths and the off-kilter beats. I've chosen one of the bonus tracks that stood out to me this time Passing Landscapes which I think does a great job of demonstrating what I just mentioned, but also captures the whole sound aesthetic of the album as well. If I had one complaint it's that the beats can be a little harsh sounding at times, this track is no exception to that rule, sometimes I find myself wishing they'd take a little break and let those synths shine a bit more (which to be fair, they do drop out of the mix to do just that towards the end!), but that's small potatoes really.

And finally a bit from Legowelt. It was a bit overwhelming diving into the discogs of Legowelt because there is a lot to go at, but I decided to do it because the name was cropping up a lot on compilations and remix credits of stuff I was getting a little while back. Contrary to the others I've talked about so far, Experiential Awakening is a track that I had to force myself to put down because I knew it was one of those that I would completely burn myself out on if I could - it's nestled in some of my playlists and one of these days I'll have to pick up the whole LP. It's a divine bit of techy almost deep house. But unlike the laid-back almost loungy brand of Deep House I normally enjoy, this one feels very driving and was absolutely perfect for working through the slew of 8 AM emails that I was getting for a while, it makes the 8 minutes of it's runtime feel like no time at all. Like the tail end of the Drunken Kong post last time, tracks like this make me seriously want to make another of my mixtape thingies, and I am certainly going to use this post as a reminder that I need to check out this LP in full around the next Bandcamp Friday.

That'll do it for this entry - I hope some of these selections twig your ear as much as they did mine, I know I was guilty of having slept on Modeselektor for a long time, and their debut even more - something I need to work on again as they have new material coming out very soon. Maybe time for a non-retro review? Anyway, we're getting off topic again - so as always, stay safe and enjoy the music.


Monday 19 April 2021

Drunken Style

I love a lot of the flavours and colours of electronic music (as you might expect if you've read this blog for any amount of time) but I fee like there are sometimes big gaps in my library - I used to feel this way about Drum & Bass but kinda got ahead of that when I went on a bit of a liquid funk trek around 2010 or so for example. However, one of the ones that gnaws at me a bit is Techno. I have a fair few of the classic records sure, and there are some that while I don't much like I can still appreciate.... But I still feel like it's a little underrepresented as a genre in my collection, especially when it comes to modern examples. Enter the subjects of this post:

Drunken Kong, another case of me finding an artist due to a happy accident. I don't quite remember how it happened now but it was a recommendation from something, and with a name like that I had to look them up. They're a duo from Japan which proved promising as there's a fine history of Techno there - Ken Ishii, Takkyu Ishino and Q'hey to name just a few I've picked up over the years. But as I mentioned previous those aren't contemporary examples, so I was looking forward to what Kong brought to the table.

I had a quick listen through their debut album The Signs Within - and some tracks immediately shot their way into my more techy playlists. Life We Knew is an early highlight and actually doesn't sound too far removed form the last piece of Japanese electronic I picked up Chikada 'J.J.' Wasei's Cyberia Layer_2. What you can expect here is not at all like the name would suggest - I was thinking maybe some slightly off kilter melodic stuff in the vein of Siriusmo's Tränen Aus Bier, instead in true Techno style we get skeletal structures that slowly build over time. From what I could tell the majority of The Signs Within is unmixed as well which is a treat, often when you get albums like this the tracks are cut down and mixed, each have their advantages and disadvantages. Life We Knew mixes it up more than enough to hold my attention, there aren't any extended 4 minute solo 4/4's like I heard on my trance trip recently: just when I think I could be getting a little tired of a certain sequence a new layer comes in to spark some more life into it, I am a total sucker for the teasing that the build ups do here as well, there might not be an explosive payoff like in Trance but it's no less satisfying.

Perfect Dominance was actually the first track I heard, I was thinking they'd fit in my more techy playlists anyway, and the intro of this one has that perfect 'slightly muffled techno you hear from outside a club' vibe I was looking for. The formula is much the same here, layers building on layers as we move forward in time. I'm a big fan of the growly synths that make their way through the intro now and then, it's perhaps a little more repetitive than Life We Knew, (which was also no doubt helped by that li'l vocal sample) but once it gets going it's another treat to hear. It is a bit of a shame it takes almost half it's runtime to get to that point but then again I am casually listening to it here, tracks like this absolutely demand to be heard on the dancefloor and I can totally see myself loving it even more in that context.

That's not to say there isn't variety here - while Domincance and Life We Knew certainly followed the same basic formula and structure, there's plenty to get your teeth stuck into here. I've chosen the final track A New Day to play us out. The title for me will always evoke images of Richie Hawtin's cult classic under the F.U.S.E. alias, one of my favourite examples of that kind of early 90's ambient techno. Like it's similarly named cousin, Kong's A New Day is a gorgeously spacey closer to the album - one that embraces the techy sound of its predecessors with those hypnotic arpeggios. Tracks like this always spark that urge within me to return to the mixing space, I just fall in love with the ideas that come to mind, using tracks like this or Arpanet's Wireless Internet to build atmospheric intros or close out sections. If I ever decide to make another techy mixtape in the style of the last one I did, this track will most certainly be there.

This was a nice refreshing change of pace, a little break from the Retro Reviews with something new and a bit shorter to boot! I'm going to try and queue up a couple of these the next time I decide to do another Retro Review just so the gap isn't as wide, or maybe even an EP to avoid the length altogether. Anyway, that's getting off topic, I hope you dig some of these tracks as much as I do! And as always: stay safe and enjoy the music.


Friday 16 April 2021

Retro Reviews: Apparat - Walls

Opening my definition of Retro Reviews to anything over 10 years old has been very fruitful indeed, and has also succeeded in making me feel the incredible burden of time's passage. Today we're looking at Apparat's third album Walls - released in 2007 when I was firmly in the world of electro house and whatever was hot on the web that week, so it would be a few years before I picked it up. I think I was familiar with Apparat in passing, being part of the BPitch Control crew alongside Modeselektor and all, I think I first became aware of this album off the heels of the first Apparat / Modeselektor collab album - the self titled Moderat. I can't really remember much beyond that, so I can't garnish with additional details like what I was expecting going in or anything like that!

There is some extra background I can lay down though - when I picked up this album I was in my final year of college before heading off to University proper, and I had a circle of friends I'd talk music with. It was around this time I was in a kind of experimentation arms race with them, introducing them to wilder and wilder electronic music and generally seeking out interesting takes on electronic music. The reason I mention that is that between this album and Venetian Snares' Rossz Csillag Alatt Született, there was a real classical-meets electronic vibe going on. They're on two opposite ends of the spectrum though, Rossz is frantic breakcore, whereas Walls dances between intense moments and more floaty atmospheres.

There's no better example of this than track one - Not A Number. It's almost not electronic at all, a twinkling instrumental slightly reminiscent of tracks like Aphex Twin's Logan Rock Witch. It's nice enough, but the real highlight here is the moment the entire track builds to: around 2:30 where the strings begin to take the forefront, there's a masterfully done glitchy skip before everything comes crashing back down again. It's not as brutal as the breaks from Venetian Snares' album no, but intense in its own way. A great intro in the sound-sphere of Walls, and one of many from the album that make me take back my "I hate strings in my electronic" opinion.

The tracks with strings might be the most iconic ones from the album for me, but there's plenty of variety to be had here. Track two by contrast is a much more electronic affair. Opening with that killer bassline that will be a constant companion throughout - the whole thing is a much more conventional sound that the opening track. Apparat's little production flourishes really shine here, like the glitchy skip in track one, there are lots of little touches here that keep the instrumental side interesting, with a return to the strings of the intro in the last quarter to tie things together nicely. This is also the first of several tracks featuring Raz Ohara - an artist I'm not at all familiar with outside of this album unfortunately! His vocal contributions are solid enough, some days I am not a fan of the breathy bits of this one but on the whole they compliment each other very well. It reminds me a little of Funkstörung's work with Enik in execution - but I think the vocals here are a little more accessible than Enik's.

It's an interesting album to come back to because I absolutley rinsed it clean when I first got it, to the point where even after years of it not being in regular rotation I skip over some of the tracks. Not becuase they're bad or anything but because I have just heard them so many times, It's a little difficult to explain but hopefully you have a similar experience yourself. Anyway, Useless Information is one of those tracks, I spent far too much time in my University days writing, designing and making to tracks like this - and it is absolutley great for that kind of vibe, not quite full lo-fi but in that same kind of vein, between this album and Boards Of Canada's The Campfire Headphase I had plenty of this style to go at too. It's a gorgeous track still, but after having used it (and several other tracks from this album) in some animation work I did at University I've spoiled them for myself.

Limelight also falls into that category a bit, it was kind of unavoidable as something about songs like this just triggers instant visuals in my head that I had to go ahead and make. This one didn't get it as bad as some of the others, though it did appear on more than a few custom soundtracks I was making around this time. Coming back to this album after a long time you can really hear the influence Apparat had on Moderat tracks, parts of Limelight really resemble some of the cuts on their first and second albums together. Those sharp claps and the melody introduced at around 2:20 especially so, but also in small touches like the cut up vocals too. It's about now I realise I don't actually have much more Apparat solo stuff in my library beyond this, that's something I'm going to have to look at soon, I've got a real love for tracks like this - and even more so when it goes in an even more IDM style direction as on Aspirin and Solaris from his other works.

Fractales is an interesting pair - what I said last time about the Moderat similarity is true again, but so is the similarity between Part 1 and the stuff that Apparat & Ellen Allien made for Orchestra Of Bubbles which came out the year before. It wouldn't surprise me if this was a bit of something leftover from that project, or Apparat just playing with the same ideas from those sessions. They're also an interesting pair because together they from a neat little summary of the album: Part One is slightly off kilter techno with little acoustic flairs and breaks - Part Two sees a return to that kind of ambience laid down in Not A Number, where a motif from part one is slowly swallowed up by a sea of bassy noise, It's not a million miles away from the kind of distortion Clark uses and is equally as effective. It could have easily been one big track as they flow together seamlessly anyway and it wouldn't have made it any longer than the majority of tracks on the album, but I appreciate the choice of making them separate as they are quite different in tone.

Birds continues that slightly glitchy feel, the intro sounding like something ripped from a scuffed up CD. It works as a transition between Fractales and Birds, but feels a little out of place here once the main track gets going, I'd almost prefer the transition to happen a little later and keep the glitchy bits contained in the previous track. Stick with it though and you are rewarded well - Birds is an absolutely gorgeous tune and marks what I think is the first appearance of Apparat on the vocal front too. I like Apparat's vocals for the most part, with the exception of a couple of Moderat tracks I can't think of many tracks I've disliked them on - the delivery here reminds me a little of some of Bibio's tracks from the Ambivalence Avenue album and the imagery on show in the lyrics themselves is pretty great too. The repeating bouncy motif in the background is pretty interesting, I've never really paid much attention to it before now as I usually get good and lost in the other luscious instrumentation. The strings here are the closest we come to being a bit cliché on the album so far - I think they still work well but it certainly feels a little more overwrought than some of the other pieces we've heard so far.

Not to sound too repetitive here, but Arcadia is another track where you can really hear in hindsight what Apparat brought to the Moderat project. The debut Moderat album wouldn't come out for a couple years after this album, but tracks like Arcadia have elements of both that debut and also bits of the eventual follow up II as well. This one is billed as the Album version because there's an EP with a slightly shorter edit for the video - and there's also a remix EP with curiously a 12 minute Boys Noize mix. Wouldn't be my first choice but still neat. The original is still my favourtie though - it's another case where the tune takes a little while to get going but once it does its lovely, even if it takes a good 2 minutes for all the elements to come into play. The choruses here are the highlight, I can be hot or cold on Apparat's more falsetto vocals, but I think they really work here, and I appreciate the little glitchy touches here and there (as on other tracks) applied to them in spots - they sound real nice on both the instrumentation and the vocals.

You Don't Know Me is the track that springs to mind when I think of this album - it's the first I heard and I think may just eke out the top spot as my overall favourite. From what I remember it had a brief spike of cult popularity back when, it was one of those videos YouTube decides to recommend to a bunch of people a la Plastic Love or the like, the one in question is still up, it's 13(!) years old now - some film clip with the track overlaid. It takes the foundation laid down by Not A Number and really runs with it, fleshing it out with more of the other sounds of this album - as the track builds up to it's main body and thunderous claps back those mournful strings it's certainly a standout, feeling like the final evolution of the metodology of earlier tracks. And it's not hard to see why it got that cult status as a result, among friends like Bonobo's Kiara from a few years later, the melding of strings and electronic was sort of in vogue in that sphere - both tracks are really accessible to your casual listener, catchy and unique without being too alienating. You Don't Know Me remains a fantastically produced piece, one that as I mentioned before almost defines the entire album for me.

Headup might be the closest the album comes to pop in terms of overall sound. Not to say it goes all in on it or anything, but it feels like a track that might have made it onto the radio around the time is all. Headup is also pretty unique in that it sports an almost post-rock style build to a crescendo of sound by the 2 minute mark - there's been a couple of times when listening back to this I've thought there's a smidgen of post-rock influence here but I've not really mentioned until now, this one is by far and away the most obvious example of it. It's another of my favourites from the album, it switches things up fairly often throughout which makes it a really joy to listen to and the light and airy instrumentation really compliments the fittingly uplifting vibes laid down in the lyrics.

This slightly poppy angle continues onto the final stretch with Over And Over being another downtempo piece, albeit with more of a melancholic atmosphere than the previous. Coming back to this album after a long time I'm surprised how much variety there is here - there are clear blocks of tracks that share a vibe or style, something that makes sense when you read a little of the background of the album: "When I made Walls I was just collecting some of the best ideas out of a folder with around 70 unfinished tracks, and finished them." as he says on the bandcamp page. Despite that it's a fairly cohesive experience - nothing here stands out as a half-baked idea or something thrown in to pad out the tracklist which is a compliment to Apparat's curation and tightening up of the unfinished originals. Part of me would have liked a full album of the string-based tracks that we've seen throughout the album, but I can't deny that I have a real love for pieces like Headup and Over And Over as well.

And finally Like Porcelain closes us out in much of the same fashion, flowing electronic loops and these spacey, distant treated vocals. It's one of those tracks with a 'hidden' bonus track in it to boot. It's particularly egregious as the main track is only around 2:45 and then there's four minutes of silence before another brief 2 minute untitled track. I don't mind this kind of bonus track a lot of the time but this one stands out as a little much - I suppose I am a little biased as I don't often listen to albums front to back too much these days, so I'm not really experiencing it as intended (as confirmed on the bandcamp page, the blurb of which says: "this is an album for listening to all in one go, front to back") In my mind the album was more IDM than it actually is coming back to it, it still has more than its fair share and I would say is one of the more accessible examples for the genre. It has a bunch of labels applied to it when I went looking it up, including rather puzzlingly 'Dream Pop' of all things, I would say it's not really pop enough for that label, but it certainly has it's dreamy moments so I can kind of see it - to be honest normally I just follow the discogs list of genres these days.

Back to the album itself though - it's a great intro to Apparat, it has the right balance of experimental and conventional that it's not too alienating to the casual listener - I do still really like the style of this album, even having ruined it for myself from overplaying it back when. I've barely dipped my toe further into his solo work but I have liked what I've heard beyond and before this, so add another tally the the list of 'things I still very much need to check out'. If you like what you hear here, I would go back a little bit the the Shapemodes EP and explore further from there, that EP is a lot more obviously IDM, a lot of that glitchy sound that makes brief appearances on this album but with a melodic streak that makes it not too experimental, much like this album in that respect. I would do a RetReview of it too if it were more readily available on streaming / to buy on bandcamp but for some reason it's a little tricky to come by unless you want to track down the CD or Vinyl. I think it'll take a little longer before I can put this album back into proper rotation again (but as mentioned that's my own fault), but even going back to it I do really like it, and tracks like You Don't Know Me are still as solid as ever and sound fresh considering their age.

I'll have to take my own advice next time and do another EP next time, this one again took a little longer than I'd have liked but it's not been too bad all things considered, especially with an album that you're really famillair with like I am with this. I hope if you've never heard this one before that it gives you as much enjoyment as it has me over the years. And as always - Stay safe and enjoy the music.


Sunday 11 April 2021

Into the Nineties and beyond

I've mentioned this playlist offhand a couple of times, so I thought I might as well post it! Here's mine and a co-workers collaborative rundown of the world of 90's electronic. We didn't quite get *everything* in there, I get the feeling we missed a couple and some of them just plain aren't on streaming, but I think we did a solid job. At my coworker's request we also kept it fairly trim so there's not 1k+ tracks like on some of my playlists! Remember that Spotify embeds only show the first 100 tracks as well, to see the full thing you'll have to open the playlist in app / on the web.

The rules were simple: any track from 1990 to 1999 was fair game. You might spot a few that technically break that rule, but that's normally because they're from re-issues of the original albums or such, we researched to make sure each track was definitely of the era! The end result is a real love letter to the era, if a little heavy on the UK-centric side (especially if you read the playlist description!). It's all here though: Floorfillers rub shoulders with the Summer Anthems of the Radio, miscellanious remixes that flip pop/rock songs into various genres of the era and more than a few tunes that may make your eyes roll (and not from the pills) - but as we discussed when making this list, part of the fun of a 90's playlist like this is fully embracing the cheese. We don't do that straight away though - these first 12 tracks are choice selections that still sound great today.

If you're of the same age range as me and them, I hope this playlist takes you back a fair bit, and who knows maybe you'll find some new-old gold on the way. And if you're not - put this playlist on and marvel at the electronic music of yore. Either way, as always, stay safe and enjoy the music.


Monday 5 April 2021

Soundtrack Samurai

A little quickie one this time, just because I have some thoughts to get down about this. I just saw this trailer pop up on my Twitter and there are more than a few things that caught my attention. The first being at 33 seconds in...

I'm very, very excited to see FlyLo's approach to a soundtrack, from the brief bits heard in this teaser it sounds like he isn't straying too far from his usual sound, but he does occasionally do some beautiful ambient style pieces too so here's hoping there's some of that too.

FlyLo is no stranger to appearing on soundtracks at this point - he's even appeared in an Anime series before with Shinichirō Watanabe's Carole & Tuesday, among other western artists. It's almost coming full circle for FlyLo too, his early work that you can find on the 'net from the mid 2000's was all geared towards that very specific kind of hip hop beat that would appear on Adult Swim commercial 'bumps' - Adult Swim and Toonami being one of the easier places to watch Anime in the 2000's.

Hip Hop and Samurais is a tried and tested formula too, if you've ever seen Samurai Champloo (Also by Shinichirō Watanabe!) you'll know that it's a combo that can work amazingly well, no doubt FlyLo is already very acquainted with that soundtrack too. I do like it when things get shaken up like that - technically anachronistic though it may be, the OST for Champloo is one of the major highlights about it. I've said before how I love when a soundtrack strays from your traditional 'cinematic' score, and I can only hope that this inspires more to try something like that out.

Netflix original memes aside, I'm tentatively excited for it - it looks fairly decent and the soundtrack is obviously a big draw too - maybe off the back of this we'll see more artists collaborate in a similar way, there are plenty of series out there that I think a lot of artists could do interesting things with. Arguments about quality of the series themselves aside, the Netflix original Anime series have been good for that, their addition to the Ghost In The Shell: Stand Alone Complex series had similarly good soundtrack choices - perhaps not as iconic as Yoko Kanno's work but still befitting of the GITS universe.

That'll do it for this one, apologies for it being a little thin on the ground with actual music content. With any luck they'll put out an OST teaser or something soon too so I can report back with that. But until then: as always, stay safe and enjoy the music.


Saturday 3 April 2021

The Scoops

Ralph Goings - Chocolate Lean (2010)

That time of the month where I share what I got on Bandcamp Friday. Not too much this time, but some overdue additions and some new stuff too. Originally I was wanting this to be a retro rundown with Luke Vibert's UK Garave Vol. 1 leading it but that didn't quite pan out. Still managed to get a bit of retro vibe in it though thanks to another release from ThorHighHeels.

Positive Yellow is a little like UK Garave Vol. 1 in that it's very much a tribute to a very specific kind of sound, though as you might expect if you follow Thor's video work - this time it's a love letter to the soundtracks of games when they started to take advantage of CD Audio. Each of the tracks is fairly bite size, but they all do a great job of nailing that sound - plus as a bonus there's plenty of samples to spot: from classic drum & bass breaks to the beat from this one which I think is taken from the Todd Terry Remix of Everything But The Girl's Wrong. About once a year I get a little nostalgic for the kind of house and general 'dance' that was on the radio when I was younger, in fact I just spent the last couple of weeks putting together and curating playlist with a friend on exactly that theme, that might sound like a statement out of left-field at first, but I bring it up because Summer's Edge is exactly the kind of sound that I mean - it's that special kind of House that typifies that vibe for me.

Freezepop next - a band I've had multiple brief flings with. This release has long been overdue to add to my collection - it's got one of my favourites from them on in Here Comes A Special Boy, a tune that I have had in my collection for coming up on 15 years now(!) - though as a crap 96kbps version that I got from some p2p network. A better quality version never surfaced after all those years, and if I remember right this EP's physical release was a super limited one as well so I kind of gave up on it. When I found this on my Bandcamp travels a year or so ago, I knew I owed it to them to actually buy it one day (and so I could get my mitts on a better quality version!).

And so here we are, sentimentality aside, this EP hails from the early days of Freezepop's output - they're another band that kind of got lumped in with the 'Electroclash' scene but their work is definitely more straight up Synthpop. There's a certain playfulness and irreverence they have throughout that you can hear most obviously on tracks like Here Comes A Special Boy that can turn some people away, and that's something I totally understand, coming back to some of these tracks has more than a few times brought up some long repressed memories of my teenage years.

But if you're willing to dig a little deeper, you're rewarded. The live version(s) of Outer Space and Plastic Stars included on this EP are really beautiful. It's a little strange to have them both be one big monster track at 10+ mins long but they blend together pretty seamlessly - the way the dreamy repetition of Outer Space fades into the much more poppy Plastic Stars is great. You can kind of hear where those electroclash labels come from there too: there's plenty of fairly stoic delivery that's evocative of the genre here (but as we all know, Electroclash lifted that from Kraftwerk anyway!). It's perhaps a little bit dated but I can't help but smile a bit at these tracks, part of me will always love this kind of skeletal, homemade sounding electronic.

And finally, another track from Ceephax's Byron's Ballads EP. I'll admit I'm not super well versed in the ways of Ceephax - but this EP is fast becoming what I'd recommend to a first time listener, even if it is quite a bit different from his usual output. As mentioned before, when I think of Ceephax, my mind comes up with images of deliberately naff visuals and slightly satirical acid tracks - a little like DMX Krew in that regard. But on Byron's Ballads there's not really any of that (save for maybe the visuals and title), each and every one of these tracks would absolutely be at home on the dancefloor just fine. From the remarkably accessible acid tinged house of Sneaker to the driving yet subdued 303 of The Hague, each tune on here has something unique to offer while keeping things distinctly Ceephax.

I've picked the opening track Citylink this time, purely because it's a fantastic opening track that lets you know exactly what you're in for as the housey opening soon gives way to some lovely squelchy 303. Perhaps the least acidic track on here by quite a ways, it also has a little bit of that retro vibe to it (though, most all of Ceephax's work does having said that). Super accessible, this isn't the kind of Acid that's going to melt your speakers or anything which makes it a great starting point if you're looking to get into it as a whole, or if you're like me and only occasionally swim out to that side of the pool and don't want anything too intense.

And that'll do it for this month's instalment. I hope you find something you like here, and maybe it'll even set you off on a retro kick like me. I might even have to post that playlist I mentioned in a little while, I like to think we did a pretty thorough rundown of the whole 90's for it: from the cheese of the big hits to my secret ingredients there's plenty of variety, perhaps some eye rollers but that's all part of the fun isn't it? Anyway, I'll wrap up here, hope you're all keeping well and as always - Stay safe and enjoy the music.