Wednesday 30 June 2021

The Third Dimension

Funasaka Yoshisuke - Blue and White space - 366 (1974)

I've spent today as the title suggests learning a whole new branch of software of the 3D variety. I've dabbled in it a touch in the past but have never really needed to go to this level, I'm pretty techy and I know a bunch of similar software already so it can't be that hard can it? (Spoiler: it is). But what it has given me is the chance to try out some stuff that I have waiting on the 'to pickup' list. Started off this morning with the previously casette only Pier & Loft from Hiroshi Yoshimura, another gorgeous bit of ambient very much in the same style as Surround and his other 80's work that I've mentioned previously, though it does get a little new age at times. It makes for great software music but not so much for posting as it's a bit of a rarity unlike some of Yoshimura's other work.

So instead a seection of stuff that I put on once that album had run its course, starting with more from The Flashbulb. I was tempted to put one of the more ambient offerings he has under his real name, but opted for another more recent album instead (which is still from 2012 if you want an idea of how far behind I am with the Flashbulb discography). I'm fairly certain I've heard Arrival To An Empty Room before, might have even been at the time it came out but I can't say for definite. It doesn't take long for it to tap into the sound that I loved on previous releases like Soundtrack To A Vacant Life - it's the most 'IDM' that later Flashbulb works get, the beats are glitchy but not too harsh and have this real bounce to them. But that's not the main focus of this one as it doesn't stick around for long, instead leaving for an extended break around the 1:10 mark for some decidedly cinematic strings. This break continues until around 2:40 or so, before the beats come cascading back in spectacular fashion but then they're gone again by the 3:25 mark for a blissfully sedate outro of warm pads and field recordings, and some lonesome piano in the latter quarter. A spectacular example of why I'll always recommend The Flashbulb to anyone looking for that more melodic experimental sound.

On a similar note I did some digging after my last mention of Dirty Owl and promptly put a couple of Alexander Ananyev's releases under the Sleepy Town Manufacture alias on my list. Again a much more traditional 'IDM' affair than the Dirty Owl works, but doesn't go quite as hard as you might expect from that description, though the thudding intro is quite heady. Seen Er instead opting for sparkling arpeggios and warm electronics making an almost aquatic feel very befitting of the album's title, with only the glitchy and bit crushed burbles in the background that give it away. It's quite nice in that regard, as you can probably tell from my last few posts about the genre I am very much into this kind of style now compared to my craving of the next snare rush and other associated beat tampering when I initially got into the scene. Perhaps not as boundary pushing as The Flashbulb tune above but still a nice little piece regardless, a touch generic perhaps but it has been a great accompaniment to me zipping around low poly shapes. There's not a lot of STM's stuff on bandcamp sadly, this version of Plankton comes with some bonus tracks to make up for that a little though.

And finally rounding out with more from Echochamber with their final release. Finding Echochamber's I'm Real, I'm Here on Bandcamp was really the beginning of me beginning to branch out into the indie sphere on the site and got me to just start using it more in general - which only increased with the introduction of bandcamp Fridays. An absolute bargain at $3, it was an album that I found myself being super into at the time with it's high tech feel and the mixture of pulsing dub style techno, lo-fi hip hop and even dipping into downtempo and full on ambient across the tracklist. Their final offering is all in on the lo-fi hip hop sound, and I am guilty of putting it off because frankly it's a style that you can burn yourself out on very easily (also because I forgot to put in on my wishlist for a long time!), and if I'm totally honest the dubby techno bits were my favourites from I'm Real...

But if finally getting around to it has taught me anything it's that maybe I need to go back and listen to that album again, because right from the opening track here I'm back into it. I almost held off using the 'lo-fi' qualifier here because while it is a really apt description of the sound, I think that what the Echochamber crew do with it here is pretty far removed from what you might conjure in your mind with that label. There's no jazzy sample here that's been cut up and re-structured - instead: some reversed-sounding pads, a vinyl crackle and a trap-inspired beat all wrapped up with some really bright sounding synth noodling. A real blinder of an opening track, and a celebration of all that Echochamber was.

And that'll be all for now. Here's hoping my success on both the software and listening front continues, at this rate I might actually see a reduction in my wishlist! I've gotten around to republishing a couple of old posts this week too - all in all it's been pretty productive, I'll be sure to swing back around with any new finds I make in the meantime but until then - Stay safe and enjoy the music.


Sunday 27 June 2021

The Summer of Soundtracks

It's no secret especially recently that I have a boatload of soundtracks in my collection. There was a time when I was a little shy about it, you know the memes out there about people who only listen to soundtracks and all that, but a while ago I decided to embrace it and just enjoy what I enjoy (see also: my unabashed love for Trance and Eurobeat). But even besides that, I feel like there is a ton of value to be had in them, I've discovered tons of artists from OSTs that I otherwise wouldn't have - and much like how I feel about compilations they're a great way to inject a load of variety into your listening real quickly.

Jimmy Ernst - Night Subway (1948)

So that's the crux of today's post really, just a bunch of cuts from soundtracks for things I'm into recently. We start with Heaven Will Be Mine, a VN that grabbed my attention with it's blurb on the store: 'HEAVEN WILL BE MINE is a visual novel about making terrible life decisions in the midst of a hot-blooded battle between giant robots. Select one of three terribly behaved girls to fight and/or make out with each other in their struggle for the fate of space.' Which certainly makes an impression if nothing else. I've posted my favourite from the OST before here (Terrafomer), but there's plenty of other tracks that stand out here - lots of claustrophobic beats and menacing basslines that will rattle your teeth, to lift a quote from the bandcamp page 'Like being vaporized in a solid beam of light. Like weeping out a blastwave.'.

It's a far cry from the synthwave noodling I had in mind when looking over the art design for both the VN and the OST cover (though there is one that comes close to your more conventional synthwave tune in the final track Joyride), effortlessly flitting between aggression and contemplative ambient with lots of little touches along the way that make it not an all-out aural assault - the way the pounding beat of Electrotoxin (No Mercy) relents, then stutters and stumbles in the breakdown at around 2:10 before slipping back into the groove for one. I've chosen Oxygen Ocean this time as I feel like it strikes a nice balance between the two, not too intense but still carrying that darker sound that defines the rest of the OST - and reminds me a whole bunch of the delicate techy minimal that Monolake employed on Cinemascope.

Going a bit 180 next with a bit from 2064: Read Only Memories. The OST isn't quite what you'd expect from the little plot brief given about it: 'A cyberpunk thriller that explores the social challenges of tomorrow through classic adventure gaming. A journalist-turned-detective teams up with Turing, the world’s first sapient machine, to unmask a conspiracy that will shake the foundations of Neo-San Francisco'. On paper I would maybe expect something like the OST for Snatcher, which as some folks have pointed out in recent years is pretty close to Synthwave in part - no doubt helped by the MSX sound chip. And while the OST for 2064 does take a fair bit of inspiration from soundtracks like that, it's a whole lot lighter than you'd maybe expect, think the more laid back tracks of Mitch Murder and you're most of the way there. It's a little at odds with the actual content of the game at times as it gets pretty serious, but I can't deny that it works brilliantly with the visuals. 2Mello is a real flexible composer and you can very easily enjoy tracks like this completely separate from the content, which is something I always really enjoy in the soundtrack world.

Rounding things out with something even more mellow: else Heart.Break(), with it's beautifully succinct summary: 'A game about friendship, love and technology in a place where bits have replaced atoms.'. It's a pretty techy piece actually, what that description doesn't tell you is that it's a programming puzzle game which makes it extra unique too. It has an incredible look courtesy of art by Niklas Åkerblad, who also does plenty o the soundtrack under his El Huervo alias as well. A frantic mix of Chiptune, downtempo and general chill vibes, if you liked the few El Huervo tracks on the Hotline Miami OSTs you're in for a real treat here - some of them even show up on this OST too, either as-is or alternate mixes.

Not a lot of these tunes are made for the soundtrack (The one I've chosen for example is from the album World's End which came out around the time of the Game) but I don't think that's too much of a negative, if anything it really lends itself to the game's overall feel and makes the whole thing sound more like a mixtape a friend made for you rather than a traditional 'soundtrack'. That's an idea I'm really into and have even experimented with a little in running some tabletop stuff and some pie in the sky ideas I had/have about a Visual Novel of my own. No pun intended, this one was a real breath of fresh air, as much as I love El Huervo's signature lo-fi hip hop twinned with chiptuney synths (a style that gets more than it's fair share of the spotlight on this OST), Air is a beautiful contrast. The lo-fi is still there, but the build up with that sparse piano is lovely, before building to an almost vaprowave style drop at around 1:50 or so but it doesn't stay around for long before the tempo is brought down again.

And that'll be all this time. I could do a whole bunch of these if only more OSTs I really like were on Bandcamp, but I'm happy with these selections today, and I hope that you are too! I'll be back soon enough with another selection of something but in the meantime: as always, stay safe and enjoy the music.


Thursday 24 June 2021

Hazy Days

Kazimir Malevich - Супрематизм. Живописные объемы в движении (1915)

A bit of a diversion today as we start off with something not quite electronic in the usual sense of what I normally post. We're hopping on the soundtrack train again for a little bit of British Sea Power's Disco Elysium OST. It's a fantastic soundtrack, while it might not fit here in full it has its moments that I think make it worth putting here. Whirling-In-Rags, 8am gives me the same feeling that The Knife's Vegetarian Restaurant did all those years ago - it's certainly cut from the same cloth in terms of sound, though Whirling has a little bit more of a sedate Jangle-Pop streak to it, both have that tinge of melancholy too that is just lovely too. I've been looping this one every morning as of late, makes for really good settling in to work mode music.

On that same note I've put Au Revoir Simone's Move In Spectrums back in rotation after a while, and its funny how your perception of albums can be coloured with time. See, I remember Spectrums being full of lovely synthpop stuff with some lyrics that demand to be sung along to - that's not an incorrect assessment by any stretch, and those poppier tracks are still my favourites from the album but it means I'd forgotten about tracks like this. We Both Know, a rare almost full instrumental from the album eschews the poppier structure for something a little more... well, lots of things really: a bit of dream pop, a dash of shoegaze and perhaps a touch of a more chillwave vibe too. I can tell why this one fell by the wayside in comparison to some of the other tracks on there, but something about it just struck a different chord when it came on recently - it's wonderful.

My current foray into the world of melodic IDM continues with Bochum Welt - yet another name I'd earmarked from the few appearances on Rephlex way back when. April is an album of contrasts, nestled up amongst these absolutely gorgeous flowing electronics are some decidedly more harsh and rigid flurries of beats, nothing approaching Venetian Snares levels of beat butchery but still. In that sense the album is IDM in a nutshell, and I must admit I have more love for the melodic pieces here than the others. Bochum Welt has a real great sound on these more melodic tracks - Garden (NYC Mix) is a great example, its muted beats and delicate electronics make for a pleasant, almost ambient experience. I think the closest reference point is once again some of The Flashbulb's work, especially between Garden and the one I've chosen to post here, DR2D, which is lush throughout and is just simply a joy to listen to. Opening with those almost aquatic and N64-esque sounds before really coming into its own around the one minute mark.

And that will do us for this time, I had a couple more things lined up but I'll hang onto them as potentials for next time, haven't managed to pin down something to do as a Retro Review yet you see. Would have ideally looked up something tomorrow but it's looking pretty busy so I thought I'd knock this one out real quick to tide over until the weekend, a little variety grab bag if you will. And as always - stay safe and enjoy the music.


Monday 21 June 2021

Bringing it in

Charles Sheeler - Windows (1952)

A quick and slightly eclectic selection of stuff to see in this week - One that's been on the cards for a while and potential retro review candidate is more from Ladytron. Ever since they cropped up on Bandcamp about a year ago with their then-new single and album I had crossed all my digits that their full discography might make its way over there, and I am happy to say that I have not been disappointed. Most of it is there, aside from the respective singles from each album but even then most of the stuff from them worth hearing has been compiled into the 'Remixed & Rare' companion albums for each one. I've gone with a track from Witching Hour this time - home to some of the 'Tron's most iconic tunes though decidedly less electronic than 604 and Light & Magic before it, maybe it's the nostalgia talking but International Dateline and a few others on here are absolutely soaked in that mid 00's feel with their slight indie incline.

Another surprise find this time, I first found this track on a now out of print compilation from Toytronic called Everything Is Green on one of my semi-regular treks into the world of IDM. It's a lovely little comp that has a nice amount of variety on it, as the title of the compilation might suggest it's more on the more lush and melodic side of the IDM world that I've been very into at the minute. I first thought this one was a one off oblique Autechre / Board Of Canada reference (Boc Scadet being quite close to Basscadet, one of Autechre's early works) but turns out they are an established artist with a few releases under their belt. I still reckon it's a combo reference though, but that's conjecture on my part.

Anyway, the tune itself stood out to me because much like the naming scheme it sounds an awful lot like the stuff Autechre were making on Warp in their early days, which instantly appealed to me as that is some of my favourite stuff they've done (along with all the other artists at the time making similar). It's perhaps not quite as all in on the lush electronics as some of the tracks from Everything Is Green, but even so the techier elements aren't nearly as abrasive as some other examples I could pull up. It's that kind of bleepy electronic I can (and have) listened to all day, if the rest of the EP is like this I will almost certainly be adding it to my collection sometime soon.

And finally another visit to ThorHighHeels. If I'm honest I'm not ready yet to get more from them - between the two Umurangi Generation soundtracks I picked up a little while ago along with the Positive Yellow album as well, I have more than enough to get stuck into as-is. Still, I went for a cursory look, THH often uses his own tunes in their videos and some of them are seriously catchy so I try and find a few here and there to earmark for later. I adore Positive Yellow for wearing its inspirations on its sleeve - the whole thing is a blend of 90's rave, house, breakbeat, techno and hints of UK Garage here and there but doesn't come out feeling like a trite re-tread that overly panders.

That's a trend that continues on their other releases, albeit not as pronounced as on Yellow - bits of it can still be heard on the first track of In The Rough, especially when the 808 cowbells get their moment in the spotlight but the whole thing plays out like a more conventional indie electronic tune in the style of Monk and company I posted not too long ago. That's not a complaint though, more of an observation! THH still has a great ear for sounds and this track shows that off in spades, it's full of great little touches and I can't help but smile my way through that breakdown at around 1:15. I highly recommend checking them out, even if the ironic text and eye-searing neon of the album art turns you away a bit.

And that'll do it for this time, I'm back at work now for a little while but it shouldn't slow things down too much - though having said that I am going to look through the archives and see if anything catches my eye for another Retro Review so that could take longer than expected if I end up doing another long album like Moby's 18. I'll try and make another quick one if it does come to that though! Either way stay tuned and as always: Stay safe and enjoy the music.


Thursday 17 June 2021

Charity Run 02.2

Speaking of unexpected delays, it's time for me to share some more from that charity compilation as I did nearly a month ago. To be fair it's not due to me being lazy or forgetful as usual, remember there are a good 250+ tracks here! I wanted to spend a bit of time with it and share some stuff I'd found on there that I liked rather than just reeling off the big names as I did last time.

So let's not waste any time and get stuck right in. At the risk of repeating myself, a big reason I got into picking up compilations like this is the bits and pieces you pick up that you'd never find otherwise. Enter Dirty Owl, yet another case of me liking something from a comp only to find they have only one or two releases to their name - not explicitly true in this case though as Alexander Ananyev has a couple other artist aliases that are more active, bit still. You're So Worth It gets right into things, with some plastic drums soon giving way to some gorgeous electro burbles. It's an interesting addition to the tracklist, one that fits in amongst the other IDM adjacent stuff for sure with a slight acidic edge to it too, though keeping it nice and melodic and never going too abrasive with it. Sort of the same school of sound as DMX Krew to an extent who coincidentally pops up on this compilation a couple of tracks later too!

Another throwback next with a bit from The Higher Intelligence Agency - a name that I have always found a bit pretentious, but even so I've liked a bunch of their works over the years. HIA always get lumped with the Artificial Intelligence stuff that Warp was putting out in the early 90's for me, not due to confusion with the name or anything but because the stuff they were making around the time was very much of that same 'electronic listening music' concept warp was playing with - most evident on the first album Colourform, but also when they contributed a bit to the second Artificial Intelligence compilation too in 1994. I'd assumed that sometime between then and now that the HIA would have stopped making stuff because that's usually how it goes, but they are still active today just as a solo act rather than a duo. So what's changed in the years between? Not a lot as it turns out, this track could easily have been released in the early 90's as-is and would have fit in just fine with the other output. That's not really a complaint from me in this case though - as has been well documented here that sound is one of my favourites and I will always welcome more of it, I could understand that turning some folk away though.

I don't mean to pick favourites or nothing, there's just a whole lot of IDM and ambient on this compilation, it's the circle Touched operate in after all. I've avoided any full on ambient ones as of yet, not for any real reason other than they break up the flow a little bit and I think they'd maybe be better suited in their own post. There are plenty that blur the lines between the two though - enter Mushrooms Season, yet another artist from this compilation with very few credits otherwise. It had me thinking it was another full on ambient one from the intro, but after a minute or so we start to get more layers introduced, starting with a hazy almost trip hop beat that gets stronger with time. Maybe it's just me having listened to a lot of them lately but once again I can't help but hear the streak of Silent Hill influence here, while not as raw as some of Akira Yamaoka's work I think there's definitely some similarity there, I'm at around the 4 minute mark as I type this and I think that's the strongest evidence for it. Overall though, the end result comes out sounding a lot like the slightly more obscure IDM stuff I've talked about in the past like Ochre's A Midsummer Nice Dream, which is a fine coincidence as Ochre is how I found out about this compilation in the first place back when.

And that'll do it for this entry, I don't know how many of these I'm gonna do but with 200+ tracks there's plenty to go at. I am going to try space them out just so it doesn't get too much too quick, especially if the tracks all dwell in similar space as the ones I've chosen today. I've not been disappointed with this compilation, it was fairly cheap all things considered and I've yet to hear a good half of the tunes I reckon, so expect more in due time!

And as always - stay safe and enjoy the music.


Tuesday 15 June 2021

Sounds For Sore Arms

Took an unintentional extended break, been taking it easy over the past couple days as I rode out the side effects of my vaccine. It's not been too bad from other accounts I've heard, worst I've had is the feeling of being decked in the arm real hard (and I think it might be making the spot where I broke my elbow a few years ago ache too? Hard to tell, I've been putting it in all kinds of weird positions to ease the ache so I might have just shifted something, or it could even just be me being more aware of it.

Marjorie Srider - My Jeans (1971)

But anyway, I thought I'd just chuck some thoughts and tunes down real quick to make up for it. Some Hip Hop stuff first of all, somethin' old and somethin' new. Deltron 3030's self titled debut first from the year 2000 - Deltron is a hip hop dream team of Del The Funky Homosapien, Dan The Automator and Kid Koala. It's a fantastic album throughout, Del really shines on the lyrical front throughout and he has a lot of fun with the album's concept and themes (It's set in the year 3030 you see). The content isn't quite as dated as some other high-tech themed stuff from around the time, but you might still get a grin or two when Del starts bragging about his Modem. Curiously you can't buy this on bandcamp for some reason, but it's definitely worth checking out in full regardless.

On that same line we have a new single from Aesop Rock. I'm not super up to speed on all his work but in my experience it's always been super high quality, and in cases of tracks like One Of Four - incredibly raw and real in terms of content at times. Enter Long Legged Larry - for as much as I admire Aes for putting out tracks like the one I mentioned that deal very candidly with mental health issues, I also like that in recent years he's started to make stuff that's a bit more... whimsical, for lack of a better term - be it a song about his cat, complete with a video starring a puppet version of himself to this one right here, it's becoming a bit of a theme. But just because the tone is more lighthearted doesn't mean that Aes compromises his trademark complex lyricism, there are some incredible rhymes and flow on Long Legged Larry - and the whole thing is completely PG too, there's a real gap in the market for rap that's appropriate for all ages that isn't oversimplified I think.

And I also can't stop thinking about this being included on a PaRappa The Rapper reboot either, though maybe that's just this one reminding me of Prince Fleaswallow's rap from the first game!

To that end, the other thing I'd been doing was playing a bunch of the many many indie games I'd picked up on Steam over the years. One of them I went back to was OlliOlli 2, a chill (if at times frustrating) skating side-scroller. Much like the Hotline Miamis before it, the two games have a whole heap of great indie soundtracks in them, and some surprisingly big names in the sequel too. And much like Hotline again, it has a distinct aesthetic it's shooting for that it achieves very, very well indeed. "L" is just one of the many tunes that set themselves up as immediate earworms - echoes of west coast Hip Hop past and present throughout (especially FlyLo's work, compare this to The Offbeat that I posted a couple weeks back), filtered through a Parisian lens to make for a smooth and groovy number that's tinged with a hint of nostalgia.

And of course like so many soundtracks before it, it's done a great job of showing me stuff that would have passed me by otherwise. Another artist to chuck on the 'incredibly hard to search for' pile, Tobacco is Thomas Fec - frontman of psychedelic rock band Black Moth Super Rainbow. And that Psychedelic streak certainly transfers into his work under this alias, to the point where I'm actually surprised a tune like this didn't pop up in Hotline Miami.

There's a lot of analog synth and tape machine work going on throughout his solo work (as evidenced by the title here too), this decidedly non-digital approach is very easy to hear in that very rough-'round'-the-edges sound that is fully on display here. It's a record that I could be really into if I was in the right mood, and at the minute I really am - it's been on my wishlist for ages as is, partly because I'm super lazy and you can't preview all the tracks on the BC page. Maybe it's time to take that deep dive sometime soon, and expect it to make an appearance again provided I can find tracks that are allowed to be previewed!

And that'll do us for today - again a little more variation than my standard fare but that's all right, I do need to remember to check out the BC pages before I do a post next time, the Deltron album being unavailable to buy and not all the Tobacco album being available to preview could have tripped this one up something fierce, wouldn't have stopped it mind, but I've grown to love the BC players, they work real nice and are fairly painless to implement and just general look good too compared to like a YT embed. Anyway, I'll wrap up here, might be a while before I post again as I've taken this week off work so I'm gonna try and take it easy, but I'll be back soon enough with more!

And as always, stay safe and enjoy the music.


Saturday 12 June 2021


No Bandcamp Friday this month, but there is a Juneteenth even in its place. Seems like there isn't one for July either so it's given me a chance to review my wishlist and do a bit of trimming. That's not what this post is about though, here I'm just going to talk about some things I have lined up to get!
Art from Plantasia's liner notes

It's a little bit of a mixed bag this time, with some last minute additions and some that I'm not going to talk about b/c I've already posted about them. To start off we have something that I'd completely forgotten was on Bandcamp at all until recently and something that I have been meaning to scoop up for a while. A little something from early Synth experimenter Mort Garson - for a long time the work of these early synthesiser experimenters has been a little hard to come by, a similar thing happened to Wendy Carlos' output as well.

Though Garson's work enjoyed a little bump in popularity after being used by the McElroys as the intro music to season 1 of The Adventure Zone, not sure how much of a factor that had on these reissues but like I always say: the more eyes on electronic music the better. Plantasia from 1976 is a lovely album, though very of the era in parts - I was going to pick Swingin' Spathiphyllums to post which illustrates this pretty well, but I still love it dearly and completely un-ironically regardless. Instead I went with the opening Plantasia instead as I think it gives a better idea of the album as a whole and really lets Garson flex his composing skills. An intro full of delicate synths soon gives way to some bombastic brassy tones that are evocative as ever. It's a piece very reminiscent of the synthpop / new age stuff from Kraftwerk and Jean Michel Jarre in my Dad's collection that I was fascinated with as a child and pretty much sent me on my electronic music journey.

Moving into more conventional territory now with a surprise drop from The Knife. A simple one track EP that's a studio version of Pass This On as played on the Silent Shout tour in 2006 that like the name suggests was only included on a 7" version of the EP. Like Carpenter Brut's Maniac I'd just assumed that it'd never see a studio version come out, not unless I wanted a vinyl rip from someone on the net who had the EP with it on so this was a nice surprise indeed. I absolutely adore and have played to death the live album that has the actual recording of this on it, so hearing it free of crowd noise and the atmospheric reverb of the venue the recording was done in is pretty trippy but a welcome addition, especially for the low low price of 8 Swedish Krona that they're asking for it - that's 12 cents in USD! It's a a complete flip of the original, swapping the upbeat synthpop for a more menacing pulsating feel that's brings it more in line with the stuff on Silent Shout - though the steel pan from the original is still there!

Similar to Garson, I had a bit of confusion with Gimmik - he's putting stuff out on the label n5MD at the minute and that label has their own bandcamp, typically these are linked back to the artist even acorss multiple labels, that's how I've seen it work on DMX Krew's at least. But it turns out after a couple of months of following I didn't even realise Gimmik has his own BC page with most of his releases on there, though to confuse things further it also includes the new stuff from n5MD too. Regardless, I'm glad to have found it - I fell in love with Gimmik's work off the heels of a couple of compilations I picked up from a now defunct label called Toytronic and I really gravitated towards the style of IDM he was working with there, nice and melodic and not too harsh, the kind of techy groove that's more accessible than your snare rushes.

I can't stop listening to Back To Basics in particular, the title pretty much nails it - this is back to basics IDM. It's not quite as out and out old school as the proper early 90's Warp stuff, but it definitely wears the inspiration from those releases on it's sleeve. I knew from that gorgeous swooping synth of the opening I was going to have a good time here, it's again another one of those tracks that almost feels like it was designed to cater 100% to me. The whole album is similar too, nicely riding that line between the full on IDM world and these lush melodic pieces that have a technological streak to them. It's one that I definitely recommend picking up if you're at all into the genre, and one that's made it's way onto my list of recommends for newcomers to the genre or those looking for something a little more softer in the IDM world.

And that'll do it for this slightly eclectic edition of this month's roundup, I think Plantasia might be one of the oldest tracks I've ever posted here for starters! I hope that you find something here that really appeals to you, honourable mention to the one album that didn't make the list this time: Perturbator's Lustful Sacrements, which sees the Synthwave vet take a more Industrial turn. There's nothing wrong with it, I just haven't spent enough time with it yet - it may make an appearance in the near future yet.

And as always: Stay safe and enjoy the music.


Tuesday 8 June 2021

Feed Me Weird Things at 25

Been waiting for this one to drop so I could do a quick rundown. Squarepusher's debut Feed Me Weird Things from 1996 has been given a shiny new re-release for 2021. Like a couple of the DMX Krew albums I've talked about in the past, Feed Me... was previously a Rephlex exclusive which meant it was a little rarer than usual as until now it had never been repressed either. I picked up a second hand copy years ago now, it's interesting to see it come back, I was under the impression that Squarepusher might have felt the same way about it that Autechre do about their early stuff - not really bothered with it as they feel like it doesn't reflect their current sound or style.

Though that's never really been a thing with Squarepusher, who often has wild variation in genres from album to album. Having said that, Feed Me is an interesting curio nonetheless, and an early example of Squarepusher's founding style - one that would go on to inform his more popular works heading into the 00's.

This isn't going to be a super in depth dive (or at least, I'm not planning for it to be one as I type this!), but I thought I'd just mention some of the standout tracks on here. While there are some tracks I could take or leave, it's also home to some of the 'Pusher's finest work, Warp and Squarepusher announced this reissue with one of the strongest ones in Theme From Ernest Borgnine - one of the more conventional Drum & Bass pieces from the album.

But let's talk about the opening of the album for now. The simply titled opening Squarepusher Theme is chock full of bombastic bassy twangs, and the Bass accompaniment is something that would continue throughout Squarepusher's discography to this day. I can't for the life of me remember where I saw/read/heard this so take it with a grain of salt - but I do remember an interview with Squarepusher where he mentioned his early experiments with electronic music were him sitting in front of a computer and playing his bass alongside it. And it's that methodology you can clearly hear on this track: the funky licks and skittering breaks are an obvious sign of the direction he would take on subsequent albums. There's a certain charm to this track that's very refreshing, compared to some IDM out there that is deeply technical and sometimes very dark sounding, Squarepusher Theme sounds like an absolutely blast, and I'm sure it was as fun to make too. It's still a fantastic listen all these years later.

As is so often the case when I write things like that though, it is going to immediately bite back at me in the next paragraph. By comparison Tundra is one of those dark sounding technical tracks I just mentioned, albeit not quite as hard on the tech front - like Theme From Ernest Borgnine this one too errs more on the conventional Drum & Bass side of things. Perhaps not quite as catchy as the boogie of Squarepusher Theme but I still have a lot of love for it, this kind of menacing vibe is one that would get refined on later releases - most obviously with the release of a sequel Tundra 4 many years later. My personal favourite of the tracks that came from this same vibe is I Wish You Could Talk. The melodic breaks here really stand out to me, there's a certain sound to them that comes up again and again on this album and it's gorgeous, there's one specific track I'm going to talk about next that will show this off in a very beautiful fashion.

I say this every time I have an opportunity to bring this track up, but it bears repeating. There are precious few full on ambient pieces in Squarepusher's discography compared to other folks in the IDM sphere, but those few are all spectacular. Goodnight Jade is the one for this album, and it's just excellent. A stark contrast to the frantic technological jitters of North Circular that comes before it on the tracklist - Goodnight Jade shares a lot of DNA with the later ambient track, namely Tommib, they both share this distant hazy quality, which is even more pronounced on Goodnight. 'Pusher's ear for melodies stands out again here, but unlike on Tundra it gets plenty of time to shine here. Just wonderful.

One thing I will say about this album is that it's super varied - that's again something that's carried on through Squarepusher's career. U.F.O.'s Over Leytonstone treats us to yet another darker sounding tune but this time with a 180 in tempo. It perhaps meanders a bit but I still like the sound a whole lot, though I did pick up this album when I was heavy into Trip Hop so that might have coloured my opinion somewhat. I do to this day love the little bit of a cheeky 303 at about 3:30 - and it pains me that it doesn't come in at 3:03 instead. I feel like it could have been sprinkled throughout a bit more actually, considering my praises of the melodic side of this album this track doesn't really have much on that front.

And finally, I thought I'd talk about something from this album that I haven't mentioned before with the two formerly Japan exclusive bonus tracks for the album, but they were released on a vinyl-only EP as well around the time called Squarepusher Plays... as well. I remember not being too hot on them way back when, but they are each fine additions to the album, especially if you're looking for more stuff like Squarepusher Theme. Theme from Goodbye Renaldo starts that way, with some very obvious funk influence that makes it sound like the soundtrack to a 70's car chase - but it ends up gives you the best of both worlds, as by the 2:30 mark those now hallmark keys come into the mix, and by the 3 minute mark the breakbeats have all completely fallen away leaving just those solitary notes. The beats do slide back into the mix in due time, but that extended downtempo break is just right for me - it even comes back towards the end to boot.

Deep Fried Pizza however, is out and out that Drum & Literal Bass that defines this early era of Squarepusher. I can see why this one wasn' included on the album, while it shares that same methodology the acutal sound is quite a bit different from the main body of Feed Me. The Jazz influence that underpins a lot of Squarepusher's work is firmly on display here, and that might be a little much if you've just come for the Drum & Bass style which I can totally understand, there are times where I'm not feeling tunes like this and skip over them. Still, this is a welcome addition regardless - not only becuase it lets you look over and see the progression of ideas over the man's discography, but also becuase now there's a more readily accessible and complete version of the album out there to potentially influence a whole new host of folks.

I've skipped over a fair bit of the album because otherwise this post would get even longer than it already is, it's a great little piece of it's time though that is definitely worth checking out - if you're looking for more in this kind of style I can also recommend Luke Vibert's Drum 'n' Bass For Papa under the Plug alias from around the same time, it too takes that Jazzy D&B style and really runs with it, though Vibert's work on there tends to lean more towards the actual Drum & Bass side of things as you might have guessed from the length of that one I linked. I'm pretty sure it was reissued a while ago so is easier to find, Vibert also resurrected the alias about 9 years ago for another album in the same style that's pretty great too, Feeling So Special was my favourite from that.

And with that, I think that wraps us up for now. A little longer than I would have liked with that unplanned last paragraph and all but that's how it goes these days isn't it? I'll be back soon with more but until then: As always, stay safe and enjoy the music.


Saturday 5 June 2021

Leave the light on for you

Another week, another tale of me finding something on my travels around the web. This is actually one I've had down on the list for a while but I hadn't done a search to see how easy it was to come by - which is pretty much why this post exists! On paper Ghostlight aren't an act that I'd cover here - billed as Indie / Dream pop on the discogs page there, and to be honest I wasn't really expecting to make a post of it either, I just liked the sound of a couple of the tunes that made their way into my recommended.

Not to be a genre puritan or anything - I can and have posted dream pop stuff here before - but Ghostlight are unique in that from what I've heard so far they often go in hard on the electronic front. This first track I've picked isn't perhaps the best example of that, but it is the one that introduced me to them - Fantasy Complex really grabbed me from the opening, appealing to that part of me that loves the Adult Swim style hip hop stuff and the chill side of the Silent Hill Soundtracks. That last comparison is pretty apt actually, when the indie side of Ghostlight comes through in the latter half, I can't help but get the same kind of feel that I do from the more indie sounding bits of Silent Hill 3's soundtrack - like End Of Small Sanctuary, just fused with a bit of a chillwave sensibility.

And from there it was just a matter of exploring more, the second track to really get my attention was this one - one of the few that are on Spotify as I looked to add some of these tunes my to my playlists. If the two, it's much more electronic - and very, very much of that early 10's indie scene. Not quite as hazy dreamy as Fantasy Complex though the distinctly quiet vocals remain. I picked a great time of year to check out their works, Mask is full of great little flourishes that compliment the sunnier turn that's happening for those of us in the northern hemisphere at the moment. My absolute favourite of which is those gorgeous keys coming in after the break at around 1:50, deliciously sweet but not in an overly cloying way which can be a pitfall for tunes like this.

And finally, a bit of a left turn. Ghostlight have a couple of compilations too which have a whole host of their artist friends on there too. It's here that discoveries like this really shine, as I've said so many times recently I went through a couple of months of picking up compilations here and there just because they often give you a massive injection of variety in one go, and the C/C compilations are no different - going from full on Ambient and IDM numbers to stuff more in line with Ghostlight's indie style. Enter Fabric 70's Take Me Somewhere Nice which is not a cover of Mogwai despite the name. It wastes no time getting right into the thick of things and letting you know exactly what you're in for - a sparkling indie/electronic number full of glittering synths and a very obviously House-inspired beat. I'm very in love with it at the minute (and once again my bias shows with that slight autotune on sections of the vocals, of which my weakness for is well documented)

It might not be for everyone, but I've liked this little jaunt. The Fabric 70 tune in particular, introducing me to some nostalgia I didn't even know I had, giving me mad flashbacks to the poppy electro of Shinichi Osawa's The One - tracks like Dreamhunt are in that same kind of groove. Most of Ghostlight's stuff is Pay what you want on the bandcamp page, but the two C/C comps are also 100% free downloads so definitely look them up if you're feeling what I've put up here! Though it looks like they've been inactive for a while, there's plenty in their discography to look at in the meantime - I know I plan to.

And as always - stay safe and enjoy the music.


Wednesday 2 June 2021

Gatherer's Garden

It's been a while since we checked in with Academy Garden - to the point where I think last time I brought up their work it was still under the 'Celadon City' alias. I've kept tabs on the goings on though, albeit in that weird parasocial Twitter way - the name changes, new releases and dipping on Spotify in favour of bandcamp to name just a few. I've been trying to move more in that direction myself - both ideologically and from a tech standpoint too as Spotify's players are naff quality, only 30 seconds and not archived on the Hype Machine either but I digress. I'd been waiting for the release date to come up on this one so I could run through it all, so let's do that now.

Last I really took a dive into Academy Garden's work I was in my final years of Uni, staying up way too late doing freelance renders for international folks on muggy nights. Tracks like Summer Nights really capture that time period for me, even more-so now with the added passage of time. They've never stopped making though, just to my shame that I haven't checked a lot of it out. Which brings us to Gatherer - I made a point to return to this one (no doubt helped by the repeated reminders from AG themselves!) to see what time and changes had brought to the table. A quote from AG on the bandcamp page before we begin:
GATHERER is a collection of tracks that followed some reflections on coping with anxiety and the flow of thoughts that came out from having those moments noted. It's my first work that has almost all tracks involving lyrics and somewhat thematic.

As someone in the creative space as well, I get it. I've made visual works in a similar vein that have never been released to the public and were purely for my own catharsis - there's an admirable bravery to putting something like this out there. That evolution and methodology is present from the get-go, as much as I loved (and still love) Summer Nights, when compared with the opening track of Gatherer it ends up sounding naïve by comparison. Though not as dark as you might expect given the brief above, it's not quite as bright as the album artwork either - there's still an undeniable underlying melancholy to it. And it doesn't waste any time in getting the album started, beginning in a way that makes it sound like you've dropped in part way through already.

Not to say that it's all focused on that aspect, track 2 Stasis takes things in a short sharp uptempo direction - it pretty accurately captures that manic feeling that comes with the territory of the album's themes and a great demonstration of AG's growth as an artist in the years since I last kept up. Speaking of, I haven't mentioned the vocals yet - as AG said in the little blurb, almost all the tracks here have lyrical accompaniment. My bias showing again as they all have this lovely auto-tune treatment that I get could turn some people away but I personally dig it and think it plays into the overarching themes as well, I love that a tune like Berserk hides those lyrics behind a cheery sounding instrumental and the melodic mumblings of the auto-tune. Its used to great effect here as we get two juxtaposed vocal tracks laid over each other - one sedate and one shouty, and they play off each other really well.

If I was was left wanting some of that dreamy vibe of earlier works, then the latter half of the album sees to that quite nicely. Recall, befitting its title immediately brought back that lush and hazy feel that I mentioned way back. There are echoes here of that video game inspired streak that was so prevalent in those pieces (Hence the name Celadon City), especially on those bit-crushed crunchy claps. Maybe it's because I'm coming off talking about those Ghostly Swim compilations, but it very much feels like the kind of indie electronic that fits their brand - though admittedly I focused more on the hip-hop stuff in that post. Its certainly a much more refined version of AG's earlier work, but it still does a real good job of capturing that feel once again, coming out sounding like a little audio time capsule back to some years ago.

With that in mind, the latter half of the LP is a much more... quiet experience than before. I don't know if the album is presented in chronological order but listening to it front to back like this really gives that impression of growth - going from the frenetic Stasis to the relatively calm High Tide makes for an interesting experience. The intro to High Tide really shows off AG's ear for lush sounds, it's absolutely gorgeous in that Rei Harakami kind of way, a trend that continues throughout the rest of the runtime. This one feels like it ends a bit suddenly, but while an extended fade or some additional noodling would have sounded nice, the sudden steep fade is interesting and plays into the overriding themes of both the album and the lyrics themselves quite nicely.

That trend continues for the rest of the tracklist - Exhume following it in much the same fashion. This one in particular really reminds me of some of the solo work Kenuske Ushio does under the Agraph alias, especially from his debut A Day, Phases. If I'm honest there are a whole host of tracks on there that it reminds me of, I've picked out And Others which I think comes closest, take away the more glitchy ambient bits and it's almost there, though it doesn't have the beat of Exhume. That said, I'd love to hear AG take a crack at something more like that in the future - I got my wish for the extended fade on this one so it's worth mentioning!

Finally there is Tabernacle. Not to repeat myself but this, too, is incredibly lush - unlike the others we've talked about so far, the final track goes all in on the ambient side of things. Well, I say that but at risk of spoiling the experience for you, it's more similar in structure to a Post-Rock tune as it builds to a massive crescendo in the final quarter. Blurring the electronic lines a bit with the instrumentation as it gets almost orchestral at times but it makes for one hell of an album closer. If I may make one final comparison, the structure and mixture of electronic and acoustic evoke some of The Flashbulb's work - We Are Alone In A City similarly builds to a massive burst of sound that's just wonderful.

It's nice to come back and see an artist develop over time, if there's a silver lining to missing some releases and then catching up on their latest, it's that it makes the evolution much more apparent than if you'd been keeping up with every release. It obviously means a lot more when it's an indie musician too, especially one that you've gotten to know a little bit (again in that parasocial sense but still!). I hope you've enjoyed our brief excursion today, I'm attempting to get back on the promo train to get a bit of variety in my listening and on the feed and hopefully support some more indies along the way, just figuring out the best way to do it is all.

And as always - Stay safe and enjoy the music.