Saturday 31 July 2021

Speedy Bleeps

Time continues to make fools of us all, I took a day or so off and went to narrow down what I was going to scoop this BC Friday and only came away with more things on my wishlist. The post I had planned originally is a little more in-depth and could be a long one as I focus on a specific topic and write at length about it, should be a good time when I get around to it. But enough excuses, in the meantime I've gathered up a quick roundup of some bits of electro and techno from my archives, let's have a look!

Starting with a relic of the early aughts - the EP that came immediately after The Other People Place's Lifestyles Of The Laptop Café, the fittingly titled Sunday Night Live at the Laptop Cafe, as the pic above shows, the title isn't just for show, these tracks are actually taken from a set at a Laptop Cafe as far as I could tell. If you liked the cool electro of the Laptop Café LP, the two tracks here are worthy additions to your collection: the A-side, Sorrow & A Cup Of Joe continues the vibe laid out on that LP - lovely electro with a slight depressive edge (curiously my copy that I got from Bleep is a good minute or so shorter than this one for some reason).

For this post though I've chosen the B-Side - Telepathic Seduction by a one Mystic Tribe A.I., which is actually an alias of DJ Stingray of Drexciya fame. It occupies the same atmosphere of the A-side very well, of the two I think it might just edge out being my favourite as sometimes the repeating sample on Sorrow sometimes grates on me. By far and away my favourite bit of this one though is that deep as hell shelf rumbling bassline - I highly recommend digging out your headphones or hooking up a decent speaker setup for this one.

Keeping things Drexciya adjacent here, dipping into High Tech territory again with Der Zyklus - an alias of Gerald Donald and the Dopplereffekt lot thats more electro-focused. Personally, I find the work they've done under this alias to be a little more accessible thatn the stark stoic techno of Dopplereffekt. Both halves of this EP made tons of appearances in DJ mixes and compilations of the time and rightfully so - I've posted one half of this EP before with Mathematische Modelle, which is a little more... playful sounding than this one, however both are very much Kraftwerk-esque, particularly the Computer World era. You can hear that influence plenty on the B-side as well, the equally German sounding Elektronisches Zeitechno. it's one of the few times I'm not going to pick a favourite from the EP because honestly both sides totally nail what they're going for, I can prefer one over the other on certain days for sure but together they operate in perfect harmony.

And finally, E.R.P. - yet again an alias, this time of Gerard Hanson, better known as Convextion. I've been drip feeding myself E.R.P. releases because each one I hear seems to have been engineered to appeal directly to me, they carry that high-tech futuristic feel that Warp was championing for the Artificial Intelligence era. Surprising no-one I know, and perhaps a little reductive of E.R.P's other work - tracks like Lodestone from the Evoked Potentials series still carry that spacey sound but are much more punchy upbeat pieces. I'm more than happy to admit that I'm slightly biased in that regard, not only because as is well documented I just adore that sound, but also becuase the first EP I checked out from E.R.P. was Alsoran, which is very firmly rooted in that style.

The version on Bandcamp is a combined EP of both the Vox Automaton and Alsoran EPs and there's not a bad track on it. I've posted my absolute favourite Lament Subrosa some time ago, so I've gone for another slice of spacey goodness in the lush and delicate tones of Irma which ironically is far and away the most Artificial Intelligence-esque sounding track on here - echoes of B12's Electro-Soma and a little of F.U.S.E's Dimension Intrusion too are all over this one and I cannot get enough of it. Simply gorgeous stuff, one of the best finds I've had in recent years and an artist I'm looking forward to sharing more of with you in the future.

Looking back over the post as I wrap up, that's a whole lot of monochrome album art isn't it? Funny how things like that work out. Just a quick note before I get off - I might take a little longer with that in-depth post I mentioned at the top than usual but I'll keep making li'l posts like this one in the meantime, dipping in and out will probably help with the burnout that I ended up getting on the longer Retro Reviews post that I did for Moby's 18. With that out of the way, I hope you've enjoyed the EPs on show here and as always: stay safe and enjoy the music.


Tuesday 27 July 2021


Running through the list to make some selections for the upcoming BC Friday, there are some definite ones on there but as I've mentioned in previous posts a lot of them are things I said I would pick up 'soon' a decade ago. Still there's been some interesting developments along the way, I've picked out some that are of a similar school of sound, even if I don't end up getting them *this* BC Friday. Join me on this particularly IDM-ish instalment of things I'm looking at.
Thought I'd start off with Abfahrt Hinwil, the duo behind the Toytronic label. Toytronic has been a great source of IDM and ambient for me over the years, but to my shame I never actually got around to picking up the main release from the two, the equally difficult to spell Links Berge Rechts Seen. Which is a shame really as it's the album that set me off on that journey all those years ago after like so many other finds in my library it cropped up on Grooveshark of all places - I was supremely into anything IDM I could get my hands on then, and with artwork that is very evocative of Autechre's Amber (as seen above!) and that distinct Designer's Republic-esque hi-tech flair, it ticked all my boxes.

The intro track 'Bumperstufe2' is typically IDM, from its title down to the actual production on show. If you'r familiar with the genre at all you will find it fairly standard (though I admit perhaps it's just the sheer amount of the genre I've heard over the years) That's not a mark against it by any means though - my love of this sound is well documented after all. By the time of the compilation's original release in 2002 the other big name IDM artists were moving on to more intense versions of their sounds, so having this slightly Artificial Intelligence era style sound kicking around is lovely for me - the breakdown at 1:40 is a divine encapsulation of exactly what I mean. Beautiful stuff.

Speaking of moving on to more intense versions of their sounds - Autechre next. I've mentioned many times over the years that they kind of lose me with the direction they take after Tri Repetae, focusing more on the more magled techy sound without the contrasting almost organic melodies of before. It's potentially one of the hottest electronic music takes I have, Chiastic Slide is OK and all, but it doesn't resonate with me like Clipper from Tri Repetae does for example, and I've never really been able to get into anything after that unfortunatley. Not to say I don't admire what Autechre have done as a group though, they've been at it for a good 30 years now, the stuff they were making is crazy complex for the times it was released in a lot of the time, and in recent years have reliably dropped album(s) every year or so which takes some doing.

And that's not to say I don't dip my toe in every now and then: Altibzz, the opening track for Quaristice is lovely and there are a few tracks from after Tri Repetae that I do like a whole lot too. Enter Yeesland, a great demonstrator of that hyper-mechanical direction they started to take around this time. Yeesland still has that melodic streak that keeps me interested and the introduction of that lovely synth pulse around 1:38 gives the track that contrast that I loved so much about earlier Autechre. I'll still keep trying to explore their later work every now and then, but even just exploring the shallows there are plenty of releases to get stuck into. I'm an outlier in that their early sound might still be my favourite though - the recent release of those late 80's / early 90's demo tapes was a real treat for me.

And finally, some straight up techno stuff from Richie Hawtin under the F.U.S.E. alias again. It's nice to see him working under that name again, I had perhaps rather cynically assumed it was just going to be a one off revival for the 25th anniversary of Dimension Intrusion and it's new companion album (though oddly in places this release is credited to both Richie Hawtin and F.U.S.E. so it might be that his Brother has taken up the name? It's just credited to Hawtin on Bandcamp to muddy the waters further.) At any rate, it's quite a bit different from the F.U.S.E. of old, but not a million miles removed - Dimension Intrusion was one of the Warp Artificial Intelligence albums and so had plenty of that brand of ambient-ish techno on show, albeit with a bit of a minimal edge in parts as you'd expect given Hawtin's other work)

But nestled between things like the cascading arpeggios of title track and the delicate ambience of Nitedrive there were tracks that were much heavier beasts. Tracks like Substance Abuse and Train-trac come to mind - these tracks stand out just because they're so different from the main body of the album and perhaps feel a little out of place (and in fact Train-trac was taken off the anniversary re-issue), but the tracks aren't bad - Hawtin is right at home in either mode. Enter Syntax, part one of which is an acid drenched experience that is expertly crafted with peaks and valleys. I have in the past critiqued Hawtin's more minimal work but here I think there is a nice balance, just when I find myself getting tired of a section, in drops something to keep it fresh - and I'm a total sucker for that extended outro where everything slows to a crawl and the arpeggios get stretched out to their base components. Recently I was thinking I might be a bit bored of 303 stuff but this one has certainly made me eat those words a bit.

And that'll do it for this time, it's been nice to mix things up a little bit, think it's been a while since I went on an IDM trip like this! Got a bit heavier on the text front this time than I iamagine when I started, but it's been a little while too so I can give myself a bit of leeway I suppose. I'll be back soon enough with more but until then - as always, stay safe and enjoy the music.


Thursday 22 July 2021

Wonky Weather

Scouting for more little things that I might have missed over the years as potential upcoming sccops which has led me back to my longtime companion Warp Records once again, more specifically that era around the time I started writing the whole Warped History posts. I've mentioned before that while I am intensley proud (if a little embarrased at some of my teenage writing) of that series, I spent so long looking back att he history of Warp that I missed some of the then-new releases. I have obviuosuly since gone on to pick them up in the years since but I figured I'd shine a light on them here.

Kicking off with Rustie, I first heard of Rustie through some Dubstep remixes way back when - imagine my surprise then when Glass Swords drops in 2011 with this wild and almost sickly sweet sugary sound to it. It's one that I always struggle to pin down with one genre as it bounces all over the place across the 13 tracks - but of you're looking for somethin' to chase the blues away, this would be it. Coming back to it now, I could see it being overly obnoxious to some ears, but if I'm being honest that is part of the appeal to me (see also: my love of Eurobeat). We're not talking about a track from the album this time though, instead I've gone for a B-side fron the Ultra-Thizz EP - Dreamzz. While my favourites are still tracks like All Nite or the A-side to this EP, this track does a fantastic job of demoing the Glass Swords ethos but isn't quite as tooth decaying levels of sweet as some of the others. If the thundering kicks and squealing electrics of this one appeal to you, most certainly check out the rest of Glass Swords!

Staying in that same wheelhouse with Hudson Mohawke next. He's gone on to great things in the interim years, but my first real exposure to his work was a combination of the Polyfolk Dance EP and his debut full length for Warp - Butter. Much like Glass Swords it also bounces all over the place during its runtime but feels a little more... unfocused. There are a ton of great sounds and ideas explored here, but they never stick around for very long. But that's a very small complaint in the grand scheme of the album, it's been fun to come back to it 10+ years later and have it sound still as interesting as back then. It's a wild ride to be sure, one that can leave you a little dazed and confused on the other side, but on the way you get some absolutely stonking tunes: from the Sitar infused Rising 5 to what I've picked today with FUSE: the bombastic claps from the intro let you know what you're in for, and that melody is perfect to be 'sung' along to with a heavy slur like we all used to do with Kernkraft 400.

Finally straying a bit from the Wonky side of things with a little FlyLo. The accompanying EPs for Los Angeles are a real treat that I overlooked for a long time, the tracklists are a little misleading at times - while some of the tracks here are as featured on LA (even the ones that have the same titles are sometimes alternate mixes to just confuse things further) - there are tons of B-Sides and alternate mixes on show too. There's some great exploration of the FlyLo sound here too: there are tracks that clearly take influence from the the dubstep and garage of artists like Burial in RobertaFlack (Heart Beat Mix), the second half of Secrets (Refix) goes on a really raw Drum & Bass / Jungle style kick. There's even a bit of vintage FlyLo revival on here too with an 8-bit chiptune rendition of Auntie's Lock/Infinitum closing out the EP.

But I've gone with the slightly unassuming RobertaFlack (Other Mix), a much more hip-hop styled version of the original that brings it more in line with the other big hitters from the album like Parisian Goldfish and Camel, with a little bit of that old school FlyLo 8-bit treatment as well. I played Los Angeles to death around when it came out to the point where I almost got sick of it - but even then I think it might just sneak to the top of my favourite FlyLo production along with the Reset EP (which would have been here as well but its not on Warp's bandcamp for some reason). Maybe it's because I know the main album front to back, but hearing something new in the LA style like this takes me right back to that mindset of when I first heard it. I still have a lot of love for this style, as of right now I'm falling head over heels again for the final minute or so of this one - just plain fantastic work from FlyLo.

And that'll do for this entry, a little busy for the next few days so there might be a bit of a gap again but nothing too extreme. I do have some ideas floating around but the tracks in question might have to be non-bandcamp streamers which is a bit of a pain to work out the embeds and all. But, I suppose I can make do with that just once in a while, we've had a pretty good streak going as of late after all. In the meantime though: as always, Stay safe and enjoy the music.


Sunday 18 July 2021

It Hot

John Miller - Lelant Beach, New Moon

Shorter one this time, just because I've been busy and the passage of time kinda snuck up on me - looking to get this one finished before the heat of the day becomes a bit much again to boot. Kicking off with perhaps the poppiest tune from HEALTH's DEATH MAGIC in LA LOOKS, part of me wants to say it stands out from the rest of the album as a result but in hindsight it fits right in with the rest of the electro-infused stuff they were experimenting with around this time - but at the same time I can see why it ended up in some indie pop playlists around the time with that chorus. Certainly much easier to digest than some of their earlier work, which while I do like, I must admit I'm a big fan of the direction they took with this album.

Another cut from the Tangent 2002: Disco Nouveau compilation again this time. There's a ton of good stuff here that could almost make a post or two of it's own - like the name suggests, the comp features a bunch of big names from around the time offering their takes on the disco style revival of the era. I went in expecting tons of electroclash (and to be fair between the ADULT. track and a couple others I wasn't disappointed) but there's a lot of variety on here - enter DMX Krew's contribution. If you've been around and heard the past couple DMX Krew tracks I've posted you know what to expect: full on tongue in cheek embracing of pretty much every retro electronic stereotype you can think of. Make Me comes from the same area as You Can't Hide Your Love (which if you hadn't guessed from the cover art is very self-aware), and you'll find more of the same formula here - I can understand it being too corny for some folks but I find it quite charming. And there's certainly no argument that it is an ideal fit for a compilation of modern disco-inspired tracks.

Revisiting the Sounds From The Far East compilation once again, featuring a choice selection of tracks from the Far East Recording boys Soichi Terada and Shinichiro Yokota. Yokota's contributions to the Far East Recording compilations don't get as much attention as Terada's (or worse, incorrectly credited to Terada), but they too are solid bits of early 90's Deep House - Do It Again is the biggest example of this as a bunch of places have the credit wrong, but I can kind of understand that as this one does sound an awful lot like the kind of stuff Terada made on those releases. Tunes like this just feel great, every time I think I've gotten a little stale on House as a whole, a track like this will come along and remind me why I love it so. Also, this is a reminder to me to check out his newer stuff, both he and Terada are still releasing things fairly regularly!

Speaking of things I think I've outgrown - a little bit of Future Funk to finish off. It's a genre that suffered from a massive explosion of content, and like so many other genres that happens to that lead to an absolute boatload of releases that I couldn't keep up with. I've dipped back in every so often to just check in on the scene, but nothing's ever grabbed me the way Macross 82-99's early stuff did. I'm more than willing to admit that a massive part of that is the vague 'French Touch' sound tracks like this one have going for them which makes me all nostalgic for my early blogging days. A contender for one of the best opening tracks of all time, Now And Forever makes for a perfect introduction as it dances its way through J-Pop influences and even gets full on vaporwave in parts - I highly recommend checking it out, especially seeing as you can scoop the full thing for one dollar.

And that'll do for this time. Not quite as short as I had in mind because I ended up putting an extra track in, but even then its still curtailed given how long some recent ones ended up! With that in mind I'll wrap it up here, be back soon with more but until then - as always: Stay safe and enjoy the music.


Wednesday 14 July 2021

Finds I've Found

It's a wonder what you can do when you finally get around to tidying up. After looking over some of my notes and deciding 'This is getting silly, time to trim some of this down' I've spent the last couple of days gettign around to various albums and other media I've had on the list for a while. It's been very varied too - checking out the rest of Sugar Plant's work - a kind of indie shoegazy downtempo that I just adore for starters, to the more upbeat and (probably unintentionally) slightly vaporwave sounds of the later works of Hiroshi Yoshimura.

While neither of those are on official streamers sadly, I have been pleasantly surprised at the availability of some things on there - serving as a reminder to always check out BC even if it seems unlikely. Starting with another compilation find of mine with Calm who makes exactly the kind of tunes you'd expect given the name. Starting with one of the original tracks from 1998's Shadow Of The Earth - a slightly jazzy cut of late 90's downtempo. It feels a little reductive to call it just that, but it's cut from the same cloth as so many other 90's downtempo albums - but that's not intended as a slight against it, as long time readers will know it's a style I've got a lot of time for and can count many albums in my all time favourites that fall into that category. I've been enjoying my time with it, though I feel that this one is perhaps a little long in the tooth at a hefty 7 minutes.

There are a whole load of bonus tracks included on the BC release, including the one that was on the compilation that pointed me towards Calm in the first place - the Bossa Nova Sitting On The Beach. I've actually picked the track that comes before it, the potentially confusingly named Running On The Sand, which I assumed would be a demo version of the above at first glance (It kind of is in parts, but it was actually released as a single before the album!). I think I may like it a little more than the above one - the previous mix could feel a little generic in parts and despite being longer I feel like this one mixes up the variation a lot more too. It's got a slightly techy feel that's refreshing, but still admittedly very late 90's in execution in a way that I personally find really charming but that could just be my bias for this era of sound showing. One last thing before I forget too - there's also a Drum & Bass reworking of it on Calm's follow up album from 2001 too that's pretty great as well.

Another slightly obscure one to round out, a solitary release from an artist called Sora from label called simply Plop. It's another one I was passingly aware of again thanks to compilations, and one of the albums that I had just assumed would be tricky to get legit as mentioned at the top. It isn't the case though, thanks to a re-press from the folks at WRWTFWW Records, who have saved my bacon more than once.

Anyway, onto the album itself - its another one that is supremely up my alley in terms of sound, a real interesting mix of contrasting styles - delicate, almost minimal ambient with glitchy trimmings to highlight and little jazzy touches here and there to boot. It's been a real treat to dive into as it reminds me a whole lot of some of the stuff Mitsuto Suzuki put out for his solo work (who also gets glitchy form time to time, but that track isn't the best demo of that), as well as the the works of Kensuke Ushio, both the soundtrack work he does under his own name but especially the work he's done under the Agraph alias too. The featured track Revans does an excellent job of showing this off, the first couple of minutes are gorgeous and I just love those skippy stop-start vocal samples dropped in.

I need to properly spend a bit more time with this one, but it's a style I can really get into at times - tracks like Etude:Diagonal continue to play with those cut up snippets of vocals in a really fun way, but I don't think it's something I could just have on in the background - it almost demands to be actively listened to in order to pick out the intricacies. The album is at its best I feel when it merges all these styles together as on Traces - the smooth piano of the opening merges really nicely with the more melodic vocal cuts on show here, and the small jazzy flourishes here and there keep it feeling fresh, my favourite being the really bright sounding skips introduced around the 1:20 mark. Certainly one of the more accessible and less experimental tracks on the album along with Revans, so if you go checking out the full thing be prepared for things to get a little more out there. An interesting curio for sure and one I can see myself picking up sometime soon.

That's all for this time, as I mentioned at the start it's been a pretty productive week for clearing stuff off my 'to listen' lists, I just wish more of it were available on legit streamers. Still, I could always knock up another mixtape thing with them sometime soon as a kind of workaround, and I'm content to at least link to unofficial ones in the text like I have done here in the meantime. I'm a little busier this week so things may be a little quieter, but I'll be sure to be back as soon as I can. Until then, as always - Stay safe and enjoy the music.


Saturday 10 July 2021


I'm back on the ambient / downtempo train again surprising no-one, but this time it has a bit more purpose than usual. I'm feeling like I want to make some more of my little ambient works again (the currently existing ones so far you can listen to / get from my Bandcamp), it's been a long time and I've got ideas both from back then and more recently I've been kicking around my head that I want to try out.

As always with my own audio experiments, a lot of that is just down to the sheer amount of new music I've consumed since I last made something of my own. It's a process that's very familiar to me from my art days - there are times when you find something and it sparks something within and immediately resonates with you, and the experience is like nothing else.
Almir Mavignier - Formas

It's something that's happened a whole bunch over the last year as I had the freedom to explore more than usual. From the field recordings of Wendy Carlos' Sonic Seasonings, more dark Ambient from Kenji Kawai and the indie tinged extended cuts of Sugar Plant, I've had plenty of those moments as of late. Granted, they're not all going to be things I can or will incorporate into anything I make, but they're more there as a sort of general collage of influence, a sonic mood board if you will.

And that's really what kicked off this post, I thought I'd share some of the things that are making that list. First of all is some Hiroshi Yoshimura, ambient composer extraordinaire whose reputation is well earned. Enjoying a bit of a revival in the modern era thanks to the internet and being officially licensed for represses in the West - Yoshimura's work is simply put, gorgeous. His delicate touches throughout Music For Nine Post Cards are Ambient in its most distilled form, I've chosen View From My Window to illustrate - the six minutes of runtime pass effortlessly. I'm hoping to introduce more melodic elements this time around and it's tracks like this that only cement that opinion more. But the creative process is never quite as clear cut as that as we well know, still, fragments of this will be on my mind if and when I get around to creation again.

Rei Harakami has been a big influence in that regard too, starting from his third album Red Curb, he settles into a style that is unique and ever so distinct - I've already talked to death about my all time favourites from him - Lust from the album of the same name and a slightly more obscure piece called Pone, between the two they make up the things I like the most about his brand of electronic: Lust with it's catchy yet sparse melodies and playful feel which makes it a joy to listen to, and Pone being essentially two tracks in one as the airy ambience gives way to rhythm.

This time I've picked something from a little earlier, in fact from Red Curb where this style would be defined. I've chosen June this time, one of the tracks that I think typifies this style from the get go and shows off the fabulous use of panning that Harakami does throughout this album as the melodies dance around your ears, something that comes to a peak on the final track Put Off, which is entirely focused around one panning melody. June is one of the tracks I recommend to new listeners, if you like what you hear on this one, you could pretty much go ahead and pick it up and the follow up album Lust and not be disappointed. The way little flourishes of beat are used on this and Pone are just lovely, no more so than the one that introduces a brilliant bit of synth work at around 1:40 - I could live in that section for all of time, the little pitch bends never fail to make me smile.

I can't talk influences without mentioning Oneohtrix Point Never. OPN has been a massive influence on my creative works, responsible for my brief dive into the world of Plunderphonics with the Eccojams Vol. 1 tape, which still informs a lot of my work to this day. It's a little more experimental than the other examples mentioned here so far, but out of them all I think this one bears the most resemblance to my previous ambient releases (OPN is obviously a hell of a lot better at it than me though!). Normally I would choose something from Rifts, a 2009 compilation of his earlier albums - while I still think that is my favourite of all his releases I have pretty much said all I can say about it in the 10+ years since it's release, so I've gone forward to the following album Replica instead.

I wasn't completely sold on it when it first came out in 2011 - there's a lot of the Plunderphonics influence on show on it, but unlike the vaporwave treatment of Eccojams Vol. 1 , the ones on Replica are more in the vein of proper sound collage: tracks like Sleep Dealer being made up of samples from advertisements if I remember right. It's grown on me since and I've come to appreciate it, but my heart still belongs to the flowing analog soundscapes of before, and Replica opens with one of the best OPN has ever done with Andro. It feels a little like a holdover from the Rifts era, especially as it follows that 'gradual increase in noise' formula of the longer ambient pieces of that compilation - though by the end with a section of sample butchery it does set up the overall tone of Replica. The opening is stellar, OPN has a real way with his synths as the haunting intro gives way and his trademark Juno comes in with some lonesome keys, the whole thing is dripping with atmosphere and I just love it.

This one got a little long but I'll wrap it up there, I was going to give an honourable mention to Kensuke Ushio and his solo work under the Agraph alias, but a lot of his stuff isn't quite as accessible as I'd like and I'd really prefer a Bandcamp player where possible. Still I highly recommend checking his work out, especially if you liked the kind of sound Rei Harakami had - Agraph is pretty similar just with a bit more of an IDM edge. I hope you all enjoy in the meantime, I'll be sure to swing by and post anything I do end up making as and when, but until then - as always, stay safe and enjoy the music.


Wednesday 7 July 2021

A Flip-through

That time of year where I look do a little bit of belated spring cleaning - tidying up the folders and doing the 'when I remember to' backup of everything just in case, I'm not as careless with new stuff as I once was so it's not quite the two-day task that it once was. On my travels I spotted something curious, an overlooked folder with a backup of my then-current collection of music that can't have been from later than 2012 or so, almost quaint in comparison to the beast it is now. But I was curious and decided to have a little look through to see what the state of things was almost a decade ago.

Eyvind Earle - California Memories (1994)

If you've been reading here for as long as I've been writing this will be a real trip down memory lane for you all too, pretty much every post the hyped up teenage me would make is represented in the haphazard loose files (in my defence I didn't think it was big enough at the time to warrant arranging into folders!). But one silver lining here is the smaller scale makes it easier to pick out certain tracks, the more you have the less likely you are to come across single ones after all.

The spur of this post was finding Nightmares On Wax's Emotion / Sweet Harry among the pile - a brilliant piece of turn of the millennium downtempo. It's never been released outside of the soundtrack to 1999's exceedingly British club comedy Kevin & Perry Go Large so it's not the easiest track to pick up, which is a shame - the rest of the soundtrack itself is an absolute who's who of late 90's dance and trance to boot. So instead I went with a track from the NOW album from around the same time Carboot Soul, Emotion could have easily been a B-side from it as the rest of the album shares the same kind of sound. If you're at all into 90's downtempo or trip hop - or interested in getting some in your collection, I can't recommend this album enough. Every single entry in the tracklist is just great, but the one-two punch of the opening track Les Nuits into this one is nigh perfection.

What else was happening in my collection around that time? Well, I'd just discovered that Modeselektor and Apparat were teaming up again as Moderat (get it!?) once more and this time it was going to be an album. Coming back to this one has been interesting too, because even at the time I was of the opinion that the album peaks very early in the tracklist, though there are some standouts later on as well. There are times where it's a little too minimal for me - tracks like A New Error sound great, but do start to wear out their welcome towards the end of their 6-minute runtime. My real favourite from the entire thing was Rusty Nails, Apparat providing vocal accompaniment nicely breaks things up so it doesn't suffer from stagnation, and I will always forever love that very obviously Burial inspired 2-step beat of the opening. In hindsight as well it's more obvious to see this one's ties with the eventual second Moderat album, with a lot of the tracks there following this formula. While I may like the second more than the debut, I still have a place in my heart for tracks like this.

And finally, relics from the days where I spent every day searching for my next electro house hit. At the time I was hyping up Simian Mobile Disco to anyone who would listen, to the point where the first track I ever posted here was one of theirs. In fairness to past me, Attack Decay Sustain Release is a really solid debut, and one of those albums that was definitely right-place-right-time to take advantage of the explosion of great electro that was happening around 2007. ADSR came out in June of that year and promptly made its way onto all my summer playlists, like Carboot Soul it's only short at 10 tracks but there are no duds - each and every one has something to offer.

Sleep Deprivation is perhaps one of my favourite album openers of all time, the buildup to payoff is one of the few from this era that still gives me that same tingly feeling of excitement to this day. The bandcamp version that the Mobile Disco boys have put up is a remaster, it doesn't sound much different aside from swapping out a couple of the tracks and (Sleep Deprivation and Hustler getting 'Club Mixes' whereas Wooden gets an extended cut). Personally I think the originals are better, but I do love the variety they bring, if it were up to me I'd have them as bonus tracks on the end and not swap them out like this but hey ho.

I've gone with I Believe this time, perhaps the poppiest track on here and one I'm surprised didn't manage to worm its way onto the radio like so many electronic tunes of the era did, it Features Simon Lord of the original Simian putting in a super powerful performance as he did on We Are Your Friends. I don't think it sounds too dated at all, not to sound like a broken .mp3 here, but I still have a lot of love for this one - with what is probably admittedly more than a bit of bias on the nostalgia front.

And so ends our trip down memory lane for today, I did briefly have a thought of 'Oh man, I should Retro Review that Nightmares On Wax Album!" only to remember I had already done that many years ago when I first started writing with the 'A Very Warped History' series. Not to say it can't still happen mind you, I'm sure I have more nuanced opinions these days so it wouldn't be a straight re-tread - and I should swap out the spotify players on those old posts with Bandcamp ones where possibtle now Warp has their own one... Regardless, hope you've enjoyed gettin' all nostalgic with me, or just plain enjoyed the selections if its your first time hearing them! Either way, as always - stay safe and enjoy the music.


Sunday 4 July 2021

A slow Sunday

Not to be too cliché, but me and Summer don't get on. A big part of that is northern European housing being designed to trap heat which makes the nights stifling. But it's been a lovely stormy couple of days, bringing with them a cool breeze that's much more palatable. So with that in mind I've set my sights on things much more ambient once again.
Elaine de Kooning - Sunday Afternoon (1957)

Starting with another tale from the 'recommended' pile - someone calling themselves 'Survival Spheres' who specialises as the name would suggest in ambient soundscapes inspired by the more ambient pieces from survival horror game soundtracks. It's a style I'm surprised hasn't been co-opted more often actually thinking about it now, look up any 'save room' theme from any game in the genre and you'll find plenty of comments waxing lyrical about how much people love them. If people find out they love ambient through soundtracks like that then all the power to them.

Back to the output of Spheres though. They are decent, but I have some complaints. The first would be the sheer amount of stuff there is on them, there are 3 of these compilations of their ambient work and each clocks in at around 100 tracks each which is perhaps a touch too much. Far be it from me to criticise the amount of work that has gone into each of those 300+ tracks but perhaps some curation (or even better, separating them into the specific games they're mimicking as Spheres does on YouTube) might have helped a touch. Similarly, my other complaint is the length, while they top out at around 10 minutes long I can't help but feel like some of them don't need to be stretched out that much.

Not to be exceedingly negative though, there are moments on here that are great. I've picked Channeling for my first one as I think it does a downright fantastic job of capturing that PS1-era style of sound that its going for. It's one of the Silent Hill inspired ones and it does a decent job at that too, the opening rush is very Yamaoka-esque - though it does stray a little from then on it still does a great job of nailing the overriding atmosphere it's going for. It didn't need to be 10 minutes though, it could have wrapped up in 7 like the Youtube Promo version does and not lost anything.

Moving onto something a little more befitting of stormy weather with another bit from Susumu Yokota's Sakura. It was the first album of his I checked out after finally getting around to listening to a bit of his stuff via compilations - I knew he'd done some ambient work and was interested to see how it'd shake out, especially after being exposed to his House work first. And the answer is given with the first track of Sakura, Saku. It's very different from the kind of ambient I'd normally post, not quite as melodic in the usual sense. 'Heady' would be the way I'd describe it, the contrast between those hazy pads that dominate the runtime and the little sparkling flourishes that shine through every now and then is just lovely.

It's interesting to look at this one and hear the influences come through: the hallmarks of tracks from Eno's cinematic work on Music For Films and Textures are most certainly here, as are touches of the more downtempo parts of Another Green World. Coming back to it though, I'm struck by how much it has in common with some of Daniel Lopatin's work under the Oneohtrix Point Never alias, tracks like this share a lot of structural and sound choices with the kind of stuff he was making between the original release of Rifts and Returnal - albeit more drone in OPN's case, but you can certainly hear similarities between this and Stress Waves for example. But we're straying from the point a bit there - a brilliant opening to a brilliant album.

Finally, Sachi Kobayashi. An artist I found in my little dip into the world of indie ambient on Bandcamp. when I first found the EP that caught my attention Ephemeral Beauty, the discogs page was pretty lacking and I assumed that it was perhaps their first release. It's since been populated a lot more and I have since found out about the other releases that I couldn't find as they were on different labels. I've gone way back to Moon & Sea for this post, one of her first.

Like Kobayashi's other releases there are plenty of lush soundscapes on offer here, but I've chosen one that stood out to me as a little different. There's nothing in the rules that says ambient music can't have a percussive element, rare though it may be, and I'm a firm believer in it being possible to have both. On Construction, Kobayashi does a fantastic job of showing that off - while not a 'beat' in the traditional sense, it certainly goes a way to spice things up a bit beyond your standard ambient fare. Isolated from the rest of the tracklist it sounds a little like a downtempo interstitial from a regular electronic album, but as long time readers will know they were always my favourites. Kobayashi has been consistently been releasing things since both this and her debut album last year and I will most definitely be keeping eyes on what she's releasing, just wonderful.

And so ends our little ambient jaunt for today, I don't go on them often but it's always a pleasure when I do. I didn't talk about the Yokota album as much as I would have liked but I cut it short as it was getting fairly long - it can be a bit daunting given the sheer amount of releases Yokota has available, and to complicate things even more not all of them are readily available either physically or on Bandcamp either. Sakura is a good starting point for his more ambient side though, with a brief dip into his House & Techno background with tracks like Genshi and going almost trip hop in spots for the latter half - I very much recommend checking it out.

And as always - stay safe and enjoy the music.