Sunday 29 August 2021

Going Italo

Another quick one this time that's been brewing for a while, going to have to be Youtube players just because we're going a little deep this time but I can deal with it every now and then. Today we're taking a trip back to a genre I've given plenty of shout-outs to over the years as it is the precursor to one of my favourites in Eurobeat - Today we're talking some Italo Disco.

Giorgio Moroder (minus trademark moustache) illustrating the vibe. Though Moroder made straight up Disco and not Italo!

But even if you're not into Eurobeat, Italo has a lot of relevance to electronic music on the whole, it along with plain old Disco were both partially responsible for House too. Don't be discouraged either if all you've heard of Eurobeat is the sugary sweet 160bpm side of it that I've brought up in the past, the truth is that it runs the full spectrum of tempos, and the early examples that people point to as the initial Eurobeat releases are incredibly similar to Italo as it was.

To start off, here's an early example from Vanessa, one of many aliases of a one Clara Moroni who would go on to co-found one of the big labels of Eurobeat in Delta and more than earn her reputation as the Queen of Eurobeat - she's featured her vocals on literally hundreds of tracks over the years. Moroni's voice is one of those cases where a vocalist and genre are just perfect for each other, her delivery and overall style perfectly suit both these more Disco style tracks, to the full fledged Eurobeat of tracks like Tell Me Baby (though admittedly some Eurobeat tracks are just Italo with the BPM increased, so that makes sense!). Back to the song in question though, Just A Game is from 1989 originally and has all the hallmarks of Italo Disco as well as parts of the contemporary dance music sphere of the late 80's to early 90's.

The use of really plain pseudonyms in Italo and Eurobeat has always been amusing to me, you have artists like Chiara De Pieri choosing things like 'Norma Sheffield' as their stage names, which would sound more at home in a bingo hall than on a Disco record. Which brings us to Katy Gray - who you'll find nothing about on the internet save for the picture that was included on the sole EP released under that name. And even then, that could not even be a picture of the actual vocalist, as Eurobeat and Italo have the slightly concerning practice of using different models for the visuals than the vocals. But I digress, out of the small pool of Italo I have in my collection, Hold Me Tight might be one of my all time favourites - it's a bit of a cult hit that you might recognise from elsewhere: it was given a Vaporwave treatment by Oneohtrix Point Never & Joel Ford on the first volume of their 'Heaven Can Wait' mixtapes, and the vocoded vocal and break at 2:40 among other elements were sampled by Teenage Bad Girl on 'Hold Me Tight' from their second album Backwash. The original track is great on it's own for me, but I really like showing off those samples of it as I think it makes the connection between Disco and other branches of Electronic music all that more clear.

That trend is going to continue with my final two picks, both from Gary Low. You might know of Low's work from the oft-sampled I Want You, most famously getting a chillwave rework from Washed Out on Feel It All Around, but also a more contemporary House update in the early 00's from Miss Kittin & The Hacker with The Beach. But I've told that story a bunch already, so I've gone ahead and picked out some other Gary Low tunes for this time - starting with Play The Game (I'll Do The Same). I'm going to echo what I said earlier and say that coming back to this one after consuming a ton of Eurobeat over the last year and a half or so makes the genealogy all that more clear. Likewise for a multitude of other genres as well, listen to the basslines on this one and compare them to the House of the late 80's and you can draw a line between the two. I find the whole thing quite charming, especially the warm vinyl crackle on the opening. I can't deny there is a bit of humour in it though, get a load of Gary's pensive steely eyed look (naturally making sure to flash the watch as well) on the cover of this one!

To round us out, the opening track from Low's debut album Go On in 1983. I feel like the House connections are even easier to spot on this one, especially on the opening. It does meander a bit with it's 7 minute runtime, especially as the verses disappear in favour of repeated bits of the chorus, I feel like even repeating the first two a couple more times would have done wonders to spice it up a bit. But I suppose that's just a casualty of hearing it out of its intended context, I'm sure it went down a treat on the dancefloors of 1983. Even so, the final quarter where the instrumentals get a moment to shine makes up for it a bit - the showcase of retro sounds is an absolute treat to listen to, and is actually the part that inspired me to finally sit down and write this post up in full. I definitely need more Italo in my collection, I've yet to come across any that I don't really care for - but it's one of those genres that is incredibly vast, I've got Ishkur's (of Electronic Music Guide fame) mixes lined up to listen to sometime soon which I'm hoping will give me some leads to follow up on and maybe do a sequel to this post as well.

I actually came up with the original idea for this post back in the days of the podcast, it was originally going to lead into that oft-promised Eurobeat episode of mine. I still might make a solo podcast of it sometime soon where I run through some Eurobeat in chronological order so you can see/hear the evolution - Claude's Eurobeat Essentials it was going to be called! Still, I'm more than happy for this quick history to be in text format instead, I just wish I had other streaming options to include. Regardless, I hope this little time travelling trip has been interesting for you and maybe you've even gained a little love of Italo Disco along the way. Until next time, as always, stay safe and enjoy the music.


Wednesday 25 August 2021

In The Queue

Mel Bochner - Rules of Inference (1974)

Hey all, just another quick post with a rundown of things that are as the title says, in my queue. Starting with a fairly recent addition - the Celebrating Aphex Twin show on BBC Radio 6 (That link should let you listen, but you might have to be in the UK though and sign in/up, but you can see the tracklist in text on the page - and it'll only be available for 20 days as of this post as well!) from a few days ago was pretty great and managed to squeeze a decent amount of variety in there beyond just back-to-back AFX.

An early highlight is Warrington-Runcorn New Town Development Plan with Gateway To The North. If the album art didn't already tip you off, this is more in the vein of Boards Of Canada than it is AFX - replacing the tinges of Americana that BoC with a full-on British version. I have to admit, based on the title of the album and everything else, it does come across as trying a little too hard at first - the tunes themselves are great though. When Gateway To The North gets going around the 30 second mark it's lovely - while it is evocative of BoC it doesn't completely rip them off, there are echoes of Oneohtrix Point Never's early work in there as well with the analogue arpeggio making up the main body, a little like the Tron Legacy soundtrack as well now I think about it. Annoyingly, it's one of those bandcamp releases that doesn't let you preview all of the tracks, but if the rest of it is anything like this I'm sure I'll love it.

Speaking of previews, I decided to check in with Ocoeur again after bringing him up not too long ago - today we're talking the upcoming LP from him called Connections. It's always interesting to see which tracks get chosen as previews for an album, they can change wildly in sound from one track to another and that goes double for the kind of electronic that N5MD usually works with. From the two preview tracks on offer: Opposite Sides and title Connections, the experience seems to be a lot more delicate than the earlier albums I have in my collection.

A marked movement away from the glitchy electronics of Light As A Feather, though still with a hint of that roughness of those previous releases as well (most prominently on the title track Connections). But that's not a complaint from me - Ocoeur's melodies remain as beautiful as ever on both the sample offerings here. I've gone with Opposite Sides as my pick as it very much feels like an intro track (though according to the page it's actually the second). At the risk of repeating myself from the previous paragraph, if the rest of the album is at all like the small glimpse we've been given so far, I will very much like it.

And finally returning to something a little more local with a bit more from Ceiling Demons. It's been a while since the last time but they've returned with a new full length slated for a little later this year. Perks of the job mean I've had the privilege of hearing the full thing, but the rest of you'll have to wait until the full thing comes out on the 22nd. Snakes & Ladders makes a strong impression from the get go with the folky All Let Go heading things up, reminiscent of an old drinking song, complete with violin accompaniment. It's not long before returning to more familiar Hip Hop ground on track 2, Let The Currents Carry You Home. With a slight Jazzy feel that reminds me of Weekend World-era E-Z Rollers (albeit with a slower tempo) and it's catchy shout along chorus continue that strong impression.

I'd say it's an emotionally charged record, but then again truth is that all the Demons' releases so far have been - for Snakes & Ladders this comes to a boil on Freedom Fighting Dystopia (which is also our first hearing of Lee "Scratch" Perry(!) on this record - more on that later), stripped back to a lone guitar and some frankly cathartic delivery, culminating in the two accelerating to destruction in the final quarter - the vocals do a fantastic job keeping pace with the rising tempo until it's just not possible anymore too.

I could go on, but I best save it for A) When it actually comes out and B) When you can actually hear what I'm talking about as well. Couple final points before I leave it: there's a great Eastern influence (ironically) on the instrumentation of Dust Of The North and my favourite is the gentle treatment on the main Lee "Scratch" Perry feature and closing track Reprise Of Light. Until then though, here is one of the two previews From The Womb To The Grave.

One final note before I wrap up, Snakes & Ladders is on Bandcamp twice but with good reason: cheaper shipping rates on the physical releases if you're in the USA! The link for the USA Bandcamp page is here - and just for redundancy's sake the EU / UK one is here as well. And that'll do it for this round, time got away from me a little bit again, but you can pretty much expect future posts to kind of be on this schedule for a while - they might even become sparser in the coming weeks because things will be getting busier IRL. But until then, as always - stay safe and enjoy the music.


Friday 20 August 2021

One o' them days

Remember back in May where I did a real super short post as a change of pace? I thought it might be a more common feature than it actually turned out to be - it was this one right here, the one with the bit of a soapboxy rant that in hindsight was a bit out of leftfield and potentially ill-advised? Yeah, that one! Well, today I'm feeling that kind of vibe again, though a lot less wordy this time. In summary: people are shit.

Dora Maar - Double Portrait (1930)

I actually put togetehr this tracklist before getting the link to the old one, only to find I'd picked stuff from pretty much the same albums as last time for you fans of serendipty out there. They're a bit more consistnet this time, there's no left turn into techno town at the very end, though we do get a bit IDM with a touch of melodic grit from Clark's Totem's Flare instead. It would have been last in the list but I moved the Perturator album down one as it has the uncensored cover on the Bandcamp page and I thought I'd give you a heads up before you scrolled into it (though I guess it might already be on your screen depending on how big it is) - might be alright becuase it's thumbnail sized but you may want to save this one for when you're on a network that's not monitored by your school/employer or whatever!

And finally as always - stay safe and enjoy the music.


Tuesday 17 August 2021

Wandering the Boards

I had another one of those moments the other day where shuffle deals me a hand I wasn't expecting - hitting me with some Boards Of Canada. It wasn't like I haven't been listening to them or anything, it was more one of those cases where you only notice something missing after it returns. BoC are near and dear to me as you all may know, but the same can be said of all big Warp acts really. It has been a while since I've actually posted anything from them now I think about it, but I did do a runthrough of all their albums pre-Tomorrow's Harvest way back when as part of the Warped History series. At any rate, immediately afterwards I went on a quick dip back into some of my favourites from their works, and thanks to Warp's appearance on Bandcamp, I can now easily make it into a quick post as well - so let's go!

Eyvind Earle - Three Horses (1987)

We're actually going to start with a bit from Tomorrow's Harvest, their latest release not counting the big rebranded reissue of the Peel Session. I didn't actually review this one when it came out unlike some other Warp albums which is probably for the best in hindsight - it's certainly a grower (no pun intended). It's not my favourite of their albums, but don't take that as harsh criticism, it's still BoC doing what they do best. If you needed proof of that, look no further than the one-two punch of the album's opening Gemini, where the BoC boys lay out their 70's soundtrack influences bare - and how it leads into the second track Reach For The Dead. The whole album is a much... darker affair than usual, but not dark in the same way as Geogaddi was - it's a much more gritty, granular experience. Having said that, it is similar to Geogaddi in that the whole album is laden with foreboding atmospheres, but even so there are moments of beauty on there and Reach is one of them - one that I think stands alone even if the rest of the album leaves you wanting.

We'll be going backwards through their discography from here on out, I've chosen a couple from Geogaddi just to fill things out as my immediate first choice Over The Horizon Radar is lovely but fleeting. A trend that will continue with the rest of my picks actually, these small ambient interludes are some of my favourites they've done, and due to the bite size length I usually find myself saying 'just one more time' when they do come up. Over The Horizon Radar ushers in the final quarter of the album which is a pretty good summary of the whole thing honestly, it has the balance of ambient and slightly sinister trip hop thing that runs through the album down perfectly.

And speaking of, 1969 would be one of my go-tos for the flip side of the album - comforting yet unsettling. The beats are surprisingly heavy on all of Geogaddi, but 1969 seems to stick out a lot more than the rest to me at the moment - top it all off with some deliberately cult imagery (the sample here is "Although not a follower of David Koresh, she's a devoted Branch Davidian", just with Koresh's name reversed) and you have pretty much the album's MO in a nutshell. It's hypnotic but doesn't outstay it's welcome at a (nice) 4:20, the final quarter when the track title's namesake comes into play it's magical - I cannot get enough of that vocoded 1969, in the sunshine.

But if I had to pick just one single piece from BoC's vast discography that I could listen to forever, it would be this. I've brought it up a bunch of times before but I think it's been long enough that I can bring it up again - to me, Olson is the distilled essence of the Boards Of Canada sound, at least on the pure ambient front. Their work is very evocative of a moment in time, and they do a fantastic job of capturing that nostalgic, wistful feeling here - the analogue hisses and warbles are refined to perfection to capture that moment in time that influenced them so. It's maybe a little late to say it in the post, but if by chance you're new to BoC and like what you hear here, I would recommend starting with the album that Olson is from: Music Has The Right To Children and working your own way from there, forward or backward in their discography and you'll probably find even more that appeals.

And that'll do it for this slightly hastily written post, apologies for the widening gaps between them these days, things are getting busier IRL, I'm going to try and continue this short post trend just because it's easier to manage with the current climate and all. I have something else lined up that I haven't started yet so there may be another one out by the end of this week, but if not I'll drop by with it when I can. And as always - stay safe and enjoy the music.


Thursday 12 August 2021

Please Hold

The post in question I mentioned last time is taking a little longer than I want it to, but as I said last time I kind of expected that. Nothing major - just it's a very broad topic and I'm tackling it like a proper article instead of these usual quick-fire posts. I've been a little busier IRL too to boot. Still, that's why we plan for these things isn't it? And besides, I didn't want to do two fairly big posts back to back anyway.

Helen Frankenthaler - Robinson's Wrap (1974)

So I've got a little selection of things I'm eyeing to get my hands on soon, a fair warning we are heading back down IDM lane once again though - starting with Arovane, another find from my deep dive into the genre many years ago. My introduction delicate, almost ambient Tides, an album full of delicate electronics and for my money potentially the most accessible 'IDM' album of all time - there's no hyper-technological abrasiveness here, the tracks with beats come out sounding more closer to Trip Hop (particularly the kind of stuff Akira Yamaoka makes for the Silent Hill soundtracks), a great stepping stone if you're looking to get into the genre.

But my choice this time is actually from the follow up to that album with Lilies, a much more technological feeling album but no less organic on the melody front. Which is actually thematically relevant as there is a very strong Japanese influence on this album, first appearing on Passage To Nagoya, which features a sample of the Shinkansen announcer detailing the route to Shin-Ōsaka Station. My pick from the track list also shows this influence on the title, Cry Osaka Cry - by far and away the most conventionally 'IDM' of the lot, which is actually why I've chosen it this time. As long time readers will know I have a real soft spot for this style, it can be a little generic at times but I think Arovane skirts that nicely here, his melody work here is great and I just love that those delicate elements get their moment in the sun to stand alone in the final quarter. Lovely stuff.

Returning to early Apparat for more of the same vibe with his debut album: the delightfully german Multifunktionsebene. It was a bit difficult to find on streaming or otherwise legally on the web for a while, though unfortunately that's still the case for a few earlier Apparat releases like one of my favourites from him in the Shapemodes EP. Back on topic though, I do like it when there are little blurbs on Bandcamp pages about the albums in question, the one for Multifunktionsebene details the process behind the creation, which according to the bandcamp page is as follows:
at variable intervals, audio data are manipulated by using random modulation algorithms. the result is relaxed electronica, "de-beautified" by (severe) exceptional sound errors.
I'm not sure I 100% buy that, as someone who's worked with a similar kind of process before, that normally gets you some good bases that you then need to refine, but then again mine was for still images and not audio so maybe you can kind of stitch the good bits of randomness together easier in audio form. At any rate if there were a single track that would make me believe that it would be Multifocus, that squeaky synth making up the backbone of the track does seem pretty random in its excecution, and I will admit Apparat does a great job of contrasting it with some really smooth backing, pop it on some decent headphones and you can pick out the intricacies. While most of my favourite Apparat works are his later ones, I do have an appreciation for tracks like this, it's a striking debut at the very least, and Apparat builds on this foundation in really interesting ways in the releases afterwards.

Ocoeur to close out - I'm sure I say this every time I talk about them but they are yet another find from my Grooveshark days, one of the few recommended artists underneath The Flashbulb if I remember right. My introduction was Light As A Feather which is a fantastic album in its own right and an ideal intro to the man's work, it has an almost palpable textural feel to it that is on show in full force throughout that album. Truth be told though it's a little reductive to just label Ocoeur's output as just IDM - while it does fit under the broad umbrella of the term it doesn't give you a great idea as to what exactly it sounds like, which is one of the main reasons I don't much care for the 'IDM' name: Boards Of Canada and Aphex Twin are two wildly different atmospheres.

For example, there a lot of Techno influence when it comes to Ocoeur - not so much that the tracks come close to being full-on Techno mind you but it's certainly there, and I can think of no better example than the one I've chosen here. When it all comes together you get traces of the likes of Burial and Moderat too as First Highway breathes to life over the first couple of minutes. The sparse kick drums tease, coming in to full force around the 2:35 mark - underpinning the gentle weave of melodies and sounds that Ocoeur plays with over the rest of the runtime. I would still recommend Light As A Feather as a starting point, but if you like what you hear there then A Parallel Life will make a fine addition to it.

And that'll do it for this time. I don't have an exact ETA on when the bigger post I'm working on will be done, but I'll try to put a couple more of these smaller ones out in the meantime if it takes longer still. In the meantime I hope you find something in these selections that really appeals to you, I'd recommend Light As A Feather even if you're not into the genre, it's has some really great atmospheres on it and isn't too avant garde in its stylings, making it a much more digestible listen than you might expect given the IDM label. And with that, all that's left to say is - as always - stay safe and enjoy the music.


Sunday 8 August 2021

Plus One More

That time of year again where synchronicity shines through and by happy coincidence both myself and the blog tally getting one more year older on the calendar on the same day. I hope I don't sound especially sentimental when I say that this blog has been a massive part of my life - I think I'm coming up on 10 years of writing this year? It's pretty wild to think about. But that's part of the appeal to me, sure I might wince a bit at my teenage writings - but what I have here is a written log of my electronic music journey, one that's going to continue for many more years to come.

Sir Terry Frost - Umea, Sweden (1979)

We've both come a long way since the days of bloghouse where I got my start. Genres have come and gone in the years since, but I like to think I've been pretty consistent. Though we are going to take a break from my usual format this time and do what I normally do around the blog's birthday (and some seasonal holidays) a good old fashioned track dump like it's 2010. Basically I'm just gonna be throwing down a whole bunch of tracks from across the genre spectrum - some classics that I've had for longer than I've been writing here to new(ish) stuff and everything in-between. Thanks for reading, and here's to many more of these to come.

Kicking off with a bit of synthwave from Carpenter Brut. Brut's stuff has a lot in common with the electro house of old in terms of sound, his brand of synthwave (at least in this Trilogy era) is free of the more super cliché bits that can be pitfalls of the genre - Brut's slasher film aesthetic is a nice change of pace from the usual pink grids, pastel sunsets and cocaine white Countaches that come with the territory. I'm not as into the scene as I was back when this was new circa 2015 so take that comment with a grain of salt and all. The entire Trilogy compilation is a fantastic crash course into the world of Brut, gathering up his first three EPs into one tight package that I would say is near essential if you're at all into the genre.

While I do love his more abrasive work on tracks like Turbo Killer and the first of his I ever heard, the brutal sounding Roller Mobster - I've gone with a different pick this time. Looking For Tracy Tzu has much more of a cinematic feel than those two (not entirely unexpected though, given Brut's obvious horror flick influences), but even so still finely demonstrates Brut's mastery of his own style, one of my favourites and just a fantastic track from a fantastic compilation.

A find from my eary bandcamp days (and one that's been on my wishlist for a shamefully long time as well), when I started to broaden my horizons a little bit in the vast and infinite world of bandcamp. One of many tracks that have made me eat crow and walk back my "minimal isn't really my bag" statement (one that's still kind of true) - Antigone & François X's We Move As One. The title track is a woozy sea of arpeggios, and my choice for this post Journey Home follows that same methodology but with a thudding 4/4 instead of the hazy ambience of the former. A colossal 7 minute number, it's utterly hypnotic in its execution, effortlessly building to peaks and crashing down into valleys - another one of those tracks that again make me fall in love with electronic music all over again with it's atmosphere. A stellar piece that makes me all wistful for the dancefloor.

Onto one of the older ones here, Misstress Barbara's Never Could Have Your Heart. This one came into my life when I was beginning to branch back out into the world of electronic music, back then I was only really listening to stuff that I'd picked up from when more electronic stuff would bleed onto the radio - your Daft Punk and friends kinda deal. I don't know the exact year I found this one but it can't be later than the early 00's, it was one of those magical moments where it solidified why I liked electronic music - I instantly could tell that I loved this sound and wanted more of it. I dig it out from time to time, and the love I have for it is still strong - that melody is so, so good and it was so much heavier than the more disco-influenced house I was familiar with at the time. And it all came full circle eventually, as I learned that the melody that I liked so much from this one is actually sampled or otherwise taken from Move's D's In/Out (Initial Mix) (around 2:20 if you want to skip straight to it) which is also another great record.

What is there to say about Nightmares on Wax that I haven't already said over the years? A hometown hero of mine, generally nice bloke and provider of solid downtempo stuff for well over 20 years at this point. I've picked one from Smokers Delight again, one of the trio of albums that I have signed by the man himself and a quite easy and comfortable entry on my 10 top 10s list. An early highlight, Pipes Honour remains one of my first go-to tracks from the album, from the get go it establishes itself as one of the heralds of what the albums all about - if the title of it and the artwork didn't give enough indication already. Together they make for one damn near essential piece of downtempo history, whether you partake of the titular smoking or not - if you are at all into anything downtempo I can highly recommend both this and the follow up album Carboot Soul for your collection. Another one with a deceptively thick bassline, run this one through your sub for a quick and easy way to dust your shelves!

Closing out this section with another easy entry on my 10 10s list, The Knife's Silent Shout. Another exercise in aesthetic perfection, the complete polar opposite of the bubblegum electropop of Deep Cuts, Silent Shout is a much moodier affair - loaded with cool electronics and a melancholy tinge to the lyrics and delivery. Silent Shout draws from a much wider sound pool than Deep Cuts, there are fragments of all kinds of genres on here from Trance to Ambient - but as seen through the lens of The Knife.

Silent Shout also sees Karin & Olof refine their work on the vocal front, on the previous two albums there were a few tracks that played around with Karin's voice, pitch shifting it around in order to play different roles - it's a technique that worked really well (and would continue to do so on Karin's solo project Fever Ray) but here it's refined even more, and the duo lock in to a sound that not only compliments the sound and atmosphere of the album, but lends weight to the lyrical content and themes as well. There is no better demo of what I've just mentioned than the title track itself: they synths are just fantastic, and the sound of Karin dueting with her simultaneously pitched-down and pitched-up selves is a strong contender for my favourite vocal treatment of all time. It's transitioned into track 2 of the album as I type this and I cannot overstate how much I love this album, the opening combo of the first four tracks is just flawless and an incredible experience. The Knife came to me at a weird time in my life but I'm ever so glas to have found them.

Rounding out with two more entires to bring things full circle. Warp has been a major staple of my listening history over the years and as a result a big part of my history with the blog as well - I spent an entire year writing album reviews of classic Warp albums not long after I first started after all. I've not been the best at keeping up with what's new from them as I used to just because I'm a heck of a lot busier these days than when I was a teen, but I've made the effort to rectify that recently and I have not been disappointed.

Squarepusher's latest EP Lamental was an early hightlight of me getting back on the Warp train, I wasn't entirely sure what to expect going in though, as anyone with a passing knowledge of Squarepusher's work can tell you he can swing wildly in sound from one release to the next. Still, I had heard Midi Sans Frontieres a while back when he was giving out the stems for it, so I checked it out based on the strength of that. It's a very solid EP and serves as a whirlwind tour of Squarepusher's many sounds over the years - opening with The Paris Track, evocative of his older Drum & Bass style works a la A Journey To Reedham from the Big Loada EP but twinned with those new squelchy synths he's so fond of. A downright beautiful ambient piece in Detroit People Mover, which I appreciate a whole lot as the rare times he does take on the genre it is always beautiful - see Tommib for proof of that. A solo guitar piece rounds out the retrospective tour, Les Mains Dansent could easily have been one of the handful of classical guitar bits featured on Ultravisitor, it's most similar to the closing track Every Day I Love in my opinion.

I'm not going to lie, the sort of look back over his discography has tinted my opinion of this EP quite a bit as it made me all nostalgic for those days when I was exploring all that Warp had to offer (and loving it!). I've chosen Midi Sans Frontieres (Avec Batterie) this time, it and it's ambient-style cousin (just called Midi Sans Frontieres) close out the tracklist and I adore them both. This version with the beat recalls bits of Ultravisitor again, the jazzy nature reminding me of Iambic 9 Poetry. It's far from his 'Drill & Bass' of old, but I really like the sound of this EP and am interested to hear where Squarepusher goes next.

I did the same with another of my Warp favourites - Daniel Lopatin's long time ambient / avant garde project Oneohtrix Point Never. I first found OPN via the Rifts compilation released in 2009, a gathering of his first few albums into one huge set. I actually bought my copy through Bleep, Warp's official distributor that used to deal only in digital music but merged with the physical store Warpmart a while ago now. I distinctly remember thinking at the time that OPN would make a great addition to Warp's roster, a feeling that only got stronger as I dove into his previous works and the Rifts comp started making waves. It wasn't long before that actually happened, and since then Lopatin has gone from strength to strength - even branching out into film soundtracks in recent years. OPN's work can be experimental to a fault at times, though I think both the Rifts compilation and R Plus Seven are fairly accessible if you want to get into his overall sound (and personally I think R Plus Seven is some of his finest work).

But we're getting away from the point, I haven't really checking in to a full release from Lopatin since around the release of R Plus Seven which is coming up on nearly 10 years old at this point. I think I did check out his two follow up albums in passing when they came out but like so many other records I intend to look into ended up on the back burner - so this time I did the same strategy as I did with Squarepusher and dove right into the latest EP of his, Nothing's Special. It's not a long one at just two tracks, one of which is just the album version of the track so I thought it'd be an easy entry.

It is just fantastic. I was rapt from the opening alone but that only continued as the track went on, I'm totally in love with it. e OPN has played with vocals previously in the past - normally heavily distorted as on the original version of Returnal or the cut up samples of the Replica album - though his work for the Good Time soundtrack featured an almost spoken work collaboration with Iggy Pop in The Pure And The Damned that sort of leads directly into this one. Damned is fantastic in its own right, the small bits of that iconic Juno sound from OPN's early work never fails to make me smile.

But as I mentioned, Nothing Special feels like a refinement of that. The original has more in common with Returnal as mentioned above, albeit not as distorted - this time the vocals getting a melodic auto-tune-esque treatment and some great subtle and not-so-subtle glitch artifacts that sound amazing too. For me though, the real highlight is the new version for this EP, a collaboration with Rosalía taking over the vocals. Of the two, I think this one is easily my favourite (Shocking, I know given my bias towards treated vocals), there's nothing wrong with the original but Rosalía makes the whole thing feel so much more passionate. OPN's subtle and delicate treatment of her voice is nothing short of brilliant as well, rather than swimming in autotune as the original was, here it's more selectively applied along with the subtle glitch artifacts as well, the whole thing comes across like a merging of humanity with technology which I just love, I've been unable to stop coming back to this one over the past week or so.

Perhaps not a track dump in the traditional sense, but more than I normally put up and of a much wider variety as well. Plus, I let myself write more than usual this time too, so apologies for the big gap between the last post and this one. As I close out this post I just want to drop a quick thank you to all that read - whether you're fairly new or a long time veteran, your interest is greatly appreciated! I love being able to write out my thoughts like this on all kinds of electronic music, the blog has been a major rock for me over the years and now more than ever have I needed it, and my music collection as a whole. Likewise, I hope that it's provided some consistency and levity in your own lives as well. Not to get too overbearingly sentimental or really parasocial on you or nothing though!

Once again, here's to many more years of these to come. I'll be back around soon enough as usual with more tales and tunes but until then - as always, stay safe and enjoy the music.