Friday 29 July 2022

Digital Digging Returns

Apologies for the delay on this one, had a busy couple of days - I did manage to get some old posts republished but nothing major as I had planned to do that old republishing-as-new trick I mentioned in the past. No matter though, I've cooked up some tunes to talk about in the meantime to tide things over. Let's have a look-see.
Emilio Scanavino - Quadro (1972)

Bit of an odd one to start off with, a remix album that sort of... isn't at the same time? What we have here is an album by Komëit - Falling Into Place, only this version has been completely redone by Robert Lippok and titled Falling Into Komëit. I've liked what I've heard from Komëit so far, very much up my street being a slightly obscure electronic act from the early 00's and all. Lippok's treatment of their second LP cranks the ambient parts up to 11 and I am very much into that as well. Take I Can Tell, this reworked version coming out all skeletal and fragile - it's gorgeous stuff, the intro to this one is just lovely.

We're actually keeping that theme going next with a little bit from Roger van Lunteren, although we wouldn't find out for years after the fact. See, Lunteren originally recorded a track called M-2097 in 1996, but it didn't get released until it appeared on his album Satori a good few years later in 2016 Satori. However we actually heard an alternate, once again more ambient version back in 2000 on a compialtion from City Centre Offices called Cashier Escape Route - this version being dubbed N-2097! Which I guess technically makes that one the original and the 2016 release the alternative version. Of the two, this one is my favourite, much like the above it is lovely and suitably spacey in parts, it mostly just feels very warm and comforting in the meantime. City Centre Offices is defunct as a label now so I've had to go with a YT embed for this one, but it's at least from van Lunteren's personal channel.

Saying that, I have been pleasantly surprised what you can find on bandcamp, when I stumbled across the compilation MAS Confusion (a fitting title given the stories above!), I assumed like with so many other compilations it would have to be something I'd sail the seas for. Not true this time, the label it was originally released on has done a great job of archiving most of their releases after relaunching in January of this year - Musik Aus Strom, a creation of Funkstörung. I found this compilation on a recent-ish search for more early 00's IDM stuff and it did not disappoint, the opening salvo of tracks are all great but the opener is exactly what I was looking for when I went on that search for more of that sound. Takes me right back to those late nights working in After Effects.

And that'll be all for this time around, slightly shorter than usual. Hope you've enjoyed the tales and tunes above, I've been hanging onto them for a while now just making sure it all made sense before I wrote it up! I'll be back before long with more but until then, as always, stay safe and enjoy the music.


Friday 22 July 2022

Waxing Nostalgic

I've dipped into the archives and republished some of the very first posts on here recently - and they are an interesting curio of the time, very much still finding their feet in the blog world, and are very much 'blogs' for that matter: former site operator Jordan dropping random thoughts and such in typically teenage fashion. No judgement from me on that front, you can go back and read my posts from when I was 16 and see just how insecure I was back then! But the whole thing got me thinking once more about tunes that hark back to that era - as you may all well know, this blog was founded on French House (which is also how I found it), so lets see what I can dig up that would have gone down a treat back then.

Gerard Fromanger - Violet d’Egypte (1972)

Keeping it modern first with a bit of Macross 82-99. A lot of Macross' work would have been a natural fit for the house lovers of the blog's early days - operating in that 'Future Funk' sphere, his blend of J-Pop and House would have gone down really well I would think. Look no further than tracks like Let It Be Real to evoke that same kind of feeling of yore. It's not quite the most 'French House' example from Sailorwave III now I think about it - that honour goes to That Music that I have posted before - but the whole tape is full of toe-tapping jams that recall that era of blog house. Same could be said for most of the content of the Sailorwave tapes really, but especially III: bite sized slices of retro love letters, with only 1 track that's over 2:50 it's a very easy release to fall in with.

Heading back to soundtrack territory with this next one, Paradise Killer (which has a pretty stellar OST already) got an extra B-sides companion album released back in March that completely went under my Radar. You might expect with a title like Paradise Killer for us to be once again swimming the seas of Synthwave but in actuality there is pretty much none on the OST - plenty of Vaporwave and HOME style synth jams though. If the artwork didn't tip you off already, Paradise Killer also drinks from the same pool of influence as Macross does - the anime influence is much more clear here with big jazzy vocal numbers like its an OVA from the 80s/90s, which as a lover of Gunsmith Cats, Bubblegum Crisis and the eponymous Macross isn't a bad thing at all. In the spirit of the post I've picked Unlimited∞Luv, a self-professed summer jam that wears its house influence on its sleeve if the piano stabs and the 90's wobbly bass didn't tip you off already. I'll end with a quote from the bandcamp page: "We wish we could have an endless summer, dancing all night and for once in our lives, be glad to be alive before the claws of the weight of knowledge and responsibility pierce our flesh once more."

Speaking of heading back, here's another from Umurangi Generation. It's from ThorHighHeels who has come up when I've made this type of post in the past for the album Positive Yellow which is the soundtrack to a PS1 game that never existed. That undercurrent is always there in THH's work, though not always as pronounced as on Positive Yellow. The OSTs for Umurangi Generation and its OST are a little like Sailowave in that its a rapid fire collection of an almost absurd number of tracks, 100+ if I recall right. THH's work has a little bit of an ironic edge to it, as shown here on ESSENTIAL CLUB SOUNDS vol-2 from the title alone - compounded with the Text-to-speech vocal. I can imagine it turning some folk away, but it's worth sticking with as THH has a really good ear for this kind of thing - sit with this one and you're rewarded with a downright euphoric 'drop' come the 15 second mark. Perhaps not totally in line with the classic house theme I was setting up, but this one feels like an interlude from a house record to me, the bassline in particular feels like it was ripped from the late 90's.

And that'll be all for now, as mentioned up top I'm diggin' the archives for the first time in a while so I might end up doing what I've done in the past where I publish them again as 'new' posts as well, or I might just go a little radio silent for a bit longer than usual because some of them are a real pain to fix, especially when the tracks featured no longer exist on the web. But enough of that, hope you've found something to enjoy here, I did stray a little into soundtrack city again but definitely look up Umurangi Generation and Paradise Killer if you're interested, beyond just the soundtracks they are also both very interesting games with slick visuals! And of course, as always, stay safe and enjoy the music.


Monday 18 July 2022

It's well 'ot

The cruel irony of working with computers is that they too generate heat - this vintage meme pretty much nails it (just replace the gaming part with 3D and video rendering). It's well documented I don't get on well in the heat anyway, but this post isn't going to be me sitting here and complaining at you (but it was important context for the songs on show!). Let's go ahead and get some suitably sweltering songs on the go.
Charles Sheeler - Golden Gate (1955)

Kicking off with a bit of Ceephax, Sidney's Sizzler always seems to crop up quickly whenever you search for anything related to the man, no doubt helped by the wild homemade video he made for it. This was the first track that came to mind when thinking up tracks for this post, beyond just the obvious name it does sound like Ceephax's equipment is on the border of melting throughout - especially with that stumbling breakdown at 2:10 making it sound as if the whole setup is breaking down. A touch more intense than the other Ceephax tracks I've posted in the past but nothing too wild. I've not had the chance to listen to his entire discography as of yet but in my experience there's a strong melodic element that keeps it from going into full on 303 arpeggio territory.

I've been back on a bit of a Soichi Terada thing ever since my last post, and the man has plenty of works that would fit this theme. I've gone with the timeless classic Sun Showered this time though, it's the instrumental mix of one of his breakout hits: Sunshower with Nami Shimada from 1989. I have nothing against Nami's vocal, both versions of the tune are stellar in their own right - but the instrumental really lets Terada's work shine through. I do think it feels a bit empty without the vocal in parts, but I've also mentioned it a ton of times in the past so I figured the instrumental gives a little bit of variety too. Check out the whole compilation this is from if you like the vibe, Sounds From The Far East is a fantastic 'best of' Terada's House works.

Keeping in a similar sort of vein to play us out, we have techno mogul Ian O'Brien. I initially knew him from a spate of remixes and of course Desert Scores, which opens with the homage to his influence taken from Underground Resistance with Mad Mike Disease. I checked out some of his more recent work a little while ago and The High Frontier EP quickly made it onto the ever-growing wishlist. It's a great little 3-tracker going from Tech, to downtempo almost IDM and full on Ambient across the tracklist. They are all lovely tracks but Harmonix really starts the thing off on a high note - it's a distillation of all my favourite bits of the Detroit sound. I say it every time a track like this comes up but I'm just real glad that tracks like this are still being made, absolutely gorgeous stuff.

And that'll about do it for today, the heat is set to continue for a couple of days so I might be able to fit another one of these in before the week is out - in true fashion for me it'll probably be a return to the more downtempo side of things! Hope you find something to love in these selections as I have, and as always - stay safe and enjoy the music.


Thursday 14 July 2022

Down The Road Again

A real retro roundup this time, I was thinking of things I've been listening to recently and wound up landing on another sorta Synthwave selection. I've mentioned in the past how I don't dive into that world much anymore as there was a time when anything vaguely synthwave was a dime a dozen - but after going back to some old Kavinsky records a little while ago, I'd be lying if I said I didn't quite like it a bit. So today I've rounded up some of my other recent favourites both new and old, let's have a look.
Peter Alexander - Ceanothus (2001)

Starting with the new (or new-ish) with a bit of the soundtrack to Road 96, which first came on my radar due to folks talking about the soundtrack. I was sort of surprised to see The Toxic Avenger on there, I hadn't heard that name since the remix heyday of the electro house era. And actually you can hear that influence on Home Call, it shares much more in common with Kavinsky's brand of Electro than it does your average Synthwave, which for me does wonders when it comes to evoking that nostalgia that Road 96 is going for. That intro is divine.

Hitting up Mitch Murder next, I've always described his take on the whole retro electronic sound as very honest, and that's very true for his early releases. The After Hours EP from 2009 was actually Mitch's first, the version on his Bandcamp is quote "slightly remastered" and with redone cover art that is more in line with Mitch's now established look. I've posted bits and pieces from it before but honestly every track on here is very well done - I've gone with Bertone's Theme this time around, a much poppier take on the sound than you might be used to. In keeping with that retro theme, it almost sounds like a DMX Krew track at times with that funky undercurrent. I gotta echo what one of the reviews says on the Bandcamp page, even from this early release you can tell the man has an ear for this kind of thing. And as I say so often on this page, if you like this, you would do well to check out all of MM's output - a lot of his early releases are Pay What You Want so you can scoop them for free if you'd like.

And finally, I can't talk early synthwave without bringing up Perturbator - perhaps one of the biggest names attached to the genre. It's not hard to see why, the covers for these early albums and EPs lean hard into the 80's sleaze and cheese: dripping with images recalling the satanic panic, slasher flicks, sci-fi and sofcore porn. I put the albums back into rotation after a long absence, they're still excellent examples of the genre for sure (my favourite still being The Uncanny Valley) and I've found myself liking the slow jams on them more and more this time around. Last Kiss being one such example, following a very cinematic structure, it takes its time building an atmosphere before lavishly laying on the synths come the 2 minute mark. A complete 180 to the previous track Complete Domination featuring another synthwave heavyweight Carpenter Brut - that one is all about instant intensity whereas Last Kiss is a much more of a mood piece. Maybe it's my soundtrack side taking over, but these bits have been the definite highlights of my revisit.

And that'll be all for today, I hope you've enjoyed this very brief dip into the world of retro electro, there's a whole lot more out there to get stuck into but I think I did a decent job of showing some variety here, especially if you've not encountered any of these artists before. I'll be back soon enough. with more but until next time, as always, stay safe and enjoy the music.


Monday 11 July 2022

Apes: Escaped (A VGM DJ Set Special)

I've talked before about Ape Escape, and more importantly its composer - Soichi Terada. Likewise, I've also mentioned Dedeco as well - thanks to my recent descent back into the world of the PS1. I don't mean to sound reductive, Terada has a long production history beyond just Ape Escape, with his own label Far East Recordings and plenty of House records under his belt (and his most recent release being this year). But that is how I and many others were first introduced to the man's works. His brand of D&B is lovely, different from what might come to mind when you think of the era's soundtracks but at the same time fitting right in. I seriously recommend the OSTs even if you're not into games at all as they stand alone very well, case in point here when Dedeco opens the mix with a snippet of the opening theme before diving right into Cryptic Relics, one of my all time favourites from the first OST. This mix is incredibly well thought out, Dedeco is obviously very familliar with the content and does a fantastic job of making them flow together - this ain't just some nostalgia bait.

That's not all either, as pointed out in the video before the mix starts, there's a commentary track of an interview with Terada himself (it's not by Dedeco however as he mentions in the YT description, I believe they are quoted from this interview with Nick Dwyer). It's kind of an odd way to present it I thought, but after a couple mins I settled right in, after all you can't have audio playing over audio in this format. If it wasn't obvious already, he really went above and beyond with this mix. I'm glad that Terada is open to talking about stuff like this for what is relatively a small-time act, especially as he mentions in the interview he's trying to take a more relaxed approach these days. Dedeco obviously impressed as well, with Terada tweeting out in both Japanese and English his praise for the mix not long after!

If you like what you hear above, the two Ape Escape OSTs that Terada worked on are readily available on streaming (I'll be linking to Spotify here but they are on others) - they are the punnily titled Ape Escape Originape Soundtracks and Ape Escape 3 - Originape Soundtracks. Of course I definitely recommend his solo work from there, a lot of it is not on streaming sites but if you're after more of the Ape Escape feel then seek out Sumo Jungle for more delicious D&B. There is also Terada's Omodaka alias, where he fuses the traditional and the technological in very interesting ways, check that out if you're in the mood for some chiptune Enka!

That'll be all for today, I'll be back soon enough with more but until then, as always, stay safe and enjoy the music.


Friday 8 July 2022

Retro Reviews: µ-Ziq - Lunatic Harness

It's been a while since I sat down and did one of these long form Retro Reviews, and there's been one album staring me i nthe face all this time that I can't really figure out why I didn't do one of it already, though I think I might have done a quick overview of it way back when. Regardless, we're here now - taking a look at µ-Ziq's 4th LP, Lunatic Harness, which is especially topical because like Daft Punk's Homework it is also getting an expanded reissue this year.

I have always loved the cover art, it's very iconic and very well composed. I will admit that I have a weakness for Helvetica in all its forms, but the way it pops on that orange background is just lovely. It's a bit odd for this series for me to dive into the middle of things, normally we start with debuts or maybe even second albums, but fourth ones is a bit of an oddity. Widely considered some of Mike Paradinas' best work, this album is a great jumping in point if you're new, and home to some of my favourite 'IDM' jams for this era.

Yet Lunatic Harness is a record I have a complicated relationship with, for what seems like a very silly reason now I'm preparing to type it out. As many of you know, I typically shuffle my entire collection when listening day-to-day - For many years, the music player I was using didn't have the capability to remember where I left off, so would re-shuffle every time I started it up. This isn't a bad thing in and of itself, where the problem comes in is how it would shuffle - it would always start alphabetically by artist, which means I have heard the opening bars of Brace Yourself Jason and others perhaps thousands of times. But if I power through the sections I've been overexposed to, the LP is just as good as ever.

Tastefully skirting the balance between your more intense IDM, the main memory that comes to mind for me when I think of Lunatic Harness is the strong melodic streak that it has - this does wonders to make the album more accessible but is also just a really great addition to the soundscape. The first 5 tracks all do a wonderful job of showing this off, as you might have heard on Brace Yourself Jason, but my favourite has always and will always be Hasty Boom Alert, which effortlessly dances between the madcap beats emblematic of this time in the history of IDM and these lovely, airy synths that make the whole thing feel a lot lighter. The little section after the break at 2:03 where they get to take the lead is just divine.

I try not to draw comparisons between Aphex Twin and µ-Ziq too often, but its inevitable that it will come up at some point, the two's sounds are of course quite similar and they have also collaborated in the past as well. It comes up now because I think that Mushroom Compost carries with it that same kind of playful messing around that appeared on Aphex's Richard D. James Album, more in the vein of Fingerbib than the slide whistles of Logan Rock Witch. That said, I wouldn't want to write this one off as 'just' one of those tunes though, the same melodic streak I mentioned just above in once again on full display and makes it an absolute joy to listen to.

Moving on to the title track - Lunatic Harness kicks off with a marked difference in sound, in which Mike Paradinas cuts & pastes and otherwise tweaks a sample from Fat Boys' Human Beat Box from 1984 for a full minute, my favourite part being the glitched out section around 53 seconds in. After that though, it's a return to the same light synth sound as before, though the sample crops up a couple more times throughout. It's an interesting spin for sure, but one that I could understand might turn some off. I know there's been plenty of times where I've hit skip because I didn't really feel the intro, which is a shame becuase at it's heart it's another good addition to the tracklist.

Speaking of changes in sound, there's an even more drastic one coming up next - all the light and melodic synths of before go out of the window with Approaching Menace. Befitting of its name, the intro alone gives away that this is going to a different beast that what came before. It comes a little out of left-field and there's not really anything else like it in terms of sound on the album - but this little bit of intensity nestled about halfway through the tracklist is certainly a highlight. Incredibly rough 'round the edges and with two feet firmly planted in the experimental breakbeat side of the IDM world - I could understand this being a bit of a sticking point for some folk who've fallen in love with the atmosphere of the other tracks, personally I still like it quite a bit because I think it absolutely nails the atmosphere set up by the title.

Rounding out with a couple more melodic entries with the Secret Stair parts. Part 1 shows off that melodic side to this album once again, that synth sound that was so prominent on tracks like Hasty Boom Alert is here again and I absolutely adore it. Around the 1:25 mark we again return to familiar territory with some breakbeat accompaniment, I think the way it fades into the mix can feel a little odd coming back to it - it sort of overpowers the melodics before they come back together in a kind of harmony. I've listened to it for so long that I'm just used to it by now though. Part 2 is similar, albeit a little more sedate. There's no breakbeat on the sequel (or at least, not the extent of part one), instead opting for more of that sort of Aphex-esque styling of the Richard D James Album era as mentioned before.

Unfortunately the wheels fall off a bit in the latter half of the album for me, I've always felt this way about it actually. I could never get on with a couple of the final few: Wannabe is a bit cacophonous, coming out like a hybrid of the Aphex Twin tracks I posted above and that one abstract jazz record Squarepusher did called Music Is Rotted One Note - by the midpoint we get a (presumably Paradinas') whispered vocal stating Wanna be your lover baby, I don't wanna be your friend, a line more suited to something from DMX Krew and not this darkness that is Wannabe. I can tolerate it for about as long as it takes to get to the midpoint but it loses me not long after. London takes things in a slightly more abstract orchestral direction, one that µ-Ziq would continue on the follow up album Royal Astronomy - twinned with a fairly generic 'IDM' bassy accompaniment come the two minute mark. It's not bad as it were, but it certainly isn't Hasty Boom Alert.

The other two final tracks I have a bit more of a warm reception to, Catkin And Teasel once again bringing that playful feeling back into the mix, twinned with some suitably ludicrous beat work that you've probably become accustomed to at this point. It's a fun listen for sure, but one that's easy to overdo very quickly, having played through the LP a couple of times in the writing of this I have found myself growing tired of the rising-and-falling motif that introduces the track - granted there are plenty of other elements to distract from it. Midwinter Log closes the album in much the same fashion, it's a tour de force of all the elements of the album thus far, even carrying with it some signposts to the sound µ-Ziq would adopt on the follow up. They're fine tracks, but I still do think the album's opening quarter is the strongest.

Worth noting that this 25th anniversary edition includes some bonus tracks and the Brace Yourself and My Little Beautiful EPs as well. I haven't had a chance to spin the bonus tracks yet but I can heartily recommend the EPs if you like the content of the main LP - I love the stylistic synchronicity between them and the main album as seen above, it really makes the releases feel part of a larger body of work with different 'flavours' as it were. Some of my favourites from the additional EPs to round things out: Summer Living which could easily slot into that strong first quarter on the main album and would have been a nice bridge into Approaching Menace (Curiously it's titled Summer Living 2 on this re-release).

Abmoit takes things in a surprisingly ambient turn for µ-Ziq, I think this one would have made for a great album closer, it's very pretty sounding, even when juxtaposed against a rough 'n steady beat later on - very much embodying the quote on the Bandcamp page of "atmospheres of ethereal colour and shimmering melody", true for a lot of the album but especially so here. The same goes for the Reprise of Brace Yourself, which IMO should have been the album closer, and not just because it's a spin off of the original track, though it would have made a nice bookend in that respect. Something about the reprise just feels much more climactic than Midwinter Log which would make sense as its the final track of the EP and all - but even then it still just kind of 'ends' abruptly.

And that'll about do it for this time, it's been a long time since I've done one of these so apologies for the length! I'm happy to see plenty of artists taking the chance to do more with their anniversary editions, be it including demos and remixes or accompanying EPs as above rather than just a plain reissue/remaster. As I stated before, if you're new to µ-Ziq this is a great jumping in point, its still my favourite but I think a large part of that is because it was my first proper listen to his work as well. A fantastic and relatively accessible entry in the world of 'IDM', Lunatic Harness is definitely worth a listen - be you new to the genre or just looking for some new additions to your library.

I'll be back around soon enough but until next time, as always, stay safe and enjoy the music.


Monday 4 July 2022

Club PlayStation - Psygnosis Special

Indulge me once more as we once again take a trip to Sean Seanson's channel. I've posted a couple of his 'Club Playstation' mixtapes in the past, I have a real affinity for them as in hindsight the PS1 was my first exposure to a good amount of electronic music, something I've come to appreciate more in hindsight. There's been some big hitters spread over Sean's previous entries - Ridge Racer Type 4's soulful mix of House, the pulse pounding techno of the Ghost In The Shell adaption and of course, Soichi Terada's Drum & Bass OST from primate platformer Ape Escape. But there's been one studio that arguably is the most iconic when it comes to soundtracks of this era, and that is Psygnosis.

Psygnosis had been around a long time already by the time the PS1 era rolled around, having worked on the Amiga and the like back in the 80's, their publisher logo adorning many a sleeve, the font making the whole thing look like the cover of a power metal album.

You may perhaps know them best for Wipeout, a franchise that seemed to be laser guided to target the 90's market. From the Asian-inspired graphic design from The Designer's Republic to the soundtrack featuring titans of the electronic music world of the time spread across 3 games, it was destined to become a classic. Combine with the Rollcage duology having a sizeable amount of Drum & Bass (the second game even having an official album released by Moving Shadow). Between the two series you have more than enough mix material already, and I haven't even mentioned some of the titles Sean covers here. So enough chat, let's dive in shall we?

The end result is probably my favourite intro of all of the Club Playstation mixes so far - the transition from the intro into CoLD SToRAGE's Cairodrome is deliciously 90's (and by the way, CS has remastered and uploaded all his contributions to the Wipeout OSTs to Bandcamp), from there it's a whirlwind tour of all things Psygnosis both licenced and original. Major highlights throughout, the Rollcage Stage II OST is the best of the best of Moving Shadow at the time - the Wipeout choices are select but it's hard not to have any choice be top notch when your soundtrack has The Prodigy, The Chemical Brothers, Underworld, Leftfield, Photek and even Daft Punk to name a few. Of course as with all of Sean's mixes so far there's a light shone on others you might not be as familiar with, I know I've found some tunes (and by proxy, some games!) to check out here, and I hope you will too.

That'll be a wrap for today, I should be back in a few days with the retro review I started penning a little while ago, assuming that the tracks are all able to be previewed when it actually releases but if not I'll find a workaround. Until then, as always, stay safe and enjoy the music.