Sunday 28 August 2022

Retro wRitings

Postponing that planned spacey sequel for a bit, as with many things I've just been a touch scattered and working on other things - the best laid plans of mice & men and all that. I figured I at least owed something to tide y'all over in the meantime, and what started as a quick one/two track post became a little longer. So let's dive in shall we?
Frank Stella - Eccentric Polygons - Effingham (1974)

I've almost become a mirror of my younger self lately, dipping back into the world of emulation and nostalgia fuelled by the content creators I've mentioned in previous posts. Helped along as well by the Retro Achievements website I've been playing old favourites, weird imports and things I missed. That comes in handy from time to time though - case in point here as Kohta Takahashi has released an album on Bandcamp that is a look back at the Ridge Racer Type 4 soundtrack through a modern lens. As with Rom Di Prisco's similar look back at their old work there's a definite charm to it, and fans of the original OST will very much find things to love here. It's not a simple re-tread though, as Takahashi notes on the Bandcamp page this is more about capturing the vibe of Type 4: the whole genre gamut is on show here from the expected House to Dubstep and then back again. Surprising no one given my recent posts, my favourite of the bunch is this could-have-been menu theme.

It ain't all low-poly stuff though, I've also been revisiting Midnight Club 3, which dedicates a large chunk of its soundtrack to Electro, Detroit Techno and Drum & Bass (the latter not really surprising as Moving Shadow and Rockstar have been close since GTA2 back in '99, and they appear again in MC3). The Midnight Club series has serious pedigree when it comes to soundtracks: the theme to the first one was classic Techno/House anthem Strings Of Life. The second game dug deep for its intercontinental USA, French and Japanese settings, treating us to an absolutely choice selection of House and Trance - including some of Thomas Bangalter's solo work!

All of that to say I've been flicking back through my archives and checking out more techno and Drum & Bass. These are usually one of albums or EPs that I note down and then get lost with time, but make for a nice surprise when you find them again, like digging out an old jacket and finding some cash in the pockets. Enter The Silicon Dawn from Dan Curtin. I can't remember how I came across this record in the first place but it doesn't take long to see why it was on my list, from the title and cover art alone I could tell it'd be the kind of record for me. Lovely melodic techno with that sci-fi edge, if your taste is at all similar to mine then a dive into Curtin's work will do you no wrong. Once again surprising no one, I've gone for the track that sounds the most like it could be from Warp's {Artificial Intelligence} Series - It Tastes Like. Absolutely gorgeous stuff.

Now onto the second half of that upper paragraph, as we visit the D&B side of things. you'll be surprised some of the things you can find on Bandcamp! It's gotten to the point now where no matter how obscure the thing I'm looking at is, I'll give a cursory search just in case it's found its way there. Inperspective Records is one such example of that, having most of their backcatalogue available on there. I've noted down some bits and pieces from them over the years, and it's always a nice surprise when I look them up to remember why. In keeping with the theme here, Stature feels again very much like a credits or menu theme! Admittedly not quite as Drum & Bass as the other parts of the EP but you can still hear flecks of it now and then. Check out the A-side Windchime for some more intense breakbeat action, contrasted with some smooth hi tech vibes.

And that'll be all for this fairly quick writeup, we wandered around a bit but I think I kept it mostly on topic (though behind the scenes I have since fallen down several more rabbit holes that may or may not result in posts). That sequel post I mentioned last time is still in the pipeline so keep an eye out for that but until then - as always, stay safe and enjoy the music.


Sunday 21 August 2022

Back Into Space

This post originally started out covering a completely different artist, but yesterday I watched Sisters With Transistors and it took a bit of a turn. I could still make a post of the artists featured, but this time I'm going to focus on one of the unsung highlights - the credits song by the aptly named The Space Lady

Fernand Leger - Forms In Space (1950)

I've talked a bit recently about DIY sounds and lo-fi recordings - this forms a big part of the aforementioned documentary but also is a perfect embodiment of the kind of sound The Space Lady employs. A Casio MT-40, a battery powered amp and a headset microphone is pretty much the extent of her gear setup. Unlike the bedroom melancholy of Casiotone For The Painfully Alone, who employs a similar setup - the end result is a quite psychedelic experience, the track I've chosen to illustrate this Synthesize Me does wonders to show that off. Those of you that are big fans of Broadcast like myself will find yourself in familiar territory here, especially if you've hears some of the demos from Tender Buttons. Synthesize Me is a lovely listen, the perfect capstone to the documentary and the kind of track I could see myself discovering on one of Oneohtrix Point Never's mixtapes from around 2010 or so.

The majority of the other content on that album consists of covers from various other artists (befitting, as The Space Lady started as a street performer). These stripped and re-contextualised covers have a real charm to them, though I have always found that with electronic covers of otherwise not-electronic material. The most left field example on here might be this one of Steppenwolf's Born To Be Wild. I still like it, but it's not quite as enthralling as Synthesize Me. I imagine part of the experience is being lost, given her street performance roots - I think I might prefer the recording from that video to the version on the album, but even so it is not without its moments.

In keeping with the theme of this post, there's also a cover of Major Tom on here - though not the Bowie version as I originally thought, rather the Peter Schilling single from 1983. This and Synthesize Me are perhaps the two tracks I would point to for a crash course in this kind of sound, as they sound exactly like the off kilter early experiments in electronic pop, The kind that a very young me would stumble across in my dad's tape collection and be entranced by (But perhaps thats the recording quality talking). Specifically I'm thinking of tracks like Polyphonic Size's Girlscout, albeit through a more psychedelic lens are where my mind goes first.

There's some other interesting bits on there too, the cover of Sweet's Ballroom Blitz sounds like it could have been made in that 70's era, sort of in the vein of Switched-On Bach. I'm going to call it a day here though, I hope you've enjoyed this brief look at this album, it's a bit different to my standard fare but if you've got similar taste to me I'm sure you'll find something to enjoy. As mentioned up top this post was originally going to focus on a completely different artist but I repurposed it into this one! I'll try and knock up the second one soon enough but until next time: as always, stay safe and enjoy the music.


Sunday 14 August 2022

Tracked Down - An Inbox Tale

Let me tell you all the tale of a bit of a wild experience that I had a couple of days ago. Enter James Varghese of Quiet Love Records, who if nothing else was absolutely resolute in getting in touch with me - going as far as to reach out on a whole bunch of platforms where I share the screen name (Which to his credit, he did apologise for it it came across as a bit weird - if you're reading James, don't worry about it, that's most of the reason I share the CVF name everywhere!). We eventually had a bit of back and forth on Twitter and I said I'd take a look over things when I had some time, and now is that time.

Further credit to James, he was also kind enough to get in touch with a ton of detail about what he's working on - All of which I imagine was in the original email that he sent but passed me by - that happens when you've ended up on a million different promo lists over the last decade or so). So for this next section I'll be cribbing a lot from the info he sent over to me. James in his own words is a "jazz bass player with a masters degree from the jazz school of Zurich turned pop bass player turned indie-producer turned founder of «Quiet Love Records» turned electronic music artist."

His first solo release is due out September 14th after a few years working on other projects in the background at Quiet Love, a release called Ambient 1, the result of a few years worth of tinkering. I'm a sucker for all things ambient anyway, and based on James' description (and some extra details that we'll get into a little later) it sounded very much what I could get into at the minute. I've had the pleasure of listening to the thing on a private Soundcloud playlist and it didn't take long to appeal - "Short and soft" is the descriptor I was given in the accompanying text, and sure enough the solitary tones of 222 fit that bill. A lush wave swoops in to join the lonely pulsar around the halfway mark, and after some time in the spotlight the two come together in harmony, if only for a moment or so.

You'll have to take my word on that one as you can't hear it (yet!), but that isn't the case with Juno Fades, which nicely sets me up to talk about the other bit of the promo text that piqued my interest. To quote James directly: "Most of it was recorded in the biggest synthesizer museum in the world here in Switzerland. It's called SMEM and is located in Fribourg." - which must be a dream come true for any kind of electronic musician or even if you have an interest in the gear in general - doubly so if you're into the archiving process as I am! If you're at all keyed up on your synths (no pun intended), you might have already clocked the Juno reference in the title there. I find it interesting to hear differing modern takes on ambient with this retro gear, I've loved the work of Oneohtrix Point Never for a long time, and his early work was full of downright gorgeous Juno 60 sounds, James' take on the other hand is a little... brighter I want to say, most prominently in the latter half where there's an explosion of triumphant brassy stabs. OPN's work has this decided melancholy to it, whereas Juno Fades feels a little more in the middle - befitting James' line from the description of the private playlist: "I often experience very ambivalent emotions. It’s never black or white."

James' work also feels much more like a Jam session than OPN's work too - and I don't mean that as a knock, if anything it's befitting of his Jazz roots and, after all, I'd probably make the same kind of thing if I had access to rows and rows of weird and wondrous synths like that, and in fact I know that I did back when I was experimenting with my first ambient releases. There's a definite charm to the proceedings, no doubt helped by that background information. Final track Fairfield Rd. however, does remind me quite a bit of OPN's work - drenched in analog hum and with a wistful air - which tracks as its a tribute to the Street James used to live on in East London. I've been listening to a lot of Casiotone For The Painfully Alone recently and the execution of this one very much reminds me of that. They both share a real home made lo-fi feel, even something as simple as the sound of stopping the recording intruding adds a little something to it. Off the top of my head it feels a lot like Tonight Was A Disaster.

Ambient 1 looks like its shaping up to be a lovely little record - as mentioned above this kind of sound is very much in rotation for me at the minute with Casiotone and friends. I appreciate the songs being short as well, last time I tried to explore some more ambient releases I ended up bogged down in a sea of releases ranging from 15 mins to a few hours long and found myself quickly burning out - much like how I feel about Boards Of Canada's more ambient pieces, sometimes short and sweet is better. I've also been working on finishing up the remnants of my own half finished EP from years ago, and hearing James' tale (and of course hearing the results) have given me a little kick to finish things up proper, I'll be sure to drop by when and if I finish it up fully. Until next time, as always, stay safe and enjoy the music.


Find more from James and Quiet Love at:
James' Bandcamp
James' Soundcloud
James' Twitter
Quiet Love's Bandcamp
Quiet Love's Soundcloud
Quiet Love's Twitter

Sunday 7 August 2022

Right on Time Again

Two for two this year, as not only did I finally manage to post June 9th on June 9th, I've got a couple more apt tracks for today. It is the 7th of August, it is Sunday - which means it is the perfect time to post Sunday (The Day Before My Birthday) from Moby's 18. Perhaps not quite as iconic as Play but I do have a fondness for it, albeit with some criticisms here and there. I'd mention them here but I covered it in great detail in the Retro Review post I did for the album. Going to post both the Soundcloud player and the music video because it is one of those paywalled tracks on Soundcloud.

And just to make up for that as well, I'm going to post the other Moby track titled Sunday - this time it's from the Play B-Sides album, which predictably is a collection of the B-Sides from singles from that album, and there are a lot of them. It's a great companion piece, Play has been a bit overplayed over the years which makes the B-Sides album a refreshing listen, it carries the sound of that era without the baggage of overexposure. Sunday is a little more House styled than you might expect given the content of Play, but it's still a gorgeous listen.

And that'll be all for now, I normally put together a big bumper post for mine and the blog's mutual birthday on the 8th but I'm a little busy so it might have to wait until midweek, though I'll see if I can't make a start later today. I'll be back soon enough either way, and until then, as always - stay safe and enjoy the music.


Monday 1 August 2022

Backwards Glance

At the risk of making the last trilogy of posts too wistful, this post is also going to centre on the theme of looking back once again. See, I've been going back to front and republishing the very, very old posts that Jordan was making when the blog was launched - as I mentioned before it's a sort of odd experience, the early blogs are very much that and at points it feels like reading back the diary of a teenage me; complete with... questionable choices in wording, but we were dumb teens and have grown since.

But scattered amongst the dated memes and old school slang is, well, music. The kind that I can distinctly remember downloading at the time, be it from here or one of the other myriad of blogs dealing in Electro House, which was the hot topic of the time. This lengthy intro all to set up the theme of this post, I thought I'd share some of the tracks that have been in my collection the longest (or as close as I can get in some cases).
Unichi Hiratsuka - Cape Kasuga (1930)

Kicking off with Flunk, a relic of a time when I was consuming any and all things I could find labelled 'chillout'. If there was an album that was guaranteed to have my interest it was Flunk's debut: the evocatively titled For Sleepyheads Only, sporting a cover that flawlessly sets the tone. It errs more on the side of trip hop than my other 'chillout' scoops of that era and I think it still holds up really well throughout (though your opinion on the cover of Blue Monday may differ to mine). I've gone with Honey's In Love this time around, lovely downtempo that has echoes of the more conventional parts of the Silent Hill soundtracks (End Of Small Sanctuary specifically, though this album actually came out before it), the instrumentation punctuated by that sparse vocal giving the whole thing a hazy, suitably dreamy feel. Sleepyheads suffers a bit from being one of those albums with a couple of different pressings with different tracklists, it's not too hard to get hold of it legit via Flunk's bandcamp though - they're also still active with an expanded reissue of their second album coming later this year.

Something else that's also come up a lot recently has been my history with the original PlayStation - something I credit with introducing me to more electronic music (though I already had a fascination with it before then, but I've told that tale here before). Clichés aside, the little grey box was chock full of Big Beat, Techno, Trance, Drum & Bass, Breakbeat and just about any other electronic genre that was popular in the 90's. Of course, a lot of that content was licensed, this was around the time budgets were big enough and storage was capable enough to allow that sort of thing - but there were also still original composers for a lot of titles too. Enter Rom Di Prisco, probably one of those most prolific in the field with 20+ years worth of titles under his belt.

My introduction to Rom's work was from the early Need For Speed games, with tracks like Quantum Singularity and Cygnus Rift having me enraptured with the hi-tech atmosphere. I can't post them as the OSTs were only released in the 90's on CD and are probably tied up in some copyright hell vault in EA headquarters. Lucky for me though, Rom would revisit this sound on Spacetime Miscalculation, going so far as to dig out the old hardware to make it on. It's a bit more Trance than the ones I linked above but it still has that heart if the science-y track titles didn't give it away already. I'm a big fan of tracks like Time Dilation, the kind that sound like they could be long lost menu themes.

And finally a bit from Blu Mar Ten's first album. I've talked about it a fair bit in the past, it is another one of those albums I picked up in phase I mentioned where I would get any and everything in the chillout section. It's an odd one, Blu Mar Ten's work before this (and afterwards too!) is definitely more Drum & Bass focused - which would make coming to The Six Million Names Of God a little surprising. A blend of House, Downtempo and pure Ambient in places, it's an album I've had mixed feelings on revisiting, but it's still home to some really nice stuff. The new 're-issue' that BMT put up on Bandcamp has a bonus track and nicer artwork, though I do have a fondness for the new-age styling of the original. The first 10 or so tracks are all great and flow together effortlessly. A very strong first half as well, opening track Home Videos does wonders to set the tone with the simple but effective acoustic loop. My favourites to this day is a toss-up between Drive and I Wake Up. It's been a long time since I posted either, but I'm feeling Drive a little more today, if only because it more perfectly embodies that 00's 'chillout' spirit.

And that'll be all for today, a little longer than I was expecting but its good to stretch the old writing muscles from time to time isn't it? I might disappear back into the archives for a little more republishing as they've not been too difficult as of yet, it's getting to be that time of year where things get a little busy so it may get a little sparse here and there. Still, I'll try and pop by every so often with more tunes - hope you've found something to pique your interest here and of course, as always, stay safe and enjoy the music.