Sunday 21 May 2023

Of Cults and Crystals

For the first time in a long while, I picked something up from Bandcamp when it wasn't a Friday. I should do that more often really, the main reason I don't is I normally get side-tracked until the Friday reminds me to pick up some records. But I digress, label Creme Organization was offering a 40% discount code, so I went digital crate digging once again.

Legowelt was the one on my radar this time, like so many artists I have a smattering of tracks from compilations that marked their first appearance in my collection. I had a couple of freebie albums that Legowelt had put out, but I figured it was high time I dive in. Crystal Cult 2080 has been in my wishlist for a while, one of those albums where I heard the opening track and said to myself "oh, I'm saving this one for later!" And then the list inevitably grows and it gets a little lost. Saying that, I do like it in cases like this where I come back to the album, and my feelings towards the first tracks are still the same.

We have to talk about the elephant in the room first of all, the obvious occult trappings. There's something I find charmingly humorous about the album art - the image of a robed wizardly figure just going to town on some synths is brilliant. It doesn't reflect too much on the tracks content bar a few vocal samples, but I think that's OK, it can be easy to overdo something like that. Of course, if you're after something that taps into that a little more - electronic music and the occult have a long history that could be a post all on its own: Mort Garson's self described electronic impressions under the Ataraxia moniker, to the modern resurgence of fantasy synthwave dubbed 'dungeon synth' to name but two.

But let's get into the album itself, starting with that first track I've mentioned a few times already, Experiential Awakening. You will know from the get go if the album is for you, as an opening Awakening does an excellent job of setting the stage. From its 8:08 runtime, the combination of hypnotic backing and that deliciously thick bassline and of course, those previously mentioned occult-y vocal samples, it weaves the forms that will make up the rest of the LP.

Track 2 lays it on even thicker, sporting the title Ancient Rites Demoni Mundi. While that intro had me enticed from the get go - I was a little on the fence about it for a while. The backbone being the suitably hazy descending melody which can get a little tiresome, but that's mitigated by the action happening in the background again that keeps things interesting. Not meaning to come off so negative mind, I've come to love parts of it in time - the little breaks that introduce lovely analogue elements starting around the half way mark are lovely, and there is some fantastic synth noodling in the last quarter too.

The techy titled Excalibur R8MK2 starts off a lot more intense than anything so far, but it soon settles into that same hypnotic groove, the shorter runtime once again helping it stay a little fresher. Infused with that high tech sound I love so much, this one has been a mainstay since I picked it up, I find the "Drink from the chalice" line creeping into my head disturbingly often. There are times where the album feels like a 'best of' from an extended jam session, definitely thematically appropriate given the aesthetic surroundings - that's something I've also found with Legowelt's Teac Life, though Crystal Cult feels tighter overall (and also clocks in at about half the length of the extended Teac Life too, which no doubt helps).

The album's opening quarter is where it's strongest for me, which is why I've gone for the opening 1-2-3, but there is plenty more to get stuck into if you like this little slice. It's been a little odd to explore this side of Legowelt, my previous exposure being Disco Rout from the Tangent 2002: Disco Nouveau compilation (which I adore, being the electroclash fiend that I am) - but in fact, coming back to that track after spending some time with the Cult, it's not a million miles removed. I'll have to see about looking into Legowelt's older works at some point and see if that rings true across the board. That'll about do it for today, I'll be back around soon enough with more but until then, as always, stay safe and enjoy the music.


Sunday 7 May 2023

Bandcamp Friday - May

Reporting in with this month's offerings. I thought it was going to be a little thin on the ground as I didn't have much lined up, but I managed to get some done in time. In a surprise twist, it also features a fair amount of new releases too! Let's take a look.

Kicking things off with some DMX Krew - Ed from DMX pretty consistently drops New releases to the point where it can be tricky to keep up. I heard the first track from Return To Jupiter when it was up for pre-orders and I knew then I'd get my hands on it soon enough. This is Ed's second release on Peggy Gou's Gudu Records, the first being the equally nice Don't You Wanna Play? EP. It seems to be that when DMX makes stuff for this label he switches focus to pure instrumental, there's no cheeky playful vocal as seen on some other DMX releases here. The title track is the one that sold me - it very clearly takes heavy inspiration from Underground Resistance, especially the Galaxy 2 Galaxy material. The end result is this fine slice of retro-futuristic techno, bouncy and airy, it's a lot of fun to listen to.

Next up is Yaga, yet another artist that until now I'd only really had bits and pieces from scattered across miscellaneous compilations. My experience up until this point was mainly bits from Rhythm Of Snow - all pretty minimal, at the border of my taste in the genre, anything further is a bit too minimal for me. I don't remember exactly how Faded Photographs came onto my radar, but I do remember being entranced by the one preview track at the time No Matter What.

Now, having spent a fair bit of time with the whole album, I can happily confirm the rest is very much in the same vein. I've seen a lot of discussion from fans of Yagya saying that this vocal-oriented shift he's taken isn't for them, but I quite like it, granted it is my first real experience with it beyond his older works.

It's an album that is pretty antithetical to my listening habits, my usual MO is a set of speakers and my entire collection on shuffle all at once. Faded Photographs by comparison is a much more intimate experience, one that benefits greatly from immersing yourself completely in it. I was a little on the fence about it until I threw on a set of headphones and listened to it front-to-back, it all flows together in a lovely way.

That said, there are still tracks that stand alone, my favourite still being No Matter What, but I'm really liking the whole thing, you can spend a lot of time picking out the delicacies on repeat listens and I just adore the moments of melodic vocal flourishes. It can end up sounding a little same-y in parts, but I'd definitely give it a spin if you're in the mood for some quieter, introspective listening.

Third is a compilation I'd had my eyes on for a while, one I'd assumed wouldn't be available digitally due to the label, Musik Aus Strom, being defunct. Turns out it was revived in 2022 by one of the founders and has almost all its back catalogue available, with more planned to come!

The compilation in question, the punnily titled MAS Confusion is a goldmine of lesser known IDM vendors and if you're a fan of then sound, especially around the early 00's when this compilation released then it is certainly worth checking out. There are some early highlights: the opening track from Metamatics that I've talked about before is beautiful, and Adamn Johnson's tracks are almost perfect encapsulations of what makes the 'IDM' sound. My choice for today though is Xela's Streetlevel, a lovely bit crushed nostalgia trip that also embodies all things IDM. Xela has a pretty extensive list of releases too, if you like this one I highly recommend For Frosty Mornings And Summer Nights for more in the same style (in addition to the rest of this compilation of course!)

Finally, a last minute addition in Sachi Kobayashi. It's been a little while since I picked up any ambient, so I went looking through my past purchases to check up on some artists. I'd only had a couple EPs from Sachi Kobayashi, but I very much liked them all - turns out there'd been plenty of releases between mow and the last time I checked in so I was a little spoilt for choice. I went one up from where I last checked in, Weathervane, a release inspired by the surviving Weathervane after the Notre Dame fire. For me, Kobayashi is at her best on tracks like Symbol, very roomy soundscapes with a hint of melody carrying throughout. A lovely closer to the experience, Weathervane is an ideal jumping in point for Kobayashi's work and it is currently 'name your price' over on Bandcamp, so there is no price barrier to entry if you enjoy it.

And that'll be all for today, so much for 'thin on the ground' after all eh? Part of me is considering doing a full review of the Yagya LP, but I also put most of my thoughts into this post here (hence the length!). At any rate, I hope you've found something to pique your interest here in this slightly eclectic selection. I'll drop by again with more in due time but until then, as always, stay safe and enjoy the music.


Monday 1 May 2023


I talk a lot on here about the importance of archiving (and further to that, accessibility), it's something I feel very strongly about if it wasn't clear enough already. There's plenty of artists out there making an effort to preserve bits and pieces in some form or another, and this time we're going to take a look at some of these offerings from Bibio.

You might know Bibio from his works with Warp Records - 2009's Ambivalence Avenue no doubt comes to mind, a fantastic introduction to Bibio, chock full of hip-hop jams and folky infusions. Bibio had been hard at work before then though, releasing a steady string of albums until that point.

Unlike some of his Warp cohort, Bibio doesn't have a million and one aliases with different releases and seems to have settled on the name very quickly. Or at least, it seems that way - but tucked away on his Soundcloud are some self-proclaimed jams under the (somewhat unfortunate these days) 'Duckula' moniker.

They hail from 2007 - the period between Hand Cranked and Ambivalence Avenue, which is audibly apparent. These tracks would feel right at home next to some of the tracks on the latter, particularly the Jazzy, [adult swim] bump style beat that is on Take Time. It's not readily obvious why these tracks went unreleased, this one in particular feels very complete, much more than a simple sketch or a cool sounding idea that didn't pan out. Though if he's anything like me, it's could just be one of many that just happened to slip through the cracks.

Mine You Are fits that bill (no pun intended) a little more, way shorter and it certainly feels much more like some fooling around with a sample than the above. It still would have fit in with a little tweaking, some of the tracks on Ambivalence Avenue have distinctly separate outros for example. Not a complaint though, it certainly is a neat sounding jam, and I'm happy we at least got to hear it in some form.

I do always appreciate a little peek behind the curtain like this, it's always fun when an artist shines a little light on their process after all. At the same time, as someone in the creative world, I admire them for doing so in the first place - I imagine there's a pressure to only put out the super polished final pieces. I know in my case there are plenty of old, unfinished works that will never see the light of day, but maybe one day I'll resurrect something kind of cool I was playing with but didn't pan out, much like Bibio has done here.

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