Wednesday, 19 March 2014

Velo di Maya

“Never try to convey your idea to the audience – it is a thankless and senseless task. Show them life, and they’ll find within themselves the means to assess and appreciate it.” - Andrei Tarkovsky

The Russian director Andrei Tarkovsky wasn't a man in a rush to say what he wanted to say. Known for a spiritual approach to long takes in film, he played with the audience's patience to produce challenging works of fucking immense beauty. There's a scene in his late film Nostalghia where a 9 minute single take follows the protagonist as he repeatedly walks from one side of an abandoned pool to the other while trying to keep a candle still lit. It's a moment on character redemption, a pilgrimage of sorts. The camera follows him without any breaks and as a viewer watching this it gives of the feeling of stasis. If you hold your concentration on this scene, it seems to transcend time and hold you in a fixed point through repetition and gradual changes in the shot. My ability to critically access film is limited to drunken meanderings about the humanization of HAL in 2001, but I think this scene is a brilliant visual reference as to how the music of Italian maestros Voices from the Lake works.

Their third EP and fourth release overall has come out on the New York based in house party label The Bunker. Culled from the live set that appropriately fucked with everyone's mind, body and soul, it's a three track ep of psychedelic, voodoo techno. This is music that makes time stand still. The progressions on these songs are so gradual and carefully composed that it feels like these tunes are static, locked in a certain point in time. There is no intro or outro, beginning or ending. They fade in and out like you're only listening to a tiny part of a much greater whole. Voices from the Lake have become known for their infamous extended live sets, some lasting up to 5 hours. These cuts sound like they were exquisitely curated from a section of time in one of these extended jams.  Listening to these in a pitch black room can give the feeling of floating and sensory disengagement.


There are certain words I told myself not to use in this article. Trance, headfuck, Labyrinth. They've become synonymous for what these Italians do. But the actual music is so much more than those signifiers. Yes, it has certain sensibilities with the early 90s trance scene. Yes is does fuck with your head. And yes Dozzy is the famous resident of the Japanese festival Labyrinth. All those things that are superficial writing toppings don't grasp just exactly what this music can do. It seems to come from the air to cut through time and release hedonistic moments of liminality. This is ritualistic music. The clue is in the release title Velo di Maya that translates as the Veil of Maya. This is techno music that references ancient civilizations, providing clues about where this music comes from and how to approach it. Think about the artist name as well, 'Voices from the Lake'. Plenty of artists have names that reference the natural world, but not many seem so apt at describing the music underneath. This is music that manages to sound simultaneously ancient and contemporary. I previously wrote about Kobosil's excellent start to the year and when you look at both of these artists, it's silly how far ahead they are from anyone else making techno at the moment (bar people like Marco Shuttle and PVH). There's a great deal of good, adequate beats being made but very few sound as fresh and shockingly new as what these talented producers are doing.

Tuesday, 18 March 2014

Kobosil

'It feels so much the emotion, the feeling of the intensity and purity of club and rave in the early days, without resembling those gone moments' - Shed (2008)
 
Back in 2008 when those words rose out of dusty noise, it was referencing how the classic sound of techno was influencing a new wave of producers, the 'Berghain Generation'. At the time the sound was so fresh and unique, re-framing the classic techno signifiers of the original Belleville Three through the early millennial bug of minimal. But after a while, as all new ideas eventually do, it became stagnant through a wave of second rate copycats and bland rehashing of old ideas. The originals like Marcel Dettmann, Marcel Fengler and Ben Klock have never verged into mediocrity themselves, but the influx of stale, tepid atmospheric techno songs that have flooded record shops over the past few years have dulled the energy that this music had 6 years ago. However it's not all bad news for drone based, echo laded techno fans. A German producer by the name of Kobosil has been releasing some of the most mind bending, twisted sonics of recent memory that seems like as much of an update of the 'Berghain sound' as that was to the classic, Detroit sounds. As a harder, noiser strain (that seems to give a massive fucking middle finger to those most horrible of qualities like subtlety and dynamics) has become more fashionable in recent times, Kobosil's take on stripped back, flat techno is even more welcome. After having released his debut ep on the Ostgut Ton affiliated sister label Unterton, he starts 2014 off with the 10th release for Marcel Dettmann's boutique label MDR.
 
 
Kobosil songs have a very specific, almost robotic style groove to them and it's a testament to how far developed the new producer is that he already has such an individual sound. They seem to replicate the main room thump that classic Dettmann and Klock tunes had (think Subzero or Corebox) but with various quirks and twists that are like a knowing wink to the heads. Take the opening track Ein for example. The kick is laden with heavy reverb tails that would fill a cavernous room, but it seems to be hesitant, playing with the listeners expectation of where it should and shouldn't be. Kobosil was previously criticized for a lack of humour in his music (as if that's a necessary quality), but this song shows how he can play with the form and in a way satirize the deluge of echo laded, drone shit that has become the unwanted noumenon of contemporary techno. The second tune Asle is the hardest cut on here and sounds like it was taken straight from the mix of a peak time set. It has the same momentum and vigour as a techno DJ spinning to an energetic crowd at silly hours in the morning. At just over 4 minutes long it's much shorter than this kind of music tradionally is, but it manages to strip down and distill the essence of classic Osgut Ton tunes into it's pragmatic time limit. Like Ein, this is a tune made by someone who knows his history and wants to show it. This is postmodern techno. There's enough knowing signifiers on the release here for people in the know to recognize, but it still bangs hard enough that any of these tunes would kill a dancefloor. The next three tracks carry on in a similar vein, each one seeming like updated versions of the different forms that this style of music can take. The last cut (a beatless, downtempo number) leaves the EP off with a satisfying sense of closure after five tracks of mind fucking grooves. This release and his previous ones are some of the most complete and forward looking techno of recent memory that is an example of how this music should and could be done. If this is anything to go by, Kobosil is shaping up to be one of the most exciting and unpredictable producers of the moment.

Sunday, 9 March 2014

There's A Crack In Everything


 Back in the ancient years of 2012 before your grandmother's dentist had heard of L.I.E.S and 'outsider house' was just a description of where you parked your car when visiting your sister, an album called Cruise Forever came out on Public Information that still remains an oddity of fuzzed out, transnational grooves. It showed much promise for an artist who could of easily capitalized on the hype and press that he got at the time but instead chose a completely different path, one of complete silence. While the rest of the world caught up with the sound and turned the esoteric into the norm, Cesaer seemed to have been skulking away, waiting for the right moment to return. It's welcome news then to see then that he starts 2014 with only his second ever release. There's A Crack In Everything is a three tracker released on Anthony Naple's blooming young label Prohibito. It further develops Cesaer's idiosyncratic sound and sees him toying with a fucked up take on sultry house music.

Over these three tracks he seems to deconstruct soulful, deep house with heavy emphasis on looping and EQing as an instrument. The music sounds like a fusion between the cracked soundscapes of people like Actress and Bandshell with the broken house of Detroit wizards like Theo Parrish and Kyle Hall. Yep is a fragment of a song that sounds like a DJ taking out the low end, working the crowd for a drop that never comes. It's a piece that works with suspense in the same way that classic Errorsmith tunes did, by contradicting your expectations of where the music is going to go. Slink is a blissed out piano number with loops that seem to slowly flow in and out of sync with each other, but still manage to remain in a kind of messed out harmony. The tune is encased in an Eternal Sunshine style hypnagogia and is reminiscent of a broken memory of a partly remembered house tune of which only the main melody can be recalled. The last tune 1 Year is the most dancefloor friendly cut. It features a main vocal lick that manages to be both uplifting and incredibly sad and seems to recall that bittersweet feeling of a closing tune. Even though this is only Cesaer's second release, it already shows an artist who has developed a recognizable sound and leaves much promise for what hopefully will be a more productive year for release schedule.


Thursday, 6 March 2014

The Healing Music of Rana


Brian Eno famously stated in his manifesto for ambient music that it should work both in the background and foreground, as ignorable as it is interesting. Rarely does this ideal ever become a strong reality, with ambient music often choosing a side rather than trying to attain both. This compilation released on tropical outsider Sun Araw's excellent imprint Sun Ark completely understands this idea, whether intentionally or not. It's 4 volume tape package of the complete works of American professor and new age musician Randall McClellan. The Healing Music of Rana is nearly three hours of wonderful new age that fits in perfectly with the contemporary trend for far out, cosmic synth music. All of this music was recorded between 1977 and 1983 and it's a testament to McClellan how well it's aged. Unsurprisingly, he was interested in altered states of mind and mystic teachings. You get the feeling from this music that he was making it in order to connect back with oneself and enter a state of complete peace.Whether you believe or practice that kind of thing doesn't really matter when you listen to this music, because like the best ambient works it can completely relax and calm you. The closest modern artist that shares similarities with this music is probably the shut eyed drones of Stars of the Lid. This is music that requires patience. McClellan slowly and carefully transverses between moods and tones, contrustructing miniature universes in each song. If you're into people like Pulse Emitter and Motion Sickness of Time Travel, this is one that you shouldn't miss.


Tuesday, 4 March 2014

Chart


Architectural - Architectural 05 [Architectural]
Juan Rico is by no means a newcomer to the scene. He's been releasing techno music since 2003 and has seen through many different trends and styles within techno music but it feels like he's come of age in the past few years. His 12"s both as Reeko and Architectural have been outstanding recently with the highlight being his double alias full length The Blue Album last year. An hour of exquisite sound design and techno composition it was one of the highlights in a year when techno felt particularly drab and stagnant with the return to a more aggressive, harder sound. His alias Architectural has showcased his (slightly) more restrained side to his productions, specializing in a kind of beefed up dub influenced techno (but this is by no means a Chain Reaction worshiping copycat). His release under that alias for Svreca's Semantica imprint was one of the finest techno double trackers of recent memory Rico starts off 2014 with the fifth release of the self titled series and it's a three tracker of glacial synths, dubby warmth and expert sound curating. The tunes seem to get progressively harder as the release goes on. The first cut is a beatless soundscape with a reese like baseline that threatens to break into something bigger but somehow stays restrained. The second one is a piece of dubbed out techno that uses the main chords in a way that sounds like they've come straight from a Levon Vincent tune. The last one is the most dance floor friendly with a pulsating, whirling main synth that propels the song like a psychedelic helicopter.


DJ Spider & Franklin de Costa - Genetically Modified Tracks [Killekill]
New York based DJ Spider has been releasing more collaborations than solo efforts recently, exploring the possibilities that lay within combining two different artistic approaches. His career has felt very much like an exploration. DJ Spider tracks are like experiments into dance music form by exploring, testing and pushing the boundaries of what's feasible. His Plan B imprint has long been a bastion for challenging house and techno with releases from various American artists that are seeking to change the norm. This one is a joint effort between the man himself and German producer Franklin de Costa and what they've come up with are four slices of rough and tumble house. Each cut has a sense of play in how they approach rhythm. The beats are still four to the floor, but they place various twitches and quirks in the music. An off beat hat, a sudden stab of a conga, stuttering kicks. The rhythm constantly threatens to trip itself over, yet they manage to keep the whole thing cogent. When combined with the idiosyncratic sounds on top (the screeching noises, threatening vocal samples and heavy bass) the effect is enthralling and shows two producers at the top of their game.


Edanticonf- The Boundary of Nowhere Land [Silent Season]
Canadian imprint Silent Season has long been flying the flag for the best that contemporary dub techno can offer. They have an exquisitely curated roster of artists that have consistently maintained a high quality approach to organic electronic music that blurs the boundaries between house, techno and ambient. They've been active since 2007 but it seems that the past two years they've made a big step and started a kind of renaissance period for this niche of music. They provided two of the highlights of 2013 with incredibly beautiful full lengths from Segue and ASC and they start off 2014 in similar style. Edanticonf has previously released an album on Silent Season back in 2012 that was an hour or so of techno music that sounded like it came from the forest. The Boundary of Nowhere Land continues along this path. It's an exhilarating mix of soft percussion, dubbed out chords and Namlook inspired ambient curiosities. These elements are combined together to create a completely immersive and tripped out landscape. Wolfgang Voigt spoke about doing hallucinogenics and tripping out in the German forests and you get the sense that this it what those journeys might of sounded like. This is a great four tracker that's great for quiet contemplation at home, but would also add something special to adventurous selectors looking to make people's night a bit more special.


Escape Force - Confused House 4 [Confused House]
Confused House is a boutique label set up by L.I.E.S affiliate and all round badman Steve Summers last year and have released a string of collaborations between him and  fellow compatriot Bookworms. The music so far has been a broken version of a kind of analogue dub house. The songs are ghosted fragments of lost house tunes, like a liquid emulsion print on a piece of torn fabric. Their most recent effort and the 4th in the series is a collaboration between those two and Terreke released under the name Escape Force. Muffled would be a good adjective to describe this music. The songs sound like they're underwater, floating in an aquatic tripped out haze. You can hear Terreke's influence most obviously on the first cut. The whole song sounds like an extended outtake from his amazing 12" from last year YYYYYYYYYY. The second tune is a little more in focus, with strange acid lines and broken orchestral samples that could of come straight from a Caretaker song. The last cut is by far the strangest tune on this release (and that's no small feat). With a kick that glides in and out of pitch and a strange warbling main line it feels like these 3 artists are deconstructing house music to see how far out you can go without verging into straight ambiance.


Eshu - Chlore [Eshu]
Eshu is a Dutch production team and label that have a rotating cast of four members. As a label they release music from different collaborations between these four members under various aliases. Under the Eshu name however, is when it's all four of them together. The music they release is a trippy, slow burning version of techno who's nearest comparisons would be the psychedelic landscapes of Prologue or the intricate delicacies of Frozen Border. Chlore is their release to kick off 2014 and it's four cuts of cosmic, hazy techno that have enough quirks and turns in them to make it stand out from the deluges of similar music. Cesium is a fragile, spaced out number with high frequency main pads that sound like electronic raindrops that get progressively more layered and interesting as the song develops. Sulfur is a harder tune with a deep pulsating bass and tension building synths in the background. The song completely changes half way through when arpeggiated synths come rising out, shining rays of light over the darkness. Mercury is the straightest, most 'Berghain' tune of the release and the hardest cut on here. A strong, stoic kick is balanced by a tripped out, metronomic synth line that twists and turns throughout the seven minutes. All the elements in this tune are finely balanced to harness the psychoactive and mind loosening effects that these sounds can have and the result is stunning. The last tune and title cut Chlore is the strangest one of the four. A whirling, machine line bass seems to furl over itself as various tape drenched sound effects swirl over the top. The whole song sounds like the engine of a factory working in complete harmony.


Juju & Jordash - Waldorf Salad [Dekmental]
Live improvisation and dance music is something that on paper should be like jam and bees. The Reichian quality of club music often cries out for extended jams that is highlighted by the on-the-fly aspect of DJing. But often artists go too far down the rabbit hole than is interesting and live improv can often lead audiences cold and detached from the artists. House legends Juju & Jordash don't make that mistake. Their live performances can be at best transcendent and as part of Magic Mountain High with Move D they create a kaleidoscope sound scape of quirky, leftfield house. (their Live at Freerotation album on Workshop is worth checking out if you're want to hear them at their full powers). They start off 2014 with a release for regular collaborators Dekmental with a double tracker of their strange and eclectic style of house music. Waldorf Salad is a spacey jam with flowing synths and squelchy beeps and bloops, underpinned by a rugged groove underneath. Third Planet from Altair has a tougher beat but once again aims for the night sky. Heavy 909s, fluttering chords and stepping hats create this locked, ethereal bounce that's sure to send you into a dizzy state of pleasure at 5 in the morning. On these two cuts you can imagine the duo locked in their studio at the early hours of the morning, playing with their collection of esoteric sound machines churning out weird house music like mad scientists.


Scape One - Planetoid [brokntoys]
Contemporary electro never seems to get the kind of press it deserves. Outside a select group of producers (Gerald Donald, Stingray, Drexciya reissues), a lot of artists seem to get overlooked in the flood of reviews and features that scour music websites. It's a big collective misstep as some of the most enthralling and original music being made at the moment are by these seemingly crazy artists, tinkering away with their machines and create sonics that are as unholy as they are beautiful. Scape One is a big name in the British underground electro scene with releases going back over a decade. His first release of 2014 Planetoid sounds like it's been beamed from a far away planet and interfered with by cosmic radiation. Each of those four cuts are tinged with cosmic synths and heavenly bleeps that can either be bringers of darkness or tear jerking lightness depending on your mood. The pick of the bunch has to be the last cut Right Acension. A slow moving groove is layered by jazzy licks, melancholic drones and some of the most interesting sound design that you'll hear all year. A trip to the cosmos and back again, Planetoid is something that you should check out if you want to hear something a bit different from the fashionable norm at the moment.

Monday, 3 March 2014

La Selva


 'The trees here are in misery, and the birds are in misery. I don't think they - they sing. They just screech in pain. It's an unfinished country.' - Werner Herzog

One of the most interesting reissues of the year so far that has unfairly slipped under the radar a bit is Francisco Lopez's classic La Selva. Originally released in 1997, La Selva is just over an hour of field recordings of a tropical rain forest in the Caribbean. The always on point imprint Sub Rosa have specialized in early electronics and experimental sound pieces so it makes complete sense for them to reissue La Selva. It's an astonishing work made completely out of the sounds of nature and a masterclass of sound recording and composition. Field recordings at best not only record sonically the sounds of the original location, but capture the very essence of what it's like to be there. There's a reason that nature documentaries record the sounds separately to the footage and artificially place them over the final film. Through using microphones that give audiophiles shameful wet dreams, Lopez recreates an immersive, humid and dangerous environment for you to completely lose yourself in. It deserves an intense, concentrated listen to fully grasp what Lopez achieved with this release. There are moments in the album where the sounds seem to ascend from their original source material into a pure musical piece. Crickets, insects, monkey calls and bird song make it sound at points like a snippet from a Ligeti or Penderecki work,. At other points the extreme sound of torrential rain verges nearly into pure noise in the Keven Drumm sense. This is not a relaxing meditation tape for you to contemplate the ramifications of the zero point or find yourself in the dregs of a vanilla and chi tea. It's a dark, twisted journey through the very bowls of the rainforest, that while at times can allude an illusion of peace and harmony, is mainly claustrophobia and humid darkness. For anyone interested in the possibilities of field recordings or wants something a bit off the radar to give your time to, this is one that you shouldn't miss.


Sunday, 2 March 2014

Tapes


Alis - Things Next Door [Astro:Dynamics]
Alis first came to my attention through her excellent release Azimuth on the leftfield British house label Don't Be Afraid. It was a collection of synth drenched floor ready beats with her voice being the stand out instrument. Noted Creme affiliated artist D'Marc Cantu was the single remixer on that release, indicative of the direction that Alis was aiming for. Her next and most recent release for Astro:Dynamics is a completely different batch of sonics. With the exception of her vocals, it isn't even recognizable as being produced by the same artists. This one is an eyes down, heady set of ambient pop that's closer to the works of electronic songstresses like Julianna Barwick and Tropic of Cancer. Through use of loop pedals these works have a much looser and more improvised feel than her previous works. 11 utilizes short cut up loops of her vocals that sound like the destroyed, ghosted remnants of a forgotten techno anthem. 020 and Leslape refine her vocals into an instrumental quality and smear any vocabulary into an ethereal mush. The last cut Things Next Door takes things even further into pure abstraction that transforms her voice into phonetic drone.



Blue Krishna - Repeat Until Death [Nostilevo]
A product of the sun caked mush that is the LA underground tape scene, Repeat Until Death combines Sun Araw's distorted tropical heat with PiL's death disco. Nostilevo are one of the most interesting tape labels based in Los Angeles, churning out a series of noisey, degraded wave inspired music that uses the intrinsic sound qualities of tapes to amplify the experience of the music. I got the feeling that Blue Krishna's effort wouldn't be as interesting if it were better produced, but that's not to say that the music is of a sub standard quality underneath all the noise. Rather, in composing the tunes they had this very specific medium in mind and wrote around the boundaries, playing up to the strengths that are possible within tape releases. Repeat Until Death is a collection of post-punk inspired electronics that begs to be heard out of a blown out second rate car system while driving down a sunset, palmed tree laden drive intoxicated by Malibu, amphetamines and rotten coconuts. Reverberated vocals are combined with heavily over driven electronics and a tape hiss that sounds like it was compressed specifically to add an extra layer of murkiness throughout the whole thing. If you're into the Minimal Wave label or classic Olde English Spelling Bee records, this one is for you.



Cane Swords - Temple Swords [Field Hymns]
Featuring one of the best album covers I've seen all year, Temple Swords is a bonkers piece of cosmic synth music from the Field Hymns tape label.The first cut Tempel Travel Thugee seems to batter and ruin your mind, refreshing your inner pallet so it can rebuild it up again with the relatively quieter vibes of the next few tracks. The fact that the word Temple is in the album title should be a clue about how to approach this release. It's one of ritual and liminality. This is music for holistic introspection and contemplation, a way to think about life and the perception of ourselves. A lot of modern synth music is in the tradition of the best new age music of old that aimed for relaxation and meditation. This seems to aim more for the kind of cosmic komische music that was more intrusive in it's intention, think Irrlicht era Klaus Schulze. It's music to listen to in the pitch black and give your full intention to, not one to quietly cat nap while it's playing at a neighbor friendly volume on speakers stained by incense and lemongrass. This is the dark shit and it invites you inside.


My Panda Shall Fly - Higher [Sonic Router]
Sonic Router have long been a gold mine for the best that British inspired dance music has to offer and has since expanded into a label that has continued a similar musical aesthetic that they comment on as a website. They have a nack for seeing the potential in lesser known artists and given them a podium to showcase their work. Some of the most interesting artists working at the moment (Archie Pelago, Wanda Group and October for example) were all bigged up by them at early points in their career. It feels like they've caught another one with Higher, the fourth release by London's own Suren Seneviratne aka My Panda Shall Fly and it's is a wicked 6 tracker of techno inspired beat music. It has a similar vibe and sound to the music that the Brainfeeder label churns out but glazed through the Actress soaked haze of 4am South London. Sonic Router couldn't of picked a better medium to release this music on because the analogue warmth of tape hiss perfectly suits the ramshackle style of the beats. Seneviratne encourages a sloppy rhythm and lets the music seemingly fumble over each other. This is confirmed by the standout cut Crac, a song that's crying out for some bars by wonky bars DOOM.


Pulse Emitter - Equinox [Constellation Tatsu]
Pulse Emitter has consistently been one of the most talented and interesting producers making the kind of closed eyes, early morning komische music that has thankfully made a big resurgence over the past decade. With countless releases on various formats he's earned his soporific stripes and can now be filed under that enviable category 'buy on sight'. His most recent release for the always excellent Constellation Tatsu imprint is unsurprisingly a beauty. With five cuts that indulge in the kind of ambiance that he's become known for, it's a perfect wistful journey that could send you to sleep like a baby or wake you up in that early hour of the morning where everything seems like it has a deeper, existential meaning underneath. Equinox is part of Tatsu's winter batch along with some lovely releases by Hakobune and MJ Guider that are as worthy of your special time as this one.