Posts Tagged ‘electro’

Metropolis Records – 6th April 2018

Christopher Nosnibor

However much music you know, there’s always a near-infinite realm beyond your ken. Until now, German electronic crossover act Haujobb – a hybrid of electro, noise, IDM and techno, who lean toward the more mainstream electro-industrial sphere – have existed beyond my range of awareness. I can’t imagine why.

I would rarely recommend a live album by way of an introduction to any band, but then again, it was by listening to Concert that I found the motivation to explore The Cure in more detail, and it was Welcome to Mexico… which compelled me to listen to releases beyond Gub.

So, we’re presented here with ‘a career-spanning collection of the band’s most beloved songs, recorded at various recent concerts throughout Europe’, which, according to the blurb, ‘stands as a testament to the band’s live prowess and unique creativity’.

They’ve produced a vast body of work over the course of their 25-years existence, and Alive gathers 15 cuts from across it, opening with the slow-building ‘Machine Drum’. Lifted from 2011’s New World March, it’s brooding, dark, and angry. But – overlooking the absence of audience noise, which on one hand can interfere with the listening experience, but by the same token is also pretty much integral to the live experience, and I always eye (metaphorically) a live album with no audience noise suspiciously – the question of how representative it all is encroaches on the enjoyment of such a release. And sequencing matters: is this live collection in any way representative of the actual live experience? I suspect not. The sound quality is pretty consistent given that it’s a compilation culled from various shows, but then again, the slickness and uniformity mean it doesn’t feel very ‘live’, and equally, with so much of the instrumentation sequenced and preprogrammed, meaning that it’s a little hard, perhaps, to convey the band’s live prowess.

‘Renegades of Noise’ – and a fair few others, if truth be told – sounds like a Depeche Move studio offcut, as remixed by RevCo. Elsewhere, ‘Input Error’ is driven by a clanking industrial beat and a bucketload of aggression and anguish. As on ‘Let’s Drop Bombs’, The anger is palpable, while electronic stabs rain in like gunfire from every angle near the end. And while Haujobb occupy well-trodden territory, the semi-familiarity of the structures and delivery doesn’t undermine the fact they’ve got some strong songs and a mastery of driving beats and hypnotically looping sequenced grooves. In all… it’s not bad.

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Dependent /Amped – 26th January 2018

It would be easy to criticise Kirlian Camera’s new album for being a genre stereotype, entrenched in darkwave clichés of thumping disco beats propelling shuddering sequenced bass undulations and chilly, inhuman synth sweeps. But having formed in 1980, the Italian act, having mutated from pedalling synth-pop to progress into darker territories as the 8s progressed, are part of the first wave of bands to fore the style.

As maligned and misunderstood as it is, goth and its subcultures and musical substrains have endured, impervious to fashion, and any ebb and flow which has witnessed an upsurge in popularity has seemingly been coincidental.

I’ve no aversion to electronic music, but as a general rule, dark wave / cold wave music leaves me, well, cold. It’s not that synths and carefully produced vocals can’t convey emotional depth and that there is nothing to connect with, but as a style, it tends to lack humanity and consequently resonance. There’s music you hear, and music you feel. The electronic strains of goth all too often tend to be heavily stylised, entrenched in the well-established tropes.

As a listener and critic, I’m in no position to judge or undermine the actual emotional content of the lyrics or to question their sincerity. I am no-one to challenge how strongly any individual feels something, and I’m the last person to deride a so-called goth for being sensitive. It’s a matter of articulation: eternally drawing on a limited bank of metaphorical references and stock-phrase imagery, it feels more like the feelings are pulled tightly into a corset or genre conformity than a true release of pent-up, innermost pain. Moreover, the drama-focused delivery feels to careful, too meticulous in its presentation.

Despite a shifting line-up over the years, Elena Fossi has covered vocal duties since the turn of the millennium, and her melodies are excellent, strongly delivered with grace and nuance. So what’s the issue? It’s certainly not technical or compositional. It’s not about lack of range in terms of tone or tempo, either: ‘Helium 3’ goes all swampy, with whiplash snare and a stark, minimal synth chord sequence reminiscent of The Human Leagues ‘Being Boiled’ overlaid with creeping fear chords, atmospherics and samples. ‘Kryostar’ brings robotix vocals and a pounding technoindustrial beat, and a relentless juggernaut groove paired with soaring, choral operatics.

But whether it’s rolling piano and breathy vocals building the drama, as on ‘Traveller’s Dream’, or bombastic synth explosions, Hologram Moon feels very stylised, controlled. And thus we return full circle. It would be easy to criticise Kirlian Camera’s new album for being a genre stereotype, but however well-crafted, well-performed and well-produced, it would be difficult to compliment it for being anything more.

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Kirlian Camera - Moon

Awake in the night, the Danish duo AyOwA go searching their sub conscious to the haunting lyrics of Danish writer Mette Moestrup.  ‘Insomnia’ is the first single from their forthcoming EP ‘Farvel’, to be released in May 2018 on Copenhagen label Music For Dreams. Based on their trademark electronic approach, but this time with many acoustic elements, the duo goes exploring new sides of their nordic, dark, and moving electronic songs.

Watch the video to ‘Insomnia’ here:

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AyOwA - Insomnia

Ventil Records – V006

James Wells

I know next to nothing about this release. Here’s a moment of transparency: music reviewers receive absolutely shedloads of stuff to review. Press releases are handy, not just as a shortcut when it comes to research, but also for locating inroads into a work. But even with a press release to hand, details surrounding Wealth are sketchy.

Consisting of Michael Lahner (synths) and Manuel Riegler (drums, synths), Wealth draw on a range of different forms of electronic music to create what they consider to be a ‘highly organic mix’. Sonically, there’s very much a preoccupation with soft-edged pulsations: the beats are largely rounded, bulbous, and when more angular rhythms do emerge, as on ‘Plate LXXVI (Diagram for Lilies), they’re countered by altogether less aggressive synth tones with hazy outlines.

Subtle, stealthy, glitchy ambience with backed-off beats are on offer with Primer. Sonic washes and rippling, elongated, undulating bleeps eddy around agitated, juddering rhythms so backed off in the mix as to be barely subliminal. ‘Floor’ lays a deep groove; not so much one to get down to as to lie down and allow total immersion.

Primer is a delicate, balanced work, with considerable range beneath its more subtle, subdued surfaces.

Wealth - Primer

Bearsuit Records – 24th June 2017

Christopher Nosnibor

If the album’s opening cut suggests an album of slightly hipsterish glitchy electronica, it soon evolves into rather less comfortable territory. The elements of commercial club music are all in evidence, and at times, to the fore, but this is an album that pushes into myriad electronic territories. Throughout, Mitsui keeps one eye on groove and the other on confounding expectations.

You want ideas? You want range? Ippu Mitsui has ideas and range. ‘Small Rider’ is exemplary, flipping between delicate chimes and mellow grooves to altogether more aggressive beats with woozy, warping basslines burrowing every which way. It packs a lot into four and a half minutes, and no mistake.

Moment of ‘Fine Spine’ come on like early Prodigy, with vintage acid house stylings colliding with abstract electro-oddness. ‘Bottle Neck U’ brings a deep, subterranean bass groove and hard beats with an almost industrial intensity, while ‘In My Mind’ ventures into deep, dubby territory.

‘Bug’s Wings (Another Take)’, like its counterpart opener, is, superficially, pure bouncy club music, with a flimsy 90s piano– a throwback to the Chicago house sound that carried forward infinitely too long – line weaving its way through the track, but then it also bundles in a whole heap of other stuff that sees Mitsui leaping off on unexpected tangents with dizzying frequency. The albums final track, ‘Quick 919’,with its fairground organs and explosive beats, owes more to JG Thirlwell’s early adventures with tape loops than anything contemporary.

I might argue that only a Japenese artist could, or would, make an album like this. It is, by turns, kitschy and saccharine, and brain-bendingly obtuse and awkward. It’s certainly inventive, and Mitsui seems bent on self-sabotage, with every moment of linear, accessible dance countered by some twisted and unpredictable moment of weirdness. And this is what makes L + R an album worth hearing.

 

Ippu Mitsui

ti-Records – TIRECS004

Christopher Nosnibor

What do you need to know about this album? Well, GIW is the solo project of trumpeter & performer Pablo Giw. He hails from Cologne, Germany, and Never is Always is his debut album.

‘Morning Machine’ finds Pablo spin some rhythmically-intoned spoken word that’s archetypally beat in its style and delivery. Slow, subsonic trip-hop beats glitch beneath warping free jazz parps which cut their way across spaced-out drones.

A nagging looped motif provides the core of the framework of ‘What’s Outside Isn’t There’, and it’s around this that changes in tempo and tonality, force and spirit that the atmosphere and mood of the piece shift over its duration. The blurb describes GIW as ‘having electronic music in mind, but creating it by acoustic and instrumental means’, and while there are times when his plays the trumpet like a trumpet, over the course of the album’s eight tracks, he demonstrates a stylistic eclecticism and inventiveness that’s hard not to admire.

Never is Always finds GIW striving to ‘redefine his role as a trumpet player and us[ing] his instrument as sound generator for complex harmonic layers, a drum machine or as a filter for his voice. It’s when GIW pushes his boundaries the furthest that he’s most impressive and successful compositionally, and while the more obviously trumpet-led, jazz-flavoured compositions like ‘The Golden Calf’ aren’t short on late-night hot city isolation tension and atmosphere, even with the swaying rhythms which underpin its loose groove. Far more interesting are the swelling cathedrals of unsettling noise which form the fabric of the short but intense cracking blast of ‘Right Endeavour,’ which forges a dense noise which is both electro and other-wordly in its manifestation.

If the dreamy soul which occupies the first half of ‘I Saw You – Trouble’ is unremarkable s of and in itself, the fact it sounds like it’s a synth tune is indicative of Pablo’s technical abilities, and when it skips into darker, glitchier terrain around the mid-point, the context is rendered even more impressive.

‘Hain’ barrels into avant-garde technoindustrial territory, with clattering, clanking percussion and blasts of white noise that calls to mind the experimentalism of early Cabaret Voltaire or Foetus.

Never is Always is nothing if not varied in its approach and style, and in being something of a mixed bag isn’t wholly consistent. However, it would be wrong to be overly critical, and not only because it’s GIW’s first effort but because it’s the work of an artist willing to explore, to experiment, and to throw it all out there. It’s less a matter of variable quality as a matter of taste, and while I abhor anything that whiffs of ersatz Beatnick bollocks, that’s just me, and what really matters is that Never is Always is an ambitious and eclectic effort which shows that we’re looking at an artist with substantial and possibly unique potential.

TIRECS004_front

Moabit Music – 27th January 2017

Christopher Nosnibor

Despite having three previous albums to her credit, including one with Gudrun Gut, this is my first encounter with Canadian spoken word artist Myra Davies. I sometimes wonder, as an occasional spoken – or shouted – word performer myself why there aren’t more talkers putting out spoken word recordings. As a medium, spoken word is enjoying a surge in popularity, with both open mic and curated spoken word nights springing up all over, in addition to those longstanding ones which have survived, sometimes by virtue of being the only platform around for a form of entertainment which is, one could argue, the oldest of all.

There are a fair few big name authors who have extensive catalogues – Charles Bukowski, William Burroughs, Henry Rollins are among the first names which spring to mind – but apart from the odd clip on YouTube, it seems that very few writers who read aloud commit their voices to the recorded medium. Granted, some writers simply aren’t cut out to perform, and sadly, their readings to their material a disservice. But then, when done well, performance can bring a piece of writing to life and convey elements of the work not always immediately apparent to a reader. It’s all about the emphasis, the intonation. And there’s nothing to say spoken word recordings have to replicate the experience of those readings which take place in pubs and libraries: there is infinite scope to render the words very differently and to add myriad depths and dimensions – as Joe Hakim’s collaboration with Ashley Reaks and the recent album by The Eagertongue evidence – when done well, spoken word can be exciting and can reconfigure whatever perceptions one may have of the genre – which, of course, isn’t really a genre. Because spoken word can spill into so many other fields, and far beyond rap at that. Kate Tempest? C’mon, please! Her accessible, right-on doggerel may be well-meaning, but it’s little more than sixth-form poetry delivered in a hip-hop style without the beats.

On Sirens, Myra Davies brings the beats, thanks to her two musical collaborators, Beate Bartel and Gudrun Gut, who provide the backing to alternate tracks Despite this, Sirens demonstrates a remarkable cohesion, and doesn’t flip-flop between styles. Davies is a fantastic orator: she’s not only blessed with a cool, laconic tone, which benefits from her dry Canadian accent, but she’s also got a real sense of what works for narrating her own words. Sounds simple, but many writers lack this skill.

‘Armand Monroe’ sets the tone: sparse, angular, electropop with a funk groove, it’s cold yet fiery, as Davies spins out a succession of evocative imags. Jittery, tense robotix with propulsive, grinding synths abound, and wibbly loops and sumptuously spacey motoric beats dominate the album. ‘Golddress’ is a taut effort: listening through ‘phones, I find I have a racing pulse and my sense of anxiety increases as the track builds: it’s steely, detached tone is curiously out of kilter with real time and current space, it’s hard to let it simply pass.

Instead of sounding like a retro hash of futuristic music from the 80s – to which it does bear clear parallels – Sirens captures a sense of alienation, of otherness. It’s not simply in the weird doubling and echo-based effects on the vocals, or the treatments of the drums, or the twitchy, slowly warping effects of the synth backings – all of which contribute to Sirens being far more than a ‘spoken word’ album – but a combination of all of these factors, with the addition of something intangible. Perhaps it’s simply the restrained force and clinical focus of Davies’ delivery of words which are both gritty and discomforting. Ultimately, it comes down to the fact that Sirens is a superlative work of art. A hybrid of spoken word and electro-pop / coldwave / etc., it represents a perfect creative synthesis.

 

 

Myra Davies Music by Beate Bartel & Gudrun Gut – Sirens