Posts Tagged ‘Glitchtronica’

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

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Cat Werk Imprint – CW11 – 8th February 2017

Christopher Nosnibor

The inspiration for Olivia Louvel’s latest album (fantastically presented, like its predecessor, in a DVD size digipak) casts an arc way back into history. Louvel, it transpires, was fascinated by the lives of Mary Queen of Scots and Elizabeth I – two queens who existed simultaneously on the same island, during the 16th Century – a period dominated by men. Two queens who, powerful and celebrated in their own lifetimes as well as posthumously, would never meet. And so, on Data Regina, Olivia Louvel sets herself the challenge of addressing their simultaneous yet entirely separate, disparate narratives of these two bitter rivals, and presenting distinct voices as she charts their adversarial relationship.

The twenty years during which the two queens reigned simultaneously were fraught, tempestuous ones, punctuated by battles on the Anglo-Scottish borders, disputes and reconciliations, and ultimately saw Mary Tudor sentenced to death and executed.

Effectively two works intertwined – ‘The Antechamber; and ‘Battles’, with the latter comprising a sequence of relatively short instrumental pieces positioned between the longer ‘songs’ – Data Regina is no polite period drama in musical form. It most certainly doesn’t correspond with the popular Elizabeth-slanted syllabus readings of the period, or correspond with the backdrop generally presented on degree-level modules taught on ‘Elizabethan’ and ‘Renaissance’ Literature (the Renaissance was late to reach Britain in relation to the rest of Europe). Herein lies an immense problem, of course: how can we learn from history when so much of the past is unknown, shrouded in layer of mystery and obfuscation as the result of political (self)interest? Would the present be as fucked as it is if we all had a better knowledge and understanding of history? Maybe, maybe not. The age of Elizabeth I, of Shakespeare, of – my preferred man of letters, Christopher Marlowe – is a long way in the past.

Data Regina an album of dark, haunting electronica, which stands in a league of its own: it has no obvious reference points in music, history or elsewhere. It’s a bold project, for sure, and Louvel admirably achieved her ambitions with a work which conveys its intent without becoming overly mired in explication and cumbersome narrative segments which disrupt the flow.

Louvel sets the tone – both musically and in terms of narrative – with the dark swell of ‘Battlefield’. Vaporous in its atmospherics, the track combines echoey beats which clatter and rattle around between resonant, woozy basslines and sparse, drifting notes. ‘My Crown’ weaves a haunting spell, slow pulsating electronics and mournful strings first float and then rise to a tense climax. At times, juddering electronics and stuttering, glitchy rhythms spasm and render scenes of claustrophobic intensity, Louvel’s detached, icy vocals eerily menacing. The pieces – they don’t follow clear or conventional song structures – are intense sonic explorations of character and voice.

‘Langside, 1568’, is a dark, dolorous interlude, the fractured vocalisations preface the marching drums which dominate the barren landscapes of ‘Deploy’ and ‘Battle’. It’s uncomfortable, queasy listening, the elegance and grace of the sparse compositions and Louvel’s voice countered by a discomforting undercurrent that runs throughout. It’s by no means an easy, accessible work: in fact, Data Regina is dark and turbulent and often uncomfortable, but it is deeply compelling.

 

Olivia Louvel - Data Regina

Reject and Fade – 28th February 2016

Christopher Nosnibor

Tim Hann used to front a Leeds-based alternative rock band called I Concur some years ago. I forget exactly how I discovered them now, but they were really, really good, one of those bands you would see play liv and think ‘Fuck. How are they not immense?’ One of the most precise and exhilarating live acts around, they were in another league, and it felt wrong to see them play as a support at the 450-capacity Brudenell Social Club. With the NME and Huw Stephens backing them they should have been huge. Sadly, the show I caught at the Packhorse in Leeds in 2010, where they tried out some of the material that would appear on the 2012 album Burial Proof would be one of their last, and Burial Proof would effectively be their sign-off. Life had already got in the way prior to the album’s release: ‘the usual thirty-something excuses of jobs, kids & houses’, as they put it on Facebook. And so it goes: ambition and dreams crushed by reality. The guilt and the money-pit of leaving your wife to deal with the children, while you go out on tour, pursuing the life of a young, single man.

I get it. Bands slog their guts out for fuck all. So do music reviewers, it so happens. ‘It’s not work, you don’t get paid for it,’ Mrs N retorts as I wade through the thirty or so emails which have crashed into my inbox while I’ve been at the day-job. Don’t free CDs, downloads and gigs count as pay? I’m not going to argue: I take the point. At least I get free stuff in abundance. Bands just hand out free stuff to buggers like me in the hope they’ll get a review. I review maybe 20% of the material I receive these days. It’s not because I’m a shit – no, it’s not the reason – it’s because I simply can’t do any more. The point is that being in a band is hard. It’s no life for a grown adult with mouths to feed.

A brief backtrack: in my endless quest for self-promotion, I used to run round slapping stickers and postcards everywhere every time I attended a gig. I didn’t sell many books off the back of it, but I did get an introduction to Tim’s younger brother Michael, a writer and soon-to-be head honcho at experimental Reject and Fade, a label devoted to dark ambient and generally weird, dark electronic-based nastiness. It’s a small and sometimes wonderful world. Were it not for all of this backstory – and I make no apology for the anecdotal meanderings with their Sartrean, Robbe-Grillet tinted reflections – this review would not exist. You should be grateful for the existence of this review because this offering by break_fold – Tim Hann’s latest project, released on brother Michael Hann’s Reject and Fade imprint is an inspired underground work, which, by its nature is unlikely to receive much mainstream critical coverage, deserves your attention.

break_fold represents a significant departure: there isn’t a jangly guitar to be heard here, not a single emotive swell, and no vocals: in other words, nothing remotely resembling the conventions of rock. This is music produced slowly, during moments away from life. And it’s music made by one man, at home, likely in the small hours, without the need to rely on the input of others. Hann clearly has music in his blood, and possesses an incredible focus when he’s making it. As a dark ambient work, amorphous, intangible yet curiously challenging, it’s an outstanding release and one which displays a meticulous attention to detail. The tones, the texture, the crispness of the beats and the overtly synthetic elements, in contrast with the swirling background elements is quite something.

About the title: 07_07_15 – 13_04_16 is pitched as ‘a record of memories and time stamped bursts of creative activity, captured and crystallised in glacial beats, foggy textures and electrified rhythms.’ The track titles are, in fact, the dates on which the individual track were started. As a whole, it’s a document of a specific time-span. There is something simultaneously resonant and alienating about this location in time, in that time is both universal and personal. Events take place at given times which are known globally. Other events are strictly personal. But our location in time is often marked not by the event but by our reaction to it. Take, for example, the announcement that the UK had voted to leave the EU. Many, if not most, UK citizens will forever have the fateful events of the 23rd June 2016, and also the 24th (very much the morning after) etched into their memories. But their responses will vary wildly, and the memories will inevitably be shaped by that immediate reaction on hearing the result.

07_07_15 – 13_04_16 is a journey into the break_fold mind-space, but without context in terms of the events of the dates in question. This accentuates the sense of dislocation already present in the music itself – music which conveys emotional tension, conflict, unease through the medium of rumbling, uncomfortable layers of sound which drift and hang like mist or toxic gas. Murky, impenetrable, tense and dubby, it’s a challenging journey into the unknown defined by low, strolling basslines streaking, slow-turning ambient tension and clamorous beats swathed in echo.

 

break_fold