Posts Tagged ‘Radiohead’

6th August 2021

James Wells

Some bands claim to be eclectic, but fail to substantiate those claims in the music itself serving up middling mediocrity, usually of a fairly anaemic indie / rock persuasion. Of course, no act with a diverse range of influences is likely to incorporate all of those influences into a single song (while rendering anything listenable), but, y’know, claiming Bowie and Led Zep and coming on like Oasis just doesn’t cut it.

Helve (not the Leeds post-metal act, but the London indie group) intimate that they draw on an eclectic combination of jazz, folk, electronic and experimental music, influenced by an array of genres and artists spanning Aphex Twin, Radiohead, Slint, Pat Metheny, Nick Drake, Portishead & Bill Evans.

All rolled together at the same time, that lot would sound absolutely fucking awful, but ‘Cabin Fever’ is nuanced in its hybridity, a kind of jazzy, blues influenced stroller at first that gets a bit proggy further down the line.

Singer/songwriter Leon has one of those voices that’s got range – not just technically good vocals, but vocals capable of conveying emotional range and depth too. A bit Thom Yorke, you might say, but also entirely his own, haunting and evocative, and here he spins all the different aspects of isolation – the introspection, the reflection, the self-loathing, the confusion, it all there, and we’ve all been there. Originally penned and demod in 2019 (as a much longer, more post-rock orientated tune with samples and other stuff in the mix) and rerecorded for this, their debut release, it feels particularly salient.

‘Cabin Fever’ isn’t an instant grab; instead of big hooks and an attention-grabbing chorus, it’s more of an atmosphere-orientated mood tune. Jazzy without being Jamiroquai, it’s the sound of late-night basement bars, and while it’s very much a product of our immediate times, clearly betrays roots that reach back further.

Slick on the image to select streaming service:

Helve artwork

Sub Rosa – SR388

Christopher Nosnibor

As significant as the fact Cristian Vogel has worked with the likes of Radiohead, Maxïmo Park, Chicks on Speed, Thom Yorke, Jamie Lidell, Neil Landstrumm and Dave Tarrida is the fact that the CD and vinyl versions of this release have completely different track-listings, with only two tracks featured on both. That’ probably quite an expensive pain in the arse for hardcore fans, especially as the versions here are remastered, and the CD release features a previously unreleased version of ‘Around’.

So, as the title suggests, this compilation picks the best cuts from Vogel’s 90s output, and presents them, remastered in 2015 by the artist himself (indeed, he’s been systematically remastering the majority of his early work, offering tweaked versions of his extensive back catalogue through BandCamp).

In terms of sequencing, the CD (the focus of this review) makes more sense than the vinyl. With the exception of the very last track, the material is sequenced chronologically, with Disc One spanning 1993 to 1995, with tracks culled from Beginning to Understand and Absolute Time, and Disc Two spanning 1996 to 1998, from All Music Has Come to And End and culminating in Busca Invisibles. It may be an obvious point, but it’s significant, in that it does mark a clear linear evolution of Vogel’s music.

Repetition lies at the heart of the compositions, with looping motifs running end-on-end with shifting layers of instrumentation on top, and with explorations of tonal shifts providing the focus and points of interest over progression or changes of key or tempo. ‘Machine’ combines techno robotix and Krautrock with drifting ambient currents, while ‘Beginning to Understand’ contrasts echo-heavy metallic, treble tones with thumping bass frequencies. Minimalist beats and stark bass grooves define many of the tracks, particularly on Disc One.

The tracks from Absolute Time showcase denser sound, the dominant beats making for a harder feel, more driving and propulsive. On tracks like ‘In’ and ‘Absolute’, it’s all about the frequencies; the bottom-end tones sit in the frequency range that really batters the eardrum, while the higher frequencies are cosseted in dense aural cushions while stomping 4/4 beats bump and grind hard.

The output from the years ‘96-‘98 are given less extensive coverage, with, for example, only two tracks apiece from Specific Momentific, Bodymapping, and Busca Invisibles featured (in contrast to the six cuts from Absolute Time and five tracks culled from All Music Has Come to an End . Nevertheless, it more than gives a flavour of Vogel’s output, and Disc Two begins with ‘Absence of Fear’ which marks a rather different approach from the earlier works. With a much looser, less claustrophobic sound, it’s built around contrast and juxtaposition, and with complex rhythm patterns criss-crossing one another to quite disorientating effect. In many respects the twelve tracks on this second disc are the more interesting, in that they show Vogel’s experimentalism pushing to the fore. While firmly positioned within the parameters of techno, these recordings document a desire to expand the territory of the genre, and it’s not difficult to hear in these nuanced pieces why Cristian Vogel is so respected, both within is field and far beyond.

Vogel

 

Cristian Vogel on Bandcamp

Cristian Vogel – Classics at Sub Rosa (with audio)