Posts Tagged ‘synth’

7th June 2020

Christopher Nosnibor

I suppose I’m fortunate to move in the circles I do. In both the real and virtual world, I’m surrounded by some remarkably talented creatives, working in all fields. Many seem to have found new outlets for their creative leanings under lockdown, in many cases probably for the sake of their sanity.

The emergence of a brand new act, VVolves, proved as welcome as is was unexpected, because the duo’s debut, a blend of shoegaze and cool synth pop, is a belter.

‘Momentum’ is a brilliantly kinetic, driving tune that kicks in solidly after a gentle, spacious intro. I’m a sucker for a song that locks into a groove and feels like it’s surging forwards because of, not despite, the repetition, and ‘Momentum’ absolutely does that: a repetitive chord motif, overlaid with chilly synth stabs and a propulsive drum track which contrasts with the ethereal vocal delivery. In combination, it’s an exhilarating rush.

We need more of this, please.

AA

a1325238669_10

Pretty Ugly Records – 13th March 2020

Christopher Nosnibor

So I stumbled over Sex Cells by practically sticking a pin in last year’s Live at Leeds programme, and it paid off. Ok, that’s not quite true: while surveying the schedule, they looked interesting and probably worth a punt, so I took a gamble it paid off, with the their tense industrial-edged electronica that reminded me of Pretty Hate Machine era Nine Inch Nails, only weirder and sleezier. Coupled with the duo’s slightly oddball, even vaguely awkward, presentation, it was compelling. The same has been true of their releases to date, which lead us to this, their debut album.

The album’s cover is a bizarre watercolour-style tableau of the pair, and on the one hand, it’s naff (and I’m being polite: the more you look at it, the more awful details reveal themselves. Like, is the cat really supposed to be licking her nipple? What’s that on his dick?), but on the other, it’s a perfect encapsulation of their perverse, quirky style. They don’t play by the rules. And if their name is a play on the adage and Soft Cell, then it’s entirely fitting. If it isn’t, it maybe ought to be.

The headline here should perhaps be that David M Allen is the lead producer here. Renowned for his work with The Human League, The Sisters of Mercy, The Mission, Depeche Mode, The Psychedelic Furs, Wire, The Associates, and The Chameleons, little more probably needs to be said here, beyond the fact that in terms of production, ‘That’s Life’ sounds like you’d probably expect.

‘That’s Life’ bridges the gap between The Human League and Nine Inch Nails, and doesn’t include any of their previous single releases apart from leader ‘Deranged’, which crashed in with a suitably salaciously shocking promo video in March, demonstrating their tenser, harder-edged side while at the same time nailing everything about the band into a box of two-and-a-half minutes.

Opening song, ‘Shimmer,’ is dominated by a low-slung oscillating bass and trudging drum machine that provides the backdrop to Matt Kilda’s monotone spoken word vocal and Willow Vincent’s lost, demented banshee shrillness that calls to mind Skeletal Family, early Siouxsie, and early Cranes.

‘We Are Still Breathing’ is a neatly-crafted reflective electropop tune. It’s got hooks, melody, and a dreamy quality. Things take a dark turn on the next song, ‘Human Costume’ a spiky post-punk electrogoth stomper that screams Hallowe’en and horror, with some pretty barbed lyrics that turn the mirror on society and the human psyche. And it still packs a killer chorus, too.

They go full death disco with ‘Cruel Design’, and Willow coms on all breathy and ice witch in the vocal department, bringing a contrast between the vibrant energy of the instrumentation and the cold detachment of the voice, in a role reversal between human and machine. It’s a complete contrast to the final song, ‘Hang the Flowers’, which is a sparse, folksy number that ripples dappled shade to fade.

The combination of shock tactics and neat dark-edged electropop is a well-established tradition that can probably be traced back as far as Suicide, but really became a thing in the 80s, and as such, Sex Cells should by rights be a yawn, their edginess predictable, their material laden with well-worn tropes, and the metaphorical shrug of a title does nothing to raise expectations. And yet they make it work, and make it exciting.

AA

a3207339964_10

AA

Nahal Recordings – 10th April 2020

Christopher Nosnibor

Because detail is important, let’s begin with the parenthesis. The label’s press release announces ‘We teamed up with the extraordinary French ondist Christine Ott to create an unprecedented album entirely made with Ondes Martenot, one of the very first monophonic and experimental synthesizers in history’, resulting in ‘a cosmic journey of layered waves of sound’.

Maurice Martenot’s invention may not have acquired the popular status of the theremin, but Christine Ott’s instrument of choice is nevertheless significant in the evolution of sound generation as one of the very first monophonic and experimental synthesizers in history back in 1920.

Chimères begins with a pause, at least metaphorically: ‘Comma’ is six minutes of instrumental hauntology, as the notes trail, taper and quaver into still air and silence. As the album’s title suggests, this is a curious hybrid work, and while perhaps less monstrous than all that, the Ondes Martenot conjures strange, otherworldly sounds that are, at times, quite unsettling as they yawn, quiver, and squelch into seas of reverb. At times resembling analogue synth sounds, and at others approximating strings and even woodwind, the

‘Todeslied’ is the sound of disembodied spirits flittering around in the physical world, a phantasmagorical freakshow of sonic ectoplasm which gradually bubbles its way through a succession of bursts and plumes via something semi-industrial into a tranquil sunlit meadow of sound. Meanwhile ‘Sirius’ brings some deep ambience, while the eight-minute ‘Eclipse’ brings swirl of darkness that’s more of a sucking black hole than a fleeting dimming of light, building to a whupping rotary sound and blizzard of bleeps in the final minute.

It’s a lot to take in, and closer ‘Burning’ is a magnificent if slightly disorientating combination of slow-glooping electronica and orchestral chamber music. It isn’t easy to assimilate, but it is wonderfully executed, and once you can overcome the unfamiliarity of the form, there are some magical moments to be discovered.

AA

a3802769926_10

27th April 2020

Christopher Nosnibor

Ghost Moon Ritual follows its predecessor, Night Tides, after three years in the making. It’s easy to forget that most musicians have actual day-jobs, and things like families and normal lives to operate, too. It’s not easy to pack in creative activity alongside normal life.

Since lockdown, everyone seems to have delivered a new release, and, bizarrely, and most unexpectedly, a world without live shows is suddenly a world brimming with new music not so much ins spite of, but because of circumstance.

All of our circumstances are different, of course. Balancing dayjob, parenting, and an all-consuming state of anxiety, I’ve found less time and energy than ever available to review more material than I’ve ever received in over a decade of doing this.

Ghost Moon Ritual is pitched as ‘a song-cycle influenced by redemption, hope, failure and endurance’, and while the creative contexts isn’t immediately apparent, the attention to detail, not least of all atmosphere, is.

As the band write, ‘During the three years of writing and recording the album, several people close to the band passed away bringing a heavy mood to the proceedings. During this time, two beautiful children were born as well, bringing with them a reminder of the joy that still exists and is always enduring. Realizing that all there is now and that the outside world at large seemed to be teetering more and more on the edge of a cliff Work moved slowly, tuning this out and retreating into the studio with heavy hearts, the duo worked to channel the grief and hope and joy into what has become Ghost Moon Ritual.’

While Night Tides contained six songs, Ghost Moon Ritual contains thirteen, and as such is an altogether more substantial document. It’s also a document which renders with crystal clarity the way in which Lunar Twin’s work is built on contrasts: specifically, Bryce Boudreau’s baritone vocals that call to mind Leonard Cohen, and as such belong to a rock / folk world, while Christopher Murphy conjures sonic drifts that meld dreamwave and sparse folk with a laid-back, rippling dance vibe.

The album’s first song, ‘Drunken Sky’ is a slow, swaying semi-comatose crawl of drum machine and synth bass, and calls to mind some of the doomy, reverby-but-claustrophobic material on The Jesus And Mary Chain’s Barbed Wire Kisses. The drums burst into D’n’B near the end, which is unexpected, but then there’s a lot that’s unexpected about this set.

All of the Mark Lanegan comparisons are entirely justified: ‘Leaves’, and, indeed, several other cuts, could easily pass as outtakes from recent Lanegan albums, with Bryce Boudreau’s world-weary gravel-heavy croon laying breathy over sparse backing, picked guitar and spectral synths drifting over minimal percussion. ‘Neon Room’ is subtle, combining chilled dance grooves with a deep-carved rock growl: the result is quite unexpectedly affecting.

As a collection it’s sparse, dolorous, dark. It’s also gentle in its bleakness, but bleak it is, as well as understated and graceful, and as such, it reaches all the parts.

AA

a3899811576_10

Panurus Productions – 21st June 2019

Inspector Fogg is Newcastle filmmaker Wayne Lancaster, and his eponymous album threatens ‘ten tracks of warm synth-based stuff.’ For some reason, this makes me think about pissing down my own leg.

The slow, soft wash of sound that marks the album’s arrival in the form of ‘Fuyu’ isn’t nearly as embarrassing or as uncomfortable, the drones swelling and rising in and out of step to forge fluidly fluctuating rhythmic ebbs and flows. Although very much of the album is ambient to the point that structures are lost in the drift, each composition has a distinct identity and mood.

‘The View Across the River’ begins as a delicate strum before yielding to polyrthymic bleepery, while ‘Strange Tales’ is dark and vaguely sinister. If ‘ominous’ sounds like a similar descriptor, it’s different enough to mark the subtle shift in atmosphere as ‘A Year From Now’ casts reflective shadows between held breaths.

There’s more substance to ‘Lamb to the Slaughter’, an insistent beat and pulsating synth behind a rolling piano creating a groove that evokes an action sequence in a film. But its erratic stops and starts are jarring, and it’s almost an act of self-sabotage as the one piece that seems to be going somewhere is simply gone in just over two minutes.

The pieces become shorter and seemingly less evolved towards the end of the album, with ‘Oil on the Road’ and ‘Case Closed’ being sketches of around a minute each. The former is driven by a grimy, buzzing synth bass overlaid with 80s-sounding electronic keys that threatens to go all Harold Faltermeyer before an abrupt ending, while the latter is a piano-based outline that has infinite scope for expansion.

Assuming this gradual diminishment of development is all part of a plan of sorts, the logical analysis would be to attempt to unravel its purpose or meaning. But this is art, and art so often defies logic. And while the snippety pieces are vaguely frustrating, the album as a whole is satisfying in its balance of variety and cohesion, and its infinitely preferable to pissing down your own leg.

AA

Inspector Fogg

Front & Follow – 26th October 2016

Christopher Nosnibor

In the last property I rented, I suffered an infestation of moths. It may sound amusing, but it wasn’t. the larvae of said moths devoured chunks of carpet under the bed and in various other places in the bedroom and other spots on the first floor. So, moths, it transpires, consume wool-based material and require Rentokil to halt them. Miraculously, I did get my full deposit back, but was reminded that one sold never trust a creature made of dust. Yes, I fear moths. A body that powders on contact with a heavy blow presents a curious intangibility, a lack of substance, a sense of not really existing in the corporeal world.

This presumably isn’t the kind of scene the title of Sone Institute’s latest offering is attempting to convey, and the connotations of rust are more of slow decay and dilapidation, in keeping with the dark, damp crevices moths are more conventionally associated with inhabiting.

Sone Institute describes Where Moth and Rust Consume, his first new material in six years, as his ‘pop album’, but don’t expect to hear it on R1 any time soon, or ever. 6Music’s Gideon Coe has championed previous work, describing it as ‘delightfully strange,’ which seems a fair summation. Sone Institute inhabits the world of the unheimlich, the uncanny, and this is no more true than of the landscape conjured by these compositions.

Sparse, stuttering beats and even sparser synths provide the backdrop to robotic, monotone vocals on the first track, ‘Only I Exist’. ‘Your wretched anus / discoloured teeth / Tree-trunk legs / A dog on a leash…’ The obtuse, fragmented lyrics follow the trajectory that charts a line from Dada and Surrealism to Burroughs’ cut-up technique. The images layer up, juxtaposed and disconnected, and the album gradually unfurls, pushing a clinical 80s Eurodisco sound that’s centred around crisp, mechanoid beats. It’s the beats that are perhaps the most overtly ‘pop’ aspect of the album, bringing a consistency of structure and solidity to the compositions rarely found in Sone Institute’s work.

‘The Devil Works in ASDA’ judders and thumps along, building a conspicuously linear groove while exploring the dynamics of dance music, and if ‘What’s Bred in the Bone’ pulls back the intensity and volume a couple of notches, the spacious bump and bleep, built around a framework of drum machine evokes the spirit of retro-futurism. Analogue synths modulate rhythmic pulses, but stark angularity and minimal production values give the atmosphere a cold, detached edge.

‘Winter is Dead’ marks something of a departure, venturing into more ambient and also rather weirder territory with its woozy vocals and warping sonic backdrop. And there are times when it all goes Kraftwerk / Tangerine Dream, and if truth be told, that’s pretty cool. There’s creeping tension in the undulating drones and whispered vocal slivers of ‘Oblique Messages’, and the dark heart of Where Moth and Rust Consume beats on through to the final fragments of the crackle-scratched sketch of a closer that is ‘God Bless You’.

We need more of this: and with this release, we get more, lots more. Front & Follow don’t only deliver leftfield albums of quality, but are now, it seems, on a mission to go above and beyond in providing value for money with a bonus album: this release also marks the first volume of a new series on Front & Follow – Ex Post Facto – which, the label explains, ‘seeks to celebrate experimental electronic music in all its forms, showcasing new work and old, exploring the relationship between the current and the past, how they influence and shape each other and our experiences of them.’ And so, a collection of tracks from the Sone Institute archive, including remixes and previously unreleased music offers eighteen tracks lifted from the far reaches of Sone Institute’s career. Not only is it extremely interesting in its own right, but it resents a wide-ranging representation of the sample-riven, string-soaked and analogue-based wibble-tastic work of Sone Institute through the years. It’s not all comfortable, easy -listening, exploring equally areas of introspective elegy, discord, and smooth, rippling mellowness: the chanking ‘4 (Version 3)’ is a discordant guitar blitz over a creepy Theremin / organ shiver, while the stammering robotix vocal loop on ‘Dark Forest – Silver Sea’ hardy says ‘easy to get on with’: and the context is all.

Still reeling from Where Moth and Rust Consume, Past and Spared is the very definition of headfuck not because it’s especially intense, but simply because it is. And that’s cool. Just be prepared.

AA

Sone Institute – Where Moth and Rust Consume

HOLYGRAM presents ‘A Faction’, the second single off their debut album, Modern Cults, which is released on 9th November.

This news follows the lead single ‘Signals’. Prior to that, the Cologne-based outfit released their self-titled EP in 2016. HOLYGRAM cleverly blends new wave and Krautrock with post-punk and shoegaze to achieve headstrong multi-layered bliss. This is a thoroughly contemporary homage to the sound of the ’80s with a resolute look to the future – the result is driving, dark and catchy.

Produced by Maurizio Baggio, who also produced The Soft Moon’s Deeper and Criminal albums, this long-play was recorded at Cologne’s Amen Studios. The new video for ‘A Faction’ is produced by WE OWN YOU GmbH and directed by Jan-Peter Horns with animation by Alison Flora.

HOLYGRAM is Patrick Blümel (vocals), Sebastian Heer (drums), Marius Lansing (guitars), Pilo Lenger (synthesizers) and Bennett Reimann (bass). Formed in 2015, the band’s approach to making music references the past, while remaining future-oriented. Hard-to-combine elements cleverly come together to become the soundtrack of a city that appears threatening in the twilight.

Watch the video here:

AA

Holygram

London based synth duo, Sex Cells have shared the video for their debut single ‘Hell Is Where The Heart Is’.

The double A-Side release also features ‘Are You Ready’ and will be available digitally and released on limited edition seven inch vinyl on their own Pretty Ugly Records. Under the guidance of Raf.E and produced by Dave M. Allen (The Cure, Yassassin), the two songs will be accompanied by a series of surrealist artworks made by the band – like a love letter to a nightmare.

Taking their inspiration from early synth pioneers such as Wendy Carlos and Delia Derbyshire, Sex Cells perform a kind of ritual dance – a mixture of Suicide, Psychic TV, and Art House sensibilities. The band are Matt Kilda and Willow Vincent, originally hobbyist promoters running monthly nights of live music and visual projections for experimental noise acts. Sex Cells started off life as a purge of shared anger after the pair were ripped off in a house rental scam. Left completely penniless from the fraud, they sought sanctuary in a Peckham rehearsal room where they decided to document their crisis with a synth and house drum kit.

Soon after, early shows in South London for Trashmouth Records introduced the pair to those at the centre of the same scene that The Fat White Family and Shame have risen through. Finding musical allies in bands like Meatraffle and Madonnatron, Sex Cells have become regular fixtures at nights around London, sharing bills with the likes of The Rhythm Method and HMLTD.

Sex Cells  have been navigating London full circle ever since, setting up camp wherever they can, and rarely staying in one place for longer than a few months. Together with a mutual interest in Dadaist values, Surrealist imagery and an obsession with ‘lost London’ and the esoteric, the band’s slum living conditions and precarious existence has provided a fitting thematic universe which both of these tracks draw from.

Watch the video here:

A truly exciting live prospect who reject the modern stereotype of electronic music made by laptops, Sex Cells will play following London shows in August:

LIVE DATES:

AUG 09TH    THE FINSBURY, LONDON N4

AUG 11TH    THE FIVE BELLS, STREATHAM, LONDON SW16

Ventil Records V009 – 24th May 2018

Christopher Nosnibor

ƒauna’s style is billed as ‘dystopian avant pop’, and her second album is a magnificent mosaic of alienation. Vintage drum machine sounds click and pop out spartan rhythms, overwhich bibbling synths loop and ripple.

The press release emphasises the album’s dominant themes – facing down an uncertain future, dissecting new digital identities, the importance of political activism – and points to the fact that Infernum is very much an album of our times. But so much of the album’s intrigue lies in its juxtapositional positioning, its straddling of contemporary and retro. This also applies in absolution to the sonic makeup of the album.

The first track, ‘Primus’ has ƒauna outline – in a detached robotic voice – the circumstances surrounding the making of the album. It’s a perfect encapsulation of the album as a whole, a work of retro-futurism which may or may not be autobiographical. It’s a mistake to synthesis the artist and the art, and this of course connects with the issues of identity – in particular virtual and digital identities. Who is ever truly themselves on-line, in public, in company? In any context, identity is a construct, and ƒauna explores the layers of construction here.

Supposedly emerging from ‘a dark crossroads between conceptual pop, downtempo hip-hop, and the euphoria of the club’, these influences manifest primarily in sparse electro compositions which resonate with the kind of tape-looping experimentalism of the underground of the late 70s and early 80s. The structures and overall production are sparse, the compositions perversely disjointed, deliberately angular, with .

Then again, the rolling synth swell of ‘Death Fly’ and bouncy insistence of ‘Lonely at the Top’ are crisp pop, distilled down and refined to its purest, most immediate from, while elsewhere, ‘Went Home Got Lost’ pushes more overtly contemporary dance-orientated tropes to quirky but affecting effect.

It’s an analogue take on an analogous representation of postmodernism: the collision of past, present, and future, with no clear distinction between the boundaries. And watching those boundaries dissolve with every clipped, synthetic beat is fascinating, and in some strange way, quietly exhilarating.

AA

V009_front

Acte – Acte 002

Christopher Nosnibor

The press release provides previous little detail about the release, or the artist, beyond a brief summary of his broad interdisciplinary pursuits which include dance, theatre, live electronics improvisations and audiovisual performances and installations. It’s quite an expansion on his biography last time I encountered his work, back in 2011, when he simply described himself as a ‘sound artist’. That was when he released the ambient-orientated exploration usure.paysage.

Transfert/Futur is a long way from ambient. Heavy on the synths, it’s a beaty work that packs some considerable attack amidst the airy pulses and breezy blossoms of effervescence. It contains two tracks, the first of which, ‘transfert (299 792 458 m/s)’ is the audio element of a touring sound/light installation from 2017. On CD, it’s simply sound without the light, and clearly, the interactive and multisensory aspect of the project is nowhere near fully represented. Nevertheless, musically, it works. Over the course of some eighteen minutes, Bernier builds the atmosphere but above all, builds the beats. Scratchy, stuttering, synthetic, exploding in all directions, the rhythms pop and thrum, marching surges halting abruptly to change direction before powering forwards once more embarking on a propellant trajectory. The surround synths glide, pop and bubble, but mostly click and bleep and elongate, morphing and stretching longways, occasionally plunging into expansive, oceanic depths and venturing into eerie subaquatic territories. With so many false starts, false ends, twists, turns and unpredictable stammers, it’s anything but linear.

The second composition, ‘synthèse (299 792 458 m/s)’ has no such obvious context attached, but again is centred around warping synths and woozy bass tones wrapped around bold beats. Over the course of twelve minutes, it swerves from oblique bleeps and minimalist electronic squiggles and arabesques, via slow-building crescendos, to passages approximating straight-ahead dance music that you can actually get down to. As the track progresses, its form gradually dissolves. The soundscape is increasingly rent with bleeps and whispers and tranquillity always gives way to tension after a few uncountable bars. Microbeats and circuit spasms come to dominate the swell of hyperenergetic electrodes in synaptic collapse. Finally, nothing is left but a quivering whistle which slowly decays to nothing.

What does it all mean? Probably precious little. Transfert / Futur is about the journey, and the algorithms, rather than the meaning. It’s not a journey that traverses from A to B, but burrows its way into its own unique space.

AA

Nicolas Bernier