Posts Tagged ‘Techno’

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

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Oracle Rouge – 28th April 2017

Christopher Nosnibor

French cyberpunk / dark-wave project Fixions are, they say, influenced by ‘classic movies such as Blade Runner, Akira, Ghost in the Shell, the extreme metal scene from the 90s, Amiga video games, Fixions evolves in a style mixing dark and surrealistic elements, bombastic, powerful production, and a solid 80/90s dystopic science-fiction aura.’ With this, their fourth album, they threaten ‘the most extreme and deep release they ever produced’ in the form of ‘a concept album inspired by classic cyberpunk fiction tales, where every track depicts one of the thousand dangers the “Edgerunners” will encounter when visiting the city at night [and] sees Fixions merging futuristic urban ambiances with dark epic elements and heavy, abrasive sounds’.

While the concept might not be rendered entirely explicit through the album’s 16 instrumental tracks, but themes emerge both from the audio content and the titles (not to mention the cover art) applied to the compositions: ‘Crimeware’; ‘Terrorwave’; ‘Black Chrome Riot’ all contrive to summarise the intent of Genocity, which to all intents and purposes does come across as a sort of reimagining of Neuromancer in audio form.

Jittery, skittery, interloping lead lines weave their way over thumping basslines that wow and drag, melded to stomping, insistent, industrial-strength disco beats. It’s all about the imposing soundscapes and minor chords, the tension and the relentlessly restive digital flittering. There are grooves aplenty – hard, driving eurodisco grooves packed back to back, interspersed with more contemplative Kraftwerk-inspired tracks.

Does it sound futuristic? Not really. The ‘80/90s dystopic science-fiction aura’ is all-encompassing. The sonic elements are all tried and tested, well-worn tropes which evoke the spirit of ‘the future’ as it looked in those line-green neon-hued imaginings from the 1980s. As such, it’s possible – and indeed hard to resist – viewing Genocity as a sort of nostalgia piece, in which the time and space being yearned for is a golden age in which the future – a future which ultimately failed to become the reality in the present in which we now find ourselves – offered exciting and near-infinite potentials. Perhaps the realisation of that failure is the thread which ties the fictional technological dystopias of the 80s and 90s to the bleak cyberreality of the Internet and the digital age as we now experience it. At least the dystopian digital futures depicted in fiction were, and are, just that – fiction. Artificial Intelligence and automation, a reality in which everyone carries a computer which pinpoints their precise location 24/7 have not given us more leisure time, or more freedom, but has instead overtaken and occupied every inch of everyone’s lives and resulted in the erosion of freedoms at a pace which perhaps even outstrips the technological advances themselves.

When faced with incalculable progress and its effects on the psyche, it’s only natural to regress to safe times. There is, beneath the tension and amidst the dark currents which flow through Genocity, a certain sense of a regressive channelling. And so while it may not be the sound of the future, it does provide a perfectly serviceable recreation of futures past.

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March 2017

Christopher Nosnibor

I’m not actually a fan of physical violence. The sight of blood – particularly my own – is enough to make me nauseous or even pass out, and I struggle with pain. And yet I’m also strangely, perversely drawn to violence. I consider the Marquis de Sade’s 120 Days of Sodom to be a comic masterwork. Why? Because violence at that level becomes absurd, as real as Tom and Jerry. It’s also perhaps important to distinguish art and life. So much brutal music and art is an outlet of the darker psychic states channelled by some of the mildest, sanest people you’re likely to meet. I haven’t met Tristan Shone so can’t vouch for his character, but his work under the Author and Punisher moniker is pretty brutal, and appeals precisely because of it.

The Pressure Mine EP, which finds Shone bring everything in-house to deliver five new tracks, all written, recorded, mixed and self-released by Shone himself balances brutality and beauty. What’s more, there’s a definite trajectory which runs over the course of the EP: something of a downward spiral, if you will, which sees each successive track prove darker, bleaker, heavier and more fucked-up than the one before. It may not be quite as gnarly and doomy s some of its predecessors, but that hardly makes this a stroll in the park and if anything, the absence of eardrum-shredding lasts of noise only accentuates the uncomfortable tension Author and Punisher is capable of creating.

First track ‘Enter This’ is a magnificent, mechanised droning industrial trudge, synths interlacing to forge a dark atmosphere over a battering mid-tempo rhythm. It’s all a backdrop to Shone’s vocals, which balance disconsolation and anguish. While reminiscent of Prettty Hate Machine Nine Inch Nails, it’s also rather more emotionally nuanced. ‘Pressure Lover’ lunges deeper into a woozy, nightmarish fugue, a dense, rumbling bassline and clanking percussion dominating.

‘New World’ warps and grinds, a dislocated discord emerging from the echoes and twisted vocals, and the last track, ‘Black Wand’ comes on like Depeche Mode on a cocktail of Ketamine and LSD. It’s not entirely pleasant, but it is unsettlingly awesome.

 

Author and Punisher - Pressure Mine

kranky – 17th February 2017

Christopher Nosnibor

It’s pitched as a ‘compelling synthesis of shadowy rhythms and opaque atmospherics, drawing on the most potent qualities of melancholic ambient and dub techno’. An Act of Love is very much an album which possesses a haunting atmosphere, with a supple, soft, subaquatic sound dragging the listener into a warm, hushed place of dark stillness where movement is slowed.

The album’s first track, ‘The Present Mist’, sets the tone, and its title is an appropriate summary of the vague, amorphous drifting soundscapes which encapsulate the overall feel of a set the fabric of which is woven from intangibles.

‘About that Time’ builds a hypnotic groove with an overtly dance-orientated beat – that is to say, an insistent bass drum in square four-four time at around 120bpm – while soft waves of sound drift like mist to form obfuscating layers which envelop the senses. A piano rings out into the warm aural webbing and hangs in the air. But the drums rattle and reverberate, echoing across one another: it’s not nearly as ambient or understated as may first appear. And so, while the album does often drift, making minimal demands on concentration, it is not without dynamic or the capacity to withstand a degree of attentiveness. It’s well-constructed and has a flow about it which works well. That flow creates, magically, a certain temporal suspension as time evaporates like vapour over the distance of successive tracks.

Jittering beats, like a palpitating heart, thump through ‘Exuberant Burning’. This is no up-front dance work, but nevertheless, there is a tension, and an excitement which emanates from its dark, cellular landscape. The flickering, pulsing beats muffled and bear a certain resemblance to sounds heard through a stethoscope.

An Act of Love is an album which slowly, subtly, almost subliminally, evolves and unfurls.

 

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The Hum is the first ever solo album by Marc Heal and his first full-length release since the year 2000. He has been a presence in electronic music since the late 1980s when his band Westwon toured with Gary Numan and recorded with Colin Thurston.

His next band, Cubanate, then achieved success in the industrial scene in the 1990s with four acclaimed albums. Hits such as ‘Oxyacetylene’ and ‘Bodyburn’ crossed over to metal and mainstream audiences, with the former achieving Single of the Week in both Kerrang! and Melody Maker. The band later signed to the Chicago based label Wax Trax!

in its final years, while also gaining worldwide exposure when Sony used four of their songs as the lead tracks on the best-selling Gran Turismo console game. ‘Body Burn’ was also featured in The Sopranos and the Mortal Kombat movie. They toured with The Sisters of Mercy, Gary Numan, Front 242, Front Line Assembly, Fear Factory, Sheep On Drugs, PIG and more. Marc also worked with Jean-Luc Demeyer of Front 242, the duo making two albums as C-TEC.

Marc appeared to remain creatively silent for many years after the demise of Cubanate, but was in fact running Fortress Studios in London and working in television and advertising, writing documentaries for the BBC and Sky.

Pefacing the release of The Hum on 11 November 2016 through Armalyte Industries, Marc presents ‘Adult Fiction’. Watch the video here:

My Proud Mountain – 22nd July 2016

Christopher Nosnibor

It takes a while to get going: the first minute and a half is simply drifting sound, like the distant sea. But Lash Back is an album that takes it time to build atmosphere. Parker may be the lauded producer and electronics wrangler behind some of metal’s more intriguing contemporary acts, but Lash Back is certainly not a metal album. But it is dark and as innovative an album as you’re likely to hear this year.

Stammering snare drums add an element of unpredictability to the sedate and solid bass-led rhythm on opener ‘Psychic Driving’. As the layers of sound overlay one another, forming a towering sonic cathedral, one is increasingly moved to awe. The stark industrial electronica of ‘Knuckle Crossing’ hangs over a slow, deliberate beat, shifting shapes and textures shading shadows and conjuring an air of coldness and dislocation, while ‘Slow Children’ broods ominously. Parker’s compositions, and their execution, show extreme restraint, the emphasis very much on building tension rather than looking to grant its release. Just as the invisible monster is always scarier than the one which reveals itself, the undefined threat and menace that lurks on, and beneath, the surface of the tracks, is more powerful than their realisation.

There are sustained sonic attacks, and plenty of them for those who relish the blistering noise assault: the aforementioned ‘Slow Children’ does eventually burst into a steely crescendo, and the slow surge of all-engulfing noise that is ‘Low Gaps’ is breathtakingly dense, with heavy hints of Prurient in its tone and the juxtaposition of synth sounds more commonly found on commercial dance albums, with mangled industrial noise, and the sonorous mechanical grating of ‘Sheep Slaughter’ is every bit as abrasive as the title suggests; it’s a soundtrack of pain, of death, of mass-scale killing.

Lash Back is by no means an accessible or easy album, but then, it isn’t meant to be, and Parker has produced something that is unusual and unsettling, and which conforms to precisely nothing.

 

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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)